Questions for Victor Reppert and The Argument From Reason


If you examine any two things you can find both similarities and differences. The organ known as the human brain (such as scientific experts presently know and examine it under their microscopes and via physical experiments), is of course different from the fullness of the mental world of our minds that we each experience. (But then, dissecting anything, like a frog, doesn't give you the fullness of that frog or its inner world either.)

Also, I agree with you that the connections linking our thoughts in long chains do not appear to be of the same kind of connections linking, say, actual metal chains. (However, we do know that the human brain like all other brains in nature features endless chain reactions of an electro-chemical sort. And the pathways of such electro-chemical activity are becoming more well known to scientists who are mapping them out.)

Question: If one is a "substance dualist" and believes that mental reasoning abilities are supernatural and enter the brain from outside the natural world, which part of the brain picks up these invisible signals from the supernatural world? In other words, if supernatural signals enter the brain at some point, what is that point? Or, if supernatural signals enter the brain at multiple points, then why can't both halves of a split-brain patient's brain "know" what the other half is thinking? Why can't one half of a split-brain patient "read the mind" of the other half of that same individual's brain? Why do split-brain patients, during such experiments, appear as if they were carrying on two separate thoughts and willing two different decisions at the same time?

Also, why the endless chain reactions of an electro-chemical sort that continue unabated between neurons and between entire sectors of the brain, traveling from one sector of the brain to the other and back again if the brain is being directed not by those reactions but by a supernatural force that is able to enter the brain and direct multiple brain sectors simultaneously?

SEE:

C. S. LEWIS’S “Argument From Reason,” vs. Christians Who Reject Mind-Body Dualism and Accept the Possibility of Artificial Intelligence, Even “Born Again” Machines!

C. S. Lewis and the Cardinal Difficulty of Naturalism

"Brain and Mind Question" and Christian Theistic Philosophers

Edward T. Babinski

3 comments:

John W. Loftus said...

Here's what I wrote in response to what Vic had written:

If the AFR is successful, it doesn't necessarily lead to the Christian God. This you'll grant me. Maybe the argument leads us to rethink materialism, as you've indicated. Maybe matter is much different and more bizzare then we think? After all, to my knowledge no one yet had found the smallest particle in the universe. It must exist, or does it?

Furthermore, you do realize that some, if not all of the same problems that we have accounting for rationality and consciousness if God does not exist(or a non-material spirit), applies in similar ways to God himself, if he does. Surely you've seen the essays out there questioning whether God can think, and questioning whether God is a metaphysically free being. I think these are the problems one has wherever the buck stops, correct? You press the Euthyphro dilemna against me, and I press it against you.

The whole issue of consciousness, rationality and the mind/brain problem hasn't been satisfactorily solved in my opinion, on either side of the fence. But one thing seems crystal clear to me: there can be no causation from body to soul or soul to body unless they share some "point of contact."

But the main problem I see here, is that we are biological human beings, not merely matter, if this distinction can be made, and I think it can. As biological systems we have developed the rationality to know how to survive in this world. For instance, as we observe the drinking patterns of a deer we can hunt it down while it is drinking. Human beings who didn't draw such connections didn't survive, based on the theory of evolution. We also had to deal with other human beings in social relationships, and so in order to do so we had to draw conclusions about human behavior and learn to argue our cases to get our way. Compare the standards of acceptable reasoning in the ancient world, especially in the Bible with how the NT writers used the OT, then you know we have developed stricter standards for the acceptance of arguments. Socrates, for instance, could not get away with saying that if we know the good, we'll do the good, nor could Plato get away with his statements on the soul, since we would ask him to define what he meant.

Victor Reppert said...

Where in the brain is affected by the soul? I think brain science will eventually figure this out.

Why simply assume that the progress of science will confirm naturalism? Couldn't it eventually refute naturalism? I am predicting that the final confirmation for the argument from reason will come from neuroscience.

I've read that split-brain cases are not nearly as "split" as was originally thought; that there is an underlying unity of consciousness present. I wish I had the reference at hand.

You see, materialists like to have it both ways. When the difficulties of present materialist explanations are advanced, they tell us that we shouldn't do armchair science and that eventually science is going to figure this out. But if that is the case, then we have to countenance the possibility that science will disconfirm naturalism.

My claim is that there has to be something inherently rational that is responsible for our rationality. That's the first step in the argument. The "mental" facts do not, and on my view, cannot follow logically from the physical facts, so if the physical fact determine all the other facts, that means that there are no determinate mental facts, or that the facts are determined by something else. Now if we reconceive the physical to somehow include the mental, as in absolute idealism, then we have an answer to the argument from reason that doesn't require supernaturalism.

In fact the idea of "the supernatural" has to be defined. I know Lewis uses the term, but you should look closely at how he defines it. I avoid the term myself. All that is required for the mind to be supernatural is that "it doesn't fit in" to the mindless flow of physical causation. That's it. It doesn't have to be spooky or even religious. So, so far as I can tell, by that definition Roger Sperry would be a supernaturalist, even though he claims that his "emergent laws" are not supernatural.

Edward T. Babinski said...

ED'S RESPONSE TO VIC, BELOW

VIC: Where in the brain is affected by the soul? I think brain science will eventually figure this out.

ED: I suspect that's not a suggestion you would accept if a physicalist made it. *smile*

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VIC: Why simply assume that the progress of science will confirm naturalism? Couldn't it eventually refute naturalism?

ED: Why assume anything at all and simply admit you don't know? What's your motivation for making such an assumption? Is that motivation itself strictly philosophical?

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VIC: I am predicting that the final confirmation for the argument from reason will come from neuroscience.

ED: Predict away. However prediction is not a philosophical argument.

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VIC: I've read that split-brain cases are not nearly as "split" as was originally thought; that there is an underlying unity of consciousness present. I wish I had the reference at hand.

ED: Please explain the sense in which you are using the phrase "not nearly as 'split." Name a single case in which one half of a split-brain communicates information only it is privy to, to the other half. Please refer me to such an experiment. Every experiment I have read about involves exposing only one half of a split-brain to some particular information, and the other brain hemisphere never knows what that particular information is. Hence, I've seen no valid evidence of "mind-reading" of one half of a split brain by the other half.

And I suspect that the quotation you mention will merely refer to the fact that split-brain patients have two hemispheres in the same body with the same past and so both hemispheres are already quite parallel to one another and remain so since they remain together in the same body and continue to share the same space, time and sensations. Also, only the cerebrum is split, not the cerebellum, so they still share the same cerebellum for movement control.

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VIC: You see, materialists like to have it both ways. When the difficulties of present materialist explanations are advanced, they tell us that we shouldn't do armchair science and that eventually science is going to figure this out. But if that is the case, then we have to countenance the possibility that science will disconfirm naturalism.

ED: Possibilitize away. It's kind of like predicting away, as I already said above.

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VIC: My claim is that there has to be something inherently rational that is responsible for our rationality. That's the first step in the argument.

ED: I recall an argument like that once before, the homunculous argument. There had to be a little person curled up inside each individual human sperm before it met the egg in order for a person to later come out of a woman's womb. The argument is along the lines of "like must produce like." Must it? Always and in every sense? It's the type of thinking employed by the author of Genesis who wrote that God created all the "kinds" and each reproduced after their "kind." There was no idea back then that perhaps different "kinds" arose from previous "kinds" which were extremely different from latter "kinds."

Also, if a scientist was able to see into another dimension but was limited to only seeing the smallest bits of matter and energy in that dimension and how they interacted on the smallest scale, do you suppose that that scientist could guess correctly or even know from studying such minute facets of that dimension exactly what the rest of that dimension was like?

Also, what scientist could have predicted by looking only at the atoms inside rocks, water and air that when rearranged, these same atoms could form all the complex organs in his own body. Who would have guessed by looking at the atoms of a rock alone that they could also be rearranged to form a finger, a liver, a brain?

Or what scientist could have predicted, via looking at hydrogen atoms alone, that simply the force of gravity could draw together such atoms and that they would then fuse together -- hydrogen atoms fusing with other hydrogen atoms over eons -- until the simplest of atoms along with the force known as gravity, led to the formation of all the different atoms/elements known today?

Who indeed could predict, looking at atoms alone, all the different ways that atoms could join together to form differently types of molecules and those molecules interact with one another in unique and different ways?

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VIC: The "mental" facts do not, and on my view, cannot follow logically from the physical facts, so if the physical fact determine all the other facts, that means that there are no determinate mental facts, or that the facts are determined by something else. Now if we reconceive the physical to somehow include the mental, as in absolute idealism, then we have an answer to the argument from reason that doesn't require supernaturalism.

In fact the idea of "the supernatural" has to be defined. I know Lewis uses the term, but you should look closely at how he defines it. I avoid the term myself. All that is required for the mind to be supernatural is that "it doesn't fit in" to the mindless flow of physical causation. That's it. It doesn't have to be spooky or even religious.

ED: What have you proven? All you've done is ask questions, and then stopped at the point at which answers are unknown and claimed victory for YOUR answer without even saying what "supernature" is. This sort of automatic default argument only means that the AFR is of convincing value to philosophers who claim to have the right answer from the start. (As I said above, predict away, possibilize away.)

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VIC: So, so far as I can tell, by that definition Roger Sperry would be a supernaturalist, even though he claims that his "emergent laws" are not supernatural.

ED: That's just redrawing the Venn diagram as you want it to look so as to encompass the emergence hypothesis within your own. And you still haven't defined what the word "supernatural" means. "Supernatural" remains simply a default word that refers to the mystery of an unanswered question. And there are plenty of those. As well as a variety of predictions, possibilities.

I want you to consider the question of what "logical thought" is (and how it "emerged" over evolutinary time and after the deaths of more species than either of us can trace backwards in time and space).

What do you suppose it was that allowed the first simple organisms to perceive that one thing was different from another, while another was the same, and react differently yet appropriately to them in each case? Is that evidence of "supernature" too?

Secondly, equations involving symbolic logic can be solved unconsciously by computers (which are mere "matter") far faster than they can by human brains (which you claim have access to "supernature"). I'm not sayinig that proves anything, except that symbolic logic equations are modelable on computers which are mere matter.

But we've been over this philosophical terrain before, for years, you and I. In fact I've been over this subject even years before I met you, because Mark Hedwig at Origins Research brought up Lewis's argument in its pages years before you did, challenging any readers to address it, and I did, via exchanging snail-mail letters with him until he felt it wasn't a project/challenge worth pursuing. And because Michael Denton's anti-evolution book was new at the time and they chose to lay down the gauntlet via that book. (Denton has since become a theistic or mystic evolutionist and no longer trucks in creationism.)

In my snail mail letters to Mark Hedwig on the subject of Lewis's argument I cited evidence of single-celled organisms whose actions and behaviors in relation to finding, identifying, pursuing and trapping their prey, or creating tiny houses around their single-cell out of finely arranged calcium spiracles that other single-celled creatures had discarded, showed the ability to distinguish differences and similarities in the world around them, and to react in what one could call a "pre-logical" or "semi-logical" fashion. And if even an unconscious single-celled little organism was capable of such amazing feats, imagine what a brain consisting of billions of single-cells all connected up together via electro-chemical reactions might be able to accomplish in terms of logic?

Lastly, even Christian philosophers remain divided over whether or not to be dualists or monists when it comes to the brain-mind question. So either dualism or monism is compatible with Christianity, which may be yet another proof of the frustratingly flexible nature of philosophical argumentation when faced with such multi-faceted complex questions as that of the brain-mind question.