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Dr. Larry Moran Flunks Philosophy

Darwinist and University of Toronto biochemistry professor, Larry Moran, who has called publicly for the expulsion of Christian college students who, despite passing all exams, don’t personally believe in atheism and materialism, has commented on my recent post on qualia in the mind-body problem. I had used a famous traditional philosophical argument on the mind-body problem called the ‘knowledge argument.’ The knowledge argument, first articulated explicitly by Frank Jackson in his ‘Mary’s Room’ thought problem in 1982, highlights the hard problem of consciousness, which is the problem of subjectivity. Why is it that we have subjective first-person experience, whereas all that we know about the brain is objective third person knowledge? The knowledge argument points out that there are things about mental states — subjective experience called ‘qualia’ — that are knowledge that is not material. The denouement of the knowledge argument is that materialist monism is an incomplete description of the mind because it is inadequate to explain subjective experience. Some sort of dualism is necessary for a satisfactory understanding of the mind.
The knowledge argument is a profound problem for strict materialism, and materialist philosophers of the mind such as Daniel Dennett have devoted considerable effort to refuting it. The primary materialist recourse has been to deny the reality of subjective mental states. Most philosophers — and most other people — find such denial hard to take seriously.
I formulated a question for Dr. Steven Novella, who is a materialist with a dogmatic approach to the mind-body problem, that is based on the knowledge argument. My question is this:

It seems that there is knowledge about the experience of seeing color that is not material knowledge. We can in theory (if not in practicality) describe all material knowledge about color and its perception. But how could we describe what color looks like to someone who is color-blind?

If there is knowledge about seeing color that is not material knowledge, then materialism is an incomplete theory of the mind. Some form of dualism is necessary.
This is Dr. Moran’s answer to my question:

Thanks to one of our favorite IDiots, Michael Egnor, we now have an answer to an important question. The question is whether there are ways of knowing other than science (evidence + rationalism). Egnor’s answer is …. wait for it …. subjective experience!

After describing my question, Dr. Moran sneers:

That’s a tough question all right. But it’s only one of many difficult questions of this type. Here are some others that Michael Egnor might want to ponder.

  • How do you explain intelligence to someone who is stupid?
  • How do you explain what it’s like to be abducted by UFO’s if you’ve never been kidnapped by aliens?
  • How does a bat explain echolocation to a human?
  • How do you explain astrology to someone who doesn’t know their birthday?
  • How do you explain love, or anger, to someone who has never been angry or in love?
  • How do you explain homeopathy to someone who has never been cured by drinking water?
  • How do you explain Canada to someone who has never been there?
  • Where are the weapons of mass destruction?
  • Does Michael Egnor exist?

Dr. Moran elides the issue raised by the knowledge argument: how is it that we have subjective experiences, given that nothing that we know about the brain from a materialistic standpoint invokes first person ontology? How does the “I” of the mind arise from the “it” of the brain? The question is fundamental to the mind-brain problem, and Moran’s response is to sneer. He doesn’t even understand the questions central to the mind-body problem.
Dr. Moran harbors disdain for anyone — especially Christians — who ask questions outside of the purview of his own atheism and materialism, and he’ s unembarrassed about his own philosophical ignorance. Dr. Moran is emblematic of so many Darwinian fundamentalists: he recognizes no genuine knowledge outside of the narrow confines of his own limited world-view. He’s a deeply religious man in his own right, although he lacks the introspective depth to see it. He worships at the altar of scientism, the metaphysical claim that scientific knowledge is the only reliable knowledge. Scientism is self-refuting, obviously, because the claim that scientific knowledge is the only reliable knowledge is itself a claim that is outside science. It’s a metaphysical claim, and Moran’s ignorance of even rudimentary metaphysical arguments is obvious from his post.
Dr. Moran has repeatedly expressed his view that Christian students and scientists should be driven out of academia because of their personal religious beliefs, regardless of their academic accomplishments. Now he sneers at one of the central questions in the modern philosophical debate on the mind-brain question. Dr. Moran is an embarrassment to the vast majority of thoughtful scientists who use science for its proper purpose, and a tremendous asset to those of us who are trying very hard to lift the rock under which Darwinists like Moran hide.

Michael Egnor

Senior Fellow, Center for Natural & Artificial Intelligence
Michael R. Egnor, MD, is a Professor of Neurosurgery and Pediatrics at State University of New York, Stony Brook, has served as the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery, and award-winning brain surgeon. He was named one of New York’s best doctors by the New York Magazine in 2005. He received his medical education at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and completed his residency at Jackson Memorial Hospital. His research on hydrocephalus has been published in journals including Journal of Neurosurgery, Pediatrics, and Cerebrospinal Fluid Research. He is on the Scientific Advisory Board of the Hydrocephalus Association in the United States and has lectured extensively throughout the United States and Europe.