Ideas, Matter, and Faith

P.Z. Myers’ reply to my observation that ideas like altruism have no physical properties, like location, leaves a thoughtful observer to wonder: why do materialists have so much difficulty with this basic philosophical principle? It’s clear that ideas share no properties with matter. Ideas have no mass, or length, or temperature, or location. They’re immaterial. Clearly, under ordinary circumstances the brain is necessary for our ideas to exist, but, because matter and ideas share no properties, it’s hard to see how the brain is sufficient for ideas to exist. Yet Myers insists that altruism is located in the brain. He’s had some trouble with my previous thought experiments, so I’ll try another:

The Nature Editorial: Either Intelligent Design is Science, or Senator Brownback Got it RIght

In a remarkable editorial, the editors of Nature recently responded to Senator Sam Brownback’s essay What I Think about Evolution in the New York Times. Senator Brownback wrote: The question of evolution goes to the heart of this issue. If belief in evolution means simply assenting to microevolution, small changes over time within a species, I am happy to say, as I have in the past, that I believe it to be true. If, on the other hand, it means assenting to an exclusively materialistic, deterministic vision of the world that holds no place for a guiding intelligence, then I reject it…. Referring to materialistic evolutionary theories for the emergence of the human mind, Senator Brownback notes: …Aspects of these Read More ›

‘Verizon Deniers’ Find a Cellphone

Is the brain alone necessary and sufficient to cause the mind? Here’s a thought experiment: Imagine scientists living on an isolated island who have developed sophisticated science and culture, with one exception: they deny that telecommunication is possible. For assorted reasons, they deny that the human voice can be transmitted through space, except as vibrations in air. We’ll call this civilization the ‘Verizon Deniers.’ One day, they find a cell phone (it dropped from a plane or something). They turn it on, and they hear things. They hear hissing, cracking, and what sounds like voices!

Please Help P.Z. Myers Find Altruism!

P.Z. Myers, materialistic neuroscientist and blogger at Pharyngula, is looking for altruism. Responding to my observation that ideas like altruism can’t be caused entirely by neurochemistry because ideas don’t share properties (like location) with matter, Myers asserted: …altruism does have a location. It’s the product of activity in [the] brain. Where else would it be, floating in the air, in [the] left foot, or nonexistent? Let’s take a closer look at Myers’ idea — that altruism, an immaterial idea, is located in the brain. What does it mean to say that altruism is located in the brain?

Would Dr. Arno Penzias, Nobel Laureate in Physics, Be Blacklisted at Iowa State?

Guillermo Gonzalez is the outstanding astronomer who was blacklisted from tenure at Iowa State University because of his support for intelligent design. As my colleagues here on ENV have pointed out, Dr. Gonzalez’ academic record is superb. Since his arrival in 2001, Dr. Gonzalez has been the most productive astronomer in his department, judged by the impact factor of his publications. It’s clear that Dr. Gonzalez was denied tenure for only one reason: he stated publicly that he believes there is evidence for design in the universe. As I observed in a previous post about Georges Lemaître, the Catholic priest who is the father of the Big Bang theory, many of the most prominent astronomers in history have shared Dr. Read More ›