Terri Schiavo and the Persistent Vegetative State

This is the first in a series of posts in which I will discuss the medical and ethical aspects of persistent vegetative state (PVS). As I noted in an earlier post, I believe that the emergence of PVS as an accepted medical diagnosis is in part a consequence of the emergence of strict materialistic theories of the mind in the late 20th century, especially the theory called “functionalism,” which is the theory that the mind is what the brain does, in the same way that running a program is what a computer does. If the mind is entirely caused by the brain, in a way analogous to the running of a software program on a computer’s hardware, it stands to Read More ›

Larry Moran and “Nice, Friendly, Ignored, and Denigrated Atheists”

Larry Moran has a post on Sandwalk excoriating Matt Nisbet for his criticism of P.Z. Myers’ recent desecration of the Eucharist. Myers, a vocal Darwinist and militant atheist, obtained a Eucharistic Host, nailed it, threw it in the garbage, and photographed it, along with a Qur’an and a copy of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion.Nisbet, sensitive to the implications of Myers’ performance art, took Myers to task:

Terri Schiavo, Persistent Vegetative State, and Materialist Neuroscience

Yale neurologist Dr. Steven Novella and I have been involved in a vigorous discussion (example here) of the mind-brain problem in science and philosophy. There are real-world implications of our understanding of the mind, and nowhere are these implications more important than in the medical management of people with severe brain damage. Dr. Novella recently posted a commentary on the Terri Schiavo case. Dr. Novella’s post was prompted by a study just published in the journal Neurology that analyzes the media coverage of the affair and offers suggestions as to how experts and journalists can convey the truth of such complex cases to the public more effectively. These are laudable goals. The crux of the matter, of course, is this: Read More ›

Darwinism and “Mass Men”

Joseph Bottum at First Things has an excellent essay on José Ortega y Gasset, the early 20th Century Spanish writer. In Ortega’s masterwork, The Revolt of the Masses, Ortega describes a new sociological phenomenon: the “mass man.” Bottum explains: Ortega’s accomplishment…was to identify a new sociological species: mass man. As The Revolt of the Masses explains, the mass man is not just an ordinary man, and he is not associated with any particular class. He is, rather, a product of European historical development, a kind of human being born for the first time in the nineteenth century…The description Ortega gives is not particularly enjoyable. The mass man lives without any discipline, and–as Ortega remembers from Goethe–“to live as one pleases Read More ›

Myers’ Old Ideas

P.Z. Myers takes me to task for this irony that I recently pointed out : the data he cited to argue that Christian faith and prayer were irrelevant to advances in cancer care actually came from a children’s hospital– St. Jude’s Hospital– that was founded explicitly on Christian faith. In fact, St. Jude’s Hospital was founded explicitly on a prayer. Myers sneers at my observation, and he extols science and mocks the culture of faith from which modern science and medicine arose: