It’s Not Easy Being a Materialist

P.Z. Myers and I have been discussing this question for a while: is the brain sufficient for the mind? It’s clearly necessary for the mind, in everyday experience. Strokes and ethanol affect the brain and alter the mind. But necessity is not sufficiency. Is the brain alone — just matter — entirely sufficient for the mind? I think the mind needs an immaterial cause, like the soul. Myers doesn’t. How, from a scientific standpoint, could we resolve our disagreement? We would have to show, empirically, whether matter alone could, under the right circumstances, give rise to a mind. This is an experimental question, and it turns on the ability to create artificial intelligence (A.I.). If we could build machines that Read More ›

Evolutionary Science: Deconstructing (Other Peoples’) Religious Beliefs

A recent study in American Scientist should ignite a blaze of research in evolutionary psychology. In Evolution, Religion, and Free Will, Gregory Graffin and William Provine report their survey of the religious beliefs of eminent evolutionary scientists. The results are striking. Evolutionary scientists hold views about God and religious belief that are radically at odds with those of most Americans. To evolutionary scientists such extreme variance from the mainstream views would normally raise fascinating questions about selection factors associated with atheist adaptation. Graffin and Provine’s study should give rise to scores of papers about the evolutionary origins of atheism. But it won’t.

The End of Stories: the Evolutionary Psychology of Evolutionary Psychology

The journal Nature published an editorial recently in which the editors criticized Senator Sam Brownback’s New York Times essay What I Think About Evolution. Senator Brownback wrote: Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order. Those aspects of evolutionary theory compatible with this truth are a welcome addition to human knowledge. Aspects of these theories that undermine this truth, however, should be firmly rejected as atheistic theology posing as science. In reply to Brownback, the editors at Nature made some stunning assertions:

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 ›