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Annyday



Posts: 583
Joined: Nov. 2007

(Permalink) Posted: Feb. 26 2008,01:41   

A few things briefly, because I'm lazy.

   
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Kevin, sorry to be the one to break the news to you, but consciousness is material.


This is not technically true. We don't know what consciousness is, or if it exists, in any meaningful empirical way. People just have a "sense" that they're conscious, and the way people act is something we understand in terms of consciousness. Empirically, the best we can say is that human consciousness, if it can be said to exist, is ordinarily attached to a physical object (a brain) about which a moderate amount is known. Since brains follow physical rules and consciousness (if it can be said to exist) seems, to all evidence, to be attached to the brain's physical state, it follows that consciousness seems to be material. But we can't empirically say that consciousness is material because we don't know what or if it is!

Of course, the outside effects of consciousness are different. The things people say and do, in spite of the fact that we can't really quantify their people-ness (or "consciousness"), are really really extensively studied by almost every field we'd call the humanities or social sciences. So they're potentially inside the field of scientific investigation.

   
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I'm not talking about supernatural causation--as in magic. Just non-material causation, such as human consciousness. Right now, I see many branches of science--particularly evolutionary biology--as highly rationalistic. Theory-driven rather than evidence driven. ID seems to be an attempt to call science back to a more empirical approach--at least according to the rhetoric I've heard from ID advocates.


This is wrong because it relies upon tinkering with the definition of "material". "Material causes", in the sense of being the subject for science, means that it effects or originates in something we can observe. Any effect we can observe is "material", more or less, whether it's quantum, human, or magical. Non-material causation is by definition outside of scientific investigation, even more so than magic would be. If magic could be shown to do something, we'd call its effects "material" for purposes of measurement. The material effect could be quantity of lead turned to gold, estimated amount of psychokinetic force exerted, statistical accuracy of psychic predictions, or whatever else. So trying to introduce "non-material causes" is essentially meaningless, since if it's an observed cause at all, it's considered "material" enough to be a part of scientific investigation anyway. There's also plenty of heavy hints that "non-material causes" is a codeword for God, but you knew I was going to say that.

On a related note, evolutionary biology's not really that theoretical. It's anchored, heavily, in empirical findings from field studies and molecular biology. There are many theorists - Hamilton and Dawkins are my personal favorites - who largely work out abstract or mathematical theories, but their theories stand or fall based upon their ability to predict and account for empirical results.  If an empirical finding comes back that flatly contradicts a specific hypothesis in Dawkins' latest paper, Dawkins is screwed and his next paper will likely be about why and how he thinks his model's predictions diverged from reality. For this reason, even the most highly "theoretical" biologists are obsessively focused on empirical facts. There's also some molecular biologists or biochemists who aren't very interested in overarching theories, and they're even more outrageously hardcore empiricists.

Basically what I'm saying is that this isn't empiricism vs rationalism. Or, if it is, evolutionary biology appears to be on the empiricist side. "Follow the evidence wherever it leads" is a good catchphrase, because nobody disagrees with it. Since the evidence doesn't appear to actually lead to ID, though, it's nothing more than a catchphrase.

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"ALL eight of the "nature" miracles of Jesus could have been accomplished via the electroweak quantum tunneling mechanism. For example, walking on water could be accomplished by directing a neutrino beam created just below Jesus' feet downward." - Frank Tipler, ISCID fellow

  
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