Sunday, October 14, 2012

Free Will: The Atheist Battle Against Sanity

Sam Harris - another zombie
Sam Harris, the atheist activist, recently published a book called Free Will.

Harris states clearly: “Free will is an illusion. Our wills are simply not of our own making. Thoughts and intentions emerge from background causes of which we are unaware and over which we exert no conscious control.”

So there you have it. Not only is design in nature an illusion according to atheists, however our constant subjective experience of making choices to do one thing and not another is an illusion as well.

Logically, therefore, all praise for good behavior or criticism of bad behavior is irrational since the person doing those things had no choice.

To me this is reminiscent of the doctrine of transubstantiation  the belief that,in the Eucharist, the substance of the bread and the wine used in the sacrament is changed into the substance of the Body and the Blood of Jesus, while all that is accessible to the senses remains as before. Somehow nothing really is what it appears to be. Or something like that.

Even the New York Times reviewer has mixed feelings:

Couldn’t it be that we need the experience of what Wegner and others call “perceived control,” at least as a model of voluntary behavior, to get on with our lives and to have our achievements recognized and to be instructed by our failures? (Doesn’t Harris enjoy his success? I bet he does.) Finally, what happens to traditional qualities of character like courage, villainy, leadership? Poof! However correct Harris’s position may be — and I believe that his basic thesis must indeed be correct — it seems to me a sadder truth than he wants to realize.

66 comments:

natschuster said...

If we have no control over our thoughts, how do we even know if our thoughts are true? How does Harris know that his idea that we have no free will is true, if we have no control?

And he now must surrender any right to judge anyone's behavior. But he will just answer that he has no free will, so can't help judging people.

Dave said...

Morality is whatever we agree it is, in our particular culture. And, behavior modification with rewards, deterrents and punishments works, even in animals who presumably have no free will or soul.

The fact that Harris idea of reductionism (or evolution for that matter) is not intuitive to you has no bearing on whether it is true. The earth being flat and being circled by the sun seems highly intuitive, too.

The fact is that hundreds of years of scientific research has failed to reveal Descarte's "ghost in the machine"-- quite the oppositite-- all of the behavioral and mental phenomena we study seem to have physical and chemical correlates in the brain. Damage to the prefrontal cortex can cause a person to become amoral (ie Phineas Gage story). Where did the "free will" go? Where did the "soul" go? They went out the window with some neurons.

BTW I am not a fan of many of Harris's ideas, including claiming that science will answer moral questions. I prefer Haidt's approach.

jewish philosopher said...

I'm personally a big fan of the Duck Test:

If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duck_test

I'm highly suspicious of abstruse arguments that something is not what it appears to be which explains why I am neither an atheist or a Catholic.

The brain is to the soul like my iPad is to the Internet. When I click off my iPad the Internet doesn't disappear and when my iPad can't read a webpage it doesn't mean the page is gone. 

DAve said...

Only one problem with that analogy: Even if you turn off your Ipad,yes, the internet still exists, and others can still see the internet. There is objective evidence that it is still there. That is the only reason that we know that the internet remains; others can still see it, and we know there are still servers and communication lines.

Unlike the soul, whose sole (pardon the pun!) manifestations disappear when the brain cells stop functioning. Nobody else can see it, hear it, or detect it in any other way. There is no way to know if it exists.

I know your just giving an analogy and not a proof, but I'm pointing out a major flaw in the analogy.

Michael said...

"So there you have it. Not only is design in nature an illusion according to atheists, however our constant subjective experience of making choices to do one thing and not another is an illusion as well."

So is our ability, then, to choose our religious beliefs, or lack thereof, undermining the purpose of writing a book to convince others to abandon religion.

This man is a joke, and those who take him seriously are intellectual lightweights.

jewish philosopher said...

"Nobody else can see it, hear it, or detect it in any other way."

I'm not sure about that.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Near-death_experience

ksil said...

"objective evidence"

lol, you are hanging out in the wrong part of town!

LOL

jewish philosopher said...

Actually, atheism seems to faith based and evidence free.

http://www.torahphilosophy.com/2012/06/special-creations-plural.html

jewish philosopher said...

LOL

Dave said...

NDE's themselves have neurophysiological correlates, so I'm not clear on what you are saying. They are otherwise personal experiences that nobody else has access to.

jewish philosopher said...

"They are otherwise personal experiences that nobody else has access to."

As is everything actually.

Dave said...

So my assertion is that all mental processes are neurophysiological in origin, until we discover another source.

jewish philosopher said...

It's been discovered since the dawn of history: the soul.

jewish philosopher said...

I have a post about NDEs.

http://www.torahphilosophy.com/2011/10/near-death-experience.html

Regarding the evidence for free will or NDEs, I thinks it's the same evidence which we have for any feeling or emotion, such as love, happiness, pain, hunger, anger, etc. People claim to experience it.

Dave said...

"Regarding the evidence for free will or NDEs, I thinks it's the same evidence which we have for any feeling or emotion, such as love, happiness, pain, hunger, anger, etc. People claim to experience it."

Agreed. And they exist as sensations ONLY inside people's BRAINS. Happiness or love do not exist as independent things outside of living people. We don't say that there exists a pool or hidden warehouse of love somewhere outside the body. Same with free will, same with the other sensations which you attribute to "soul". Free will is a sensation.

jewish philosopher said...

Would it be accurate to say "all feelings and emotions are illusions"? I don't think so.

Dave said...

"Would it be accurate to say "all feelings and emotions are illusions"? I don't think so."

Your question sets up a false dichotomy: either something is "real" or is imagined. Emotions are as real as sensations can be. Is phantom pain "real"? It surely exists, even though there is no limb to hurt. It is a sensory phenomenon. It is NOT an illusion.

I ask you: Does a smile really "exist"?
When a person smiles, it is real. When he is not smiling, it isn't.
Does that mean that the smile "existed", then stopped "existing"? Or does the smile continue to exist in another plane?

Your pet dog can also get angry or sad, too. Is that an illusion? Does that require a soul?

The answer to this paradox is that you confuse a phenomenon with an entity. A smile, a rainbow, or an emotion is a phenomenon. This includes the feeling of self awareness and free will. In contrast, a brain or a rock is an entity. You try to make a phenomenon into an entity, thus introducting confusion.
(For the moment I'll ignore the philosophers who say that everything is an illusion)

jewish philosopher said...

"The answer to this paradox is that you confuse a phenomenon with an entity."

I think this is splitting semantic hairs. Both are real things.

phenomenon: an observable fact or event

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/phenomenon

entity : something that has separate and distinct existence and objective or conceptual reality

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/entity

Dave said...

So you see no conceptual difference between a smile, and a rock, for example?

An event is not the same as an object or being.

jewish philosopher said...

We know of all thoughts, emotions and feelings only because people say they experienced them. So too free will,
self conciousness and near death experiences.

Dave said...

So, after a person stops smiling, where did the smile go? Does it still exist?

jewish philosopher said...

OK, how is that relevant?

Dave said...

The smile is a phenomenon and does not have an existence outside of the person who smiles. Similarly, emotions or sensations (which may have physical correlates in the brain) exist only as phenomena dependent on the operator (the person who experiences them). They have no independent existence, as do rocks or atoms.

Light waves exist, but our perception of color is a phenomenon entirely in our brains. "Red" does not exist outside of our minds.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/10/051026082313.htm

This is in opposition to your argument that a phenomenon (such as perception of free will or emotion) requires an independent entity, such as a soul, to exist.

Obviously this does not exclude the possibility of a soul.

jewish philosopher said...

If we have no free will, what is the purpose of any debate or discussion? Your opinion and my opinion have nothing to do with truth or reality. They are simply the products of our brain chemistry. The American people have no choice in whom they will vote for. It's all been predetermined since the beginning of time by the laws of nature. They must cast their votes just like an army of robots must do whatever ever they have been programmed to do. Although again the atheist believes there is no programmer, but rather an eternal chain of multiverses and a random interaction of particles which has created an illusion of a programmer and an illusion of free will.

The idea is truly maddening and possible contributed to Nietzsche's madness.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friedrich_Nietzsche#Mental_breakdown_and_death_.281889.E2.80.931900.29

Atheism seems to battle not only against God but against sanity.

Dave said...

"what is the purpose of any debate or discussion?"

In case you haven't noticed, people don't seem to be inclined to change their minds by discussion or debate, especially about politics and religion Perhaps this says something about the nature of our opinions. I refer you to the previous references by Haidt.


I also don't think that converts or baal tshuvas (or skeptics!) change because somebody persuaded them. They persuade themselves, or they do it for emotional reasons.

In my own case I always had certain doubts and unanswered questions that I preferred to supress. Then after reading a few books I became convinced that all religions including Judaism are elaborate hoaxes.

The idea that free will might be an illusion isn't maddening to me at all, any more than realizing that "red" is an illusion. Why should it? And just because something is "maddening" to you, does that impact its truth or falsehood? And, if something is so obviously false as it is to you, why should the mere thought of it be "maddening"?

As to why to have debate, well, why ride a motorcycle or watch a baseball game? Isn't it pointless?
Ultimately it is, but that doesn't bother me, because each person or his community creates meaning, and thats OK.

jewish philosopher said...

"In case you haven't noticed, people don't seem to be inclined to change their minds by discussion or debate, especially about politics and religion"

Actually people undergo radical conversions every day. If not, I would still be worshipping Thor the god of thunder and swearing loyalty to my local tribal chieftain, as my ancestors did 1,500 years ago.

"They persuade themselves, or they do it for emotional reasons."

They choose of their own free will after being influenced by many external factors.

"Then after reading a few books I became convinced that all religions including Judaism are elaborate hoaxes."

According to you, books (which, as well as their authors, were created by accident) caused a change in your brain chemistry (also created by accident). "You" had nothing to do with it because the concept of a "self" independent of the random interaction of subatomic particles doesn't exist.

Dave said...

"They choose of their own free will after being influenced by many external factors"

Agree

"..."You" had nothing to do with it because the concept of a "self" independent of the random interaction of subatomic particles doesn't exist."

Agreed, except for the random part-- subject to the laws of physics--although as you know things are not deterministic, based on quantum mechanics.

So, are you ridiculing this based on it being depressing news, or on it being false?

jewish philosopher said...

"Agreed, except for the random part-- subject to the laws of physics"

Laws which I assume you believe were created by chance.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/18/science/18law.html

http://www.nbi.dk/~kleppe/random/qa/qa.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holger_Bech_Nielsen

So it's actually just monkeys pounding on typewriters all the way down, creating an illusion that the laws of nature make life possible, an illusion that life is designed and an illusion that we have souls.

Perhaps everything is an illusion and I am actually an earthworm dreaming right now of being a human.

Anonymous said...

"Logically, therefore, all praise for good behavior or criticism of bad behavior is irrational since the person doing those things had no choice."

Not quite. To recognize good behavior and condemn bad behavior releases chemicals in the mind of the recipient that generate sensations of pride or agitation. That person's consciousness records these experiences and can later actively seek to do things that generate pride and avoid agitation.

Some people's minds/bodies, unfortunately, learn to prefer agitation, or behave destructively to mask existing agitation.

Nevertheless, it is highly rational to praise people for good behavior because it makes both the praiser and the praisee feel good, and it encourages long-term health, happiness, and welfare.

On the other hand, it is irrational to fault people for "sinning," because sins are illusory.

Dave said...

There is no connection between the origins of the universe and whether there is a soul.

ksil said...

"So it's actually just monkeys pounding on typewriters "

great book called "innumeracy" which explains not only why this is bologna, but its actually more likely than people think

essentially, its monkeys banging on a typwriter, but every time the hit a correct key, you lock in at that point and move to the next key, and so on, until the book is written.

natschuster said...

Emotions, sensations, morals, self-awareness, etc are not properties of matter, yet the mind possesses these very properties. How is that possible if the mind consists only of the matter of the brain?

jewish philosopher said...

"Nevertheless, it is highly rational to praise people for good behavior because it makes both the praiser and the praisee feel good, and it encourages long-term health, happiness, and welfare."

But it's inaccurate and dishonest. It is no more rational than praising a cloud for giving rain for condemning a lightening bolt for striking someone.

"CNN reports that the President firmly and completely condemns the behavior of the tornado which killed five people in Kansas this morning. He called the behavior of the tornado an act of terrorism which will never be allowed to reoccur during his administration."

"There is no connection between the origins of the universe and whether there is a soul."

No God then no soul.

"but every time the hit a correct key, you lock in at that point"

If you're talking about evolution, nothing gets locked in unless that specific random chance mutation somehow increases the fertility of that particular organism.

Anonymous said...

"How is that possible if the mind consists only of the matter of the brain?"

It's possible because the mind is not the brain. The mind is the brain-at-work. Therefore, an emotion is the brain working in one way, creating associated sensations in the body.

Anonymous said...

"But it's inaccurate and dishonest. It is no more rational than praising a cloud for giving rain for condemning a lightening bolt for striking someone."

Oh, please try thinking for once. if a cloud could acknowledge praise and feel good about it, then it would be rational to praise a cloud. It's the reason you prostrate yourself in front of the Torah.

Ironmistress said...

I have Nietzsche's "Beyond Good and Evil" currently as reading.

Unglaubliche Scheisse.

Dave said...

"No God then no soul."

But there could be a God, and not necessarily a soul. If there is no soul it doesn't rule out god.

"Emotions, sensations, morals, self-awareness, etc are not properties of matter, "

They are not properties of INORGANIC matter. Your premise is inaccurate. They are indeed properties of complex organic matter. And they cease to be when the organism dies.

Like a smile.

natschuster said...

Dave:

Materialists believe that there is no difference between organic matter and inorganic matter. According to materialists, our brains are no different than so much hamburger. So the question still remains.

wondering jew said...

JP:

I wonder what an intellectual person like you makes of the studies that found neuro activity before the analysand made the choice, or at apparently.

Dave said...

"Materialists believe that there is no difference between organic matter and inorganic matter. "

Ha Ha. One is organic and the other is not.

"so the question remains"

It is not a question. It is a description. Organisms display phenomena, like smiles or farts. We already know that. So?

natschuster said...

What exactly is the difference between organic and inorganic matter? Is there some sort of life force? Materialist don't believe ina life force. Isn't saying the difference between organic and inorganic natter is that one is organic and one is inorganic a tautology? I'm just a simple theist, not a brilliant atheist, so I don't know these things. I was under the impression that materialists believe that all matter, including inorganic matter, is subject to the same laws of physics and chemistry. The laws of physics and chemistry don't explain how the mind works. Please correct me if I'm wrong. I guess even atheists believe in a special Ruach Chayim.

natschuster said...

And isn't asking for an explanation for the phenomena that life exhibit a question? And if the laws of nature don't explain the phenomena, doesn't the question remain? Again, please be so kind as to enlighten me.

And be so kind as to provide me with an explanation as to how the mind works. And remember, being a materialist you believe that going outside the laws of physics and chemistry is cheating, so you can't do that.

Dave said...

"And be so kind as to provide me with an explanation as to how the mind works."

The mind/body issue has been discussed at length by scientists and philosophers. I'm not going to write an essay here

natschuster said...

What I keep on reading is that the mind/body problem is one of the many things that materialists can't answer, so they say, "we hope to have an answer for you someday."

Dave said...

Nope.
You're reading the wrong things.
Comfirmation bias.
Your question also implies a false dichotomy.

As a materialist, I can't explain why some people develop Alzheimer's disease and some don't. We don't have a full explanation of the cause. Does that mean that there isn't one, and that I must resort to supernatural reasons, rather than natural mechanisms??

Ron Murphy said...

Jacob,

The subjective experience of free-will isn't the illusion. We have the subjective experience. The illusion is that it through the experience we are perceiving free-will in action. Just as in an optical illusion we can perceive a static image as moving, so our subjective experience seems like free-will.

A better understanding of our experience is that an individual is the most immediate focal pint of the all the contributory causes that effect the behaviour of the individual, including all past effects on the individual and all the machinations that go on in the individual's brain. You, for example, are an Orthodox Jew because of your past. You may think that you 'made a choice', and in the above sense of you being the focal point of your brain-body actions you could use that terminology. But, had you had different influences the brain-body system that is Jacob Stein would have made different choices. How is this different from a thermostat 'deciding' to switch on the heating system at a particular temperature. You are fooled by the complexity of your brain-body system, and this subjective perception that prevents you seeing how the inner working of the material brain is dictating your course.

Praise, from another human, may well cause you to act differently than receiving no praise. The praise is then a cause of the effect it has on you. The person issuing the praise is also caused to praise you, presumably by something you did that stimulated their response. You mistake our complex web of human interaction for independent free-will events. Whether there is any sense in which is worthy or not, controllable or not, irrational or not, is irrelevant. Of course if enough humans were caused to think that giving praise was irrational then as a species we might stop giving praise. But that too would be a cause and effect issue.

The brain cannot detect its own inner workings. It does not have a sense in the brain equivalent to touch, or balance, and so on that allows us to figure out what we are doing with, say, an arm, as we raise it while keeping our eyes closed. The brain cannot sense its individual neurons, or connected networks of them, in action. To the conscious brain all the physical activity that goes on in the brain to produce conscious experience is inaccessible, and so does seem to appear as if by magic, as if it is the will is free of physical reality.

""perceived control," at least as a model of voluntary behaviour, to get on with our lives and to have our achievements recognized and to be instructed by our failures? Doesn't Harris enjoy his success? I bet he does."

This may well be the case. I also enjoy the physical sensation of skin on skin, unencumbered by the knowledge that my skin is mostly empty space between occasional atomic nuclei. This illusion too doesn't stop me acting the way I do. Humans have an evolved nature which is hard to shake off. This does not stop us understanding intellectually what nature reveals to us under closer examination, even if the prior illusion persists.

"Finally, what happens to traditional qualities of character like courage, villainy, leadership? Poof!"

Well, there is some room for manoeuvre. Perhaps we can start to ditch some of the more grotesque retributional activities we have learned, because we start to understand that we are not as blameworthy as we once thought we were. The gift of free-will from God is just as much an illusion as God himself.

This need not be a sad truth either. There is room for us to learn (or in non-free-will terms: to be caused to acquire) greater compassion.

jewish philosopher said...

On March 11, 2011 an earthquake off the Pacific coast of Tōhoku, Japan killed about 16,000 people.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_T%C5%8Dhoku_earthquake_and_tsunami

On July 20, 2012 a shooting in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado killed 12 people.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012_Aurora_shooting

When President Obama spoke about Aurora, he called it a " heinous crime" and "evil".

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/07/21/weekly-address-remembering-victims-aurora-colorado-shooting

However when he spoke about Japan, he called it a "natural disaster".

http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/03/17/president-obama-we-will-stand-people-japan

According to you, both were natural disasters. So why was the President's language different? And to my knowledge no scientist or atheist objected. Apparently we are all well aware that people choose good and evil and if atheists wish to claim otherwise I think a heavy burden of proof rests on them.

Ron Murphy said...

The president spoke as he did because he is conforming to natural language that is customarily used to distinguish these types of events. I would hardly have expected him to quote Sam Harris on free-will in response to the shootings, for example. This customary use of language doesn't signify anything.

But to use your language, then yes they are all natural events, since humans are part of nature, part of this universe. Of course I know this isn't what you meant by 'natural', but it is what the word means. It is you that has to provide evidence for the supernatural intervention by God that supposedly allowed us to have the free-will you think we have, which is required in order to use terms like 'evil' in the sense you might intend. But 'evil' could also mean simply behaviour we do not like - a label, which is what it is. You have to assume God in order for many of these words to take on their theistic resonance, as opposed to an alternative natural meaning. But assuming God is just that, an assumption on your part.

There is no apparent or observed difference between a natural universe, for which we see plenty of evidence, and a natural+supernatural one, for which evidence for the supernatural is missing. Theists simply assume God and then put a lot of the explanatory weight on his sholders by a God of the gaps move. How would you expect a natural universe to be different from the one we both see?

But, even having said all that, atheists that see free-will as an illusion don't have to object to using the notion of free-will as a model that merely means that an individual is the focal point of all the influences that dictate their actions. I don't have a problem talking about how I make decisions, change my mind, and so on. But this distinction between my understanding of the universe and how I live my daily life isn't always necessarily made obvious. When I hold an object in my hand I don't usually think about how the electomagnetic forces of the atoms are preventing the object falling through my hand. I talk about sunrise and sunset, and cognitaively still subjectively experience the sun as a disc that moves across the sky, while at the same time knowing what science tells me about the sun. We can understand the operation of nature as revealed through science, even when that conflicts sharply with our subjective experience of it.

The importance for the free-will issue isn't really about our casual day-to-day life subjective experience of the will, or our use of the term. It's about how brains operate and how humans are not as free as the common notion of free-will suggests; and it's about the failure of religions to provide evidence for anything other than natural causes, so that the notions of good and evil become matters of human preference - even if deeply biologically and evolutionarily driven forces; and it's about moving away from the religiously motivated retribution and other inhumane drives, while looking for a better understanding of how humans work based on science, not some ancient myth.

In this context we may not have spoken up specifically about what the president has said in response to the listed events - though some atheists might well have for all I know. But we have been speaking up about the even more grotesque religious expressions that come from politicians that are down right crazy - such as those US politicians on scientific commitees that deny evolution and other parts of science. There are plenty more worthy targets than Obama. I'm not sure why you read anything into any silence on his words.

dave said...

Nice flair of rhetoric, JP.

We don't call any human action, even accidental ones, "natural disasters". Even a plane crash, where there may be no "free will" involved is not a "natural disaster".

If humans do it, we aim to influence it, accidental or not.

I ask you the following: If free will exists independently of our brains, (and this is a claim of fact), is this testable? How would you set up an experiment to test for it?
On the other hand, if you say it is not testable, than it is a meaningless claim like Russell's celestial teapot, because it can neither be proven or disproven.

jewish philosopher said...

"The president spoke as he did because he is conforming to natural language that is customarily used to distinguish these types of events."

No, I think he spoke as he did because he thinks that's the truth.

"How would you expect a natural universe to be different from the one we both see?"

A natural universe would consist of complete chaos with no sign of intelligent design.

"We don't call any human action, even accidental ones, "natural disasters"."

According to atheists, everything is natural. The question might be how you define "disaster". For example, the Colorado mass killing was surely natural according to atheism. Everything is. However why is the tranformation of living humans into corpses a disaster? Who decides that a whiny little kid is more valuable than 30 pounds of fresh meat? Surely you don't believe that God decides.

"If free will exists independently of our brains, (and this is a claim of fact), is this testable? How would you set up an experiment to test for it?"

How do we test for the fact that we are really humans and not earthworms dreaming we are humans?

This is the point where atheism departs not only from evidence and logic, but even from sanity itself.

laugh out loud said...

Ron:

"There is no apparent or observed difference between a natural universe, for which we see plenty of evidence, and a natural+supernatural one, for which evidence for the supernatural is missing. Theists simply assume God and then put a lot of the explanatory weight on his sholders by a God of the gaps move. How would you expect a natural universe to be different from the one we both see?:

The problem is that there are a lot of things about our Universe that can't be explained by purely natural explanations.

Anonymous said...

"The problem is that there are a lot of things about our Universe that can't be explained by purely natural explanations."

Even if this were true, it wouln't make the "supernatural" more plausible because "God" explains nothing at all. Why don't you folks ever show how God explains anything?

jewish philosopher said...

Actually, God explains quite a few things, as I explain here.

http://www.torahphilosophy.com/2012/01/why-weshould-beorthodox.html

On the other hand, the magic evolution fairy explains nothing and all the bogus "proofs" are being shattered one after the other.

http://www.torahphilosophy.com/2012/09/the-talmud-trumps-atheism.html

It's an atheism of the gaps and the gaps are getting smaller and smaller.

laugh out loud said...

Anonymous at 7:09:

The point is that there are things which can't be explained unless you go outside the laws of nature that we are familiar with. That's where G-d comes in. G-d is not bound by the laws of nature. I don't see why that doesn't explain anything. I don't see why that can't explain everything.

Dave said...

"How do we test for the fact that we are really humans and not earthworms dreaming we are humans?"

Easy. Take a photograph. Or jump in a pool and check the amount of displaced water. Or, check your pet dog's reaction to an earthworm, vs his reaction to you.

It is easily verifiable, given scientific principles.

jewish philosopher said...

Those experiences are all part of the dream, silly.

Dave said...

Since science works, and its the best we have in determining reality, I'll go with that.

Admittedly, the basis for all human understanding is pretty shaky, given that inductive reasoning cannot be proven valid (as per Hume)

We assume we exist, and work from there. Its quite reasonable, given the results of that assumption. To be consistent one has to claim hard determinism, ie that contra-causal free will does not exist. A probabalistic interpretation (based on quantum physics) of determinism makes the most sense-- i.e 9 out of 10 times individual X, given circumstances Y, will decide Z.

jewish philosopher said...

Only physics, chemistry and medicine can legitimately be called science as I explain here

http://www.torahphilosophy.com/2011/11/science-and-pseudo-science.html

so I don't think science actually has anything to do with religion, any more than plumbing and carprentry do

laugh out loud said...

Dave:

Science has not done a very good job answering all the questions about origins. And evolution is as much about religion and metaphysics as it is science. Everybody knows that.

Dave said...

JP--"Only physics, chemistry and medicine can legitimately be called science as I explain here"

So 80% of the world's scientists who work in other fields are not actually scientists but op-ed writers. Its all a big conspiracy. We get it.

"so I don't think science actually has anything to do with religion, any more than plumbing and carprentry do"

Religious claims have no exemption from scientific scrutiny just because you call it "religion".

"Oh, its a religious claim, therefore you can't test it!"
You guys have been given a free pass for too long.

The bible teaches us nothing about reality that we could not discover on our own. In fact it was wrong about lots of things:

http://www.daatemet.org/category.cfm?category_id=17&LANG=en

jewish philosopher said...

"So 80% of the world's scientists who work in other fields are not actually scientists but op-ed writers. Its all a big conspiracy. We get it."

I am sorry to destroy your innocent trust in others, however not everyone is honest.

"Religious claims have no exemption from scientific scrutiny just because you call it "religion"."

Can a physicist or a chemist prove that the Roman Empire existed? We actually base few of our beliefs on hard, exact, repeatable laboratory experiments. So the assertion that "I only believe in science." is ridiculous.

"The bible teaches us nothing about reality that we could not discover on our own."

Other than who created us and what he wants us to do, which is kind of important I think.

"In fact it was wrong about lots of things:"

Regarding the problem in Leviticus about the hare, I explain that here.

http://www.torahphilosophy.com/2010/01/splitting-hares.html

Regarding the Talmud, a few points should be kept in mind.

First of all, Talmudic science may be erroneous.

“You must, however, not expect that everything our Sages say respecting astronomical matters should agree with observation, for mathematics were not fully developed in those days: and their statements were not based on the authority of the Prophets, but on the knowledge which they either themselves possessed or derived from contemporary men of science.” Maimonides Guide for the Perplexed, CHAPTER XIV

http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/gfp/gfp150.htm

Secondly, the midrashim may be erroneous.

"We have yet a third book called Midrash, that is sermons. This is analogous to the bishop standing and giving a sermon, with one of the listeners deciding to write it. In regard to this book, those who believe it well and good, but those who do not believe it do no harm." Nachmanides, Barcelona Disputation

http://www.israel613.com/books/RAMBAN_DISPUTE_E.pdf

Thirdly, the Talmudic Aggada may be allegorical.

"The third approach is to recognise that many Aggadot are intended to teach profound truths, and that the teachings thus operate on two levels: "overt" and "hidden". Thus any impossible assertion was, in fact, intended as a parable; further, where aggadot can be understood literally, they may be taken on this level. This is, in general, the view of the Rabbis. "It is proper … to carefully analyse [the aggadot] … when any of these seem far-fetched we must immerse ourselves in the various branches of knowledge until we understand the concepts." (Maimonides,in his preface to the tenth chapter of Tractate Sanhedrin)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aggadah#Interpretation_of_the_Aggadah

natschuster said...

Dave:

Scientists ue lots of religious reasoning to support evolution. It isn't all scientific.

Dave said...

I'm glad you admit that Tamudic and Midrashic sayings are allegorical. I assume that this includes heaven and hell.

" We actually base few of our beliefs on hard, exact, repeatable laboratory experiments.."

Quite true. As I stated, we use inductive reasoning, which also can't be proven. So you go with what has the best track record. So when it comes to nature, science is the only game in town. Religion can't compete.

In contrast, regarding morality, values, politics, etc--maybe religion has something to say.





jewish philosopher said...

"I assume that this includes heaven and hell."

Well, two of Maimonides 13 Principle of Faith are

11. I believe with perfect faith that G-d rewards those who keep His commandments, and punishes those who transgress Him.

13. I believe with perfect faith that the dead will be brought back to life when G-d wills it to happen.

http://www.ou.org/torah/rambam.htm

"So when it comes to nature, science is the only game in town."

And when it comes to toilets, plumbing is the only game in town.

Anonymous said...

I always laugh at new atheists who think they are scientific hotshots with all their neurological knowledge.

Attention, geniuses: the generations of my parents and grandparents knew the contradiction/paradox between "God knows and preordains everything" and free will. That it is / could be possible to perfectly predict someone's actions is hyped to be this really grand discovery by contemporary scientists. But it's old news.

The real schism really lies in believing in a universe that is created by a loving Creator who wants the best for us (even though he lets us make mistakes) and want us to come to him by our own will, or believing in an atheist universe where everything comes down to blind chance.

In the atheistic universe, the color red is an illusion/inexplicable, as is the taste of strawberry jam; the happy laughter of a child or the smile of a women is not essentially different from a branch falling from a tree.

In the Godly universe, while everything may perhaps - in some sense! - be just as preordained as in the atheist universe, the loving Father is present at every footstep we make, the color red is indeed red, the laughter of a child brings genuine happiness, and is meaningful, and the smile of a woman indicates true God-given intimacy.

Tom



Anonymous said...

I always laugh at new atheists who think they are scientific hotshots with all their neurological knowledge.

Attention, geniuses: the generations of my parents and grandparents knew the contradiction/paradox between "God knows and preordains everything" and free will. That it is / could be possible to perfectly predict someone's actions is hyped to be this really grand discovery by contemporary scientists. But it's old news.

The real schism really lies in believing in a universe that is created by a loving Creator who wants the best for us (even though he lets us make mistakes) and want us to come to him by our own will, or believing in an atheist universe where everything comes down to blind chance.

In the atheistic universe, the color red is an illusion/inexplicable, as is the taste of strawberry jam; the happy laughter of a child or the smile of a women is not essentially different from a branch falling from a tree.

In the Godly universe, while everything may perhaps - in some sense! - be just as preordained as in the atheist universe, the loving Father is present at every footstep we make, the color red is indeed red, the laughter of a child brings genuine happiness, and is meaningful, and the smile of a woman indicates true God-given intimacy.

Tom