Why Right Reason is Wrong

I know the title’s awful, but I couldn’t resist it.

I wrote a long detailed post about why this is incorrect and dangerous. Via a draft snafu and a publishing problem, I then lost the post. My suspicion of this blog, started by the aforelinked post, was further substantiated by this one.

I’m tired, and I must apologize, because I’m not going to rewrite my lengthy criticism. I originally listed this site in my blogroll, believing it to be sensible, before reading it in depth. That mistake has now been remedied. Instead of a long post, I will refer to a few highlights:

From “One Cheer for Daniel Dennett

So why only one cheer for Prof. Dennett?

(1) Because the cheerful optimism with which he sets off down this path strikes me as deeply naïve. The chances that the void left by the withering away of Christianity would be filled by delightful things like “democracy, justice, life, love and truth” are just about nil. Our traditional conceptions of the nature and value of democracy, justice, and love, in particular, rest heavily on the foundation of Judaeo-Christian conceptions of human freedom, dignity, and equality. Once that foundation is gone, what is supposed to replace it?

Evolutionary theory?

But why would anyone believe that evolutionary accounts of our belief in human freedom, dignity, and equality will prove any less disillusioning than evolutionary accounts of our belief in God? On the contrary: I fear that in Darwinist hands these ideals will come off looking like the merest tissue of fraud and delusion. Evolutionary accounts just have a way of turning out like that.

So, no. The void would be filled by…well…other things.

But why take my word for it? All one has to do is look at the present course of Europe to see where all this is leading.

Ah yes, a bad justification for religion. Surely, without it we would have no basis for morality. We would revert to lawlessness in the streets, hating ourselves, and generally living like apes. A simple examination of things often deemed immoral (like murder) will indicate many reasons that such things are to be avoided, without any need for a Higher Power. Religion’s a bit like orange juice — sure, it has a lot of helpful vitamins, but it’s also chock full of sugar (which is not good). If you sort of read the statement backwards, it says, “we cannot live in a civilized way without Judeo-Christian values, and therefore anything that might disabuse people of their religion is harmful.”

Do I need to explain why that’s bad? We can talk about it in the comments if so.

But if the Darwinists aren’t ready to make their peace with Christianity, this could get very ugly indeed.

Then ugly it shall be. Also, we don’t believe in Darwin (such clever framing!) we believe in evolution via natural selection.

From “Dennett on the Deformation of the God Concept“,

Dennett’s Dilemma — to give it a name — is quite reasonable if you grant him his underlying naturalistic and scientistic (not scientific) assumptions, namely, that there is exactly one world, the physical world, and that (future if not contemporary) natural science provides the only knowledge of it. On these assumptions, there simply is nothing that is not physical in nature. Therefore, if God exists, then God is physical in nature. But since no enlightened person can believe that a physical God exists, the only option a sophisticated theist can have is to so sophisticate and refine his conception of God as to drain it of all meaning. And thus, to fill out Dennett’s line of thought in my own way, one ends up with pablum such as Tillich’s talk of God as one “ultimate concern.” If God is identified as whatever is one’s ultimate concern, then of course God, strictly speaking, does not exist. Dennett and I wll surely agree on this point.

But why should we accept naturalism and scientism? It is unfortunately necessary to repeat that naturalism and scientism are not scientific but philosophical doctrines with all the rights, privileges, and liabilities pertaining thereunto. Among these liabilities, of course, is a lack of empirical verifiability. Naturalism and scientism cannot be supported scientifically. For example, we know vastly more than Descartes (1596-1650) did about the brain, but we are no closer than he was to a solution of the mind-body problem. Neuroscience will undoubtedly teach us more and more about the brain, but it shows a breathtaking lack of philosophical sophistication — or else ideologically induced blindness — to think that knowing more and more about the physical properties of a lump of matter will teach us anything about consciousness, the unity of consciousness, self-conciousness, intentionality, and the rest. See the essays collected here.

There are two dangerous weapons at use here, also seen in the diatribes of Intelligent Design proponents. One is to refer to scientific views as scientistic views. Science is fairly well-regarded for the modern conveniences it provides. The tactic now commonly employed to get around this is to imply that confidence in scientific research is tantamount to an unfounded belief, like religion. Thus, we have “scientism.” This is related to the other issue, which is the implicit claim that anything not entirely proven is of equal validity. From the second paragraph, it is implied that because we do not know everything about the way consciousness arises from the brain, we cannot claim that consciosness depends on or is directly related to the brain. This is absurd (and I’ll tell you why!).

Psychiatric drugs, which affect the brain, also affect consciousness. Even recreational drugs including alcohol have effects on the brain. Anyone who’s had a drink can tell you without fancy tests that it has affected their conscious mind. Therefore, it is silly to presume that the mind is dualistically separate from the body. This is in fact what the author would have you do:

it shows a breathtaking lack of philosophical sophistication — or else ideologically induced blindness — to think that knowing more and more about the physical properties of a lump of matter will teach us anything about consciousness, the unity of consciousness, self-conciousness, intentionality, and the rest.

Aside from being a lie, because we are learning about consciousness by learning about the brain, this and the sentences before it (also quoted above) are particularly insidious. The progression is thus:

  • It is scientistic to believe that science provides answers about our world (he specifies the physical world… can you show me another?)
  • We have no reason to accept a naturalistic view of the world, since it’s just a philosophical doctrine like a religion (except that it’s independently verifiable)
  • Neuroscience can teach us about the brain, but the mind is not dependent on the brain, therefore neuroscience cannot teach us about the mind (mind needs brain, see above)
  • (conclude) Scientific views of the mind are on equal footing with religious (read: unsupported) views.

Start with untrue axioms, and what do you get? Untruth. Garbage in, garbage out as they say in some circles.

Disagree with me? Tell me why.


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