Freedom and God (Jeff Cook)

#1 reason for God: Love and Freedom
Whether you are a committed materialist, a believer in God, or something quite different—knowing why you come down where you do on this question is a mark of a good character, of a thoughtful soul, of a person who cares about what reality is like.

Today we hit what I think is the best reason to believe in a God.

P1  If materialism is true, love is a chemical reaction in your skull.
P2  Love is not simply a chemical reaction in your skull.
C1  Materialism is false.

Very few of us are able to look at our beloved, at our child, at our comrades and actually believe that our connection to them is *exclusively* chemical activity. Certainly some of it may be. But I would suggest many of us experience something more.

P3  If materialism is true, all our thoughts and actions are determined by the unthinking, non-rational movement of chemicals in our skulls.
P4  If P3, then if materialism is true we have no freedom of thought and action.
P5  We experience freedom of thought and action (we are in fact free of total coercion in both our thinking—what we believe—and our behavior—what we do).
C2  Materialism is false.

We think the human beings around us ought to do certain things (“avoid abusing children” for example) and believe certain things (“other human beings are valuable”). But if materialism is true our beliefs and actions are all determined by the unthinking matter in our skull over which “we” have no control.

Yet this is not what we experience. We experience freedom of thought and action. It is as natural for us to choose certain courses and ideas to affirm as it is to breathe, and such choices are not illusions. We may go further then and say:

P6  Immaterial realities that are gift-like (such as love, freedom of action and freedom of thought) require an immaterial gift giver of significant power.
C3  Given P2,P5, and P6, an immaterial gift giver of significant power exists (and this gift-giver we call God).

Love, free will, meaning in pain (which we looked at before), freedom of thought, human significance (which we could add) are each anomalies given materialism, and must be seen as illusions if only matter in motion exists.

If we actually think love, free will, freedom of thought, etc. are “real”–are not simply the predetermined result of chemical movement in your skull, then not only must you reject materialism–such everyday experiences give us a good reason to believe in a being with both the power to create such realities and (more importantly) cares about you and your ability to love and to reason.

Jeff Cook teaches philosophy at the University of Northern Colorado. He is the author of Everything New: One Philosopher’s Search for a God Worth Believing in(Subversive 2012). You can find him at everythingnew.org and @jeffvcook

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • RJS

    Jeff,

    This one fails as proof as well because P2,P5, and P6 are assertions for which people can and do assert the opposite.

    However, this is the strongest argument in favor in my view as well. We are not just material assemblies obeying the laws of physics (all chemistry and biology is just complex physics).

    Love, beauty, free will, truth … are real.

  • http://everythingnew.org Jeff Cook

    RJS (1) Why deny P6?

    On P2 and P5, I can make a empirical argument here: I actually experience something in loving my kids that can be reduced to chemicals; I experience something in my choices that can be reduced to chemicals; I experience something in my thought life and those things I choose to believe that cannot be reduced to chemicals.

    When folks assert the opposite, I would love to hear why I should think I am fully determined on these 3 fronts.

    Peace!

  • Phil Miller

    This one fails as proof as well because P2,P5, and P6 are assertions for which people can and do assert the opposite.

    Sure, they can assert the opposite, but most people aren’t willing to accept what follows as true if they do that. Most people certainly don’t live their lives as if they truly believe all their thoughts and feeling are nothing more than chemical reactions, and most people in their heart of hearts aren’t really willing to accept it.

    It’s not necessarily an argument the proves God exists, per se, but rather it does show that there’s an epistemological choice we are forced to make when it comes to dealing what we believe humans really are. Either we are as materialists would say some sort of very complex self-aware organic machine that will one day simply cease to exist and that’s that, or there’s something more at play in the human experience.

  • Paul

    I agree with the above, these assertions are the strongest reasons I embrace God over atheism. Along these lines, the Christian answers to love and free-will are the strongest reasons I see Christianity as true over and above other faiths as well (when comparing them). There is a beauty to our faith that seems (to me anyway) so much more than the material alone.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Jeff, I’m afraid I can’t go with this one either. And before I state my reasons, I’d like to say again that I am not feeling “forced” to believe something. I still, albeit often tenuously, believe in God. However, I’m not convinced that I should believe based on faulty arguments.

    That being said, here are my objections to your argument above:

    Let’s start at P3: “Unthinking, non-rational movement…”. All information can be expressed as numbers (Shannon, Godel). This includes our conversation here, the make-up of enzymes, atoms in a crystal lattice etc… Reason is thus the applying of operators to the numbers. If the movement of chemicals in our brain was irrational, that would mean there are no operators, but only random movement. But that is a contradiction – a movement would be caused by an operator. Hence, the movement of chemicals in out brain is not non-rational.

    Ironically, your own argument fails from P-3 to P-4: Total freedom could have been possible if randomness was assured in P-3. Your understanding of materialism then would mean that total freedom exists. But your understanding is wrong, so it doesn’t.

    In general, we appear to be in a dynamical, chaotic (non-random) state. Thus it would appear to state that we have conditional freedom: For instance, our freedom of movement is conditional to the laws of gravity, preservation of energy etc etc. Our freedom of thought is greater, but not unconditional: Just ask someone with chemical imbalances / hormonal issues :)

    An autobiographical note: For a time, I tried to get around the above by appealing to Godel’s two incompleteness theorems. But a (Christian) Applied Mathematician friend of mine gently showed me that although that could be a beautiful argument, it doesn’t work either. Someone went to the trouble of showing how horribly wrong that is: http://scientopia.org/blogs/goodmath/2010/05/03/the-danger-when-you-dont-know-what-you-dont-know/

    That link also explains a bit why logic can be expressed as numbers.

  • Phil Miller

    If the movement of chemicals in our brain was irrational, that would mean there are no operators, but only random movement. But that is a contradiction – a movement would be caused by an operator. Hence, the movement of chemicals in out brain is not non-rational.

    At the molecular and atomic level, though, science struggles to tell us exactly what it causing the thoughts in our mind, or even what our mind is. It’s not as if there’s a brain within our brain. This is getting somewhat into the field of emergence and how a collection of brain cells can work together to generate thoughts, will, etc.

    On a more fundamental level, though, when you talk about rationality and minds needing an operator, isn’t that getting back to the whole concept of an “unmoved mover”? It kind of gets back to the idea that materialists need to propose a convincing argument that something can actually come from nothing.

    Also, regarding freedom and free will, I don’t know any one who advocates for free will who would say that beings with free will have unlimited free will. Certainly every agent is free only within its created limits.

  • http://everythingnew.org Jeff Cook

    Klasie (5). My thoughts here are more reactions than contradictions to your claims.

    You wrote, “Let’s start at P3: “Unthinking, non-rational movement…”. All information can be expressed as numbers (Shannon, Godel).

    Mathematics and numbers are human constructions like all language. All your saying is that human beings can construct systems that comprehend the physical world.

    You wrote, “This includes our conversation here, the make-up of enzymes, atoms in a crystal lattice etc… Reason is thus the applying of operators to the numbers. If the movement of chemicals in our brain was irrational, that would mean there are no operators, but only random movement. But that is a contradiction – a movement would be caused by an operator. Hence, the movement of chemicals in out brain is not non-rational.”

    Thoughts: Who is “applying” reason?
    If there is an “operator”, materialism is false–ya–because, reductionistically, there is no “operator”. Or do you mean something else by “operator”?
    If by “operator” you mean physical laws then it just pushes the problem of determinism further.

    You wrote, “Ironically, your own argument fails from P-3 to P-4: Total freedom could have been possible if randomness was assured in P-3. Your understanding of materialism then would mean that total freedom exists.”

    “Randomness” does not equal “choice”.

    You wrote, ” In general, we appear to be in a dynamical, chaotic (non-random) state. Thus it would appear to state that we have conditional freedom:

    It seems to me, on materialism, there is no “you”, no location, for such choices to be made. Every choice producing entity reduces to matter absolutely locked into a specific course by physical laws, ya?

    You wrote, “An autobiographical note: For a time, I tried to get around the above by appealing to Godel’s two incompleteness theorems. But a (Christian) Applied Mathematician friend of mine gently showed me that although that could be a beautiful argument, it doesn’t work either. Someone went to the trouble of showing how horribly wrong that is.”

    Why look for physical answers here? Why not be open to immaterial realities?

    You wrote, “That link also explains a bit why logic can be expressed as numbers.”

    Yes. They are both languages that are similar in their construction.

  • dopderbeck

    Jeff — I’ve been doing a lot of work in this area in connection with “Neuro-Law,” which is the subject of my doctoral work in philosophical theology. I agree with your conclusions, but I don’t think you’ve considered all the alternatives.

    Alternative 1 questions P2 and P5 and asserts that, indeed, the “folk” concepts of “love” and “free will” are epiphonemenal. What we “experience” is just that, an internal “experience.”

    I don’t think you can lightly brush aside that objection. To answer it requires a deep dive into metaphysics and epistemology. On what basis do you assert that the internal “experience” of something reflects a universal truth that resides outside individual internal experience? You must, I think, refer to concepts such as “mind,” “soul,” and “God” here. You can’t base the whole argument just on what is internally “experienced” — that is the Cartesian error.

    Moreover, you could construct a materialst / naturalist argument that allows for a notion of “free will” through the concept of emergence. E.J. Lowe, for example, offers a rigorous proof of “non-dualist emergentist interactionism” in his “Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind,” and in that proof Lowe accepts the causal closure of the physical. You’ll find similar arguments from theologians in, e.g., Nancey Murphy and William J. Stoeger, S.J., EVOLUTION AND EMERGENCE: SYSTEMS, ORGANISMS, PERSONS (Oxford Univ. Press 2007).

    Non-reductive emergent interactionism may or may not succeed on its own terms, but the proof you offered doesn’t address it at all.

    I happen to think that non-reductive emergent interactionism is insufficient for metaphysical and specifically theological reasons. But I also happen to think that this question can’t be answered by analytic philosophy alone — a bigger epistemological and methodological question.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Jeff: Mathematics is the very fabric of the universe. IE, the laws of math are true and are at work whether we express them or not.

    “Or do you mean something else by “operator”?”

    Operator – mathematically defined.

    Maximum choice, maximum randomness. Theirs is a direct relationship. This parallels coding theory.

    “Absolutely locked”: Nope. Dynamical systems, chaos – mathematical chaos is conditional – ie, you cannot predict what the next outcome would be, even if you knew all the inputs. But you can predict the region of the outcome. Thus – conditional freedom….

    I looked for answers in terms of reason and physical reality only, because my stated intention was to show that atheism is inconsistent. Using presuppositional philosophical arguments in which your outcome is your presupposition would be immediately rejected (as has been demonstrated, again and again, in this series). I failed, miserably.

  • Percival

    Klasie says that mathematics IS the very fabric of the universe. Jeff says Mathematics is a language DESCRIBING the fabric of the universe. This seems to me to be important. I don’t know which it is, but linguists see languages as approximations of thoughts. Is human mathematics a language that describes actual mathematics, or is it describing a reality that mathematical laws only describe? I suspect the latter.

  • Perry

    Controlled, clinical studies have conclusively proven that consciousness persists beyond a flat-lined EKG, EEG, and Oxygen intake. Therefore, P2 is and established truth.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Percival – you are probably correct. We invent language, we don’t discover it. Mathematics can be discovered – true, sometimes we invent new ways to look at it, or new methodologies to further our discoveries. But even language can be related to mathematical reality (more or less).

    Jeff, a popular level book that might shed some light on the matter, is James Gleick’s “The Information: A history, a theory, a flood”. Well written, and easily understood.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Perry- links / source please? Sounds interesting.

  • Morbert

    Jeff is more or less accurate when he says mathematics is the language used to describe the universe. Specifically, I would say we construct lines of reasoning codified in platonic ideas like like fields, operators, tensors, matrices and whatnot, and then use these ideas to build predictive frameworks about what we observe.

    However, regarding the argument at hand, I don’t agree that the mind cannot be material. There is no contradiction between a complex physical system producing sophisticated responses to stimuli, and the sense of agency we experience. The classic example is alcohol. At the time, we are clearly being affected by the alcohol, but we never feel like we are not the ones making the (bad) choices. We don’t feel possessed by alcohol. We just start thinking it would be cool to start dancing on tables.

  • http://everythingnew.org Jeff Cook

    Dopderbeck (8). You wrote, “On what basis do you assert that the internal “experience” of something reflects a universal truth that resides outside individual internal experience? You must, I think, refer to concepts such as “mind,” “soul,” and “God” here. You can’t base the whole argument just on what is internally “experienced” — that is the Cartesian error.”

    Why is this an error. Its unclear. I am having an experience that I am interpreting and believe ought to be interpreted as more than physical. Why is that problematic?

    You wrote, “Moreover, you could construct a materialst / naturalist argument that allows for a notion of “free will” through the concept of emergence. E.J. Lowe, for example, offers a rigorous proof of “non-dualist emergentist interactionism” in his “Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind,” and in that proof Lowe accepts the causal closure of the physical.”

    Well…feel free to make the argument and let’s go. Bring it strong.

    You wrote, “Non-reductive emergent interactionism may or may not succeed on its own terms, but the proof you offered doesn’t address it at all.”

    Because I’m not making someone else’s argument against my own. That’s someone else’s job :) So pitch it.

  • dopderbeck

    Morbert (#14) — interesting example re: alcohol. Why do you think the person dancing on tables is not exercising genuine agency? Alcohol doesn’t make you do anything; it simply lowers inhibitions. Moreover, the person who became drunk presumably made numerous choices before becoming drunk that led up to the dancing on the tables: going to the bar, ordering the drinks, etc. If that person then decided to drive home while drunk and got into an accident that injured another person, the law would properly hold the drunk driver to account — would assign “blame” — based on the entire course of that person’s actions.

    A better example for you would be a person who is involuntarily injected with some kind of drug that allows a third party to control his or her actions. And it’s true that, if a person is involuntarily subjected to that kind of control, he or she would not be considered to be exercising genuine agency, and wouldn’t be subject to legal liability for his or her actions. But in that state, the person is not acting “normally.” The question is whether someone acting “normally” can exercise genuine agency or whether that person is somehow “controlled” by his or her biology (or better, whether his or her agency is entirely reducible to his or her biology)

  • http://everythingnew.org Jeff Cook

    Klasie (9) You wrote, “Jeff: Mathematics is the very fabric of the universe. IE, the laws of math are true and are at work whether we express them or not.”

    What do you mean by “laws of math?”

    You wrote, “Operator – mathematically defined.” So the unbreakable laws of math are guiding material motion, and as such, if there is nothing immaterial pushing matter away from its present course–all is determined ya?

    You wrote, ““Absolutely locked”: Nope. Dynamical systems, chaos – mathematical chaos is conditional – ie, you cannot predict what the next outcome would be, even if you knew all the inputs. But you can predict the region of the outcome. Thus – conditional freedom….”

    Again why would “chaos” and “freedom” be synonymous? Freedom implies agency.

    You wrote, “I looked for answers in terms of reason and physical reality only, because my stated intention was to show that atheism is inconsistent. Using presuppositional philosophical arguments in which your outcome is your presupposition would be immediately rejected (as has been demonstrated, again and again, in this series). I failed, miserably.”

    How am I leaning on presuppositions here?

  • dopderbeck

    Jeff (#15) said: I am having an experience that I am interpreting and believe ought to be interpreted as more than physical. Why is that problematic?

    I respond: simple. Your “belief” might be wrong. The experience might be entirely “physical” and your “internal” state might be entirely epiphenomenal. That is, in fact, what most neuroscientists would say.

    The argument you’re making is essentially Descarte’s cogito, which fails analytically because it simply begs the question whether “thought” is “real” or merely epiphenomenal. Neuroscientists claim that they are increasingly showing that “thought” is reducible to biological processes and that the Cartesian “mind” is therefore not only analytically but also empirically subject to elision by Ockham’s Razor.

  • Phil Miller

    Neuroscientists claim that they are increasingly showing that “thought” is reducible to biological processes and that the Cartesian “mind” is therefore not only analytically but also empirically subject to elision by Ockham’s Razor.

    Well, that’s what they think anyway… :-) Their thoughts probably aren’t real, so it doesn’t matter…

  • dopderbeck

    Jeff (#15): here is E.J. Lowe’s proof. As I’ve said, I’m not a physicalist like Lowe (or Murphy), so I think more has to be said. But nevertheless, here goes (I’m pulling this out of a draft of my dissertation):

    First Lowe states the physicalist argument for causal closure of the physical (i.e. reductive physicalism):

    (1) At every time at which a physical state has a cause, it has a fully sufficient physical cause. (Call this the principle of the causal closure of the physical.)
    (2) Some physical states have mental states amongst their causes. (Call this premise the principle of psychophysical causation.)
    (3) When a physical state has a mental state amongst its causes, it is rarely if ever causally overdetermined by that mental state and some other physical state. (Call this premise the principle of causal non-overdetermination.)

    Lowe notes that the principle of causal non-overdetermination “rules out the possibility that, whenever a mental state M is a cause of a physical state P, there is another physical state Q such that (a) Q is a cause of P and yet (b) even if one of the two states M and Q had not existed, the other would still have sufficed, in the circumstances, to cause P to exist.”

    A mental state, according this argument, cannot comprise an independently sufficient cause of any physical state.

    From these premises, physicalists reach the following conclusion:

    (4) At least some mental states are identical with certain physical states.

    Lowe, however, replaces (1) with (1*):

    (1*) Every physical state has a fully sufficient physical cause.

    Since causation is a transitive relation, the replacement of (1) by (1*) can support a theory of mind that avoids the reductive physicalist conclusion (4). If S1 is a fully sufficient cause of S2, and if S2 is a fully sufficient cause of S3, then S1 is also a fully sufficient cause of S3. But this does not imply that S3 is causally overdetermined by S1 and S2. Note, however, that the chain of causation is still fully physicalist.

    Lowe does not offer a specific example here, but we could use the example of an accidental shooting that might be employed in Tort law. Assume A deceptively advises B that a weapon B is holding is a relatively harmless paintball gun, when the gun is in fact a high powered rifle; and assume B shoots C with the gun in a paintball match and kills C. To use the terminology of Tort law, both A’s deception and B’s action in pulling the trigger are “actual causes” of C’s death. C’s death is not causally overdetermined by A and B’s actions together; indeed, the “chain of causation” requires that both A and B’s actions comprise actual causes of C’s death. Questions of legal liability, of course, would remain. It might be that B did not breach any duty of care and thus was not “negligent” in relying on A’s deceptive advice; or, it might be that B’s reliance on A’s advice was negligent, under the circumstances. But both A and B’s conduct were in any event “actual causes” of C’s death. But-for B’s pulling of the trigger, C would still be alive.

    But Lowe explicitly sets aside, for the purpose of evaluating this argument, the “not altogether uncontroversial” assumption in both (1) and (1*) “that there are no uncaused physical states.” This assumption, Lowe notes, raises the issue of “free will and determinism,” as well as “cosmological and theological questions of whether there was a ‘first’ cause.” Lowe also brushes aside the argument that quantum indeterminacy undermines (1) and (1*) because, he argues, quantum indeterminacy obtains “on the atomic scale, rather than at the level of neural structure and function in the brain.”

  • dopderbeck

    Phil (#19) — right — I think that epistemological problem is a big one for reductive neruoscience.

  • http://everythingnew.org Jeff Cook

    Percival (10). You wrote, “Linguists see languages as approximations of thoughts. Is human mathematics a language that describes actual mathematics, or is it describing a reality that mathematical laws only describe? I suspect the latter.”

    Agreed. Our mathematical language may be unable to presently describe the actual numeric realities. There are of course puzzles and problems in math that have not yet been solved. It may be a language issue.

  • http://everythingnew.org Jeff Cook

    Morbert (14) You wrote, “I don’t agree that the mind cannot be material. There is no contradiction between a complex physical system producing sophisticated responses to stimuli, and the sense of agency we experience.”

    It seems you must embrace consciousness as an epiphenomenon, and then it is unclear how consciousness affects the physical body.

    You wrote, “The classic example is alcohol. At the time, we are clearly being affected by the alcohol, but we never feel like we are not the ones making the (bad) choices. We don’t feel possessed by alcohol. We just start thinking it would be cool to start dancing on tables.”

    :) Seems to me the mind can be thought of as software and the hardware (in your illustration) is drunk. Nothing wrong with the software (immaterial).

  • Jon G

    ***Disclaimer, I haven’t read the other responses before writing this.

    Jeff, I’ve appreciated this series and I think I’ve pretty much been thinking the same things you have been claiming. This last one is also my #1 reason.

    The following is where the argument gets solidified for me, and also where I think it is less of a “proof” for what is true and more of an argument that makes sense.

    I think it is totally justified to deny P2 and P5. It may very well be that all our experiences of freedom are illusions. Whether we want that to be the case or not bears no weight on the validity of the claim that there is/isn’t something that exists beyond just the material. I’m giving the materialist that. HOWEVER, once you accept that (or should I say ‘choose’ to accept that) you are instantly ruling out the following metaphysical realities:
    -truth
    -logic
    -reason
    -meaning
    -the ability to ‘deny’ P2 and P5

    This is just a short list, but it seems to me that all of the above are necessary metaphysical processes THAT MUST BE USED to even argue that P2 and P5 are false and that metaphysical processes don’t exist! To me, it is plain that accepting Materialism is self-defeating. What’s more “accepting” Materialism is inconsistent with the logical conclusion to Materialism…namely that we can’t ‘accept’ anything because ‘we’ don’t actually have the freedom to choose anything.

    I’m sure I will get pushback on this, but I, for the life of me, can’t see how the consistent Materialist gets around this.

    Again, this isn’t “proof” for God, but this does present a problem for the Materialist. For myself, having concluded that Materialism is false, I feel free, regardless of any further arguments, and despite not knowing for sure, to pursue God as if He were real. If I’m wrong and reality is actually accurately portrayed by Materialism, well then there’s nothing else I could have done about it. And it doesn’t even matter that I was ‘wrong’ because that term has no meaning.

    It seems to me that Materialism necessitates Determinism. Determinism leaves no room for any argument making its case. Furthermore, Materialism and Determinism leave no room for the metaphysical idea of meaning and as such, to be a consistent Materialist, one must be a Nihilist (providing of course that they have the choice to be so inclined :-) ).

  • dopderbeck

    Jeff (#23) said: “It seems you must embrace consciousness as an epiphenomenon, and then it is unclear how consciousness affects the physical body.”

    I respond: No, if consciousness is epiphenomenal, then it is not anything independent of the physical body, and therefore cannot “affect” the physical body at all.

  • http://everythingnew.org Jeff Cook

    Dopderbeck (18). I asked, “I am having an experience that I am interpreting and believe ought to be interpreted as more than physical. Why is that problematic?”

    You responded, “Simple. Your “belief” might be wrong. The experience might be entirely “physical” and your “internal” state might be entirely epiphenomenal. That is, in fact, what most neuroscientists would say.”

    If my experience is epiphenomenal, it doesn’t explain the experience I have of freely choosing to move my arm. I realize you can say, on materialism, that’s an illusion. I will concur, and push back–yes, but most of us don’t really believe that. We actually think we are free, and because of that the theory at hand is false. It is the same as me saying to the idealist, “I believe in a real world that I am experiencing.” To which the idealist says, “yes, but you haven’t *proven* an actually existing physical reality. And at that point I say, my story makes better sense of the beliefs I am inclined to hold.

    The problem is not about facts (as I have said before), at this level the facts become theory dependent. The philosophy itself is determining what we conclude. The evidence is easily manipulated at this level.

    You wrote, “The argument you’re making is essentially Descarte’s cogito, which fails analytically because it simply begs the question whether “thought” is “real” or merely epiphenomenal. Neuroscientists claim that they are increasingly showing that “thought” is reducible to biological processes and that the Cartesian “mind” is therefore not only analytically but also empirically subject to elision by Ockham’s Razor.”

    Again, you are welcome to deny what you experience as “real” if you are wed to materialism, and will concede. The one who makes this move is consistent. (I think materialism, idealism, and some forms of theism can explain all available evidence and show themselves internally consistent).

    And as I have argued in Everything New, this is where we find ourselves. Our philosophy/paradigm/religious commitment will be selected–not by our minds–but by our hearts.

    As it should be.

  • http://everythingnew.org Jeff Cook

    Dopberbeck (20). Excellent.

    The argument is:
    (1) At every time at which a physical state has a cause, it has a fully sufficient physical cause. (Call this the principle of the causal closure of the physical.)
    (2) Some physical states have mental states amongst their causes. (Call this premise the principle of psychophysical causation.)
    (3) When a physical state has a mental state amongst its causes, it is rarely if ever causally overdetermined by that mental state and some other physical state. (Call this premise the principle of causal non-overdetermination.)
    (4) At least some mental states are identical with certain physical states.

    (1*) Every physical state has a fully sufficient physical cause.

    My response:
    On (2), its unclear to me on what a physically produced “mental state” is, or if this is philosophically possible.
    On (3), its unclear to me how a mental state can have a physical effect (and Lowe seems to agree). And if there is no ability of mental activity to move the body, I would like to suggest again–that’s not what I experience.

    One can call that illusion, but of course that then is a philosophical move. It is a circling the wagons move. And at that point we just call each other heretic and go in our separate ways.

    I will grant that saying love, freedom of thought and freedom of action among other things do not exist can be a consistent positions, but many of us think such a position intuitively false, and as such these realities–all things being equal–give us a good reason to reject materialism.

    Thank you for writing all that out!

  • http://everythingnew.org Jeff Cook

    dopderbeck (25). Exactly.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Jeff, you are continually misunderstanding my use of the word chaos: Chaos is deterministic, but unpredictable in the strict sense of the word – ie, you can predict the likely region of the outcome, but not much more. Sudden changes are possible – bifurcations etc.

    As such, it is very often almost impossible to distinguish random data from chaotic data. Observationaly then, we have freedom. But in reality that freedom is semi-deterministic, ie, given certain initial conditions, the possible outcomes of “free” decisions can be pretty well estimated, but not accurately predicted. This is actually a pretty good approximation of how the world actually works.

    Presuppositions: It seems to hang in the background all the time – God exists, therefore God exists. For instance, in your answer to me @ 17, you say – but maybe there is something immaterial….. Well, you cannot use that as proof for the immaterial. That is like saying – the immaterial might exist, therefore it exists. Doesn’t work that way.

    What you are really doing is trying to construct a coherent system that takes as its most basic axiom, that God exists. Fine. But so far, you have not shown that Reality needs God to exist, ie, you have not proven materialism to be false.

  • http://everythingnew.org Jeff Cook

    Jon G (24). Good thoughts!

  • dopderbeck

    Jeff (#26, 27) — right — I agree with you that the non-materialist “story” is more plausible, compelling, etc. I’m not a materialist! I even still believe in the “soul,” contra the majority of Christian theologians working in the faith-and-science arena.

    But the problem as I see it is that your post purports to offer an analytical proof based only on the evidence of internal experience. That sort of analytical proof is the Cartesian error that has long been discredited in the philosophy of mind literature.

    To me, here is the rub: analytic philosophy cannot answer this question one way or the other. Proofs can be developed for or against a body-independent “mind,” but all the proofs end up grounded in unverifiable / unprovable assumptions within the analytic frame. This is an area, I think, that exposes analytic philosophy’s inadequacies.

  • http://everythingnew.org Jeff Cook

    Klasie (29). You wrote, “Chaos is deterministic, but unpredictable in the strict sense of the word – ie, you can predict the likely region of the outcome, but not much more. Sudden changes are possible – bifurcations etc.”

    K

    You wrote, “As such, it is very often almost impossible to distinguish random data from chaotic data. Observationaly then, we have freedom.

    That doesn’t follow. Perhaps you could draw the lines. Where does human freedom come in?

    You wrote, “Presuppositions: It seems to hang in the background all the time – God exists, therefore God exists. For instance, in your answer to me @ 17, you say – but maybe there is something immaterial….. Well, you cannot use that as proof for the immaterial. That is like saying – the immaterial might exist, therefore it exists. Doesn’t work that way.”

    That’s not the argument at all. I say on (17). “So the unbreakable laws of math are guiding material motion, and as such, if there is nothing immaterial pushing matter away from its present course–all is determined ya?”

    What’s your answer there? I have no supposed anything. I’m not even making a claim.

    You wrote, “What you are really doing is trying to construct a coherent system that takes as its most basic axiom, that God exists. Fine. But so far, you have not shown that Reality needs God to exist, ie, you have not proven materialism to be false.”

    My argument says if you already believe in the reality of love and freedom, they lead easily to God belief. I acknowledge, of course, that if you deny the existence of love and freedom then the argument fails.

    Peace!

  • Jon G

    Klasie in #29

    You said “What you are really doing is trying to construct a coherent system that takes as its most basic axiom, that God exists. Fine. But so far, you have not shown that Reality needs God to exist, ie, you have not proven materialism to be false.”

    This whole discussion relies on metaphysical tools like argument, truth, proof, logic, philosophy, etc. Nobody’s saying Reality needs God to explain these things but simply by using these tools to argue for Materialism proves Materialism to be false…or that we aren’t actually using these tools. Given this, God belief seems “more likely” to be “truer” than Materialism for the simple fact that it recognizes a metaphysical reality that Materialism can’t address…the same metaphysical reality that allows ideas like “truth” and “argument” to exist.

    Of course it may not be the case that God exists – there may be some other metaphysical way to explain it (I’d be curious if anybody has one) – but that doesn’t mean Materialism isn’t either (1) false, or (2) if true, completely insignificant. Given both of these options, anybody who has (or thinks they have) any amount of Free Will can only be consistent when believing in the metaphysical (again – God or some other explanation) or to put it another way, when disbelieving in Materialism.

    Is there another possibility besides (1) or (2)?

  • Morbert

    dopderbeck (16),

    The alcohol example isn’t used to argue that the sense of agency does not exist on at least some level. Instead, it is used as an example of a sense of agency having a physical cause, and hence being entirely consistent with materialism.

  • Phil Miller

    The alcohol example isn’t used to argue that the sense of agency does not exist on at least some level. Instead, it is used as an example of a sense of agency having a physical cause, and hence being entirely consistent with materialism.

    But I think dopderbeck’s response to you was right on. Alcohol didn’t cause the agency to exist. It simply distorted or exaggerated agency that already existed. I can poor alcohol on a rock all day, and that rock isn’t going to develop a will.

  • Morbert

    Phil (35),

    By “sense of agency” I am referring to the sense of deciding to do something foolish. I’ll be more specific: The alcohol determined whether or not the person decided to dance on the table. That decisions we make can be determined by physical processes means decision making, arbitration, or agency is not incompatible with materialism.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Jeff, briefly, since my brain is fried and the workload enormous:

    Total freedom implies total randomness (degrees of freedom). As soon as you do not have absolute randomness, it implies the existence of deterministic structures, which obviously limits freedom.

    Now, in a chaotic system, the chaos might be so complicated that, on the surface, it appears to be random. Except it isn’t.

    As to your second point: You say – maybe there is something immaterial. And maybe not. Prove? Unless there is evidence, we cannot incorporate its existence, unless we show that it’s existence is required. Is it?

    Your argument is “if you already believe in the reality of love and freedom, they lead easily to God belief. I acknowledge, of course, that if you deny the existence of love and freedom then the argument fails.”

    But you have not demonstrated the opposite, namely that denial of God’s existence leads to non-belief in love and freedom. Or that believing in love and freedom necessitates belief in God. Because P2 fails has not been demonstrated, P3 has been shown to be wrong (it falls at the words non-rational, see my earlier post), and your argument falls apart.

  • Morbert

    Klasie (9),

    A brief word on chaos: You wrote “you cannot predict what the next outcome would be, even if you knew all the inputs”. That is not entirely true. Chaotic systems are assumed to be deterministic. If you know the initial conditions of a chaotic system, you would be able to precisely predict, with perfect accuracy, how that system will evolve into the future under physical laws.

    Instead, chaos simply says some systems exhibit dynamics such that a small uncertainty in the initial conditions quickly destroys our ability to predict what will happen.

    Sometimes people are tempted to introduce quantum mechanics into the debate, as quantum systems truly do exhibit unpredictability. Even if you know the precise state of the quantum system, you will not be able to predict what will be observed. But this isn’t really related to free will. It simply means, instead of being governed by Newton’s laws, the system is governed by the Schrodinger equation.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Phil @ 35 – actually, given enough time, enough alcohol in combination with other chemicals, and the right rock (containing mica’s), a will might develop from the rock, although the rock itself would not. :)

  • Jon G

    Morbert at #36 – you said:
    “The alcohol determined whether or not the person decided to dance on the table. That decisions we make can be determined by physical processes means decision making, arbitration, or agency is not incompatible with materialism.”

    Respectfully, this is a nonsensical statement. Alcohol did not “determine” anything. It is an inatimate substance with no deterministic power. You could say “the use of alcohol determined…” and, of course, we would go a step farther and say “the man’s use of alcohol…” and then we might be getting somewhere, but you are covering over the implicit agency in your statement.

    To “make a decision”, you must have agency. Agency is NOT compatible with Materialism.

  • Phil Miller

    By “sense of agency” I am referring to the sense of deciding to do something foolish. I’ll be more specific: The alcohol determined whether or not the person decided to dance on the table. That decisions we make can be determined by physical processes means decision making, arbitration, or agency is not incompatible with materialism.

    But the alcohol did not really determine whether or not the person chose to dance on the table. The person determined it when he made the choice to drink the alcohol. And indeed, that is how the case would be handled from a legal status.

    But, yes, certainly, I think most people would affirm that a physical process can influence agency. Determine is probably too strong of a word for most things – perhaps a truth serum chemical would actually determine agency, but again, I think we’re left with the question even under the influence of such things, could a person actually choose otherwise.

    But as far as I can see, this is still kicking the can down the road as to question where does agency or free will originate. I certainly haven’t seen any convincing evidence that neuroscience has a good answer to that question.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Morbert: Sure – that was a bad one. I was thinking of the logistical equation, in which you would need to know what the outcome of the 99999th step is, to determine the next value. You have to run through the series. So yes, you do know the outcome based on complete knowledge of all the initial conditions. And of course, the minutest change would mean that you have to calculate every outcome up to 99999, in order to calculate 1000000.

    In reality though, perfect knowledge of all conditions doesn’t really happen. But it doesn’t mean that the outcome is random, even though it would appear to be.

    (It is some years since I studied this, so bear with me…)

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Jon,

    “Respectfully, this is a nonsensical statement. Alcohol did not “determine” anything. It is an inatimate substance with no deterministic power”. But what about the desire to drink it? That could very well be biochemical all by itself. Hence we’re back at material cause.

    Of course, we could take this back further and further, till you arrive at matter/energy & math (or numbers, if you will).

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    For those who want to play with it, a nice short article on the logistical function can be found here: http://hypertextbook.com/chaos/42.shtml

  • Morbert

    Jon G (40),

    Your response is nonsensical. I am using the normal definition of “determined”.

  • Jon G

    Klasie at (37)

    You said (with the 1st paragraph quoting Jeff): “Your argument is “if you already believe in the reality of love and freedom, they lead easily to God belief. I acknowledge, of course, that if you deny the existence of love and freedom then the argument fails.”

    But you have not demonstrated the opposite, namely that denial of God’s existence leads to non-belief in love and freedom. Or that believing in love and freedom necessitates belief in God. Because P2 fails has not been demonstrated, P3 has been shown to be wrong (it falls at the words non-rational, see my earlier post), and your argument falls apart.”

    Let’s start with “But you have not demonstrated the opposite, namely that denial of God’s existence leads to non-belief in love and freedom.” This is not Jeff’s claim as I see it. In fact I believe he has explicitly claimed that people can and do hold to belief in love and freedom without belief in God. His claim isn’t that non-believers in God can’t believe in love and freedom. It’s that they can’t do so WHILE BEING CONSISTENT with their belief in Materialism.

    “Or that believing in love and freedom necessitates belief in God.” – Also here you are stretching the claim to make it say something it didn’t. Love and Freedom don’t “necessitate” God (although I do think they necessitate the metaphysical – which seems to be at least consistent with God belief). Rather, IF one ‘accepts’ love and freedom, one has already eliminated materialism by definition. Once that has happened, then God belief becomes the best path towards explaining the existence of love and freedom (when the only two choices are Materialism or God).

    I admit it is a bit of a reach to say that God belief explains love and freedom (how that occurs would still need to explained) but it is infinitely more plausible than under Materialism which gives it 0% plausibility. Again, I suppose there could be some other metaphysical explanation, but I am not aware of any, so I default to God as my only metaphysical option. Regardless, love and freedom MUST be explained by a metaphysical framework if they actually do exist.

    Note: Does “exist” imply exist “physically”? This is an honest question. I wonder if this is clouds our discussion or narrows it…

  • Morbert

    Phil (41),

    I agree, the drinking of the alcohol itself is determined by the drinker. I also agree that it does not show that the mind must necessarily have a physical cause. I only tender the alcohol example for a very specific purpose: A refutation of the assertion that the mind cannot be physical. Decisions made can be contingent on the physical state of the brain, even if the decision maker is not aware of the contingencies.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Jon G – sloppy language use on my part. Consistency is implied – we are talking about arguments and evidence here. Inconsistency, though common, is not relevant to the argument.

    I should thus say – Jeff needs to demonstrate that belief in materialism would, given consistency, deny the existence of love and freedom (for instance).

  • Phil Miller

    Decisions made can be contingent on the physical state of the brain, even if the decision maker is not aware of the contingencies.

    OK, but I think you’re arguing against a point that no one is making.

    I don’t think anyone was ever arguing that the mind exists completely apart from the physical. Even a philosophical idealist would freely admit that it’s a both/and situation, not an either/or.

    These discussions bring to mind the various out of body experiences I’ve heard of. The one’s that I find most interesting are where people are under anesthesia, have their eyes tapes, ears blocked, but yet are able to describe details that happened during their surgery. Or there’s instances of pilots in fighter jets who black out and are able to “see” their body and their jet from outside the jet. I’m not saying those necessarily prove anything, but they are intriguing.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Also Jon G – could you demonstrate “but it is infinitely more plausible than under Materialism which gives it 0% plausibility”. How is materialism doing this?

  • http://everythingnew.org Jeff Cook

    Klasie (37). You wrote, “Total freedom implies total randomness (degrees of freedom). As soon as you do not have absolute randomness, it implies the existence of deterministic structures, which obviously limits freedom.”

    The argument is “if freedom then randomness”, but it seems you need to establish the opposite. “If randomness then freedom”.

    You wrote, “Unless there is evidence, we cannot incorporate [the immaterial's] existence, unless we show that it’s existence is required. Is it?”

    It seems to me, if you believe in freedom of thought, freedom of action, love, personal identity, moral truths, beauty, meaning in pain, the brain’s reliability (and we could go on)–then we have good evidence for the immaterial.

    You wrote, “You have not demonstrated … that [the] denial of God’s existence leads to non-belief in love and freedom.”

    I don;t need to establ;ish “non-belief.” My claim is that the materialist ontology cannot make sense of love and freedom (and the rest of the realities listed above). Certainly thinkers can carry on inconsistently.

    You wrote, “Or that believing in love and freedom necessitates belief in God.”

    P6 Immaterial realities that are gift-like (such as love, freedom of action and freedom of thought) require an immaterial gift giver of significant power.
    C3 Given P2,P5, and P6, an immaterial gift giver of significant power exists (and this gift-giver we call God).

    That’s my argument.

  • Morbert

    Phil (49),

    What motivated my example was something Jeff wrote: “We experience freedom of thought and action. It is as natural for us to choose certain courses and ideas to affirm as it is to breathe, and such choices are not illusions.” It is this sense of choice or “agency” being incompatible with materialism that I was arguing against.

    But let me take a step back. If the example isn’t working then I can describe decision making in the context of materialism more directly. Materialists maintain that agency evolved, and a spectrum of agency can be found in nature. From rocks to viruses to bacteria to insects to mice to monkeys to man, we see a correlation between agency and sophisticated neural systems. In all these cases, we can suppose a deterministic world without any inconsistencies or problems.

  • http://everythingnew.org Jeff Cook

    Klasie (48). You wrote, “Jeff needs to demonstrate that belief in materialism would, given consistency, deny the existence of love and freedom (for instance).”

    I describe the reductionistic source of love and freedom as chemicals in your skull. And conclude that “love” and “freedom” in the sense that many of use the terms are illusions. If materialism is true, we are having a physical experience very easily explained by our biochemistry.

    Much love.

  • Phil Miller

    From rocks to viruses to bacteria to insects to mice to monkeys to man, we see a correlation between agency and sophisticated neural systems. In all these cases, we can suppose a deterministic world without any inconsistencies or problems.

    The problem is that once determinism enters the equation, agency, as in the freedom to choose otherwise, pretty much flies out the window. None of these are really new arguments. The problem that Jeff is pointing out, rightly in my opinion, is that in a completely materialistic universe, free will is an illusion. To most people, that simply is an unacceptable proposition.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Jeff @ 53, I note that much of your argument against materialism, such as your comment at #53, centers around distaste. While I can understand that, it doesn’t make for much of an argument.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Jeff @ 51: “It seems to me….then”. That is not an argument. That is a preference.

    “My claim is that the materialist ontology cannot make sense of love and freedom (and the rest of the realities listed above).” You still have to demonstrate that by something other than taste or opinion.

    “P6 Immaterial realities that are gift-like (such as love, freedom of action and freedom of thought) require…”. But now you have to assume the immaterial, to prove the immaterial.

    Can you prove the immaterial using the material only, without falling back on taste/distaste? Because that would be a crucial part in any argument against materialism.

  • Jon G

    Klasie at (48) and (50).

    Sure! I really don’t think it is too tough, unless we import a definition of Materialism that is less than straightforward (maybe some here are?). To my mind, Materialism claims “only that which is material (physical) exists”. Now, I’ve been told by some that that isn’t what Materialism means (just being honest), and maybe that’s a conversation to be had, but that’s the way I use the term and I think it is justifiable. If that isn’t what the term means, then somebody needs to come up with a more descriptive title. Anyway, if only the physical is what actually exists, then we might say the following:

    P1 – only the physical actually “exists”*
    P2 – love and freedom are not physical entities but, rather, metaphysical entities
    C1 – Given P1 and P2, love and freedom do not “exist”*

    Feel free to take out “Love and Freedom” and insert any number of other metaphysical entities like Morality, Reason, Logic, Argument, etc. It goes on and on…quite to the detriment of the Materialist “believer” which is also a metaphysical claim.

    So, going back to (48) – To be a CONSISTENT Materialist, you can’t claim nothing metaphysical exists while at the same time claiming something metaphysical exists…at least according to the Law on Non-Contradiction (if I remember it correctly). But you can claim to believe in metaphysical notions like Love consistently with a belief in God, although, again, that doesn’t mean one “necessitates” the other.

    So, my claim is just that, on the basis of Consistency as a minimum (I think there are other reasons to believe in God), Theism is WAY better than Materialism in regards to love and freedom simply because Materialism eliminates love and freedom immediately. You can’t hold to a belief in both WHILE BEING CONSISTENT to your belief in Materialism.

    Does that answer your question? I hope so because I don’t know how else to explain it…

    *I’ve put “exist” in quotes because of my earlier comment – I’m not sure how to characterize “exist” (does the term only refer to physical existence…are they synonamous?)

  • Morbert

    It is the refusal to accept even the possibility that agency is not fundamental that I would focus on. It is one thing to express disdain for the idea, but I don’t see an argument for why materialism is incompatible with the experience of agency, especially when we can show that the experience of agency can explicitly hide physical contingencies like insanity or drunkenness.

  • Phil Miller

    Klasie, #55

    I don’t see how its heart a materialistic worldview isn’t centered around distaste or preference either. To a materialistic, it’s distasteful for them to have to accept that there may be knowledge that exists outside the realm of the material cosmos (matter and energy) or laws of nature as we know them.

    Of course it’s possible for theists to respond in a way that is totally anti-intellectual and nonsensical. But on some level, atheists do this, too. For example, an atheist cannot say with absolute that when he dies, that he will simply cease to exist. There’s no way he can prove one way or the other what happens on a spiritual level (I realize again, they would say that talking about the spiritual is nonsense, but so be it).

  • Phil Miller

    In #59, that first sentence should say, “I don’t see how its heart a materialistic worldview isn’t centered around distaste or preference too.

  • Morbert

    Jon G (57)

    Materialists maintain that love and freedom are not metaphysical. We say love and freedom are physical, emerging from evolution. The precise nature of love and freedom can be argued over, but to demonstrate an inconsistency, you must argue that love and freedom cannot be physical.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Jon @ 57:, You again assert that love and freedom are not material Of course, it depends on what one means by material. Material could also be “information” – and information is subject to laws (Read Shannon, Turing and others). But to simply assert that something is immaterial doesn’t help an argument. Thus you later statement that one cannot be a consistent materialist and believe in love and freedom doesn’t hold either.

    Is a “meme”, as defined by Dawkins, immaterial?

    Phil @ 59: Now, as I said above, I’m not an atheist. But in my experience, some atheists are definitely more anti-theists than atheists (these are the vocal ones, especially on the internet). That is a phenomenon in and of itself. But many materialists are more agnostic towards the ethereal. To assume that materialism is centered around distaste for xyz is more projection than reality.

    In general: My reluctance wrt arguments based on “distaste” or “it seems to me” is that not that long ago one heard arguments like that against all sorts of things, like common descent, evolution, heliocentrism, flight etc. Those are generally not very good arguments, and when it comes to important matters such as this, we should refrain from them. For one thing, it will avoid us looking stupid some time in the future :)

  • http://everythingnew.org Jeff Cook

    Klasie (56) I would reject your prescribed methodology, and it seems at that point there’s an impasse. I am *very* grateful for your interactions with me on this though!

    Much love. I’ll be posting some other stuff soon that may take our conversation in more fruitful places.

  • Phil Miller

    heliocentrism

    Seriously? How old are you? :-)

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Impasse indeed. Of course I would call it a Victory, but that’s just my taste ;)

    Looking forward to future interactions, I have enjoyed these tremendously!

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Phil @ 64: You’d be surprised – I have met and interacted with geocentrists. Quite the little sub-culture….

  • EricG

    I agree with comments suggesting these are the better points in support of faith. Along the lines of comments by RJS, Dopderbeck, Klasie and others, however, I wonder if *part* of the resistance to the points is their presentation as analytical philosophy arguments, proof, etc. N.T. Wright, in contrast, presents love (and beauty and justice) as “echoes” that can lead one to openness to faith, but that can only take us so far. I find that manner of presentation closer to truth and more persuasive. It is perhaps music that plays better in the ears of the postmodern.

  • http://everythingnew.org Jeff Cook

    Klasie (65) “Taste” indeed.

    I have enjoyed them too. Be well!

  • Jon G

    Morbert, you said “Materialists maintain that love and freedom are not metaphysical. We say love and freedom are physical, emerging from evolution. ”

    Would you say the same for Reason, Logic, and Truth? Do they simply emerge from the physical? If so could they have emerged differently? Wouldn’t you then be abandoning a universal truth, reason and logic and thus your ability to make any such statements about physical emergence?

    It seems to me as if you are not following your argument to its logical conclusion.

    But I have enjoyed the dialogue! Thanks!

  • Morbert

    Jon,

    Similarly, we would not say Reason, Logic, and Truth are metaphysical. We would say they are abstractions used to codify statements we make. Universal truths would exist insofar as a statement might have the property of being universally true. If we were to disappear, these abstractions would disappear with us, and all that would be left would be the Real.

  • dopderbeck

    re: Morbert — you really can’t say “love” and “freedom” “are physical, emerging from evolution,” unless you define “love” and “freedom” to mean things that they simply don’t mean in the Western philosophical / theological tradition. And that redefinition, really, is what serious evolutionary psychologists and neuroscientists are trying to do, and they will readily acknowledge that.

    It may be that what most people call “love” is really nothing more than a set of conditioned impulses that arise from deeply historical game theoretic scenarios that allow genes to be perpetuated. But that just isn’t what our intellectual and cultural tradition historically has meant by the term “love.”

  • dopderbeck

    re Morbert (#70) — the claims that Reason, Logic and Truth are “abstractions used to codify statements we make” and that they “disappear with us, and all that would be left would be the Real” is a huge set of metaphysical claims. Nobody can avoid metaphysics. If you try to describe what is real and what isn’t, or even whether there is anything “real,” you are doing metaphysics.

    And I doubt that your epistemology and theory of language are really as neat as all that. I mean, you’re engaging in reasoned conversation here, and you’re making arguments you think better describe reality. Unless you’re just playing a language game, your concept of truth is more robust than you’re acknowledging.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    doperbeck @ 71: Absolutely. That is what one would expect, seeing that for most of our cultural history, the data and understanding that leads to the alternative narrative was not available.

    I would hardly fault Democritus for not being a proponent of Quantum Physics :)

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    doperbeck @ 72 – This what I was getting at by underlying the fact that we can discover mathematics. If a tree falls in a forest, and no-one was around, did it still fall? Absolutely! And if we replace the human which could have observed it with a little green entity that explains it by saying 0011010100011010101, the truth of the tree falling is still the same. I guess I diverge from Morbert there, if I read him correctly.

  • Jon G

    I guess I am just not seeing how a Materialist can make an argument and be consistent with Materialism. Making an argument takes Free Will (you are “deciding”/”discovering”/”promoting” what is true) and Meaning (your points must “carry significance” existentially and relate to “Truth” in some way). Materialism, to me anyway, seems locked into Determinism and Nihilism.

    I’m sorry, but I can’t see, even with emergent properties, how an “argument” can be made for Materialism. Either Meaning exists and arguments carry truth or Meaning doesn’t exist and arguments mean nothing.

  • Morbert

    dopderbeck,

    I would echo Klasie regarding the understanding of what love is.

    Klasie and dopderbeck,

    Regarding truth and mathematics. I would say mathematics is only discovered insofar as we we use a set of rules to infer statements from axioms. Mathematics is the exploration of relationships between statements, and not the universal truth of the statements themselves. It is a discipline pertaining to consistency, rather than the discovery of metaphysical truths. We then take these statements and map them onto observations to build an understanding of what we see. But this understanding is still a construct. Electrons do not really employ a Schrodinger equation to decide their time-evolution. Mathematical statements are the most fundamental statements we can make about the physical world, but they are still statements. Wash away humans, and you wash away statements. Wash away statements, and you wash way the relations between those statements. You are left with no statements and no abstractions. Only whatever turns out to be Real.

    dopderbeck, My claims were indeed metaphysical insofar as they pertained to metaphysics. My own metaphysical position is that of Nihilism. Thus, I cannot argue that materialism is necessarily true. I can only argue that is consistent with what we observe, experience, and construct.

  • Morbert

    Jon G,

    You are right when you say materialism is locked in with determinism (Not necessarily Nihilism). True agency, as in a fundamental arbiter or decision maker, is incompatible with materialism. The debate hinges on whether or not our agency is fundamental, or whether the laws of physics permit the evolution of complex neural networks capable of very sophisticated responses to stimulus that manifest as a “sense of agency”.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Morbert,

    Regarding truth & math: That is a tricky one. Especially if one views it from the perspective of information (mathematically defined), or just number theory, or mathematical logic.

    Godel + Shannon + Turing makes it difficult to suggest that math is not Real. The language might change. But the fundamental truths of say the Incompleteness Theorems are no less fundamental than the laws of Gravity, or General Relativity etc., though it is possible that we express them somewhat incorrectly.

  • JamesB

    Jeff,

    Many of your arguments, including this one, take the form of “I can’t fully explain X, therefore God”. Unlike you, but like most atheists or agnostics I know, myself included, there is nothing wrong with saying “I don’t know” when it comes to issues that science hasn’t fully been able to explain yet. I don’t experience any existential angst or lose any sleep over such things. Conversely, inserting God as a placeholder or explanation not only stunts further discovery of how the world actually works, in many ways it raises way more questions than it supposedly answers (if it indeed answers any).

  • Jon G

    JamesB at (79) – I think you need to reread the post. The claim is not “I can’t fully explain [Freedom and Love], therefor God”. The claim is
    (1st) – Materialism is False
    (2nd) – (implicit in Materialism being false) The Immaterial Exists
    (3rd) – The Immaterial can’t exist without an Immaterial Cause (we call God)
    Therefore – God exists.

    As I see it, the only place for “I don’t know” in his argument would be that the Immaterial Cause is something other than God…but that’s a different rabbit trail.

  • Jon G

    Morbert at 76 and 77 –
    “My claims were indeed metaphysical insofar as they pertained to metaphysics. My own metaphysical position is that of Nihilism. Thus, I cannot argue that materialism is necessarily true.”
    and
    “You are right when you say materialism is locked in with determinism (Not necessarily Nihilism). True agency, as in a fundamental arbiter or decision maker, is incompatible with materialism.”

    Thanks, that not only helps me understand you, but also let’s me know that you are understanding me. You’ve defended yourself well, even though you had no choice in the matter and your efforts were completely meaningless. ;-)

    Seriously, you’ve taught me a lot. :-)

  • Jon G

    Sorry if this comes across as condescending and offensive to those I was disagreeing with. I really don’t mean it to be. I just think it’s funny. I just ran across this on Facebook, and after our conversation here, I had to share. :-)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ltGCqxxn3U

    btw, I don’t know what’s the deal with the music. This was just the first one I saw when I googled it…

  • JamesB

    Jon G (80),

    I was speaking to the general form of his arguments, not the specific argument in this case. For example ,because Materialism fails in his mind to explain things like Love and Freedom, it must mean God exists. My point was that, just because we may not have full, scientific explanations for things does not (and should not) simply lead us to the conclusion that a god exists. One place for “I don’t know” in his argument could be, “I don’t know why we experience something that seems like more than just a chemical reaction.”

  • CGC

    Hi James,
    Are you really suggesting that when it comes to love and freedom, you don’t know if they are something more than just a chemical reaction? I doubt you speak with such not knowing when it comes to your free choices and love you share with your loved ones. Is this kind of not knowing how we really live? I had a friend who told me he was a nihlist but I told him he made choices all the time as if they had meaning and purpose. He smiled and told me that is just the way it is . . . Really!

  • Phil Miller

    Many of your arguments, including this one, take the form of “I can’t fully explain X, therefore God”. Unlike you, but like most atheists or agnostics I know, myself included, there is nothing wrong with saying “I don’t know” when it comes to issues that science hasn’t fully been able to explain yet. I don’t experience any existential angst or lose any sleep over such things. Conversely, inserting God as a placeholder or explanation not only stunts further discovery of how the world actually works, in many ways it raises way more questions than it supposedly answers (if it indeed answers any).

    Well, the questions that a belief or the possibility of God raises become more theological and metaphysical in nature. And you may not experience existential angst, but a lot of people certainly do. I think given the right set of circumstances, most people will at some point in their lives.

    I think the idea that a belief in God holds back progress is somewhat of a myth. Certainly there has been and still us the fundamentalist/status quo strain within religion, but on the other hand many of the people who have been at the helm at some of mankind’s greatest scientific breakthroughs were theists. Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, and even Einstein (although he was more of an agnostic).

    I think what belief in God, specifically God as described creative terms, allows is that history isn’t ultimately purposeless or meaningless. It gives history an eschatological aim. I gives people hope that the things they experience aren’t simply temporary blips of light and goodness in a vast sea of darkness.

  • JamesB

    CGC,

    Are you saying you do know they are something more than a chemical reaction? How do you know this? And that still was not my point. I’m saying I don’t presume to know, and that inserting God in where we don’t know is just as unnecessary now as it was when people assumed gods caused thunder and lightning.

    How does not knowing affect how I love my wife and kids? Answer: if anything it has helped. Since I dropped my belief in God I have actually worked harder at loving them more. Go figure.

  • JamesB

    Phil Miller (85),

    I don’t deny that a belief in God offers people a sense of hope. It did for me for a long time.

    A belief in God holds back progress when people stop searching for answers (or are kept from searching) because those answers would conflict with what they currently hold as being true about God, the Bible, etc.

    What I believe is a myth is that life without a belief in God is meaningless or that, conversely, life with an eschatological aim is somehow more meaningful.

  • CGC

    Hi James,
    Thanks for sharing James . . . I can’t help but wonder if your belief in God that you have dropped simply showed that it did not represent God since God is love? Anyhow, since my love is so limited and God loves through me to my wife in ways I never would, my partnership with God enables me to love my wife more because of God. Go figure!

  • JamesB

    CGC (88),

    Nope. I believed in and followed a God of love.

    And I can say with certainty that my love for my wife has become stronger and more secure than ever, now that I don’t rely on someone to love “through me” and I have had to do all the heavy lifting. It’s all me. (Well, it’s me and her, but you get the point.)

    And you should honestly give yourself some more credit.

  • CGC

    Hi James,
    Well, is your wife saying the same thing as you are that God is not in the equation at all?

  • JamesB

    CGC,

    Can you clarify the question? Are you asking if she is also saying that God is not in the equation or that my love for her is stronger? Meh. I’ll answer both.

    She no longer holds a belief in God either and I’m sure she would agree that my love for her has become stronger. Just to clarify, I don’t mean that I love her more, per se, just that realizing God had nothing to do with it has caused me to work harder at being a better husband, knowing that no one is going to do it for me. I’m not saying Christians don’t work hard at marriage, just that I don’t need a god to give me a reason to love my wife better. Hope that helps.

  • EricG

    These studies on atheist compassion are somewhat different but related to the point JamesB is making. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/01/religious-compassion-atheists-agnostics_n_1468006.html
    Even as a theist, I’d rather that someone act in love toward me because they have actual compassion rather than that they were commanded to love.

  • EricG

    (And yes, I realize that the dichotomy in my last sentence does not depict all possibilities – I am referring to those two because of the study results).

  • RJS

    EricG,

    Thanks. You make an excellent point. I think we’d all have people act out of love in genuine concern than a sense of either duty or guilt.

    As a Christian I think we are called to build communities where love is natural and genuine. It isn’t just a commandment.

  • JamesB

    EricG (92 &93),

    Thanks for the link. I would be reluctant to agree that less religious people are somehow more compassionate without first reading some more studies, but I agree with you and RJS(94) that we would all generally like people to act out of genuine love,which gets exactly to the point I was making: I think the primary reason my love is stronger now is because I have had to make a conscious choice to do so, not because I feel obligated or empowered by some outside force.

    Of course, this brings us back to the original post of where that love and compassion come from in the first place, but since that wasn’t the point of either of your replies, I will let my original argument stand for now until or unless someone wants to take it up again.


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