The Evidential Argument from Physical Minds (APM)

Last edited: 13-Jun-12 8:20PM PDT

Informal Statement of the Argument 

Scientific evidence shows that human consciousness and personality are highly dependent upon the brain. In this context, nothing mental happens without something physical happening. That strongly implies that the mind cannot exist independently of physical arrangements of matter. In other words, we do not have a soul. And this is exactly what we would expect if naturalism is true. But if theism is true, then souls or, more generally, minds that do not depend on physical brains, are a real possibility. Also, if theism is true, then God is a disembodied mind; God’s mind is not in any sense dependent on physical arrangements of matter. But if nothing mental happens without something physical happening, that is evidence against both the existence of souls and the existence of any being who is supposed to have a disembodied mind, including God. Therefore, the physical nature of minds is unlikely if theism is true, but what we would expect if naturalism is true.

Formal Statement of the Argument

B: The Relevant Background Information
1. Human beings exist. All healthy human beings have minds, including rich conscious experiences and personalities.

E: The Evidence to be Explained
1. Human minds are dependent upon the physical brain.

Rival Explanatory Hypotheses
T: classical theism
N: metaphysical naturalism

The Argument Formulated

(1) Pr(E | B & N) > Pr(E | B & T).
(2) E is known to be true.
(3) T is not much more probable intrinsically than N.
————————————————————————-
(4) Therefore, other evidence held equal, T is probably false.

Defense of (1) 

The neural correlates of consciousness are logically compatible with T; in other words, it is logically possible that both God exists and human minds are dependent upon physical brains. That is why the argument from physical minds is an evidential argument, not a logical one.

There are are two reasons why mind-brain dependence is antecedently more probable on the assumption that N is true than on the assumption that T is true. First, N entails that, if minds exist, they will be embodied, i.e., Pr(E | B & N) = 1. Naturalism is logically incompatible with disembodied minds, e.g., souls, ghosts, spirits, demons, angels, gods, God, etc.  In contrast, T is logically compatible with the existence of both embodied and disembodied minds. Thus, Pr(E | B & T) < 1. Second, disembodied minds are not just a 'theoretical' possibility on T; T entails the existence of at least one disembodied mind, namely, God’s mind. Thus, T provides at least some antecedent reason to expect human minds to be disembodied.

Defense of (2)

Following Michael Tooley, I will summarize the evidence for E as follows.

E1.1. When an individuals brain is directly stimulated and put into a certain physical state, this causes the person to have a corresponding experience.
E1.2. Certain injuries to the brain make it impossible for a person to have any mental states at all.
E1.3. Other injuries to the brain destroy various mental capacities. Which capacity is destroyed is tied directly to the particular region of the brain that was damaged.
E1.4. When we examine the mental capacities of animals, they become more complex as their brains become more complex.
E1.5. Within any given species, the development of mental capacities is correlated with the development of neurons in the brain.

Comments on (4)

Note that while the above argument implies that we have a good prima facie reason to believe that T is probably false (since T and N are incompatible), it does not imply that we have a good prima facie reason to believe that N is true (since T and N are not jointly exhaustive and so could both be improbable). So the argument from physical minds could be more accurately described as an argument against T than as an argument for N, though of course in some sense it is both.

Objections to APM

Objections to (1) 

Objection:  Even if there are no souls, it’s absurd to say that God can’t exist with a disembodied mind merely because humans don’t exist without a disembodied mind.

Reply: Yes, that would be absurd, which is why I don’t argue that God can’t exist because of human mind-brain dependence. In the jargon of philosophy of religion, my argument is an evidential argument from physical minds, not a logical argument from physical minds.

Objection: But consciousness is evidence for theism, so APM must be wrong.

Reply: Consciousness may well be evidence for T, but this is not of obvious relevance to APM, which states that, given human consciousness exists, the fact that is dependent upon the physical brain is evidence favoring N over T. In fact, to deny that mind-brain dependence can be evidence for N because consciousness is evidence for T is to come dangerously close to the fallacy of understated evidence.

Objection:  According to eliminative materialism, what we’d expect if naturalism is true is that we don’t even have mental states.

Reply: Like the previous objection, this objection is not of obvious relevance to APM and for the same reason. The existence of mental states is included within the background information for APM. At best, this objection, like this previous objection, provides support for an independent (though related) argument from consciousness for T.

Objection: But most Christians are non-reductive physicalists. Thus, on T we do have antecedent reason to expect mind-brain dependence and so (1) is false.

Reply: If T is improbable given E, then so is Christian theism (or any other more specific belief system that entails T). Christian theism entails T; therefore it cannot be more probable than T. Premise (4) entails that, other evidence held equal, Christian theism, along with every other version of T, is probably false.

I don’t deny the potential relevance of sectarian doctrines to the issue of whether my argument is sound. They could raise Pr(E | T) or lower Pr(E | N). In order to assess the evidential significance of such doctrines, we would need to apply a principle that Draper calls the “weighted average principle” (WAP). Let H represent some Christian doctrine. Then WAP can be represented as follows.

Pr(E | T) = Pr(H | T) x Pr(E | T & H) + Pr(~H | T) x Pr(E | T & ~H)

This formula is an average because Pr(H | T) + Pr(~H | T) = 1. It is not a simple straight average, however, since those two values may not equal 1/2.

Let us consider, then, Christian non-reductive physicalism (CNRP), which the objector proposes as a specific doctrine that he believes raises the probability of E given (Christian) theism. Using WAP, we obtain the following.

Pr(E | T) = Pr(CNRP | T) x Pr(E | T & CNRP) + Pr(~CNRP | T) x Pr(E | T & ~CNRP)

In order for CNRP to provide a defeater for (1), therefore, the objector would need to show that CNRP raises Pr(E | T) so that it is greater than or equal to Pr(E | N) by using the above formula. Thus WAP illustrates why CNRP is not a successful defeater to APM: on the assumption that T is true, there is no antecedent reason to expect CNRP over the denial of CNRP. In symbols, there is no reason to believe that Pr(~CNRP | T) is greater than Pr(~CNRP | T).

Objection: Physical embodiment provides a nice mechanism for the antithesis of certain omni-attributes that God might not want to endow creatures with – spatial location, lack of intrinsic eternality, limitations on knowledge, etc. It might be said that God could have simply created spirits or souls that lack the omni-attributes, but a) it seems easy to think of other good reasons for physical existence and on mind-body dualism the brain is the interface between the mind/soul and such existence, and b) since bringing about mind-brain dependence is at least *one* way of limiting the attributes of a created being, I’m not sure it matters whether or not there are other means of doing this.

Reply: I don’t deny that, if God exists, He might want to create embodied minds–indeed, for the very reasons mentioned by the objection. This is why (1) does not make the strong claim that E is antecedently much more probable on N than on T. Rather, (1) merely makes the weaker claim that E is antecedently more probable on N than on T. The fact that God might want to create embodied minds is not of obvious relevance to (1), however, since (1) does not claim (or entail the claim) that Pr(E | B & T) < 0.5. Rather, (1) makes a comparative claim, i.e., it compares the probability of E on naturalism to the probability of E on T. For the sake of argument, we could say that Pr(E | B & T) = 0.95. The fact remains that Pr(E | B & N) =1 whereas Pr(E | B & T) < 1. That's all that is needed to defend (1).

Objections to (2)

Objection: Lowder is using a computer to communicate with the outside world. He’s also using a compute to learn about the outside world. Conversely, his computer allows other people to contact Lowder. So it’s a two-way street. If Lowder’s modem were damaged, he’d be sealed off from the world in that respect. But that would just mean the medium or conduit was blocked. Therefore, E1.2 is false.

Reply: If human minds were independent of the physical brain, then brain injuries should not have much, if any, impact on mental activity since, ex hypothesi, mental activity does not occur in the brain to begin with. Thus, E1.2 is antecedently much more probable on the assumption that E is true than on the assumption that E is false, i.e., Pr(E1.2 | E) >! Pr(E1.2 | ~E).

The objector’s computer analogy does not explain E1.2. If my computer were stolen, no amount of fiddling with it would enable  the burglar to affect my ability to speak, recognize faces, feel pain. In contrast, brain injuries can produce exactly these kinds of results.

Objection: Regarding E1.4, is it really that simple or direct? Let’s take a few examples. In my observation, little dogs can be smarter than dogs 10, 15, 20 times their size. The bigger dogs have bigger brains, yet they’re dumber than the smaller dogs. Do the smaller dogs have more complex brains?

Reply: Regarding E1.4, when we compare different classes within the animal kingdom (e.g., fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals), we find that more intelligent classes always have more complex brains. I am not a neuroscientist or biologist, but I suspect that there is some margin of error with the correlation between brain size and mental capacities, e.g., an animal with a 500cc brain is always going to be more intelligent than an animal with a 5cc brain, but there may be instances within the same species of an animal with a 450cc brain that is more intelligent than an animal with a 500cc brain.

Objection: Regarding E.1.4, Social insects do very ingenuous things. If social insects were the size of chimpanzees (a scary thought!), it would be tempting to attribute their ingenuity to their brainpower.

Reply: Again, I am not a biologist, but I doubt that any biologist thinks that the intelligence of social insects is even in the same league as that of chimpanzees.

Objection: Likewise, predatory insects mimic the behavior of predatory mammals. Stalking their prey. Or ambush predators. When wolves, lions, leopards, and Cape hunting dogs do this sort of thing, it’s tempting to chalk that up to their mammalian brainpower.

Reply: Yes, but (I’m told) predatory insects are much more limited in their behavioral responses than social mammals like wolves, lions, leopards, and dogs. The latter are much more versatile in their behavioral responses because of their greater complexity. I could be wrong, but I believe this point is uncontroversial among entomologists and ethologists.

Objection: I don’t deny that souls and brains affect each other in subtle, intricate ways. But it seems to me that Lowder is appealing to half-truths. Ignoring counterevidence and oversimplifying the interrelationship.

Reply: Given that my argument is an evidential argument, this is false. Here considerations like the explanatory virtues come into play. What is the most parsimonious, scientifically conservative, successfully predictive explanation that accounts for the widest range of facts? Judged like any other empirical hypothesis, E is the best explanation, hands down.


Related Posts and Articles

A Case for Physicalism about the Human Mind” by Andrew Melnyk
The Evidential Argument from Mind-Brain Dependence: A Reply to Bilbo by Jeffery Jay Lowder
Attention Dualists: A Physicalist Challenge from Keith Augustine” by Victor Reppert and Keith Augustine
A Secular Outpost Discussion of Some of My Objections to the Argument from Evil” by Victor Reppert
Dr. Tooley’s Opening StatementThe Craig-Tooley Debate by Michael Tooley
Summary and Assessmemt of the Craig-Draper Debate on the Existence of God” (1998) by Jeffery Jay Lowder
Commentary on the Craig-Tooley Debate
Response to God Doesn’t Have a Brain; So Probably, He Doesn’t Exist
A Dozen Arguments for Atheism” by Richard Spencer
The Lowder-Fernandes Debate” by Chris Hallquist
The Disembodied Mind Argument

About Jeffery Jay Lowder

Jeffery Jay Lowder is President Emeritus of Internet Infidels, Inc., which he co-founded in 1995. He is also co-editor of the book, The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06413844619464733681 Jayman

    First, N entails that, if minds exist, they will be embodied, i.e., Pr(E | B & N) = 1.

    But on naturalism we would have no reason to expect a mind (a piece of matter) to be conscious (B). I don't see how you can give this a probability of one.

    Consciousness may well be evidence for theism, but this is not of obvious relevance to APM, which states that, given human consciousness exists, the fact that is dependent upon the physical brain is evidence favoring naturalism over theism.

    Wouldn't the probability of theism given consciousness have to be lower than the probability of naturalism given physical minds for your argument to work? And it's not as if science has established that consciousness is fully dependent on the physical brain either.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    Jayman:

    But on naturalism we would have no reason to expect a mind (a piece of matter) to be conscious (B). I don't see how you can give this a probability of one.

    Please refer back to B1: "Human beings exist. All healthy human beings have minds, including rich conscious experiences and personalities." With this information as part of our background information, Pr(E | B & N) = 1.

    Wouldn't the probability of theism given consciousness have to be lower than the probability of naturalism given physical minds for your argument to work?

    No. Because consciousness is part of the background information of this argument, the probability of theism given consciousness has no impact whatsoever on the probability of naturalism given mind-brain dependence.

    And it's not as if science has established that consciousness is fully dependent on the physical brain either.

    Michael Tooley has summarized the evidence as follows:

    First, when an individuals brain is directly stimulated and put into a certain physical state, this causes the person to have a corresponding experience. Second, certain injuries to the brain make it impossible for a person to have any mental states at all. Third, other injuries to the brain destroy various mental capacities. Which capacity is destroyed is tied directly to the particular region of the brain that was damaged. Fourth, when we examine the mental capacities of animals, they become more complex as their brains become more complex. And fifth, within any given species, the development of mental capacities is correlated with the development of neurons in the brain.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01786844757672182664 Truth Seeker

    Hello Jeff, this is an argument I have been thinking about lately. First, technically, God is not a disembodied mind, but rather, an unembodied mind.

    This argument presupposes that it was feasible for God to create beings according to the tenets of substance dualism. However, substance dualism would require human beings to be able to violate the Principle of Causal Closure, which further implies that human beings are capable of performing MIRACLES! However, it is plausible on theism that only God, or a being maximally powerful can perform miracles. But, it is logically impossible for God to create another, not to mention many other, maximally powerful beings because any other being that exists must be within the power of God to create or not. But then the existence of that being depends asymmetrically upon God. So God has power over it, while it lacks this power over God. So there can be at most one omnipotent God. Moreover, as Michael Tooley states in his debate with Craig, "…given what we know about the universe, it would be impossible for there to be a being that was omnipotent and omniscient and that was physical in nature." Even if it wasn't logically impossible for God to create another omnipotent being that could perform miracles, we know that human beings wouldn't fit that bill. So, unless you could show that god was obligated to create another being that was maximally powerful (which is impossible anyway), this argument is not a good one because God didn't have the option of creating little human miracle workers which have minds independently of their brains. Indeed, if the defender of this argument got her wish of substance dualism, that would mean that the number of miracles that human beings will have performed by now is much much much much greater than the number of miracles God has ever performed! Strange indeed.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01786844757672182664 Truth Seeker

    THE SECOND PART OF YOUR ARGUMENT: Although this argument relies on enumerative induction which is common reasoning used in reaching a probabilistic conclusion, the sample is disconnected from the conclusion. What follows from the argument is not that there probably is no unembodied divine mind, but rather, that every human being that exists probably will not have a mind independently of a brain, or that everything which is biological and has a mind, that such a mind will be identical to, or causally dependent upon a central nervous system. Or again, what follows is that everything in the universe that has a mind, will have a brain, but we can't say that probably, no unembodied mind can exist beyond the universe. Thus, this argument would be trouble for someone who thought that God was an embodied person who existed in the universe, and who allegedly had a mind independent of his body.
    What Tooley has here is an inductive argument that only supports a physical principle (like the Second Law of Thermodynmics), as opposed to a metaphysical principle (like Being cannot come from Non-Being), about the nature of minds had by physical creatures in the universe. A parallel use of induction to derive a physical principle relevant to Tooley's argument can be seen in the following argument:

    1) Every life form we know of depends on liquid water to exist.
    2) Therefore, probably, all life depends on liquid water to exist.
    3) Since God is alleged to exist independently of any reliance of liquid water, God probably doesn't exist.

    If we take this argument and apply it to God like Tooley does with his argument, what we would say is that since God is alleged to be a form of life that exists without depending on water, we should conclude that probably, no such being exists. Clearly, this argument is faulty because all that follows is a physical principle about the dependence on water of life in the universe, but nothing of metaphysical import about the probability of a living thing that exists beyond the universe has been shown. Here is another example of Tooley's reasoning:

    1) Every mind we know of is the product of evolution.
    2) God, if He exists, would have a mind, but would not be a product of evolution.
    3) Therefore, God probably doesn't have a mind.
    4) Therefore, probably, God doesn't exist.

    Again, what we have here is a physical prinicple that wouldn't speak against or for the existence of a mind beyond the universe. In this way, Tooley's argument is similar to the confusion surrounding the first law of thermodynamics which says that matter can neither be created nor destroyed. Some see this as evidence that the universe is eternal, but then that would conflict with the Big Bang Theory. In that case, science would contradict science. But what scientists realize is that the first law of thermodynamics is a physical prinicple that applies to a closed physical system, or arena, once that arena exists. In the absence of the physical universe, the first law of thermodynamics wouldn't dictate the behavior of anything. It isn't as if the first law is a metaphysical prinicple that governs the behavior of things both in and beyond the universe, if there be any such things. Rather, the first law of thermodynamics is a physical principle that would only apply to things in the universe.

    To further draw out the weakness of this argument let's consider a similar argument with the same logical structure regarding abstract objects:

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01786844757672182664 Truth Seeker

    1) If abstract objects exist, then they are non-physical.
    2) If abstract objects exist, then they have the substance of being real (they have properties).
    3) Everything that exists that has the substance of being real is physical, as far as we have observed.
    4) Hence, it is impossible for abstract objects to exist.

    I think this parody argument shows us yet again that Tooley's argument is confusing a physical principle with a metaphysical principle. While it may be true that all human persons that exist in the universe will by necessity of physical principle, be embodied, it doesn't follow from this, that all persons, or even all things that may or can exist must by necessity of metaphysical principle, be embodied. Likewise, while it may the case that what we are directly acquainted with as being real are physical things, it doesn't follow from this, that it is metaphysically impossible, or even improbable that abstract objects can exist, or even that we cannot reason to them by way of some indirect experience(s) we have of things in the world. Likewise in the case of God as a personal and unembodied being.

    So then, what Tooley would need to show is that his physical principle about the minds of physical creatures, can be translated into a metaphysical princple about mind qua mind. Since his argument doesn't show this, Tooley's argument doesn't accomplish what he thinks it does; for if God exists, then we are talking about a God that transcends the universe, and is unembodied. Thus, neither the the nature of our minds, nor life's dependence on water, nor evolution speaks probabilistically against the existence of a being beyond the universe that is not embodied, does not depend on water in order to live, and didn't evolve.

    Third, we have positive evidence that such an unembodied and transcendent mind does exist from the arguments of Natural Theology (particularly from the kalam cosmological argument). If we have good reason to think that the cause of the universe must be personal, then we can ask whether or not such a person is embodied or unembodied. Since the cause of the universe must be personal, and can't be embodied, then we should believe in an unembodied personal cause of the universe. So then, even if Tooley's argument was successful, we have at least one Rebutting defeater, but I do not think it is successful, given the undercutting defeaters I have supplied.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01786844757672182664 Truth Seeker

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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    Truth Seeker — Interesting reply. I don't understand why you think that if God created human beings according to the tents of substance dualism, it follows that human beings would be "maximally powerful beings" or "omnipotent and omniscient."

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01786844757672182664 Truth Seeker

    Yeah, the 'omniscient' part is just part of the quote from Tooley in the debate, but I do want to focus in on the property of omnipotence. What I am saying is that a very common (and to my mind) devastating critique of substance dualism has to do with the fact (made by John Searle and others) that it implies that human beings can perform miracles just by walking across a room, or brushing their teeth, or what have you. But, as Stenger himself seems to think with respect to the zero energy hypothesis debate we had, if the PCP could be violated then this would be evidence for theism. Why? Because that would be a miracle? Why is this evidence for theism? Because, for all we know, only God (with the property of omnipotence) can perform miracles like violating the PCP. So, I think my response is right in line with the majority view in the philosophy of mind and it seems to be likely, or at least, for all we know likely, that only 'God' can perform miracles. This would be an inductive argument rather than a deductive argument since it may be the case that something with a lot more power than human beings, but still somewhat short of omnipotence can perform a miracle, or only certain miracles, or no miracles at all; I don't really know. But then, we cannot probabilitiscally say that on theism we would expect God to create minds independently of brains because that would entail that human beings can do miracles which I think we have good reason to confidently delegate to omnipotence alone.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    Truth Seeker writes:

    THE SECOND PART OF YOUR ARGUMENT:

    Are you copying-and-pasting from something you've previously written? It's no problem if you are, but I can't figure out what you mean by "the second part" of my argument. I formally stated my argument with numbered premises and a conclusion.

    Although this argument relies on enumerative induction which is common reasoning used in reaching a probabilistic conclusion, the sample is disconnected from the conclusion. What follows from the argument is not that there probably is no unembodied divine mind,….

    I assume this a reference to my comment at 5:47pm CDT. That comment summarizes Tooley's evidence. My point in listing Tooley's evidence was to provide support for E, not to suggest that we rely on enumerative induction to establish that God probably does not exist. For argument against T is an explanatory argument, not an argument based upon enumerative induction.

    I think I will edit the post to add a section describing the evidence for E. Hopefully this will clear up the confusion.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    Truth Seeker —

    Yeah, the 'omniscient' part is just part of the quote from Tooley in the debate

    Fair enough. It may be the case that there is a subtle difference between the way Dr. Tooley formulates his version of APM vs. mine. Using his 5 lines of evidence, I merely draw only the following conclusion, abbreviated as E: "Human minds are dependent upon the physical brain."

    but I do want to focus in on the property of omnipotence. What I am saying is that a very common (and to my mind) devastating critique of substance dualism has to do with the fact (made by John Searle and others) that it implies that human beings can perform miracles just by walking across a room, or brushing their teeth, or what have you.

    Again, interesting reply. I don't have anything to say at the moment; I'll need to think about this.

    But, as Stenger himself seems to think with respect to the zero energy hypothesis debate we had, if the PCP could be violated then this would be evidence for theism.

    Sorry if I am being dense or even brain dead, but what is PCP? Principle of Conservation …? Primary Causal Principle?

    How do you reconcile your argument against substance dualism with the traditional theistic view that God created other disembodied (unembodied?) minds such as angels and demons? Can they perform miracles?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    I just remembered that Andrew Melnyk, in the Secular Web's Great Debate, offered another reason for thinking that mind-brain dependence is antecedently more probable on N than on T.

    "Is physicalism about the human mind evidentially relevant to theism in any other way? I think it is.[9] To avoid being disconfirmed by the existence of moral evils (and perhaps for other reasons as well), theism requires that human agents freely choose to act in one way rather than another. But so-called compatibilist accounts of free choice–which say that what makes a choice free is not its being causally undetermined but rather its being causally determined via a special kind of causal route–will not suit theism's needs. For every compatibilist account of free choice, to be plausible, must insist that no human choice is free if the causal chain culminating in the choice can be traced back to an intentional agent who intended or at least foresaw that choice. But if God created the world and instituted the causal laws that govern its workings, then all human choices result from causal chains that can be traced back to an intentional agent who intended or at least foresaw those choices, and so no human choices are free. What theism requires, therefore, is that human agents freely choose in some way that entirely removes the free choice from the nexus of laws of nature, be those laws deterministic or statistical. However, if physicalism about the mind is true, then human choices are as much a part of the nexus of laws of nature as any other events in the physical world. So if physicalism about the mind is true, then theism cannot have what in fact it requires."

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01786844757672182664 Truth Seeker

    Yeah, sorry about the haste of copying and pasting for the 'second part' from something I wrote before; I was at work and had to be hasty. I must have been smoking PCP; what I meant was PCC (Principle of Causal Closure; 1st law of thermodynamics. I have never heard any EVIDENCE whatsoever to think: 1) That angels and demons exist; and 2) That if they do exist they can perform miracles. I realize that most people who talk like I have been talking presuppose that the Bible is an inerrant collection of books so that anything it teaches is not just probably true, but infallibly true (i.e. that angels and demons exist, and that perhaps they can do something approaching a miracle). However, from my study of the Bible, I find that it has contradictions, factual errors, moral atrocities, failed prophecies, forgeries, and the like; so that if anything in the Bible is in fact 'inspired' by God we can no longer prooftext from the Bible as an inerrant source of truth on anything contained therein. Rather, we would some independent criteria for establishing 'the divine backing' of claims within the Bible since it is so clearly (IMO) far from inerrant. Thus, at best I think my reason would allow me to be agnostic about the existence of angels but since I take my argument seriously, even if they did exist I do not think it is probable at all that they can do miracles. So, this traditional theistic view that God created angels and demons is justified as far as I can tell, by what the Bible says about them, but when we look objectively at the Bible (I doubt you will disagree with me here) it is not the kind of book that we should trust in every detail; especially if we cannot independently verify its claims.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01786844757672182664 Truth Seeker

    Well, this depends on not just what is strictly and broadly logically possible for God, but metaphysically possible or feasible for God to create; and if my argument is at all plausible, then that means it wasn't feasible for God to create embodied creatures that can 'transcend' the causal order so to speak. The argument that this gentlemen is making also would work if God did not exist in the sense that it would imply that determinism is inconsistent with moral responsbility for anybody (except God if He existed I guess), but that is what an incompatbilist argues, not a compatibilist. Is determinism incompatible with moral responsibility? Well, that depends on who you ask; certainly Dennett doesn't think so; there are very sophisticated accounts of how determinism doesn't negate moral responsbility. Moreover, I know this probably sounds ridiculous, but the majority view in the philosophy of biology is that there aren't any laws of nature for biological species (See Philosophy of Biology by Rosenburg and McShea); and moreover, although most are physicalist's in POB, the majority view is anti-reductionism which may allow for top-down causation that isn't miraculous. So, this strongly implies to me at least, that human behavior is not ULTIMATELY deterministic. Also, on the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics indeterminacy isn't just epistemic, but ontological and so you have someone like Robert Kane who defends libertarian freedom despite physicalism. Lastly, a professor I once had who studied these issues for some decades now, thinks that our terms for talking about free will (determinism, indeterminism, libertarian, etc.) are very coarse grained concepts because in all honesty we hardly know anything about how the brain performs many of its most important functions (we know lots about what parts of the brain are associated with, or correlated with certain functions but we do not know 'the how' of these functions; i.e. how the brain processes information, or represents the letter A to itslef). So, he would say that we know too little to make even probable conclusions about what is really going on with us because the brain is the most complicated thing in the universe. This seems right to me; whatever is going on when I formulate arguments will ultimately be physical, but does that mean I do not have the proper control over the use of reason to rationally affirm things? Some would say yes,some would say no, but I think it is more likely that we just don't know enough yet to answer such questions. Also, I can recall Patricia Churchland saying in one of her lectures at the University of San Diego that neuroscience is not telling us that we aren't morally responsible anymore.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01786844757672182664 Truth Seeker

    Of course, compatibilism/incompatibilism is a complex issue (much more so than is presented in the argument above)ranging over such topics such as logical determinism/causal determinism; not all forms of compatiblism require causal or logical determinism either; Moreover, the Compatibilist might argue that determinism is not just compatible with any good definition of free will, but actually necessary. If one's actions are not determined by one's beliefs, desires, and character, then how could one possibly be held morally responsible for those actions? If I was forced to give an answer however, I would say something like this (taken from SEP):Several compatibilists have suggested that freely willed actions issue from volitional features of agency that are sensitive to an appropriate range of reasons (e.g., Dennett, 1984a; Fingarette, 1972; Gert and Duggan, 1979; Glover, 1970; MacIntyre, 1957; Neely, 1974; and Nozick, 1981). Such reasons might speak in varying ways for or against a course of action. Agents who are unresponsive to appropriate rational considerations (such as compulsives or neurotics) do not act of their own free wills. But agents who are responsive to some range of rational considerations do. This view has been artfully refined in recent years by John Martin Fischer (1987, and 1994), and subsequently, Fischer and Mark Ravizza (1998). (For a more advanced discussion of Fischer and Ravizza's view, see section B of the supplement Compatibilism: The State of the Art.) Many working on the topics of free will and moral responsibility now regard Fischer's developed account to be the gold standard for cutting edge defenses of compatibilism.

    A reasons-responsiveness theory turns upon dispositional features of an agent's relation to reasons issuing in freely willed action. Appropriately reasons-responsive conduct is sensitive to rational considerations. The view is not merely that an agent would display herself in some counterfactual situations to be responsive to reasons, but rather that her responsiveness to reasons in some counterfactual situations is evidence that her actual conduct itself — the causes giving rise to it — is also in response to rational considerations

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    Truthseeker wrote:

    Yeah, sorry about the haste of copying and pasting for the 'second part' from something I wrote before; I was at work and had to be hasty.

    No worries; I've done the same thing before.

    I must have been smoking PCP; …

    LOL!

    … what I meant was PCC (Principle of Causal Closure; 1st law of thermodynamics. I have never heard any EVIDENCE whatsoever to think: 1) That angels and demons exist; and 2) That if they do exist they can perform miracles.

    I am not aware of evidence that angels and demons exist, either. On the other hand, on the assumption that they do exist, which is at least logically possible, I see no reason to believe that they could not perform miracles. I would expect them to be less powerful than God, but I see no reason to assume that a supernatural being must be omnipotent in order to perform a miracle. Maybe omnipotence would be required–I'm not sure–but I'm not sure how one would show that.

    (Of course, you posted an argument for this very conclusion earlier, which I need to think about. So nothing I've written in this comment is even relevant to your earlier argument. I'm just thinking out loud.)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    Truth Seeker — I should have provided a disclaimer when I quoted Melnyk's other reason for thinking physicalism about human minds is antecedently more probable on naturalism than on theism. The disclaimer is this. "Disclaimer: I'm quoting Melnyk's argument purely for the reader's consideration without taking a position on it myself. I am undecided on his argument, but found it very interesting and thought others would also."

    Also, while I have your attention, FYI, I will probably soon be ramping down my activity on the blog for a while, possibly for a long while, but I will try to respond to comments when I can (assuming I have anything interesting to say).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    Update: I've edited the post by inserting my discussion of another objection to APM. That objection is now the new third objection (the objection which mentions eliminative materialism).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    Update: I see that Steve Hays has blogged a response. In response, I have made a couple of minor changes to the informal statement and added an entirely new section for objections to premise (2).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12045468316613818510 Blue Devil Knight

    Hayes was right to focus on E1.4 because the terms aren't very well defined, so it is weak.

    , I am not a biologist, but I doubt that any biologist thinks that the intelligence of social insects is even in the same league as that of chimpanzees.

    Most of us would avoid answering a question like that before the terms were nailed down very precisely. Many would say, 'Intelligent in what way?' And if you said 'Ability to build hives' we would have to say that the bee was more intelligent.

    Regardless of these ultimately moot questions like whether bee hive shows more intelligence than a bonobo masturbating, we should note that all the behaviors of the bee depend on the nervous system of the bee. Nobody in the conversation is a substance dualist about the bee dance.

    Hayes has pointed out a case of a simple cognitive life, with memory and a communication system, in a patently naturalistic system, and we should thank him for pointing out this nice example that, while casting doubt on one of your pieces of evidence, ultimately is very helpful for the naturalist. Indeed, bees are now one of my favorite examples for the study of intelligent biorepresentational
    systems (it used to be birdsong learning, until I posted this).

    Back to your argument: in general, inferences from neural complexity to "mental complexity" (and vice-versa) are tough.

    I would just say that the neural activity we observe is what we would expect if brains were solely responsible for the mental capacities of animals, and that given everything we know about brains, it isn't clear what is left for these nonphysical substances to do. That's why most of the antinaturalists about consciousness are merely property dualists for whom experiences literally do nothing but dangle there attached to the meat doing the real work, dangling there "feeling" or "experiencing" or whatever, doing nothing.

    There is no magic synapse that has to take in inputs from some additional ingredient (psychons (Eccles)). Rather, everywhere we look, we find neurotransmitters and voltage fields pushing around other neurons (and ultimately muscles) all the way through, without any metaphysical gaps. Given that, and the other evidence you pointed out, and the lack of any plausible dualistic theory that has ever offered any help to any neuroscientist ever, substance dualism is dead except to the religiously biased (and perhaps new-age credulous saps). So we end up with property dualists that serve as the end-point epiphenomenalist reductio of the dualist enterprise.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    BDK: Thank you for your comment. Your feedback is well-taken.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10289884295542007401 Jeffery Jay Lowder

    BDK: It appears that Steve Hays has blogged a response to your comment. See "Links to this post" below.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12045468316613818510 Blue Devil Knight

    I wish them luck pushing dualism about bees and other invertebrate systems. :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16826568465831489492 Alex Dalton

    I remember Jeff making this argument years back. I still think a major problem for it is the following:

    "T entails the existence of at least one disembodied mind, namely, God's mind. Thus, T provides at least some antecedent reason to expect human minds to be disembodied."

    I just don't understand how God being a disembodied mind, would make it more likely that God will create human beings with disembodied minds. I don't see any reason for anyone to accept this. God is a non-physical being creating physical beings. Unless there is some percieved difficulty in creating physical minds, why is it in any way improbable that, when creating physical beings, God would endow them with physical minds? Perhaps God was aware of the interaction problem? If the opponents of dualism are right about the interaction problem, it would seem likely that God would create physical minds.

  • Anonymous

    Modern physics (especially quantum physics – see quantum-randi challenge) has refuted materialism, and since substance dualism is impossible, it follows that idealism is the way to go.

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