Materialism Is A Misnomer

Pardon me for asking a silly question, but here I go anyways: If you made salad dressing that was one part vinegar and 10,000,000,000,000 parts olive oil, would it be accurate in any sense of that word to label your dressing as vinegar-based? I’m going to bet that any reasonable person would say no.

Yet, physicists estimate that the atomic material/non-material ratio is akin to a single grain of sand in St. Peter’s Basilica [approximately 163,000 square feet]. So then, why do so many “materialists” assert that “material” explanations can account for all known phenomena when what they call “matter” is actually something like 99.9999999999999% immaterial?

Am I missing something?

166 Comments

  1. woodchuck64 says:

    Stanford’s Encylopedia of Philosophy for physicalism says:

    As the name suggests, materialists historically held that everything was matter — where matter was conceived as “an inert, senseless substance, in which extension, figure, and motion do actually subsist” (Berkeley, Principles of Human Knowledge, par. 9). But physics itself has shown that not everything is matter in this sense; for example, forces such as gravity are physical but it is not clear that they are material in the traditional sense (Lange 1865, Dijksterhuis 1961, Yolton 1983). So it is tempting to use ‘physicalism’ to distance oneself from what seems a historically important but no longer scientifically relevant thesis of materialism, and related to this, to emphasize a connection to physics and the physical sciences. However, while physicalism is certainly unusual among metaphysical doctrines in being associated with a commitment both to the sciences and to a particular branch of science, namely physics, it is not clear that this is a good reason for calling it ‘physicalism’ rather than ‘materialism.’ For one thing, many contemporary physicalists do in fact use the word ‘materialism’ to describe their doctrine (e.g. Smart 1963). Moreover, while ‘physicalism’ is no doubt related to ‘physics’ it is also related to ‘physical object’ and this in turn is very closely connected with ‘material object’, and via that, with ‘matter.’

  2. Crude says:

    Two quick comments.

    1) Notice how rare it is for anyone to ever frame this state of knowledge as “materialism was refuted by science”, despite it being vastly more apt than the suggestion that theism has been challenged by science.

    2) For added fun, check out the entry for naturalism on the SEP. Surprise! The definition of naturalism is even squishier than physicalism/materialism.

  3. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> Yet, physicists estimate that the atomic material/non-material ratio is akin to a single grain of sand in St. Peter’s Basilica [approximately 163,000 square feet]. So then, why do so many “materialists” assert that “material” explanations can account for all known phenomena when what they call “matter” is actually something like 99.9999999999999% immaterial?

    That is a fair point.

    As has been pointed out by Crude, amongst others, the definition of “matter” has changed many times over the centuries, and was initially atoms impacting one another in a mechanical fashion, and then had to include forces that performed action at a distance, and then atoms – as you rightfully pointed out – actually turned out to be mostly empty space, and who knows what other revisions will have to be made to account for the data.

    But specifically with respect to the point that you are making, I think you are committing the fallacy of composition. Just because an atom is mostly made up of empty space does not mean that a chair is mostly made up of empty space. I think that is because a chair clearly is a material object that is solid. Sitting on it is unlike sitting on air in that you meet resistance with the chair, but not with the air. So, I think that definitions and concepts that hold from one size scale do not necessarily hold in all size scales.

    What do you think?

  4. Crude says:

    Not that this decisively settles anything, but regarding the claim that a chair is not made up of mostly empty space…

    http://helios.gsfc.nasa.gov/qa_gp_b.html

    You make a good point about the chair. It appears to be solid, but it is mostly empty space. It resists crushing because the electrons of the chair atoms cannot easily be compressed together. Charged particles repel other particles of the same charge.

    Dr. Mark Popecki

  5. cl says:

    dguller,

    …and then atoms – as you rightfully pointed out – actually turned out to be mostly empty space… What do you think?

    I think you’ve got no business telling me I don’t understand science when I never said A SINGLE WORD about empty space! I emphatically DO NOT believe the majority of an atom is “empty space.” I think that’s a bunch of unscientific chutzpah.

    Just because an atom is mostly made up of empty space does not mean that a chair is mostly made up of empty space.

    No, that’s exactly what it means.

  6. Adito says:

    1. Materialism includes energy. This would be a very odd thing to leave out seeing as matter and energy are interchangeable.

    2. If “physicists estimate that…” chances are they’re talking about material things. You know…since they’re physicists…

    3. Things are not “mostly empty space.” As a matter of fact, no matter how hard we’ve looked, we’ve never been able to find empty space. The quantum vacuum is the closest we’ve gotten and that’s hardly empty.

    4. These are really silly pseudo-objections. A little research would have shown that.

  7. Crude says:

    1. Materialism includes energy. This would be a very odd thing to leave out seeing as matter and energy are interchangeable.

    It is important to realize that in physics today, we have no knowledge what energy is. We do not have a picture that energy comes in little blobs of a definite amount.

  8. cl says:

    Adito,

    I have no comment for 1. 2 is silly and ignores the fact of the matter. As for 3:

    Things are not “mostly empty space.”

    Did I say they were? No. Those were the words dguller attributed to me.

    As for 4, I couldn’t care less if you think the truth is silly.

  9. Adito says:

    It is important to realize that in physics today, we have no knowledge what energy is..

    That’s clearly false. Cavemen had no idea what energy was. We have a fairly developed knowledge of what it is. Energy is simply the name we’ve given one of the steps in the hierarchy of things that exist and interact with other things. In any case, even if we have no idea what energy is that doesn’t mean that it’s somehow empty space.

    cl, 2 is silly? What do physicists discover that isn’t material? Actually here’s a better question. You said that the ratio of material things to non-material things was 1/10^12. What are you referring to with the “1” and the “10^12″ there? I suspect that whatever you come up with for that 10^12 it will be a standard part of materialist ontology.

    3 was clearly not directed to you since you never mentioned empty space and since I have no idea how you’re going to describe something physicists accept as making up the majority of reality yet materialists reject I’m still holding to 4.

  10. Crude says:

    That’s clearly false. Cavemen had no idea what energy was. We have a fairly developed knowledge of what it is. Energy is simply the name we’ve given one of the steps in the hierarchy of things that exist and interact with other things. In any case, even if we have no idea what energy is that doesn’t mean that it’s somehow empty space.

    You realize that was a quote, rather than a statement from myself, right? It’s not denied that energy as an abstract concept is useful, not even by who I’m quoting. But to have knowledge, even useful knowledge, of such a concept doesn’t translate into knowing what energy is.

    Nor did I say that “energy is empty space”. In fact, I’ve had little to say on the topic – I quoted a NASA scientist, and I quoted Richard Feynman.

  11. Crude says:

    I suspect that whatever you come up with for that 10^12 it will be a standard part of materialist ontology.

    What ‘materialist ontology’? The previous “materialist ontology” was overturned decisively by scientific advancement. The current one is closer to “matter is whatever physicists say it is, whatever that turns out to be”. Panpsychism is counted as materialism now – that should illustrate just how far the term has fallen.

  12. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> I think you’ve got no business telling me I don’t understand science when I never said A SINGLE WORD about empty space! I emphatically DO NOT believe the majority of an atom is “empty space.” I think that’s a bunch of unscientific chutzpah.

    First, you are correct that you did not say that. When you said that 99.99% of atoms are immaterial, I misread that to mean empty space.

    Second, you still do not understand scientific research.

    >> No, that’s exactly what it means.

    Again, one must be careful of the context, because the meanings of terms changes. For example, if you were in a room, and someone came to the room, looked in the room, and then told someone else outside that the room was basically empty, then that would be true (in one sense) but clearly false (in another sense), because you are in the room. Again, in the context of physics, the room is basically empty, because the majority of space is empty, but in the context of our everyday interactions with macroscopic objects, it is not mostly empty at all, but is filled with objects that we consider important, such as yourself, furniture, and so on. Is there a REAL sense of “empty” here? No, only different senses that vary depending upon the context. As Wittgenstein showed, something may be profound in one sense, but nonsensical in another, depending upon the context.

  13. dguller says:

    Crude:

    >> What ‘materialist ontology’? The previous “materialist ontology” was overturned decisively by scientific advancement. The current one is closer to “matter is whatever physicists say it is, whatever that turns out to be”. Panpsychism is counted as materialism now – that should illustrate just how far the term has fallen.

    Perhaps it would be more helpful to describe reality as consisting of matter and energy operating according to natural laws? Personally, the one definition of “naturalism” that I find the most intuitive is one that states that everything is derived from non-conscious entities. So, this definition would naturally – ha! – include atoms, forces, energy, minds, and so on, which we all agree is part of a general ontology. It also includes the possibility of immaterial minds, but states that they must be formed of immaterial non-conscious entities. It only rules out conscious minds that are not caused by non-conscious entities at all.

    What do you think?

  14. cl says:

    Adito,

    In any case, even if we have no idea what energy is that doesn’t mean that it’s somehow empty space.

    Again, nobody here except dguller said anything about empty space, and he said so out of misunderstanding, so, why do you keep bringing this up? Is it related to a larger argument you’re making?

    What do physicists discover that isn’t material?

    The vast, overwhelming majority of the universe is apparently not physical matter.

    What are you referring to with the “1″ and the “10^12″ there?

    The “1” refers to the miniscule amount of physical material in the universe, the “10^12″ refers to that which surrounds the physical material but is not physical material itself.

    …since I have no idea how you’re going to describe something physicists accept as making up the majority of reality yet materialists reject I’m still holding to 4.

    4 has no import to the OP or this discussion. You’re free to hold whatever opinion you wish regarding the facts. Call it silly, call it whatever. Physical matter is a grain of sand in the Basilica.

    dguller,

    Are the atoms that compose a chair different than the atoms physicists study? If not, can you explain the scientific basis for your claim?

    First, you are correct that you did not say that. When you said that 99.99% of atoms are immaterial, I misread that to mean empty space.

    I suggest that haste like this might be why we often talk past each other. I’ve asked, time and time again, that you stick to my actual words instead of paraphrasing, but to little avail. I mean, do you enjoy talking past one another? I don’t! I believe we can do better.

    Second, you still do not understand scientific research.

    You are mistaken. That I take issue with your staunch skepticism on the Pam Reynolds case does not entail that I misunderstand scientific research.

    …the majority of space is empty…

    I disagree. I don’t believe in empty space and you haven’t provided a lick of evidence for your claim. By your own standards, I should conclude that it is most likely false, right?

    Is there a REAL sense of “empty” here?

    Let’s not walk with open arms towards solipsism, and let’s get rid of this whole “empty” bit. Yes, there is a *REAL* sense of immaterial here. The vast, overwhelming majority of the universe is apparently not physical matter.

    As Wittgenstein showed, something may be profound in one sense, but nonsensical in another, depending upon the context.

    So in what context is your claim profound, that, “Just because an atom is mostly made up of empty space does not mean that a chair is mostly made up of empty space?” I say no possible context, whatsoever. You appear to be handwaving scientific research for reasons unbeknownst to me. It’s fine if you wish to deny some claim of science–that is, after all, often how science progresses–but I need something more than a passing reference to Wittgenstein in order to take it seriously.

    Personally, the one definition of “naturalism” that I find the most intuitive is one that states that everything is derived from non-conscious entities. So, this definition would naturally – ha! – include atoms, forces, energy, minds, and so on, which we all agree is part of a general ontology. [to Crude]

    Clearly, things exist that are derived from conscious entities, so I suspect you intended an “ultimate” before “derived” there. Am I right?

  15. Adito says:

    The current one is closer to “matter is whatever physicists say it is, whatever that turns out to be”.

    Not quite. A tree has always been considered matter and always will be. We’re learning all sorts of interesting things about the tiny structures that make up trees but that does nothing to hurt our knowledge of a tree as matter.

    The “1″ refers to the miniscule amount of physical material in the universe, the “10^12″ refers to that which surrounds the physical material but is not physical material itself

    Again, what are you talking about? This tells me nothing. Are you talking about dark matter/energy for the 10^12 and stuff like planets for the 1? That’s the only thing I can think of that would make some sense of your claims but clearly everything I’ve just mentioned is matter and not denied by materialism. If it has gravitational pull then it’s physical.

  16. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> You are mistaken. That I take issue with your staunch skepticism on the Pam Reynolds case does not entail that I misunderstand scientific research.

    You do not “take issue” with it. You agree that the case is inconclusive, but happen to really dislike this conclusion. That is what you take issue with.

    >> I disagree. I don’t believe in empty space and you haven’t provided a lick of evidence for your claim. By your own standards, I should conclude that it is most likely false, right?

    Actually, you are right. There are vacuum fluctuations that generate virtual particles winking in and out of existence at all times.

    >> Let’s not walk with open arms towards solipsism, and let’s get rid of this whole “empty” bit. Yes, there is a *REAL* sense of immaterial here. The vast, overwhelming majority of the universe is apparently not physical matter.

    Again, it depends upon what one means by “physical matter”. Is a vacuum fluctuation not “physical”? Are the virtual particles that are the basis for all other particles not “physical”? I think that anything that is postulated to explain observed phenomena and that operate according to replicable and consistent laws of nature can be considered “physical”. Is it possible that there are entities – immaterial or otherwise – that will be discovered in the future, which would require a further revision of our understanding of “physical”? Sure, but the evidence that you have provided just is not good enough to require such a radical revision in our understanding of the physical universe.

    >> Clearly, things exist that are derived from conscious entities, so I suspect you intended an “ultimate” before “derived” there. Am I right?

    Yup.

  17. cl says:

    Adito,

    While I’m certainly glad you stopped by and I encourage you to stick around–because I’m interested to see what type of discussions we can have outside the scope of CSA–frankly, I’m not interested in arguing over who’s definition of physical is correct. Really, what would it get us? You think something that’s 99.9999999999999% immaterial is actually material? Well, okay… so be it. Obviously, I disagree.

    If it has gravitational pull then it’s physical.

    This would cover mass, NOT that which surrounds mass but is not mass itself. I also question the “pull” theory of gravity, but that’s a whole different discussion.

    dguller,

    You do not “take issue” with it. You agree that the case is inconclusive, but happen to really dislike this conclusion. That is what you take issue with.

    Well, thanks for clearing that up for me, Doctor! I feel liberated from the shackles of my self-obliviousness already. Who should I write the check to for this session?

    Again, it depends upon what one means by “physical matter”.

    The stock definition has been, “that which has mass.” Nonetheless, I’m interested in this bit about the chair: are the atoms that compose a chair different than the atoms physicists study?

  18. Crude says:

    dguller,

    Perhaps it would be more helpful to describe reality as consisting of matter and energy operating according to natural laws?

    It doesn’t help at all when what ‘matter’ is and what ‘energy’ is is left undefined. And the definition of ‘naturalism’ is a whole other can of worms.

    Adito,

    Not quite. A tree has always been considered matter and always will be.

    …And the definition of ‘matter’ has changed drastically multiple times, from the Aristotilean vision to the cartesian vision to the newtonian vision to the quantum mechanical vision to…

    You may as well tell me that both Berkeley and Descartes, affirming that trees exist, were both materialists. Because, you know, clearly trees are always matter.

  19. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> The stock definition has been, “that which has mass.” Nonetheless, I’m interested in this bit about the chair: are the atoms that compose a chair different than the atoms physicists study?

    No, they are not.

    Crude:

    >> It doesn’t help at all when what ‘matter’ is and what ‘energy’ is is left undefined. And the definition of ‘naturalism’ is a whole other can of worms.

    Matter is the stuff out of which physical objects are composed. Currently, it appears that it is formed from subatomic particles interacting via various forces, which affect their configuration in space and over time. And energy is “the capacity to do work”, and appears to be the flipside of matter, according to Einstein’s famous equation. In other words, it does not appear that any of these concepts takes priority, and there are all fundamentally interconnected, which means that matter, energy, force and so on, are all defined in terms of one another, and the validity of their definitions lies in the precision of the observations that they explain.

  20. Adito says:

    You still have not explained what your numbers are referring to. Here’s what you’ll have to establish for your objection to have some weight.

    1. What this 10^12 number is referring to and why it is not material.

    2. That whatever this stuff is it’s accepted as non-material by materialists.

    This is not an argument about definitions. I just need to know what you’re talking about and how it relates to what materialists are talking about. The words don’t matter.

    …And the definition of ‘matter’ has changed drastically multiple times, from the Aristotilean vision to the cartesian vision to the newtonian vision to the quantum mechanical vision to…

    I thought we were talking about scientific explanations and definitions. We haven’t always used them so of course there will people who meant different things by the proposition “trees exist.” Anyway, our definition of matter has not changed, it’s grown more complete. It’s still completely correct to call atoms matter even though we know they’re not the end of the story.

  21. cl says:

    Adito,

    1 is self-evident: it lacks mass.

    2 is a non-sequitur: that the materialist crowd speaks inaccurately doesn’t mean anything. As you’ve illustrated, one can call anything and/or everything material. Suit yourself, but I prefer more precision.

  22. cl says:

    dguller,

    No, they are not.

    Then, I offer this syllogism:

    P1: ALL atoms are predominantly massless and immaterial;

    P2: chairs are composed of atoms;

    C: chairs are predominantly massless and immaterial.

    Agree?

  23. Adito says:

    Alright, I’m going to try one more time. What are you talking about? What is it? Explain it. What do physicists call this stuff that makes up most of the universe? I think this is the fourth time I’ve asked a very simple question and you have refused to answer. If you don’t at least give it a name I’m not going to bother continuing this conversation since I have absolutely no clue what you’re referring to.

  24. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> Then, I offer this syllogism:
    P1: ALL atoms are predominantly massless and immaterial;
    P2: chairs are composed of atoms;
    C: chairs are predominantly massless and immaterial.
    Agree?

    Not necessarily. I’ll offer a similar syllogism:

    P1: All employees are human.
    P2: Companies are composed of employees.
    C: Companies are human.
    Agree?

    This is what I meant by committing the fallacy of composition. The form of your argument is not necessarily valid.

    With regards to your argument, a chair is not massless. It has a mass. You can weigh it, and see how many pounds or kilograms it weighs. With regards to its immateriality, I contest that it is clearly material, because it is exactly the medium-sized goods that we define as “material”, and just because its smaller components may be mostly immaterial does not change the fact that it is clearly material, if anything is.

  25. Crude says:

    Matter is the stuff out of which physical objects are composed. Currently, it appears that it is formed from subatomic particles interacting via various forces, which affect their configuration in space and over time.

    What a splendidly vacuous answer: “Matter is the stuff out of which physical objects are composed.” I imagine the answer to “what are physical objects composed out of?” is “matter, clearly.”

    Meanwhile, we’re still trying to figure out just what these “subatomic particles” ultimately are, to say nothing of their intrinsic natures, if any. But I suppose whatever we discover them to be, whatever is needed to fit our theories and explain the world, will also be “matter”. Vacuity and hempel’s dilemma.

    And energy is “the capacity to do work”

    Yeah. That’s an abstract concept, an equation on a page. There’s a reason Feynman said what he did about our knowledge of energy: Because it’s the case.

    When materialists commit to a vision of matter that is “whatever the physicists say it is or will say it is”, and the physicists have a well-established track record of fundamentally changing their very concepts of matter, materialists aren’t saying much of anything at all. Which is why suddenly, panpsychism has become “materialism”. Because just about anything can be “materialism” at this point.

  26. dguller says:

    Crude:

    >> What a splendidly vacuous answer: “Matter is the stuff out of which physical objects are composed.” I imagine the answer to “what are physical objects composed out of?” is “matter, clearly.”
    Is this imprecise? Absolutely. Is it therefore completely vacuous and useless? No. And if you think that it is, then you have completely missed the incredible advances in knowledge in thermodynamics, chemistry, and so on, which presupposes all of these concepts, and fleshes them out as much as they can. If it is all just logically circular and therefore empty, then how can there be so much knowledge in physics and chemistry at all? “All bachelors are unmarried”. There is not much that you can pull out of that definition, except that there are males. What you are arguing appears to be that it is possible to pull from “all bachelors are unmarried” the complete set of relationships between all human beings, which appears to be quite a stretch.

    And I would like to know exactly what kind of definition of “matter” and “energy” would satisfy you? What level of precision are you looking for? I think that no matter what anyone would say, you could easily – and lazily – reply, “Yeah, but what is THAT?” Perhaps ultimately you are looking for the answer to the question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” and the answer to that question is “Even if there were nothing, you would still be complaining!”

  27. clamat says:

    @cl

    I’m not really sure what point you’re trying to make. Are you trying to attack the beliefs most self-identified “materialists” claim to hold? (On this point, I’d be careful saying things like “99.99% of atoms are immaterial,” unless you mean to suggest that chairs, humans, and God are virtually identical in composition.) Or are you just trying to say most self-identified “materialists” are actually “physicalists” or “naturalists” or whatever? If “materialism” is a misnomer for a worldview that you recognize (even while objecting to it), what alternative do you propose?

    @Crude

    And I would like to know exactly what kind of definition of “matter” and “energy” would satisfy you?

    Seconded. Surely you believe “matter” and “energy” can be defined as “real” things – or do you believe your morning toast is simply a mental construct? So what are your definitions? I’ll bet that, whatever they are, dguller and I will have no serious objections to them, and that will be that.

  28. Ana says:

    cl,

    You think something that’s 99.9999999999999% immaterial is actually material? Well, okay… so be it. Obviously, I disagree

    If Adito were to argue that the immaterial is material, that would be a contradiction in terms and thus self-refuting. So I’m not sure that’s what Adito is doing. I think Adito is questioning the accuracy of labeling the mystery part of the universe (the part that isn’t apparently matter) as “immaterial”.

    clamat,

    I’m not really sure what point you’re trying to make.

    I think (but cl, correct me if I’m wrong) that cl is implying that “materialism” should actually be “immaterialism”, since the universe is apparently more immaterial than material.

    Materialism = vinegarism
    Immaterialism = olive-oil-ism

  29. Crude says:

    clamat,

    Seconded. Surely you believe “matter” and “energy” can be defined as “real” things – or do you believe your morning toast is simply a mental construct?

    There are plenty of people – materialists, even – who believe that “morning toast” is, in fact, a “mental construct”. Mereological nihilists, etc. Just as there are people – I can think of one biologist offhand – who insists that there’s no information in nature or DNA, and that information only exists in a mind. That aside, there’s just something great here about how you put energy, material, and real all in quotes. Unintentional, I’m sure, but there’s humor there.

    It’s easy to say ‘matter and energy is real’. Thomists can do it. Materialists can do it. Idealists can do it. Solipsists can do it. The problem is that various materialists actually had their own views straight-up falsified in the past in a fundamental way, and now the current ones are gunshy – ignoring the history of failures of materialist philosophers, and then crowing about the explanatory power of materialism while using a definition that is fluid and noncommital. In fact it has to be. “It’s real, but I have no commitment to what it really is or what it means for something to be real” isn’t a position.

    So what are your definitions? I’ll bet that, whatever they are, dguller and I will have no serious objections to them, and that will be that.

    I’m not the one who has to supply definitions of these things, since I’m not the one adhering to physicalism or materialism, or talking about the superiority of those metaphysical views. I’m pointing out how materialists themselves defined “material” in the past, how their philosophy and the various definitions of material were repeatedly upended, and how for all we know it’s going to be upended again – indeed, indications are that that’s going to be happening, even if we can’t be precisely sure of how.

    In a way, I’m taking the opposite position of cl. Cl is claiming that reality, it turns out, is largely immaterial. But my position is that ‘material’ has been so wracked of meaning, made so empty, and is now so flexible and open to revision that just about anything can qualify as material. The word means whatever someone wants it to mean now. Again, hence ‘panpsychism’ – among other things – qualifying as materialism.

    Which just makes the “Tell me what you think matter is, I bet whatever you think it is me and dguller will agree and that will be that” so priceless. Yeah, I bet you would, if you really wanted to. Kinda the point.

  30. dguller says:

    Crude:

    >> There are plenty of people – materialists, even – who believe that “morning toast” is, in fact, a “mental construct”.

    I notice that you ducked the question. The question was not what others believe, but about what you believe. You are the one offering criticisms of physicalism and materialism, and finding all definitions of the main concepts inadequate, and so we wanted to know where you stand on the issue. Perhaps you also believe that your morning toast is unreal and is nothing but a figment of our mass cultural imagination, which would wink out of existence if we all went to sleep. We just don’t know until you tell us whether you believe that matter and energy are real.

    >> The problem is that various materialists actually had their own views straight-up falsified in the past in a fundamental way, and now the current ones are gunshy – ignoring the history of failures of materialist philosophers, and then crowing about the explanatory power of materialism while using a definition that is fluid and noncommital. In fact it has to be. “It’s real, but I have no commitment to what it really is or what it means for something to be real” isn’t a position.

    First, many theories – scientific and otherwise – have been wrong in the past. Does it follow that they are therefore false today? Of course not. So, I’m not too sure what you are implying here. Are you saying that because our concepts of matter in the past have been falsified and needed revision, then our current concepts are necessarily false?

    Second, there are fundamental features of our conception of matter that have not been falsified. For example, matter is composed of atoms. Sure, what we understood about how atoms operated has been revised, but nothing has falsified that matter is composed of ATOMS. I think that is pretty committal, even though it is possible that our understanding of how atoms work may change in the future as more data comes in. I would love for you to quote someone who says that matter is not made up of atoms, and that atoms are not made up of protons, neutrons and electrons, and that these subatomic particles are not made up of smaller particles, and that these particles operate according to various natural laws and are affected by various forces that we have a fair degree of mathematical precision in understanding.

    >> I’m not the one who has to supply definitions of these things, since I’m not the one adhering to physicalism or materialism, or talking about the superiority of those metaphysical views. I’m pointing out how materialists themselves defined “material” in the past, how their philosophy and the various definitions of material were repeatedly upended, and how for all we know it’s going to be upended again – indeed, indications are that that’s going to be happening, even if we can’t be precisely sure of how.

    First, that is an unusual position to take. Here’s an analogous line of reasoning. The law of gravity was discovered by scientific investigations. Scientific investigations have resulted in false conclusions in the past. Therefore, scientific investigations may have resulted in false conclusions in the present. Therefore, the law of gravity is … false? How exactly does that argument work again? Or maybe the law of gravity is POSSIBLY false. Fine, but why would you think it, except that science has been wrong in the past? Maybe you should jump out of a window just to make sure? I mean, it’s all the same, right?

    Second, all I asked was what kind of definition would satisfy you. Give me an example of a definition in some other area, if you want, that you find accurate, precise, compelling, and unfalsifiable, or whatever your criteria for an adequate definition are.

    >> But my position is that ‘material’ has been so wracked of meaning, made so empty, and is now so flexible and open to revision that just about anything can qualify as material. The word means whatever someone wants it to mean now. Again, hence ‘panpsychism’ – among other things – qualifying as materialism.

    First, “just about anything can qualify as material”? Does God count as “material”? Does Harry Potter count as “material”? I think that it is clear that there are some limits to what can count as “material”.

    Second, how does panpsychism count as materialism? I’ve never heard that before.

  31. clamat says:

    @Crude

    [I see dguller has beaten me to the punch, but it’s typed, so I’ll post it.]

    There are plenty of people – materialists, even – who believe that [blah, blah, blah]

    I wasn’t asking what “plenty of people” think, I was asking what you think. So you’re a merelogical nihilist? If so, never mind, I don’t have the energy (!) to waste time conversing with a mental construct, as opposed to an actual person.

    But my position is that ‘material’ has been so wracked of meaning, made so empty, and is now so flexible and open to revision that just about anything can qualify as material.

    You know what I find priceless? People who think they take a “position” by saying what their position is not. OK, so “material” has been wracked of meaning. Consequently, of course, so has “immaterial.” So if, oh, Mind, say, to pick a recent topic, does not have an explanation in either the material or the immaterial, what do you offer as an alternative?

    even though it is possible that our understanding of how atoms work may change in the future as more data comes in. I would love for you to quote someone who says that matter is not made up of atoms, and that atoms are not made up of protons, neutrons and electrons, and that these subatomic particles are not made up of smaller particles, and that these particles operate according to various natural laws and are affected by various forces that we have a fair degree of mathematical precision in understanding.

    This.

  32. clamat says:

    I think (but cl, correct me if I’m wrong) that cl is implying that “materialism” should actually be “immaterialism”, since the universe is apparently more immaterial than material.

    Maybe, but for reasons previously stated this poses some problems to some basic notions about God, i.e., that He is “immaterial.” If God is just like the “space” between the matter in the universe, maybe that’s all He is?

  33. Ana says:

    clamat,

    If God is just like the “space” between the matter in the universe, maybe that’s all He is?

    cl has said that by “immaterial”, he is not referring to empty space.

    In so much as material things can vary (for example, a wooden stick and a golf club), clearly immaterial things can vary as well (time is immaterial, so is space, so is a dream at night, so is the pythagorean theorem, so is the 26th Amendment to the Constitution, etc).

    That’s why, though God is described as immaterial, I don’t think the implication of that means he is synonymous to the 26th Amendment, or space, etc.

  34. cl says:

    Ana,

    [I think] cl is implying that “materialism” should actually be “immaterialism”, since the universe is apparently more immaterial than material.

    I think that’s an acceptable paraphrase.

    clamat,

    You know what I find priceless? People who think they take a “position” by saying what their position is not.

    AHEM–Certainly that applies to atheists, right? After all, a-theism is a word that describes what one’s position is not, is it not?

    I’m not really sure what point you’re trying to make.

    Just the simple point that materialism is a misnomer if the overwhelmingly majority of the universe contains no mass. I honestly don’t see what’s so difficult to grasp. Crude expresses the point quite well in the paragraph I’m about to cite…

    Crude,

    In a way, I’m taking the opposite position of cl. Cl is claiming that reality, it turns out, is largely immaterial. But my position is that ‘material’ has been so wracked of meaning, made so empty, and is now so flexible and open to revision that just about anything can qualify as material. The word means whatever someone wants it to mean now. Again, hence ‘panpsychism’ – among other things – qualifying as materialism.

    I agree with you. You echoed the whole point of this post in that paragraph. Where our positions are opposite? They seem complementary to me.

    Adito,

    What do physicists call this stuff that makes up most of the universe? I think this is the fourth time I’ve asked a very simple question and you have refused to answer.

    I am referring to “that which surrounds physical material but is not physical material itself.” I answered the first time you asked: “stuff” doesn’t make up the universe, hardly at all. A few comments back, I wrote, “The “1″ refers to the miniscule amount of physical material in the universe, the “10^12″ refers to that which surrounds the physical material but is not physical material itself.” As for names for the latter, physicists have used different words. Ether is a familiar, more conventional term; “A-field” is one of the newer ones I’ve heard.

    dguller,

    The form of your argument is not necessarily valid.

    Did you mean sound? Both syllogisms seem valid to me, but their dissimilarity compromises the analogy. It seems to me that your analogy would be equivalent to mine if I had run,

    P1: All atoms are particles;
    P2: Chairs are composed of particles;
    C: Chairs are particles.

    Besides, here’s the comment of yours that started all this:

    Just because an atom is mostly made up of empty space does not mean that a chair is mostly made up of empty space.

    From a factual, physics standpoint, that claim is false.

  35. clamat says:

    @cl

    AHEM–Certainly that applies to atheists, right? After all, a-theism is a word that describes what one’s position is not, is it not?

    How very quippy. Fine, to the extent a position – any position — can be reduced to a single word, and on some definitions of the word “atheist,” perhaps. (Of course, you haven’t asked for my definition, but it is not “not what cl believes.”) Look, it was a simple question that Crude refused to answer. That’s his prerogative, but it’s mine to see it either as a dodge or simply obnoxious.

    I agree with you. You echoed the whole point of this post in that paragraph.

    You don’t agree.

    Crude thinks “material” has no meaning. But as I pointed out, if “material” has no meaning, neither does “immaterial.” So saying something is “immaterial” is meaningless. So saying “God is immaterial” (or, per Ana, time, or space, of the 26th Amendment) is meaningless. I expect you’d dispute this last point, but perhaps not. (I have no idea if Crude would, because…well, you know.)

  36. Ronin says:

    clamat,

    Crude thinks “material” has no meaning.

    False. Crude thinks the meaning of “material(ism)” has been bastardized, and because of it, the meaning of “materialism” can be used to mean different things. If I am incorrect Crude can jump in at anytime.

    Perhaps we should look at some history…

    The word ‘materialism’ is very old, but the word ‘physicalism’ was introduced into philosophy only in the 1930s by Otto Neurath (1931) and Rudolf Carnap (1959/1932), both of whom were key members of the Vienna Circle, a group of philosophers, scientists and mathematicians active in Vienna prior to World War II. It is not clear that Neurath and Carnap understood physicalism in the same way, but one thesis often attributed to them (e.g. in Hempel 1949) is the linguistic thesis that every statement is synonymous with (i.e. is equivalent in meaning with) some physical statement. But materialism as traditionally construed is not a linguistic thesis at all; rather it is a metaphysical thesis in the sense that it tells us about the nature of the world as such. At least for the positivists, therefore, there was a clear reason for distinguishing physicalism (a linguistic thesis) from materialism (a metaphysical thesis). Moreover, this reason was compounded by the fact that, according to official positivist doctrine, metaphysics is nonsense. Since the 1930s, however, the positivist philosophy that under-girded this distinction has for the most part been rejected—for example, physicalism is not a linguistic thesis for contemporary philosophers—and this is one reason why the words ‘materialism’ and ‘physicalism’ are now often interpreted as interchangeable.

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/physicalism/

    (emphases are mine)

    Notice how materialism and physicalism are now used interchangeably, because the attempt for physicalism to separate itself from materialism FAILED. Now, physicalism is proffered under the same umbrella from what was thought to be nonsense. Hell, I wouldn’t want to give a definition for materialism or physicalism either. Should we trust our intuition on this? Maybe we could even change the name to “don’t know.” Or, maybe we could just remain agnostic about what material really is…

  37. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> Did you mean sound? Both syllogisms seem valid to me, but their dissimilarity compromises the analogy. It seems to me that your analogy would be equivalent to mine if I had run,

    Yeah, I meant unsound. Thanks for clarifying it. The error is actually based upon an informal logical fallacy called the fallacy of composition.

    >> From a factual, physics standpoint, that claim is false.

    Yes, from a physics standpoint, the chair the mostly empty space. But again, that is only from the physics standpoint. From the everyday standpoint of interacting with objects in the world, it is not mostly empty space, but a full-fledged solid object. So, as I mentioned earlier, it depends upon the context.

  38. cl says:

    Ronin,

    Salient. So salient.

    clamat,

    How very quippy.

    Quippy? You’re the one who made the “priceless” quip, and I’m simply pointing out that it applies to you more than any of us.

    That’s his prerogative, but it’s mine to see it either as a dodge or simply obnoxious.

    You can see things however you wish, but when you criticize Crude for that which you do, you better believe you’re getting called on it.

    You don’t agree.

    Oh really now? We’re at that level, eh? So, I’m just lying about agreeing with Crude? Too incompetent and/or illiterate to understand that I actually DON’T agree with Crude? Suit yourself, but I beg to differ.

    But as I pointed out, if “material” has no meaning, neither does “immaterial.”

    Problem is, material has meaning–too many meanings that seem to change. Crude and I agree.

    So saying something is “immaterial” is meaningless.

    No it isn’t. If I say X is immaterial, at a very minimum, I am saying that X lacks mass–and that is a very meaningful distinction we can use to categorize the constituents of the universe.

  39. dguller says:

    Ronin:

    >> Notice how materialism and physicalism are now used interchangeably, because the attempt for physicalism to separate itself from materialism FAILED.

    No, one attempt of physicalism to separate itself from materialism failed.

    >> Now, physicalism is proffered under the same umbrella from what was thought to be nonsense.

    Only by logical positivists. Fortunately, they do not exhaust the sum total of human thought.

    >> Hell, I wouldn’t want to give a definition for materialism or physicalism either. Should we trust our intuition on this? Maybe we could even change the name to “don’t know.” Or, maybe we could just remain agnostic about what material really is…

    Do you doubt that matter is composed of atoms? Take any material object in the world. Is there anything that is not composed of atoms?

  40. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> No it isn’t. If I say X is immaterial, at a very minimum, I am saying that X lacks mass–and that is a very meaningful distinction we can use to categorize the constituents of the universe.

    Then can’t we say that, “at a very minimum”, matter is that which has mass and exists in space-time? Does that settle the issue regarding materialism? This even helps us introduce energy, because mass and energy are two sides of the same coin, as Einstein showed.

  41. clamat says:

    You’re the one who made the “priceless” quip

    I regretted “quippy” as soon as I posted it. In my defense, I was echoing to Crude’s initial use of the word “priceless.”

    I’m simply pointing out that it applies to you more than any of us.

    Only under your unilateral (and, to this point, undisclosed) definition of “atheism” and your unjustified assumption that your definition accurately describes my position.

    I’m just lying about agreeing with Crude? Too incompetent and/or illiterate to understand that I actually DON’T agree with Crude?

    Oh, get over yourself. Apparently Crude thinks you disagree, too. Is he too incompetent and/or illiterate to understand that you don’t? Am I? Is it not even possible that maybe you don’t understand where you disagree? Or are your powers of comprehension really that much greater than the rest of ours?

    No it isn’t. If I say X is immaterial, at a very minimum, I am saying that X lacks mass–and that is a very meaningful distinction we can use to categorize the constituents of the universe.

    Speaking of not understanding…

    The root word of “immaterial” is “material.” If you want to use the word “immaterial” in any meaningful way, you must be able to define “material” in a meaningful way. You can’t, on one hand, agree with Crude that the word “material” has been “wracked of meaning” and “made []empty” and on the other say “immaterial” is “very meaningful.”

    But I agree with you. (I assume I’m incompetent and/or illiterate for doing so?) If saying “X lacks mass” is a “very meaningful distinction” then saying “X has mass” is likewise “very meaningful.” We can agree on this at the “very least.” (I assume you believe other criteria may describe “immaterial.”) This is all I was hoping for from Crude.

  42. Ronin says:

    dguller,

    Sorry, [in the case] I sound like a prick in what I am about to write. If you think I am going to waste my time replying to you ad nauseam (as you seem to like)—you are mistaken.

  43. dguller says:

    Ronin:

    No worries. Just sharing my thoughts. Feel free to respond as you see fit.

  44. Ana says:

    cl,

    If I say X is immaterial, at a very minimum, I am saying that X lacks mass

    May we add onto this, that that which is immaterial also lacks volume?

  45. Crude says:

    clamat,

    I wasn’t asking what “plenty of people” think, I was asking what you think. So you’re a merelogical nihilist? If so, never mind, I don’t have the energy (!) to waste time conversing with a mental construct, as opposed to an actual person.

    Yeah, you may want to stop talking to many materialists then, because few of them believe that “morning toast” has some kind of special existence over and above mental convention and useful fiction. I was pointing out a fact about such talk.

    I have no solid (ha ha) opinion on what matter, energy and so on “really” are. I find various metaphysical opinions interesting and am drawn to an Aristotilean account – I find I can navigate my way through my day in spite of my uncertainty. If I had to master metaphysics to eat toast, I’d be hungry.

    You know what I find priceless? People who think they take a “position” by saying what their position is not. OK, so “material” has been wracked of meaning. Consequently, of course, so has “immaterial.” So if, oh, Mind, say, to pick a recent topic, does not have an explanation in either the material or the immaterial, what do you offer as an alternative?

    First: Yeah, if “material” has been wracked of meaning in a person’s vocabulary, then “immaterial” has been too. You thought I’d disagree with this? That’s a problem for the materialist or the immaterialist playing that fast or loose with definitions. I’m not doubting that someone can give a definition of “material” that’s more solid (again, ha ha) – it was done multiple times in the past, after all. They turned out to be wrong. It has, since then, be redefined so many times, in so many ways, with so many questions left lingering, that quite a lot of “materialists” are gunshy on the question. Hence the punt to “matter is whatever the physicists say it is”. But physicists are still trying to figure that question out, and have a track record of changing their views on this in some fundamental ways.

    Second, I don’t need to offer an alternative to point out what I’m pointing out. What, if I don’t offer some metaphysical argument to your satisfaction then materialists were never wrong about matter in the past, and aren’t pretty damn evasive about matter now? That’s kinda desperate.

    Ronin,

    Yeah, that’s pretty much what I’m saying here. Incidentally, in that very same SEP entry you can find the following quote: ” For no matter how implausible and outlandish it sounds, panpsychism per se is not inconsistent with physicalism (cf. Lewis 1983).”

    But yes. There were in that past definitions of “material” that were more firm. They also turned out to be dead wrong. And now, there have been so many revisions, there remain so many outstanding problems, that to say “X will get a material explanation someday!” is to say very little.

    Here’s that fervent religious nut, Noam Chomsky, on this topic:

    There is no longer any definite conception of body. Rather, the material world is whatever we discover it to be, with whatever properties it must be assumed to have for the purposes of explanatory theory. Any intelligible theory that offers genuine explanations and that can be assimilated to the core notions of physics becomes part of the theory of the material world, part of our account of body. If we have such a theory in some domain, we seek to assimilate it to the core notions of physics, perhaps modifying these notions as we carry out this enterprise.

    cl,

    I agree with you. You echoed the whole point of this post in that paragraph. Where our positions are opposite? They seem complementary to me.

    I could have misunderstood you. You seemed to be focusing on one particular definition of matter, pointing out what doesn’t fit with it, and then noting that that would be by default immaterial. But I’m very damn sure that the response to that will be “Nuh-uh, I’m changing the definition of material to include that other stuff too”.

    Then again, maybe that was your way of pointing as much out.

  46. dguller says:

    Crude:

    >> I have no solid (ha ha) opinion on what matter, energy and so on “really” are. I find various metaphysical opinions interesting and am drawn to an Aristotilean account – I find I can navigate my way through my day in spite of my uncertainty. If I had to master metaphysics to eat toast, I’d be hungry.

    First, how is Aristotle’s definition of “material cause” better than the definition in physics?

    Second, you do not have to know what matter and energy “really” are (whatever “really” means). That is something for scientific, and possibly philosophical, inquiry to figure out, if possible. Rather, you just have to accept that there are certain aspects of matter and energy that are just non-negotiable, such as the fact that all material objects are composed of atoms, which are composed of subatomic particles, and which interact with one another according to natural laws by virtue of forces and energy. Why is that not “solid” enough?

    >> I’m not doubting that someone can give a definition of “material” that’s more solid (again, ha ha) – it was done multiple times in the past, after all. They turned out to be wrong.

    They turned out to be PARTLY wrong. The atomic theory of matter has not been falsified. No-one disbelieves that physical objects are composed of atoms interacting with one another. What has changed is what these atoms are. They were initially thought to be hard balls that bounced off one another in a mechanical way. This was false. They then turned out to not be hard balls at all, but rather a tiny nucleus with electrons surrounding it. This turned out to be partly false, because the electrons operated more according to probability clouds rather than as discrete entities. So, what has happened is greater refinement in our understanding of matter with the broad framework still fully intact.

    Your comments seem to imply that no-one has any idea whatsoever about what composes matter and how matter operates. The voo-doo doctor and the physicist are effectively on par. This is completely wrong-headed, because the physicist has sufficient understanding of matter to result in incredible technological innovation, engineering marvels, and so on. What does the voo-doo doctor know compared to this?

    Again, how does your argument go for your position. Scientists have been wrong about theories in the past, and so, therefore, they currently have no idea what they are talking about? How does that follow at all?

    >> For no matter how implausible and outlandish it sounds, panpsychism per se is not inconsistent with physicalism (cf. Lewis 1983).”

    Sure, panpsychism is logically consistent with physicalism. But so are invisible unicorns spreading undetectable magic dust, which results in physical reality. So what?

    Anyway, none of this disagrees with your correct point that the definition of “matter” has changed throughout the centuries, and thus any current definition used should be held tentatively and not as a metaphysical truth. Where I disagree with you is about what follows from this. You seem to imply that because we have been wrong in the past, then we could be wrong in the present, and therefore we should not give any opinion at all, which I find absurd. In addition, you seem to imply that since definitions have been radically changed in the past, then there is no reason to include anything and everything in our definition of “matter”, because who knows what the future will bring?

    I suppose the broader point is about epistemic responsibility. Is it epistemically responsible to judge one’s beliefs on the best scientific understanding at present with the understanding that it may turn out to be incorrect, and then have to be revised in the future, or is it more responsible to just allow a free-for-all, to believe in spite of scientific evidence whatever pet theory one has? A lot of this is about setting reasonable limits to our beliefs, and I think it is reasonable to belief that which has the best evidence, and when evidence becomes weaker to be very careful about what conclusions one draws from that evidence, holding them even more tentatively.

    Any thoughts?

  47. cl says:

    Since nobody has refuted the main point of the OP, can anyone tell me what we’re really arguing about here?

    dguller,

    …one attempt of physicalism to separate itself from materialism failed.

    Is there an attempt that succeeded?

    Take any material object in the world. Is there anything that is not composed of atoms?

    The hilarity! The circularity! Are there any Ford Mustangs that aren’t cars?

    Is it epistemically responsible to judge one’s beliefs on the best scientific understanding at present with the understanding that it may turn out to be incorrect, and then have to be revised in the future, or is it more responsible to just allow a free-for-all, to believe in spite of scientific evidence whatever pet theory one has? [to Crude]

    In my opinion, it is “epistemically responsible” to thoughtfully consider scientific evidence in one’s reasoning. However, this DOES NOT ENTAIL that refusing to agree with scientific consensus is “epistemically irresponsible.” After all, if that were the case, then science proceeds by epistemic irresponsibility. If you want to take that horn, be my guest.

    clamat,

    Only under your unilateral (and, to this point, undisclosed) definition of “atheism” and your unjustified assumption that your definition accurately describes my position.

    Oh, my bad: I thought you disbelieved in God. Sorry to be so “unjustified.”

    You can’t, on one hand, agree with Crude that the word “material” has been “wracked of meaning” and “made []empty” and on the other say “immaterial” is “very meaningful.”

    False dichotomy. I most certainly can agree with Crude that materialists have equivocated on their definition of “matter” as science proceeded, and I most certainly can proffer my own definition which is meaningful. IOW, that materialists waffle doesn’t make MY definitions meaningless.

    But I agree with you. (I assume I’m incompetent and/or illiterate for doing so?)

    Of course not, but when YOU tell ME who and what I don’t agree with, THEN you are approaching the threshold of incompetence and/or illiteracy, or possibly something else.

    Ronin,

    Sorry, [in the case] I sound like a prick in what I am about to write. If you think I am going to waste my time replying to you ad nauseam (as you seem to like)—you are mistaken.

    Pure comedy. On the one hand, I feel compelled to give people the best answers I can whenever I’m asked. On the other hand, I feel like I waste a great amount of time and energy trying to hammer into steel. And this is a GENERAL comment, too, not directed specifically at dguller.

    Ana,

    May we add onto this, that that which is immaterial also lacks volume?

    Great question. If by volume we mean something like the amount of 3D “space” that something occupies… I’m not really sure what to say. I guess the question is, “can the immaterial displace the material?” The obvious answer appears to be no, but I need to think it out more. If we take an “enfolded” view of dimensions, then we could probably conclude that the immaterial lacks volume, as it would exist in parallel.

    Crude,

    If I had to master metaphysics to eat toast, I’d be hungry.

    LOL!

    First: Yeah, if “material” has been wracked of meaning in a person’s vocabulary, then “immaterial” has been too. You thought I’d disagree with this? That’s a problem for the materialist or the immaterialist playing that fast or loose with definitions.

    Well, here’s the thing though: the person who DOESN’T play loose and fast can retain meaningful definitions. My definitions are meaningful, precisely because I’m not changing them to preserve my metaphysic du jour.

    You seemed to be focusing on one particular definition of matter, pointing out what doesn’t fit with it, and then noting that that would be by default immaterial.

    I was, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t or shouldn’t agree with you that “materialists” redefine “matter” into obscurity.

  48. Ronin says:

    The entry I posted on “physicalism” sure is interesting. I mean, under The Argument from Methodological Naturalism it states:

    The first premise of this argument is that it is rational to be guided in one’s metaphysical commitments by the methods of natural science. Lying behind this premise are the arguments of Quine and others that metaphysics should not be approached in a way that is distinct from the sciences but should rather be thought of as continuous with it. The second premise of the argument is that, as a matter of fact, the metaphysical picture of the world that one is led to by the methods of natural science is physicalism. The conclusion is that it is rational to believe physicalism, or, more briefly that physicalism is true.

    Isn’t the attempt to lock the “metaphysical” under the natural sciences bankrupt to begin with? Because, the natural sciences assume some sort of non-physical doctrine(s) as a foundational premise to begin with ([i.e.] vitalism). The entry goes on to say:

    …while it is perfectly true that there are examples of non-physicalist approaches to the world — vitalism in biology is perhaps the best example — this is beside the point.

    Um, no, it actually is NOT beside the point. The fact that vitalism is non-physical is the point. In other words, don’t crap where you eat…

    Crude,

    Thanks for the clarification. The quote from Chomsky sums it up rather well, I think.

  49. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> Is there an attempt that succeeded?

    I think that the distinction is illusory. Physicalism = materialism, at least to me.

    >> The hilarity! The circularity! Are there any Ford Mustangs that aren’t cars?

    It is not circular at all. It is not a tautology to say that material objects, such as chairs, are composed of atoms. It actually took centuries of scientific and philosophical investigations to discover this truth. The point is that it is, in fact, a truth, and appears to contradict the claim made here that there is no sense at all to any definition of “material”, because it is so open and flexible that it can mean anything.

    >> In my opinion, it is “epistemically responsible” to thoughtfully consider scientific evidence in one’s reasoning. However, this DOES NOT ENTAIL that refusing to agree with scientific consensus is “epistemically irresponsible.” After all, if that were the case, then science proceeds by epistemic irresponsibility. If you want to take that horn, be my guest.

    That is a good point, and is in keeping with the Sagan quote you have on the right side of your blog. However, when scientists engage in rank speculation, they are clear that they are going beyond the evidence and just issuing hypotheses in need of further confirmation. I do not know of any scientist that says that (1) they hypothesize X, (2) X is not supported by the evidence, and (3) X is true, and therefore should be believed. The problem is not with speculation, which as you said is essential to scientific advancement, but rather with confusing speculation with solid knowledge.

    >> I most certainly can agree with Crude that materialists have equivocated on their definition of “matter” as science proceeded

    What is the difference between equivocation and refinement? I would say that as science has proceeded to uncover features of the material world, our definitions and concepts have had to be revised and refined to take into account empirical observations. You seem to think that this is to be frowned up, and anyone who changes their mind or concepts in light of evidence is doing something wrong.

    The issue is not about changing one’s concepts or not, but about WHY one changes them. I see nothing wrong with changing one’s concepts in light of new observations and evidence, even if the new concepts are radically different from the original concepts. This is how scientific inquiry proceeds, and has worked out fairly well in terms of increasing our understanding of the world.

  50. Crude says:

    cl,

    Well, here’s the thing though: the person who DOESN’T play loose and fast can retain meaningful definitions. My definitions are meaningful, precisely because I’m not changing them to preserve my metaphysic du jour.

    Absolutely. Really, I’ve made it clear from the start that there were in fact materialists who gave a firmer definition of “matter” and such at one point. There’s just the little problem that they turned out to be refuted by science. A fact that somehow goes unnoticed and unmentioned in these conversations.

    I said I was taking a position opposite yourself. Perhaps I should have said I was addressing the problem from the opposite direction.

    Ronin,

    You mention that vitalism was “non-physical”. The problem is, skeptic that I am, I think there’s a reason many people would agree that vitalism was non-physical: Because the consensus is that vitalism is false. Likewise, there’s a reason that many people will immediately agree that, say.. the fact that a particle can be in two places at once, or neither places, or one or the other, etc, is physical: Because that’s the current popular theory, and if that’s not physical, then (fundamental) science is non-physical in part. And we certainly cannot have that.

    But imagine for a moment that vitalism turned out to be true: Living things are largely “made of” stuff that’s different from non-living stuff. Well, okay. Where’s the non-physical part? Is it the force acting on the living stuff? But we have a diversity of fundamental forces now – what would one more matter? We have a diversity of fundamental particles now – what would more matter?

    Chomsky once reportedly said to John Searle, “As soon as we come to understand anything, we call it physical.” I think there’s a lot of truth to that, and insofar as it’s true, it kicks a lot of dirt on the claim that “physical explanations” have been so successful. I’m the king of France, if you let me define “king” and “France” as much as I need to.

  51. Ana says:

    Since nobody has refuted the main point of the OP, can anyone tell me what we’re really arguing about here?

    Apparently, ultimately about definitions, lol.

  52. Ronin says:

    Crude wrote:

    The problem is, skeptic that I am, I think there’s a reason many people would agree that vitalism was non-physical: Because the consensus is that vitalism is false. Likewise, there’s a reason that many people will immediately agree that, say.. the fact that a particle can be in two places at once, or neither places, or one or the other, etc, is physical: Because that’s the current popular theory, and if that’s not physical, then (fundamental) science is non-physical in part. And we certainly cannot have that.

    Oh, I’m with you, I believe. The thrust of my “reply” was to basically attack this idea of scientism, I suppose. That aside, are you the same Crude that posts on Victor’s blog?

    cl wrote:

    Pure comedy. On the one hand, I feel compelled to give people the best answers I can whenever I’m asked. On the other hand, I feel like I waste a great amount of time and energy trying to hammer into steel. And this is a GENERAL comment, too, not directed specifically at dguller.

    To be honest, I appreciate your patience and your interaction with the community of your blog. It’s just I personally cannot exhaust such time and energy to all of my posts. Besides, I admire you “mental capacity,” and I figure if you couldn’t get through, how the heck will I? Just saying…

  53. Crude says:

    Ronin,

    Yeah, that’s me.

  54. dguller says:

    Crude:

    >> Really, I’ve made it clear from the start that there were in fact materialists who gave a firmer definition of “matter” and such at one point. There’s just the little problem that they turned out to be refuted by science. A fact that somehow goes unnoticed and unmentioned in these conversations.

    I think that the concept of “matter” is rooted in our experience of interacting with objects in the world. From that, we get the idea that there is stuff out of which objects are made of, and which occurs within space-time. We also learn that this stuff operates according to regularities and patterns from which we derive natural laws. Now, what this “stuff” turned out to be, and the laws that it operates according to, have been revised over the centuries, but the central idea of the stuff that entities and processes within space-time is made of as “matter” has pretty much held its own, I think.

    But to speak to your point above, the current understanding of matter is the interactions of fundamental particles, which have both mass and energy, and which occur within space-time. Has this definition of “matter” been refuted by science?

    >> Chomsky once reportedly said to John Searle, “As soon as we come to understand anything, we call it physical.” I think there’s a lot of truth to that, and insofar as it’s true, it kicks a lot of dirt on the claim that “physical explanations” have been so successful. I’m the king of France, if you let me define “king” and “France” as much as I need to.

    But your definitions of “king” and “France” have to have some observational support for them. In other words, they have to be sufficiently rooted in the world to carry weight and be taken seriously. You cannot just redefine them randomly and wantonly without any consideration for their impact upon others. I mean, the revisions in the concept of matter were not done haphazardly, but due to observations that required a revision in theory.

    I honestly do not understand why the rejection of the original concept of matter in the 17th century resulted in the utter bankruptcy of the concept itself. That would be like saying that rejecting the original concept of love in ancient Greece as being shot by Cupid means that the current concept of love itself is utterly empty. I mean, love is as difficult to define as matter, if not more so, but I doubt that you lack love for your family, for example.

  55. dguller says:

    Ronin:

    >> Besides, I admire you “mental capacity,” and I figure if you couldn’t get through, how the heck will I? Just saying…

    Really? So, if cl couldn’t convince someone, then that person is hopelessly unable to understand the truth of some matter, and thus should not be a waste of your time? Perhaps cl is just wrong about that matter, and that is why he cannot convince someone of the truth of his views?

    I will say this, I do appreciate cl’s engagement with my views. It takes a great deal of effort, and I find all his efforts worthwhile, because they help point to lacunae in my thinking, and assist me in sharpening my beliefs.

    Take care.

  56. Ronin says:

    dguller wrote:

    Really? So, if cl couldn’t convince someone, then that person is hopelessly unable to understand the truth of some matter, and thus should not be a waste of your time?

    Not really. I suppose I should explain further…

    1.) It appears to me cl enjoys this sort of thing more than I do since he gives it more time and care than I would. I don’t know much about cl’s personal life, but personally I have a lot going on in my “real life” than my internet one. (Please note: I am not saying cl does not have a life (perhaps he can pump out posts with ease or whatever), but I [me] would rather do other things than put that much time and effort into blogging.) Heck, I visit his blog more than I do mine. Plus, there are other blogs that offer good content that I also enjoy reading.

    2.) I do consider it a waste of my time engaging someone who I have witnessed first hand blow off several crucial points in this discussion, IMHO. Because, what’s the point? I just would be continuing the discussion for the sake of getting my opinion across. You go right ahead, in the meantime I have two kids pulling my shirt to go play with them and a wife that needs quality time.

    3.) You have made good points in your posts here and elsewhere. I make no bones about it. Do I think you are ultimately right in your worldview? No.

    Perhaps cl is just wrong about that matter, and that is why he cannot convince someone of the truth of his views?

    Perhaps he is wrong, or perhaps you are wrong. Don’t get the impression that I agree with everything cl says. I have disagreed with him, or at the very least questioned him on things that I feel strongly about which seemed in opposition to mine.

    You take care as well.

    Crude,

    Cool. Good stuff…

  57. dguller says:

    Ronin:

    Thanks for the clarification. Point taken. And I can totally relate to a wife and two kids pulling my shirt. :)

  58. cl says:

    dguller,

    How do we distinguish between speculation and “solid knowledge?” When is “knowledge” solid? Elsewhere, I asked you to define the term conclusive evidence. I can’t immediately recall which thread that was in, but did you? If not, will you?

    I do not know of any scientist that says that (1) they hypothesize X, (2) X is not supported by the evidence, and (3) X is true, and therefore should be believed.

    But surely you know of scientists who (1) hypothesize X, (2) believe X is supported by the evidence, and (3) that the evidence favors X, and therefore should be believed–right?

    What is the difference between equivocation and refinement?

    Equivocation is using the same term to mean one thing here and another thing there, and it’s not always easy to pin down. I suppose it wasn’t the best word to use, but at the same time, this doesn’t preclude any isolated instances of equivocation over the word material.

    The issue is not about changing one’s concepts or not, but about WHY one changes them. I see nothing wrong with changing one’s concepts in light of new observations and evidence, even if the new concepts are radically different from the original concepts.

    I agree, and I believe that many people both change–and refuse to change–their concepts in the interest of preserving underlying worldviews.

    This is how scientific inquiry proceeds, and has worked out fairly well in terms of increasing our understanding of the world.

    Trade rational for scientific and I tend to agree, but at the same time, I wouldn’t be surprised if a majority of what we think we know turns out to either need revision or be false outright.

    Perhaps cl is just wrong about that matter, and that is why he cannot convince someone of the truth of his views? [to Ronin]

    Surely you’re not implying it’s impossible to convince somebody of wrong views?

    To play the devil’s advocate, perhaps I’m right, and all dissenters are in denial? We could spin ourselves into a tizzy of potentiality all day long.

    I will say this, I do appreciate cl’s engagement with my views. It takes a great deal of effort, and I find all his efforts worthwhile, because they help point to lacunae in my thinking, and assist me in sharpening my beliefs. [to Ronin]

    Hey thanks, it’s mutual, and I’m continually impressed by the cordiality we [meaning most who comment regularly at TWIM] seem to revert to, regardless of the heated moments and occasional jesting, which seems almost always in good spirit.

    Ronin,

    I didn’t know you had a blog. I’d like to check it out.

    I [me] would rather do other things than put that much time and effort into blogging. [to dguller]

    If I didn’t think that from time to time, I’d be grossly imbalanced. I’ve got quite a bit going on in “real” life, too, but I have the blessing of an extremely flexible work schedule, and that allows the sustained blogging interaction. Plus, it’s more than just “blogging” to me.

    I do consider it a waste of my time engaging someone who I have witnessed first hand blow off several crucial points in this discussion, IMHO. Because, what’s the point? [to dguller]

    This is why I tired in the NDE discussion, and don’t get me wrong: I also think dguller engaged some key points.

  59. cl says:

    woodchuck64,

    I found this snippet, which is apparently something I meant to post in response to your opening comment:

    But physics itself has shown that not everything is matter in this sense…

    Kudos to them for what just might be the understatement of the century. The truth is, physics has shown that “matter” hardly exists at all.

  60. dguller says:

    Cl:

    >> How do we distinguish between speculation and “solid knowledge?” When is “knowledge” solid? Elsewhere, I asked you to define the term conclusive evidence. I can’t immediately recall which thread that was in, but did you? If not, will you?

    I think that whatever answer I give will be approximate and imprecise, because we just lack mathematical precision in our concepts here. I think that conclusive evidence is evidence that necessarily falls short of absolute certainty, but has sufficient justification to make doubting it incredibly improbable. Some examples of beliefs with conclusive evidence: the earth being roughly a sphere, the earth rotating around the sun, biological evolution, the atomic composition of matter, and so on. Each of these beliefs has so much evidence in support of its veracity that for them to be wrong would require an enormous amount of our conceptual framework to be discarded, which may become necessary in the future, but at this time, is literally inconceivable.

    With regards to “speculation”, this is simply theorizing from the basis of some evidentiary basis, but making conclusions that go beyond that evidence. Once those conclusions have their own evidence, then they are no longer speculation, but part of the evidentiary basis from which we all live our lives.

    >> But surely you know of scientists who (1) hypothesize X, (2) believe X is supported by the evidence, and (3) that the evidence favors X, and therefore should be believed–right?

    Yes, but I do not consider that speculation. Speculation is when one goes BEYOND the evidence, and thus (2) and (3) would not apply at all. In fact, once there is sufficient evidence to justify believing X, then (1) does not apply, because it is no longer a hypothesis, and becomes a fact.

    >> Equivocation is using the same term to mean one thing here and another thing there, and it’s not always easy to pin down. I suppose it wasn’t the best word to use, but at the same time, this doesn’t preclude any isolated instances of equivocation over the word material.

    Fair enough.

    >> I agree, and I believe that many people both change–and refuse to change–their concepts in the interest of preserving underlying worldviews.

    Very true, and well put. I suppose the next question is about the worldviews themselves, and whether they have sufficient evidentiary basis. After all, not all worldviews are equally correct in corresponding to reality. A helpful analogy that I read from Susan Haack is to consider a theory to be like a crossword puzzle. As we get more evidence, we fill in more of the puzzle. Sometimes, we have to change our answers to some lines in the puzzle, because they just do not fit any more with surrounding answers that are more established. There is flexibility in our responses, but there are also limits. I suppose a worldview that could account for the most answers and had more of the puzzle completed would trump other worldviews. After all, we are all working on the same crossword puzzle, i.e. the universe.

    >> Trade rational for scientific and I tend to agree, but at the same time, I wouldn’t be surprised if a majority of what we think we know turns out to either need revision or be false outright.

    Right. Scientific inquiry is just a particular type of general inquiry, which includes rationality as an inherent component. And you may be right that in the future, most of what we think we know may be false or need to be revised. My question is what follows from this? Should we always be tentative to certain extent in our conclusions? Sure. Should we stop adhering to beliefs at all? Of course not. Does that mean that all beliefs are essentially equal, because in the long run, we do not know which are true and which are false? Of course not.

    >> Surely you’re not implying it’s impossible to convince somebody of wrong views?

    I think it is possible, but there are valid and invalid ways of convincing. Valid ways are focusing upon the evidence and whether it is sufficient for a conclusion. Invalid ways are focusing upon psychological manipulation and sophistry. I think that in our discussion, you become extremely frustrated with my intransigence, and have often ascribed this to a confirmation bias, meaning that it is my psychology that is standing in the way of the truth. I disagree, and hold that your reasons are just insufficient, and that is why I disbelieve in your conclusions. Of course, there are psychological factors operating in my choices, which I do not deny, but you have not shown that the evidence is conclusively on your side, which you would have to do to conclude that my rejection is psychologically motivated.

    >> Hey thanks, it’s mutual, and I’m continually impressed by the cordiality we [meaning most who comment regularly at TWIM] seem to revert to, regardless of the heated moments and occasional jesting, which seems almost always in good spirit.

    That’s why I keep coming back!

  61. Ronin says:

    cl,

    I didn’t know you had a blog. I’d like to check it out.

    I don’t like to advertise it, because it’s not that good and I do not give it that much attention. It’s more of a therapeutic thing for myself from time to time. Anyhow here is the link:

    http://my-journey-through-my-thoughts.blogspot.com/

    At this time the comments are off, so, if you like to respond just let me know (I assume you got my email since your blog asks for it before I post) or post here.

    If I didn’t think that from time to time, I’d be grossly imbalanced. I’ve got quite a bit going on in “real” life, too, but I have the blessing of an extremely flexible work schedule, and that allows the sustained blogging interaction. Plus, it’s more than just “blogging” to me.

    Heh! I know man, that is why I said, “Please note: I am not saying cl does not have a life (perhaps he can pump out posts with ease or whatever), but I [me] would rather do other things than put that much time and effort into blogging.” I am pretty sure I meant from my subjective standpoint. I couldn’t possibly know your circumstances, but I know mine; thus, I made a pretty general comment (“whatever”) from my point of view. Further, I realize the internet is part of “real” life, but [I suppose] it depends on what one allows to become part of their real life is the issue. As far as your last sentence is concerned, what did you mean by that?

  62. clamat says:

    @cl et al.

    Huh. I think maybe I get it:

    “Material” purports to describe a characteristic shared by the things that make up reality. But saying “atoms are material” doesn’t define what the characteristic “material” actually is. Saying “energy is material” doesn’t define what the characteristic is. Energy and atoms are simply identified as being elements of the set of “material things,” without any real identification of what the characteristic is. And when quarks are discovered, materialists co-opt them for the material set, too. And the four fundamental forces. And if/when NDE’s are established to be a real phenomenon and the mechanism for them is discovered, bang! Material! But the question remains, what specific characteristic do all of these things share, aside from being demonstrably real phenomena?

    And if it is valid to expand the definition of “material” this way, i.e., by simply adding members to the set without ever defining the characteristic they purportedly share, “material” can be expanded to include literally everything, including things undiscovered, even if these new things do not share a single characteristic with atoms, quarks, etc., beyond simply being shown to exist. Defined this way, nothing can fall outside the definition of “material.” “The things that make up reality share the characteristic of being the things that make up reality.”

    Which renders “material” empty.

    Wow. Okay. Got it. Good point. Gotta mull over that for a while.

    Gotta mull this next part, too, so bear with me while I flesh it out…

    It seems clear that we all think that “material” can be made to represent an actual characteristic of certain things that make up reality. cl, under your current definition of immaterial, at “at a minimum” things that have mass (and/or, presumably, energy?) are material, right?

    Don’t let me put words in your mouth, but it seems you are saying the “immaterial” just makes up the rest of reality – the space between the quarks, if you will. Further, the immaterial cannot be discounted as the cause/source/origin/whatever of certain phenomena, such as mind. It’s not that the immaterial is somehow “outside” the universe, but that it obviously comprises a part, if not the vast majority, of the universe.

    And on the God Question, while God may exist in some sense “outside” the universe, if “immaterial” is considered this way, saying that one aspect of His nature is “immaterial” isn’t to say it is anything particularly exotic. (Thanks to Ana, too, whose comments helped clarify this for me.)

    Close?

  63. dguller says:

    Clamat:

    >> And if it is valid to expand the definition of “material” this way, i.e., by simply adding members to the set without ever defining the characteristic they purportedly share, “material” can be expanded to include literally everything, including things undiscovered, even if these new things do not share a single characteristic with atoms, quarks, etc., beyond simply being shown to exist. Defined this way, nothing can fall outside the definition of “material.” “The things that make up reality share the characteristic of being the things that make up reality.”

    I think it depends upon where you start. When it comes to “matter”, we start with the objects around us. The objects around us appear to be made of “stuff” that we call “matter”, which can assume different forms, which results in different objects. What is this “matter”? It turns out it is made of smaller entities that ultimately have mass and energy within space-time, and whose interactions according to various forces result in the macroscopic objects that started us on our journey. That is all “matter” is, as far as know at this time.

    But I think that you are correct in that “matter” can appear to be empty, because it can be circular, but that is only because it depends upon a number of other concepts that are fundamentally interdependent. It can seem that they are therefore vacuous and circular, especially if we cannot reduce them to a single fundamental concept, or “single characteristic” that they “share”, but that does not follow. Take our epistemic concepts of “warrant”, “justification”, “evidence”, “truth” and so on. They are all fundamentally interdependent and defined in terms of one another with neither being primary, but I doubt that we would say that they are all therefore “empty”.

    Ultimately, we are talking about what is real and what exists, as you mentioned above, and matter is the stuff that what exists is made of. Yes, this is vague, and only scientific investigation has fleshed out what this “stuff” actually is. So, you are right that once something is found to be “real”, then it will be found to be made up of “stuff”, which we call will add to the category of “matter”. If it were not made of “stuff”, then it would be nothing, and thus not real.

    Perhaps most of this is a matter of linguistic agreement? We can agree that a chair is made of matter, and we can agree that the atoms that compose the chair are also made of matter, and further down the chain, but there may come a point where we reach a subatomic entity that is so bizarre that “matter” just seems to lose all sense. At that point, we can just revise our rules of discourse and call it “matter”, too, but that will be a choice that we make. But at the bottom of it all, there is the “stuff” that makes up what is “real”, and we just call this “stuff”, “matter”, no matter what it turns out to be.

  64. cl,

    If I say X is immaterial, at a very minimum, I am saying that X lacks mass–and that is a very meaningful distinction we can use to categorize the constituents of the universe.”

    Well, just because certain physical phenomena aren’t necessarily material doesn’t mean materialism or physicalism, for that matter, is a misnomer. It also does not make it invalid. There will still exist material objects that have mass regardless of whether the word “materialism” is to be taken literally.

    I apologize if I’ve missed the point of this post, but I’m not sure if there was a solid intention to begin with.

    I’d also be careful of throwing around the word “bastardized” when it comes to the definition/criteria for material(ism). Remember, science discovers more each year, not less — bastardize has a negative connotation. Although one would be correct in saying the definition has become far more convoluted and counterintuitive than physicists could have imagined in the early 20th century, that does not make its proposition nonsensical.

  65. cl says:

    clamat,

    Sorry for the delayed response.

    “Material” purports to describe a characteristic shared by the things that make up reality. But saying “atoms are material” doesn’t define what the characteristic “material” actually is. Saying “energy is material” doesn’t define what the characteristic is. Energy and atoms are simply identified as being elements of the set of “material things,” without any real identification of what the characteristic is. And when quarks are discovered, materialists co-opt them for the material set, too. And the four fundamental forces. And if/when NDE’s are established to be a real phenomenon and the mechanism for them is discovered, bang! Material! … And if it is valid to expand the definition of “material” this way, i.e., by simply adding members to the set without ever defining the characteristic they purportedly share, “material” can be expanded to include literally everything, including things undiscovered, even if these new things do not share a single characteristic with atoms, quarks, etc., beyond simply being shown to exist. Defined this way, nothing can fall outside the definition of “material.” “The things that make up reality share the characteristic of being the things that make up reality.”

    Which renders “material” empty.

    That seems to be the gist of it. The so-called “naturalists” do the same thing with “natural,” but I’ll save that for an upcoming post.

    cl, under your current definition of immaterial, at “at a minimum” things that have mass (and/or, presumably, energy?) are material, right?

    Yeah, but I’m open to suggestions if you don’t think that works.

    And on the God Question, while God may exist in some sense “outside” the universe, if “immaterial” is considered this way, saying that one aspect of His nature is “immaterial” isn’t to say it is anything particularly exotic.

    That seems right, or at least, on the right track.

    thinkingemotions,

    Thanks for stopping by. New commenters make my day. I don’t know why. I guess it’s like the equivalent of meeting a new person on the street. Always interesting, always fresh.

    Well, just because certain physical phenomena aren’t necessarily material doesn’t mean materialism or physicalism, for that matter, is a misnomer.

    It’s not that “certain physical phenomena” aren’t necessarily material, it’s that something like 99.9999999999999% of all phenomena aren’t material. That’s why I say it’s a misnomer.

    It also does not make it invalid. There will still exist material objects that have mass regardless of whether the word “materialism” is to be taken literally.

    I agree, and–correct me if I’m wrong–but I don’t recall saying anything about validity here.

    Remember, science discovers more each year, not less — bastardize has a negative connotation.

    I agree. I’m talking more to the dogmatic materialist who revises to preserve their metaphysic, as opposed to the ostensibly neutral scientist who should embrace revision according to evidence.

  66. cl,

    Oh, I’m actually not new. ;) This is DoubtfulAtheist; I ended up making an account and starting a blog to more actively increase my knowledge of philosophy and science.

    I’m talking more to the dogmatic materialist who revises to preserve their metaphysic, as opposed to the ostensibly neutral scientist who should embrace revision according to evidence.

    That sort of thinking you reference in regards to the dogmatic materialist is not only dangerous to interpretation of science and metaphysics, but dangerous to the materialist position as well. You can only distort evidence so much before it starts to starkly disagree with you. Of course, I extend that to everyone (myself included), regardless of your metaphysical stance. Intellectual honesty appears to be the most important aspect of any discourse or text.

    I agree, and–correct me if I’m wrong–but I don’t recall saying anything about validity here.

    Oh yeah, I wasn’t trying to put words in your mouth or anything. I just felt the need to point that out.

    It’s not that “certain physical phenomena” aren’t necessarily material, it’s that something like 99.9999999999999% of all phenomena aren’t material. That’s why I say it’s a misnomer.

    I see lots of room for fallacies of equivocation and definitional debate in the future of materialism vs. dualism vs. idealism. Not to imply you’re guilty of either — your language tends to be precise.

    Does anyone else find it deliciously ironic that science advancing has made it more difficult to be a materialist in this scenario?

  67. dguller says:

    Personally, I like Richard Carrier’s definition of supernaturalism as the possibility of the mental existing independently of the non-mental. So, there are minds that are dependent upon non-mental processes, and there are the non-mental processes themselves, and that is reality. The supernatural would require the existence of minds that do not depend upon any non-mental process at all. And under this conception, this whole debate about materialism seems to fizzle out.

  68. cl says:

    So, there are minds that are dependent upon non-mental processes, and there are the non-mental processes themselves, and that is reality.

    Did you mean non-physical in place of non-mental in both usages? Else, I’m having a hard time following, perhaps a link or further explanation would help.

  69. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> Did you mean non-physical in place of non-mental in both usages? Else, I’m having a hard time following, perhaps a link or further explanation would help.

    Nope, non-mental. The idea is that minds are caused by non-mental entities. Any belief that involves minds that can exist without non-mental processes can be considered to be supernatural.

    You can read his explanation here:

    http://richardcarrier.blogspot.com/2007/01/defining-supernatural.html

  70. cl says:

    That seems like gibberish to me, so let’s cut to the chase: why, given Carrier’s distinction, would this whole debate about materialism fizzle out?

  71. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> That seems like gibberish to me, so let’s cut to the chase: why, given Carrier’s distinction, would this whole debate about materialism fizzle out?

    It fizzles out, because it then becomes irrelevant what matter ends up being, because whatever it turns out to be, there will be non-mental events and mental events, and as long as those mental events are caused by non-mental events, then that is consistent with naturalism, whatever those non-mental events turn out to be.

  72. Crude says:

    It fizzles out, because it then becomes irrelevant what matter ends up being, because whatever it turns out to be, there will be non-mental events and mental events

    It’s entirely possible for matter to “end up” having fundamentally mental properties (panpsychism, various forms of neutral monism, etc.) As a result, there’s no guarantee that “whatever matter ends up being … there will be non-mental events and mental events”.

    On the flipside, insisting that ‘so long as the mental is dependent on the non-mental, you’re dealing with naturalism’ means that mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the greek pantheon and many more were/are naturalistic beliefs.

    So no, not only does it not ‘fizzle out’ even given Carrier’s definition, but that definition leads to some funny results.

  73. cl says:

    dguller,

    Define a “mental event” for me.

  74. dguller says:

    cl:

    A mental event is an event characterized by conscious awareness of something, whether of an external world, of a belief, of a desire, of a choice, and so on.

  75. Crude says:

    A mental event is an event characterized by conscious awareness of something, whether of an external world, of a belief, of a desire, of a choice, and so on.

    So long as intentionality and aboutness does not mandate conscious awareness, the physical world can be rife with it and there’s no threat to naturalism?

    Well, Thomism is apparently largely naturalistic now.

  76. cl says:

    A mental event is an event characterized by conscious awareness of something, whether of an external world, of a belief, of a desire, of a choice, and so on.

    So then, does that make a “non-mental event” an event which is NOT “characterized by conscious awareness of something?”

    Would “sadness” and “qualia” be examples of mental events?

    Would a rock breaking off a cliff be an example of a non-mental event?

    If so, isn’t this the same thing as “mind without brain?”

  77. dguller says:

    Crude:

    >> It’s entirely possible for matter to “end up” having fundamentally mental properties (panpsychism, various forms of neutral monism, etc.) As a result, there’s no guarantee that “whatever matter ends up being … there will be non-mental events and mental events”.

    Right. And if that happens, then my definition will be false. Until then, I think it is a good starting point that avoids some unnecessary conceptual problems.

    >> On the flipside, insisting that ‘so long as the mental is dependent on the non-mental, you’re dealing with naturalism’ means that mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the greek pantheon and many more were/are naturalistic beliefs.

    I’m with you with the Greek gods, but not with the others. The Greek gods were just super powerful human-like beings that lived in the world on Mount Olympus. They were as natural as you get. As for Mormon and Jehovah’s Witness beliefs, I actually do not know much about them. But if the phenomena and entities that they described were caused by non-mental events, then I would have no problem calling them “natural”.

  78. dguller says:

    Cl:

    >> So then, does that make a “non-mental event” an event which is NOT “characterized by conscious awareness of something?”

    Yup.

    >> Would “sadness” and “qualia” be examples of mental events?

    Yup.

    >> Would a rock breaking off a cliff be an example of a non-mental event?

    Yup.

    >> If so, isn’t this the same thing as “mind without brain?”

    Not necessarily. I’m open to the possibility of other physical organizations of matter resulting in conscious awareness, albeit of a different sort from our own. I’m even open to the possibility of a mind being caused by immaterial non-mental processes!

  79. cl says:

    So let’s rework your original claim, using the definitions YOU provided [I emphasize YOU to show that I’m NOT paraphrasing, with the exception that I treat “processes” as “events”]:

    “…I like Richard Carrier’s definition of supernaturalism as events characterized by conscious awareness existing independently of events not characterized by conscious awareness. So, there are minds that are dependent upon processes not characterized by conscious awareness, and there are the processes not characterized by conscious awareness themselves, and that is reality. The supernatural would require the existence of minds that do not depend upon any processes not characterized by conscious awareness themselves at all.”

    See why this strikes me as gibberish?

  80. Crude says:

    Right. And if that happens, then my definition will be false. Until then, I think it is a good starting point that avoids some unnecessary conceptual problems.

    But that means that this doesn’t make the materialist problem ‘fizzle out’. Unless ‘fizzling out’ means ‘evacuating materialism of nearly all content’, which really is just another way of copping to what I’ve been pressing in this thread: That ‘materialists’ have been in retreat for decades, if not centuries. And better yet, you’re advancing a novel definition even other materialists are at odds with.

    Not a good time to be a materialist.

    But if the phenomena and entities that they described were caused by non-mental events, then I would have no problem calling them “natural”.

    You wouldn’t? Great. But your definition of ‘naturalism’ means that naturalism no longer entails atheism, no longer entails the rejection of what has been traditionally called supernatural (It just ends up relabeled), no longer entails the rejection of what has been traditionally called ‘miracles’, etc.

    Just like with materialism, treating naturalism in this way doesn’t so much ‘eliminate the problems’ as expose naturalism as having ridiculously little meat to it. But I’d love to see Carrier claiming polytheists, voodoo practicioners and cargo cultists as naturalists.

  81. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> See why this strikes me as gibberish?

    Not really. I know that you understand the distinction between a mental (i.e. conscious) process and a non-mental (i.e. non-conscious) process, and I know that you understand the concept of consciousness being caused by non-conscious processes. So, I’m not too sure what is “gibberish”.

  82. dguller says:

    Crude:

    >> But that means that this doesn’t make the materialist problem ‘fizzle out’. Unless ‘fizzling out’ means ‘evacuating materialism of nearly all content’, which really is just another way of copping to what I’ve been pressing in this thread: That ‘materialists’ have been in retreat for decades, if not centuries. And better yet, you’re advancing a novel definition even other materialists are at odds with.

    Well, if materialism lacks clarity, then the fact that I am offering a definition to bring clarity should not serve as a point against me, I think. And what you call “retreat”, I call “revision in light of new evidence”. Although what counts as “stuff” has changed, the fact that the entities in the universe are composed of “stuff” has not been refuted at all, only revised and improved upon. That strikes me as a positive development, but it appears that you take it to imply that the idea of “matter” is empty, and that therefore anything goes. I’m not too sure how that follows.

    >> You wouldn’t? Great. But your definition of ‘naturalism’ means that naturalism no longer entails atheism, no longer entails the rejection of what has been traditionally called supernatural (It just ends up relabeled), no longer entails the rejection of what has been traditionally called ‘miracles’, etc.

    First, it does entail atheism, because God is not caused by non-mental processes, because he is not caused by anything. He is self-caused and simple, which means that he would count as supernatural on Carrier’s account.

    Second, it does not entail the rejection of what is traditionally called the supernatural in an a priori way, but does result in its rejection after empirical study finds that there are insufficient grounds to accept them as true.

    Third, it does not entail the rejection of miracles, and if the investigation of a miraculous event resulted in the conclusion that there are no other possible explanations other than that a miracle occurred, then a miracle occurred.

    I think it’s important to keep in mind that what I like about this definition is that it does not just rule out paranormal events in an a priori way. It keeps the possibility of their truth as an open question that warrants investigation. However, once that investigation has discovered an explanation for their presence that is more consistent with our current scientific understanding of how the universe works, then they can be rejected as false.

    >> Just like with materialism, treating naturalism in this way doesn’t so much ‘eliminate the problems’ as expose naturalism as having ridiculously little meat to it. But I’d love to see Carrier claiming polytheists, voodoo practicioners and cargo cultists as naturalists.

    It would depend upon what these individuals believe. If they believe in entities that have mental properties that are not caused by non-mental processes, then they would believe in the supernatural. If they do not, then they simply believe in very powerful natural beings that they can interact with and who can influence their lives. That is certainly not in conflict with naturalism.

    Just read his post, and we can discuss it, if you like:

    http://richardcarrier.blogspot.com/2007/01/defining-supernatural.html

  83. cl says:

    dguller,

    It’s redundant, verbose, and unnecessary. Consciousness existing outside of brains is sufficient. All that extra crap is gibberish. This whole conversation is gibberish. Here we are, almost 100 comments deep, talking about nothing relevant to the OP. IMO, you haven’t offered anything that improves clarity here, nor have you offered anything that would invalidate the original claim. To restate: materialists claim that something like 99.9999999999999% of all phenomena aren’t material. That’s why I say it’s a misnomer. The materialist claims that .0000000000001% of that which is known to exist can account for all observed phenomena, and it just strikes me as woefully inadequate, perhaps even a bit denialist.

  84. cl says:

    While we’re at it…

    Third, it does not entail the rejection of miracles, and if the investigation of a miraculous event resulted in the conclusion that there are no other possible explanations other than that a miracle occurred, then a miracle occurred.

    Thing is, you–or any materialist for that matter–can ALWAYS waffle out of this by saying, “Oh, well maybe it’s possible that X…” Been there done that.

    I think it’s important to keep in mind that what I like about this definition is that it does not just rule out paranormal events in an a priori way. It keeps the possibility of their truth as an open question that warrants investigation. However, once that investigation has discovered an explanation for their presence that is more consistent with our current scientific understanding of how the universe works, then they can be rejected as false.

    More gibberish. An event is not “false” or “not paranormal” because its explanation is consistent with “current scientific understanding,” whatever in God’s name that is.

  85. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> It’s redundant, verbose, and unnecessary. Consciousness existing outside of brains is sufficient.

    Except that would be wrong. It is not just consciousness existing outside of brains, but consciousness existing outside of any non-mental process. In other words, any mind must come from non-mind, but what “non-mind” turns out to be is an open question. Currently, it appears to consist of subatomic particles that have mass and energy, and operating according to natural laws, but that may change in the future.

    I thought it would be helpful to provide an account that leaves “matter” and “physical” open, and which actually set up a testable standard for what counts as supernatural, over and above “contradicts science”.

    >> To restate: materialists claim that something like 99.9999999999999% of all phenomena aren’t material. That’s why I say it’s a misnomer. The materialist claims that .0000000000001% of that which is known to exist can account for all observed phenomena, and it just strikes me as woefully inadequate, perhaps even a bit denialist.

    But that’s just not true. Materialists do not say that only matter exists, because that has not been born out by scientific study. We now know that matter is inextricably linked to energy, and thus natural forces. Those empty spaces in atoms that you started the thread discussing are not empty at all, but have forces and fields and energy present therein, all of which are simply the flip side of matter. So, it is not just about matter, but about what follows from having matter in the universe, which necessarily involves energy and other physical phenomena, which makes material reality far more richer than your caricature implies.

  86. cl says:

    It is not just consciousness existing outside of brains, but consciousness existing outside of any non-mental process. In other words, any mind must come from non-mind, but what “non-mind” turns out to be is an open question.

    Exactly. So now you’ve got a loophole that’s THAT much bigger. Before, you were content to accept mind without brain. Now, even if I can show that, you can retreat to, “Well, supernatural actually ISN’T mind without brain cl, it’s mind without non-mental process. So what if you can show mind without brain.”

    Currently, it appears to consist of subatomic particles that have mass and energy, and operating according to natural laws,

    Define “natural.” I’m pretty sure you conflate it with “godless” like most other atheists.

    Forgive me. I made a blooper when I put:

    To restate: materialists claim that something like 99.9999999999999% of all phenomena aren’t material.

    That’s actually what I’M claiming. The second part is more true to what I meant:

    The materialist claims that .0000000000001% of that which is known to exist can account for all observed phenomena, and it just strikes me as woefully inadequate, perhaps even a bit denialist.

    This is why I hate these constant back-and-forths over nothing. The more we talk, the more liable we are to screw up.

    Those empty spaces in atoms that you started the thread discussing are not empty at all,

    Yeah, I know, YOU were the one who came along and introduced that misunderstanding into the thread, in your first comment. They aren’t empty, but they aren’t material, either.

    If you’ve got a final point to make, one that contradicts anything I’ve claimed, or one that has any relevance whatsoever to the OP, please, make it. If not, I’m done here. We’re wasting tons of energy and time on what seems like another needless semantic dispute. Unless of course you think I’m missing something.

  87. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> Exactly. So now you’ve got a loophole that’s THAT much bigger. Before, you were content to accept mind without brain. Now, even if I can show that, you can retreat to, “Well, supernatural actually ISN’T mind without brain cl, it’s mind without non-mental process. So what if you can show mind without brain.”

    Since you can’t even show me a mind without a brain, this is a moot point.

    >> Define “natural.” I’m pretty sure you conflate it with “godless” like most other atheists.

    Why don’t we stick with Carrier’s definition, i.e. anything that is either a non-mental process or a mental process caused by a non-mental process?

    >> They aren’t empty, but they aren’t material, either.

    I would count energy as something material, because matter and energy are two sides of the same coin. At the very least, they are both physical. And so if there is energy in those spaces in the atom where there are no particles, then it is not immaterial.

    >> We’re wasting tons of energy and time on what seems like another needless semantic dispute. Unless of course you think I’m missing something.

    Okey dokey.

  88. cl says:

    Since you can’t even show me a mind without a brain, this is a moot point.

    Nice dodge.

    I would count energy as something material, because matter and energy are two sides of the same coin. At the very least, they are both physical.

    Man, it’s as if you don’t even listen. This has already been explained. Dismiss Feynman’s expertise if you wish. I’ll take no part in it.

  89. dguller says:

    cl:

    First, I didn’t dodge anything. I only pointed out a fact. Namely, that you haven’t even demonstrated that the mind can exist without a brain. If you can do that, then my worldview is in need of radical revision.

    Second, even if our concept of matter has been revised on numerous occasions does mean that the concept is utterly empty, and that therefore there are no constraints in terms of what people can postulate about reality. I mean, is your point that if materialism lacks a clear sense then ghosts and angels and fairies are therefore fair game?

  90. dguller says:

    cl:

    And here is the important point. If you believe that there are hidden forces operating in the world, then the best thing you can do is to go out and demonstrate their existence. Sure, you will run up against resistance, but so what? If you are right, then the evidence will accumulate in your favor over time. Look at any scientific hypothesis. They are always resisted by a skeptical scientific community, but eventually the evidence cannot be ignored.

    So, instead of wasting time criticising “materialism”, just present your evidence for your specific claims, such as the existence of the mind without a brain or body. Trust me, if you could show this, then you would be up there with newton and Einstein, and would have a Nobel prize and years of accolades.

  91. jim says:

    dguller:

    I think anyone who believes in these ‘hidden forces’ would claim that the evidence is all over the place, but that ‘materialist scientists’ simply reject that evidence because it doesn’t fit into their framework of how the world actually operates.

    Btw, I think somebody asked you once if you have a blog. Do you? I’d love to read it.

  92. dguller says:

    Jim:

    >> I think anyone who believes in these ‘hidden forces’ would claim that the evidence is all over the place, but that ‘materialist scientists’ simply reject that evidence because it doesn’t fit into their framework of how the world actually operates.

    First, I’d need some specific examples of this “all over the place” evidence.

    Second, it is well known that human beings have an intuitive framework from which we try to understand the world, and that there are elements of this framework that, when they are inappropriately applied, can result in supernatural beliefs. For example, we have a tendency of adopting an intentional stance towards other people, and that by observing their external behavior we make a variety of assumptions about their underlying mental states. However, this tendency can misfire, especially when we apply it to inanimate objects. This happens when we beg our car to start when it is stalling. The point of this is that there may be a number of experiences that people find compelling evidence of the supernatural, but there may be alternative explanations for them that do not require the existence of the hidden entities in question. A good book on the subject is “SuperSense” (2009) by Bruce Hood, which sees supernatural beliefs as byproducts of a framework that we acquire during childhood development, and that stays with us as adults to a great extent.

    Third, is it possible that scientists have investigated these issues, but have found a naturalistic explanation that does not require invisible agents or supernatural forces at all? From my limited exposure to this material, the evidence just is not that good, and certainly not good enough to require a wholesale revision to our scientific framework, because that is what would have to happen if it really was true that there are invisible agents and extra supernatural forces operative in the world.

    >> Btw, I think somebody asked you once if you have a blog. Do you? I’d love to read it.

    No, I don’t. Maybe one day I will. The problem is that I do better by reacting to the comments of others rather than just starting some of my own. But I’ll consider starting one at some point. That way I won’t clog up the comments sections of other bloggers’ domains. :)

  93. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> Dismiss Feynman’s expertise if you wish. I’ll take no part in it.

    I thought about Feynman’s quote about energy being something that we can calculate, predict and measure, but that despite this incredible ability, we are fundamentally ignorant about its nature and energy truly is. I never disagreed with this statement at all, and so I’m wondering about why you brought it up.

    Regardless, I think that he is right. What I am more interested in is what you think follows from this. Even though we do not know what the nature of energy is, we can measure it and understand it in a scientific way. Compare that with the energy involved in reiki, or with telekinesis, or any other paranormal or New Age idea. These “energies” cannot be measured at all, and actually turn out to be completely bogus. So, just because we do not know the nature of energy does not imply that therefore all kinds of supernatural conclusions become valid and fair game. Those kinds of energy have to meet the same standard as the energy present in physics, for example. It must be measurable, calculable, and predictable, and fit into a general theory. Maybe that’s all that is important at this time.

  94. cl says:

    First, I didn’t dodge anything.

    Yes you did. You dodged the comment I made about the loophole in favor of a jab.

    I only pointed out a fact.

    No you didn’t. You asserted your opinion. That I “can’t” show you a mind without a brain is your opinion. Of course, there IS an element of truth there. I can’t show YOU that immaterial minds exist, because you’ve already committed to the position that the idea is “fantasy and science fiction.” Therefore, I really don’t think I’ll ever be able to overcome your bias. Further, I’m not a scientist who conducts the type of studies you worship. So, in a sense, you are correct.

    Second, even if our concept of matter has been revised on numerous occasions does mean that the concept is utterly empty, and that therefore there are no constraints in terms of what people can postulate about reality.

    You didn’t even finish that sentence.

    I mean, is your point that if materialism lacks a clear sense then ghosts and angels and fairies are therefore fair game?

    Fair game for what? Those are all examples of mind without brain. However, guess what? Now, with your handy-dandy NEGATIVE definition, you can simply draw another line in the sand and say, “Well, I don’t think those minds are independent from non-mental processes, therefore this is no proof of the supernatural.” One can only prove a negative when all options are ruled out. Hence, the loophole I alluded to.

    They are always resisted by a skeptical scientific community, but eventually the evidence cannot be ignored.

    Right, because nobody still believes the earth is flat, and everybody accepts evolution.

    So, instead of wasting time criticising “materialism”,

    And, who are you to tell me I’m wasting my time? The only “waste of time” I see here is my propensity to respond to vacuous criticism.

    Trust me, if you could show this, then you would be up there with newton and Einstein, and would have a Nobel prize and years of accolades.

    Right, because the scientific community is so open-minded. Puffery.

    I thought about Feynman’s quote about energy being something that we can calculate, predict and measure, but that despite this incredible ability, we are fundamentally ignorant about its nature and energy truly is. I never disagreed with this statement at all, and so I’m wondering about why you brought it up.

    The second you assert that energy is material–which you did–you disagreed that we are “fundamentally ignorant about its nature.”

    What I am more interested in is what you think follows from this.

    How many more times do you want to hear the simple point? Again: The materialist claims that .0000000000001% of that which is known to exist can account for all observed phenomena, and it just strikes me as woefully inadequate, perhaps even a bit denialist.

    These “energies” cannot be measured at all, and actually turn out to be completely bogus.

    If we can’t measure them, how can we determine that they are bogus?

    So, just because we do not know the nature of energy does not imply that therefore all kinds of supernatural conclusions become valid and fair game.

    Did I say that? No, this is another example of you making wild inferences. Sheesh. When will you relent? When will you take my advice about cut-and-paste?

    Those kinds of energy have to meet the same standard as the energy present in physics, for example.

    Oh, I see, because you say so. Hell, I suppose if that’s the rule, there’s no reason even trying.

    It must be measurable, calculable, and predictable, and fit into a general theory.

    In terms of immaterial consciousness, this is absurd.

  95. jim says:

    dguller:

    “From my limited exposure to this material, the evidence just is not that good, and certainly not good enough to require a wholesale revision to our scientific framework, because that is what would have to happen if it really was true that there are invisible agents and extra supernatural forces operative in the world.”

    I tend to agree, but the responses will always come back as-

    1. Leprechauns are all over the place, but you just don’t happen to be looking in the right places at the right times.

    2. Your naturalistic bias forces you to interpret the actions of leprechauns as being the wind in the trees.

    3. Leprechauns are intrinsically unpredictable, so your requirement for such things as double-blind studies, measurability and repeatability are irrelevant and cynical.

    4. Pots of gold and rainbows are solid, indirect evidence of leprechauns.

    5. Since matter occupies just .00000000000001 percent of empty space, and you can’t explain things like fields of force adequately enough to suit me, the obvious inference is that most of the universe is leprechaun-ish in nature.

    6. Anecdotal evidence overrides scientific method in the case of leprechauns.

    Therefore, your position is absurd and you’re just being stubborn.

    As an aside, I’ve always held that the universe is probably a much stranger place than our limited sensory apparatus might indicate. Hell, almost anything MIGHT be possible. But science is the best observatory tool at our disposal to investigate existence; hell, in the end that’s all science boils down to, really. A methodological system for observing the world. There will probably always be blank spots in our vision, but filling them in with fanciful notions born of old mythologies is, frankly, just plain lazy.

    Anyway, I’ve appreciated your exposition here thus far, as well as your patience. More than I have, surely.

  96. dguller says:

    Cl:

    >> Yes you did. You dodged the comment I made about the loophole in favor of a jab.

    I cannot use that loophole, because I have no idea what kind of immaterial non-mental processes could produce a mind. Any objection along those lines would be exactly the kind of sheer possibility response that I think lacks much warrant.

    >> No you didn’t. You asserted your opinion. That I “can’t” show you a mind without a brain is your opinion. Of course, there IS an element of truth there. I can’t show YOU that immaterial minds exist, because you’ve already committed to the position that the idea is “fantasy and science fiction.” Therefore, I really don’t think I’ll ever be able to overcome your bias. Further, I’m not a scientist who conducts the type of studies you worship. So, in a sense, you are correct.

    First, I find it ironic that someone who decries bias as a distortion of the truth still objects to the idea that anecdotal studies are loaded with bias, which is why they are at the lowest rung of the evidence-based ladder.

    Second, I do not worship studies. I am an atheist, and do not worship anything. I do believe that if you are going to demonstrate a truth, then you have to put in the work to rule out other possible explanations. And note that by “other possible explanations” I do not mean “anything I can think of to avoid believing your conclusion”. I mean empirically verified possibilities that could confound the results.

    Third, you yourself admitted that the Pam Reynolds affair was inconclusive, and then said that your case did not rest upon a single case, but an accumulation of such cases. I replied that 100 inconclusive studies does not make the matter magically conclusive. After all, 100 pieces of shit do not suddenly become a rose. If you have any evidence that controls for chance, memory distortion, misperception, fraud, and other well-validated confounding factors, then present it. If you cannot, then just admit that right now, the matter is an open question. Remember, I am not saying that you are wrong, because I cannot honestly say that. I can only say that the evidence that you have provided is inconclusive, and thus neither of us knows the truth about this matter.

    >> Fair game for what? Those are all examples of mind without brain. However, guess what? Now, with your handy-dandy NEGATIVE definition, you can simply draw another line in the sand and say, “Well, I don’t think those minds are independent from non-mental processes, therefore this is no proof of the supernatural.” One can only prove a negative when all options are ruled out. Hence, the loophole I alluded to.

    That is a possibility, but not one that I would play. I would suspect that if you could demonstrate a mind existing independently of any material process, then there would be some other underlying processes that are generating that mind, but I would be engaging in sheer speculation at that point, which would be weak tea. But I do not rule out the possibility of minds being caused by patterns of pure energy independent of any material substrate, but I honestly would not know what such minds would be like. The only thing that I disbelieve in is that consciousness, which we know is a product of a number of complicated underlying processes, could be free-floating without anything supporting it. There is no good evidence for something like that.

    >> Right, because nobody still believes the earth is flat, and everybody accepts evolution

    The evidence does not have to convince everyone on the planet, but only a consensus of specialists in subject under consideration. Universal agreement is an impossible standard for any truth, because there will always be people who misunderstand the evidence, have alternative motives to deny the truth, and so on.

    >> And, who are you to tell me I’m wasting my time? The only “waste of time” I see here is my propensity to respond to vacuous criticism.

    I’m sorry you feel that way. I actually enjoy our discussions, as I’ve mentioned before. All I meant by that comment is that even if your argument was true, and materialism is a misnomer, then what follows? Does matter no longer exist? Is the atomic theory of matter suddenly false? Do immaterial spiritual substances suddenly gain epistemic warrant? I really don’t know, which why I made the comment.

    >> Right, because the scientific community is so open-minded. Puffery.

    It is not open-minded, and that is the point. Any new idea is attacked viciously by numerous specialists, especially those who have made reputations out of older ideas that are at risk of being rejected. If an idea can accumulate enough evidence over time to attain the status of a truth by consensus, then that is a significant achievement, particularly because it requires so much intense effort. Just look at some examples in scientific history from the atomic theory of matter, thermodynamics, relativity, quantum mechanics, the Big Bang theory, and so on. All attacked as utterly false, but ultimately demonstrated to be true by virtue of the accumulation of evidence.

    >> The second you assert that energy is material–which you did–you disagreed that we are “fundamentally ignorant about its nature.”

    That is why I hedged by saying that it would be better to call it “physical” instead of “material”.

    >> How many more times do you want to hear the simple point? Again: The materialist claims that .0000000000001% of that which is known to exist can account for all observed phenomena, and it just strikes me as woefully inadequate, perhaps even a bit denialist.

    Can you cite some materialists who say that all that exists is matter with the exclusion of space-time and energy? After all, in the portions of the atom where there is no matter, i.e. subatomic particles, there is still space-time and energy, which no materialist denies exists. That is why it might be better to talk about “physicalism”, which is broader than “materialism”, because it includes those other important features of reality. And in that case, you are attacking a straw man.

    >> If we can’t measure them, how can we determine that they are bogus?

    Mainly, because we cannot detect them. If you cannot detect or measure them, then how can you conclude that they exist? They must make some kind of impact upon the world, or else why postulate them at all? And if they do make an impact, then one should be able to measure that impact somehow. It is important that these paranormal energies cannot be directly or indirectly detected, and their effects do not actually occur, which would lead me to conclude that they do not exist.

    >> Did I say that? No, this is another example of you making wild inferences. Sheesh. When will you relent? When will you take my advice about cut-and-paste?

    I’m glad that you disagree with this. Maybe you can help me out by stating what you think follows if materialism is a misnomer?

    >> Oh, I see, because you say so. Hell, I suppose if that’s the rule, there’s no reason even trying.

    What standards should they meet then? I mean, either the energy itself or its effects should be detectable and measurable. It should also operate according to some kind of law-like behavior, because otherwise it is just a random event, and cannot be identified as a principle operative in the world.

    >> In terms of immaterial consciousness, this is absurd.

    Not necessarily. We can measure the effects of immaterial consciousness upon the world. We can understand some underlying principles of its operation, such as its intentionality, its behavior in different contexts, its capacity to recollect memories, and so on. I think that would be something.

  97. cl says:

    Well, jim, I see that you’re still fond of being disingenuous. That’s too bad, but frankly, I’m not surprised. Some of your hypothetical responses are on point, others are simply disingenuous. Point by point:

    1) It is true that most materialists / atheists are not looking in the right place at the right times. I mean, dguller declared immaterial mind “science fiction and fantasy” BEFORE EVEN LOOKING at the pertinent evidence, and on an ADMITTED paucity of exposure to the pertinent literature. Tell me: is that responsible skepticism? Or is that putting the cart before the horse?

    Answer honestly, and then I’ll post the rest of my comment.

  98. dguller says:

    cl:

    Wow. You really don’t let anyone get away with an admitted mistake, do you? I told you that I was wrong to have jumped to conclusions without looking at the evidence. I even asked you to provide me with your best evidence so that I could learn. Instead, you bring up Pam and after this case was shown to be inconclusive, you then said that you never intended to start out with your best evidence, but would provide it. I am still waiting.

  99. cl says:

    dguller,

    I cannot use that loophole, because I have no idea what kind of immaterial non-mental processes could produce a mind.

    You don’t need one. Again, slightly reworded: Before, you were content to accept mind without brain. Now, even if I can show that, you can retreat to, “Well, supernatural actually ISN’T mind without brain cl, it’s mind without non-mental process. It’s possible that non-mental processes are producing this mind without brain.”

    Any objection along those lines would be exactly the kind of sheer possibility response that I think lacks much warrant.

    Yet, you argued the “sheer possibility” of all sorts of things in order to mitigate the Pam Reynolds evidence, didn’t you?

    First, I find it ironic that someone who decries bias as a distortion of the truth still objects to the idea that anecdotal studies are loaded with bias,

    Oh, how nice, now you’re making false claims about me, and STILL ignoring my request for charitable citations. I challenge you to provide a citation where I “objected to the idea that anecdotal studies are loaded with bias.” If you cannot, apologize. If you will not, we part ways. In fact, even if we do, don’t expect much response from me for a while. My time is too important to me. These back and forths are pointless because you get so hurried and you don’t take the time to be charitable. That’s not responsible skepticism, it’s knee-jerk instigation.

    If you have any evidence that controls for chance, memory distortion, misperception, fraud, and other well-validated confounding factors, then present it.

    Well, why won’t you shut up and listen? Really man. If you didn’t make so many needless, vacuous comments, I could write more posts. Sure, I could ignore your needless, vacuous comments, but that leaves me open to accusations of evasion.

    I would suspect that if you could demonstrate a mind existing independently of any material process,

    You still don’t see the problem, do you? You have already stated that NOTHING SHORT of a SET of controlled, replicated studies can convince you of immaterial minds. Forgive me for being so brash, but–are you stupid, stubborn, malicious, or something else? Why would you ask me for what you know I can’t provide? Further, if and when your holy grail IS discovered, how will you know that THOSE scientific studies are in the “properly controlled scientific studies that are true” category, as opposed to the “properly controlled scientific studies that are false” category? Oh, never mind, I know the answer: faith.

    Universal agreement is an impossible standard for any truth, because there will always be people who misunderstand the evidence, have alternative motives to deny the truth, and so on.

    Ha! Exactly, dguller, exactly. There, we agree.

    I’m sorry you feel that way. I actually enjoy our discussions, as I’ve mentioned before.

    I enjoy a subset of our discussions, but I absolutely HATE IT when you make wild inferences and show a wanton disregard for precision and charitable inference. Simply put, many of your comments are too rushed, too knee-jerk. If you are really concerned about economy, I suggest paring down your objections, and waiting much longer before you post them. Have a little respect for the fact that I don’t want to waste my time clarifying what I ACTUALLY said because you’re in too much of a rush to go pull a citation.

    All I meant by that comment is that even if your argument was true, and materialism is a misnomer, then what follows?

    There is no “if,” because the argument is true, and I’ve told you what follows.

    Just look at some examples in scientific history from the atomic theory of matter, thermodynamics, relativity, quantum mechanics, the Big Bang theory, and so on. All attacked as utterly false, but ultimately demonstrated to be true by virtue of the accumulation of evidence.

    Wrong. You don’t understand science nearly as much as you pretend.

    That is why I hedged by saying that it would be better to call it “physical” instead of “material”.

    Irrelevant. The second you say what it IS, you have left the position of ignorance regarding its ultimate nature. Get it?

    After all, in the portions of the atom where there is no matter, i.e. subatomic particles, there is still space-time and energy, which no materialist denies exists.

    Irrelevant.

    That is why it might be better to talk about “physicalism”, which is broader than “materialism”, because it includes those other important features of reality.

    Semantic puffery.

    Mainly, because we cannot detect them. If you cannot detect or measure them, then how can you conclude that they exist?

    Absurd. We don’t need to detect “them” to affirm “their” existence. We only need to detect “their” interaction with the “natural” world, but that doesn’t leave us without problems–problems that I suspect might be fatally intractable.

    They must make some kind of impact upon the world, or else why postulate them at all? And if they do make an impact, then one should be able to measure that impact somehow.

    THAT would be correct. This is an entirely different statement than the one that preceded it.

    It is important that these paranormal energies cannot be directly or indirectly detected, and their effects do not actually occur, which would lead me to conclude that they do not exist.

    They can be detected, and they have, which–along with, logic, my own personal experiences, and the experiences of others–leads me to conclude that they exist. Seriously. You need to read up. Puthoff and Targ at Stanford would be a great place to start.

    Maybe you can help me out by stating what you think follows if materialism is a misnomer?

    I have, four times. Maybe you can help us out by LISTENING? I’m beginning to seriously question your motives. How can I not when I’ve repeated myself several times?

    We can measure the effects of immaterial consciousness upon the world. We can understand some underlying principles of its operation, such as its intentionality, its behavior in different contexts, its capacity to recollect memories, and so on.

    So? That doesn’t mean we should expect to use controlled, replicated, double-blind studies to determine the existence of immaterial minds. Literally, we can’t–yet that’s your holy grail, so we’re at an impasse. I suspect that you’re using controlled, replicated, double-blind studies as a gris-gris.

  100. jim says:

    cl:

    Since I and many others have pointed out your inauthenticity on countless occasions in times past, I think I’ll let your false accusation slide past with a simple guffaw. Or should I employ one of your standard responses i.e. ‘How do you know i’m being disingenuous? Can you read my mind? Huh? Huh? Can you?’ et al.

    1. So, are you saying there ARE leprechauns? Or just that one isn’t warranted in concluding that they don’t exist without reading all the relevant literature?

  101. cl says:

    Ah fercryinouloud…

    Wow. You really don’t let anyone get away with an admitted mistake, do you?

    Yes, I do. Neither YOU nor YOUR MISTAKE are the subject here. I was responding to jim’s 2), in which he appears to downplay the significance of a bias charge. May he correct me if I’m wrong, but he seems to be implying that a theist can simply “cry bias” to wriggle out of a tough spot, in a way that mitigates the accusation. Sure, they can, and some do–but there are also a great many instances where bias REALLY IS the correct answer as to why somebody affirms or denies a given proposition. For example, your premature remarks about immaterial minds.

    I told you that I was wrong to have jumped to conclusions without looking at the evidence.

    I know, and I appreciate that, and I’ve already expressed this, but the fact that you’ve admitted this doesn’t suddenly make you unbiased. I mean, I don’t have knowledge of all that you’ve read, but it seems to me that you’re STILL showing an incredible bias here, one that I’m near-certain I cannot overcome.

    I am still waiting.

    Well, then like I said, CHILL OUT a little bit and resist the urge to blather on ad nauseum, so I can use my time to honor your request. At the very least, don’t repeat the same question five times when I’ve given the answer. Don’t encourage me to waste time citing what I ACTUALLY said about A, B or C. Be charitable, precise, and concise. Or, if that’s not an option, then at least promise me you won’t cry “evasion” when I stop responding entirely–because I’m pretty close to concluding that I have no choice–if I wish to focus on blog posts, that is. I mean, here we are, almost 11:00 am on a Saturday, and instead of writing the post I wanted to write, I’m bogged down in what appears to be a completely unfruitful back and forth–and now I don’t have a post.

    Is that my choice? Of course, but like I said, I only do this so I’m not open to the “evasion” charge, and because I feel obligated to respond. If you’ll promise not to level that accusation, I’ll gladly respond less and focus on posts more.

  102. cl says:

    Since I and many others have pointed out your inauthenticity on countless occasions in times past, I think I’ll let your false accusation slide past with a simple guffaw.

    Evidence? Put up or shut up. I certainly make mistakes, but I as authentic as can be.

    What a joke. Something told me you wouldn’t be able to concede the truth. Hell, even dguller admits that his remarks were NOT responsible skepticism. Why can’t you? Surely it’s not that Team Scarlet A pride befuddling your rationality again, eh?

    So, are you saying there ARE leprechauns? Or just that one isn’t warranted in concluding that they don’t exist without reading all the relevant literature?

    I made myself clear. I said: dguller declared immaterial mind “science fiction and fantasy” BEFORE EVEN LOOKING at the pertinent evidence, and on an ADMITTED paucity of exposure to the pertinent literature.

    Now, jim, tell me: is that responsible skepticism? Or is that putting the cart before the horse?

  103. jim says:

    cl:

    Note- Observe that you came right out of the chute with a personal aspersion in your very first sentence. So if you don’t like my comeback, you might reconsider your approach.

  104. jim says:

    cl:

    “I made myself clear. I said: dguller declared immaterial mind “science fiction and fantasy” BEFORE EVEN LOOKING at the pertinent evidence, and on an ADMITTED paucity of exposure to the pertinent literature.”

    So, back to point 1. If I declare that leprechauns are pure fantasy without having investigated all the pertinent literature, is my conclusion invalid?

  105. cl says:

    Some clarification is in order. When I said,

    You have already stated that NOTHING SHORT of a SET of controlled, replicated studies can convince you of immaterial minds. Forgive me for being so brash, but–are you stupid, stubborn, malicious, or something else? Why would you ask me for what you know I can’t provide?

    I was actually speaking in the limited context of NDE’s. I cannot provide you with a SET of controlled, replicated studies on NDE, because the first significant one [Parnia’s] is still under way. The results are set to publish later this year, and regardless of the results, that’s only ONE study.

    jim,

    Besides, if you’re so logical and rational, why are you walking with open arms towards fallacious reasoning? Let’s say I have been inauthentic before. Does that have any bearing on the truth value of anything dguller and I are discussion? No. It’s an ad hominem flavored red herring that reeks of the genetic fallacy and poisons the well.

    It is neither damaging nor derogatory to refer to a few of your “points” as disingenuous, jim. It IS damaging AND derogatory to accuse someone of inauthenticity, and it’s irresponsible and irrational to do so without evidence.

    If I declare that leprechauns are pure fantasy without having investigated all the pertinent literature, is my conclusion invalid?

    Of course not. It just means you’re shirking your duties as a responsible skeptic–which is exactly the original point I made.

    So, answer: were dguller’s remarks about immaterial minds indicative of responsible skepticism? Or, did he put the cart before the horse? No more dodging.

  106. jim says:

    cl:

    “It is neither damaging nor derogatory to refer to a few of your “points” as disingenuous, jim. It IS damaging AND derogatory to accuse someone of inauthenticity…”

    Ah, so ascribing disingenuousness to someone isn’t damaging and derogatory, but ascribing inauthenticity to someone IS damaging and derogatory. Wow, that seems mightily disingenuous to me. Then again, maybe I’m just being inauthentic. LOL! Don’t mind the accusation of disingenuousness, btw. After all, it isn’t damaging or derogatory.

    Back to my point 1, then?

  107. jim says:

    To recap, so far we’ve established that disingenuous isn’t a personal aspersion, but inauthentic is. Should we go on the investigate the words stupid, stubborn, malicious, shut up and listen, and probably a few others I don’t have the interest in fishing out right now? Or should we go on to discuss what threshold of information might surmount a ‘paucity’, especially since sans omniscience, ANY amount of research and information can hypothetically be deemed to be inadequate?

  108. jim says:

    cl:

    “If I declare that leprechauns are pure fantasy without having investigated all the pertinent literature, is my conclusion invalid?”

    “Of course not. It just means you’re shirking your duties as a responsible skeptic–which is exactly the original point I made.”

    Well, since I doubt I could ever investigate all the pertinent literature regarding leprechauns in my lifetime, the responsibly skeptical thing to do is to remain agnostic as to the existence of leprechauns. I think that qualifies as your answer to point 1. On to point 2?

  109. jim says:

    cl:

    “So, answer: were dguller’s remarks about immaterial minds indicative of responsible skepticism? Or, did he put the cart before the horse?”

    dguller sees consciousness as the causal result of brain function. You see them as merely correlative. I don’t know how to bridge that gap in your disparate understandings of how the world works. I’ve enjoyed reading dguller’s efforts here, but for every thesis there’s an antithesis, I suppose, and since you’ve been decrying the length of this thread for quite awhile now, and since I’m quite familiar with the mode of your argumentation, I suppose I should just shut up and let you play.

  110. cl says:

    jim,

    Ah, so ascribing disingenuousness to someone isn’t damaging and derogatory, but ascribing inauthenticity to someone IS damaging and derogatory.

    Fair enough, I’m wrong, we both cast aspersions… but here’s the difference: I can point to facts that seem to support what I’m saying, and I did. You just made a claim without pointing to any facts. Surely, there’s a difference, right?

    On to point 2?

    Nope. Not until you answer the question I asked you. If you can’t answer it honestly, further dialog isn’t worth the time.

  111. cl says:

    Ha! You just can’t do it, can you?

  112. cl says:

    At the heart of science is an essential tension… [A]n openness to new ideas, no matter how bizarre or counter intuitive they may be, and the most ruthless, skeptical scrutiny of all ideas, old and new.

    -Carl Sagan

  113. jim says:

    cl:

    “Fair enough, I’m wrong, we both cast aspersions…”

    This example (as well as many, many others in times past) of how I have to pin you to the wall to get you to accede to just a tad of your ongoing, blatant hypocrisy in discourse SHOULD be adequate for a rational person to perhaps revisit his approach. Then again, you’re an apologist, so I won’t be holding my breath. As for your question:

    “So, answer: were dguller’s remarks about immaterial minds indicative of responsible skepticism?”

    I’ve already answered this. However, your inability to read between the lines, or to recognize nuance inhibits your ability to comprehend, sadly. Regarding your Sagan quote, here’s one for you from me:

    ‘At the heart of theistic belief is an essential tension…a need to cling to old ideas, no matter how bizarre or counter intuitive they may be, and the rejection of skeptical scrutiny whenever and wherever it threatens to tip the cart of superstition.’

    -Jim Crawford

    On another note, I recently put a chatbox on my blog. It’s working out pretty well, I think. Adds a more spontaneous element to the convos. I was thinking it might be fun for you. Something different, y’know?

    Here’s where I got it, in case you’re ever interested.

  114. jim says:

    cl says:

    “Some clarification is in order. When I said,
    You have already stated that NOTHING SHORT of a SET of controlled, replicated studies can convince you of immaterial minds. Forgive me for being so brash, but–are you stupid, stubborn, malicious, or something else? Why would you ask me for what you know I can’t provide?

    Then he says:

    I was actually speaking in the limited context of NDE’s. I cannot provide you with a SET of controlled, replicated studies on NDE, because the first significant one [Parnia’s] is still under way. The results are set to publish later this year, and REGARDLESS OF THE RESULTS, that’s only ONE study.

    I’d imagine that ‘regardless of the results’ comment only applies if the results are negative, eh? And how many studies with negative results would be adequate to disprove cl’s presupposition? Two? Three? A thousand? A million? A billion? Here, I’ll make it easy and supply the answer. Even a billion wouldn’t matter; because, after all, study #abillionandone might affirm the supernatural premise.

    Oh, and did anybody else notice the personal disparagement? I did. And was the disparagement invoked to counter some personal insult by dguller? ‘Fraid not. Just business as usual. Enjoy the farce.

  115. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> You don’t need one. Again, slightly reworded: Before, you were content to accept mind without brain. Now, even if I can show that, you can retreat to, “Well, supernatural actually ISN’T mind without brain cl, it’s mind without non-mental process. It’s possible that non-mental processes are producing this mind without brain.”

    First, I was never content to accept mind without brain, but was willing to entertain the possibility and look at your evidence for that proposition.

    Second, I might consider the possibility of other non-mental processes causing the disembodied minds, but I would not put much stock in such a possibility, because it is not grounded in very much. Sure, it’s possible, but it’s a poor possibility that is more like science fiction and fantasy than anything solid.

    Third, why object to the existence of immaterial non-mental processes causing disembodied minds? Why is it so objectionable to consider this? These processes may exist in another dimension, or a hitherto undetectable realm of reality. I would have thought that you would approve of such a possibility, because it makes disembodied minds more plausible.

    >> Yet, you argued the “sheer possibility” of all sorts of things in order to mitigate the Pam Reynolds evidence, didn’t you?

    *Facepalm*. Still missing the distinction between logical and empirical possibilities, eh? The former simply do not involve any contradiction, and the latter involve demonstrated empirical phenomena. My objections were more in keeping with the latter than the former. Furthermore, you yourself agreed that they were worth considering, because otherwise, why would you have agreed that the Pam Reynolds case was inconclusive? Or do you now change your mind?

    >> Oh, how nice, now you’re making false claims about me, and STILL ignoring my request for charitable citations. I challenge you to provide a citation where I “objected to the idea that anecdotal studies are loaded with bias.” If you cannot, apologize.

    You cannot have it both ways. You cannot, on the one hand, endorse the idea that anecdotal data is loaded with enough bias and confounding factors to make them the lowest type of evidence, and on the other hand, decry my “sheer possibility” objections to the Pam Reynolds case report, which implies that you think that anecdotes ARE good evidence. I’ll happily apologize when you stop complaining about “sheer possibility”.

    >> If you will not, we part ways. In fact, even if we do, don’t expect much response from me for a while. My time is too important to me. These back and forths are pointless because you get so hurried and you don’t take the time to be charitable. That’s not responsible skepticism, it’s knee-jerk instigation.

    As always, you are free to do whatever you like.

    >> You still don’t see the problem, do you? You have already stated that NOTHING SHORT of a SET of controlled, replicated studies can convince you of immaterial minds. Forgive me for being so brash, but–are you stupid, stubborn, malicious, or something else? Why would you ask me for what you know I can’t provide?

    Then the matter is inconclusive. That’s fine.

    >> Further, if and when your holy grail IS discovered, how will you know that THOSE scientific studies are in the “properly controlled scientific studies that are true” category, as opposed to the “properly controlled scientific studies that are false” category? Oh, never mind, I know the answer: faith.

    First, only time will tell, but I will gladly put my money on what scientific studies support, because that is the best bet. Sure, I won’t always win, but I’ll win more often than someone who relies upon another method.

    Second, it is not faith to believe in a tool that has demonstrated reliability in the past, no more than it is faith that allows me to believe that the sun will rise tomorrow. The only sense of “faith” that makes sense here is to believe in something that falls short of absolute certainty, but there are degrees of probability, and I don’t think it makes sense to call relying upon something with an excellent track record as relying upon faith. This is just equivocation.

    >> There is no “if,” because the argument is true, and I’ve told you what follows.

    In your OP, you implied that because matter represented a tiny fraction within an atom, that materialism as a worldview could not imply that all that exists is fundamentally material in nature. My response is that materialists can also accept the existence of space-time and energy, neither of which is “material”, as consistent with their worldview, because these are part of the fundamental components of reality itself. Sure, they do not fit in the classical mechanical sense of “material”, but who cares? Science evolves as new evidence comes in, and its theories are refined.

    The current understanding of reality is that it is composed of matter and energy operating according to natural laws within space-time. THAT is the definition of “materialism” that most materialists operate under. I don’t know of ANY who believe that you have to exclude energy and space-time, because they all come together as a package, and the PACKAGE is what accounts for reality. That is why this entire discussion is based upon a straw man.

    And even if materialism could not account for everything in reality, then there still needs to be some kind of ground rules to account for the rest, otherwise it becomes a free for all. Perhaps you could describe your rules for determining what the rest of reality could be?

    >> Wrong. You don’t understand science nearly as much as you pretend.

    Regarding the atomic theory:

    “In spite of the seeming modernity and power of Dalton’s model, though, it did not take the scientific world by storm at the end of the first decade of the nineteenth century. Many people found it hard, sometimes on philosophical grounds, to accept the idea of atoms (with the implication that there was nothing at all in the spaces between atoms) and even many of those who used the idea regarded it as no more than a heuristic device, a tool to use in workout out how elements behave as if they were composed of tiny particles. It took almost half a century for the Daltonian atom to become really fixed as a feature of chemistry, and it was only in the early years of the twentieth century (almost exactly a hundred years after Dalton’s insight) that definitive proof of the existence of atoms was established” (John Gribbin, “The Scientists”, p. 369).

    And it is well known that scientists in the early twentieth century disliked both relativity and quantum mechanics, because they both overturned classical Newtonian mechanics, which held on to the bitter end until experimental confirmation of relativity and QM became impossible to ignore. In fact, with regards to QM, a vocal opponent of quanta named Robert Millikan spent ten years trying to disprove Einstein’s quantum theory, and ended up confirming it with precise measurements and experiments to the point that Millikan received the Nobel Prize in 1923 for his work on the charge of electrons (Ibid., pp. 511-12).

    >> Irrelevant.

    Perfectly relevant. If you want to criticize materialism, then you should attack what its adherents actually believe, and not straw men.

    >> Absurd. We don’t need to detect “them” to affirm “their” existence. We only need to detect “their” interaction with the “natural” world, but that doesn’t leave us without problems–problems that I suspect might be fatally intractable.

    Agreed.

    >> They can be detected, and they have, which–along with, logic, my own personal experiences, and the experiences of others–leads me to conclude that they exist. Seriously. You need to read up. Puthoff and Targ at Stanford would be a great place to start.

    Can you cite where paranormal energy has been detected?

    >> So? That doesn’t mean we should expect to use controlled, replicated, double-blind studies to determine the existence of immaterial minds. Literally, we can’t–yet that’s your holy grail, so we’re at an impasse. I suspect that you’re using controlled, replicated, double-blind studies as a gris-gris.

    And I suspect that you are minimizing the importance of relying upon quality evidence with minimal bias and confounding factors, because all of your evidence is likely tainted by these elements.

  116. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> I mean, I don’t have knowledge of all that you’ve read, but it seems to me that you’re STILL showing an incredible bias here, one that I’m near-certain I cannot overcome.

    What exactly is my bias?

  117. jim says:

    dguller:

    ” The only sense of “faith” that makes sense here is to believe in something that falls short of absolute certainty, but there are degrees of probability, and I don’t think it makes sense to call relying upon something with an excellent track record as relying upon faith. This is just equivocation.”

    Here is the crux of modern apologetics, although they will vehemently deny it. To make everything outside of absolute knowledge ‘faith’, so that one thing equates with another. This creates an unassailable fall-back position for when the empirical evidence isn’t going the theist’s way. “…how will you know that THOSE scientific studies are in the “properly controlled scientific studies that are true” category, as opposed to the “properly controlled scientific studies that are false” category?” Of course, this sophistic device can be used to bring ANYTHING into question. It’s a ridiculous approach, naturally, and is used selectively; sort of a Hail Mary strategy used to override the nuts-and-bolts approach of empirical investigation when the conclusions are not the sought after ones.

    Of course, when you apply the faith gambit to, say, leprechauns, watch how fast things change.

  118. dguller says:

    Jim:

    Agreed.

    That is why when I discuss these matters, sometimes I refer to faith1 and faith2. Both faith1 and faith2 fall short of absolute certainty, but there is an important difference. Faith1 is belief in a proposition that falls short of absolute certainty, and lacks sufficient evidence to support it, and faith2 is belief in a proposition that falls short of absolute certainty, but there is sufficient evidence to support it. Faith1 would apply to belief in, say, angels, and faith2 would apply to belief in the sun rising tomorrow. Only by making this explicit distinction does one avoid the fallacy of equivocation.

    And regarding cl’s point about when one should believe in controlled studies, one must be a little sophisticated about this. I try to approach things probabilistically in the sense of believing that which is most likely while knowing that what is likely today may be false tomorrow. Sure, this is a problem, but this is still the best method that we have to know anything, and I often challenge those who object to it to provide me with a viable alternative. Suffice it to say, I have never been provided with any alternative method of knowledge. To paraphrase Churchill, science is the worst method in the world, except for all the others.

    And I rather enjoyed your example of leprechauns. That is why I like Loftus’ Outsider Test of Faith. It is only when one applies one’s standards to an alternative theory that the fallacies become clear.

  119. jim says:

    dguller:

    Of course, and as cl has noted, the ‘problem’ simply takes a step back to what entails sufficient evidence, what standards to weight evidence against, deducing probabilities when not all factors are known, yada yada yada. Ultimately, it’s an attack on induction itself, where assumptions are built in all along the investigatory chain. And, just as ultimately, follow this tactic far enough and you collapse into solipsism. Yeah, maybe I AM a brain in a vat. Maybe logic is really gibberjabber, and reason the underbelly dandruff of a three-toed sloth (no, make that four toes). Bottom line, we argue from a baseline of shared assumptions, and where assumptions aren’t shared, productive discussion is a pipedream.

    Notice all the avoidance of specifics? There’s a reason for that. Of course, you pointed that out awhile back, along with Evo.

    Now, I’m off to Barsoom to battle with the four-armed green men of Mars and win the heart of the incomparable Dejah Thoris…salut!

  120. cl says:

    jim,

    This example (as well as many, many others in times past) of how I have to pin you to the wall to get you to accede to just a tad of your ongoing, blatant hypocrisy in discourse SHOULD be adequate for a rational person to perhaps revisit his approach.

    See? You’re doing it again, and by “it,” I mean putting up this pretense of being rational, yet doing things irrationally. You make assertions with ZERO evidence! By what stretch of the word is that “rational?” Explain.

    Then again, you’re an apologist, so I won’t be holding my breath.

    Hey, while we’re at it, let’s just pile aspersion onto aspersion, right? Not very rational, jim, not very rational.

    I’ve already answered this. However, your inability to read between the lines, or to recognize nuance inhibits your ability to comprehend, sadly.

    You did NOT answer it. You wrote, “dguller sees consciousness as the causal result of brain function. You see them as merely correlative. I don’t know how to bridge that gap in your disparate understandings of how the world works. I’ve enjoyed reading dguller’s efforts here, but for every thesis there’s an antithesis, I suppose, and since you’ve been decrying the length of this thread for quite awhile now, and since I’m quite familiar with the mode of your argumentation, I suppose I should just shut up and let you play.”

    That is NOT an answer to the question, jim, that’s either a misunderstanding of the question or a deliberate evasion. So, will you grab the bull by the horns and answer the question?

    I’d imagine that ‘regardless of the results’ comment only applies if the results are negative, eh?

    Well, you know… the whole world is pink through rose-colored glasses, ain’t it? No, it applies if the results are positive, too–which is why I said “regardless,” but I understand that you’ll see what you want to see.

    Oh, and did anybody else notice the personal disparagement?

    I did not disparage dguller. I asked that question in earnest. I don’t believe he’s stupid, and I’m pretty convinced he’s not malicious. I think he’s probably just being stubborn. How else can we explain why somebody would consistently ask for something they KNOW I can’t provide?

    Of course, this sophistic device can be used to bring ANYTHING into question.

    Ah, I see: questioning the reliability of controlled studies = sophistry. I guess skepticism ain’t all it’s cracked up to be then, eh? Personally, I think we should be wary of the fact that many controlled studies give wrong results, but hey, what do I know, I’m just another “apologist” who doesn’t argue with integrity. At times like this I honestly thank God that I’m not so poisoned with doubt and suspicion that I can’t hold a fruitful conversation with others. There’s no conspiracy here jim, I’m just one writer thinking things out.

    Of course, when you apply the faith gambit to, say, leprechauns, watch how fast things change.

    That’s just it: the rules don’t change an iota. In my experience, the “leprechaun” schtick is just another rhetorical device atheists use to compensate for lack of cogent argument–and you’ve just added another instance of positive evidence to that pile.

  121. cl says:

    dguller,

    First, I was never content to accept mind without brain,

    Are you implying that you were never content to accept “mind without brain” as demonstration of immaterial mind? If so, what were you implying when you wrote: “The only way to overturn this paradigm is to demonstrate that there is consciousness without the brain-body[?]”

    Third, why object to the existence of immaterial non-mental processes causing disembodied minds?

    I’m not. I’m objecting to the big loophole that you just made HUGE.

    Still missing the distinction between logical and empirical possibilities, eh?

    Not at all.

    …why would you have agreed that the Pam Reynolds case was inconclusive?

    I agree because we do not have the SET of controlled, replicated studies that you demand before you’ll call a belief justified.

    You cannot, on the one hand, endorse the idea that anecdotal data is loaded with enough bias and confounding factors to make them the lowest type of evidence, and on the other hand, decry my “sheer possibility” objections to the Pam Reynolds case report, which implies that you think that anecdotes ARE good evidence.

    I don’t endorse the idea you say I endorse. I endorse the idea that SOMETIMES, anecdotes contain bias and confounding factors, and I endorse the idea that SOMETIMES, they don’t.

    Then the matter is inconclusive.

    Did you ever define “conclusive,” like I asked? If so, where? If didn’t, or if you can’t find it, or don’t wish to take the time, can you offer your criteria here?

    …I don’t think it makes sense to call relying upon something with an excellent track record as relying upon faith.

    Excellent? Read any science book from 100 years ago.

    Sure, they do not fit in the classical mechanical sense of “material”, but who cares?

    LOL! Apparently, you don’t!

    I don’t know of ANY who believe that you have to exclude energy and space-time,

    And you say I attack straw! C’mon man, this is laughable. Who are you responding to?

    Regarding the atomic theory:

    You get no points for citing somebody as biased as Gribbin. In fact, I subtract points for that move. This is the same guy who said, “The biggest problem with the Big Bang theory of the origin of the Universe is philosophical — perhaps even theological — what was there before the bang? This problem alone was sufficient to give a great initial impetus to the Steady State theory; but with that theory now sadly in conflict with the observations, the best way round this initial difficulty is provided by a model in which the universe expands from a singularity, collapses back again, and repeats the cycle indefinitely.” Not always about the evidence, is it?

    I think you have an incredibly naive and overconfident, AHEM… faith in science. See this for a brief explanation of why.

    If you want to criticize materialism, then you should attack what its adherents actually believe, and not straw men.

    That you have a hard time making sound inferences does not entail that I attack straw. I already explained–precisely–how I am not saying what you think I’m saying.

    Can you cite where paranormal energy has been detected?

    For God’s sake I just gave you a lead! Do some research.

    That doesn’t mean we should expect to use controlled, replicated, double-blind studies to determine the existence of immaterial minds. Literally, we can’t–yet that’s your holy grail, so we’re at an impasse. I suspect that you’re using controlled, replicated, double-blind studies as a gris-gris. [cl]

    …I suspect that you are minimizing the importance of relying upon quality evidence with minimal bias and confounding factors, because all of your evidence is likely tainted by these elements. [dguller]

    See? You’re doing it AGAIN. That I challenge the usefulness of your rigidity does not entail that I minimize the importance of quality evidence. Think about it. I’m not saying you’ve made this demand, because I’m unsure what your criteria would be for belief in ghosts, but don’t you see the problem with demanding controlled, replicated, double-blind studies for something like ghosts, which are entities posited to come and go at their own whim? Think outside the laboratory here. Why does good science stick to “natural” phenomena? Is it not precisely because “non-mental” phenomena ostensibly have no choice but to obey so-called “laws” of physics? Can we say the same with ghosts? If not, aren’t we necessarily forced to adjust our method of inquiry?

    What exactly is my bias?

    You’re sitting here telling me that paranormal abilities haven’t been demonstrated, but I suspect you’re pulling the same move you did with NDE: putting the cart before the horse and making claims on a paucity of exposure to the pertinent literature. On a scale of 1-10, with “1” being 5 hours and “10” being 50, how would rate your reading of the various evidences for paranormal phenomena?

  122. cl says:

    I’m fairly confident jim will refuse answering the question until the bitter end, so, lest the time be wasted, here’s the rest of my comment:

    2) It is wholly true that naturalistic bias is responsible for a subset of atheist denials [i.e. “there’s no evidence for God, the paranormal, immaterial minds”], just as it is wholly true that supernaturalistic bias is responsible for a subset of theistic overstatements [i.e. “it’s sunny today so God must be telling me to go outside”]. Will you really deny this?

    3) If immaterial minds exist, they are forms of consciousness. Tell me, jim, how can we use double-blind studies, measurability and repeatability when it comes to entities posited to come and go as THEY please?

    4) Not all evidence for real-world claims falls under the category of “double-blind studies, measurability and repeatability.” In fact, on a hunch, I’d suspect that most evidence doesn’t fall into that category. Take history for example. Anyways, the point is that when we have something like the video game situation–something that seems to contradict all of classical physics–we have to deal with that fact. We can’t just sweep it under the rug and pretend it never happened, or simply draw a line in the sand and assert a group hallucination.

    5) If you haven’t yet, read up on the so-called “new physics” jim. You need to. If you have, then don’t take issue with me. Take issue with the boatloads of brilliant scientists who agree with me. Go pester them.

    6) I have never once said or implied that “anecdotal evidence overrides scientific method,” so I question your motives.

    Hell, almost anything MIGHT be possible.

    Of course, anything except God, the supernatural, miracles, and immaterial minds.

  123. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> Are you implying that you were never content to accept “mind without brain” as demonstration of immaterial mind? If so, what were you implying when you wrote: “The only way to overturn this paradigm is to demonstrate that there is consciousness without the brain-body[?]”

    Wow. All I meant was that I would not be happy to accept it, because it would require a radical revision of my worldview. That does not preclude my acceptance of it, if the evidence demanded it.

    >> I’m not. I’m objecting to the big loophole that you just made HUGE.

    Good. If you are open to the possibility of disembodied minds being maintained by other processes, then what is the problem? If you can demonstrate that the mind can continue to exist independent of the brain, then that would be a tremendous finding. Whether that mind is being caused by some other process, or is perpetuating its own existence independent of any non-mental process is a moot point, because a mind independent of a brain is an incredible thing. So, just go ahead and demonstrate it. Oh wait. You can’t. So you focus on this side issue.

    >> Not at all.

    Then why keep harping on this issue? You seem to believe that my objections to the Pam case were out of the ordinary and desperate attempts to avoid the inevitable conclusion that a paranormal event occurred. In fact, they are STANDARD objections to any anecdotal case report. That is why I thought that if you read something about research methodology, then you would understand this. There is nothing out of the ordinary going on here.

    >> I don’t endorse the idea you say I endorse. I endorse the idea that SOMETIMES, anecdotes contain bias and confounding factors, and I endorse the idea that SOMETIMES, they don’t.

    Here’s the problem. The only way to know whether the anecdote DID contain bias and confounding factors is to perform a further study that controlled for those elements and see if the results turned out different. If you perform a controlled study, and the result is the same, then those factors likely were not impacting the effect observed at all. The bottom line is that you need better quality studies.

    >> Did you ever define “conclusive,” like I asked? If so, where? If didn’t, or if you can’t find it, or don’t wish to take the time, can you offer your criteria here?

    I did, and will try to find it again on your website.

    >> Excellent? Read any science book from 100 years ago.

    Just so I don’t misinterpret you here, I would like you to explicitly state what the implication of your statement is supposed to be.

    >> And you say I attack straw! C’mon man, this is laughable. Who are you responding to?

    Your OP specifically charged materialism as being a misnomer, because it failed to account for the majority of what occurs in the universe. I pointed out that no materialist believes that the only thing that exists is subatomic particles with mass, but also include energy and space-time, which are both inextricably related to matter anyway, and so the whole point of the OP is false.

    >> You get no points for citing somebody as biased as Gribbin. In fact, I subtract points for that move. This is the same guy who said, “The biggest problem with the Big Bang theory of the origin of the Universe is philosophical — perhaps even theological — what was there before the bang? This problem alone was sufficient to give a great initial impetus to the Steady State theory; but with that theory now sadly in conflict with the observations, the best way round this initial difficulty is provided by a model in which the universe expands from a singularity, collapses back again, and repeats the cycle indefinitely.” Not always about the evidence, is it?

    And how is that relevant to his HISTORICAL claim?

    >> I think you have an incredibly naive and overconfident, AHEM… faith in science. See this for a brief explanation of why.

    Cite a better method to understand the world, please.

    >> For God’s sake I just gave you a lead! Do some research.

    I looked up Targ and Puthoff, and there is nothing about detecting psychic energy. Any specific references that may help me out?

    >> See? You’re doing it AGAIN. That I challenge the usefulness of your rigidity does not entail that I minimize the importance of quality evidence. Think about it. I’m not saying you’ve made this demand, because I’m unsure what your criteria would be for belief in ghosts, but don’t you see the problem with demanding controlled, replicated, double-blind studies for something like ghosts, which are entities posited to come and go at their own whim?

    Then how do you go about ruling out confounding factors here?

    >> Think outside the laboratory here. Why does good science stick to “natural” phenomena? Is it not precisely because “non-mental” phenomena ostensibly have no choice but to obey so-called “laws” of physics? Can we say the same with ghosts? If not, aren’t we necessarily forced to adjust our method of inquiry?

    So what is your method of inquiry when it comes to ghosts? And does your method take into account the many ways that human beings can misperceive and misremember events?

    >> You’re sitting here telling me that paranormal abilities haven’t been demonstrated, but I suspect you’re pulling the same move you did with NDE: putting the cart before the horse and making claims on a paucity of exposure to the pertinent literature. On a scale of 1-10, with “1″ being 5 hours and “10″ being 50, how would rate your reading of the various evidences for paranormal phenomena?

    All I wrote was: “It is important that these paranormal energies cannot be directly or indirectly detected, and their effects do not actually occur, which would lead me to conclude that they do not exist.” That’s a typo. What I meant to write was: “It WOULD BE important that …”. I have no idea about this issue, but was describing the parameters of evidence.

  124. Crude says:

    And what you call “retreat”, I call “revision in light of new evidence”.

    To paraphrase George Carlin, “Ya know why ya had to revise? ’cause you were wrong.” If making claims about the world, having them disproved, then “revising the claims in light of new evidence” is not a retreat, then Jehovah’s Witnesses have never retreated despite multiple claims that the end is nigh falling flat.

    That strikes me as a positive development, but it appears that you take it to imply that the idea of “matter” is empty, and that therefore anything goes.

    What counts as “stuff” has not only changed, but it is now open-ended, expressly open to near endless revision, and has in fact been revised repeatedly – even recently. Yeah, that’s pretty empty.

    First, it does entail atheism, because God is not caused by non-mental processes, because he is not caused by anything. He is self-caused and simple, which means that he would count as supernatural on Carrier’s account.

    God is not a “mental process”. And if either lacking a cause or being self-caused is sufficient to be supernatural, then man, there are many atheists – even scientists – adhering to the supernatural.

    No, it doesn’t entail atheism. Not unless you’re going to call multiple groups of theists and polytheists ‘atheists’. Which would be yet more revising, and in fact some crazy revising at that – the entire world could be created by an omniscient, omnipotent, even omnibenevolent being, but so long as that being had a non-mental cause or aspect – even if it were immaterial! – it’s naturalistic.

    I mean, I’d love to see this one said by Carrier: “Atheists and naturalists used to believe that lightning was caused by Zeus’s anger.”

  125. dguller says:

    Crude:

    >> To paraphrase George Carlin, “Ya know why ya had to revise? ’cause you were wrong.” If making claims about the world, having them disproved, then “revising the claims in light of new evidence” is not a retreat, then Jehovah’s Witnesses have never retreated despite multiple claims that the end is nigh falling flat.

    Yeah, it was wrong, and then corrected in light of new evidence. And?

    >> What counts as “stuff” has not only changed, but it is now open-ended, expressly open to near endless revision, and has in fact been revised repeatedly – even recently. Yeah, that’s pretty empty.

    Any of those revisions refuted that material objects are composed of atoms?

    >> God is not a “mental process”. And if either lacking a cause or being self-caused is sufficient to be supernatural, then man, there are many atheists – even scientists – adhering to the supernatural.

    Nope. Just the belief that there are minds that are not caused by non-mental processes. That would make it supernatural. Self-caused entities are just fine, actually.

    >> Which would be yet more revising, and in fact some crazy revising at that – the entire world could be created by an omniscient, omnipotent, even omnibenevolent being, but so long as that being had a non-mental cause or aspect – even if it were immaterial! – it’s naturalistic.

    Yup. I am open to the possibility of highly advanced beings capable of astounding activities, but even those beings, if conscious, must be composed of non-mental processes, and thus be part of the natural world. Of course, there would have to be evidence for these beings.

    >> I mean, I’d love to see this one said by Carrier: “Atheists and naturalists used to believe that lightning was caused by Zeus’s anger.”

    If Zeus is a conscious being that is caused by non-mental processes, then he would be a natural being, and certainly if he had sufficient technological sophistication, then he might be able to control the forces of lightning and thunder. Nothing mysterious or supernatural there. After all, the world is a bizarre place, which appears to be more and more bizarre the more we understand about it. As I said before, this definition of supernatural is open enough to allow bizarre entities and multiple revisions.

  126. Crude says:

    Yeah, it was wrong, and then corrected in light of new evidence. And?

    And it was a retreat, just like I said. This is typically glossed over entirely, as is the current status of ‘materialism’ and ‘naturalism’. Even Carrier, horrible as his stab at it was, admits that ‘naturalism’ hardly means anything even for most self-described naturalists.

    Any of those revisions refuted that material objects are composed of atoms?

    They refuted what atoms are, which is even worse.

    Nope. Just the belief that there are minds that are not caused by non-mental processes. That would make it supernatural. Self-caused entities are just fine, actually.

    Again: God on classical theism is not a mental process. And you still have the problem of things which brutely exist, or come into being without cause – popular naturalist claims, neither of which is a ‘non-mental process’ because neither involves a process.

    If Zeus is a conscious being that is caused by non-mental processes, then he would be a natural being, and certainly if he had sufficient technological sophistication, then he might be able to control the forces of lightning and thunder.

    He wouldn’t need ‘technological sophistication’. He could just have the ability, period. It could be downright mysterious, it could be a brute fact.

    This definition of ‘naturalism’ makes the greek pantheon, the nordic pantheon, scientologists, mormons, Jehovah’s witnesses, and far more ‘naturalists’, even ‘atheists’. You may be able to swallow this, but frankly I think it’s self-evidently a joke.

    Again, I look forward to the day Carrier admits “Atheists and naturalists used to think thunder was caused by Zeus’s anger.” using this definition. I look forward to the day where Richard Dawkins admits that quite a number of religious people throughout history have been atheists and naturalists, particularly the ones lampooned the most. The fallout from it would be epic.

  127. dguller says:

    Crude:

    >> They refuted what atoms are, which is even worse.

    So scientists have refuted the existence of atoms? Wow. I suppose nuclear reactors no longer work. Oh, and chemical reactions on the basis of atoms and molecules are also incoherent. Periodic table? Gone.

    I’m shocked that I never learned any of this in any science course. Some big conspiracy maybe?

  128. Crude says:

    So scientists have refuted the existence of atoms? Wow. I suppose nuclear reactors no longer work. Oh, and chemical reactions on the basis of atoms and molecules are also incoherent. Periodic table? Gone.

    Nuclear reactors, etc work because atoms are expressly not what materialists thought they were previously.

    But let me guess: So long as you slap the same word onto whatever you discover, no matter its constitution or properties, all is right in the world. Berkeley can bolster idealism, just by labeling anything scientists discover as ‘thought’ or the like.

    Well damn, that was easy. ;)

  129. dguller says:

    Crude:

    Do atoms exist?

  130. dguller says:

    Crude:

    And one more thing. Materialists originally thought that atoms were solid balls that bounced off each other to create the material world. Is that the standard, or is it possible for scientific study to modify and change the original, and for the old meaning to be rejected in place of the new one? And if so, why is this a problem?

  131. dguller says:

    Crude:

    Sorry, one last question. Should we assign our beliefs according to the best method we have to discover the truth, or should we not. And if we should not, then how do you suggest we uncover the truth about something?

  132. Crude says:

    Do atoms exist?

    Do leprechauns exist, if I get to ‘update and revise in light of new information’ what a leprechaun is, such that that thing on a box of Lucky Charms qualifies as a leprechaun? Do we get to say “The ancient celts were right – leprechauns are real!” as a result?

    If so, the atoms as conceived of by past materialists exist in the same way leprechauns do. ;)

  133. cl says:

    dguller,

    So, just go ahead and demonstrate it. Oh wait. You can’t.

    This discussion is over. You ask about bias, well… there you go. Hyper-skepticism at its finest.

    I have no idea about this issue, but was describing the parameters of evidence.

    LOL! Nice dodge on the 1-10 question. Why are you so cocksure?

    Crude,

    To paraphrase George Carlin, “Ya know why ya had to revise? ’cause you were wrong.” If making claims about the world, having them disproved, then “revising the claims in light of new evidence” is not a retreat, then Jehovah’s Witnesses have never retreated despite multiple claims that the end is nigh falling flat.

    LOL!

    What counts as “stuff” has not only changed, but it is now open-ended, expressly open to near endless revision, and has in fact been revised repeatedly – even recently. Yeah, that’s pretty empty.

    This is what I mean by making the loophole huge. If I demonstrate mind without brain, dguller can simply retreat to, “Okay cl, so we’ve got mind without brain, but that doesn’t prove the supernatural, because it’s POSSIBLE that this mind is still dependent on SOME OTHER non-mental processes.” Talk about a moving target!

    Which would be yet more revising, and in fact some crazy revising at that – the entire world could be created by an omniscient, omnipotent, even omnibenevolent being, but so long as that being had a non-mental cause or aspect – even if it were immaterial! – it’s naturalistic.

    Exactly. Hence the utter emptiness of the term. It’s like a get-out-of-jail free card: “Oh, everything else is natural, so that will probably turn out to be natural, too.” And this passes for reasoned skepticism! By intelligent individuals!!

    I appreciate your efforts, Crude, and I really hope you keep at it until you tire like I have. Best wishes, but I don’t think anything we can say will persuade dguller–so I’m bowing out. At least for now, and for a while.

  134. cl says:

    Crude,

    Sorry, just caught this:

    So long as you slap the same word onto whatever you discover, no matter its constitution or properties, all is right in the world. Berkeley can bolster idealism, just by labeling anything scientists discover as ‘thought’ or the like.

    Well damn, that was easy. ;)

    Yes, exactly. Wordgames.

  135. Crude says:

    Is that the standard, or is it possible for scientific study to modify and change the original, and for the old meaning to be rejected in place of the new one? And if so, why is this a problem?

    Who said there’s a problem with science? I rather like it in its domain – why, it even managed to falsify materialism!

    It’s funny how you’re trying to treat what I’m saying as some kind of attack on science, when I’m using science to show how some past philosophers and metaphysicians had such a wrong, flawed view of nature. This would normally make a lot of atheists perk up all happily – so long as it were other philosophers and metaphysicians being spoken of.

    Should we assign our beliefs according to the best method we have to discover the truth, or should we not.

    Since when does science “discover the truth”? I can name various scientists who would disagree – people who think science is great at making useful models, and who leave the whole “truth” business to philosophy and religion.

  136. Crude says:

    I appreciate your efforts, Crude, and I really hope you keep at it until you tire like I have. Best wishes, but I don’t think anything we can say will persuade dguller–so I’m bowing out. At least for now, and for a while.

    Oh hell no. I’m about done here myself, though I thank you for the compliments. Frankly man, I think you have it right – many times it’s time to move on in the conversation. Here’s one of ‘em. My perpetual combox warrior days are behind me – too much stuff to do, too much life to live.

  137. cl says:

    Crude,

    It’s funny how you’re trying to treat what I’m saying as some kind of attack on science…

    Yes, that’s exactly the same schtick my old buddy jim tried to pull, except he accused me of an attack on induction. No, no, and five more times no! I’m attacking slothful induction, among other things. I’m attacking the grasping at straws that seems to characterize the majority of atheist denial.

    What really gets me though, is the parallel to fundamentalists. It is common, perhaps even expected, that fundamentalists will view dissent and/or criticism as an attack.

    Since when does science “discover the truth”? I can name various scientists who would disagree – people who think science is great at making useful models, and who leave the whole “truth” business to philosophy and religion.

    Is there an echo in here? Don’t you know? Science proves things–until it comes back around and falsifies them! Tee-hee! Isn’t it neat?

    Oh hell no. I’m about done here myself, though I thank you for the compliments. Frankly man, I think you have it right – many times it’s time to move on in the conversation. Here’s one of ‘em. My perpetual combox warrior days are behind me – too much stuff to do, too much life to live.

    Ha! I feel you. Perhaps one day we can catch a beer and tell the equivalent of (a)theist war stories. Besides, there will be many more battles to fight on the next post… ;)

  138. dguller says:

    Crude:

    >> Do leprechauns exist, if I get to ‘update and revise in light of new information’ what a leprechaun is, such that that thing on a box of Lucky Charms qualifies as a leprechaun? Do we get to say “The ancient celts were right – leprechauns are real!” as a result?

    First, that thing on a box of Lucky Charms IS a leprechaun. The issue is whether they exist in the real world, and not in our imaginations and works of fiction.

    Second, with regards to atoms, the ancient definition of “atom” was of an indivisible, solid, tiny ball that came in different shapes, sizes and colors, which bounce off of one another in different combinations, which is what everything that exists is made of. Sure, they were wrong about an atom being indivisible, solid, a ball, and the need to bounce off of one another, but they were right about them being tiny, coming in different shapes and sizes, and their combinations resulting in all material entities. That is enough to continue to call them atoms, no? And if not, then what would you call them?

    I honestly do not understand the point of this discussion. You seem to imply that any deviation from an original definition automatically debunks the concept underlying the original definition. That is just not true, especially since ancient definitions do not automatically have epistemic warrant and stature, but are only starting points. I might as well argue that the concept of “God” is empty, because the original definition of “God” in the Bible was of a powerful being amongst other powerful beings, i.e. polytheism, and there have been revisions in this concept over time as people arrived at new understandings of the world and themselves.

    Ultimately, this is about linguistic convention, and as long as the original definition has enough similarity to the new definition, we can continue to use the original term. That comes down to our preferences, and we can easily just invent a new term, if needed. The only important issue is whether the term represents something in reality, and it is clear that atoms DO represent real entities in reality, because they have been experimentally confirmed. Or do you debate this, too?

    Our current understanding of reality is that it is composed of matter and energy interactions operating according to natural laws within space-time, and that is what modern materialists believe. If you disagree with this account, then say so, but complaining that since our scientific concepts have changed in light of new evidence, then they are no different from believing in leprechauns is just foolish.

    >> It’s funny how you’re trying to treat what I’m saying as some kind of attack on science, when I’m using science to show how some past philosophers and metaphysicians had such a wrong, flawed view of nature. This would normally make a lot of atheists perk up all happily – so long as it were other philosophers and metaphysicians being spoken of.

    Right, people in the past were wrong about something that we now have a correct understanding of. So what? Should we cling to their wrong ideas, or our correct ideas? Oh, and how were those ideas falsified to begin with? With scientific inquiry, which you appear to appreciate.

    >> Since when does science “discover the truth”? I can name various scientists who would disagree – people who think science is great at making useful models, and who leave the whole “truth” business to philosophy and religion.

    The truth I was referring to was the truth about how the universe works. I am not talking about The Truth, whatever that is. So, do you agree that we should follow the findings of the best method we have at uncovering the truth of how the universe works, and if not, then what alternative to you propose?

  139. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> This discussion is over. You ask about bias, well… there you go. Hyper-skepticism at its finest.

    YOU said that you couldn’t demonstrate it. That is not hyper-skepticism, but accurate reporting.

    >> LOL! Nice dodge on the 1-10 question. Why are you so cocksure?

    It was not a dodge. I miswrote something, and corrected it. Haven’t you ever had a typo? And what said was something that you actually agreed with, so why are you complaining? The bottom line is that psychic energy would have to be either directly or indirectly measured, and that it should have sufficient regularity to be a principle of reality. If not, then how could anyone ever know it existed?

    >> Exactly. Hence the utter emptiness of the term. It’s like a get-out-of-jail free card: “Oh, everything else is natural, so that will probably turn out to be natural, too.” And this passes for reasoned skepticism! By intelligent individuals!!

    The term is not empty. It refers to whatever exists as being a byproduct of matter and/or energy interactions according to natural laws within space-time. We have a pretty good understanding of matter, energy and many natural laws, and thus that is the benchmark that new understanding will have to refer to. That is the definition that you should be discussing when talking about materialism or physicalism, and not Lucretius’ atomic theory, which turned out to be mostly false.

  140. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> Science proves things–until it comes back around and falsifies them! Tee-hee! Isn’t it neat?

    And one more thing. What follows from the fact that often what science demonstrates to be true is falsified later on? What are the implications that you draw from this fact?

  141. cl says:

    dguller,

    YOU said that you couldn’t demonstrate it.

    LOL! I can just hear the announcer now: And another wild inference from dguller! cl steals second! Wild throw to the short stop! cl steals third!

    I said, “I cannot provide you with a SET of controlled, replicated studies on NDE.” Got it? Note that my statement, “This discussion is over…” was in response to your claim, “a mind independent of a brain is an incredible thing. So, just go ahead and demonstrate it. Oh wait. You can’t.” I emphatically DID NOT say I couldn’t demonstrate a mind without a brain. You need to slow your roll man!

    It was not a dodge.

    Show me your numerical answer to the 1-10 question. If you can’t, I submit it was a dodge.

    The term is not empty.

    Whatever you say boss!

    What follows from the fact that often what science demonstrates to be true is falsified later on? What are the implications that you draw from this fact?

    That your Holy Grail is nowhere near as shiny as you seem to think, and actually quite spotted with rust. That you have faith1, and can’t even see it.

  142. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> I said, “I cannot provide you with a SET of controlled, replicated studies on NDE.” Got it? Note that my statement, “This discussion is over…” was in response to your claim, “a mind independent of a brain is an incredible thing. So, just go ahead and demonstrate it. Oh wait. You can’t.” I emphatically DID NOT say I couldn’t demonstrate a mind without a brain. You need to slow your roll man!

    Then demonstrate it.

    >> Show me your numerical answer to the 1-10 question. If you can’t, I submit it was a dodge.

    The number is 1. I never claimed to have investigated the matter. All I said was what would have to be demonstrated for psychic energy to be real. Since you agreed, I’m not too sure what the problem is.

    >> That your Holy Grail is nowhere near as shiny as you seem to think, and actually quite spotted with rust. That you have faith1, and can’t even see it

    First, I am well aware of the flaws of scientific research. My contention has always been that it is the best method available to uncover truths about the world. If you disagree, then provide a viable alternative.

    Second, if you honestly think that we are more ignorant about how the world works today than in the past, and that our technological innovations based upon scientific research is all just luck, then I really do not know what to say. I think that it is clear that we know much more about the natural world than in the past through scientific research, and that this is due to it’s successful elimination and falsification of erroneous theories, which means that it is inevitable that there will be far more false theories than true ones. But so what? All that matters is that there is a method of weeding through them over time. 

  143. cl says:

    dguller,

    Then demonstrate it.

    I think you just might be the pushiest, most domineering atheist I’ve encountered. Be gone with these chest-puffing challenges. I work at my pace, not yours. I write what I want to write at any given moment, not what I think will finally convince you that anything besides staunch materialism has merit. Every single thing I write here is something YOU could find for yourself if you would but make an investigation. Why do you need me to do the work for you?

    The number is 1.

    LOL! The problem is the same as it was: ridiculous cocksureness despite an admitted paucity of exposure to the pertinent evidence and literature.

    My contention has always been that it is the best method available to uncover truths about the world.

    Yeah, well… that’s the naive approach I mock. I say that science is a good method for uncovering falsehoods about the real world, and I say anyone who calls it “the best” is making an unsubstantiated claim.

    If you disagree, then provide a viable alternative.

    The Greeks intuited the atom through pure brainpower and logic, 2,000 before those in whitecoats.

    …it is inevitable that there will be far more false theories than true ones. But so what?

    LOL! If you still can’t connect the dots, I’m at a complete loss to offer any more help here.

  144. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> I think you just might be the pushiest, most domineering atheist I’ve encountered. Be gone with these chest-puffing challenges. I work at my pace, not yours. I write what I want to write at any given moment, not what I think will finally convince you that anything besides staunch materialism has merit. Every single thing I write here is something YOU could find for yourself if you would but make an investigation. Why do you need me to do the work for you?

    First, you can do what you want. All I can do is ask, and you have the right to refuse my requests.

    Second, I have done my best to justify my assertions with evidence, and you have been quite harsh with me when I have been unable to do so. I thought that we had established an agreed upon rule that if one makes an assertion, then one should be able to justify it with evidence. I think that it is odd for you to state that I should just figure things out for myself, especially when you apparently have the evidence in question. Why write a blog at all when all you have to say is “The evidence is out there. Just do the work and figure everything out yourself!”

    >> LOL! The problem is the same as it was: ridiculous cocksureness despite an admitted paucity of exposure to the pertinent evidence and literature.

    What was I arrogant about? I never said that psychic energy did not exist. I am admittedly ignorant about the topic, and have no idea whether it exists or not. You have more expertise in this area than me, and so I defer to you to provide the evidence for it, especially since you seem to believe that it does exist. Honestly, what are you so upset about?

    >> Yeah, well… that’s the naive approach I mock. I say that science is a good method for uncovering falsehoods about the real world, and I say anyone who calls it “the best” is making an unsubstantiated claim.

    First, falsifying a claim, one comes closer to the truth, because one has ruled out a possibility that may have been true, but turned out to be false.

    Second, science does discover truths. Let me ask you a question: does HIV cause AIDS? Science has demonstrated that HIV does cause AIDS, and that an HIV test is an essential tool to determining who will develop AIDS. According to you, science has NOT established this, and so HIV tests should be stopped, right? After all, science can only establish falsehoods, and not truths, right?

    >> The Greeks intuited the atom through pure brainpower and logic, 2,000 before those in whitecoats.

    They also intuited a number of other theories that turned out to be false when scientifically examined. Remember, an idea can come from any source, rational or irrational, but its justification comes from a combination of logical coherence and empirical confirmation.

    Here’s a good example: Kekule had a daydream of a snake eating its own tail, and this inspired him to theorize about the structure of benzene as a ring in 1865. This structure was consistent with known chemical properties of benzene, but it was finally confirmed by crystallography about 60 years later in 1929.

    According to you, the content of daydreams should be considered as evidence for the truth of propositions. So, if I have a daydream about myself being a heroic warrior taking revenge upon those who have wronged me, then that is good evidence to believe that I am, in fact, such a warrior taking vengeful justice. I hope you will agree that this is absurd. Even if a daydream turns out to be true, it is more likely to be due to luck than any intuitive capacity to uncover the truth about something.

    The bottom line is that the Greeks may have intuited various ideas that have been subsequently confirmed, but they would never have been confirmed at all without the centuries of scientific inquiry that finally demonstrated them as true. Ideas can come from anywhere, but confirmation can only come from methodological inquiry and testing of those ideas, which is all science is.

    In addition, logic is a great tool at ensuring that the connections between propositions are valid, but its use as a tool to discover the truth depends upon the truth of the premises involved. And how do we determine the truth of these propositions? Other than those of logic and mathematics, we use empirical inquiry, the best of which is science.

    Just sitting in a room and thinking really, really hard is not good enough, because that method was tried for centuries, and utterly failed to do much but confuse people. Remember, people debated the existence of atoms for centuries using logic and brainpower, and it got them nowhere. It was only until science attempted to ground those speculations with empirical observations that the existence of atoms was established to the point that virtually no-one doubts their existence, except for maybe some postmodernists.

    >> LOL! If you still can’t connect the dots, I’m at a complete loss to offer any more help here.

    First, why are you being evasive here? Just put it on the table. Given the fact that scientific theories have been falsified in the past, and should be held tentatively, given the fact that future evidence may compromise current theories, what should we do when a scientific theory with a great deal of empirical evidence in support of it is contradicted by someone’s personal experience or a religious claim about how the world works?

    Second, most species that have ever existed on the planet have become extinct. Does it follow that evolution is therefore falsified? Of course not, because that is exactly what you would expect, given scarcity of resources, changing environments, and so on. Similarly, one expects that there would be more false possibilities than true ones in ANY field of study, and so the more false possibilities are ruled out as false means that one is narrowing the field closer to the truth. Why you think this is damning is beyond me, because it would damn ALL human inquiry that involves postulating hypotheses about anything at all.

  145. cl says:

    […SIGH…]

    I think that it is odd for you to state that I should just figure things out for myself, especially when you apparently have the evidence in question. Why write a blog at all when all you have to say is “The evidence is out there. Just do the work and figure everything out yourself!”

    You still don’t get it. I’m more than happy to comply, but like I said–no offense–but your demands for “proof” aren’t my priority as a writer. I’ve got plenty of engagement on other blogs and in the real world that you haven’t a clue about. You piss me off because you’re so pushy, and that makes me not want to oblige as much. I’d be much more willing to work with you if you didn’t feel the need to fisk every single comment I write and pester me with silly demands all so you can have permission to believe in phenomena X, Y, or Z. Like I said, it’s a HUGE drain, dguller. Every comment I write to you is that many words less of a blog post, or time with my daughter for that matter. Doing whatever dguller asks whenever dguller asks is NOT my goal with this blog, kapish? Just chill out a little bit, and take what I throw out, when I throw it out. What’s your rush? jim commended your patience, but you strike me as highly impatient.

    They also intuited a number of other theories that turned out to be false when scientifically examined.

    So? What is this, the “my daddy can beat up your daddy” argument? Newsflash: many theories that have been scientifically supported have also turned out to be false.

    According to you, science has NOT established this, and so HIV tests should be stopped, right? After all, science can only establish falsehoods, and not truths, right?

    No, that’s not what I said. I never said a word about AIDS, and I never said science can only establish falsehoods. If I did say that somewhere, cite it. I’ll happily admit that I misspoke, probably in the rush to get through another one of your comments.

    Even if a daydream turns out to be true, it is more likely to be due to luck than any intuitive capacity to uncover the truth about something.

    That’s an assertion without evidence. According to your standard, that assertion has a “very low likelihood” of being true, doesn’t it?

    First, why are you being evasive here?

    I’m not being evasive. I’m trying to take control of my time. I mean c’mon! If you can’t get a point after four or five consecutive repetitions, do you really suppose I should keep repeating myself over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and again?

    And there we go. 20 more minutes down the drain. The last word is yours. I’m off this thread for good [unless someone else comments, of course] :/

  146. Crude says:

    cl,

    You should consider some form of limited comment policy. I don’t know how good you are with coding blog stuff, but really, that could go a long way. Clearly you want to make something of this blog as opposed to it being just a personal blog, or at least that’s the impression I get.

    I’ve toyed with the idea of a limited comment policy. People get to throw in 3-5 comments per thread, maybe even with a character limit, and then that’s it. Precisely because, man, the internet is filled with people who will just keep at it for freaking weeks.

    You’ve got interesting ideas enough that I’d like to see you keep on with the original posts and ideas – I don’t always agree, but you still present things well. And having to dive too long into the comments section is a great way to wear a person out.

  147. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> You still don’t get it. I’m more than happy to comply, but like I said–no offense–but your demands for “proof” aren’t my priority as a writer. I’ve got plenty of engagement on other blogs and in the real world that you haven’t a clue about. You piss me off because you’re so pushy, and that makes me not want to oblige as much. I’d be much more willing to work with you if you didn’t feel the need to fisk every single comment I write and pester me with silly demands all so you can have permission to believe in phenomena X, Y, or Z. Like I said, it’s a HUGE drain, dguller. Every comment I write to you is that many words less of a blog post, or time with my daughter for that matter. Doing whatever dguller asks whenever dguller asks is NOT my goal with this blog, kapish? Just chill out a little bit, and take what I throw out, when I throw it out. What’s your rush? jim commended your patience, but you strike me as highly impatient.

    I already told you that you do not have to do whatever I want. It is your blog, and you can do whatever you want with it, including not replying to my questions. I understand that your time is limited and I am not your priority. So, post your evidence whenever you want. I can wait, but I reserve the right to point out the absence of such evidence until it is posted, as you have done with me and innumerable commenters online.

    >> So? What is this, the “my daddy can beat up your daddy” argument? Newsflash: many theories that have been scientifically supported have also turned out to be false.

    That is absolutely correct, but how were they found to be false? By scientific inquiry! Maybe you have some examples of theories about how the universe worked that turned out to be false on the basis of non-scientific evidence? And as I mentioned to you, ANY form of human inquiry is bound to have many more false ideas than true ones, but there must be a method available to weed the false from the true. That is the most important factor. You are free to disagree, but then you would have to describe a method that inherently resulted in more true than false hypotheses. I think that would be difficult, if not impossible, to do.

    >> No, that’s not what I said. I never said a word about AIDS, and I never said science can only establish falsehoods. If I did say that somewhere, cite it. I’ll happily admit that I misspoke, probably in the rush to get through another one of your comments.

    You wrote: “I say that science is a good method for uncovering falsehoods about the real world, and I say anyone who calls it “the best” is making an unsubstantiated claim.” I took that to imply that it was not a good method for uncovering the truth about the real world. Why else would you focus on the falsification aspect of science unless to minimize its confirmatory abilities? But perhaps you just misspoke, which is fine. And if so, then I’m glad to see that we both agree that science can uncover truths about the world. But I’m still waiting for you to provide an alternative method that has a higher success rate of discovering truths about the world. I’m afraid that just thinking really, really hard about stuff doesn’t even come close.

    >> That’s an assertion without evidence. According to your standard, that assertion has a “very low likelihood” of being true, doesn’t it?

    Yup, I don’t have high quality evidence for this assertion. Are you disagreeing with me, though? Do you believe that daydreams are a source of truth about the world? If someone came up to and said that they daydreamed that your daughter should drop out of school, then would you pull her out? If your daughter daydreamed that she was a princess, then would you suddenly begin looking for her kingdom? How do you approach the content of daydreams?

    >> I’m not being evasive. I’m trying to take control of my time. I mean c’mon! If you can’t get a point after four or five consecutive repetitions, do you really suppose I should keep repeating myself over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and again?

    Yes, you are. I am asking you what practical consequences result from your claims about science. If it is such a poor method that is mostly false, then does that change your decisions when scientific theories are involved? In other words, do you not fly in airplanes, because the science of aerodynamics is mostly false? Do you not take antibiotics, because the science of medicine is mostly false? Do you occasionally jump out of windows, because the science of gravity is false? That is what I meant by “so what?” regarding your claims about science. I want to know what FOLLOWS in terms of your relationship to scientific theories, and you have not given me any answer.

    You have talked repeatedly about how science is a scrapheap of more falsehood than truth, and that its current truths may turn out to be false later on. I have agreed with that, and have only asked “so what?” I know, I know, you’re busy and all that, but then just say that instead of mocking me for being unable to see the truth for myself. The reason that I cannot see it is because it just isn’t there!

  148. dguller says:

    Crude:

    Do atoms exist, for real, and not on a Lucky Charms box?

  149. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> That you have faith1, and can’t even see it.

    Here’s another problem. If you are using “faith1” as I defined it, then it refers to a belief that is not certain, but also has insufficient evidence to support it, which differs from faith2, which does have sufficient evidence to support it.

    Now, if you want to say that I have faith1, and not faith2, in science, then that would imply that there is insufficient evidence to justify my belief in its efficacy to uncover the truth. That implies that there is no reason to believe in its discoveries at all, and thus I would be warranted to disbelieve in the bacterial and viral causes of many illnesses, the need for antibiotics for infections, the fact that the earth rotates around the sun, the existence of atoms and molecules as the components of material entities, the principles of electromagnetism that allow electrical currents to be sent with information over the Internet, the principles of nuclear fission, the principles of thermodynamics that explains how energy is utilized by the engines that run our automobiles and planes, and so on. I mean, it’s all the same as belief in leprechauns, right, which one also has faith1 in? Maybe you could specify which of these scientific theories should be discarded?

    Honestly, is that really what you believe? And if it is, then what do you do when your doctor encourages you to vaccinate your daughter? Do you refuse to do so, because vaccination is a byproduct of scientific research, which has insufficient evidence to justify its claim to discover the truth about anything in the world? What about if she had a case of bacterial meningitis? Do you doubt that such an infection even exists, because it is demonstrated by the notoriously unreliable scientific method? Do you refuse to give her the necessary antibiotics and other treatments to save her life and minimize the possible brain damage that may occur? Or maybe you pray to God for any illnesses that she may have to be cured? Seriously, what would you do in such a scenario?

  150. jim says:

    dguller:

    Man, I have to give you props for beating cl at his own game, with the added bonus, of course, of integrity and logical coherence. cl has been banned from numerous blogs and is the subject of mocking derision on others PRECISELY for practicing the ‘fisking’ he now falsely accuses you of. And now this talk about threads getting too long…yeesh! cl’s always been the type of guy who’s been willing to spend 50 posts parsing the word ‘the’ on other peoples’ blogs- when it suits his purposes, naturally, those purposes usually being to disrupt and play semantics games. And now he’s practically frothing at the mouth because you DARE to stand fast against his incoherent, superstitious drivel. Fucking PRICELESS!

    Sir, once again, I salute you. It’s been a real pleasure.

  151. jim says:

    btw, he also posts under other names, sometimes pretending to be an atheist in a lame attempt undermine the atheistic position, and he does this EVEN IN HIS OWN THREADS. He’s been caught doing this more than once. Of course, he comes up with the typical, bullshit rationalizations and denials which are his trademark.

    Just you let you know what kind of guy you’re dealing with here. I’m guessing there’s some bi-polarity going on here. FYI.

  152. jim says:

    Sorry for the typos- no coffee yet :) Maybe cl could dedicate a post to them, using them to prove that Sagan’s invisible dragon really DOES exist! LOLOL!

  153. jim says:

    Or leprechauns, even! LOLOLOL!

  154. Crude says:

    dguller,

    Do atoms exist, for real, and not on a Lucky Charms box?

    Lucky Charms boxes aren’t real? ;)

    Look, I think I’ve made my point clearly here: It’s silly to say ‘See? We’ve explained everything with X throughout the centuries!’ when “X” has undergone major, deep transformations at multiple points in time, and is likely to continue undergoing them. Likewise, saying “John was right – atoms exist!”, when John said “I believe the world is made up of atoms, which are extremely tiny lemons with smiley faces drawn on them with marker” and we’re working with the Bohr atom model, is… let’s say, suspect.

    You can try ignoring these distinctions and the history in the name of equivocation. But man, I gotta say: It does a number on the claim to want to analyze things rationally and come to the most informed conclusions. And it highlights how such talk is cheap – even the guy saying “the ancient celts were right, because – Lucky Charms!” can talk the talk.

  155. dguller says:

    jim:

    I appreciate the positive feedback, but I’m not too sure that attributing malicious intent or psychiatric illness to cl is fair. He often raises excellent points, which is why I have engaged in this dialogue with him on his blog when he was banned from DC. However, it is true that this discussion can become frustrating — for both of us — when points are ignored, avoided or misconstrued. It is just my stubborn streak that keeps me coming back, again and again.

  156. jim says:

    dguller:

    Pertaining to psychiatric illness, my thoroughly unprofessional diagnosis(sic) is my own, based on some personal experience with known bi-polar personalities on the internet and elsewhere. Take it for what it’s worth :)

    Malicious intent? Hmmm. He can certainly be malicious in his delivery, as I think is plain here and elsewhere. Then again, so can I, though I try to limit that to where I feel it’s deserved. Call it reciprocation, if you will. As far as intent is concerned, I suppose that’s a matter of opinion, and now you have mine :) And I, too, have a stubborn streak, although that’s been worn down to the nubs by a history of confronting cl’s bullshit machinations in times past. I generally avoid cl due to the frustration factor concerning good faith argumentation, and I’m LONG past giving him the benefit of the doubt. My recent visits here have been sort of a lark, motivated mostly by my disdain for cl’s hypocrisy and general bs attitude. But I think I’m pretty much aired out now, and will be returning to more productive writing endeavors.

    Please let me know if you ever start that blog. I don’t want to say your efforts are wasted here, because they are most certainly not. However, my visits here are making me feel a bit upset in the reasonable parts of my tummy, and I’d love to read you without the distractions of ignorance, avoidance and miscontrual which are the hallmarks of this place.

    Best, jim

  157. dguller says:

    Crude:

    >> Lucky Charms boxes aren’t real? ;)

    Of course they are real. We were talking about leprechauns. They do exist in celtic folklore, Lucky Charms cereal boxes and commercials, and other fictional locations. That is not what people mean when they ask whether they exist, and you are just equivocating here unnecessarily.

    >> Look, I think I’ve made my point clearly here: It’s silly to say ‘See? We’ve explained everything with X throughout the centuries!’ when “X” has undergone major, deep transformations at multiple points in time, and is likely to continue undergoing them. Likewise, saying “John was right – atoms exist!”, when John said “I believe the world is made up of atoms, which are extremely tiny lemons with smiley faces drawn on them with marker” and we’re working with the Bohr atom model, is… let’s say, suspect.

    First, do atoms exist in reality? It’s a simple question. I really do not know why you are evading answering it with all this sophistry and equivocation. No-one is defining atoms as “extremely tiny lemons”, so don’t bother with that red herring. I am talking about tiny entities that are composed of a nucleus with protons (with a specific mass and positive charge) and neutrons (with a specific mass and neutral charge) and surrounding electrons (with a specific mass and negative charge). Do such entities exist, or do they not?

    Second, the fact that X has undergone revision over the centuries does not matter. We can continue to call the phenomena in question “X”, or we can call them “Y” or “Z”. It doesn’t matter, as long as the term refers to something real in the universe. You are focusing upon what something is called, and I am focusing upon the fact that we have discovered truths about reality. It doesn’t matter if these entities in question are called “atoms” or “shmatoms” or “gmatoms” or whatever. As long as they refer to entities that have particular properties that have been confirmed experimentally, then who cares what they are called?

    Let us say that we are talking about an entity, A, and A turns out to have the properties P1, P2 and P3. Say that over time, we find out that P3 is not a real property of A, and that only P1 and P2 are. Can we still call A, “A”, or do we now have to invent a new term, “B”, to refer to an entity that has P1 and P2 as properties? For you, this is an important question, because if we change the name of this entity from “A” to “B”, then something monumental has changed. I say, who cares what it is called as long as the term is agreed upon to refer to an entity with P1 and P2. That is what this debate comes down to. Who cares if “material” has changed over time, and if “atom” has changed over time? As long as they are taken to refer to real entities and phenomena in the universe, then who cares what they are called?

    Third, what are the implications in terms of accepting a belief if that belief has undergone revision in the past? I have asked cl the same question, and would like to know your answer. Are you saying that since the definition of “atom” has undergone revision in the past, then we should reject the existence of atoms? Seriously, what are the implications of your view here?

  158. dguller says:

    Crude:

    >> You can try ignoring these distinctions and the history in the name of equivocation. But man, I gotta say: It does a number on the claim to want to analyze things rationally and come to the most informed conclusions. And it highlights how such talk is cheap – even the guy saying “the ancient celts were right, because – Lucky Charms!” can talk the talk.

    No, the ancient celts were wrong, because leprechauns only exist in our imagination, and not outside our minds in the real world. The fact that they exist in fiction does not change this fact, and is the true equivocation.

    Furthermore, it is true that some properties of atoms have had to be dropped, and others added, but certain core features have been retained, i.e. tiny entities whose combinations generate the material world around us. These core features are real in the sense that they exist in the world, and not just in our imagination.

    If you want to keep using leprechauns as a counter-example to my claims, then feel free to provide me with the core features of leprechauns that exist in the world outside of our imagination, even though certain mythical aspects have had to be rejected as false. And if you cannot do so, then your analogy completely fails.

  159. JNester says:

    Dguller I don’t want to speak for Cl here but I get the impression he objects more to scientific realism – a philosophy – than science itself. I think some of his comments are being misconstrued, but is understandable because the thread has gotten a little heated. It’s also seems Jim has an axe to grind.

  160. JNester says:

    Bah, that was supposed to be IT’S understandable and IT also seems. Feel free to correct, Cl.

  161. dguller says:

    JNester:

    >> I don’t want to speak for Cl here but I get the impression he objects more to scientific realism – a philosophy – than science itself.

    You might be right, and I’ll have to await cl’s clarification.

    For myself, I don’t see the problem with scientific realism in the sense that science aims to uncover truths about the universe, and that its theories are true only insofar as they represent how the world works. They have to be at least partially true to explain their ability to make accurate predictions. In other words, the laws of nature that science discovers only work if they accurately map something in the universe. Otherwise, how do they work?

    If you want a good sense of my understanding of science, then the philosopher that I have found the most influential and compelling is Susan Haack. Her “Defending Science — Within Reason” is just a pleasure, as is her epistemological theory of foundherentism, which she elucidates in “Evidence and Inquiry”.

    A good summary of her crossword puzzle analogy of scientific inquiry is at http://www.cfh.ufsc.br/~principi/p51-14.PDF

  162. allzermalmer says:

    “Again, it depends upon what one means by “physical matter”. Is a vacuum fluctuation not “physical”? Are the virtual particles that are the basis for all other particles not “physical”? I think that anything that is postulated to explain observed phenomena and that operate according to replicable and consistent laws of nature can be considered “physical”. Is it possible that there are entities – immaterial or otherwise – that will be discovered in the future, which would require a further revision of our understanding of “physical”? Sure, but the evidence that you have provided just is not good enough to require such a radical revision in our understanding of the physical universe.”

    This means that materialism is just one giant empty term, since it will apply to anything and everything, and makes it completely useless. There’s nothing it would not take on to itself, and means that you cannot differentiate it between anything else.

  163. allzermalmer says:

    dguller:

    “For myself, I don’t see the problem with scientific realism in the sense that science aims to uncover truths about the universe, and that its theories are true only insofar as they represent how the world works. They have to be at least partially true to explain their ability to make accurate predictions. In other words, the laws of nature that science discovers only work if they accurately map something in the universe. Otherwise, how do they work?”

    Why are you concerned with how that they work? No one knows how, they just know that it works, and that is all that matters. Scientists are pragmatist, and they only care that the theory works.

    Science aims to create to models that make correction predictions, which is part of the scientific method itself. So science is only a method, and that method says make observations (which is based on what comes to the human senses itself), use your imagination to create some unobservable (never observed by human senses), and deduce observable consequent (prediction).

    So logically, we have no reason to accept scientific realism, and it is only for pie in the sky people who cannot handle reality itself. Also, logically, there are infinite possible ways that the world could be, and they are all inline with scientific predictions. Thus, you put too much on science to think that it is to approximate reality. For what is “reality” to begin with? You can’t say, “Whatever science says.” because that just begs the question.

  164. cl says:

    allzermalmer,

    This means that materialism is just one giant empty term, since it will apply to anything and everything, and makes it completely useless. There’s nothing it would not take on to itself, and means that you cannot differentiate it between anything else.

    Exactly. Same goes for physicalism.

  165. allzermalmer says:

    cl:

    If you read the Physicalism post on Standford Philosophy Encycolopedia, then even state that it is hard to state what Physicalism even means. But, usually, it is stated to be “mass” and “energy”. But if anyone reads philosophy of science, they state that “mass” and “energy” are defined by the operation of measurement. This means, by itself, that “mass” and “energy” aren’t something that we perceive itself. operation of measurement, which is how physics defines things, is called operationalism.

  166. Jonathan says:

    When I was pondering materialism and its implications for afterlife, I came to my own personal conclusion that I *think* doesn’t have a good scientific counterargument –

    -If someone believes that life and all its mysteries are nothing more than a sum of physical parts, of chemical processes, molecules, and physical energy, fair enough. But what REMAINS after your death, even after the degradation of those constituent molecules and dispersion of the energy pulses, is a FORMULA for YOU – this many molecules, that amount of this and that chemical, this degree of voltage/wattage, whatever. And even in the context of a multiverse, a very popular endeavor among physicists where every possibility could come into existence, you could theoretically be “reconstituted”.

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