Monday, May 4, 2009

On Materialism - again



4:53 pm

There is a reason that it is so difficult to gain traction in an argument of this kind with people of this kind. In a nutshell, one of the problems of dealing with irrational people is that they reject logic and evidence even as they purport to be reliant upon them and claim that “you” do not. This makes it impossible (witness this thread) to reason with them. It is like to trying to grab smoke. But hope springs eternal.

Any hard core proponent of naturalism (all that exists is nature) or materialism (all that exists is material, i.e. matter and energy) or physicalism (the thesis that the physical facts fix all the facts) that has thought about things in any serious (logical) way and yet still holds to his naturalism is irrational, at best.

In my explanation for why this is so, I will lump all of these “isms” together since they all make the same fundamental ontological commitment, that only material, or physical, or natural, (all synonymous) things actually exist. I use the phrase “fundamental commitment” deliberately as it implies that one actually believes what one is claiming. Thus, one is shut off from availing oneself of “non-materialist” or “non-natural” or “non-physical” resources when explanations of any kind for anything are provided. Since it is equally, at least, tiring to read the trinity of “isms” as it is to write them, I will use the term “materialism” to refer to this fundamental commitment from here out.

So what is material? I want to be as generous as I can in order to avoid the straw man fallacy so I propose the following description of “material.”

Material things are either matter or energy. Or if you prefer, sub-atomic particles in energy fields. We can also further define matter as anything that is located in space/time, has mass and inertia, is subject to gravity, (yes, I understand that photons do not have “mass” but are still subject to gravity) can be converted to energy, and is detectable by one of our five senses, i.e. is empirical, and therefore, can be measured. Energy is anything that can heat or move matter.

Given this, it seems obvious to me, but I will say it out loud anyway, just in case a materialist would like to disagree, (please be specific when you do) that given this definition of “material” it looks for all the world to me that now all I have to explain anything and everything is the laws of physics. No? If all that exists is material, and all that is material is explainable by physics, then everything that exists can be explained by physics. I’m pretty sure that works out the way I’m saying it.

I will start with a one word refutation of materialism and then go on from there. The one word destruction of materialism is “mathematics.” But because I am a fair guy, I want to make it easy for any materialist to frame his reply. All you have to do to prove me wrong is do any one of the following things.

- Locate mathematics in space/time. Where is it, exactly? In a closet somewhere, perhaps?
- Tell me what the mass of mathematics is.
- Tell me how mathematics is subject to gravity.
- Tell me how mathematics can be converted to energy.
- Tell me what mathematics smells like, tastes like, feels like, sounds like, or looks like.
- Tell me how long it is or how much it weighs or what color it is. Measure it somehow.
- Tell me how mathematics can move or heat matter.

If you would be so kind as to actually do any one of these things then I will be persuaded to continue to argue with you about your fundamental ontological commitment and the equally irrational conclusions that follow. Or, of course, you can deny the reality of mathematics. That is, if you want to remain committed to your materialism yet keep a shred of intellectual integrity. Your call.

But just to drive the point home, let’s consider some other things. The very laws of physics themselves are immaterial. Do we have to go through the list again? Or how about the laws of reason, or economics, or the moral law, or any language? Can you say that these things are material? No, you cannot. Therefore, materialism fails and any conclusions based upon that faulty premise will also fail.

Just in case this isn’t enough, I would like to drive one last stake through the heart of this vacuous and inane, in other words, empty of any intellectual content, position known as materialism.

Materialists cannot explain information because information always reduces to mind, not to matter. How can I say this? In order for information to exist, language must exist. (Try to imagine information apart from language.) In order for language to exist, symbols must be used. (This applies to all languages. Think about it.) But there is nothing in physics that can explain symbols. That is, the representation of one thing, or things (letters, here) for another thing. Whether material or abstract or real or imaginary, symbols represent other things. Only a mind is capable of creating and manipulating symbols according to agreed upon (abstract) rules in order to communicate information.

Here’s the problem. Nothing in physics says that “act” means to do something, or something done, or a segment of a play, depending upon the context. Nothing in physics explains that “cat” means a certain kind of mammal. I know. I’ve checked. General relativity doesn’t. Thermodynamics doesn’t. Quantum mechanics doesn’t. The Standard Model doesn’t. String Theory doesn’t. Quarks and leptons don’t. Physics has nothing to say about how it is even possible, or even how it could be possible, for one thing to represent, to be a symbol for, another thing. It is impossible for physics to ever say anything about symbols. Therefore, materialism fails. Again.

This is what makes arguing with a materialist so frustrating. If they are forced to adhere to their own ontological commitments, they could not even express an opinion since they have no explanatory resources with which to do so (mind and language). Yet they obviously feel free to avail themselves of the explanatory resources that a dualist (non-materialist???) has. To my mind, this makes them not only irrational but hypocritical. I don’t know which one is worse. In any case, they are intellectually degenerate, that is, they lack intellectual integrity, since they actually reject the very “reason” that they profess to worship. The fool has said in his heart, “there is no God.”

p.s. This means, of course, that neo-Darwinian evolution is also a farce since it relies only upon materialistic explanations and therefore has no hope of accounting for information. In fact, “natural selection” is a linguistic phenomenon with the same ontological status as tooth fairies and unicorns. If “natural selection” was a real force in nature, the physicists would know about it. But they don’t. So it isn’t. It’s a myth. It’s a way to smuggle in Mind and Design without saying Mind and Design. It’s also just as intellectually dishonest as the rest of the materialist enterprise. Why must this be endlessly repeated?? What do “you people” not get?? Really.


libtard said...

You seem to be confusing the definition of naturalism as used in scientific inquiry with that of philosophical naturalism. You may wish to refer here.To quote: "Methodological naturalism and philosophical naturalism are distinguished by the fact that methodological naturalism is an epistemology as well as a procedural protocol, while philosophical naturalism is a metaphysical position. Although there is variation in the views of modern naturalists, Kurtz's definition captures these two most important aspects of modern naturalism: (1) the reliance on scientific method, grounded in empiricism, as the only reliable method of acquiring knowledge about the natural world, and (2) the inadmissibility of the supernatural or transcendent into its metaphysical scheme."

With regards to methodological naturalism, mathematics is by no means at odds with that view-point. We have once again returned to your argument that the rise of language cannot be explained by physical processes.

I have countered that less-than-language communicative forms exist in many forms of animals, and in fact some of these even use such abstractions as 'names' (whales are one example). This suggests that natural processes can give rise to the origins of language.

Your reduction of mathematics is antithetical to both forms of naturalism as mathematics arises as a set of formalizations of observed rules. One needn't formalize things such as counting into abstractions; it can be observed even without language to describe it. Likewise, the fact that all objects fall with acceleration = 9.8m/s can be observed and understood without any formalization.

Naturalism does not claim that all that exists can be observed. Indeed we know of subatomic particles and such only through inferences. Naturalism does however claim that there is no evidence for the assertion of anything which does not rest on some observed effects.

Ultimately this debate isn't about naturalism really; its about defining science in such a way as to allow the introduction of 'intelligent design'.

ID fails the crucial test of science, which is that it is not falsifiable. Therefore ID proponents must undermine science itself (in this case through the naturalism tack).

Man invents stories to explain things he cannot understand. This has been done as far back as we know, giving rise in particular to many variations of the Creation myth. Man has slowly advanced such that the stories he invents now (theories) are based on observed phenomena and imply criteria that can falsify the story.

Yet you come to the conclusion that naturalism is irrational, so I must ask: how is it that *you* understand the world? If naturalism cannot explain why your microwave heats your tv dinner, then what does? What principles that science has produced do you reject?

To reject naturalism is to reject science. I can't believe that that is really what you are claiming.

libtard said...

Or are you arguing that science can be performed without the need for naturalism?