Friday, November 12, 2010

On naturalism and materialism - a post I made on UD in August (2010)

Late to the party again.

JMcL “1: If atheism is true, then so is materialism.”

I’ve always approached this in the opposite way. That is, if materialism is true, then God cannot exist and neither can souls or minds because God and minds are not matter.

If only matter exists, then everything must be subject to the laws of physics. (what else is there plus it seems to be inductively true to a virtual certainty)

After all, naturalism, materialism, and physicalism all define themselves in terms of the causal closure of nature so the laws of physics governing the behavior of matter is just part of the definition.

Atheism is a conclusion of materialism, not the other way around. In my opinion, anyway.

In fact, I’m not sure that you even need this premise for the rest of your argument to follow. Let’s see how it would play out if we turned the first premise around.

1: If materialism is true, then atheism is true. (True by definition but as we will see not needed.)

2: If materialism is true, then the mind is reducible to the chemical constituents of the brain. (This is also true by definition.)

3: If the mind is reducible to the chemical constituents of the brain, then human autonomy and consciousness are illusory because our free choices are determined by the dual forces of chance and necessity. (maybe say the laws of physics – quantum/chance, necessity/gravity) (also true by definition)

4: Human autonomy exists.

5: Therefore, the mind is not reducible to the chemical constituents of the brain.

You’ve set up modus tollens:

If materialism is true we’d have no free will. (2 and 3)

But we do have free will. (4)

Therefore, materialism is false. (conclusion of modus tollens) (5)

But this begs the question, I think. For you have still only asserted but not proven free will. Fortunately, there is a way around this.

It’s more cumbersome than the way I will use at the end but I think this will give you the missing piece.

What you need to do is link the creation of information with free will. In fact, this JUST occurred to me as a decisive argument for free will. Cool. So here’s how it goes.

In order to create information, contingency is required. (I already knew this part)

This is self-evidently true. Any algorithm based upon, say gravity, would necessarily result in a sequence of letters like aaaaaaaaaa.

Drop object.
If object falls. Type a.
If object ~falls. Type any other key at random.
Result will be aaaaaaaa.

OK. But how about chance? Say we could set up an algorithm based on quantum activity like radioactive decay. Somehow we map time of particle decay to an alphabet and every time a particle decays we type the letter that is associated with that time.

So now we are faced with insurmountable odds. Say 26 letters, a space, three punctuation marks, and ten numbers, total of 40 characters in our “alphabet.” Now, what would the odds be of getting a meaningful string of letters ten letters long? Our denominator would be 40^10 which is 10^10xlog40 or 10 x 1.6 = 16. So to get a meaningful string of letters we have 10^16 possibilities of meaningful strings. The problem here now is to put some meaningful number on the numerator and to be honest I really don’t know how to do that. I’m sure it’s a lot fewer than 10^16 but how to get it? As it turns out, we don’t need that number because we have ASSUMED that certain combinations of letters have meaning and others don’t. Why is that and how could physics account for it?

Well, we immediately see that physics cannot account for it because physics has nothing to say about our alphabet of symbols and the rules that govern the arrangement of them into words and phrases that mean something. Find a law of physics that bears on why “dog” means man’s best friend. That’s not what physics is about. Physics is about sub-atomic particles in energy fields and their interactions. Physics has nothing to say about the symbols or the rules that give meaning to certain arrangements of symbols.

So by definition physics is excluded. It’s a category mistake to even say it can. It’s tantamount to saying information is physical. We’ve seen that law cannot produce information (no contingency) and we’ve sort of seen that chance cannot do it. (Take a 100 letter string of meaningful characters and our denominator is now 10^160. Random doesn’t hack it.)

But with my mind I can effortlessly pick and choose letters and organize them in what I hope is not a completely incoherent ramble and arrange them in various ways so that I communicate my message. So what I am saying, inelegantly, I’m sure, is that free will is required to generate information. That’s the insight I just had earlier. I’ve always said that physics couldn’t do it and I’ve always said mind can do it but I’ve never said what about mind actually makes it happen and it’s FREE WILL! For if there is no free will, if there is only law, then even given an alphabet, there is no information. So that’s how I would try to work that in.

But here’s an even easier way to defeat the “isms.”

If naturalism, etc… are true, then physics can explain everything. (This is true by definition.)

But physics cannot explain language. (As we have just seen why.)

Therefore, naturalism is false.

It is not only false, it cannot be true. It MUST BE false. The only way to prove it false is to generate information by means of physical law. But physical law says nothing of symbols and rules which comprise language and which are necessary for encoding information.

This is devastating to neo-darwinism as well but it’s late. In any case, I’m sure this will offend someone’s sensibilities and I can see that tomorrow.

p.s. This doesn’t get us to theism and God but now the immaterial is on the table and any of the first cause arguments that rely on the impossibility of an infinite regress can easily prove that the First Cause is uncaused, eternal or infinite, and immaterial.

p.p.s. This is a great idea you have.

1 comment:

Steve Finnell said...
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