Thursday, December 3, 2015

Friday, October 23, 2015

Village Atheism and Magical Configurations of Matter.

A discussion on social media yielded this claim by a village atheist:
"...but when I die, just like you, I will be nothing more than space dust and all the molecules of matter..."
Such statements are wide-spread and betray the philosophical naivety and unexamined assumptions of the typical village atheist.

Do you see the incoherence of this claim of an atheist material monist? He says he "...will be nothing more." This atheist's language betrays his belief that he is currently something more than molecules.

However, on the material monist view and his assumption of the uniformity of nature he was, is and will always be nothing more than matter. To be perfectly clear, according to material monism, this atheist is at present nothing more than molecules. This is a matter of logical consistency. The atheist's faith commitment to the uniformity of nature requires this conclusion. Of course, it is true that his current configuration of molecules is different than those of a dispersed configuration of those molecules, and as such, they exhibit different properties than the dispersed molecules. This is no more puzzling than Hydrogen molecules and Oxygen molecules having different properties than water when they are combined chemically to produce H2O. But such properties, sometimes termed "emergent," are not autonomous properties.1 All of the properties of water are reducible to the underlying laws of matter by way of the equations of quantum mechanics. The behavior of water is determined by the underlying quantum mechanical properties of the ultimate material constituents (the quantum fields which we have discussed here). This is the case for all configurational properties of matter, they are all reducible to the underlying physics. In fact, according to material monism and the uniformity of nature they must be. This is the scientific ideal of atheistic science -- all of reality must ultimately come within the purview of physical causal laws. After all, it is called material monism, right? Reality is closed with respect to matter and its motions via physical causes. According to the myth of macro-evolution, the physical processes that produced the stars, galaxies, solar systems, planets then ultimately life, then conscious life along with the human intellect, are necessarily, by continuity, the same processes producing the present behaviors of particular molecular configurations called "man." Any "mental" properties of this particular configuration of molecules are determined by the dance of the quantum fields, not the other way around. So much for free rational thought. Ironically, these philosophies and theories are the products of self-styled atheist "free thinkers!"

This atheist, like all village atheists, maintains the mutually incoherent assumptions of human autonomy, uniformity of nature (their principle of necessity) and the ultimate chance character of reality. These are uncritically examined presuppositions of the typical unbeliever. To maintain human autonomy in the face of material monism is to believe that humans are magical configurations of matter. In a solely material universe human autonomy would not exist. Nonetheless, village atheist Richard Dawkins unabashedly believes in atheist miracles.2 "Consistent" atheists like Provine, Rosenberg and Harris (as discussed here, here and here) can clearly see the logical conclusion of their faith in material monism and the uniformity of nature and thereby deny human rational autonomy -- even though it reduces their epistemology and ethics to absurdity. It follows from their presupposition that they know nothing, despite their claim to "scientific" knowledge, and they acknowledge the total amoral character of reality.

1 Philosopher John Searle's favorite example of emergent properties is digestion. He correctly points out that digestion is not a property of elementary particles. However, it is obvious that such an emergent biological property is not autonomous and is reducible to bio-chemistry, then to physics and quantum mechanics. To deny that would be to destroy the continuity of nature and the entire atheist reductionist "scientific" enterprise. Reductionism is a necessary corollary of material monism. And bottom-up physical causation is the only causation in town.
2 Discussed here. Dawkins, by maintaining human autonomy, is apparently unaware that he has implicitly thrown out the uniformity of nature. Hence, human autonomy to Dawkins is an irrational miracle.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Mind and Cosmos: Nagel's Unprincipled Principles, Part 2. Who's Afraid of Dualism?

In my previous blog, I mentioned the mysteriousness of the photon-electron interaction. It is an example of a purely physical interaction, and thus deemed to be "unproblematic" by a material monist. As we will see, this material monist view is unwarranted.

Last time we ended with this graphic.

That graph shows a purely physical interaction. It depicts a physical electron ("e") interacting with a physical photon (wavy line) -- matter interacting with matter. It would seem there are no difficulties there, right? Nothing like that mysterious mind-matter interaction "problem?" Wrong! Merely saying this is matter interacting with matter is a mere linguistic swindle of the material monist. As we have mentioned, modern material monism is attributive monism -- all of this matter "stuff" is not as similar as calling it all matter seems to imply. The many fields of quantum field theory (QFT) all have varying and differing attributes (charge, spin, mass, etc.) -- hence the term attributive monism. It's a jungle out there! The vocabulary of modern physics speaks of particle species and the particle zoo.

In the "innocent era" of pre-quantum theory, people viewed matter as all that "hard" stuff. Material interaction is no more mysterious than the collision of billiard balls -- what's so hard about that? Well, that simplistic picture which still seems to infect the thinking of the naive material monist isn't what is going on.

Even this simplistic and "common sense" view of causality was roundly criticized by Hume, who correctly noted that one could not observe such causation but only the "constant conjunction" of events.  That conditions of "such and such" were invariably followed by "such and such."

But there is more. Physics says nothing about why there is such an interaction between electrons and light or what is going on at that vertex. In fact, it doesn't even say when such an interaction takes place -- it only computes probabilities that such particle events transpire.1 Yet, the basic interactions are mediated by something far less "solid." The basic ontology of the physical universe is the fields! And these fields are everywhere and "in contact" at every point (provided they mutually interact; more on this below.) These fields are not what one would call solid and impenetrable. Every school kid has experience with fields -- case in point, iron filings being moved about by magnetic fields! Stuff like that "spooky" magnetic field is what the physical universe is. So the universe is more spirit-like than matter-like than most believe -- more ethereal than solid.

In spite of the modern field theoretic view of the material universe, as mentioned above, proponents of material monism seem to entertain  an antiquated and superficial muddle-minded notion of material causation. This is the old atomistic and mechanistic physics where causation is something similar to the collision of billiard balls -- solid things impacting solid things and recoiling along with attendant conservation laws of energy and momentum. Causal interaction through contact.2 This false perception is, no doubt, encouraged by the observations of particles -- they being viewed as tiny solid granular bodies.

Examples of such muddle-mindedness in regard to physical causation are evident in the writings of (dare I say all?) most modern atheist philosophers of mind.

In addition to Nagel, another example is Jaegwon Kim, who wrote: "For substance dualism, it is, at bottom, the extreme heterogeneity of minds and bodies that makes causal relations between them prima facie problematic." (emph. added)3 There are a lot of unwarranted assumptions and question begging in such an assertion. It certainly betrays an ignorance of modern physics. The assumption that matter itself is "homogeneous" in kind is certainly false. Matter is not homogeneous in spite of the fact that it is called matter, and it is not a pure monism in spite of being called material monism.  Contra Kim and others, matter too is extremely heterogeneous. To elaborate, I return to our figure of my prior blog. This figure is supposed to be credible to the monist. But it shows two heterogeneous types of matter interacting - a photon (a massless, neutral, spin one boson) and an electron (a massive, electrically charged, spin 1/2 fermion).

The complete (omitting only gravitation) set of fields (and associated particles) is shown in the following diagram found in the Wikipedia entry on the Standard Model. The diagram shows the particle view of a quantum field.  The blue lines show the interactions between the fields/particles.  Fields not connected by a blue line do not interact directly; they can only interact indirectly.  So in particular -- and quite amazingly -- electrons (the "e" within the lepton box) do not interact with other electrons except indirectly by an "exchange of photons."  (Note: There is no blue line that loops from the electron "e" back to itself.) So much for "like stuff" interacting with "like stuff!"   The only fields that have self interactions (other than gravity) are the fields with nonlinear free field equations. These are the gluons, Higgs boson, and weak bosons (indicated by the closed blue loops). One should note: all fields of QFT are "co-located;" they mutually exist at every space-time point (i.e. at every spatial location and for all time).4 Yet, amazingly, the leptonic and quark fields though everywhere co-located are oblivious of each other (note: there is no blue line between the leptons and quarks)! That is a rather embarrassing situation for the philosopher who argues for material monism. On the basis of the material monist principle, it would seem the monist should assert that all matter must interact with all other matter. The absence of direct lepton-lepton interactions (for one among others) should be a mystery to them. But such questions seem not to worry their limited epiphenomenal "minds."

[graphic from Wikipedia]

So then, the material monist can no more explain or account for material interaction (and amazingly the absence of interactions between different types of matter) among the various fields than a dualist can explain mind-body interactions. The complaint of Nagel, Kim and all material monists against dualism is superficial and is yet another example of atheist special pleading.5 As the saying goes, "That which is a problem for everyone is a problem for no one." So then, the monist's reason for accepting "monism" is based on a false principle that does not support their belief.

In closing, we should note that the diagram represents the "god" of the materialist. For the atheist, this immutable and eternal complex plurality of fields is a brute fact and accounts for all of reality. That is a most fantastic and incredible belief. It claims that human autonomy, rationality and morality are mere accidental configurations of these fields. It should be obvious to all not in the grips of irrational ideology that any such "emergent" properties are determined solely by the dance of these fields. Every future (probabilistic) state of the fields is determined by the current state via partial differential equations. Equations in which the only elements are quantities describing the configurations of the fields, and nothing more enters the equations. So much for human autonomy.

As Christians we know that this intricately plural and elegant unified structure of material reality is designed by God. The material creation does not account for all of reality -- it in no way accounts for the souls, spirits and minds, human rational autonomy, abstract entities and morality. These are things for which no material monist has supplied anything close to intelligible accounts. As detailed here, Nagel's attempt is superficial and fails utterly. In fact, the so called underpinnings of the material monist principles are found to be wanting philosophically and scientifically (engaging in unanalyzed question begging and special pleading).

1 For example, quantum transition amplitudes typically involve integrals in which the time of the interaction is taken to be any time from the remote past to the remote future. Usually the integration over time is specified using the mathematical fiction of negative infinity to positive infinity.
2 Newtonian gravity and early electromagnetic theories first introduced the rather scandalous concept of unmediated action at a distance. That concept slowly gave way to the concept of physical fields and the first steps towards modern physics. See the Wikipedia entry action at a distance.
3 Jaegwon Kim, Philosophy of Mind, Westview 1998, p.133.
4 This feature of the fields is contrary to the old concept of matter as having the property of impenetrability or that which cannot occupy the same space at the same time. In modern physics, the closest property to this idea is the Pauli exclusion principle which only applies to like fermions. Even in this case two electrons can be in the same location as long as their other properties differ (such as one being "spin up" and the other "spin down." From the Wikipedia entry: "This effect is partly responsible for the everyday observation in the macroscopic world that two solid objects cannot be in the same place at the same time."
5 It is special pleading since material interactions are also mysterious. So the rejection of dualism because it is mysterious applies equally to materialism. The supposed foundation of the entire material monist philosophy is built on a fallacy.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Reasoning by Presupposition: The Bahnsen-Smith Debate

I was perusing the apologetic blogs a few months back when I came across a comment by an atheist who claimed Christians never refer to the Bahnsen-Smith debate (although that interchange was more a moderated conversation than a debate). Well, that claim is not true. To rebut that claim, here is a link to the audio of that debate. A transcript of the audio can be found here. Another post of the dialog can be found here. This dialog is well worth studying to understand Bahnsen's use of the presuppositional apologetic. Apparently, that atheist thought Smith bested Bahnsen in that encounter. Incredible! Such an opinion, as we will see below, betrays superficiality and an unstudied philosophic naivete. Smith,and a caller-in named Max, clearly had no clue as to what hit them. Bahnsen's irenic answers rebutted all of Smith's claims.

One particular point, that has prompted the title of this article, was when Max charged that Bahnsen merely presupposed God.  Of course, it is not the case that we merely do so (as if, the presupposition of Christianity is a fideistic and unargued assumption). Bahnsen's reply that atheists presuppose atheism was priceless.  This is a perennial blind spot of atheists -- they think they are devoid of presuppositions and are staunch advocates of non-circular reasoning. Nothing could be further from the truth.  Atheists, in fact, argue presupposing atheism (consequently, this atheist's charge against Christians commits the fallacy of special pleading, sometimes called "the double standard fallacy"). However, the fact that both sides have presuppositions does not reduce the debate to a stand off. Not all presuppositions are "created equal." The problem for the atheists is that they have a multitude of unintelligible contradictory assumptions and viciously circular arguments, none of which are mutually coherent, and none which they can make good. This fact renders the atheist's presupposition(s) false and destroys his pretense to knowledge of any sort. This fact is evident in the many debates of presuppositionalists with atheists. Some atheists will even admit (on the basis of their assumptions, of course!) there is no certain knowledge or express doubt that knowledge is possible (not realizing the inherent self contradiction in such claims -- since they must know something in order for their language to intelligibly express their doubt. To put it ironically: "Why should anyone listen to someone who believes he doesn't know what he's saying?") On the other hand, the Christian presupposition is intelligible and provides the necessary grounds for knowledge and for the intelligibility of all of human experience. So again, there is no "stand off."

Here are a few more of the high points in the dialog:
  • Max claimed reason is "natural!"  Another priceless moment.  Bahnsen pressed the point that abstract entities are not natural.1  All Max said by way of "rebuttal" was a repeated "Oh boy!"  Bahnsen challenged atheists to live according to their presuppositions -- something they never do.
  • Smith assimilated physical causation and logical laws (logical "law of identity" for instance).  Bahnsen succinctly pointed out that such is a major philosophical error.2  For starters, matter does not move according to abstract laws of rational thought (logic) -- matter obeys inviolable physical laws based on the properties of matter. The material universe is completely oblivious to abstract laws of logic. Laws of logic are standards of rational thought -- laws that can be violated by flawed reasoning.  As we have mentioned repeatedly, laws of logic presuppose minds with rational freedom (independent of material causation) and mental causal efficacy -- something totally antithetical to a universe composed solely of matter moving according to chance and causally inviolable physical laws. (In the materialist universe the only causality is, de facto, physical.) To put it another way, laws of logic are necessary and non-contingent; on the other hand, the physical world is contingent and the laws of physics are not necessary. (If they were, empirical science and experiment would be unnecessary.) This is usually stated succinctly by the phrase "logic says nothing about the contingent world." We should also point out that physicists can construct a multitude of consistent theoretical models of the material universe with existing and hypothetical entities, differing mathematical structures, different causal interactions, different values of fundamental constants, and so on. All of which show that the actual physical reality in which we live is not necessitated by logic. To summarize, logic and physics are categorially distinct. Contra Smith, logic cannot be reduced to physics.
  • Smith trotted out the tired and fallacious "Euthyphro dilemma" to counter Christian moral claims.  Bahnsen succinctly rebuffed Smith by pointing out that Christian moral claims are rooted in the character of God Himself.  In Christian theism, God is ne plus ultra3. There is no "super-reality" above God; no laws above God.4  
In summary, Bahnsen  began the dialog by engaging Smith on the three fundamental areas of philosophy: (1) What exists? What is real? What are the constituents of reality? (Metaphysics/ontology); (2) How does one know what one knows? (Epistemology) and (3) How should we lead our lives? (Ethics).  Beyond Smith's philosophical naivete and reasoning errors, Smith, like all atheists, did not even begin to provide intelligible answers, based on his godless reality, in any of these areas. Smith's materialist atheism is: (1) metaphysical irrationalism (espousing the ultimate chance nature of reality); (2) provides no self-attesting theory of knowledge (rendering knowledge impossible, and thereby, Smith has no ground from which to criticize anyhthing); and (3) provides no basis for the existence of absolute morality or ethical truth (morality is not a property of material systems).  All through the debate, Smith argued in vicious circles and merely assumed the existence of human rational freedom (which is incompatible with the assumption of material monism), logic, moral laws, abstractions, conceptual reasoning -- all of which inexplicably spring out of chance and physical (material) causation (or, alternatively as in platonistic pluralism, are an incoherent plurality of independent and ultimate brute entities suspended in the "void").  As Bahnsen pointed out, all of these are problems in Smith's atheist universe, but not for Christianity. (In fact, Smith is assuming facts that are borrowed from Christian theism.) Smith's atheist presuppositions thus have been shown to be incoherent and self-contradictory on the atheist's own ground, while the Christian presupposition and Christianity is vindicated.  


During the call-in section, Smith responded to a question regarding the Bible. Smith responded, "Well, I mean there are some decent things in the Bible, sure. There are some elegantly expressed moral maxims, that sort of thing." (emph. added.) Bahnsen, probably due to lack of time, didn't respond to this but the reply to this sort of remark is: "On what standard does Smith rely to determine morals?" Would he claim that standard is absolute and knowable? On Smith's view the moral statements of Christ would be no more authoritative than those of any other; merely subjective opinion and non-absolute. The fact that Smith likes some of them is not a basis for absolute morality. Some people like Coke, others Pepsi. Smith, like all unbelievers, is his own ultimate, and arbitrary, standard.

1 Abstract entities, such as the laws of logic, are immaterial and not extended in space. As, such they are not empirically accessible; they are not natural objects perceived by the senses. For example, the law of deduction called "modus ponens" cannot be seen with the eyes. The question of the reality of abstract entities (especially universal and invariant concepts such as mathematics and logic) and conceptual knowledge lies at the root of the well known failures of rationalism, on the one hand, and empiricism, on the other, to provide a foundation for human knowledge. Both schools ended in skepticism regarding human knowledge. One should also consider that the modern phrase "logical empirical method" merely linguistically conjoins the two philosophical schools and thereby glosses the problems of both without solution, yet admits the distinction between the abstract and the natural. Stated in other terms, this dichotomy is also the distinction of deduction (necessary truths of reason) versus induction (contingent truths derived from generalizations of particular sense data). Bahnsen's point is that the atheist "universe" provides no intelligible account for either reason (human rational autonomy and conscious thought independent of material causation, existence and reality of universal laws of logic, etc.) or empirical knowledge/induction (given the atheist's commitment to ultimate chance and the irrational nature of the universe as embodied in quantum mechanics). On the atheist view, there is no bridging of the gap between the immaterial transcendent and unchanging truths of, say, logic or arithmetic, and the immanent and ever changing world of material flux. The problem that the atheist has with providing a justification of induction is well known -- it is a principle that cannot be deduced nor inductively derived (which is vicious circular reasoning and question begging). On the other hand, the transcendent God of Christian theism provides the intelligible answer to both deduction/reason (man is created in the image of God, the ultimate rational being and the source of man's reason -- behind the mind of man is the mind of the eternal God) and induction (God has created and faithfully sustains the cosmos (" Christ all things consist." Colossians 1:16-7). Further the existence of universal abstract entities, in that they are the contents of thought, are not eternal self-existent things existing in a mind-independent platonic world of ideas, but rather, the thoughts of the eternal God. They are real; and man, as the rational image of God, is to "think God's thoughts after Him," as Van Til has said.
2 Smith fallaciously used the example of the "Law of Identity" as "support" for his claim. Rather than the law of identity, one might think that the material conditional of logic ("if P then Q") would provide a more plausible support. However, it is generally known that the material conditional does not represent the concept of causality. See, for example, Paradoxes of Material Implication (in particular, see the example of switches in a series circuit in the section on "Simplification"), Material Conditional; and Causality (section titled, "Causality contrasted with conditionals"). Incredibly, Rudolph Carnap (a logical positivist) makes the philosophical error of representing causal laws via the material conditional in chapters 1 and 20 of An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science.
3 Latin, literally,"no more beyond."
4 Amazingly, Michael Martin also fatuously uses a version of the "Euthyphro dilemma" in his flawed TANG ("Transcendental Argument for the Non-existence of God").  The Euthyphro dilemma presupposes a mythological platonic reality of ultimate abstract moral laws to which all the "gods" and man are equally subject (and of which laws they somehow have knowledge) -- as such, it is contrary to the claim of Christian theism that God is ultimate.  Thus Martin's counter does not apply -- it is a straw man. It is a logical fallacy of the most egregious type to assume the truth of "not A" to refute "A." TANG as a refutation of TAG is an utter failure. TANG is not even analogous to TAG. To be analogous, TANG would need to show: (1) that the Christian conception of God is contradictory and (2) that atheism (whether materialist or platonic pluralism) provides the necessary and coherent conditions for all of human experience -- including intelligible accounts of possibility of knowledge and existence of moral absolutes.  This, of course, is something that neither Martin nor millennia of failed atheist philosophy and science has done.  In short,  TANG is not a transcendental argument and Michael Martin does not understand transcendental argumentation (at least, he fails to understand TAG). 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Mind & Cosmos: Nagel's Unprincipled Principles

Having finally read Nagel's Mind and Cosmos -- previously discussed briefly here -- I had planned to write a more thorough and complete analysis of it. Other more important duties have precluded that goal. So instead, I plan to write a few shorter articles covering various problems in Nagel's philosophy. Here, belatedly, is my first installment of the promised analysis.

Nagel's motivation for his philosophy of neutral monism is that material monism provides no basis for key characteristics of human experience, such as mind and consciousness. With this correct assessment, Christian theists will agree -- although we extend the list of features to include invariant abstract objects (such as mathematics and logic) and absolute moral laws. (Nagel's version of neutral monism1 provides no metaphysical foundation for these either.)

Nagel rejects, therefore, materialism but he equally rejects theism. He wants to invent a "middle ground;" though he doesn't get near a putative "middle." Instead, what he posits is just a new version of attributive monism in which all "matter" (with its many usual physical attributes such as mass, charge, spin and so on) is also endowed with mental attributes. This is just as reductionistic as old-fashioned monism. It's a monism differing in degree, not kind.

Nagel asserts that dualism is not a serious option since it posits an inscrutable and a mysterious (at least more so to "naturalists") interaction between mind and body. To this end, then, Nagel resorts to postulating that all material of the cosmos has a property of mind attached. Every piece of stuff in the cosmos is intrinsically "mental" in some sense, in addition to being material.

This theory is tantamount to adding (in physicist terminology) a "psychic" quantum number to every quantum field. Of course such a psychic interaction has never been observed in particle-scattering experiments. Also, Nagel doesn't touch the issue of the quantity of psychic stuff attached to all matter. To be compatible with quantum field theory, there is a multitude of technical and mathematical issues that Nagel doesn't even begin to address. I won't delve into this in anymore detail at this point, but that alone deprives Nagel's theory of any shred of scientific credibility. Nagel, by mere verbal wishful thinking, expands on his "solution." Nagel postulates that though each particle is not conscious, one can hope to produce conscious brains by assembling enough of this psychically endowed stuff in sufficiently complex arrangements. A major defect of this theory is that the "mind" so produced is a composite of psychically endowed fields, and as such, still subject to bottom-up causation. All of the properties and "twitching" of this composite brain are the result of the interactions of the basic fields/particles. Such a mind is still physically determined. Thus, human rational freedom still does not exist. Such a theory is thereby a contradiction of most atheists' assumption of human autonomy. One can easily write the form of the equation that such a brain, and consequently the attached "mind," must satisfy. One does not need to know the exact details of the functional dependence of this composite mind on its constituents to draw the conclusion that such a brain is causally closed with respect to the underlying matter. Such an "emergent" mind is to the brain as pressure is to molecular motion - and, thus, has no causal autonomy. Case closed.

These, in brief, are some of the problems with Nagel's philosophy, but in a following blog I will look at the contradictory nature of Nagel's superficial rejection of dualism and proposing neutral monism. Nagel's principle, mentioned above, is that dualism is too mysterious and "unexplained" and that monism (and in particular his neutral monism that purports to explain "mind" and mental interactions) is not mysterious. But is it? Hardly. For a hint at what is coming, some might want to ask the question regarding the graphics below: "What exactly is going on at this electron-photon interaction?" (The straight red line is an electron of charge "e" and the black wavy line is an emitted (or absorbed) photon. The diagram represents the fundamental interaction of electrons and light.)

Continue to part 2.

1 Neutral monism asserts that the ultimate constituents of reality are neither material (as in material monism) nor mental (as in idealism) but a neutral third kind of "stuff." For more details see Neutral Monism at Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Companion Blog

I'm starting a new blog, Scripta Scientificae pro Christiana Apologeticum, where I'll occasionally post technical writings on the physics and mathematics that bear on presuppositional Christian Apologetics. First off, I'll be giving a more technical discussion on Lawrence Krauss' schlock philosophy and physics which I discussed in Heideggerian Nonsense Redux. For those with a scientific background and mathematical skills, stay tuned.