David Brooks has a fairly goofy column in today’s New York Times. Apparently “hard-core materialism” is on its way out:

Over the past several years, the momentum has shifted away from hard-core materialism. The brain seems less like a cold machine. It does not operate like a computer. Instead, meaning, belief and consciousness seem to emerge mysteriously from idiosyncratic networks of neural firings.


The idea that meaning, belief and consciousness emerge mysteriously from idiosyncratic networks of nerual firings is not an alternative to materialism, it is a consequence of it. The alternative to materialism would be to argue that meaning and the rest emerge from the interaction between the physical brain and some ineffable, non-physical “mind-stuff.” That idea is sometimes referred to as dualism, and it is not something for which very many neuroscientists have much sympathy.

Before moving on, let us not overlook the last two sentences of Brooks’ paragraph:

Those squishy things called emotions play a gigantic role in all forms of thinking. Love is vital to brain development.

Whatever.

Brooks seems to think that this revolution in neuroscience has some relevance to the theism/atheism debate:

In their arguments with Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, the faithful have been defending the existence of God. That was the easy debate. The real challenge is going to come from people who feel the existence of the sacred, but who think that particular religions are just cultural artifacts built on top of universal human traits. It’s going to come from scientists whose beliefs overlap a bit with Buddhism.

In unexpected ways, science and mysticism are joining hands and reinforcing each other. That’s bound to lead to new movements that emphasize self-transcendence but put little stock in divine law or revelation. Orthodox believers are going to have to defend particular doctrines and particular biblical teachings. They’re going to have to defend the idea of a personal God, and explain why specific theologies are true guides for behavior day to day. I’m not qualified to take sides, believe me. I’m just trying to anticipate which way the debate is headed. We’re in the middle of a scientific revolution. It’s going to have big cultural effects.

What on Earth is Brooks talking about? Defending the idea of a personal God, particular doctrines, and particular biblical teachings is precisely what Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins are asking religious people to do. That traditional religions are cultural artifacts built on universal human traits was the primary thesis of Daniel Dennett’s book, and is discussed as well by Richard Dawkins. And Sam Harris devotes a whole chapter to the importance of spiritual experience and meditation (a chapter for which some atheists have, unfairly in my view, assailed him.) Brooks is not challenging the arguments of these gentlemen, he is confirming them.

What Brooks describes as “neural Bhuddism” offers nothing that ought to persuade an atheist to rethink his views. Quite the contrary.

Brooks, I believe, suffers from a common afliction among high-minded critics of people like Dawkins and Hitchens. On the one hand, he basically agrees with what the New Atheists are saying. He has no particular use for religious doctrine and ceremony. He might believe in God in some tenuous and abstract sense, but he does not devote much time to worrying about what God wants of him. And he recognizes that religion is a singularly effective device for rallying large groups of people to exceedingly stupid behaviors.

But at the same time he also knows that arguing about religious minutiae is decidedly low-brow, and is not the sort of thing one does in polite society. So he feels he must cement his bona fides by including some obligatory criticism for people like Hitchens and Dawkins, even while making arguments that fit very comfortably within their world-view.

My SciBling James Hrynyshyn provides some further commentary here.

Comments

  1. #1 Caledonian
    May 13, 2008

    Of course the brain isn’t a cold machine. It’s a warm, wet, and very squishy machine.

    How exactly is that supposed to be a challenge to ‘hard-core materialism’? If anything, the growing awareness of just how the brain functions is a massive confirmation of everything rationalists have been claiming.

    Not only is the brain explicable in terms of physical systems, but we don’t even need to resort to new, previously unknown properties to account for its behavior.

    It might be useful to review the dying days of biochemical vitalism, and the arguments people made as it became clear life had no mystical ‘vital force’. I have a feeling we’re going to be seeing the same sorts of nonsense and appeals to mystery in regards to psychological vitalism in the coming age.

  2. #2 Friend Fruit
    May 13, 2008

    …First, the self is not a fixed entity but a dynamic process of relationships. Second, underneath the patina of different religions, people around the world have common moral intuitions. Third, people are equipped to experience the sacred, to have moments of elevated experience when they transcend boundaries and overflow with love. Fourth, God can best be conceived as the nature one experiences at those moments, the unknowable total of all there is.

    Yet another attempt to redefine “God,” rather than admit the concept should be discarded.

    It all sounds very New Age-y.

  3. #3 Chris Bell
    May 13, 2008

    This whole essay reads like someone trying to introduce Sam Harris at a banquet, except I’m not sure that Brooks knows who Harris is.

  4. #4 Clark
    May 13, 2008

    The alternative to materialism would be to argue that meaning and the rest emerge from the interaction between the physical brain and some ineffable, non-physical “mind-stuff.” That idea is sometimes referred to as dualism, and it is not something for which very many neuroscientists have much sympathy.

    Umm. You do realize that those two choices don’t exhaust the theories argued for in philosophy of mind. The choice isn’t merely between materialism as “everything can be described in 3rd person” and dualism or “there’s some immaterial mind substance.” One has semiotic realism ala Peirce; property dualism; ontological emergent consciousness, and so forth. Lots of choices.

  5. #5 Andrea
    May 13, 2008

    I suspect the “neural Buddhism” he is talking about is Sam Harris’s.

  6. #6 Andrea
    May 13, 2008

    Re my comment above: That’s what happens when you open a blog page, read it, go get a coffee, then write a reply without refreshing the page. Sorry Chris Bell.

  7. #7 Jason Rosenhouse
    May 13, 2008

    Clark-

    The fact remains that either everything the brain does is the result of the physical interactions of the atoms in the brain, or something non-physical and separate from the brain must be brought into the discussion. The first option is materialism. The second is dualism. That there are varieties of materialism and varieties of dualism is neither here nor there.

  8. #8 HP
    May 13, 2008

    I was chatting with my Romanian taxi driver the other day, and he told me there are basically two kinds of David Brooks columns. I call them “inaniotic” and “banalitevil” . . . .

  9. #9 Chris Bell
    May 13, 2008

    Andrea, great minds make the same bad jokes.

  10. #10 windy
    May 13, 2008

    I have a feeling we’re going to be seeing the same sorts of nonsense and appeals to mystery in regards to psychological vitalism in the coming age.

    “Going to be seeing”? conradg is already delivering it in a previous thread…

  11. #11 PhysioProf
    May 13, 2008

    Brooks is a right-wing stupid fucking imbecile. It is not news when he emits some fucking ridiculous stupidity. It is what he does. It is what the NY Times pays him for. He is an insult to the English language.

  12. #12 daveF
    May 13, 2008

    I’m not sure if this is what Brooks is talking about but certainly there are some in modern philosophy who reject materialism but still hold that the brain plays an important role in the mental realm. Some claim that consciousness is not identical to neural firings (or any brain other activity) – it mysteriously emerges from this physical activity but it is not itself physical activity. The key word is ‘mysteriously’, the claim being that the physical sciences will never be able to explain how this happens i.e. consciousness is non-physical. I think the position is called ‘emergentism’.

  13. #13 Alex, FCD
    May 13, 2008

    Some claim that consciousness is not identical to neural firings (or any brain other activity) – it mysteriously emerges from this physical activity but it is not itself physical activity.

    Reminds me of a story Douglas Adams once told about a man who firmly believes that his radio produces music because there are little men inside it playing instruments. One day he mentions this to his friend, an electrical engineer, who tells him all about transistors and radio waves and Marconi and frequency modulation and whatnont. The man listens very attentively, and he understands and accepts everything he has heard. “But,” he asks his friend, “surely there must be just a few little men inside the radio?”.

  14. #14 Clark
    May 14, 2008

    The fact remains that either everything the brain does is the result of the physical interactions of the atoms in the brain, or something non-physical and separate from the brain must be brought into the discussion.

    No, that’s simply not true as some of the examples I gave illustrate.

  15. #15 Clark
    May 14, 2008

    To add I’m not saying one has to agree with these other positions. Simply that they are widely discussed in philosophy. You are creating a false dichotomy. One that is sadly more common than it should be. I’m not saying physicalism (in the sense that everything is reducible to 3rd person descriptions) is bad to hold. I am saying that the choices aren’t simply physicalism or substance dualism. That’s just very bad philosophy.

  16. #16 jo5ef
    May 14, 2008

    Nice one Caledonian, I agree and don’t think itst that hard to accept.
    “Umm. You do realize that those two choices don’t exhaust the theories argued for in philosophy of mind. The choice isn’t merely between materialism as “everything can be described in 3rd person” and dualism or “there’s some immaterial mind substance.” One has semiotic realism ala Peirce; property dualism; ontological emergent consciousness, and so forth. Lots of choices.”
    This is bollocks. Dualism is fundamentally misguided.
    (IMHO)

  17. #17 Dunc
    May 14, 2008

    PhysioProf gets right to the heart of the matter. Brooks is a moron whose job is to provide sufficient column inches to pad out the advertising nicely.

  18. #18 SLC
    May 14, 2008

    Re PhysioProf

    The Times seems to specialize in moronic op-ed writers. Tom Friedman and Maureen Dowd are even worse then Brooks. Ms. Dowd is nothing but a Hedda Hopper wannabee.

  19. #19 Jason Failes
    May 14, 2008

    “We’re in the middle of a scientific revolution.”

    Was there a study I missed?

    Nope, just some reframing…

  20. #20 Tegumai Bopsulai, FCD
    May 14, 2008

    Why stop at dualism? Give triple-ism a chance.

  21. #21 windy
    May 14, 2008

    No, that’s simply not true as some of the examples I gave illustrate.

    But don’t all of them bring something non-physical into the discussion? Just not something pre-existent as in “classic” dualism.

    You guys did leave out epiphenomenalism, but maybe it deserves to be forgotten…

  22. #22 ctw
    May 14, 2008

    “The first option is materialism. The second is dualism.”

    A very brief session with google (motivated by Clark’s comment) has revealed “Anomalous monism”, a “version of non-reductive physicalism” proposed by Davidson. Since my educational background in this area is almost entirely that google session, I certainly can’t make a substantive argument for or against Clark’s position. But just from a linguistic perspective, it appears to me that he wins the debate.

    In any event, Clark: I for one appreciate your comment since I’ve been reading about Davidson in another context (Rorty) and am pleased to have stumbled onto this concept.

    - Charles

  23. #23 Tabuhan
    May 14, 2008

    aSk Blogcu… En GünceL Blog..

  24. #24 Comstock
    May 14, 2008

    Since I’m basically a T&A kinda guy, I ‘m happy to call myself a soft-core materialist.

  25. #25 Kevin
    May 14, 2008

    Loko at today’s 5/14 op-ed page…

    Dowd calling Obama a debutant, as in a prissy sissy young girl, Robert “All war all the time” Kaplan telling us we should invade Myanmar and Thomas “six month” Friedman going on and on about how much the Iranians hate us…because..because ..

    THEY are supporting fellow shittes in the middle east from attacks by Isreal and the US. Oh and Bill CLinton “stumbled for eight years . . over how to make peace in the ME”

    Sometimes I wonder why I pay a subscription to a right-wing rag…. but I guess its better than the Post…

  26. #26 bob koepp
    May 14, 2008

    Clark is right about there being a wider range of choices available than are dreamt of in a certain blogger’s philosophy.

  27. #27 Jason Rosenhouse
    May 14, 2008

    Folks, either everything the brain does is the result of the interactions of matter, or it is not. As a simple matter of logic, those are the only possibilities.

    Anomalous monism is a species of materialism. It does not argue that mental states arise from anything other than the interactions of the atoms in the brain. It claims (among other things) that mental states can not be understood simply at the level of physical events. This is comparable to saying that the functioning of the human heart can not be understood simply at the level of individual atoms.

    From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

    Anomalous Monism is a theory of the relationship between mental and physical events and properties developed by Donald Davidson. It holds that every causally interacting mental event is identical to some physical event — particular mental events (tokens) are the very same events as particular physical events (token-identity, or monism). But it also claims that there can be no strict laws on the basis of which any mental event-type can predict, explain, be predicted or explained – therefore, mental properties cannot be reduced to physical properties (mental anomalism).

  28. #28 PhysioProf
    May 14, 2008

    The Times seems to specialize in moronic op-ed writers. Tom Friedman and Maureen Dowd are even worse then Brooks.

    Don’t forget the truly evil right-wing hack extraordinaire Bill Kristol.

  29. #29 bob koepp
    May 14, 2008

    Folks – Anomalous monism is hardly the only alternative to traditional materialsim and traditional dualism.

    BTW, either every thing the brain does is the result of wishful thinking on the part of flying pigs, or it is not. As a simple matter of logic, those are the only possibilities. (Nothing of interest follows from this tautology.)

  30. #30 Caledonian
    May 14, 2008

    What other sorts of events are there, besides ‘physical’, and how do those events interact with the physical world?

    The simple answer is that there aren’t, and they don’t. Everything, in the scientific sense, is physical. If we discover something new, that is also physical. It’s not a predefined list of a category, it’s a conceptual definition, a list of things that share certain properties and that can be lengthened as necessary as we find things that meet its criteria.

  31. #31 Jason Rosenhouse
    May 14, 2008

    Bob Koepp-

    Explanations by flying pigs play no role in any broader social dispute. And I did not say that anything of interest followed from my tautology. I was merely defending myself against the charge that my self-evident statement in the post, that the alternative to materialism is a theory that posits something non-material, was false.

  32. #32 Timcol
    May 14, 2008

    Predictably, Denyse “buy-my-book” O’Leary has already weighed in on this over at Uncommon Descent, where she breathlessly asks “Are materialists starting to understand that their system is collapsing?”.

    It’s the usual blathering nonsense we’ve come to expect from her, where bold assertions take the place of actually presenting any real evidence (“evidence” for O’Leary is “go read such-and-such a book).

  33. #33 bob koepp
    May 14, 2008

    Jason -
    Where did the criticism you claim to have responded to with a tautology occur? And if nothing of interest follows from the tautology, in what sense could it constitute a defense of anything? As a mathematician, you should know better…

    In your response to Clark (the likely culprit) you were quite explicit in presenting materialism and dualism as the only options. That’s simply wrong. What about idealism? What about neutral monism? Neither of these is a form of either materialism or dualism. The list could be extended.

  34. #34 Clark Goble
    May 14, 2008

    Anomalous monism is a slightly trickier case since it is more about mental talk being untranslatable to physical talk and yet accepts physicalism. So it doesn’t really fit the example. It’s more an alternative to epiphenomenalism.

    Jason, the point is that your claim was not only not self-evident it was demonstrably false.

    Wendy, no the examples I gave don’t bring something non-physical into the discussion, depending upon what you mean by that. (Obviously they aren’t simple physicalism so in that sense what you say is true but neither are they dualism which is the point I was making)

  35. #35 Clark Goble
    May 14, 2008

    Caledonian: What other sorts of events are there, besides ‘physical’, and how do those events interact with the physical world?

    The simple answer is that there aren’t, and they don’t. Everything, in the scientific sense, is physical. If we discover something new, that is also physical.

    That’s actually a position Davidson’s anomalous monism attempts to argue against. Davidson argues that there are physical events and mental events but one is not translatable to the other yet everything is physical. So he’d say you are half right. Once again one can disagree with Davidson but there simply are more alternatives out there than many here appear aware of.

    Jason: Folks, either everything the brain does is the result of the interactions of matter, or it is not. As a simple matter of logic, those are the only possibilities.

    Note though that this is not the claim you made initially.

    Even in the above though things get messy since physicalism and materialism typically are taken to imply not just that everything is the interactions of matter but a particular stance of what kind of interactions they are and often what matter is.

  36. #36 Jason Rosenhouse
    May 14, 2008

    Bob Koepp-

    I not only listed materialism and dualism as the only possibilities, I gave explicit definitions of how I am using those terms. Given my definitions, they are, indeed, the only possibilities. If your point is that I have used the term “dualism” improperly, then point taken and lets move on.

    The fact remains that all of those little bits of philosophy jargon you and Clark feel compelled to throw around have nothing to do with the point I was making in the post.

  37. #37 Clark Goble
    May 14, 2008

    Jason, even given your definitions you’re still engaged in the fallacy of a false dichotomy. And the points being made weren’t mere “philosophical jargon” but references to significant positions in the philosophy of mind. As I said one can disagree with them. I suspect most in the philosophy of mind are physicalists of one sort or an other. But they’d all recognize there are more positions than you list.

  38. #38 bob koepp
    May 14, 2008

    Explicit definitions? The closest you came was with “The alternative to materialism would be to argue that meaning and the rest emerge from the interaction between the physical brain and some ineffable, non-physical “mind-stuff.” And then you identified this poisition, quite properly I must note, as dualism.

    Now, what was the point you were trying to make which has nothing to do with the “jargon” Clark and I have thrown around as we attempted to impress on you that dualism, so conceived, is not the only alternative to materialism?

  39. #39 Jason Rosenhouse
    May 14, 2008

    Bob Koepp-

    In a previous comment I wrote:

    The fact remains that either everything the brain does is the result of the physical interactions of the atoms in the brain, or something non-physical and separate from the brain must be brought into the discussion. The first option is materialism. The second is dualism. That there are varieties of materialism and varieties of dualism is neither here nor there.

    It looks to me like I just defined dualism, too expansively perhaps. But given that definition, I have in fact exhausted all of the options, as a simple matter of logic, as I noted before.

    The point I was making was that Brooks was claiming that materialism was on its way out, strongly implied that he was about to describe a view that was contrary to materialism (as suggested by his use of the word “Instead,”) and then described something that was entirely consistent, even implied by, materialism. I mentioned dualism as an example of something that would be a genuine alternative to materialism. That was when Clark decided that since I said “The” alternative as opposed to “An” alternative, what I really needed was a lecture on the philosophy of mind. And not an especially helpful or constructive lecture, I would add, but one that served primarily to show off a few bits of esoteric philosophy jargon, as I already noted.

  40. #40 Clark
    May 15, 2008

    I don’t think I was giving a lecture on philosophy of mind. Mentioning there are more positions isn’t really saying much. I was trying to keep quite focused and narrow. But I’ll drop it.

    Although it is slightly ironic that you attack Brooks for misusing “materialism” when… Well never mind.

    It is interesting that dualism is having a resurgence among philosophers – primarily I suspect due to David Chalmers. I’m pretty skeptical but I know lots of folks who buy into it. (And no, not for religious reasons – most are atheists)

    Anyways glancing at the Brooks column I suspect he misinterprets “materialism” as meaning something more like computability or rule based models. Those have been attacked for years. (Famously by Herbert Dreyfus) As you note that’s not really materialism although one big problem with the debate is that materialism and physicalism have been pretty mushy problematic terms. Different figures, especially philosophers, have used them in various ways.

  41. #41 DEQ
    May 15, 2008

    Chalmers’s dualism is (or was, circa 1996) a sort of property dualism, not substance dualism. Property dualism is ultimately a sort of physicalism; indeed, it is also called nonreductive physicalism. To the best of my knowledge Chalmers endorses token physicalism, along with the other dualists (Kim, Jackson circa “Epiphenomal Qualia,” maybe Fodor and Putnam). What Jason’s calling “dualism” is substance dualism, which involves repudiating physicalism altogether. If we take property dualism to be a sort of physicalism broadly construed, then it’s accurate enough to say that the choices are physicalism and (substance) dualism. There are other options (phenomenal idealism, perhaps) but they’re not particularly notable.

  42. #42 bob koepp
    May 15, 2008

    DEQ – At least you know some of the relevant distinctions and don’t try to downplay their significance by calling them “jargon”. So, where in the taxonomy of metaphysical views do you locate neutral monism? Does anybody think we should look critically at the assumption that matter is a substance?

    Also, while I don’t want to credit Brooks with having thought deeply about such matters, it isn’t such a stretch to imagine that further investigation of how the brain relates to what we call mental phenomena will require some significant changes in our (still pretty hazy) ideas about matter. On a charitable reading (charity, anybody?), that might be construed as a shift away from hard-core materialism. Remember, at one time hard-core materialism involved the assumption that matter is inert. Then Newton happened, and we became comfortable with what had hitherto been viewed as occult properties. Quantum theory provided a similar kick in the head.

    So, how much and what sort of change in our understanding of matter is compatible with hard-core materialism?

  43. #43 DEQ
    May 15, 2008

    I take it that the minimal commitment of physicalism in philosophy of mind is a commitment to token physicalism, i.e. to the claim that every mental event token is a physical event token. I’m fairly sure that what Jason’s calling materalism is just this minimal claim. Neutral monism, as I understand it, neither entails nor or inconsistent with this claim. It might turn out that mental properties supervene on physical properties, which themselves supervene on some more fundamental category.

    There is, of course, the more substantive claim that all properties either are or supervene on physical properties. This position is inconsistent with neutral monism and with substance dualism, but I don’t think that it’s what Jason’s talking about when he talks about materialism.

  44. #44 Clark
    May 15, 2008

    DEQ there’s some debate about whether or to what degree property dualism should be distinguished from dualism proper. For the record I don’t think it should and think that related positions to property dualism such as anomalous monism or neutral monism should be considered variations on physicalism as well. So I’m certainly very sympathetic to our position. But it really ends up being a trickier issue than saying it’s just physicalism. Part of the problem of course is the problem of what one means by physicalism. That’s why I mentioned it was a mushy term. Since physicalism isn’t always discussed the same way (it’s often treated as the claim that reality is fully describable by the laws of physics similar to what we currently know) many would say that property dualism isn’t a species of physicalism.

    As Bob notes though once you go to neutral monism of the various forms things get tricky. Maybe not for Spinoza but certainly for latter figures. Once again though one just has to be clear what one means by materialism or physicalism.

  45. #45 Clark
    May 15, 2008

    Whoops. Typo. That should say “I think it should be distinguished” and not “I don’t think it should.” Hopefully context made my point but I didn’t want to argue that property and substance dualism should be treated the same.

    DEQ, I think that the claim of physical supervenience was more what Jason was talking about although perhaps I’m misreading him. Otherwise his first line that consciousness and so forth “emerge mysteriously from idiosyncratic networks of nerual firings” makes little sense.

  46. #46 Comstock
    May 15, 2008

    You language freaks sure can ruin a science discussion. It’s almost enough to make one wish Homo never evolved, and then the debate wouldn’t even matter. Then again, I suppose that depends on what I mean by “matter,” “debate,” and “Homo.”

  47. #47 DEQ
    May 16, 2008

    Comstock–it’s a mistake to think this is a debate about language. The big argument, such as it is, is over whether or not minds are/are reducible to brains. What we’re doing is cataloging the possible answers. Jason has offered up one proposed taxonomy; Clark and bob offer another. Settling on a taxonomy will presumably have ramifications w/r/t the big argumemt.

    Clark–fair enough; I acknowledge that there’s debate on where to put property dualism, anomalous monism, etc, and that ‘physicalism’ isn’t used unequivocally. I’m attributing the weak sort of physicalism I described to Jason because of his claim that “The fact remains that either everything the brain does is the result of the physical interactions of the atoms in the brain, or something non-physical and separate from the brain must be brought into the discussion.” The claim that “everything the brain does is the result of the physical interactions of the atoms in the brain” is, I think, perfectly consistent with nonreductive physicalism, and certainly consistent with token physicalism. I’ll leave it to Jason to say whether or not my attribution is apt.

  48. #48 conradg
    May 16, 2008

    We already discussed these issues on another thread to the point of brain-death, and everyone agreed that I was right, or they didn’t. Those are the only two meaningful positions one can take, and enough said.

  49. #49 fongooly
    May 16, 2008

    conradg, no-one except yourself agreed that you were right, and since one can’t realistically do other than agree with themselves, everyone capable of agreeing with another agreed that you were wrong.

  50. #50 conradg
    May 16, 2008

    foongooly,

    Q. How many atheists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

    A. Some nerve you have coming here trying to tell jokes to people who already know all the answers.

  51. #51 mufi
    May 16, 2008

    From what little neuroscience/neuropsychology I’ve read (e.g. Antonio Damasio’s books, like Descarte’s Error and Looking for Spinoza, which I’m almost tempted to call “neurophilosophy”), the scientific research strongly suggests that what we call “mind” is a bodily function (primarily of the brain, but then the brain is so dependent on the rest of the bodily systems that it makes little sense in this case to abstract the part from the whole). I suspect that many (if not most) of us here basically agree on this premise.

    I don’t know what philosophical “-ism” best describes that view (e.g. “physicalism”, “materialism”, “monism”, or some hyphenated version of one or more of those), but I do know that many people in this world find it threatening. Perhaps that’s because they take consolation in belief in an afterlife (with or without God or gods in the picture), which conflicts with the logical conclusion that the mind dies along with the body (which also conflicts with traditional Hindu & *Buddhist* doctrines of rebirth, btw). If so, then the view is not only a threat to many religious doctrines, but likely to the spiritual notions of many religiously unaffiliated folks, as well.

    With that said, there are obvious political benefits in talking around the problem (as Brooks has done), particularly if one identifies as “conservative”, in making it seem as though science is validating traditional religious doctrines (be they Western or Eastern in origin), when in fact studying the actual science is more likely to increase doubt in them.

    mufi

  52. #52 JimCH
    May 16, 2008

    conradg…
    Your riddle exemplifies a misunderstanding of non-theism (& theism too, for that matter). It is in fact the theist who is prone to assuming metaphysical certainty & the non-theist who claims that these matters are most likely beyond knowledge. So, the sequent makes it a pretty good riddle (thanks for sharing) if you change the precedent.

  53. #53 conradg
    May 16, 2008

    JimCH,

    My “riddle” was just a silly way of pointing out that some people here lack a sense of humor.

    The same could be said of many religious people as well. But atheists are not immune to the problem either.

  54. #54 fongooly
    May 16, 2008

    conradg,
    A sense of humor means that one has the sense to know the difference between humor and pointless rumination.

  55. #55 conradg
    May 16, 2008

    Fongolly,

    Anyone who didn’t see that I was joking in my original post here most definitely lacks a sense of humor. Likewise in the follow-up.

  56. #56 fongooly
    May 16, 2008

    conradg,
    Your audience reactions so far would indicate the jokes were apparently funnier in contemplation than in execution.

  57. #57 conradg
    May 16, 2008

    Fongolly,

    Could well be, but not seeing that they were jokes at all, regardless of quality, is somewhat telling. Not a very friendly crowd, I have already gathered.

  58. #58 caynazzo
    May 18, 2008

    How does one chide Jason for not using an exact enough definition of materialism (physicalism?) while later admitting that those in the philosophy of mind dept., (the supposed gatekeepers to such titles) deploy physicalism and the like in “mushy terms?”

  59. #59 web tasar?m?
    May 19, 2008

    thanks y0u.

  60. #60 evden eve nakliyat
    May 22, 2008

    Those squishy things called emotions play a gigantic role in all forms of thinking. Love is vital to brain development.

  61. #61 shouldastayedoutofit
    June 8, 2008

    “Those squishy things called emotions play a gigantic role in all forms of thinking.”

    -Damasio, Decartes’ Error
    -”Affective Neuroscience” work, e.g. at U.Wisc.Madison

    “Anomalous Monism is a theory of the relationship between mental and physical events and properties developed by Donald Davidson. It holds that every causally interacting mental event is identical to some physical event — particular mental events (tokens) are the very same events as particular physical events (token-identity, or monism). But it also claims that there can be no strict laws on the basis of which any mental event-type can predict, explain, be predicted or explained – therefore, mental properties cannot be reduced to physical properties (mental anomalism).”

    -So this is just functionalism with this extra claim of unobservable token-identity added?

  62. #62 okey oyna
    March 4, 2009

    thanks you