Sunday, September 04, 2011

2 Problems with Materialism

For the philosophically uninitiated, the philosophy of Materialism (and here I am
paraphrasing) suggests that the only plane of Reality is the physical world; indeed,
sometimes philosophers use the words "Physicalism" and "Materialism"

Especially in matters of Mind, a strict Materialist will insist that what we refer
to as "Mind" is merely the emergent result of the physical workings of the Brain;
that a Thought, or an Emotion, is merely the result of the chemical and
physiological workings of the organ inside our skulls, and that anything like a
"Mind" (or any other "Force" or "Influence" on that "alleged Mind") is quite
literally traceable to areas in the Brain and the chemical and physiological
processes going on in that region...

Well there are two huge problems with that philosophy and the central role
it plays in many modern World Views:

Truth becomes Impossible
An internal combustion engine works by having Gasoline injected into, say, eight
cylinders; the spark plugs (powered by the battery) provide a "spark" that causes
the gas in the cylinder chamber to explode, forcing the cylinder downward, and a
spring brings it back up. If all the cylinders are "firing" properly, the
aggregate "energy" from the engine is fed into the transmission systems,
eventually finding its way to the wheels, which spin the tires, and the automobile
is put into motion. (This is a recap from a strict amateur on how this all works,
but I think I may have got the basic details right...)

Now, there is nothing whatsoever specially "TRUE" about any of these details;
you would not say that a properly-functioning engine produced some kind of
"statement" about Reality that is "True" (or "False"), and neither can anyone say
that the mechanical, physiological, chemical "firings" in the Brain produce any
kind of "Truth"; they simply DO what they DO, as physical properties; they do not
establish, by themselves, any kind of FACT.

Indeed, statements ABOUT these chemical processes can be "True" or "False,
but if nothing exists EXCEPT those processes, then even those statements lose
all meaning. A physical process cannot make any claims about itself; it just
DOES what it DOES, making no statements and offering no insights on Reality.

So Materialism defeats itself because even the very statement "The Material world
is all there is" is not something mere chemical processes would ever assert.
Something OUTSIDE of those processes -- something BEYOND the chemicals --
has to be *observing* those chemicals in order to arrive at conclusions ABOUT
those chemicals. TRUTH, then, becomes impossible in a purely Materialist world,
since NO "thought" (even about Materialism!) can rise above the physiology.

Localization assumes way too much
Quite a few modern atheist/materialist/naturalist/reductionist Neuro-Scientists
(and others who trumpet the conclusions of this group as some kind of "proof"
that "Science" has figured it all out) are claiming to have found the "God" part
of the Brain, and proudly demonstrate how their various tools -- advanced brain
scans, high-resolution MRIs, etc. -- can pinpoint parts of the Brain that
"light up" when the subject is said to be having some sort of "religious
experience"... "See, it's all just Brain activity!" they gloat...
This is sometimes called "Localization", the idea that certain experiences
*come from* and are *local to* certain portions of the Brain...

You can take a simple radio and apply various electronic tools to "track"
precisely where, in the circuitry, the Sound of your favorite radio station
seems to be occurring at any given moment; but does that mean, then, that the
SOUND originates from, and remains resident in, those electronic components?
Of course not: The Signal is coming from a radio tower somewhere near enough
to be picked up by the radio, and these electronic components ACT on it --
"modulate" it -- in various ways to present the Sound to your ears (we could
talk about Sound "only happening in your ears", too).

So while it may be true that a Neuro-Scientist's tools can identify WHERE in
the Brain certain functions occur, it does NOT follow, then, that those portions
of the Brain are RESPONSIBLE for the *production* of specific events.
Something -- like a Mind -- could be *operating on* or *passing through* that
portion of the Brain, which then lights up the Scientist's detection tools, but
the SOURCE of that activity may very well be something the Materialist simply
cannot capture, measure, or pin down...

I get a little weary of the scientific community dressing up their assumptions
in lofty rhetoric and then excoriating anyone who challenges those assumptions.

But then we Christians know precisely why they do it, don't we...

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