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« Non-Materialist War on the Brain? | Main | Oldest Hebrew Text Discovered »

October 28, 2008


Holman's QuickSource Guide to Christian Apologetics is an excellent book. In addition to its great content, its layout is what makes it work. There's full-color pictures and it just look really nice. I got copies for my entire sunday school class (grade 11's) last year hoping that they'd actually read it, and I know that many actually have. :) Recommended!

The new website looks good too, although I usually prefer websites to not be Flash-only ...

I find it interesting that the dualism argument is here again so soon. I thought the folks at STR fianlly put this issue to rest. STR has presented arguments for substance dualism time ans again yet people still come up with diffrent theories.

One of the most intriguing fallacies is the idea that arises form the physicalist encampment. They often compare our brain to some type of computer or say that parts of the brain can be replaced with spare parts. How can the brain function like a computer? The answer is that they don't function like a computer. If the brain functioned like a computer then everything we sense and others sense from us (i.e., would have to be explained in third person by the agent or speaker and interpreted in third person by the listener. This is becasue computers have no form of first person introspection, so if we are computers then we have no first person introspection.

To further clarify, I can analyze an emotional issue from a distance on a personal or impersonal level, if I so choose in first person. Computers can not analyze emotional issues from a first person point of view. If they could then the first person introspection device would have to be in the processors and outside the processors at the same time.

To say that consciousness was in the processor and outside the processor at the same time is a physical and metaphysical problem. If the computer is in a materialistic realm then its consciousness would have to be in one place at a time, in fact it could only be in one place. If it is nonmaterial then it has no boundaries. But who has heared of a computer with a soul? A ghost in the machine type of syndrome.

Anyway, food for thought.

Just read an article on the site about "Planet formation and Genesis 1" linked from that site and the author espouses a "millions of years" interpretation. I find that to be a very difficult view to harmonize with Genesis 1 in particular with the issue of original sin. If God indeed used evolutionary forces to bring about creation, then:
1) There was death before Adam's sin
2) There is no need for a literal Adam
3) Why stop the evolutionary process with humankind in the current form - why not evolve us to beings that are not under the influence of sin.

I also find his interpretation of day 4 of the creation sequence to be extremely disingenuous. Genesis 1 is not written from the vantage point of someone on earth - indeed there was no one on earth until day 6! The text clearly says that there was an act of creation regd the sun and the stars. If the God of the universe cannot be trusted to accurately convey the events of creation in the very first chapter of the Bible, the entire Bible is brought to question.

Any one happen to know Doug's email? I tried to send him something through his website, but the "submit" button for contact's appears to redirect to the "welcome page" immediately and does not send the message.


Part 1:

"If God indeed used evolutionary forces to bring about creation, then..."

Your argument seems to be this:

If you believe in millions of years, then your are an evolutionist.

This book espouses an old earth

Therefore, this author is an evolutionist.

This argument is not valid because it affirms the consequent. It is possible to believe in an old earth and not be an evolutionist.

Part 2

" I find that to be a very difficult view to harmonize with Genesis 1 in particular with the issue of original sin."

Romans 5:12 states that death did enter the world through the sin of one man but that sin spread to all men (note, not all living things).

I don't think there is a place in the Bible that directly says death came to living things other than men. I could be wrong about that.

Part 3:

I think the idea is that the spirit of God is the witness to the events in Genesis 1 and is relating them to Moses. The spirit of God was hovering over the waters according to the first couple of verses.


If the physical organism is in fact distributed in nature, rather than reduced to either one single part of the brain or some such thing, then we cannot reduce its presence to "one place at a time". Put in one other term, it's presence is in a field that includes the entire organism rather than one simple part of it. This, in my mind, shows that the typical arguments only aply to physicalistic reductionism, not physicalism/materialism per se.

But your bringing up spatiality is also interesting, because there is *nothing* in experience that shows my self to be unextended, not having any location whatsoever. Any introspection always shows me as a situated being, with my body as my primary locus. 'I' am present all throughout my body (because the unity of my body demands that it be unified and distributed), not that 'I' am literally no-where. Even near-death experiences, as one argument given by Moreland and others, report spatial experiences: viewing the hospital (or other remote events) from a certain spatial perspective, moving through space at an incredible speed, and *many*/*most* even report having a body (Raymond Moody, in his classic _Life After Life_, presents an experience of some kind of a body as "theoretically ideal", which is never mentioned by Evangelical uses of that work).


On Part 3: doesn't that then show that the "spirit of God", according to the author of Genesis, is spatial as it was "hovering" "over" something? Applying spatial terms to a supposedly immaterial entity?

Hi Kevin,

That is an interesting aspect to think about. I think the assumptions there are that 1) the spirit is always immaterial 2) That immaterial things cannot have properties of position in space. A corollary you did not say, but may be implied is that immaterial beings cannot effect or be effected the material world.

After thinking about it, I am not sure any of those assumptions hold true to what the Bible says the spirit is like. For example, In Luke 1:34 the holy spirit (same word meaning in Greek as in Hebrew for spirit) came upon Mary and she conceived. That would mean the spirit of God can effect spatial changes. If it can effect spatial changes, why could it not hover also?


I'm not very concerned with issues of causation as the usual non-response is that we don't know yet how material entities causally interact, so not knowing how an immaterial entity interacts with a material entity is not a strong argument against it. Though I think this is comparing apples to oranges, it is not my point: there is no good 'argument from introspection' that demonstrates the non-extended nature of the self. Every act of introspection shows myself as a embodied, situated being, who certainly is located in space.

On your last point, I'm pointing to what I feel is the fact that the Biblical writers see the spirit as material, not as immaterial, though made of a much finer substance, like 'wind' (a material element). The word for immaterial certainly isn't in either Biblical Testament and the etymology of the words for spirit (ruach and pneuma) both have strong materialistic elements (primarily 'wind'). We could add to this places in the Bible where life is equated with blood (another material element) and I don't think a strong case for the material-immateriality duality can be found (though it can be read into it by post-Clement theologians); spirit and body are both material, and hence localized to some extent, though their materiality is different.

I missed your last point: "If it can effect spatial changes, why could it not hover also?" Because one relates to immediate contact with subsequent change while the other relates to being above (i.e. not touching or influencing) an element. I guess you could argue that the Biblical author meant that God's spirit causally influenced the air above the primordial waters such that it elicited the physical pattern of something 'hovering' over it, but I'm guessing that isn't what you mean (and isn't what the author seems to mean; I would be *highly* interested in an argument that such is what they meant). No, the author seems to be attributing spatial presence (and, I would add, movement) of the spirit, not a causal presence.

". . . 1) There was death before Adam's sin . . . " -- kpolo (Kpolo disagrees with this idea.)

Well there was death before Adam's sin. And with the 6 days being actual earth days. On the sixth day, God said to Adam, ". . . the day you eat thereof thou shalt surely die." Death was already a part of this creation.

On the fourth day it doesn't say God "'created' the Sun and Moon and stars." Rather God "made" two lights, and the lesser of the lights with the stars. The stars were already there! But the Sun and Moon and stars didn't appear to earth until the 4th day. It says God "made" "lights" on the fouth day. On the basis of the Sun became a star on the first day "Let there be light" it takes typically about four earth days for our Sun's solar wind to blow the debris from between the Sun and earth past the earth.

You make a d point. I too would like to see the argument developed further. However, this is getting out of my expertise.

I am not sure I would agree with the spirit in Gen. 1 not acting as a causal agent, the spirit may have been causing something to happen just like with Mary. I have seen it argued that this may be the spirit creating life in the waters. Though it is not my intention to debate that topic because it is not my argument. But it might be a possibility.

arrrg.....supposed to say "good point" sorry.

>> No, the author seems to be attributing spatial presence (and, I would add, movement) of the spirit, not a causal presence.

I would say that the author is indeed attributing spatial presence of the spirit, but only because our limited understanding doesn't allow us to understand the particulars of how an incorporeal being affects materials [or creates them, for that matter, in the case of the incorporeal God].

I understand the passage to be saying that what God did next, he did with a premeditation; And since everything anybody does is with at least some premeditation, that the author would *highlight* the fact that there was premeditation presumably means that what was done was part of a great plan. This fits the bill, I think.

So, "hover" = "premeditation", or that "he was getting ready to do something", basically, since the Spirit is incorporeal.

>> Any introspection always shows me as a situated being, with my body as my primary locus.

This is only true if you are also asking yourself "Where does my autonomy seem most associated with my body?"

But this is not the issue.

The question is: Given that my autonomy is a first cause, is it reasonable to suppose that my autonomy is, indeed, situated in space?

Because, it may simply be that your autonomy comes from an incorporeal being, which merely has access to the physical world via physical extremeties (and, ultimately, via the physical brain).

I think it is far more reasonable to believe this latter view, since first causes must be incorporeal, and, therefore, do not take up space.

At any rate, it is not necessary to conclude, from the fact that we control a spatial body, that our souls are similarly spatially situated.

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