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August 19, 2014


All of the evidence given shows that some mental states happen at almost the same time as some brain states.

Something that has not been in doubt for the last 2000 years, let alone the last 200.

That mental states are the same thing as brain states is as unwarranted as the claim that smoke is the same as fire, livers are the same as hearts, up is the same as down and so on.

Given what the challenger says, the knee-jerk, conclusion I think you would draw is that some brain states cause some mental states. And if that is so, the claim that the mind is the brain is automatically false, since that would be saying that sometimes the cause is the same thing as the effect, which can never be true.

This knee-jerk reaction is, of course, also unwarranted, but it underscores just how unpersuasive the challenge is. Any mind-body conclusion you draw from the evidence given, be it materialism, dualism or idealism, is unwarranted. Any mind-body conclusion you draw from that evidence is a conclusion you are jumping to, not one that the evidence compels you to accept.

But the fact that the most tempting conclusion to jump to is that some brain states cause some mental states, a dualistic conclusion, shows that the challenge isn't even a very good non sequitur for materialism.

It would seem to me that the biggest issue here is that the challenge itself is starting from the wrong place - that is that in order to even know that we are our brain, they would need to know that they exist. Descartes said

I think, therefore, I am

He knew that the ability to think was evidence for his existence beyond just the physical realm. That there was something more to him than just a body. If we really were simply synaptic responses inside of a meat computer, we would have no knowledge of our own existence to even begin to ponder these questions. The mere fact that we are able to ponder means we are aware of our existence within ourselves.

So to begin this challenge with the claim of evidence is actually evidence in itself that the soul exists apart from the brain and from the physical and takes on the appearance of a suicidal statement.

"All of the evidence given shows that some mental states happen at almost the same time as some brain states.

Something that has not been in doubt for the last 2000 years, let alone the last 200."

Well put, WisdomLover.

To that I will add that there do exist quite a number of Christian "nonreductive physicalists", people like the philosopher Nancey Murphy over at Fuller Theological Seminary, and the British neuroscientist Malcolm Jeeves. I would direct those who are interested to the books "Whatever Happened to the Soul?" (1998, Fortress Press) and "From Cells to Souls - And Beyond" (2004, Eerdmans), both of which are collections of chapters by various authors on this topic. The authors are committed Christians and serious scholars who do not see metaphysical dualism as necessary for Christianity.

I do not know if I fully agree with their position (I have certain questions about it that I have not yet seen adequately answered, but then again I have not yet read everything that they have written). But there is enough merit to the arguments of the Christian physicalists that I consider it to be a viable perspective in the body-soul debate.

So even if this individual's argument, that current neuroscience demands a physicalist view of humanity, were correct (which it is not), that view is still not lethal to Christianity.

The challenger assumes that there is evidence for physicalism when in fact there is not. If there were an physically undetectable non-physical realm, then there would be a lack of knowledge about it, not evidence of its nonexistence. In fact there is evidence of its existence the wealth of which cannot be handled effectively in one little blurb of a comment. What is certain is that despite the evidence presuppositional physicalists will deny that the evidence leads to the conclusion that there is a non-physical realm. The reason is because they will analyze the evidence with physicalism as a presupposition. The answer therefore is to point out how they assume physicalism a priori to analyzing any evidence. In order for them to know that there is no non-physical realm, they would need knowledge that is not available to them as a physicalist if their position is to be coherent. So they have an epistemological problem.

The brain is a computer made out of meat. its a meat computer! that's pretty cool. Can science which deals with the physical be used to determine the non-physical? If fact, the statement 'there is no soul', and the statement, 'there is a soul', are both metaphysical statements and can't be proved by science. So how can the author, or science, make a claim that there is no soul, and not that there is a soul? This shows that atheistic based science, also then, is a faith based religion.

Yes, the challenger is implying that we should be able to build computers that think and are conscious and emotional like us. One way for Christians to respond is to ask why AI researchers have failed for so many years to build the super AI entity.

Maybe the challenger would just say we need more time, but the Christian theory of the soul suggests it's impossible for people ever to build a living, conscious machine. And I think a lot of atheists actually agree with that position.

The difference between the brain and the mind is similar to the difference between a film and a movie. The film is not the movie and the movie is not the film. Of course there is a relationship between the film and the movie — you cannot have on with out the other but they are not the same thing. How foolish it would be to hold a film, the Lord of the Rings for example, and say, " I can't see the movie, I can't feel the movie, I can't hear the movie, I can't taste the movie, or I can't smell the movie, so there must be no movie." All one has to do is put the film in the movie projector, turn it on and voila - there is the movie. The brain and the mind are similar. The brain and the mind are in relationship to each other but they are not the identical. You cannot see, taste, feel, hear or smell the mind but when you have an encounter with that person, voila you have connected not just with a brain a with a conscious mind.

If all we are is brain, then all of our feelings are merely chemical reactions that we have no power over. Love, anger, mercy, kindness, justice are meaningless words for they are not real. They are results of chemical reactions not personal choices or genuine emotions.

If all we are is brain, then all of our thoughts products of atoms interacting with each other. As C.S. Lewis mentioned somewhere, how can we trust our thought to be true about anything.

If all we are is brain, then we have no personal obligation nor personal responsibility for our actions for we are powerless to alter the results of the chemical reactions of our brain. Everything then is determined.

But if we are both brain and mind, then we have a basis for our emotions, our thoughts and our obligations as legitimate with the beauty to make choices that matter and can help change our world.

I like how this challenge starts with the assertion about the overwhelming evidence for physicalism, then he does not give any evidence.

I would simply ask for said evidence since I know that science cannot (even in principle) prove anything about non-material things such as a soul.

Jim Pemberton,

If there were an physically undetectable non-physical realm, then there would be a lack of knowledge about it, not evidence of its nonexistence.

Is that 'a physically' or 'any physically' or something else?

I think you are saying that evidence for physicalism is some how not possible. Is that right?

[Presuppositional physicalists] analyze the evidence with physicalism as a presupposition.

OK, you don't like that. So, what if they don't presume physicalism and still find evidence for it?


What a peculiar turn of events. As Hawking and other minds exit time and material for some other something in regress, on evidential necessity, into something even, perhaps, void of cause-effect, we stumble - in physics - upon the Naturalist's own dualism. Whatever materialism regresses to, it does, is, of late, on necessity, regressing into something wholly alien to our current concept of energy and mass (material). Physicalism is hopeless, if by physicalism we mean the measurable stuff which composes our current perception of time, space, and material.

Charles is - therefore - correct. Physicalism, even if granted, carries the brain exactly where it carries everything else - back to the timeless, the "immaterial", if by immaterial we mean that Some-Thing which is - Hawking and the rest of us with him pontificate - that which precedes all the stuff inside our universe - all the stuff inside our brain.

The evidence in this challenge - therefore - is - simply - exactly the same sort of evidence which physics is - on pondering - on evidentialism - moving ever closer towards Genesis 1:1 with as the Uncaused, the Timeless, the Immaterial just does precede, out-distance the stuff of synapses.

Troubling Semantics:

Listen closely to the language of where and into what physics is taking us. The staunchest of Naturalists echoes Dualism in all his semantics. Of course, he, like the Theist, does not really mean two wholly disconnected something-s. Science is, step by step, catching up with the true nature of Actuality echoed eons ago by Man as he followed the self-evident I-AM into quite another sort of place. The immaterial-some-thing which precedes all things is not granted a free pass merely because we speak of the stuff inside our skulls rather than the stuff inside our universe. The Naturalist's dualism doesn't work that way.

Hawking and everybody else knows that materialism is dead.

The Immaterial and Timeless do not merely have a foot in the door - they've began paying the mortgage. The house belongs to them and them alone.

I find it odd that some here still cling to physicalism, seemingly unaware of Naturalism's necessary dualism.

Semantics are a funny thing.

I think the principle difficulty here, as Moreland and others have pointed out, is the assumption that causation = identity. This simply is not the case. Two things can be causally related and still not be identical. One tact for showing this is by using Leibniz law of the indiscernability of identicals. Simply because of the fact that whenever an effect in the brain occurs, an effect in the soul occurs, this does NOT show that the two are identical. In fact, there are strong arguments against their identity (first person subjectivity, different characteristics, etc.). And simply because one property is INSEPARABLE from another property does not mean that there are identical. Triangularity is inseparable from trilaterality but this does not mean that there are identical. This is the main problem here. All this evidence could possibly show is that there could be a dependence relationship between the soul/mind and the brain. But even this needs to be argued and not simply assumed via a physicalist presupposition. So I simply don't see this argument as very compelling in the slightest. Those are my prima facie thoughts at least.

"Two things can be causally related and still not be identical"

If two events or states are causally related it is impossible for them to be identical.

ThinkingChristian dot net had a post about an MRI scan predicting (statistics again……beware) a person’s choice of left/right button-pushing up to seven seconds before the person was aware of making the choice. Of course, distractors are not included in the study, such as deciding on Tuesday that one will push the right button, and, on Wednesday – upon pushing the right button – recording the scan’s predictions, and so on with other confounders.

Marcus du Sautoy is an interesting person, a man of faith (atheism), who demonstrates the success of the scan. Dawkins’ successor perhaps, he seeks to discover a relationship between Abstract Things and Physical Things in the world of mathematics. It is an interesting question of the person who decides on Tuesday that he will push the Left button, and on Wednesday – during the scan’s countdown – consciously decides/acts on – Tuesday’s decision, and upon pushing the Left button, observes the scan predict this with great accuracy. Such hypothetical decisions preceding the scan by 24 hours or more, seem confounding, and if it be the narrow or the wide data sets there presented to us, it will be the narrow column taken, the wide column too confounding.

We suppose the wider study awaits, but, as only the narrow data is given, if one’s faith in naturalism demands there be a mathematical formula by which Abstract things surface as Concrete things, then it simply must be so. Perhaps this gentleman is himself immersed within his own brand of platonism, and such brings all of us to interesting boundaries.

The abstraction that is the Number 1, that is mathematics even, is troubling for the physicalist. An atheist once argued with me that the number 1 does not represent any real any-thing, for, with ever thinner slices, “one tree” becomes many branches, and so on, ever downward until all definitions and reason itself all die the death of mereological nihilism. I pointed out to him that Scripture and logic both state that Actuality (whatever “it” “is”) is – it is self-evident – Perfectly-1. If the Multiverse – well then, “that” is [Actuality], and so on. The conversation ended as the self-evident emerged. A mereological nihilist can do little – if anything – with the self-evident as it awaits us more distally – there at the end of an infinitum as we are exploring the nature of Abstraction’s Perfect-1 that is actual of Actuality.

The first person experience here precedes the physical, and the nature of physicalism’s false identity claim emerges. Relation amid A/B cannot satisfy Identity within A = B. The Mind Dependent presents a regress which precedes the screen’s surface both in Time and in Form. A new book (2014) entitled, “Beyond the Control of God?: Six Views on The Problem of God and Abstract Objects” by William Lane Craig finds all sorts of interesting vectors here breaking through our ceilings. Mind – the first person descriptor embedded within experience – seems the universal solvent, forever liquefying all third person formulae in regress, ever finding Abstraction’s timeless and immaterial one bothersome step ahead of the contingent.

Hawking helps us to see that the derived is not all of reality as Naturalism is – now – forced to embrace its own Dualism and therein the challenge in the OP is defeated by Naturalism alone, or, by Theism alone. As in: All margins and borders precede and outdistance both Time and Material whether one posits Theism’s One, Timeless, Immaterial Eternal God or whether one posits Hawking’s One, Timeless, Immaterial, Eternal Imaginary Sphere and therein this obsession with this bit about mass and energy as we know them as some kind of mysterious hard stop to investigation just will not provide any of us with the sightlines we seek. Stop at an MRI’s sightline there within synapses? Oh please. Come back when you’ve some more elemental bit of actuality to present. On volitional thought within synapses, and so on, Naturalism’s Dualism itself defeats the physicalist’s assertion in this challenge. The sorts of questions raised within the arena of future (tensed) freedom, Newcomb’s Paradox, un-tensed (timeless) freedom, and so on simply and utterly subsume the tiny sliver of the contingent which we perceive as mass/energy or space/time. It seems the question of freedom period carries us into more expansive and wide open spaces. There are many places to go here, but some basic initiations (perhaps) are (briefly) touched on in the link HERE or perhaps in the link HERE. On a deceptively simpler tier it is worth repeating: Mind – the first person descriptor embedded within experience – emerges as the universal solvent, forever liquefying all third person formulae in regress, ever finding abstraction’s timeless and immaterial one bothersome step ahead of the contingent.

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