Creationists declare war over the brainWe see as through a glass, darkly. Which is to say, we see parts of the whole, and have to guess the rest, while searching for more and better data. It really is like solving a jigsaw puzzle, formulating hypotheses about what the picture we're trying to find is, and using those hypotheses to guide our search in particular areas. "This corner piece is entirely blue, so let's see what other blue pieces there are, as it's unlikely that the blueness is confined only to this one piece."
"YOU cannot overestimate," thundered psychiatrist Jeffrey Schwartz, "how threatened the scientific establishment is by the fact that it now looks like the materialist paradigm is genuinely breaking down. You're gonna hear a lot in the next calendar year about... how Darwin's explanation of how human intelligence arose is the only scientific way of doing it... I'm asking us as a world community to go out there and tell the scientific establishment, enough is enough! Materialism needs to start fading away and non-materialist causation needs to be understood as part of natural reality."
His enthusiasm was met with much applause from the audience gathered at the UN's east Manhattan conference hall on 11 September for an international symposium called Beyond the Mind-Body Problem: New Paradigms in the Science of Consciousness. Earlier Mario Beauregard, a researcher in neuroscience at the University of Montreal, Canada, and co-author of The Spiritual Brain: A neuroscientist's case for the existence of the soul, told the audience that the "battle" between "maverick" scientists like himself and those who "believe the mind is what the brain does" is a "cultural war".
Schwartz and Beauregard are part of a growing "non-material neuroscience" movement. They are attempting to resurrect Cartesian dualism - the idea that brain and mind are two fundamentally different kinds of things, material and immaterial - in the hope that it will make room in science both for supernatural forces and for a soul. The two have signed the "Scientific dissent from Darwinism" petition, spearheaded by the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, headquarters of the intelligent design movement. ID argues that biological life is too complex to have arisen through evolution.
I've written in a previous post about a simple experiment that would show the existence of a non-material form of perception and consciousness. I don't believe such will be found, but it's worth a look, just to make absolutely sure. That post also delved into attempts to synthesise an intelligence, a mind, by emulating each of its known components. We already know that we can take very simple electronics, and have the resultant entity replicate the behaviour of a simple creature such as a spiny lobster. To me, that argues against spiny lobsters being terribly intelligent, but others may disagree.
I've also written in many previous posts about the quantum weirdness that is currently our only explanation - and our only reason for looking for it - for a split between Mind and Brain. Almost all of psychiatry, a whole branch of medicine, is predicated on such a split existing, or at least, it relies on such a split being a useful model, a facet of the truth, even if the thing as a whole is purest hokum.
It's no accident though that a profession that was once largely about dream-analysis and racial-memory recovery is now more about balancing neurotransmitters and titrating doses of chemicals. The "God of the Psychiatric Gaps" has lost much of his temple now, and it's shrinking all the time.
One thing though that has been lost in the shuffle: the disproof of the narrowest definition of Theism. We can't prove that the Universe wasn't created. We can prove that if a creator (or Creator) existed, then only Deism is consistent with the facts. That such a Creator certainly can't be Omniscient - for as an observer, the Creator would cause the collapse of wave-functions that we know remain indeterminate. We can show that any Divine Intervention would require things to be quite different, and outside existing physical laws.
It's possible to postulate such an Entity, one who can do anything, outside all physical bounds, but such an Entity would be utterly ineffable, and completely outside our understanding in even the smallest respect. If He can do anything whatsoever then there's no point in saying that anything is cause or anything is effect. The Invisible Pink Unicorn does the lot.
Maybe so. And maybe you who are reading this blog only came into existence a microsecond ago, complete with memories and a whole physical Universe to exist in. I can't prove you didn't, and neither can you. All you have to do is to suspend all physical laws, which the Invisible Pink Unicorn has to be able to do in order to intervene in even the smallest way.
To me, a really impressive Deity would be one who sets the ball rolling, then gets out of the way, hoping and expecting that after the requisite eons of cooking, that the recipe will be a success. Perhaps not the first time He's done it, either. Making Friends, as I'll explain later.
Do I think that there is a "soul", a non-material component to existence? I really don't know. I hope there is, but hoping and wishing is not the same as believing. I certainly think it's possible, given what we know now. If it exists though, it should be possible to detect it. Perhaps not in the OOBE experiments I mentioned before, but in other ways. And if it is indetectable, then it may as well be said not to exist. Or to be exactly as real as the Invisible Pink Unicorn (mhhhnbs).
And meanwhile in my PhD studies I'm finding out not just the what of Evolution, but the How. Not just in biological systems, but systems generally, how biospheres and ecologies (including economies and religions) evolve. "Intelligent Design" I consider an uninteresting idea, as un-necessary as the IPU doing things with her holy unshod hooves. Maybe Aliens really did come to Earth and steer Evolution. I can't prove they didn't. I think I can prove that it's un-necessary to postulate them in order to explain observations though.
What I would like to happen after my death is that I eventually get to meet a Creator who was so utterly clever, so benevolent and kind, that He created a whole Multiversal system that would (he hoped) generate Universes that would allow the development of beings like himself, without further intervention or observation. That would generate Species that would eventually evolve into his equals, and his offspring.
Wanting is not the same as believing though, and until I see rather more compelling evidence than I have of a metaphysical reality, it's not something I give any great weight to.
You might note that I haven't mentioned morality above. That's because I consider it to be an an entirely separate issue. If something is Evil, it's Evil, regardless of whether a Big Bully Policeman in the Sky will send anyone to an eternal torture-chamber for not for doing it. Similarly, if something is Good, it's Good. And would be so even if doing that meant Eternal Damnation at the hands of "Infinite Power and Infinite Sadism". But that's another story...