1 Stan the Man, it seems we are heading off track (I take full responsibility for this), especially after

you read the following, but, in fact, we are getting closer and closer to a very important concept that will lead us back (albeit eventually) to our topic. All we have is time, so bear with me (you may have not caught this idea in my earlier posts). Stan, you said: “The brain works by firing electric charges that then release chemicals that make others fire electric charges.” This is commonly known as reductionism, or, physicalism. I will define this concept a wee bit herein, but this subject is quite interesting, so forgive me if this post is long. Materialism, as a view of human beings, is just the claim that we are our bodies and nothing more. There are no nonmaterial minds, or souls, or thoughts, or sensations. Everything that exists in a human being is a material entity or material process involving only matter and its functions. Eliminative Materialism says that there are just no such things as thoughts and pains and itches. There are just brains and neural events. Reductive Materialism allows that thoughts and sensations exist, but reduces them to, or identifies them with, neural events, states, and processes.1 Reductionism is in one sense explaining something (a thought, act, or proclivity) by deriving it from something else which is supposedly more elementary. The apparent attraction of materialist reductionism is that by declaring mental activity to be no more than a particularly complex application of physical and chemical processes in the brain, it promises in principle that scientists can understand the mind in the same way that they understand the movements of planets in the solar system or the combinations of chemicals in a test tube. In the more logically relentless formulations of the materialist program, mental states like intention and love are regarded as mere placeholders that can be eliminated from consideration when science understands the chemical mechanisms that produce these subjective phenomena.2 The question becomes, “How much does love weigh?” You see, even emotional responses such as love, or the feeling of loss and pain at the death of a loved one is reduced to merely chemical reactions and neurons firing in the brain. Where this leads is easy to see, since there is nothing outside of people by which to judge good and evil, sin is synonymous with survival of the fittest – people seeking dominance over each other by whatever means (e.g., by force or by legislation) possible. Only our sense of social order allows sin to be seen as sin at all. Rape is merely currently taboo because of our currant social order, thus, rape is not morally wrong because of anything intrinsic to it being immoral or moral. There is no theological basis for defining sin (i.e., evil, or good acts) or for normative ethical behavior. If people instinctively know that murder is wrong, it is because this information was programmed into them through evolution for the sake of maintaining the human race, not because it is right or wrong according to God, or Natural Law. This leads to determinism, which I must thoroughly define before I refute it… again, sorry for the length of this post. Robots and Cosmic Puppetry: The Scientific Challenge to Freedom Since at least the time of Sir Isaac Newton, scientists and philosophers impressed by the march of science have offered a picture of human behavior that is not promising for a belief in freedom. All nature is viewed by them as one huge mechanism, with human beings serving as just parts of that giant machine. On this view, we live and think in accordance with the same laws and causes that move all other physical components of the universal mechanism. According to these thinkers, everything that happens in nature has a cause. Suppose then that an event occurs, which, in context, is clearly a human action of the sort that we would normally call
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Philosophy for Dummies, Tom Morris [p. 159] Reason in the Balance: The Case Against Naturalism in Science, Law and Education, Phillip Johnson [30-year professor of law at Berkley], pp. 125-126

2 free. As an occurrence in this universe, it has a cause. But then that cause, in turn, has a cause. And that cause in turn has a cause, and so on, and so on [remember, reductionism]. “Everything is determined, the beginning as well as the end, by forces over which we have no control. It is determined for the insect as well as for the star. Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust, we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible player” ~ Albert Einstein. As a result of this scientific world view, we get the following picture: Natural conditions outside our control… cause… Inner bodily and brain states, which cause… mental and physical actions But if this is true, then you are, ultimately, just a conduit or pipeline for chains of natural causation that reach far back into the past before your birth and continue far forward into the future after your death. You are not an originating cause of anything [this includes brain activity of all degrees, that is, love, pain, etc.). Nothing you ever do is due to your choices or thoughts alone. You are a puppet of nature. You are no more than a robot programmed by an unfeeling cosmos. Psychologists talk about heredity and environment as responsible for everything you do. But then if they are, you aren’t. Does it follow that you can then do as you please, irresponsibly? Not at all. It only follows that you will do as nature and nurture please. But then, nature on this picture turns out to be just an illusory veil over a heartless, uncaring nature. You have what nature gives you. Nothing more, nothing less. Where is human freedom in this picture? It doesn’t exist. It is one of our chief illusions. The natural belief in free will is just a monstrous falsehood. But we should not feel bad about holding on to this illusion until science corrects us. We can’t have helped it. This reasoning is called The Challenge of Scientific Determinism. According to determinists, we are determined in every respect to do everything that we ever do. This again is a serious challenge to human freedom. It is the reason that the early scientist Pierre Laplace (1749-1827) once said that if you could give a super-genius a total description of the universe at any given point in time, that being would be able to predict with certainty everything that would ever happen in the future relative to that moment, and retrodict with certainty anything that had ever happened in any moment before that described state. Nature, he believed, was that perfect machine. And we human beings were just cogs in the machine, deluded in our beliefs that we are free.3 Remember the beginning of a previous paper I posted? It started out by saying: Let us start this jolly good time with a most interesting thought from Stephen Hawkings (who holds the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, Einstein’s chair) at a lecture given to a university crowd in England entitled “Determinism – Is Man a Slave or the Master of His Fate.” He discussed whether we are the random products of chance, and hence, not free, or whether God had designed these laws within which we are free. In other words, do we have the ability to make choices, or do we simply follow a chemical reaction induced by millions of mutational collisions of free atoms?

Philosophy for Dummies, by Tom Morris, pp. 133-134

3 Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s maxim rings just as true today as it did in his day, “If there is no God, all things are permissible.” Without an absolute ethical norm, morality is reduced to mere preference and the world is a jungle where might makes right. This same strain of thought caused Mussolini to comment, “Everything I have said and done in these last years is relativism by intuition…. If relativism signifies contempt for fixed categories and men who claim to be bearers of an objective, immortal truth… then there is nothing more relativistic than fascistic attitudes and activity…. From the fact that all ideologies are of equal value, that all ideologies are mere fictions, the modern relativist infers that everybody has the right to create for himself his own ideology and to attempt to enforce it with all the energy of which he is capable.” Evil, say, infanticide is reduced to determinism. (Brain function [choice, action] reduces to chemical reactions, which are caused by a physical process, which in turn are caused by a physical [reduced] cause… etc ad infinitum.) And when a person says, “I reject the thought of an ultimate being. So how do I determine ‘right’ from ‘wrong’? I don't. I simply base things on choices. It is my belief that that the only moral system is a system that let's everyone make their own choices, and live their life as they wish”,4 they do not realize what they are thus accepting as the rule of life, as I will now refute. And one would have to admit if he or she rejects God, physicalism is all that is left. Mind/Body Physicalism Refuted5 A number of philosophers have argued that physicalism must be false because it implies determinism and determinism is self-refuting. Speaking of the determinist, J. R. Lucas says: If what he says is true, he says it merely as the result of his heredity and environment, and nothing else. He does not hold his determinist views because they are true, but because he has such-and-such stimuli; that is, not because the structure of the structure of the universe is such-and-such but only because the configuration of only part of the universe, together with the structure of the determinist’s brain, is such as to produce that result…. Determinism, therefore, cannot be true, because if it was, we should not take the determinists’ arguments as being really arguments [say, whether or not homosexuality is a right or not] as being really arguments, but as being only conditioned reflexes. Their statements should not be regarded as really claiming to be true, but only as seeking to cause us to respond in some way desired by them. (Freedom of the Will, by John Lucas) H. P. Owen states that: Determinism is self-stultifying. If my mental processes are totally determined, I am totally determined either to accept or to reject determinism. But if the sole reason for my believing or not believing X is that I am causally determined to believe it I have no ground for holding that my judgment is true or false. (Christian Theism, p. 118) … if one claims to know that physicalism is true, or to embrace it for good reasons, if one claims that it is a rational position which should be chosen on the basis of evidence [as one does when they reject theism], then this claim is self-refuting. This is so because physicallism seems to deny the possibility of rationality. To see this, let us examine the necessary preconditions which must hold if there is to be such a thing as rationality and show how physicalism denies these preconditions. At least five factors must obtain if there are to be genuine rational agents who can accurately reflect on the world. First, minds must have internationality; they must be capable of having thoughts about or of the world. Acts of inference are “insights into” or “knowings of” something other than themselves. Second, reasons, propositions, thoughts, laws of logic and evidence, and truth must exist and be capable of being instanced in people’s minds and influencing their thought processes. This fact is
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Giaddon – another person involved in the debate. Scaling the Secular City: A Defense of Christianity, by J. P. Moreland, pp. 90-92

4 hard to reconcile with physicallism. To see this, consider the field of ethics. Morality prescribes what we ought to do (prescriptive); it does not merely describe what is in fact done (descriptive). Objective morality makes sense if real moral laws or oughts exist and if normative, moral properties like rightness, goodness, worth, and dignity exist in acts (the act of honoring one’s parents) and things (persons and animals have worth) [this all applies to the debate over homosexuality]. If physicalism is true as a worldview, there are no moral properties or fullblooded oughts. Physical states just are, and one physical state causes or fails to cause another physical state. A physical state does not morally prescribe that another physical ought to be. If physicalism is true, oughts are not real moral obligations telling us what one should do to be in conformity with the moral universe. Rather, “ought” serves as a mere guide for reaching a socially acceptable or psychologically desired goal (e.g., “if one wants to have pleasure and avoid pain, then one ‘ought’ to tell the truth”). Moral imperatives become grounded in subjective preferences on the same level as a preference for Burger King over McDonald’s…. In another debate I was in, I let some of my favorite quotes explain the concept: Reductionism - The theory that every complex phenomenon, esp. in biology or psychology, can be explained by analyzing the simplest, most basic physical mechanisms that are in operation during the phenomenon. (Random-House Webster) C.S. Lewis pointed out that even our ability to reason and think rationally would be called into question if atheistic evolution were true: “If the solar system was brought about by an accidental collision, then the appearance of organic life on this planet was also an accident, and the whole evolution of Man was an accident too. If so, then all our thought processes are mere accidents - the accidental by-product of the movement of atoms. And this holds for the materialists and astronomers as well as for anyone else's. But if their thoughts — i.e. of Materialism and — are merely accidental by-products, why should we believe them to be true? I see no reason for believing that one accident should be able to give a correct account of all the other accidents.” Phillip Johnson, law professor at Berkley for thirty years, explains this dilemma as well: “Are our thoughts ‘nothing but’ the products of chemical reactions in the brain, and did our thinking abilities originate for no reason other than their utility in allowing our DNA to reproduce itself? Even scientific materialists have a hard time believing that. For one thing, materialism applied to the mind undermines the validity of all reasoning, including one’s own. If our theories are products of chemical reactions [rather than from our soul or spirit, as evolutionists would say], how can we know whether our theories are true? Perhaps [evolutionist] Richard Dawkins believes in Darwinism only because he has a certain chemical in his brain, and if his belief be changed by somehow inserting a different chemical.” To get this into layman’s terms, I will let the philosopher J. P. Moreland, from his debate with renowned atheist Kai Nielson, explain it: “Suppose you were driving on a train and you saw a sign on the hillside that said, ‘Wales in ten miles.’ Suppose you knew that the wind had blown that sign together. If the sign had been put together by a purely non-intelligent random process… there would be no reason to trust the information conveyed by the sign.” C. S. Lewis finishes his thought from above: “It’s like expecting that the accidental shape taken by the splash when you upset a milk-jug should give you a correct account of how the jug was made and why it was upset.”

5 So you see, when one denies that absolute moral Law, one cannot, then, defend any position as being true, or morally elevated over another position. All our discussion merely becomes points of view, opinion, no different than if you like vanilla over chocolate ice cream, or if you prefer Hitler to Mother Teresa, or, heterosexuality over homosexuality. All are equal, and interchangeable. In order for us to make sense of this subject (whether it is wrong to deny homosexuals “rights” that they deserve, and ought to have), one must posit a Creator that makes the difference between the two positions viable and meaningful. This is why in their book, Relativism: Feet Planted Firmly In Mid-Air, Beckwith and Koukl argue that the gay person would want to accept the Judeo-Christian form of theism so that their Natural Rights will have force and meaning existentially (stresses the individual's unique position as a self-determining agent responsible for the authenticity of his or her choices). I will end with a cute story that exemplifies the above ideas. One day there was an experiment that a gentlemen volunteered for, it was to test motor functions and will. The scientists hooked up electrical stimulators to the gentlemen’s area of the brain that controls motor functions. After they were ready, they told the man to stop his right hand from clenching closed – making a fist. The man acknowledged this, and proceeded to do just that. However, the man’s hand clenched shut on the scientists prompt. The scientist again told the man to try harder, the same result followed. Again the scientist asked the man to try as hard as possible. As you can imagine, the same result. The scientist mentioned that the next time would be the last, as, there was nothing the man could do to stop his neuron-firing impulses from stopping his hand from becoming a fist. Just as the man felt the surge of power, he reached over with his left hand and kept his right hand from becoming a fist. The point is that our actions, thoughts, decisions and the like, cannot be reduced to just chemical reactions in our brain. Some headline examples: “Infidelity – It May Be In Our Genes”;6 “20th Century Blues” – Stress, anxiety, depression: the new science of evolutionary psychology finds the roots of modern maladies in our genes;7 “Born Happy (Or Not)” – Happiness is more than just a state of mind… It is in the genes too;8 “Born To Be Gay?”;9 “What Makes Them Do It?” – People who crave thrills, new evidence indicates, may be prompted at least partly by their genes;10 “Your Genes May Be Forcing You To Eat Too Much”.11 And as I have already shown with the examples I made to you last post, this “determining” factor undermines all rational thought and expression, and thus, morals. Much, Much Thought, SeanG

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Time, August 15, 1994 Time, August 28, 1995 8 New Zealand Herald, August 8, 1996 9 New Scientist, September 28, 1996, p. 32 10 Time, January 15, 1996 11 Sunday Star-Times (Auckland), January 18, 1998