Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Could life have emerged spontaneously on the early Earth?

Last time we saw how the progress of science in the last 30 years has proved that the environment of the early Earth would not have allowed the emergence of the basic building blocks of life. This time, let’s allow the atheist to assume the building blocks were created by the noodly appendage of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, (peas be upon him), and see whether it’s possible for the blocks to chain themselves together to make a living cell withinin a reasonable amount of time (400 million years, say).

For this post, I will be referencing an article by Stephen C. Meyer, which he published in the Catholic journal “First Things”. I chose this article deliberately because it was written at the level of an ordinary layman, so we could all understand everything well enough to feel confident explaining it to our neighbors. All unattributed quotes are from this article.

The combatants

The contest over origins features two opposing points of view:

  • A Creator and Designer is responsible for the origin of life
  • Matter, chance and long periods of time are sufficient to explain the origin of life

What’s at stake?

Atheistic Cornell University professor Will Provine explains what logically follows from naturalistic evolution:

There are no gods, no purposes, and no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end of me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will for humans, either. What an unintelligible idea.

So, the stakes are high.

Why doubt the apparent design in nature?

There are two main reasons why atheists doubt the appearance of design in nature:

Minimal life functionality requires information

In order for a living organism to support life, it must be able to perform minimal functions:

  • store information
  • transmit information
  • edit information
  • use that information to regulate metabolic processes

There must be sufficient information inside the cells of that organism to support those functions. How does this information exist in the cell, and where did it come from?

Atheism is a pre-scientific worldview

Meyer describes the primitive superstitions of tribes of atheists living in primitive, pre-scientific cultures:

…in the 1870s and 1880s scientists assumed that devising an explanation for the origin of life would be fairly easy….they assumed that life was essentially a rather simple substance called protoplasm that could be easily constructed by combining and recombining simple chemicals such as carbon dioxide, oxygen, and nitrogen. …just as salt could be produced spontaneously by adding sodium to chloride, so… could a living cell be produced by adding together several chemical constituents and then allowing spontaneous chemical reactions to produce the simple protoplasmic substance that they assumed to be the essence of life.

Atheists believe in all kinds of primitive pre-scientific myths, like the eternal universe, etc., which the progress of science has falsified. Can the progress of science falsify the atheistic superstitions about the origin of life?

The Oparin-Haldane hypothesis

Atheists began to panic in the early 20th century as discoveries began to pile up confirming the that the entire physical universe, and time itself, was created by a supernatural force that existed transcendentally, independent of matter, energy, space and time. (See here for a listing of 6 of these discoveries from the progress of science). Atheists decided that they’d better get involved in this “science” thing that the Christians had started.

Meyer reports on one of their first groundless speculations:

During the 1920s and 1930s a more sophisticated version of this so–called “chemical evolutionary theory” was proposed by a Russian biochemist named Alexander I. Oparin…. Oparin, like his nineteenth–century predecessors, suggested that life could have first evolved as the result of a series of chemical reactions.

It was hoped that that the Flying Spaghetti Monster would appear to his true believers and ground this blind speculation, allowing atheists to continue in their flight from rationality and moral obligations.

The Miller-Urey experiment

Pre-biotic synthesis (see below) produces amino acids, which are the first step in explaining the origin of the simplest life, on atheism:

How did life begin?

How did life begin?

As we saw last time, the Miller-Urey experiments that were designed to produce the building blocks of life (amino acids) were horribly flawed and did not reflect the conditions that would have existed on the early Earth.

I’ll summarize the problems with the experiment:

  • the gasses were used in the experiment were not those present on the early Earth
  • molecular oxygen was excluded from the experiment
  • Harmful UV radiation was filtered out by the experimenter intervention
  • interfering cross-reactions were prevented by experimenter intervention

Other problems:

  • extinction events, such as meteorite impacts, were excluded not considered
  • the chirality problem (left-handed amino acids, right-handed sugars) was not considered
  • the problem of getting all peptide bonds was not considered

This experiment, though flawed, still exists in biology textbooks today, along side faked photographs of peppered moths and doctored drawings of embryos. All must praise the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and at taxpayer expense!

The problem of biological information

To create life, you need to sequence amino acids into proteins, and sequence the nucleotides on DNA strands.

Meyer explains:

To form a protein, amino acids must link together to form a chain. Yet amino acids form functioning proteins only when they adopt very specific sequential arrangements, rather like properly sequenced letters in an English sentence. Thus, amino acids alone do not make proteins, any more than letters alone make words, sentences, or poetry. In both cases, the sequencing of the constituent parts determines the function (or lack of function) of the whole.

…As it turns out, specific regions of the DNA molecule called coding regions have the same property of “sequence specificity” or “specified complexity” that characterizes written codes, linguistic texts, and protein molecules. Just as the letters in the alphabet of a written language may convey a particular message depending on their arrangement, so too do the sequences of nucleotide bases (the A’s, T’s, G’s, and C’s) inscribed along the spine of a DNA molecule convey a precise set of instructions for building proteins within the cell. The nucleotide bases in DNA function in precisely the same way as symbols in a machine code. In each case, the arrangement of the characters determines the function of the sequence as a whole…. In the case of DNA, the complex but precise sequencing of the four nucleotide bases (A, T, G, and C) stores and transmits the information necessary to build proteins.

…As Bernd–Olaf Kuppers recently stated, “The problem of the origin of life is clearly basically equivalent to the problem of the origin of biological information.”

How do atheists account for this biological information?

Atheistic superstitions about the biological information

Le’s take a look at the atheist’s faith-based explanations of the origin of life: chance, law and self-organization.

For the first one, let’s calculate the odds of building a protein composed of a functional chain of 100 amino acids, by chance. (Think of a meaningful English sentence built with 100 scrabble letters, held together with glue)

1. Chance:

  • BONDING: You need 99 peptide bonds between the 100 amino acids. The odds of getting a peptide bond is 50%. The probability of building a chain of one hundred amino acids in which all linkages involve peptide bonds is roughly (1/2)^99 or 1 chance in 10^30.
  • CHIRALITY: You need 100 left-handed amino acids. The odds of getting a left-handed amino acid is 50%. The probability of attaining at random only L–amino acids in a hypothetical peptide chain one hundred amino acids long is (1/2)^100 or again roughly 1 chance in 10^30.
  • SEQUENCE: You need to choose the correct amino acid for each of the 100 links. The odds of getting the right one are 1 in 20. Even if you allow for some variation, the odds of getting a functional sequence is (1/20)^100 or 1 in 10^65.

The final probability of getting a functional protein composed of 100 amino acids is 1 in 10^125. Even if you fill the universe with pre-biotic soup, and react amino acids at Planck time (very fast!) for 14 billion years, you are probably not going to get even 1 such protein. And you need at least 100 of them for minimal life functions, plus DNA and RNA.

Research performed by Doug Axe at Cambridge University, and published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Molecular Biology, has shown that the number of functional amino acid sequences is tiny:

Doug Axe’s research likewise studies genes that it turns out show great evidence of design. Axe studied the sensitivities of protein function to mutations. In these “mutational sensitivity” tests, Dr. Axe mutated certain amino acids in various proteins, or studied the differences between similar proteins, to see how mutations or changes affected their ability to function properly. He found that protein function was highly sensitive to mutation, and that proteins are not very tolerant to changes in their amino acid sequences. In other words, when you mutate, tweak, or change these proteins slightly, they stopped working. In one of his papers, he thus concludes that “functional folds require highly extraordinary sequences,” and that functional protein folds “may be as low as 1 in 10^77.”

The problem of forming DNA by sequencing nucleotides faces similar difficulties. And remember, mutation and selection cannot explain the origin of the first sequence, because mutation and selection require replication, which does not exist until that first living cell is already in place.

2. Law:

The idea here is that components, such as nucleotides, might have special bonding affinities that might cause them to bond together spontaneously into functional sequences. Like if certain SCRABBLE tiles had an affinity for certain other tiles that caused them to bond together whenever they met.

Meyer writes:

Consider what would happen if the individual nucleotide “letters” in a DNA molecule did interact by chemical necessity with each other. Every time adenine (A) occurred in a growing genetic sequence, it would likely drag thymine (T) along with it. Every time cytosine (C) appeared, guanine (G) would follow. As a result, the DNA message text would be peppered with repeating sequences of A’s followed by T’s and C’s followed by G’s.

3. Self-organization:

The idea here is that some spontaneous order might arise due to some physical force, just like rocks sort themselves by size in a rock agitator because of gravity.

Meyer writes:

…just as magnetic letters can be combined and recombined in any way to form various sequences on a metal surface, so too can each of the four bases A, T, G, and C attach to any site on the DNA backbone with equal facility, making all sequences equally probable (or improbable). The same type of chemical bond occurs between the bases and the backbone regardless of which base attaches. All four bases are acceptable; none is preferred. In other words, differential bonding affinities do not account for the sequencing of the bases. Because these same facts hold for RNA molecules, researchers who speculate that life began in an “RNA world” have also failed to solve the sequencing problem…

Understanding what creates information

The bottom line is that in order for software code, or even English letters, to be functional, it needs to defy ordering mechanisms. Biological sequences are functional for the same reason that software code or English text is functional – because some intelligent agent chose an irregular sequence of characters in order to achieve a specific purpose. Look at the letters in this post – they are not ORDERED by physical laws. They are SELECTED by an intelligent agent.

Meyer writes:

To see the distinction between order and information, compare the sequence “ABABABABAB ABAB” to the sequence “Time and tide wait for no man.” The first sequence is repetitive and ordered, but not complex or informative.

What causes specified, complex sequences?

…the information contained in an English sentence or computer software does not derive from the chemistry of the ink or the physics of magnetism, but from a source extrinsic to physics and chemistry altogether. Indeed, in both cases, the message transcends the properties of the medium… Our experience with information–intensive systems (especially codes and languages) indicates that such systems always come from an intelligent source…

And this is what everybody means by “intelligent design”. This design inference came from the progress of science. The more we discovered about the cell, the more nature pointed towards a creative, designing intelligence. The only option left to atheists now is blind faith that the Flying Spaghetti Monster will swoop in and undo the progress of science over the last 100 years. Good luck with that, atheists!

Further study

One of my favorite resources on the origin of life is this interview from the University of California with former atheist and origin of life researcher Dean Kenyon. Kenyon, a professor of Biology at San Francisco State University, wrote the textbook on “chemical evolution”, which is the view that chemicals can arrange themselves in order to create the first living cell, without intervention.

This interview from the University of California with another origin of life researcher, Charles Thaxton, is also one of my favorites.

You’ll need Quicktime to see the videos, or buy the videos from ARN. (Kenyon, Thaxton) I have both of them – they rock!

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25 Responses

  1. Read the Plantinga article. I agree with it to the extent that if we are evolved creatures, it means that are cognitions are not 100 percent reliable. We wouldn’t imagine that the honeybee’s sense of the world resembles ours, and even if ours is more accurate than the honeybee, it could still be at quite a distance from ultimate reality.

    However, I don’t think that helps religion. While naturalism can’t claim to know ultimate truth, and religion can claim to know ultimate truth, that doesn’t mean religion’s claim is indeed true. I’d say that religion is further off than naturalism. However, I do agree that naturalists should be more humble than they sometimes are.

    • You need a non-material mind/soul in order to be rational. Period. The best explanation for a human soul is that the non-material mind that created the universe also created us with souls. Everything an atheist says, on materialism, is literally non-rational – it’s just soda fizzing, as Doug Wilson says.

      By the way, Plantinga is the best we have. I name my African Violet after him: “Alvin Plantinga”, get it? My office plant, which was a gift from one of my atheistic-Jewish co-workers, is named “Peter Parker”. It’s a spider plant.

      • Havok says:

        The evidence of cognitive psychology, neuroscience etc points very strongly towards the mind being what the brain does, without a need to invoke some supernatural substance outside the causal chain.
        In fact, the “supernatural” part would render your though irrational, as it is supposedly unaffected by the causal chain of the “material”. This results in it being essentially random.
        The good thing is, we can see that entirely material things can behave in a logical, rational fashion. I like to call them computers. Enjoy!

        • James says:

          I’d be interested if you know of any study that shows, rather than assumes, that the evidence of cognitive pscychology and nueroscience points to the “will” or “mind” being a product of the physical brain apparatus. Because for the life of me, all I can find is philosophical naturalist assumptions made, and then declared to fit within the model.

          That’s far from what you’re proposing they say here.

          • Havok says:

            I could track some down for you if you’d like.
            A simple though concerning brains and minds ought to give you a decent start though:
            – damage to the brain causes damage to the mind.
            – drugs in the brain cause changes in the mind.
            – no mechanism for the interaction between brain and immaterial mind, as posited by substance dualism, has ever been presented or demonstrated.

            Now, on to those papers…

          • Havok says:

            Here’s one which purports to show that brain activity preceeds mental activity. And a discussion of the paper by a neurologist.

            I’ll more as I come across interesting papers.

            So, any chance of something similar in support of mind/brain dualism? Thanks

          • James says:

            Sorry, clicked the wrong reply. The above post should be one up. As for the paper, it suffers from the problem of causation and also anectdotal evidence.

            What causes the brain to stir?

            That the brain activity appears before conscious thought is recorded does not substantiate that the reverse is not possible (nor does the paper posit that this is the case).

            It also assumes categorically that the mind, will, self, whatever, can only be demonstrated through consciously aware thought, which I think would be impossible to demonstrate.

            Thoughts?

          • James says:

            Right good. There’s two problems here:

            Causation vs. Interrelatedness: That brain damage effects the minds ability to interract with the outside world is not in question. Whether the mind itself is damaged is in question. You should look into autism for examples of this.

            Drugs, more or less the same. They clearly inhibit the ability of the mind to accurately recieve data in expected ways. Truly, that the mind is aware of the distorted order and confused by it points more towards dualism (can an affected brain know it is affected?)

            3rd point is a priori dismissal common to philosophical naturalism: Science can only discover things that are natural. We can find no natural connection between the natural and the supernatural. The supernatural doesn’t exist.

        • LCB says:

          In a rush this morning, will respond to your posts fully, probably this evening.

          Check out this essay:

          I’m sure you’ll rephrase “the evidence… points very strongly towards the mind being what the brain does”, since that is hardly the quality of evidence that you yourself would accept for almost anything else, as well as the other logical problems associated with the rest of your post.

          Finally, I do agree with you that when things behave in a logical rational way, when they themselves are not the source of logic or reason, it makes an excellent case that they have a creator (like like computers do).

          But perhaps that wasn’t the argument you were trying to make?

          • Havok says:

            LCB, you posted a link to a book on Amazon. I assume by mistake?

            LCB: Finally, I do agree with you that when things behave in a logical rational way

            Good. So we agree that a physical medium is sufficient for logic and rationality. It’s a start…

            LCB:, when they themselves are not the source of logic or reason,

            You’re not going all presuppositional on me are you? I hope you’re trying to make some other point, because from experience its an intellectual black hole.

            LCB: it makes an excellent case that they have a creator (like like computers do).

            I don’t see how you can compare a computer, with it’s uniformity, and the cobbled together lumps in our heads, and somehow then claim they were both created. It simply doesn’t follow.

            LCB: But perhaps that wasn’t the argument you were trying to make?

            Not the argument, and I’m happy you agreed with my argument concerning physical things being sufficient for logic and reasoning.

            So, any argument supporting mind/body dualism which isn’t along the lines of “we haven’t explained it physically, therefore souls” :-)

  2. makarios says:

    This is just a fine fine blog. A good source of important information. Thank you.

  3. [...] Could life have emerged spontaneously on the early Earth? – Great read by the Wintry Knight.  Short answer: Really, really, very unlikely. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Well, duh.Avoiding povertyAddressing a mocker of pro-lifersFeeling the Summer’s Breath [...]

  4. [...] Could life have emerged spontaneously on the early Earth? – Great read by the Wintry Knight.  Short answer: Really, really, very unlikely — and that’s an understatement. [...]

  5. Havok says:

    I moved it down here, to avoid indenting.

    James: Causation vs. Interrelatedness: That brain damage effects the minds ability to interract with the outside world is not in question. Whether the mind itself is damaged is in question. You should look into autism for examples of this.

    Autism is a pretty specific case of developmental impariment.
    How about stroke victims who are able to talk again. Or those who gain some kind of serious brain injury, and report that they know they’re impaired. It doesn’t seem to be some kind of “communications problem” between some undamaged mind and a damaged brain.

    James: Drugs, more or less the same. They clearly inhibit the ability of the mind to accurately recieve data in expected ways.

    I’ve sampled some drugs in my time, and they don’t just effect minds ability to accurately receive data. They mess with the way your mind works. Even alcohol has this effect.

    James: Truly, that the mind is aware of the distorted order and confused by it points more towards dualism (can an affected brain know it is affected?)

    This doesn’t follow, sorry. To claim that the effect of drugs on the mind points towards dualism is to not understand that the drugs (physical things) do effect the mind. They don’t simply “confuse” the sense data it receives.
    Why couldn’t an effected brain understand it was effected. Neurotransmitters are being released, neurons are firing. Seems the brain would be in the perfect position for this.

    James: 3rd point is a priori dismissal common to philosophical naturalism: Science can only discover things that are natural. We can find no natural connection between the natural and the supernatural. The supernatural doesn’t exist.

    1) Supernaturalism is an incoherent concept.
    2) I’m not a priori subscribed to Philosophical naturalism. This link is a good explanation.
    3) If the supernatural has no connection to the natural, then it might as well not exist. What is the difference between something which cannot effect us, and something which isn’t real?

    So, how does mind/brain dualism explain brain activity preceeding mental activity?
    What does the mind in mind/brain dualism add? And how is this achieved?

  6. James says:

    Right, good, and thanks for the link. I wonder what you think of this concluding thought:

    “This means that we are saying–again, tentatively rather than categorically–that we do not live in a supernaturally governed cosmos, and every expansion of scientific understanding, especially the understanding of human existence, e.g., of consciousness and the origin of life, solidifies and confirms this denial.

    Science, because of its reliance upon methodological naturalism, lends no support to belief in the supernatural. Consequently, philosophical naturalism, because of its own grounding in methodological naturalism, has no room for it either. While for the supernaturalist, this absence may be the chief complaint against both science and methodological naturalism, for the philosophical naturalist, it is the source of the greatest confidence in both.”

    Did that paper rule out supernatural?

    It may be helpful to you to go back and look at the assumptions clearly stated around reference [31].

  7. Havok says:

    The paper didn’t rule out the supernatural, as far as I can tell. It does support the contention that “natural” hypothesis are to be preferred, and that due to the subjective nature of supernatural claims, as well as the lack of methodology/process for investigating them, there doesn’t seem to be any good reason to belief that the ‘supernatural’ exists.

    • Paradox says:

      Summa Contra Havok’s Ignorance:
      The evidence of cognitive psychology, neuroscience etc points very strongly towards the mind being what the brain does, without a need to invoke some supernatural substance outside the causal chain.
      Sub-Claims:
      1) -damage to the brain causes damage to the mind.
      2) - drugs in the brain cause changes in the mind.
      These two claims are only refutations of Cartesian Dualism, not Thomistic Dualism or Interactionist Dualism. Do more research on the other hypotheses before you try again. Furthermore, what of the evidence for dualism? Freewill, subjective experience, qualia, persistence of the self over time? These gaps need to be filled, or else your claim is an admission of your ignorance of the subject.

      1) It is possible to replace your entire brain with computer parts.
      2) Despite having a different brain, you would still be the same person.
      3) By Leibniz’s Principle of Indiscernables, you are not your brain; to believe otherwise is absurd, QED.

      3) - no mechanism for the interaction between brain and immaterial mind, as posited by substance dualism, has ever been presented or demonstrated.
      The question of HOW these two aspects of humanity interact does not prove that these two aspects DO NOT interact. And in fact, your assertion is false! Under Thomistic Dualism, the soul is an agent, and tells the brain what to do (Dennett’s “objection” fails).
      In fact, the “supernatural” part would render your though irrational, as it is supposedly unaffected by the causal chain of the “material”. This results in it being essentially random.
      *Face Palm.* Havok, that is the worst objection I have ever heard! It actually makes Daniel Dennett’s objection look GOOD! In dualism, the supernatural CAN be effected by the material. Furthermore, it is NOT essentially random; the Islamic Principle of Determination applies (look that up, don’t just assume its meaning!). Under materialism, matter behaves as it does by nomological necessity (I’ll address the objection of quantum mechanics soon). Observe the consequences:

      1) If materialism is true, man is his brain.
      2) If man is his brain, he is controlled by the forces that control his brain.
      3) If man is controlled by the forces that control his brain, his choices are not his own.
      4) If man’s choices are not his own, his choices are not rational (he does not come to them by logical thought).
      5)Therefore, if materialism is true, man is not rational.

      The argument addresses quantum mechanics, so don’t bring up this strange thought –never-mind that she is arguably atheism’s enemy!
      4) Here’s one which purports to show that brain activity preceeds mental activity. And a discussion of the paper by a neurologist.
      Other studies show that our brain activity is TEN SECONDS ahead of our mental activity, and that there is no difference between the choice to move, and not to move. A better interpretation is that the brain is in a state of readiness before the decision is made (like Libet’s Gap), which is consistent with dualism.

      The good thing is, we can see that entirely material things can behave in a logical, rational fashion. I like to call them computers. Enjoy!
      *Face Palm, PART TWO!* Havok, they may be logical, but they are not rational (huge difference); to be rational is to think logically, and computers do not think (computation is the opposite of thinking!). Question: how do you know that computers are purely material? Answer: Your assertion is false. Computers are made of both hardware, and information (specifically software). They can do logic because of the information. Your entire materialist faith is only supported by false-analogies!

      Other Assertions:
      I don’t see how you can compare a computer, with it’s uniformity, and the cobbled together lumps in our heads, and somehow then claim they were both created. It simply doesn’t follow.
      The human brain is obviously NOT “cobbled together,” as seen by the great deal of organization within it. That you must use loaded language implies you have no better way of arguing against brilliance behind your brain. I have a challenge: invent a computer roughly the same size as the human brain, which is both 1) MORE powerful, and 2) More organized than our competitor. Your objection is as foolish as the complaints people lodge against their eyes!

      1) Autism is a pretty specific case of developmental impariment. How about stroke victims who are able to talk again. Or those who gain some kind of serious brain injury, and report that they know they’re impaired. It doesn’t seem to be some kind of “communications problem” between some undamaged mind and a damaged brain.
      2) I’ve sampled some drugs in my time, and they don’t just effect minds ability to accurately receive data. They mess with the way your mind works. Even alcohol has this effect.
      Again, these are only arguments against Cartesian Dualism.

      This doesn’t follow, sorry. To claim that the effect of drugs on the mind points towards dualism is to not understand that the drugs (physical things) do effect the mind. They don’t simply “confuse” the sense data it receives. Why couldn’t an effected brain understand it was effected. Neurotransmitters are being released, neurons are firing. Seems the brain would be in the perfect position for this.
      A brain would not be expected to understand that it was damaged because it is a collection of meaningless chemicals. Think about it this way: when you listen to Sebastian Bach, is it a “conglomerate of poorly arranged meat in your skull” that experienced the music, or YOU? One cannot just go and say that you are this “meat”, that would beg the question.

      1) Supernaturalism is an incoherent concept.
      We can conceive of supernatural beings without contradiction. Your assertion is false, BIG SURPRISE!
      2) [Omitted for being irrelevant to the discussion of how the natural and supernatural interact]
      3) If the supernatural has no connection to the natural, then it might as well not exist. What is the difference between something which cannot effect us, and something which isn’t real?
      Firstly, Alpha Centauri is too far away to affect us. Yet, there is obviously a difference! Maybe you should answer that question?
      Secondly, to be supernatural is to be above the natural. It simply does not follow that the supernatural cannot interact with the natural. Prove that it does.

      So, how does mind/brain dualism explain brain activity preceeding mental activity?
      Let’s assume that the explanation given by the paper is correct, and that mine is wrong. Thomistic dualism would be out. Other models might treat the mind as the unified whole of conscious and subconscious interactions, and so would fit into this interpretation.
      What does the mind in mind/brain dualism add? And how is this achieved?
      Well, it explains the causal efficacy of the mind in a way that materialism could never hope, for one. It explains why we are subjects, rather than objects. Dualism explains the existence of qualia. Need I go on, your ignorance?

      So, any argument supporting mind/body dualism which isn’t along the lines of “we haven’t explained it physically, therefore souls” :-)
      No, the arguments given for dualism are ultimately: “X cannot be explained, EVEN IN PRINCIPLE, by materialism. Therefore, materialism is false.” That you need to have this spelled out for you speaks of your need to learn some real critical thinking.

      • Havok says:

        Paradox: These two claims are only refutations of Cartesian Dualism, not Thomistic Dualism or Interactionist Dualism
        Interactionist dualism doesn’t require some “other” substance, and Thomistic dualism still needs to find some way for the form/sould to influence the material body.

        Paradox: Do more research on the other hypotheses before you try again.
        If I’m in discussion with someone who is a substance dualist, why would I bother bringing up other hypothesis?

        Paradox: Freewill, subjective experience, qualia, persistence of the self over time?
        Sorry, but you’ll need to explain just why these things are evidence for dualism.

        Paradox: 2) Despite having a different brain, you would still be the same person.
        And you know this how?
        Humans who receive damage to their brain can become a “different” person – personality changes, etc.

        Paradox: 3) By Leibniz’s Principle of Indiscernables, you are not your brain; to believe otherwise is absurd, QED.
        Since I’m not the same person (identical) I was 5 minutes ago, let alone would I be the same person if I had my brain replaced, I don’t think I need be too concerned with these claims of yours.

        Paradox: The question of HOW these two aspects of humanity interact does not prove that these two aspects DO NOT interact.
        True, but it is a problem for someone who wants to claim that they do.

        Paradox: Under Thomistic Dualism, the soul is an agent, and tells the brain what to do
        How does it manage to do that without violating various fairly well established laws of physics, such as conservation laws and the like?

        Paradox: Havok, that is the worst objection I have ever heard!
        It’s an argument against libertarian/contra-causal free will. Since such free will is defined as being outside of the causal chain, it seems to indicate that experience, rational deliberation and the like are not influences – whether an agent acts in a particular way or not becomes a matter of luck.

        Paradox: the Islamic Principle of Determination applies
        You’ll need to explain further, as it seems to be applied to why the universe exists rather than not.

        Paradox: Observe the consequences:
        Your little sylogism seems to assume that rational thought cannot be a material process, but I don’t see where you established that. If rational thought is simply a process of the brain, then your argument here fails.

        Paradox: never-mind that she is arguably atheism’s enemy!
        Since QM is in no way supernatural, nor does it posit or require any sort deity, I fail to see how it could be “atheism’s enemy!”

        Paradox: A better interpretation is that the brain is in a state of readiness before the decision is made (like Libet’s Gap), which is consistent with dualism.
        So, on dualism, does the mind prime the brain to readiness, prior to any decision being made?

        Paradox: to be rational is to think logically, and computers do not think (computation is the opposite of thinking!).
        For a start, computers can and do duplicate many of the same or similar processes that humans carry out when thinking rationally. Computers can, for instance, solve problems, formulate theorems etc.
        You also seem to be assuming that thinking is not a computational process, but again haven’t shown why we should think this is the case.

        Paradox: Question: how do you know that computers are purely material? Answer: Your assertion is false. Computers are made of both hardware, and information (specifically software). They can do logic because of the information. Your entire materialist faith is only supported by false-analogies!
        The software is entirely composed of electrical signals through logic gates. I fail to see anything other than the material at work here (I am a software developer, so I’m fairly familiar with how software and hardward interact).

        Paradox: The human brain is obviously NOT “cobbled together,” as seen by the great deal of organization within it.
        With different parts being specialised for different functions (languages centres, parts which make you feel like you’re in your body, etc etc). It looks fairly cobbled together compared to the simplicity of a computer.
        On dualism, why does the brain need to be organised at all (and why do we even need a brain, or one as large and complex as we have)?
        After all, the mind is doing all of the complex work.

        Paradox: Again, these are only arguments against Cartesian Dualism.
        They also seem to apply to Thomistic dualism. Interactionist dualism seems to be more of a classification of dualistic hypothesis (since Cartesian Dualism is interactionist, as would Thomistic dualism be, if I’m not mistaken).

        Paradox: A brain would not be expected to understand that it was damaged because it is a collection of meaningless chemicals.
        It’s a bunch of meaningless chemicals arranged in specific relationships that allow it to process information and apply meaning. It’s note “merely” chemicals. If it were, then you would not die when your brain was pulped – after all, it’s still the same chemicals, right?

        Paradox: One cannot just go and say that you are this “meat”, that would beg the question.
        Well, since I’ve given reasons to think that you are in fact the “meat”, I don’t see how I’m begging the question.
        Meanwhile, you’ve not given much in the way of reason to think that you are not the “meat”.

        Paradox: We can conceive of supernatural beings without contradiction. Your assertion is false, BIG SURPRISE!
        Can we?
        What do you mean by “supernatural”?

        Paradox: Firstly, Alpha Centauri is too far away to affect us.
        Utter rubbish – we receive photons from it, and so it has a definite empirical effect.

        Paradox: Secondly, to be supernatural is to be above the natural. It simply does not follow that the supernatural cannot interact with the natural. Prove that it does.
        Since you’re the one claiming that it in fact does interact, and all I’m referring to is the lack of evidence supporting your claim, the onus would appear to be on you to support your contention.

        Paradox: Well, it explains the causal efficacy of the mind in a way that materialism could never hope, for one.
        Really? How so?

        Paradox: It explains why we are subjects, rather than objects.
        How does it explain this?
        Wouldn’t anything which has subjective experiences be a candidate here?
        Why is supernaturalism required to furnish this?

        Paradox: Dualism explains the existence of qualia.
        How does it manage that?
        Most of the “explanations” I’ve seen just assume that positing another “substance” magically solves the problem, rather than offering an actual explanation, with the sorts of details you might require of a putative naturalistic explanation of the phenomena.

        Paradox: No, the arguments given for dualism are ultimately: “X cannot be explained, EVEN IN PRINCIPLE, by materialism. Therefore, materialism is false.” That you need to have this spelled out for you speaks of your need to learn some real critical thinking.
        Where has someone actually demonstrated that these things cannot “EVEN IN PRINCIPLE” be explained naturalistically?
        I’ve read a fair amount of substance dualism and some in favour of Thomistic dualism, and they tend to assume this rather than actually demonstrate it. For instance, some of the Thomistic arguments I’ve read assume a Thomistic metaphysics from the outset. Others seem to assume that representing or pointing towards another thing is inherently non-naturalistic (to which I would point to computers again, which do this sort of thing routinely).

        Please, provide or point towards an argument demonstrating an in principle objection to a naturalistic theory of mind being possible.

        • Paradox says:

          Your arguments are still not plausible. Let’s take this in order:

          1) I already explained the mechanism: the mind is an agent, so tells the body what to do. Think about it like a computer; we have the software, we have the hardware. The mind interacts with the body in roughly the same way the software interacts with the body.

          2) Who says I’m a substance Dualist? Maybe I’m a Property Dualist (Panpsychism)? And you should know the other hypotheses because “Substance Dualism” is a CATEGORY. It is not a specific theory.

          3) DO. YOUR. HOMEWORK. You will see why these are evidence against materialism if you do. And I explain three of them as we progress. You should understand by the end of this.

          4) How do I know? That’s axiomatic, really. Any RATIONAL person would normally believe as much. You don’t really believe that you as an individual have never thought anything before this particular moment, do you? Just because your personality changes, does not refute this argument, as personality is not essential to being a `self`. Your reference to people like Phineas Gage just begs the question –as I have said before: my position allows for a mind to be dependent on a brain. Try a different objection, please?
          5) Vide Svpra.

          6) Oh really? Prove it.

          7) In the same way that software (I’ll get to that) interacts with hardware, as explained prior. What are you doing? just repeating your objections verbatim?

          8) No, it does not. You are making an assumption that is not even part of the pretenses of the people you are trying to refute. Your attempted Reductio Ad Absurdum fails. Libertarian freewill states that the INDIVIDUAL controls their actions. Therefore, there is no luck, even though the external causal chain does not NECESSARILY control their actions. This is why I told you to do your homework so many times.
          9) The Islamic Principle of Determination says that free causal agents have the ability to choose between like and like. Consider the thought-experiment of Buridan’s Ass (you’re going to have to study that on your OWN time). Yes, the principle is applied to the question of our universe’s existence, but that is because it is argued that the creator of the universe had the choice not to create this universe, or else a completely different one.

          10) No, my argument PROVES that rational thought cannot arise from matter. Remember that what you consider as your choices are not really YOUR’S if they are determined entirely by external factors. This was the main force of the argument.

          11) Let’s see: a. It gives human observation causal efficacy (proving that mind has influence over matter), b. It gives an explanation for how the mind and body can interact. Those two examples should be satisfying!

          12) In Libet’s experiment, the people were told what they were supposed to do, and they were supposed to wait for his signal. If I properly interpreted your paper, the same is true here as well. You misunderstood what I said.

          13) *Face Plam, PART THREE!* Proving theorems is a computation, solving formulas is a computation. EVERYTHING THAT YOU LISTED is a stinking COMPUTATION.
          You wonder how we know that thinking is the opposite of computation. A computation is an algorithmic matching of inputs and outputs (like everything that you listed). Consider the Chinese Room Experiment. The person in question is carrying out a mechanical process, which lacks Primary intentionality. Thinking is Primary intentionality, computing is Derived Intentionality. If you want to know what `intentionality` is, do the homework, I don’t spell things out for people.

          14) Firstly, the electrons and logic-gates are the HARDWARE. The SOFTWARE is the program; the software tells the gates how to function. You are committing the Fallacy of Equivocation. Your faith is still based on false analogies. Thinking that because you are incapable of seeing something immaterial just shows you don’t understand what it means to be immaterial. Hint, it has to do with your eyes.
          But let’s use an analogy to prove that software is not material: a person can write, in computer code, a new program on a piece of paper. Then, a friend of theirs can memorize this sequence (even without understanding what it means), email it to another friend in Scotland (in an attempt to understand what the notation means), who then uses this program to create a better video game before you do. The fact that the software can exist independently of any particular medium proves that it is not identical to any of these media. It is immaterial, QED.

          15) First, on dualism, the mind is NOT doing all the complex work. Only the uninformed believe as much.
          Second, the brain is organized so as to effectively do all its tasks. A computer is organized as well, just not to as great an extent (partly because we don’t know how to produce three-dimensional circuitry, of such a compact nature). CPU, hard-drive, you should know this stuff!

          16) Cartesian Dualism is not strictly a form of Interactionist Dualism. Thomistic Dualism is not Interactionist Dualism. The first says that you are a soul trapped in a body (the body is ultimately unimportant). The second is closer to classical Hylemorphism (matter-form), and says that a COMPLETE human is both material and immaterial; you cannot separate any of the components without causing the parts to become something that is NOT human. Interactionist Dualism entails that a human can be complete without a body.

          17) It seems to me that you just conceded my point. Firstly, you have agreed with me that there is both syntax (the building blocks that the brain is made of), AND semantics (meaningful instructions for how to use these components). The dispute has now moved to whether the semantical component can be material. My argument about brain-transfer establishes that the meaning is not identical to your brain, so it follows that the semantical component, is not the same thing as your brain. It seems obvious that it is an essential part of your brain (whether or not your mind is), but that in no way proves it is material than the fact that software is part of a computer proves that it is material.

          18) First, I’ve answered the `reasons` you have given for believing that you are meat. All you have done is either bite the bullet (“I am not the same person as I was five minutes ago”), or show you don’t know what I’m talking about.
          Second, I already have given reasons for believing that you are more than meat. Your rejections of these arguments speak more of you than anything else.

          19) The fact that most people have a coherent concept of GOD is proof irrefutable that we can indeed conceive of supernatural beings without contradiction.
          Definition of “SUPERNATURAL” “Not restricted to the material universe, or its laws.”
          20) You are equivocating again. First, you assume that because we can SEE Alpha Centauri, that means that Alpha Centauri is real. As I had said before, how do you know that it isn’t a clever illusion? We can’t interact with it in a way to prove otherwise. It is only an IDEA that Alpha Centauri is a star, by your logic. Again, You. Tell. Me.
          21) That isn’t the point. The point is that, GIVEN that the supernatural exists (which is a tangent), it is possible for the two to interact. You need to “prove” that even if the supernatural exists, it still cannot influence our world.

          22) Simple. In materialism, the mind is created by the brain. The brain does not have CONSCIOUS control over most of the body (the key word here is `conscious` for a reason). Yet, our conscious mind has control over much of this; the Placebo Effect is based on this principle.
          23) Because matter does not feel. Have you paid ANY attention to what I had said earlier?? If the proofs I have given before hold, your question has already been answered. But there is more than just what I have to offer! Take some time to study the “Color Scientist” Thought Experiment. You will be able to see where the problem comes in, if you actually pay attention.
          24) A quale is a pure experience. In most forms of Dualism, pure experience cannot be attributed to matter, because qualia are first-person, rather than third-person. Because matter is completely third-person in materialism and most forms of Dualism, one should not expect to find first-person experience in purely material things.

          25) I already produced several. They can all be escaped of course, either by accepting the absurdity entailed by denying the argument, or by accusing the argument of being founded on ignorance. Guess which of these two options I predict you will take?

  8. [...] this link is a keeper — Could life have emerged spontaneously on earth? Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Nutcracker follow upWho are you talking to?I am so [...]

  9. [...] Could life have emerged spontaneously on the early Earth?  Short answer: No.  But that doesn’t stop some from believing it. [...]

  10. Melanie Stephan says:

    Could a computer have emerged spontaneously on the early Earth?
    A computer is far simpler to have emerged than a human. All that is needed if for some silicon to combine with some arsenic and bit by bit you have a byte. Byte after Byte is added soon there are mega bytes. Evolution takes hold and wires and cables come about. Last of all the harddive appears and discs evolve.. All of this happens without the aid and assistance of human intevention.
    Another bonus to computer evolution is that they are not dependent on thermodynamics. Computers can exist at absolute zero. And most of the galazy is that cold. So computers can live anywhere in the Universe.
    Gods Messenger, Melanie Stephan

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