The 11th in the series The Case Against Physicalism. The previous post discussed the wide range of mysteries that remain despite, or in some cases, because of the success of science. Faith is considered the domain of religion and physicalists denigrate faith as opposed to the solidity of the science they trust. But, one cannot be a physicalist without faith, above all the faith in “promissory materialism” and the belief that once science is done no mysteries will remain.

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Image: Wikipedia. St. Paul’s definition of faith has been the standard for believers since the earliest days of Christianity. But, does this definition also apply to those who accept physicalist science as providing the best story of what is real and true?

St. Paul in the New Testament book of Hebrews defines faith this way:

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” …


Number 10 in the series called The Case Against Physicalism. When physicalism is questioned the standard defense is calling up the remarkable success of science. The argument goes: given its efficacy, how can anyone question that the discoveries and methods employed compel the physicalist belief? But, Roman success in subjugating the world did not mean their worldview was correct. Belief in Mars as the god of war was not the secret to the Roman’s success.

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Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash. The success of the scientific method and the knowledge of the universe this method has revealed is truly astounding. But, does this success mean that the philosophical claim of exclusive physicalism is justified?

There are a number of problems with this “success means we are right” defense as leading philosophers have explained. …


Number 9 in a series called The Case Against Physicalism. No surprise that the failure, so far anyway, of current science methods to solve the mystery of conscious experience is considered by many to be a make or break issue for physicalism. The question may not be settled, and may never be. But the difficulty in finding physicalists solutions provides a strong indication that something may be missing.

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Photo by Robina Weermeijer on Unsplash. “Is that all there is?” That’s what Peggy Lee asked in the song that haunts us today. Is the brain all there is to human experience? Can everything in our minds. souls, experience, memories be explained by the random action of random particles assembled by purposeless and random laws? As hard as scientists have tried for the past many years to clearly answer that question based on physicalism, the mystery of conscious experience continues to elude.

Consciousness appears to be one of the few make it or break it issues for physicalists. If physicalists can show that consciousness is produced exclusively by neural activity in the brain, it would give great weight to the belief that nothing exists outside of matter and the purposeless laws of nature. It would support a fundamental position that reality as described by physics is counterintuitive. But, so far, consciousness escapes a physicalist explanation. But nor for a lack of trying. …


Number 8 in the Case Against Physicalism series. Are we close to finally finding how the random, accidental laws of nature managed the feat of turning inanimate matter into life? Click bait headlines regularly claim the answer is found or very nearly and physicalists continue to hope and work for the solution.

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Image: Wikipedia. Stanley Miller along with Harold Urey at the University of Chicago excited the world with the discovery that “a host of “organic” chemical compounds could be produced by purely inorganic processes.” The excited headlines proclaiming a natural cause for the creation of life had been found has since been followed by many such headlines. Despite this, seventy years later abiogenesis remains in the category of “promissory materialism.”

A quick internet search on the origin of life will turn up any number of headlines that trumpet a new scientific discovery that promises to finally unravel one of the greatest and most significant mysteries of all time: how did life begin? For as long as homo sapiens have been creatures capable of contemplating mysteries, this one has been near or at the top of the list. Has life always existed? If not, when did it begin and how did that happen? …


Number 7 in the series: The Case Against Physicalism. There are a great many reasons to believe there is something more than the physical reality that physicalists insist on. This includes scientific evidence that physicalists must choose to dismiss.

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Photo by Michael Krahn on Unsplash. Mystical experiences are one of a great number of “extreme experiences” that have been studied by scientists for over a hundred years. Neuroscientist Christof Koch, through his own mystical experience, suggests these may represent a challenge to current neuroscience including his preferred Integrated Information Theory. University of Virginia scholars have compiled a massive collection of data and reports on extreme experiences that challenge the physicalist account of what is real.

Scientific progress depends on keeping an open mind. That seems to be well understood by nearly everyone, especially in the sciences. But the history of science provides ample evidence that rejection of evidence that doesn’t fit the preferred understanding is frequent and can be harmful to the pursuit of knowledge.

Vitalism, the luminiferous aether, and quantum entanglement provide three quick examples. The obvious difference between objects that are alive and inanimate materials or systems required an explanation. Vitalism was the understanding, dating back to Aristotle, that the difference could be explained by reference to a life force. The idea dominated biological science occupying the attention of many great scientists who worked to produce support and additional theories based on that understanding. As late as Louis Pasteur, vitalism continued as the primary explanation for why life was so different from non-life. …


Number 6 in the series presenting a case against physicalism. Even Darwin expressed “horrid doubt” about how brains generated through random and accidental processes could arrive at “convictions.” Atheist and non-atheist philosophers alike have identified the very idea of rationality a “defeater” for physicalism.

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Image: Wikipedia. Socrates, one of the greatest thinkers in history, said “I know that I know nothing.” But, how could he know that, if his brain evolved from lower animals and is nothing more than a random collection of particles operating according to the blind and purposeless laws of nature?

Previous posts presenting my refutation of the physicalists’ description of reality have focused on what might be called “soft” arguments. This is a hard one. Possibly the hardest one of all. From a logical or rational standpoint if the argument stands, physicalism’s claims are soundly defeated. …


This is the fifth in the series calling physicalism into question. The belief in physicalism as the complete explanation for reality led to the removal of dualism from consideration by most scientists and philosophers. But is that rejection based on a circular argument and is the renewed interest in Descartian dualism justified?

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Image: Wikipedia. French philosopher Rene Descartes made many major contributions to science and philosophy but is best known for believing the soul and the body are separate substances. Dualism, as this idea is called, as Descartes intended helped science deal with the body and all physical reality as a kind of undirected machine. Descartes’ idea fell out of favor with the emergence of inclusive physicalism but with the continuing difficulty of a mechanistic explanation of consciousness dualism is making something of a comeback.

Dualism is long dead and gone, say physicalism’s defenders. It is science that killed it, they believe. With the death of dualism, physicalism gains the place of prominence they believe it deserves and has earned.

Dualism says there are two aspects to reality, a mental aspect and a physical one. Dualism did not start with the French philosopher Descartes. Plato and Aristotle, and presumably much of ancient Greek philosophy, assumed the soul and the physical body are not the same. Aristotle is seen by some as a materialist but the entry on dualism in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy clarifies Aristotle’s…


The fourth in the series on the Case Against Physicalism, this explores the primary motive behind the strong defense of this belief system. As the evolutionary biologist who discussed the motivation, it also explains why those committed to physicalism are willing to turn a blind eye to its rather obvious problems.

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Image: Tim Mossholder on unsplash. More than blocked, committed physicalist will board up the door of science and philosophy and defend it with emotional intensity. In doing so, they must intentionally turn a blind eye to counter-facts and ideas. It’s necessary to keep the Divine Foot out of the door of science.

The harsh language of many defenders of physicalism and the disrespect they show to anyone who challenges their position is, we suggested earlier, a sign of insecurity in their position and an understandable growing concern about the loss of cultural dominance. Their approach I’ve suggested is similar to religious fundamentalists that draws their greatest ire. …


This is the third in the series The Case Against Physicalism. The defensiveness of physicalism’s defenders was first, then the stubbornness of belief in transcendence, now we look at the guidance provided by philosophers, historians and theologians — guidance that is too easily rejected by physicalists.

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Image: Wikipedia. An 1898 reconstruction of Pomponius Mela’s map of the known world from about 43 AD.

C.S. Lewis said that theology was like a map provided by those who have gone before us. I would add philosophers and historians to the list of map makers. The territory these cartographers have mapped for us includes all the most significant questions of our existence. Who are or what are we? What does it mean to be, to exist? Why is there something rather than nothing? How did we get here, and why are we here? What is our purpose? What is our end? …


The third in a series challenging the beliefs of physicalism. While ardent defenders blow off believers as ignorant, misguided rubes, the stubbornness of belief raises questions that physicalists have failed to adequately answer.

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Image: Wikipedia. An estimated 1.6 million Russians and citizens of the Soviet Union died in the Gulag or “Camps.” In addition to mass executions and brutal violence aimed at stamping out religious belief, Russia and the former Soviet states have the highest number of people who identify as Christian. The past century saw concerted efforts of governments as well as cultural leaders to stamp out religion, particularly Christianity. Why have these efforts failed so spectacularly?

The universe is more than the sum total of particles and the forces that dictate how they interact. The vast majority of people in the world today agree with that statement, as have most everyone who lived on this earth since homo sapiens became capable of such thoughts. What that “more” is varies widely. …

About

Gerald R. Baron

Husband, father, grandfather, semi-retired, farm advocate, author, communicator. Deeply curious about science, nature, spirit and history.

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