books, media, unsorted opinions

Philophical Criticisms: Alex Rosenberg: Atheist Guide to Reality

Today, I started reading this article on the Philosopher’s Eye. It’s an atheist blog, or at least the writer of this article is. They are discussing a book by Alex Rosenberg entitled “The Atheist’s Guide to Reality”. Should you read the book? Only if you want some laughs, I guess. Why is it when someone has an opposing point of view they always attack straw men? I see this from the theists and get tired of it, and yet the atheists do it too. Must be the natural human thing. In this blog post, I’m going to respond to the article bit-by-bit, addressing the arguments within their own context. This may take awhile, so fasten your seat-belts.

First, let me establish the fact that I am an existentialist of the same kind as Kierkegaard, or at least Soren Kierkegaard has the point of view closest to mine. That is to say, I don’t believe things can be proven. Don’t let that scare you. That’s not to say they don’t exist. (Note: I am going to make tons of assumptions for this article.) In a series of blog posts, I intend to fully develop my philosophy, but for now you can read this article and proceed to finishing this one.

What we rely on….

I understand most people want something to rely on. Most people want to accept the real world. Let’s make the assumption that it is real, then, right? What can we know about it? The article cited above and the book it addresses both agree that science is all we can know. What is science? Using the context of the article, we will consider “science” to be “common sense”. I will first discuss why this only hurts their argument, and then I will present my definition of science (which is the more common definition) and speak of why it also does not support their point of view.

First, evidence of what they said:

Those who oppose scientism usually operate under the misapprehension that science is some kind of intellectual subculture or institution, which some hope to promote above other subcultures and institutions. Rosenberg cuts through this pernicious nonsense by pointing out that the word ‘science’, used properly, only refers to common sense rigorously applied.

I’m not sure who Rosenberg is talking to, but they certainly aren’t my friends. Subculture? What? When did that ever disqualify something from being accurate / correct / truthful?

Ah, science as common sense. I can see where they get this from (see next paragraph). Common sense seems… reasonable. After all, the relationship between common sense and reason is that they are, by nature, mutually dependent – two different descriptions of the same reality. Not so fast! If you look at what is commonly associated with “reason”, you see the scientific community making careful deductions about reality based on already known facts. When you think of common sense, you may, like me, think of wise decisions on-the-fly. Both take intelligence, but the latter doesn’t take precise derivation or correctness, whereas the former does (after all, when we use reason, we are trying to find the exact truth, not exactly what might be the better bank to invest in). Almost anyone can exercise common sense (well, maybe), since an exact answer about reality isn’t necessary: just one that gets us a good result. Common sense gets us Newton’s laws. For example, an object in motion is going to stay in motion unless sliding on a carpet floor (on which it experiences friction, slowing it down). The moon doesn’t fall because it is flying around the Earth really fast. Nevermind relativity or how the Earth is considered to be “sitting” with respect to the moon. The only thing we care about with common sense is that the model of reality works. That’s exactly why the Flat Earth Society exists. When we use reason, on the other hand, we want to know the actual truth. This requires knowing the mechanism. For example, though the arbitrary law of friction works (force = coefficient of friction * normal force), we look deeper and discover atoms and electromagnetic forces are what is actually at work. This looking in deeper is the scientific method, which brings me to my next paragraph.

Unfortunately, the author is mixing up science with the scientific method. The former, in my opinion, is simply observation of reality (more like conscientious: you are trying to learn about reality by paying close attention to it). That’s what it has always been. We perform science all the time (you are awake and carefully reading this blog, right?). The latter (scientific method) is actually making logical deductions based on those observations. Ironically, scientific method isn’t going to give us perfect truth, either. Allow me to explain.

Spontaneous Generation was once a credible theory. Test after scientific test showed that maggots and microorganisms arose out of dead meat. Then one day, someone performed a test (they put the meat in a capped jar) and killed the theory. For the longest time, people had believed such a lie until someone did something to show it was wrong. In retrospect, you would think it was a simple mistake with a simple solution and science triumphed. Right? Actually, what it did was give me evidence for this article to point out how science can be wrong for hundreds of years and people not even realize it. The same thing could be said about many scientific “discoveries” and theories today, which today seem flawless. It isn’t perfect people. Don’t be gullible, willing to accept the “expert” opinion on science. (The deeper I go into the scientific community, the more I realize how much of a joke some scientific work really is, despite some of it being “corrected” with statistical analysis. That’s not to say all work is bad, but there is a ton of work out there that I imagine people trust despite the illegitimate claims.)

I’ve established the fact that science isn’t perfect, but if you read the article I posted above, you’ll realize I would go farther than that and say there is an indeterminate possibility (that is, maybe small, maybe very large) that science doesn’t speak of truth at all. I made the assumption above that there is a reality (and it’s not really an assumption, depending on how you define / what you consider to be “reality”). However, what we know about that reality can be very limited. It can be especially limited if you put reality inside of a box. Let me explain…

The God in a Box

Back to the article that started this post, we read the following…

Science – i.e. common sense – tells us that atheism is pretty much a certainty. The reason is quite straightforward. The second law of thermodynamics tells us that disorder and homogeneity steadily increase everywhere in the universe. Whatever physics has left to tell us, it almost certainly won’t contradict this fundamental law. But a purposeful agent, arranging things according to a conscious plan, would be transforming disorder to order. And this is never possible according to the second law (strictly speaking, it is possible, but so improbable as to be ruled out). This rules out most conceptions of God straight away.

And I lolled. It’s another God-in-my-box sort of thing. You’d think the author might have considered the fact that the laws of physics didn’t exist when God created the universe. Apparently, the author didn’t think that far. For Pete’s sake, even time didn’t exist – God had to create that too. This should say something about the awesomeness of God, not limit Him. Why does God have to be limited? Don’t people understand that they don’t have to put God in a box? If God doesn’t fit, it doesn’t mean that the idea of a supreme being is false – it may mean that their concept of this supreme being is too small, too limited to be correct. Thus, the God who fits that definition really does NOT exist! Thus, if we are to have a correct understanding of a real God, we must be willing to accept that this God is bigger than the boxes people want to put Him in.

I could go on ranting about how people use the crappy argument about God of the gaps. Seriously people: there will always be gaps. Your very existence (which will never be explained by scientific method because it is always assumed) will never be explained. Certainly people have come up with explanations for how you just popped into existence, but no one but theists have ever offered an explanation as to why you, a finite object of limited power, are still in existence. You can call this existence-sustaining force whatever you want. I call it “God”, though I attach more to that word than you would. At the very least, however, “God” is that which sustains the existence of everything.

Oh yeah, something about gaps. Science always has them. Science should give you more questions, not less. If you don’t have them, there’s a problem: you’re not being open-minded enough. Your knowledge is limited (unless you’re God), so you should have questions. I have a simple analogy for science and religion: religion is like a ghost block. It’s completely solid, but you’re not sure whether it’s real. Science is like a solid block, but when you look closer, you start seeing cracks. A closer look reveals you are standing on sand. An even closer look reveals you are standing on ever tinier particles. The closer you look, the more you begin to wonder if you are actually standing on anything at all. If you ever reach that point, you’re welcome to join the existentialist club: we’ve known this problem for centuries if not millennia. Moving on…

A Quick Glance at Design and Evolution…

At some point, I would like to discuss design and evolution, but that’s not really fitting for this article of mine. I mention it because it is in the book being addressed by the instigating article and leads to the next point of discussion. Do note that I do not deny the possibility of [macro] evolution, though I do have many reasons for not believing it.

Natural Thoughts

I have to say, Rosenberg does see the natural, scientific conclusion about consciousness, though I laughed at the irony.

Vividly and painstakingly, Rosenberg undermines our fundamental belief that we consciously direct our actions. He argues that it is impossible that any of the processes occurring in our brain can have representative content. They can’t be about anything at all.

But science compels us to believe that brain processes are the only causes of our voluntary actions. They are the only identifiable physical causes of our actions, and the supposition that our actions have non-physical causes is scientifically indefensible. This means that our actions can’t, however much they seem to, be caused by thoughts about intended results, or indeed thoughts about anything at all. Nothing is more natural than believing that part of what caused me to buy bread today was a thought about the absence of bread in my house and my intention to have toast in the morning. But this can’t be right; what caused my action was a group of brain processes that were not about bread, nor about tomorrow morning, nor about my house, nor about anything at all.

And I thought about what this article said. Really? I didn’t think about it? It depends on the definition of “about”. I guess Rosenberg never thought about what he was saying. Okay, okay, enough of the silly criticism. After all, he is correct if we are to assume that the physical world is all that there is and that the brain is the only source of voluntary action. (Although, some would argue that the randomness in the atomic wave-function does conceal a hidden “free will” so-to-speak, but I’m not of the camp of a statistical interpretation of the wave-function. I may explain why that is in another post.) Think about it: if the brain is all we have, where do we get the idea of consciousness? Denying it is silly (at least from my perspective, since I have a consciousness) – it only rejects the basis for believing a world exists in the first place. If the world didn’t exist, why talk about it? What are we going to say about it then? Apparently, consciousness must not be a scientifically explainable thing, then. Hm… that implies there is more to this world than just the physical. Weird no? Not really. Scientists are already talking about a multi-dimensional universe; why not throw another universe into the bag? Of course, now we’re entering ground that can’t be explained by naturalistic science (observation of the physical). This requires a different kind of science, but unfortunately for the atheists, this is ground that only the religious and the philosophers have trodden upon.

The anti-purpose-driven life…

I like how Rosenberg carves into [imaginary] stone the logical conclusion of things: Life if meaningless (assuming the naturalistic perspective). Rosenberg’s conclusion about consciousness leads the author of the article to state:

Once Rosenberg has this claim in place he can go on to debunk history, biography, literature, and the social sciences. All of these explain human actions as if they are caused by conscious intentions. Their explanations are, therefore, no more accurate than the ‘rough indicators’ of ordinary folk psychology.

It is worth dwelling on what this entails. Human life as a whole has no meaning, no goal, and no purpose. Neither our individual lives nor human history in general are governed by purposes – not our own, and not anybody else’s.

Then he states some consequences and reaches another controversial point:

Life is a walking shadow. History is one damn thing after another. This is not a worldview or a belief system; it is a mere reading off of the scientific facts as they apply to human life and history. Freedom from illusions of progress and purpose should, Rosenberg says, allow us to enjoy life. Hence the subtitle of the book. Strut and fret your hour upon the stage, then out brief candle. No worries.

“Life is a walking shadow” – No doubt a line put in there to be memorable, but indeed, how expressive. “This is not a worldview” – Ahem. It is according to my definition of “worldview” and the definition of those who agree with me. lol. “… or a belief system.” Some would say this is redundant, but the author put it in there in case people had a different definition. Bravo for covering the bases.

Oh freedom from illusion! Isn’t all of human knowledge an illusion? I’m sensing a “duh” moment coming on. Anyways… To some people, no purpose may seem like freedom, but to some, it’s cause for concern. Suppose you are wrong – suppose there IS purpose, and you happen to be missing out on it. If you want to miss out, suit yourself. From my experience, people like having a purpose; think of how much better people work when they have a goal. Surely there is a reason for bonuses or salary raises, no? Surely there is a reason for religion, no? Surely there is a reason for doing anything, no? Why enjoy yourself if there is no point to it all? If people want to believe in purpose and/or God, why not let them? Is there something wrong with believing that there is a purpose in things even if it’s wrong? It reminds me of a conversation Ben Stein had with renowned atheist Richard Dawkins.

Specifically, what I remembered was the following (I don’t expect you to watch the video and try to figure out what I was referencing, so I’m putting it here):

Ben Stein asked:

How ’bout if people believed in a God of infinite lovingness and kindness and forgiveness and generosity, sort of like a modern-day God – why spoil it for them?

Dawkins’ reply:

Oh, um…

Dawkins went on to call the lack of God “liberating”. Surely, it is liberating in the sense that you are no longer held accountable for your actions, assuming God is going to judge you for them. On the other hand, I find it rather liberating believing and following God: I am more free to do what I want and not simply succumb to doing whatever my impulses feel like. Whatever… that’s all a matter of perspective anyways.

Concluding remarks

The Atheist’s Guide is perhaps too popular in its tone for serious philosophers to respond to, while its most interesting arguments are far too complex for non-philosophers to engage with in a productive way…

I would define myself as a serious philosopher, though most people wouldn’t recognize me as one because I don’t have a degree in philosophy. lol. Academia! Now there’s a topic for ya! Anyways… the article does begin to note something I discussed:

Should we give up on believing in his insightfulness just because we learn that the causal mechanisms he invoked are fictional as well? And Faulkner was perhaps right to remind us that even if life is a tale told by an idiot, there remains some interest beyond mere entertainment in commenting upon the sound and the fury.

That is, it’s possible that what was said was wrong, just as what I said might be wrong. Now doesn’t make my article worth re-reading. LOL!


6 thoughts on “Philophical Criticisms: Alex Rosenberg: Atheist Guide to Reality

  1. Dear chronologicaldot,

    Thank you for taking the time to read my review and to write such a detailed and interesting response.

    First off, let me be clear that Philosopher’s Eye is not an atheist blog. The purpose of the site is to let people share news in the philosophy community. It gives its authors full freedom of expression and opinion. The opinions I convey and to a certain extent endorse in my post are Rosenberg’s and not anybody else’s.

    I’m glad you were entertained by my review if nothing else. Obviously I couldn’t, in those few words, give all the details of Rosenberg’s arguments. The criticisms you raise are good ones, and Rosenberg does, in the book, address some of them. I’ll try to say here how he might respond to some of your points. Still it won’t be a substitute for the book.

    I think Rosenberg made a terrible mistake giving his book such a silly title. Indeed, the title itself justifies the attitude you take towards it (putting it in the same category of dull polemics as Dawkins’ The God Delusion, for example). But the title makes the book seem sillier than it is.

    It was probably a mistake for me to have said that opponents of science see it as a subculture or institution. What I meant to attack (on Rosenberg’s behalf) was the view that science is just one way of knowing among others. In a later version of the review that’s what I’ll say. What’s wrong with that view is simply that there is only one way of knowing – common sense. Common sense can correct itself, and when it does so rigorously and thoroughly we call it science. All the examples you give from the history of science seem to bear out this interpretation. I think I agree when you say that science isn’t going to give us perfect truth, depending on how you define perfect truth. It won’t, for example, give us a knock-down argument against the extreme sceptical challenges you raise. But it does better than anything else we’ve come up with so far and are likely to come up with in the future.

    This is important because, as I’ll discuss further below, Rosenberg believes that a very convincing argument should count for less in our judgments than the conclusions of science that are carefully drawn from observation and experiment. Zeno’s arguments to prove that motion is impossible (to use Rosenberg’s example) were compelling and unanswerable for around two millennia. Developments in mathematics and physics eventually explained what was wrong with them. But the wise course, before those developments, was to accept what observation and experiment make perfectly plain: that motion is both possible and real.

    I am quite sensitive to the ‘God in a Box’ fallacy you mention. I think you’re perfectly right to say that much of the recent anti-religion claptrap has fallen into this fallacy. Dawkins, for example, presents a ridiculous argument that if God were the intelligent designer of complex living creatures, he would himself have to be more complex than the creatures he designed, and so himself in need of a designer. This is a colossally ignorant argument; simplicity was held unanimously to be one of God’s primary attributes by the vast majority of theologians and philosophers in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions. Daniel Dennett and others follow him down this path of ignorance (see Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, for instance).

    But Rosenberg’s argument is much better. That the second law of thermodynamics holds everywhere and always in the universe is known with about as much certainty as we could ever hope to have. The only explanation of apparent purpose or design compatible with the second law is that of blind, random variation and blind environmental filtration. Of course you can suppose that God made the universe with the second law, but then he made it in such a way that it can’t possibly represent or embody any preconceived purpose or design. And in that case, it’s hard to see how thinking about God could serve any of the traditional functions of religion. It yields neither comfort nor guidance to reflect upon the fact that somebody deliberately made the universe so as to be utterly devoid of true purpose, to be nothing but the playing out of blind and random forces.

    You propose that God might be what sustains everything in existence. But Rosenberg claims that science has something to say about that as well. We know, pretty much, that the visible universe began with some quantum fluctuation that could just as well have gone the other way. Thankfully there is something, but there might have been nothing. The fact that there is a universe at all is down to dumb luck. Fluctuations of the same kind, all of which could just as well go the other way, are what keeps the universe going also. The universe is the product of mere chance. It is, if you like, an accident. It isn’t at all the kind of thing that would be sustained in existence by the activity of some necessary being.

    It’s a shame you didn’t want to engage the point about design and evolution. You seem to have a good knowledge of the history of science, and you seem to disagree with some of what I say on this point. Hopefully we can discuss this more sometime.

    Rosenberg addresses the apparently obvious existence of consciousness and the apparent paradox involved in asking you to think about the fact that your thoughts aren’t really about anything in some detail. I won’t say much about how he addresses those issues here. But there are two main points. One is that conscious introspection shouldn’t be taken as a reliable guide to anything. What’s more certain, to conscious introspection, than the idea that to know what colour something is you need to consciously perceive its colour? What’s more certain than the idea that your decision to act comes previous in time to your act itself (or at least doesn’t come after the act is already underway)? And yet, Rosenberg points out, neuroscientific research tells us that both those intuitions following from conscious introspection are false. Therefore, as he puts it, ‘never let your conscious[ness] be your guide’.

    (This, by the way, informs his response to Heidegger and would probably inform a similar response to Kierkegaard. Both those thinkers seem to suppose that what is disclosed by consciousness is somehow the primary fact, around which all other knowledge must be developed. Rosenberg counters that according to our best science, what is disclosed by consciousness is misleading and shouldn’t be trusted much at all. Incidentally, I love Kierkegaard. I think The Sickness Unto Death sets the standard of philosophical beauty to which all other works should aspire. But I read it as folk psychology. You seem to be particularly influenced by the Philosophical Fragment and Johannes Climacus. There I think Kierkegaard takes the sceptical challenge too seriously. An interesting take on how scientism can respond to scepticism can be found in the first few chapters of Penelope Maddy’s Second Philosophy.)

    Rosenberg’s other point in response to your worries about consciousness is that while there are some very compelling arguments that consciousness must exist as something distinct from the physical world, he has already shown why compelling arguments ought to take lower epistemic priority than hard science. And hard science tells us that, because of the causal closure of physics, nothing non-physical can have any significant causal influence on physical events such as the actions of the body – including our statements about the existence of consciousness! The options are therefore epiphenomenalism or physicalism, and epiphenomalism is of course teeming with famous problems.

    ‘Life is a walking shadow’ is, like many lines in my post, borrowed from Macbeth’s famous ‘Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow’ speech (Act V, Scene V). Rosenberg also borrows from it when he says that history is ‘full of sound and fury, but signifies nothing’.

    Your point about Ben Stein and Dawkins is well taken. I don’t propose that it would do anybody any good to stop believing in a benevolent God watching over and guiding the world. Indeed, Rosenberg’s dodgy claim that giving up all the illusions he identifies should in any way help you to enjoy life is something I wanted people to take issue with. That’s why I want more people to (like yourself) to read this book.

    But Rosenberg, to reiterate, is not Dawkins. He has no interest in being an evangelist for atheism. He admits right at the start of the book that atheist evangelism is a lost cause. Believers won’t be convinced by his arguments, and using science to condemn religion will only result in reducing science’s already very limited public appeal. I agree entirely. What I think Rosenberg is right about is his interpretation of the scientific facts as they apply to factual questions about the existence of God and purpose in the universe. My primary complaints against him are that, as I pointed out, he seems to give folk psychology short shrift and he dismisses art, literature, and history unfairly.

    But this is all about what I think is true. What people ought to believe is a different question. It’s a normative question, and I’ve never been very good at answering those. Who am I to tell people what they ought to do or think? The most I’ll say is that if you want to know the facts then they are, in my view, pretty much as Rosenberg says. I’ll confess that to me the prospect he raises seems at times terrifying, unedifying, and not particularly enjoyable at all. But there it is, all the same.

    1. First, my apologies for generalizing the blog as atheist. However, I checked out the blog after I had posted my response. Silly me.

      Second, for your compliments. Thank you, though I can’t take that sincerely. In truth, my knowledge of scientific and philosophical history is a bunch of scattered facts. (I am aware of Zeno and his ideas, at the very least.) How much knowledge of that field I actually have is… unquantifiable, I guess.

      What I’m picking up from your arguments is this: common sense = best approach to reaching truth, science = derives from common sense, thus science is the best approach to reaching truth. You’re working under a presupposition. I am not, besides the fact that I assume you exist, speak English, etc. – the usual assumptions necessary to communicate an idea. (It’s a catch 22, as I intend to explain sometime.) There is a possibility of everything, and perhaps I’ll post an article about evolution and intelligent design, since this stuff is all so connected that it leaves my articles seemingly scatterbrained (especially when I interrupt myself mid-thought to state an interesting side thought). Avoiding this scattering was my intention when I avoided the evolution/design argument (and as you may have noticed, I’ve already spent a majority of this paragraph off on this tangent, lol). But back to the presuppositions… You make some assumptions that are, well, seemingly logical to the person who accepts the normal presuppositions about reality (as most people do). I go a bit farther than that, to the point of what I think or thought Kierkegaard did. Allow me to divert onto that topic for a moment.

      In actuality, I haven’t read much more than a few paragraphs of Kierkegaard. Most of what I’ve heard of him has been from third-party sources. It wasn’t until within the past year that I actually discovered some ideas of his I didn’t agree with. Of course, there aren’t many other philosophers that I know of with whom I fully agree. Alas, we are all unique in this world, aren’t we? Maybe. X)

      Back to presuppositions. I was saying you made normal assumptions. For one, you accepted the idea that there is a reality, but not just that (since we both accept that idea): you assumed it was three dimensional, that it obeyed laws, and that these laws were discoverable. You assumed there was an order to things without having any more basis than what people always assume: if something appears to do what I expect, then my model for how it works must be correct, right? That’s why we believe in a 3D world. True. But our model doesn’t necessarily speak of reality. Sure, disorder appears to be increasing, as the Second Law of Thermodynamics says, but what’s disorder? Isn’t it just a conception of humans in the first place? Aren’t our theories of biology and human thought just models? Yup, which means they can be totally wrong. However, for the most part, they appear to work. That’s why we trust science. Wait. Has anyone ever watched the brain, or have we just seen computer screens telling us what was going on inside? Has anyone ever been to the end of the universe to see if entropy still applies there? Nope. We believe our machines. But nevermind that type of skepticism. You’ve probably heard it before as well as arguments against it. Let’s go deeper, right back to our fundamental assumptions. I want you to notice that your trust in science is based on assumptions. Perhaps you notice but possibly not to the extent I want you to (most people never notice). Start with a mental scenario: throw away all of your assumptions and ask “why” and “why not”. Perhaps you’ve seen cartoons or jokes where people get annoyed because someone kept asking “why” and the wise guy didn’t have an answer. That’s right – human knowledge is limited. But I want to go even deeper than just saying “I don’t know”. Let’s go even further and ask the basis of things. I’m not going to just accept science because it “always works”. The same could be said of someone who claims they are “blessed” when all they’ve experienced their whole life is “dumb luck”. Ask yourself why you accept common sense. Sure, it’s annoying. And you may find like I did that your basis for everything disappears. You become wise perhaps? and yet feel very much not so. It appears Socrates came to this conclusion when he said “I know that I am wise because I know that I know nothing.” (Historically speaking, since Plato probably wrote that, it may have been his own idea, but since Plato had many theories of things, I kinda wonder at that idea.) When I have time, I’ll try to write a testimony of how started coming to this conclusion. But for now, let me finish responding.

      With the philosophical basis in mind, you can see why I would dismiss anything Rosenberg has to say with respect to science taking precedence and thus about his arguments to God in general. He puts everything in the “box” of science, as I mentioned. If we can’t observe it, it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Beyond just the purist philosophical sense, I do recall other articles of people noting the fact that scientific instruments are limited to the physical realm, and thus couldn’t detect anything non-physical (i.e. spiritual or otherwise) that might be in existence. Which reminds me (here I go being scatterbrained again). When I said God sustains existence, it doesn’t imply that the observed laws apply to Him. He isn’t the physical, He just sustains it.

      One I laughed at:

      Rosenberg addresses the apparently obvious existence of consciousness and the apparent paradox involved in asking you to think about the fact that your thoughts aren’t really about anything in some detail. I won’t say much about how he addresses those issues here. But there are two main points. One is that conscious introspection shouldn’t be taken as a reliable guide to anything. What’s more certain, to conscious introspection, than the idea that to know what colour something is you need to consciously perceive its colour? What’s more certain than the idea that your decision to act comes previous in time to your act itself (or at least doesn’t come after the act is already underway)?

      Recalling what I said above, he debasing his very argument for claiming this, hence my laugh. It seems he understands to some extent the ambiguity of things, but why he then declares science (which is based off what we think of, which he is saying is unreliable) as victor is contradictory. Perhaps you said this in response to my argument of sight? Maybe. Allow me to assume that (my apologies if that wasn’t what you meant): When I said sight, I meant the ability to see, not what you saw. Surely you can see (or hear) even if you have no clue what you are looking at or what color it is. There is a funny irony in that we can distinguish between red and purple and yet when one transitions to the other, we have no idea where one ended and the other began. I kinda wonder if life is a bunch of wavefunctions (that idea seems to apply in NUMEROUS places), and science even suggests that. One example wouldt be the wavefunction from the Schrodinger Equation. It’s an idea to be explored, no doubt. At some point, I intend to write about its applications to artificial intelligence (another fascinating topic), but that’s off topic right now.

      My favorite quote:

      But this is all about what I think is true. What people ought to believe is a different question. It’s a normative question, and I’ve never been very good at answering those. Who am I to tell people what they ought to do or think? The most I’ll say is that if you want to know the facts then they are, in my view, pretty much as Rosenberg says.

      I appreciate your honesty. Sometimes I feel this way about philosophy, but then there’s the belief side of me that decides to share things. It’s kinda funny: I believe the philosophy I know as though it were real because it says something about my knowledge, and then I go on believing other things about reality that philosophy says I have no basis for (nor does it say I don’t, but that’s it’s problem). Thus, I go ahead and sit on that solid block I mentioned in my analogy while criticizing both it and the block of sand scientists are standing on. Boy I am a funny person, aren’t I? Then again, you wouldn’t want me to stop believing you exist, right?

      I can’t promise I’ll write my testimony (as I said) in a timely manner, but hopefully I’ll get around to it for you to read. You might be interested.

      Finally, let me thank you for responding to this post. I don’t often get people to discuss these sorts of things with me (most are bored or too opinionated to get anything across). It’s been quite enjoyable. Do come back! =D

  2. Recently came across this v interesting dialogue between the two of you.

    I don\’t find the books assertion about consciousness convincing, as you point out.

    He refutes conscious thought as unreliable (why have reason then, let alone philosophy), but then expects us to make the leap of faith towards an unproven scientistic perspective. It\’s just bad logic. OK – he may assert that with scientific theories, there is peer review of evidence, of findings and of theories, and that\’s multiple consciousnesses as work, rather than just one arbitrary one consciousness. But isn\’t philosophy the same? Writing down what thoughts people have about the nature of reality and then sharing them to see how they stand up? There\’s no \’evidence\’ per se because there\’s thought to look at in space-time, but other than that the process is the same in terms of minimizing the risks of a theory being infected by \’unconvincing consciousnesses\’.

    I can\’t say that I\’ve ever heard much about this apparent evidence either as to the unreliability of the consciousness. I mean, what limitations are there on this theory that is so fundamental to human experience, as well as being fundamental in terms of a feedback loop to any human findings, including scientific ones.

    This all seems to have, ultimately, the same hallmark of endless diversions in reasoning because of some peoples limiting of their thought processes to those of a purely materialistic paradigm.

    Do you have any more thoughts yourself ? Thanks!

    1. ” He refutes conscious thought as unreliable (why have reason then, let alone philosophy), but then expects us to make the leap of faith towards an unproven scientistic perspective. It\’s just bad logic. ”
      I like how you put that. Very good. Summarizes his book at least.

      ” This all seems to have, ultimately, the same hallmark of endless diversions in reasoning because of some peoples limiting of their thought processes to those of a purely materialistic paradigm. ”
      Once again, also very true.

      Really, this is pretty much a loop fallacy as you said, but since you asked if I had any more thoughts…

      I do think that it is possible for conscious thought to be wrong with respect to truths about the world. Of course, that doesn’t mean it is always wrong, or rather, that the ideas we come up with are inapplicable to reality. Basically, by accepting science or even practical wisdom, we have automatically made the assumption that our thoughts (the very basis of science and the interpretation of wisdom and language through which we receive wisdom and ideas) are indeed reliable, at least for the most part. If we didn’t, everything would crumble and it would be pointless to talk about anything. I’m preaching to the choir at this point. I just happen to have in this article and my first long response (the one to the original author), I very long and round about way of saying things.

      I think it’d be interesting to hear Rosenberg’s response, though 1) my article would probably sound alittle insulting of his intelligence when he might be a very intelligent man who is having great difficulty supporting philosophically the materialist views he wishes to hold and 2) he’ll probably never see this blog anyways, much less this specific article I’ve written.

      One last thing: Thanks for pitching into the discussion.

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