Thursday, December 04, 2008



Dr. Steven Novella has been deconstructing Dr. Michael Egnor's "logic" again, an exercise with some similarities to going after piscines in a barrel with a quater pound of C-4. Here are the posts by Dr. Steve [one, two].

Now Egnor is at it again, this time riffing off a blog post by David Chalmers, a philosopher of mind who argues that consciousness is a non-material but wholly naturalistic phenomenon.

It's another "mind-in-the-gaps" argument from incredulity, mostly based on Egnor's lack of imagination as to how consciousness could "lawfully depend on physical processes" (as Chalmers suggests) or how it could be expressed quantitatively if it does (as if our ability to do so is a prerequisite of reality). Egnor claims:

We have no experience whatsoever with lawful dependence of subjective ontology (feelings, beliefs, desires) on objective ontology (mass, location, charge) in any way that approaches rigor.
Egnor (who we know reads Novella's blog) completely ignores one of Dr. Steve's points:

If, as he claims, the continuity of our personality is independent of the organization of matter in our brains - then how come personality can be radically and immediately changed by damage to the physical structure of the brain? How can frontal lobe damage cause someone to become apathetic or disinhibited, for example?
Egnor will, no doubt, attempt to hide in that "in any way that approaches rigor" gap.

If it wasn't for a bad sinus cold that makes sorting through stupidity physically painful, I'd do a more complete critique. But feel free to go there and do your own. It's not like it's hard.

One good thing is that Egnor admits that ID is (charitably) a philosophical or (realistically) a religious claim, rather than a scientific argument:

The intelligent design debate is one manifestation of a deeper debate about philosophical materialism.
No kidding! The Wedge Document told us that almost a decade ago and laid out the religious intent of ID to boot. But it's always nice to hear it from one end of the horse or another.

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