Conservative Colloquium

An Intellectual Forum for All Things Conservative

Posts Tagged ‘atheism’

Brain Neuroscience and Philosophy Suggest Existence of Soul

Posted by Tony Listi on August 2, 2012

(This borrows arguments and facts from Dinesh D’Souza’s book Life After Death.)

Neuroscientists study the physical brain, but they also want to understand the non-physical mind. Yet thoughts cannot be collected, weighed, measured, sniffed, or even observed, at least not directly and clearly. They try to reduce the mind to merely physical cause-and-effect relationships. But is it even possible to do so?

Neuroscience has shown that brain states and mental experiences are correlated and that in many cases that certain mental states are dependent on certain brain states, but it HAS NOT shown that brain states cause mental states.

The famous American philosopher William James correctly thought of the brain not as a causal device but as a gateway, receiver, or transmission vehicle for the mind.

As an analogy, consider a radio and music. If the radio breaks and one can’t hear the music anymore, does that prove that the radio causes the music? Of course not. The music/radio waves are actually distinct from and have an independent existence from the physical radio itself. The radio merely channels and manifests the music/radio waves that already exist all around us.

Similarly, music CDs require CD players, but the players don’t cause the music. Software requires hardware, but the hardware doesn’t cause the software’s programs. A fine paintbrush is needed to paint a fine painting, but the paintbrush doesn’t cause the painting but the artist using the paintbrush.

The question materialist atheists have to answer is this: “How do material objects, such as neurons with their associated apparatus of axons and dendrites, cause immaterial outcomes such as sensations, emotions, and ideas?… How can we be confident that the brain is a manufacturing plant for the mind and not merely a gateway or transmission belt?”

If minds are shadows/epiphenomenons that don’t do anything, why do we have minds? It is unlikely evolution would provide mental functions if they were irrelevant.

And if the mind is just an illusion with no existence, then the very thought, idea, and truth of “the mind is just an illusion with no existence” doesn’t exist either. It’s self-contradictory.

The notion that the mind is the brain (Daniel Dennett) doesn’t work either. Mental states are private, known only to the person; brains are not private and can be known by an outside observer. Mental states cannot be spatially located; brain states can. Mental states are about something and intentionally refer to something external to themselves; this is not the case with brain states. A person is infallible concerning their mental state, about their own thoughts; a person cannot be infallible concerning their brain state. A person cannot be mistaken about what they themselves experience mentally; a person can be mistaken about their own brain state, which a neuroscientist may know more about through technology and observation. Moreover, if two different people have the same mental state, that does NOT mean they have the same brain state. Human brains are wired differently from individual to individual.

The mind is not what it makes a person do either. One can remove actions or cease to act and the mental experience still be there. Mental experiences can exist apart from any behavior and perhaps from any physical manifestation.

Philosophers like Thomas Nagel (click here for more info) and Frank Jackson have soundly argued that even a full understanding of brain physiology will never reveal mental states, that mental states can never be reduced to purely physical terms.

The mind is not the output of a computer either. We cannot build computers that do what the mind does and experiences. Of course, the notion of the mind as a computer doesn’t preclude the notion of life after death since one might download and upload the mind. Moreover, a computer merely manipulates symbols; it isn’t really conscious of what it is doing like the human mind. Computers can do syntax but not semantics; they can follow rules but can’t discern meaning. No computer, however complex, will ever be able to think and be conscious.

Neuroscience has only shown its own inherent limitations and blindspots. Science is limited to the study of material things that are objective and publicly observable. The “scientific” argument against the soul (mind/consciousness) collapses because the soul is not material or objective. Neuroscience thus makes life after death a plausible notion, though perhaps not persuasive and credible on its own.

Neuroscience has also shown that mental activity actually reconstitutes and reprograms the neurons in our brain. The mind, the person, the human will, shapes and forms the physical brain.

Physician Jeffrey Schwartz treats OCD patients and developed what he calls “cognitive therapy.” This therapy involves patients learning to refocus their minds away from their compulsions and toward other thoughts and actions. Not only has the therapy been successful in many cases, but it has shown that a person can willfully rewire and bring order to their own previously disordered brains. The mind is controlling the matter, not the other way around!

The placebo and nocebo effects also demonstrate how the mind changes the body, including the brain.

The concept of neuroplasticity is a relatively new term to describe how the mind can change the physical arrangements in the brain. Psychiatrist Norman Doige has employed this concept and a therapy similar to Dr. Schwartz’s to successfully treat a variety of mental disabilities.

If the mind is independent enough to create changes in the body, especially the brain, it seems reasonable to suppose the mind can survive the dissolution of the body, including specifically the brain.

Dr. Schwartz and physicist Henry Stapp are using discoveries in quantum physics to explain these mysterious/miraculous phenomena/treatments. They believe that consciousness operates at the quantum level to create a physical force. They believe the patients can, through trained volition/consciousness, fix and rearrange the position of subatomic particles and thus transform the physical reality within the brain.

Consciousness is perhaps the most perplexing and mysterious subject in science, and yet it is the most obvious and self-evident thing to the ordinary person. Human consciousness has no physical explanation yet we can see its physical consequences in medicine. Consciousness has no good evolutionary explanation either.

Consciousness must exist. If consciousness doesn’t really exist, than we can’t be conscious of the fact that consciousness doesn’t exist. To deny consciousness is self-contradictory.

Philosopher David Chalmers argues we should accept consciousness as an irreducible element of reality, just like matter and energy in physics.

Quantum uncertainty creates rational/scientific room for free will.

“Thus a strict materialism refutes itself for the reason given long ago by Professor Haldane: ‘If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motion of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true…and hence no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.” -C.S. Lewis, Miracles

If we presume morality, we must presume free will too. And free will is inherently spiritual and supernatural by definition (i.e. not a result of physical cause and effect). Free will and atheistic materialism are incompatible. Thus morality and atheistic materialism are incompatible.

Posted in Religion and Theology, Science and Religion, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments »

Which is More Materialistic: Capitalism or its Alternatives?

Posted by Tony Listi on May 15, 2008

Marxism is specifically atheistic. By denying the supernatural, transcendent, and spiritual aspects of reality, it is inherently materialistic and deterministic. The world is atoms, their random motions, and absolutely nothing else. Marxism seeks to satisfy material needs and desires regardless of the moral consequences (because morality, a transcendent thing, doesn’t exist). Communism, socialism, and welfare statism are merely derivatives of this Marxist theory.

Capitalism inherently believes that all human beings have free will and should be free to exercise that freedom without coercion from others in economic matters. Now the very idea of free will and freedom presupposes the divine, the supernatural. Freedom presupposes something more than a mere mass of atoms and random chance. It presupposes something more than the material world. It presupposes something (or someone) that can actually choose, i.e. the soul, and thus presupposes a Soul-Maker too. Thus capitalism presupposes the transcendent and spiritual and thus is less materialistic than any of its alternatives.

There is a distinction between materialism and productive use of the Creation. But of course, if you are an atheist, this distinction necessarily has no meaning for you.

Posted in American Culture, Christianity and Politics, Economics, Government and Politics, Political Philosophy, Politics and Religion, Socialism, Uncategorized, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Quotes: Faith, Scientific Evidence, and Atheism

Posted by Tony Listi on November 19, 2007

“If there is no Creator and therefore no moment of creation, then everything is the result of evolution. If there was no beginning or first cause, then the universe must have always existed. That means the universe has been evolving for an infinite period of time-and, by now, everything should already be perfect. There would have been plenty of time for evolution to have finished and evil to have been vanquished. But there is still evil and suffering and imperfection-and that proves the atheist wrong about the universe.”
-Dr. Peter John Kreeft
qtd. in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

“Only in a world where faith is difficult can faith exist…. Scripture describes God as a hidden God. You have to make an effort of faith to find him. There are clues you can follow. And if that weren’t so, if there were something more or less than clues, it’s difficult for me to understand how we could really be free to make a choice about him. If we had absolute proof instead of clues, then you could no more deny God than you could deny the sun. If we had no evidence at all, you could never get there. God gives us just enough evidence so that those who want him can have him.”
-Dr. Peter John Kreeft
qtd. in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

“[M]y prejudice is a reasonable prejudice because it’s based on the evidence I’ve gathered in my very real experience. So someone who knows God has evidence-and therefore prejudices based on that evidence-which someone who does not know God does not have.”
-Dr. Peter John Kreeft
qtd. in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

“[Atheism] is an easy answer-maybe, if I may use the word, a cheap answer. Atheism is cheap on people, because it snobbishly says nine out of ten people through history have been wrong about God and have had a lie at the core of their hearts. Think about that. How is it possible that over ninety percent of all the human beings who have ever lived-usually in far more painful circumstances than we-could believe in God? The objective evidence, just looking at the balance of pleasure and suffering in the world, would seem not to justify believing in an absolutely good God. Yet this has been almost universally believed. Are they all crazy? Well, I suppose you can believe that if you’re a bit of an elitist. But maybe, like Leo Tolstoy, we have to learn from the peasants…. ‘Most people have a life that’s harder than mine and yet they find it wonderful. How can they do that? Not with explanations, but with faith.’ He learned from the peasants and found faith and hope. So atheism treats people cheaply. Also it robs death of meaning, and if death has no meaning, how can life ultimately have meaning? Atheism cheapens everything it touches-look at the results of communism, the most powerful form of atheism on earth.”
-Dr. Peter John Kreeft
qtd. in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

“A proponent of the Big Bang theory, at least if he is an atheist, must believe that the…universe came from nothing and by nothing.”
-Anthony Kenny of Oxford University
qtd. in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

“Atheists themselves used to be very comfortable in maintaining that the universe is eternal and uncaused. The problem is that they can no longer hold that position because modern evidence that the universe started with the Big Bang. So they can’t legitimately object when I make the same claim about God-he is eternal and he is uncaused.”
-Dr. William Lane Craig
qtd. in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

“The beginning seems to present insuperable difficulties unless we agree to look on it as frankly supernatural.”
-Sir Arthur Eddington, eminent scientist
qtd. in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

“In the last thirty-five years, scientists have been stunned to discover that the Big Bang was not some chaotic, primordial event, but rather a highly ordered event that required an enormous amount of information. In fact, from the very moment of its inception, the universe had to be fine-tuned to an incomprehensible precision for the existence of life like ourselves. And that points in a very compelling way toward the existence of an Intelligent Designer…. Scientifically speaking, it’s far more probable for a life-prohibiting universe to exist than a life-sustaining one. Life is balanced on a razor’s edge.”
-Dr. William Lane Craig
qtd. in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

“[Stephen Hawking] has calculated that if the rate of the universe’s expansion one second after the Big Bang had been smaller by even one part in a hundred thousand million million, the universe would have collapsed into a fire ball.
British physicist P.C.W. Davies has concluded the odds against the initial conditions being suitable for the formation of stars-a necessity for planets and thus life-is a one followed by at least a thousand billion zeroes.
Davies also estimated that if the strength of gravity or of the weak force were changed by only one part in a ten followed by a hundred zeroes, life could never have developed.
There are about fifty constants and quantities-for example, the amount of usable energy in the universe, the difference in mass between protons and neutrons, the ratios of the fundamental forces of nature, and the proportion of matter to antimatter-that must be balanced to a mathematically infinitesimal degree for any life to be possible.”
-Dr. William Lane Craig
qtd. in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

Posted in Quotes, Religion and Theology | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »