“It is intentionality that tears the seamless fabric of the causally closed material world.”

This strikes me as the most important thing I’ve read in a while.  It is along the same lines as this but goes farther and is more forthright, less academically circumlocutory.  And it’s completely in sync with the Feldenkrais Method training I’ve started, the only thing I’ve ever done that is intellectually exciting in an embodied, experiential way.

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Author: amba12

Continuing the conversation that started at AmbivaBlog ...

38 thoughts on ““It is intentionality that tears the seamless fabric of the causally closed material world.””

  1. Well, he’s preachin’ to the choir, here. Mere common sense tells us that music, art and appreciation of beauty are not inherent survival strategies. IMHO, Darwinism has about run its course and it’s high time its blatant inconsistencies are held up to scrutiny. Good article and earthier than, say, Jeffrey Schwartz. ;-)

  2. The notion that the conscious mind and the ability to decide things do not exist seems to me to fail on an intuitive level. I know some of the things I do are choices, not just reactions on a causal chain, because I ponder them and decide to do them. An attempt to remove the notion of free will from everything runs afoul of Occam’s Razor, and common sense.

  3. “if the mind is no more than an evolved physical organ, then its cause, like the rest of nature, is natural selection.”

    He thinks there is such a thing as “matter,” and that all of nature except humans can be explained by materialism. That doesn’t make any sense to me.

  4. ‘It seems true to too many people right now that we’re nothing more than slightly overdeveloped chimps.’

    This kind of contempt for animals has been around a long time. It’s just one more reason to feel special and superior to something. I really think that chimps, and other animals, have a subjective experience similar to ours. They are as much a creation of the infinitely intelligent universe as we are. They are not a product of mindless physical processes. The author has been brainwashed by materialism, even though he disagrees with it.

  5. “The notion that the conscious mind and the ability to decide things do not exist seems to me to fail on an intuitive level. I know some of the things I do are choices, not just reactions on a causal chain, because I ponder them and decide to do them.”

    The idea that everything is a reaction on a causal chain is actually logically impossible. The materialists who believe this are unaware of complexity theory, etc. And they are unaware of the impossibility of anything new resulting from a mere causal chain. Their thinking is limited and unscientific and illogical.

    And that is why I don’t like it when people object to materialism based on feelings and intuitions and wishful thinking. The materialists just laugh at that. But maybe they would listen to objections that are rational.

  6. “Man is more than an overdeveloped monkey”

    It is striking how even the most reasonable-sounding and truthyish objections to Darwinian theory always fall back on that old trope. What is so objectionable to some people about being related to the rest of nature?

    A few days ago I had an interesting conversation about this with my father-in-law, who is Hindu. He believes that Darwinian theory will ultimately be much better received in India than it has been in the Western world, because in Hinduism the idea that we are related to other animals is fundamental. Whereas in the Abrahamic religions, it has always been seen as heresy.

  7. I don’t think anyone is implying we are not related, e.g., made up of the same physical materials as the rest of the animal kingdom. But if no one can see that humans are quite distinct [though not always in a positive way] then they have ideological blinders on, as is the case with many Darwinists.

  8. mockturtle –

    In explaining your relation to a distant cousin, would you say “well, we’re made up of the same physical materials?”

    that’s nonsense. much of the non-living universe is made up of the same physical materials as all living beings. if you accept that there is such a thing as “life,” which we share along with plants and animals, and that it is guided by certain rules, then our relationship with them must be deeper than a simple matter of shared chemical compounds.

  9. “don’t think anyone is implying we are not related, e.g., made up of the same physical materials as the rest of the animal kingdom. But if no one can see that humans are quite distinct [though not always in a positive way] then they have ideological blinders on, as is the case with many Darwinists.”

    He assumes that there is such a thing as “physical materials,” first of all, and that other animals are nothing more than that. His thinking is as completely wrong as the materialists. In “alternative,” or holistic, science, we recognize that there are different levels of organization. The levels studied by physicists are lower than the levels studied by biologists. It may all be the same kind of atoms, but that does not account for the organization. And the organization matters!!

    Sheldrake explains all this very well, and other holistic scientists and philosophers. It’s really strange that contemporary science misses so many obvious facts.

    The other animals are made of atoms, and so are we, and their atoms are organized into cells, and so are ours. We and the other animals are alive, and we and the other animals have minds. And we have souls, and they have souls.

    Is he trying to go back to pre-modern anthro-centrism, when only humans were thought to have souls? Now, of course, modern non-holistic science says not living things have souls.

    Anyway, I agree with him that most neuroscientists are materialist reductionists, and they are wrong and illogical. But at least as presented in the article, it seems like he is just trying to go back to something which is just as illogical, but in a different way.

    We are different from the other animals, and the other animals are different from each other. But to say they are merely “physical” and we are something more is very unscientific and irrational. He disagrees with mainstream materialism in the wrong way.

    Mainstream neuroscientists have no reason to pay any attention to those ideas. They are very wrong in thinking the brain creates mind, but at least they are trying to be scientific. We could disagree with them in scientific, rational ways.

  10. mockturtle, it is believed by many, or most, biologists. It is not a stupid theory no one cares about. It’s a stupid theory that many educated people are convinced is true. Maybe Darwinism seems obviously wrong to you, but don’t you wonder why it would seem obviously correct to someone else?

    The author doesn’t seem to question Darwinism, or materialism, or reductionism. He says all of nature was created by natural selection. I didn’t read his book, but from the article I cannot see how he can have a strong argument against materialism, if he accepts Darwinism.

    Amba seems to like this kind of thinking. It appeals to emotions and intuitions mainly. I don’t like it, because it almost strengthens the materialists’ position.

    It is very hard to explain to anyone why natural selection cannot account for evolution. Or why the brain cannot be the creator of the mind. It requires analyzing things we don’t understand.

    Materialists prefer their simple answers over mystery and confusion.

  11. I can’t remember now what I liked about this and don’t have time at the moment to go back and remind myself. However, it was not because I don’t like mystery and confusion, because I do. In my opinion, the very discoveries that scientists are making of the incredible complexity of life ought to throw them into mystery and confusion. I think that “I don’t know” would be a good motto for Homo sapiens, which would make us what? Homo insapiens? I have an essay in me to write of which a central statement is, “Believing is pretending to know something you don’t.”

  12. Well, I believe in gravity. Not because Newton pronounced it Law but because I have seen and experienced its effect. :-)

  13. “I can’t remember now what I liked about this and don’t have time at the moment to go back and remind myself. However, it was not because I don’t like mystery and confusion, because I do.”

    No, I said materialists prefer simple answers over mystery and confusion. I didn’t mean you, because I know you aren’t a materialist. But like so many other non-materialists, you don’t seem to use logic and science in opposing it. It is very common to say something like “This world is so amazing and miraculous, I am sure it could not have been created by a mindless random process” or “My conscious experience is so amazing that I am sure it is more than neurons firing.”

    Materialists see that kind of thinking as naive and unscientific. The are sure that our sense of being intentionally created, and all our mystical experiences and poetic feelings are illusions. So they can just laugh off any objections based on these.

    What materialists fail to see are their own logical errors and biases and unscientific assumptions. They are proud of their supposed skepticism and objectivity. They do not realize that they can be opposed by a scientific skeptic. Actually, most people don’t realize that.

    I know a scientist who is a religious Christian. She completely ignores the materialist arguments against religion, and never even heard of the Intelligent Design controversy. She has faith in her own experiences and is not at all worried about whether they are illusions or not.

    Another scientist I know is an atheist, and after we had an argument about science and religion he told me I should just believe whatever makes me feel good.

    I have always found that people are either materialist atheists, or religious believers who never heard of Dawkins, et. al., or else not in the least bit interested in the whole subject. This is a major philosophical controversy, and yet almost no one seems to notice.

    Saying you think the materialists are wrong because their ideas feel wrong to you, is not a good way to argue with them. Of course, you probably are not interested in arguing with them anyway. I like to argue with them, as frustrating and useless as it is. I think some day I will win one of those arguments.

    For example, the atheist scientist I argued with told me quantum physics has no relevance to biology and our level of existence. But there are recent scientific articles showing otherwise, which I showed him.

  14. I’ve known a LOT of scientists. My husband was one and most of our friends at one time were either physicists or chemists. A few were Christians, some were Jewish, many were Muslim, a few were Hindu and the rest were atheists or agnostics. It is interesting to note that many do not hold Darwinism [in its extrapolated form] in high regard. Many, if not most, believe in some kind of intelligent design. This is also true of most of the physicians I know. Having studied the workings of living organisms it is hard to imagine that evolution alone can explain their complexity. Even as an atheist much of my life, it didn’t add up for me. Ironically, the most loyal adherents to Darwinism are not scientists at all but teachers, journalists and other non-scientists.

  15. I would add that my friend, Yuri, a physicist with whom I worked for several years and who was a non-religious Jewish immigrant from Russia, believed that mathematics alone is proof of the existence of God.

  16. “many do not hold Darwinism [in its extrapolated form] in high regard. Many, if not most, believe in some kind of intelligent design.”

    If this is actually true of most scientists, then I wonder why they didn’t speak up for the Intelligent Design theorists when they were getting bashed by the Democrats. Were scientists afraid to side with Intelligent Design because they could be labeled as creationists? The materialists try to equate Intelligent Design theory with Christian fundamentalism, even though of course they are completely different things. Some ID supporters happen to be Christians, but ID is compatible with any religion or philosophy, except for materialism.

  17. Actually, no. When I first heard of ID I was very intrigued and assumed that what you say was the case. The more I learned about it, the more I realized that the intellectual movement that produced ID really was an attempt to find a more sophisticated form of creationism that could be reconciled with science. It was Christian-driven. This was disappointing to me because I had hoped it was arising out of scientific observation rather than out of a prior belief in search of justification. This is the problem with ID: as science, it has been contaminated by being out to prove something, top-down. The evidence might prove that very same thing, bottom-up, but science at its best needs to be able to look at the emerging evidence with hypotheses but not with foregone conclusions. And science needs to try to DISprove its hypotheses. If they can withstand that, then they get new respect.

  18. I already knew something about Stapp but I had not heard of your friend. I’m glad he is not afraid to confront materialism.

  19. “When I first heard of ID I was very intrigued and assumed that what you say was the case. The more I learned about it, the more I realized that the intellectual movement that produced ID really was an attempt to find a more sophisticated form of creationism that could be reconciled with science. It was Christian-driven. ”

    That is what the materialists accuse ID of, but it is not true. Some ID researchers happen to be Christian, and are opposed to materialism. But ID is really driven by a general opposition to materialism. Iit does not try to support any particular creation myth.

  20. I’m sorry, you’re wrong about this. No materialist convinced me of this—reading a lot about ID convinced me. The originators of ID don’t just “happen to be” Christian, they were consciously motivated by their Christianity in creating it and had an explicitly religious antimaterialist agenda. They are brilliant people and I have respect for their minds and beliefs, but their cultural agenda really screwed up their scientific quest.

    I know that there are scientists who are not religiously driven who are convinced by the premise of ID. Evolution and life looked at objectively, in this nonscientist’s opinion, is full of signs of intelligence, purpose, and consciousness. I don’t think we understand much yet about the nature of the intelligence that permeates nature, but our own intelligence is only a tiny, puny subset of it.

    But scientists without a culture-war agenda who are interested in ID have to be frustrated by the fact that ID as an intellectual movement originated as a Christian culture-war weapon. Neither dogmatic materialism nor setting out to prove the assumed existence and glory of God is science in the true sense of the word. The Christianity of ID not only gives ammunition to materialists, but more importantly, it muddies a clear view of the evidence.

    Now I’ll go find the document that seems to me the smoking gun in this case. Stay tuned.

  21. I agree that the Discovery Institute seems to be a dogmatic political organization. I used to read their website, until I realized they took the conservative side on every single issue. They were posting arguments against global warming, simply because their ideology is anti-progressive and the progressives believe in global warming.

    The funding for DI came from wealthy Catholic and conservative Christian organizations, probably. So DI is not a reliable source of scientific information, I agree.

    However, ID does NOT try to prove any specifics about God or about how life originated and evolved. There is nothing political or Christian about their information theory approach to defining complexity.

    ID and the DI are trying to de-throne materialism, partly because of their own ideological agenda. That is true. But they are not in any way trying to prove that life was created in the way described in Genesis. They are not biblical creationists. That is what materialist pseudo-skeptics accuse them of, and it isn’t true.

    It is easier for materialists to attack naive simple-minded ideas than to actually get involved in the real controversy.

  22. I had planned to read and review Signature in the Cell, allegedly the most scientifically convincing of the ID books, but events carried me away. I can’t even remember if I ordered the book; I don’t see it here (maybe Amazon remembers; maybe I intended to request it from the publisher and was then overwhelmed, last summer, by the small amount of hassle that entailed). But the first couple of “most helpful” reviews make it sound pretty exciting. It’s more about the origin of life than about evolution. The question at the book’s center apparently concerns the confounding fact that DNA is a specified digital code, something we know a lot about because we make them (ours use only 0 and 1; DNA’s has 4 characters, enabling exponentially vastly greater complexity). Can something like that come about by random processes, given enough time?

  23. So in other words, some nonreligious, non-antireligious scientists need to take ID hypotheses and run with them to get these ideas out from under the curse of being “designed” to prove an a priori point rather than to find out what’s the case.

  24. i know that the DI wants to discredit materialism, and that they are motivated by their religious beliefs. But their motivations and funding are one thing, their scientific ideas are another. I think their ideas are correct. From my perspective, which includes ideas about complex systems, neo-Darwinism is just wrong. And that is the essence of ID theory is trying to prove — the mainstream theory of what causes evolution is wrong. And the mainstream theory happens to be the foundation of atheism and materialism.

    Maybe some ID researchers are motivated to show they are not ignorant and irrational, just because they believe in universal intelligence. I don’t see anything wrong with that motivation. I don’t like being considered naive and ignorant because of my non-materialist beliefs. It would be nice if scientists didn’t have to hide their religious beliefs. The religious scientist I mentioned before has to hide the fact that she belongs to a conservative Christian church.

    But ID will never prove that one particular religion is correct or better than others. All it can do is show that atheism is wrong.

  25. This was disappointing to me because I had hoped it was arising out of scientific observation rather than out of a prior belief in search of justification.

    Some would argue that Darwinism is guilty of just that. ;-)

  26. But ID will never prove that one particular religion is correct or better than others. All it can do is show that atheism is wrong.

    Bingo!

  27. That depends upon which definition of ‘believe’ you are applying.

    Mockturtle: correct. “Believe” is one of those words like “love” and “work” that (as I recently commented on The End of Work) the English language prefers to leave ambiguous and multipurpose.

    Is there a difference between “believing” something that has been objectively demonstrated “beyond a reasonable doubt” (the earth goes around the sun) and “believing” something that has been a) asserted by a revered text and/or b) suggested or apparently confirmed by personal experience? (Most religious and spiritual “beliefs” are the mind’s attempt to explain, usually with the help of some traditional wisdom literature, mysterious personal experiences. Or, they are the mind’s submission to such literature in order to access the source of such experiences.)

    Since everything is ultimately processed through our subjectivity and a lot of our picture of the world is formed by assent to cultural consensus, to the authorities to which we give credence (science today has that authority, which it partly deserves and partly abuses), since we can’t personally experience the earth going round the sun . . . is there a difference between these different definitions of “belief”?

    If there is a difference, its fulcrum is the scientific method in its purest form. That applies only to hypotheses that can be tested. Beyond that, it might be good to keep an open mind and be receptive but not totally credulous to evidence that falls short of proof. “Entertain” ideas (be a hospitable and amusing host!) rather than “believe” them. It can make you dizzy, though—deciding “I believe this” stops the room from spinning.

    The scientific method has pushed into unknown territory that, IMO, sort of dynamites both science and religion as conceived up to now.

  28. I agree with perhaps most of what you say. Scientists are as snarled in baggage from the past as anyone else and tend to build upon established bases which, as Galileo or your friend, Jeffrey Schwartz, have found are not always true.

    Knowledge of the atom comes from studying its behavior, not by direct observation. Having used an electron accelerator in my former work, I was able to observe the effects of gamma rays on a variety of substrates in the presence of chemical compounds, changing their structures and properties. Never have seen an atom but have seen its work.

    Not to say everything must be experiential for a belief to be held. I’m merely saying that belief in God can come, not from tradition or folklore nor an attempt to explain ‘mysterious personal experiences’ but by seeing God’s work–His design, if you will.

  29. I agree! Perhaps it’s time we all went back to studying Latin, Greek and Hebrew as our ancestors did. Perhaps their understanding was better because of it. So much of our thinking is tied to our language, isn’t it?

    The Story of English [McCrum, Cran & MacNeil], which you may have read, is a fascinating account of the evolution of our language but one is struck by the haphazard nature of its development.

    Shakespeare used it like a fine instrument. I’m always in awe of his craftsmanship.

  30. It isn’t our language’s fault if words are ambiguous, since life is ambiguous. I think the word “believe” is pretty well-defined though. If we are sure about something, then we “know” it is true, but if we are pretty sure but can’t be absolutely sure, we “believe” it is true.

    We say “I believe in God” because it isn’t part of the reality we share with other people in this world. We can share the same belief with others, but the experience is something we are alone with.

    I think we have sense that can perceive things on other levels, in spirit worlds, and we could develop those senses or learn to ignore them. They are not the “physical” senses that inform us of the shared reality of this world.

    I noticed very early in life that all the experiences that were most important to me could not be talked about with other people. Even if most of us have the experiences, we have them alone. So we are more likely to say “I believe in God” than “I know God.”

    Even if we actually do know God, it isn’t a shared knowledge.

    There was a time when philosophers thought they could develop a perfectly rational, unambiguous language. Of course they found out they couldn’t. It isn’t that we prefer to keep words ambiguous, that is just the nature of words.

    Words don’t stand for things or ideas. They only have meaning in relation to each other.

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