Jun 17 2014

Deepak Challenge to Skeptics

Deepak Chopra doesn’t appear to like skeptics much, or understand them. He just put out a YouTube video challenging ”Randi and his cronies” to his own fake version of the million dollar challenge.

All we have to do, apparently, is make 50-100 years of scientific advance in neuroscience in a single peer-reviewed paper. I’ll get started on that right away.

Actually, even that probably would not be sufficient. The whole point of pseudoscientific goal-post moving is to keep forever out of reach of current scientific evidence. It doesn’t matter how much progress science makes, there will always be gaps and limitations to our knowledge. Chopra lives in the gaps.

Here is his exact challenge:

Dear Randi: Before you go around debunking the so-called “paranormal,” please explain the so-called “normal.” How does the electricity going into the brain become the experience of a three dimensional world in space and time. If you can explain that, then you get a million dollars from me. Explain and solve the hard problem of consciousness in a peer-reviewed journal, offer a theory that is falsifiable, and you get the prize.

The challenge is absurd because it is completely undefined. “Explain” to what degree? Science often advances by developing theories that are progressively deeper. Obviously we can explain consciousness on some level, and just as obviously Chopra would not accept that level as sufficient, but he gives absolutely no indication of how much deeper an explanation he would require.

A challenge without a clear way of judging the outcome is worthless. This is very different than the JREF’s million dollar challenge (now supervised by Banachek) which negotiates a very specific protocol with clear outcomes and a clear threshold for what will be considered success.

The vacuous nature of Chopra’s challenge reveals it for what it is – an insincere stunt that Chopra no doubt wishes to use for rhetorical purposes.

If you listen to the rest of the video challenge it is also clear that Chopra likes to operate in the gaps – he is making a massive argument from ignorance, or “god-of-the-gaps” type argument. In essence he is saying that because neuroscientists cannot now explain consciousness to an arbitrary level of detail (determined at will by Chopra, with an endless option to revise), therefore magic.

He does specifically state that simply pointing to neuroanatomical correlates is not enough (because that is evidence we already have). In other words, he is saying that because a particular pattern of brain activity correlates with a specific conscious experience, that does not demonstrate that the brain activity causes the experience. Well, not by itself, but if you add it to all the other evidence – changing the brain changes the experience, etc., then it all adds up to a pretty solid scientific conclusion.

Chopra wants more than just demonstrating that the brain causes consciousness, he wants to know how. He wants us to solve the hard problem of consciousness. This is a tough one, as philosophers of consciousness cannot even agree that the hard problem exists. We may never objectively solve the hard problem, which is why, exactly, we have a subjective experience of our own existence.

I agree with Daniel Dennett who essentially says there is no hard problem. The brain doing everything it demonstrably does – all the easy problems – adds up to consciousness. There isn’t necessarily anything extra. But even if there is, there is every reason to believe it has something to do with brain function – the way it processes information.

So, to recap, all Chopra wants us to do is solve a problem that is simultaneously one of the most difficult scientific and philosophical questions of our time. Advances that we have already made are not enough,. and he is entirely vague on how much further advance is required. He can endlessly redefine what “explain” means as needed. Those goalposts are on wheels.

I always find it is important to put such “gap” arguments into context. If such a challenge were made over a hundred years ago, you can imagine a 19th century Chopra demanding the sort of evidence for the brain function paradigm of consciousness that we currently have today – show me clear neuroanatomical correlates, show that you can alter the mind by altering the brain, show that brain function precedes mental phenomena, etc. Such a challenge would have been impossible a century ago, but now it is a routine part of modern neuroscience, and of course this is not enough evidence for the gap dwellers. They want more.

Another way to look at this is that the best way to evaluate the strength of a scientific theory is not by taking a snap shot of what is currently explained by the theory, but how has it fared over time. Has the theory been successful in making progress? Is it useful? Has it run into any anomalies that seem fatal for the underlying theory? The materialist theory of neuroscience, that the mind as a phenomenon is brain function, has been as successful as evolutionary theory in driving productive research and making successful predictions. Scientists are quite content to ignore this entire debate while they continue to make progress deepening our understanding of the brain and its function.

Denial of neuroscience and exaggeration of our ignorance is all very important to Chopra because he wishes to insert his mysticism into the gaps of our current knowledge, and he wants skeptics to leave him alone as he does so. I guess he is not interested in public intellectual discourse. Part of that mystical insertion is to argue that “intention” is primary, it is what really exists. The physical universe is not real.

His standard evidence for this, which he repeats in his video, is to say that a thought somehow magically happens by itself, and then affects the brain, although he’s a bit vague on this. He says in the video to think of a sunset. That will have a neuroanatomical correlate in your brain, but so what. It could happen before, during, or after the thought, which Chopra thinks does not matter. This is somehow evidence that thoughts (intention) are separate from the brain.

However, if we were to actually look at what was going on we would see that your ears produced signals that your brain translates into Chopra’s voice asking you to think of a sunset. Then this would be communicated to the visual part of your cortex, which would fire in a pattern that matches whatever image of a sunset you imagined. If you look at a painting, and them remember that painting, the pattern of firing in your brain will be the same.

This is all just the brain talking to itself and processing information from various sources of sensory input. There is nothing going on here that isn’t just more brain function. Chopra does not have a coherent (let alone compelling) argument for how intention is separate from brain activity.

Further, research into subjects with disruptions in brain circuits, such as the split-brain experiments, show that people’s responses to such things as the request to imagine a sunset are entirely dependent on intact circuits in the brain. Disrupt those circuits and the relevant mental activity is also disrupted.

To make matters worse, Chopra doesn’t seem to have bothered to learn the first thing about the skeptical community. I know that Randi still has celebrity status in our community, because he is an actual celebrity and deserves respect for a lifetime of activism promoting science and critical thinking. But to equate the movement, comprised of many scientists and educators engaging with the public and professionals on many levels and in many ways, with just one person is frankly clueless.

We are not just Randi’s “cronies,” we are a rather vibrant intellectual community with many people and many facets. We are not, as Chopra apparently believes, vigilantes out to kill curiosity and legitimate science. We promote legitimate science and curiosity, leavened with critical thinking. If Chopra had any actual curiosity it would not be difficult for him to find this out for himself.

Conclusion

Chopra’s challenge is a transparent farce. I suggest that if he wishes to truly engage with skeptics in the future, even if just to challenge them, he first learn something about our actual process and positions. Otherwise he is condemned to attack his imaginary straw men and open himself up to further justified ridicule.

I will, in fact, offer a counter challenge to Chopra. This one is easy – come to TAM. I invite you as my personal guest. I will even give you an SGU T-shirt. We can sit down and have a pleasant interview.

Come with an open mind and listen to what skeptics actually have to say. You might just be surprised.

 

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49 responses so far

49 Responses to “Deepak Challenge to Skeptics”

  1. Nomen Nescioon 17 Jun 2014 at 8:47 am

    “show that brain function precedes mental phenomena,”

    Novella – can you please link to some neuroimaging studies where it is clearly demonstrated that brain activity precedes mental function?

    I actually read that you made the same point in some posts where you were arguing with Egnor, and you gave only one example. So i was searching for some other examples, but i couldn’t find any.

  2. The Other John Mcon 17 Jun 2014 at 9:12 am

    Nomen, I can provide some. A whole series of experiments (either by Benjamin Libet and his lab, or others following his protocols) have clearly demonstrated unconscious brain activity preceding conscious reports of the timing of volitional acts: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Libet

    This is just the tip of the iceberg. A lot of the history of this research paradigm (100+ years) and some relevant pubs can be found here: http://www.dichotomistic.com/mind_readings_chapter%20on%20libet.html

    Most of these studies provide independent converging evidence that consciousness seems to require 150-500 ms (“Libet’s half-second”) of unconscious lower-level processing before reaching conscious awareness.

  3. The Other John Mcon 17 Jun 2014 at 9:13 am

    I just realized most of these aren’t “neuro-imaging” studies, not sure if that matters for your purposes.

  4. Nomen Nescioon 17 Jun 2014 at 9:28 am

    I know about Libet and these experiments.

    Here is the one example which Steven gave: http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/decision-making-in-the-brain/ – it’s pretty much in the same vein as Libets experiments.

    But i was referring to this, read novella’s first comment: http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/dr-egnor-on-neuroscience-wrong-again/

    He is talking about some studies where you give someone a specific mental task and that brain acitivty starts 60-70 ms prior to that mental process.

  5. The Other John Mcon 17 Jun 2014 at 9:47 am

    hmm I see — fair question. I’m not very familiar with the imaging literature, so not sure which studies go towards this specific question.

  6. inconsciouson 17 Jun 2014 at 9:54 am

    One of the most promising theories of consciousness is Tononi’s “Integrated information” theory, which I believe Dr. Novella has mentioned in prior posts. The main problem with it is that the calculations required to do what it proposes – that being quantifying consciousness – are too computationally intense for our current computers.

    Tononi and colleagues actually just published an updated version of the theory in PLoS Computational Biology.

    http://www.ploscompbiol.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pcbi.1003588

    I suppose Randi could just e-mail Chopra this paper —> collect 1 million dollars

  7. inconsciouson 17 Jun 2014 at 9:59 am

    Also – @The Other John Mc @Nomen Nesco

    Current popular neuroimaging techniques (fMRI, PET) do not have the temporal resolution to show what you’re thinking about, per se. A less popular modality, MEG, should work though I think, as it has a temporal resolution of as low as 10ms.

    However, we can use machine learning techniques in conjunction with fMRI to predict how a brain (i.e. subject) will respond in the future, based on prior “brain states” (i.e. things like functional connectivity patterns).

    That’s not exactly what you’re looking for, of course.

  8. The Other John Mcon 17 Jun 2014 at 10:07 am

    thanks inconscious — I didn’t think Tononi’s ITT actually went towards a model or *explanation* of consciousness, but ITT’s secret sauce is that it provides a good general measure of consciousness, e.g., determining levels of consciousness of brain-damaged people, comparing levels of “consciousness” among animals, etc. Is this accurate?

  9. banyanon 17 Jun 2014 at 10:48 am

    If I dedicate my life to spreading mystical nonsense will you give me a t-shirt too?

  10. Skepticoon 17 Jun 2014 at 11:06 am

    Chopra has rigged the challenge by stating up front that he won’t accept neural correlates of consciousness as an explanation. Talk about closed minded – he’s ruled out one explanation before any evidence is even presented. The burden of proof should first be on Chopra to show that neural correlates are not an explanation. Perhaps he should issue a challenge to himself to demonstrate that.

  11. BBBlueon 17 Jun 2014 at 11:08 am

    For some reason, Deepak always brings Kumaré to mind. http://bit.ly/1vAqUNF (Thanks, George Hrab, for the recommendation.)

  12. Bill Openthalton 17 Jun 2014 at 11:20 am

    Of course Deepak has to issue juicy challenges to skeptics — to stop people from noticing how badly he has aged, his much-vaunted woo notwithstanding.

  13. Ori Vandewalleon 17 Jun 2014 at 11:22 am

    I think the differences between Randi’s challenge and Chopra’s are quite revealing. Randi proposed a specific protocol for evaluating particular claims, which is basically what the scientific method is all about. Chopra’s challenge, on the other hand, relies only on his own personal judgment, which is what pseudoscience is all about. Normally his personal judgment affirms whatever quantum craziness he’s peddling, whereas here it will be used to reject whatever evidence is provided. Either way, there’s no scientific process going on, because Chopra’s schtick isn’t really about science.

  14. Kawarthajonon 17 Jun 2014 at 11:52 am

    This is great! The fact that one of the world’s biggest, most popular woo promoters is upset with Randi and the sceptical community, and is publically challenging them, suggests that Randi and the sceptical community are doing their job well and incurring the ire of the bigwigs! Keep up the great job Randi, Steve and all the other sceptics out there! I consider this to be a victory!

    BTW, I would consider it immensely entertaining to see Chopra in an SGU t-shirt. Way to go Steve!

  15. Bruceon 17 Jun 2014 at 12:17 pm

    Can we change the shirt you give him to read “Skeptics’ Guide to the Wooniverse”?

  16. steve12on 17 Jun 2014 at 12:58 pm

    Nomen & John Mac:

    An ERP component called the lateralized readiness potential (LRP) illustrated that brain activity comes first.

    Don’t have time to read Steve’s link, but this certainly shows that this is the case.

  17. steve12on 17 Jun 2014 at 1:00 pm

    Lots of experiments – some by Eimer – on decisions and LRP. LRP correctly predicts motor movement to the left or right (the ‘lateralized’ in LRP) before the subject is even aware, if I remember correctly.

  18. The Other John Mcon 17 Jun 2014 at 1:43 pm

    cool — thanks Steve12, that’s closer to Nomen’s request than I could offer from some quick checks

  19. Bronze Dogon 17 Jun 2014 at 2:12 pm

    The irritating part for me is that it’s an excuse for woos to continue avoiding doing the hard scientific work of coming up with a superior explanation.

  20. steve12on 17 Jun 2014 at 2:52 pm

    “The irritating part for me is that it’s an excuse for woos to continue avoiding doing the hard scientific work of coming up with a superior explanation.”

    Exactly. The one thing I’ve noticed since getting into the whole skeptical world is that the purveyors of BS are also afraid of intellectual work. Makes it that much more bizarre when it’s an MD, who ostensibly had to apply themselves to get through med school.

    Maybe my theory’s the problem here, but it always seems that way…

  21. Pete Aon 17 Jun 2014 at 3:12 pm

    Bronze Dog and Steve12 — Woo is the inevitable result of being too damned lazy to learn subjects from first principles.

    Woo is not the result of ignorance; it is the result of wilful ignorance.

  22. Bronze Dogon 17 Jun 2014 at 3:28 pm

    I’m sure there’s a lot of variation with MDs-turned-woos, but I suspect a lot are “technician doctors” who learned the mechanical skills and rote memorization of what treatments to give, but not the understanding or an appreciation for the science that gave us those answers.

  23. Mlemaon 17 Jun 2014 at 9:02 pm

    Hey, i guess transcendence and gratitude don’t keep you from being a grumpy gus.

    So, just because we can’t explain how normal subjective experience exists, paranormal experience does therefore exist? Wouldn’t it be included in normal experience? Can Deepak Chopra provide a falsifiable theory as to how paranormal experience might exist? Or hell Deepak, just tell us what it would be like!

    “Explain and solve the hard problem of consciousness.”

    Wow! I’d settle for people understanding what it is.

    My counter-challenge would be:
    What is Deepak Chopra’s falsifiable theory for why we experience a shared world? Let him explain that and get it published without talking like the materialists he seems to despise.

    Anytime someone says “…the problem with you is…” I kinda get angry and don’t want to listen to anything else they say.

    Why do we have bodies if they’re not needed to experience something? Why don’t we just experience everything as if we have bodies – but not have bodies? Would our disembodied awarenesses bump into each other too often? :) Why is my experience finite? Why can’t I experience anything I want at any time? Do I need to meditate more, or use one of Chopra’s tapes? Why are our experiences separate? Why can’t I experience exactly what you’re experiencing? Why can’t I know if I am?

    I wanted to ask Chopra these questions so much that I almost signed up for a google youtube account :/

  24. BillyJoe7on 18 Jun 2014 at 12:34 am

    Well, not much karma there. It sounds like the sceptics are getting under his skin.

  25. jasontimothyjoneson 18 Jun 2014 at 4:13 am

    Its easy if you are comfortable with Descartes and that existence is consciousness, you can start with Cogito ergo sum.

    But if thats not enough for Douchbag Chopra, throw in a little “dubito, ergo cogito, ergo sum”, ( I DOUBT, therefore I think, therefor I am)

    or even better “dubito, ergo cogito, ergo sum—res cogitans”

  26. inconsciouson 18 Jun 2014 at 8:54 am

    @John Mc

    My understanding of Tononi’s ITT, which is based partly on hearing him talk and partly on Kristoff Koch’s most recent book, is that if ANY system is sufficiently differentiated (informationally rich) and integrated (non-fragmented), with respect to information, then that system’s level of “phi” will increase. At this point it’s not a matter of neural correlates any more. Even a single celled organism would have a value of phi.

    Thus there is not “threshold” by which something becomes conscious, per se. Rather, just about anything can be “conscious” to some degree – though whether or not it’s a degree we care about, say clinically, is another matter.

    If we presuppose that ITT is “true” then it’s neuroscience’s job to figure how how neural systems go about causing differentiated and integrated brain states that bring about differential levels of phi.

    If you ask me, we’re well on our way with the various network models of cortical/subcortical function (i.e. default mode, salience, executive network, etc.) that have become popular in the last decade.

  27. tmac57on 18 Jun 2014 at 9:49 am

    How does the electricity going into the brain become the experience of a three dimensional world in space and time.

    I’m going to go with ‘What is quantum fill-in-the-blank?’ for $1000 Alex.

  28. Bronze Dogon 18 Jun 2014 at 10:04 am

    My understanding of Tononi’s ITT, which is based partly on hearing him talk and partly on Kristoff Koch’s most recent book, is that if ANY system is sufficiently differentiated (informationally rich) and integrated (non-fragmented), with respect to information, then that system’s level of “phi” will increase. At this point it’s not a matter of neural correlates any more. Even a single celled organism would have a value of phi.

    Thus there is not “threshold” by which something becomes conscious, per se. Rather, just about anything can be “conscious” to some degree – though whether or not it’s a degree we care about, say clinically, is another matter.

    The general concept makes sense to me, though I’m not well-read on the details. I can imagine a basic consciousness of something like a bacterium searching for bits of food, hiding from bright sunlight, and so on. I can also imagine a virtual entity in a computer doing similar things. If qualia is a meaningful concept, I’d have no trouble imagining vague “good” sensations when the bacterium finds sugar molecules or when a computer opponent scores a point against the player. What makes human consciousness notable is that we’re at the top end of self-examination (thus far), which allows us to contemplate ourselves and think to ask “why does pleasure feel good?”

    …I’ve already forgotten the troll’s name, but we had one railing against the idea of ubiquitous low-level conscious entities as “animism.” Yeah, that conclusion might be superficially similar to animism, but what matters is how we arrive at that conclusion. It’s not like we’re proposing rocks have human-like consciousness, either, like animists might. We just consider the possibility that things that process information for some kind of self-benefit, meaning they subjectively value certain inputs and respond to them, might have some level of consciousness as a result.

  29. Bruceon 18 Jun 2014 at 10:16 am

    Bronze,

    “We just consider the possibility that things that process information for some kind of self-benefit, meaning they subjectively value certain inputs and respond to them, might have some level of consciousness as a result.”

    This would imply plants exhibiting a basic consciousness as they will, for example, move toward sunlight. Does that mean sunlight “feels” good to plants? As well as finding it interesting, I like the idea because if plants feel good then they could conceivably feel bad, and extending from that something akin to pain. It would send vegetarians and vegans (who do it for fluffy bunny reasons) into quite a tizzy.

  30. MLCon 18 Jun 2014 at 10:32 am

    Of course, the main difference between Randi’s challenge and these insincere imitations is that Randi’s only requires the claimant to do [i]what they already claim they can do[/i].

  31. mumadaddon 18 Jun 2014 at 12:11 pm

    MLC,

    It’s these brackets: <

  32. Willyon 18 Jun 2014 at 12:56 pm

    This may be a silly, or ignorant, comment, but I am unaware that electricity “goes into” the brain. Goes in from where? Doesn’t the brain (along with the rest of the nervous system) “create” its own electrical activity?

  33. MLCon 18 Jun 2014 at 1:15 pm

    Thanks, mumadadd. I mean thanks.

  34. inconsciouson 18 Jun 2014 at 3:53 pm

    @Willy

    Electrical activity (i.e. electrical current) in the brain is nothing but a differential in the movement of charged atoms, or ions. Neurons create (or rather are induced to create) the necessary conditions to induce action potentials, or electrical currents, that progress down their their axons, by manipulating conditions on both sides of the cellular membrane in a sequential manner. Other cell types (such as cardiac muscle) can do this as well, though through different means.

    So yes, electrical activity never “goes into” the brain.

  35. ZooPraxison 18 Jun 2014 at 4:55 pm

    I’ll just leave this right here. In the script the young women did a take down of Chopra but I had to leave it out for timing’s sake:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=70iBkvQ6Dns

  36. laserfloydon 18 Jun 2014 at 8:23 pm

    Know what’s scary? The fact he has a million dollars to give away… :-o

  37. jhonlagoson 18 Jun 2014 at 10:30 pm

    it is the same rhetoric racists use when confronted, “first define race”, “first explain why people are offended”, blahblahblah

  38. Bruceon 19 Jun 2014 at 4:09 am

    “Know what’s scary? The fact he has a million dollars to give away…”

    I doubt he would actually set aside a million (into some kind of trust) and then clearly define in legal terms what would be required to win that million. Until he actually does that, instead of paying lip service on youtube, I think we are safe in saying he is just full of quantam hot air.

    Deepak wants to claim he can run the 100m in under 9 seconds, but he won’t actually do it, instead he will taunt people with playground like challenges to prove that he can’t.

  39. jasontimothyjoneson 19 Jun 2014 at 7:06 am

    I do love that D-Bag Chopra is flogging his book in the comments section of u-tube

  40. blackbirdrisingon 19 Jun 2014 at 1:00 pm

    You know, as much as I don’t want to side with Deepak on the matter, I think he has the right idea but he just doesn’t know how to communicate it. And I don’t think it’s his or anyone else’s fault. I think that the problem he is referring to is inherently elusive. He’s right in saying that neural correlates are not consciousness itself. Consciousness seems to be something else entirely (not woo woo but something more like time or space or mass). If we disregard consciousness entirely then we don’t need to define it–we can just note it’s correlates and be happy and practical in our daily lives. But right now neural correlates are just correlates and are nothing more than a good analogy. Understanding consciousness requires studying consciousness through itself. That’s why people like Deepak have any traction in it. There is some virtue in spirituality. The Buddha apparently spent so much time meditating that he understood how states of consciousness changed. It’s worth looking into and studying Buddhism, not just from a distanced analytical stand point, but from the stand point of doing the hard work of the meditation.

  41. Mlemaon 19 Jun 2014 at 4:11 pm

    blackbirdrising – I agree. I just listened again and came away with a somewhat different take. He probably should have just stopped talking at around 3:30. Also, people can gain some experience changing their consciousness (to a certain degree) with inexpensive biofeedback tools (to get a taste of having some control)
    Not a substitute for meditation, but perhaps a start? Myself, I have much work ahead. But it wasn’t very long ago that I didn’t know even that. :)

  42. Paulzon 20 Jun 2014 at 3:13 am

    How does electricity entering a computer generate my 3-dimensional video game? You can’t explain that with your SCIENCE!

  43. mattfawon 23 Jun 2014 at 5:27 pm

    Dear Dr. Chopra,

    I accept your challenge. The following link is for a 6-minute explainer video I made, and I have a fully-researched paper to back it up.

    http://goo.gl/IXlfXJ

  44. ScShPaon 25 Jun 2014 at 1:16 am

    Novella seems overly confident about the ability of the money the MDC has available and the the ability of people to apply for it. Unless something has changed since Prescott covered it the MDC seems very shady:

    http://michaelprescott.typepad.com/michael_prescotts_blog/2006/12/the_challenge.html

  45. ScShPaon 25 Jun 2014 at 1:18 am

    But setting aside one’s skepticism and taking it on faith that the MDC is legitimate, Volk has already gotten into it with Novella about why the MDC is worthless as determiner for whether or not Psi is real->

    Spanking the Skeptics: How the folks at The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe got it all wrong. And why James Randi’s Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge remains an impediment to progress:

    http://stevevolk.com/archives/1081

    Randi’s Minions and the Million

    http://stevevolk.com/archives/1073

  46. grabulaon 25 Jun 2014 at 2:28 am

    ah yes, Volk’s ‘just asking questions’ attitude and his ‘dismantling’ of you know, anything he can’t buy into is right where he wants it to be.

  47. ScShPaon 25 Jun 2014 at 3:57 am

    I also think the “god of gaps” assertion Novella makes is also unfair. The argument Chopra makes is a metaphysical one akin to Chalmers in Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness and Moving Forward on the Problem of Consciousness. To simply assert that the answers will be found is a form of promissory materialism which is a fine religious belief so long as it knows itself as faith.

    And the kind of gaps Novella talks about are actually acknowledge by Alva Noe, who IIRC does happen to think a materialist (panpsychic?) explanation is possible:

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2012/10/12/162725315/are-the-mind-and-life-natural?ft=1&f=114424647

    “If we are to resist Nagel’s call for a radically new conception of fundamental reality — more on his positive proposal another time — we need to do better than merely defend the status quo. Perhaps one reason we may feel inclined to react in this way is that we don’t want philosophers washing science’s dirty laundry in public in a way that runs the risk of allowing anti-naturalistic religious dogmatism to get a foothold.

    Let us remember, then, that there is another strategy for responding to the explanatory gaps. This has been one of philosophy’s orthodox strategies at least since Kant and it is an approach championed by many of the 20th century’s greatest thinkers, from Carnap and the logical positivists down through Wittgenstein and Ryle, to Dennett. According to this strategy, the seeming gaps are, really, a cognitive illusion.”

    Feser responds to Noe about how inadequate this comes across:

    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2012/11/nagel-and-his-critics-part-iv.html

    “But put to one side the question of what positive alternatives there might be to the materialistic naturalism that is Nagel’s target — neo-Aristotelian hylemorphism, Cartesian dualism, vitalism, idealism, panpsychism, neutral monism, or whatever. Noë’s response would fail even if none of these alternatives was any good. To see why, suppose that a critic of Gödel’s incompleteness theorems suggested that every true arithmetical statement in a formal system capable of expressing arithmetic really is in fact provable within the system, and that the consistency of arithmetic can in fact be proved from within arithmetic itself — and that Gödel’s arguments seem to show otherwise only because of a “cognitive illusion” that makes formal systems seem “vaguely spooky.”

    This would not be a serious response to Gödel precisely because it simply does not show that Gödel is wrong but either presupposes or merely asserts that he is wrong. Gödel purports to demonstrate his claims. Hence, adequately to answer him would require showing that there is something wrong with his attempted demonstration, not merely staking out a position that assumes that there is something wrong with it.”

  48. grabulaon 26 Jun 2014 at 1:38 am

    “Let us remember, then, that there is another strategy for responding to the explanatory gaps. This has been one of philosophy’s orthodox strategies at least since Kant and it is an approach championed by many of the 20th century’s greatest thinkers, from Carnap and the logical positivists down through Wittgenstein and Ryle, to Dennett. According to this strategy, the seeming gaps are, really, a cognitive illusion.”

    I can’t wait for the day individuals like ScShPa finally figure out the difference between philosophy and science.

  49. Mlemaon 26 Jun 2014 at 11:03 am

    It’s not unusual for people to accuse others of the things that they themselves are guilty of.

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