US Scientists enlist clergy in evolution battle

| 262 Comments

Reuters reports how scientists have enlisted the help of the clergy in battling creationism.

American scientists fighting back against creationism, intelligent design and other theories that seek to deny or downgrade the importance of evolution have recruited unlikely allies – the clergy.

And they have taken their battle to a new level, trying to educate high school and even elementary school teachers on how to hold their own against parents and school boards who want to mix religion with science.

Reuters

It’s time that people recognize that pitting science and religion against each other merely reduces the relevance of both.

“It’s time to recognize that science and religion should never be pitted against one another,” American Association for the Advancement of Science President Gilbert Omenn told a news conference on Sunday. The AAAS has held several sessions on the evolution issue at its annual meeting in St. Louis.

NCSE Director Eugenie Scott also is speaking out and encouraging the faith community to explain why science and religion need not be irreconcilable.

NCSE Director Eugenie Scott Wrote:

“The faith community needs to step up to the plate,” agreed Eugenie Scott, Executive Director, National Center for Science Education in Oakland, California.

Since the Dover court case, other attempts to introduce creationism into the classroom have been frustrated by the realization that intelligent design is scientifically vacuous and violates the establishment clause.

“As a legal strategy intelligent design is dead. It will be very difficult for any school district in the future to successfully survive a legal challenge,” Scott said. “That doesn’t mean intelligent design is dead as a very popular social movement. This is an idea that has got legs.”

As I have blogged before, religious people are speaking out against intelligent design and in support of science.

But pastors are speaking out against it. Warren Eschbach, a retired Church of the Brethren pastor and professor at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania helped sponsor a letter signed by more than 10,000 other clergy.

“We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests,” they wrote.

And science experts from the catholic church are speaking out against Intelligent Design and in favor of science. George Coyne is already on the record about Intelligent Design but it does not hurt to repeat his position.

Catholic experts have also joined the movement.

“The intelligent design movement belittles God. It makes God a designer, an engineer,” said Vatican Observatory Director George Coyne, an astrophysicist who is also ordained. “The God of religious faith is a god of love. He did not design me.”

The AAAS, with the help of many organizations is performing an important function namely the education of (science) teachers as to how to deal with the recent attempts by religion to insert itself into school curricula, often disguised as ‘teaching the controversy’.

The recent victories have given science the opportunity to present its case to many interested parties and from the recent editorials it seems that the news media is also getting the message. It will only be a matter of time before we hear from the Discovery Institute on how unfair this all is…

262 Comments

Reuters reports how scientists have enlisted the help of the clergy in battling creationism.

Nice of them to do so now, after ID is all but dead after their crushing defeats in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Where the hell were they ten years ago?

ID is hardly dead, it has changed once again to ‘teach the controversy’ or ‘critically analyze’ to avoid the legal minefield. This is the time for scientists to stand up and join with others to expose what is wrong with intelligent design and it’s ‘teach the controversy’ approach.

The NCSE was there in St Louis during the AAAS annual meeting

Meet Me in St. Louis: NCSE at AAAS

NCSE’s Eugenie C. Scott, Wesley R. Elsberry, and Nick Matzke will be in St. Louis, Missouri, for the AAAS annual meeting from February 16 to February 20. Elsberry and Matzke will be staffing NCSE’s booth in the exhibit hall, where information about NCSE, and signed copies of Scott’s book Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction, will be available. Scott will be busy, too, moderating a clinic on “Teaching and Learning Science: Addressing the Issues Collaboratively”; presenting a talk in the “Science Under Attack” symposium along with Jon D. Miller, Rodger Bybee, Gerry Wheeler, Emlyn Koster, and Phil Plait; giving a talk in the full-day “Anti-evolutionism in America: What’s Ahead?” symposium along with Jon Alston, James Murray, Mary Haskins, Wes McCoy, Johanna Foster, Robert Dennison, Gerald Skoog, Steve Randak, Gerald Wheeler, Wilfred Elders, Warren Eshbach, Michael Zimmerman, Martha Heil, and Paul Forbes; and speaking in the “Evolution on the Front Line” symposium along with George Coyne, Peter Raven, filmmaker James Cameron, Francisco Ayala, Kevin Padian, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and reporter Cornelia Dean. Also, NCSE Legal Advisory Committee member Steve Gey will be speaking in the “Field Strategies: What Proponents of Evolution Need to Know” symposium.

But there were more participants

Other collaborators* include the following organizations:

  • Academy of Science of St. Louis
  • American Association of Physics Teachers
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • American Institute of Biological Sciences
  • American Institute of Physics
  • American Society of Plant Taxonomists
  • Association of Science-Technology Centers
  • Botanical Society of America
  • Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS)
  • Biophysical Society
  • Carnegie Academy for Science Education at the Carnegie Institution of Washington
  • Colorado Science Forum
  • Denver Museum of Nature & Science
  • Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
  • Geological Society of America
  • Kansas Citizens for Science
  • Maryville University, St. Louis
  • Missouri Botanical Garden
  • Missouri Citizens for Science Education
  • National Academy of Sciences
  • National Association of Biology Teachers
  • National Association of Physics Teachers
  • National Center for Science Education
  • National Education Association
  • National Science Teachers Association
  • Saint Louis Science Center
  • Saint Louis University
  • Saint Louis Zoo
  • Science Teachers of Missouri
  • Sigma Xi
  • Society for Developmental Biology
  • Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville
  • University of Missouri - St. Louis
  • Washington University Science Outreach
  • Washington University in St. Louis

Lenny wrote: Nice of them to do so now, after ID is all but dead after their crushing defeats in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Dead horses still stinks.…

ID is hardly dead, it has changed once again to ‘teach the controversy’ or ‘critically analyze’ to avoid the legal minefield.

Ohio has already killed that approach.

ID is dead.

It’s time for a replacement.

This is the time for scientists to stand up and join with others to expose what is wrong with intelligent design and it’s ‘teach the controversy’ approach.

The time for that was years ago, when ID was actually winning political fights.

Creationism is the Hydra. Cut off a head and it grows another.

Don’t be fooled into believing ignorance and superstition is dead because of the defeats in Dover and Ohio. Legal action can wound the goals of the c/id advocates but they can only be defeated by education.

This is the time for scientists to stand up and join with others to expose what is wrong with intelligent design and it’s ‘teach the controversy’ approach.

I think this statement is reversed - it should read: ‘This is the time for OTHERS to join with scientists who have already (repeatedly, ad nauseum) exposed what is wrong with ID and it’s ‘teach the controvesy’ approach.’

The only scientists that need to join are some of the chemists and engineers that have long treated biology with disdain. We (biologists) have been exposing the fraud of ID and other antievolutionist arguments for decades, although mainly at the college level. It is journalists, preachers, politicians, business leaders and others outside of science that need to sacrifice a little of their time and make the effort to stand with us.

Most scientists don’t teach in middle schools or high schools, and are unlikely to be invited to the pulpit at an extremist church (or any other church for that matter) where much of the ‘controversy’ is disseminated.

The clergy of the non-biblical literalist congregations need to stand up and preach against the fraud of ID AND all the other antievolutionist arguments.

Journalists need to recognize and acknowledge that the equal time/both sides argument is garbage and stop pretending that proclamations from the DI and its minions have any scientific validity.

High school science teachers need to be science teachers, rather than coaches or any warm body with a pulse.

Some business leaders recognize that the loss of critical thinking and science skills from the general population, particularly from the midwestern states, is crippling our economy. But they need to put investment dollars into things that promote these skills, and, more importantly, they need to use their clout to influence politicians and the general public on these issues.

Lenny Wrote:

Reuters reports how scientists have enlisted the help of the clergy in battling creationism.

Nice of them to do so now, after ID is all but dead after their crushing defeats in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Where the hell were they ten years ago?

Zimmerman started The Clergy Project back in 2004. The clergy had a calling, but this came only recently.

As for ID being dead, I am sure that it has some kick left in it at least as far as teaching the controversy or the problems or evidence against evolution (as part of a critical thinking exercise) is concerned.

But almost as importantly is the cultural war which needs to be won. It is still quite alive. There are the strategies in the form of “the ten questions” one should ask one’s teacher, and other ways of interfering with attempts to teach evolution (that have the effect of making teachers afraid to even bring the subject up, let alone devote any time to it) which must be dealt with no matter what legal outcomes we have.

Moreover, in time, if the ID/Creationist movement are successful culturally, I am not sure that legal precedent will be enough. It is possible for the fundamentalists to use these legal outcomes as grievances and as further evidence of how the forces of secularism/materialism/atheism have taken over our country. On this point, the clergy can certainly help – not with the fundamentalists (as far as they are concerned, whoever is opposed to them is in league with the forces of darkness) but at least with the general american public, immunizing them in effect against fundamentalist propoganda.

However, one of the more important things we can do at this point is emphasize the strength of evolutionary science, the advances in our knowledge, and the importance of having it genuinely taught in the schools as an integral part of education in a modern society and as a matter of simple scientific literacy. (This is something that you have stressed – probably far more times than you could count.) We can turn this into an opportunity to help reverse the decline of US education.

“The God of religious faith is a god of love. He did not design me.”

Needless to say, Fr. Coyne fails to explain exactly how the second is specifically supposed to follow from the first.

I see nothing within astronomy (Coyne’s field), nor within the Bible, (supposedly Coyne’s field, let us pray hard), nor even within common sense, where the second sentence follows from the two sentences. The responsibility of asking for that explanation, however, belonged to Reuters reporter Maggie Fox. She apparently never got around to asking.

Since this article concerns clergy response to this evolution-ID situation, why did Fox not balance out Coyne’s statement by quoting his fellow clergy Cardinal Schonborn and Pope Benedict? For that matter, why are NO non-Darwinist clergy of any denomination quoted at all in this article? The story is important, but where’s ~both~ sides of it?

****** I realize that these questions are questions for Coyne and Fox to answer, not the PT folks.

However, just like Fr. Coyne, Fox ain’t doin’ her job either, it would seem.

FL

Sorry about that, folks. I usually use Preview, but I went too fast there and skipped it. My mistake.

First two paragraphs should say:

Needless to say, Fr. Coyne fails to explain exactly how the second sentence is specifically supposed to follow from the first.

I see nothing within astronomy (Coyne’s field), nor within the Bible, (supposedly Coyne’s field, let us pray hard), nor even within common sense, where the second sentence follows from the first sentence.

Anyway, there ya go.

FL :-)

Needless to say, Fr. Coyne fails to explain exactly how the second sentence is specifically supposed to follow from the first.

I see nothing within astronomy (Coyne’s field), nor within the Bible, (supposedly Coyne’s field, let us pray hard), nor even within common sense, where the second sentence follows from the first sentence.

Has it occurred to you to see if you can find more about Coyne’s viewpoints by (gasp) listening to some of his presentations or (eek) reading his comments beyond the few excerpts in newspapers. Then you would find out why the sentences do make sense.

yes they could have quoted Schonborn but that would merely have shown how religious people are uninformed about scientific theory. Luckily Coyne has stood up and pointed out what is scientifically wrong with Schonborn’s ever evolving comments.

In the end the article is about enlisting the help of clergy in improving science education by battling creationism

FL:

In any case, I don’t see why these two Coyne statements can’t be regarded as two separate, independent statements of faith. They need not be interrelated at all.

FL Wrote:

“The God of religious faith is a god of love. He did not design me.”

Needless to say, Fr. Coyne fails to explain exactly how the second sentence is specifically supposed to follow from the first.

I see nothing within astronomy (Coyne’s field), nor within the Bible, (supposedly Coyne’s field, let us pray hard), nor even within common sense, where the second sentence follows from the first sentence.

Apparently, theology is not within your knowledge base. It is an obvious fact that you do see it. It is equally obvious that many theologians do see it - quite clearly.

Since this was directed to theologians and not to folks like yourself who know nothing about the subject, your commentary on the subject is singularly irrelevant.

But if you are interested in learning more than you know, I would be happy to provide you with some suggestions.

Since science and religion have traditionally made “strange bed fellows” the scientific community should view any type of reconciliation with a certain amount of skepticism. Religious establishments,made be supportive to science ,but, only to a point. The Global Catholic Network” said this. Evolution as Philosophy What is the attitude of the Catholic Church towards the theory of evolution? Considered strictly as a scientific theory, evolution starts with the hypothesis or conjecture that higher forms of life have developed from lower forms over a period of millions of years. The scientist then tries either to prove or disprove this hypothesis by searching for evidence to be found in the geological record. If he can show that there is a record in the rocks which shows the development of some lower form of animal into a higher form, he has proven his hypothesis. Consequently, there has been a great effort among scientists to search the geological record for evidence that modern man has indeed descended from the lower animals like the ape. There are, however, too many missing links in the record to allow any reputable scientist to claim that evolution is a proven fact. The Catholic Church is united with these Christians in opposing evolution AS A PHILOSOPHY. With the Protestants, the Church insists that God created the world and that man has an immortal soul. The Church, however, does not oppose evolution AS A SCIENTIFIC THEORY. The reason is that she does not hold for an absolutely literal interpretation of those chapters of Genesis. Thus the Church sees no necessary conflict between the belief that God created the world from nothing and the scientific hypothesis that the world has evolved over millions of years. Again, the Church sees no necessary conflict between the belief that God created directly the souls of Adam and Eve and the scientific hypothesis that Adam and Eve descended from non-human ancestors. Thus even if can be proven scientifically beyond a reasonable doubt that man has descended from some lower animal like the ape, the Church will not have to change its position. Thus the Church is content to let the scientists go about their business and will only react when some step beyond the limits of science in making the claim that the theory of evolution has made Christianity obsolete. So science is acceptable to the church only to a point, when science reaches that point (as it invariable will)what then?

For that matter, why are NO non-Darwinist clergy of any denomination quoted at all in this article? The story is important, but where’s ~both~ sides of it?

Maybe it’s because IDers keep lying to everyone by claiming that their crap is SCIENCE and is NOT based on any religious aims, goals, or effects. (shrug)

But thanks once again for clearing that up for us. Thanks for making it so clear, once again, that (1) ID is fundamentalist religious apologetics – nothing more, nothing less, nothing else, (2) IDers are just lying to us when they claim that it’s not, and (3) Judge Jones was absolutely correct when he ruled that it was.

As I’ve often noted, this is why I love fundies so much. As a strategy, anti-evolutionism depends utterly on one thing for success — it MUST, absolutely MUST, get all its supporters to shut up about their religious aims and goals. As FL so kindly demonstrates, they simply can’t do it. Indeed, they don’t WANT to do it. None of them can go ten minutes without preaching, and thus destroying their own chances of winning in court. They are, by far, their own worst enemies.

I find it fascinating (and a little surreal) that they STILL have no idea, absolutely none at all, why they lost in Dover, and indeed are STILL doing the very same thing – thus insuring that they KEEP losing in court.

Whether that is from arrogance or from pig-ignorance, I thank them for it. It makes our job MUCH easier.

From JONBOY’s post:

The Catholic Church is united with these Christians in opposing evolution AS A PHILOSOPHY. With the Protestants, the Church insists that God created the world and that man has an immortal soul. The Church, however, does not oppose evolution AS A SCIENTIFIC THEORY.

Speaking from a strictly scientific point of view, I can’t support evolution as a philosophy either, because– as a philosophy– it’s not testable against the empirical world.

As for your question about what the Catholic Church will do if (or when) scientists “step beyond the limits of science in making the claim that the theory of evolution has made Christianity obsolete”, I’m sure they’ll oppose those non-scientific claims. But that’s not a rejection of science. That’s a rejection of a philosophical stance.

Frankly, I think scientists should only be “supportive of science”, as you put it, up to the point where it departs from a reliance on empirically testable hypotheses. Being “supportive of science” in the philosophical realm strikes me as an oxymoron. Are you perhaps defining science differently than I am? For me, if it isn’t testable against the natural world, it doesn’t qualify as science– at least that’s my rough definition.

Good fences make good neighbors. IMO, it’s in the best interest of scientists to draw the line pretty much where the Catholic Church is drawing it– and to police it on both sides.

Some of the statements coming out of the Catholic Church are similar to the statements that Copernicus could be taught as a hypothesis but not as a fact (otherwise you risk being shown the instruments of torture).

After the Dover decision, one of our local news papers has had a flurry of letters-to-the-editor from advocates pushing ID, “teach the controversy”, “teach the problems with evolution”, “evolution can’t be proven”, “freedom of speech for opposing views”, in other words, the whole gamut of arguments being used to still get their religion into the science classroom. The local newspaper treats these as being equal in value to letters pointing out the specifics of the Dover decision. We still have a long way to go.

I like the idea expressed by someone in another thread that we continually connect ID with creationism (it is legitimate to do so, as was shown in the trail). We also need to talk publicly about the tactics use by the IDC crowd, specifically their dishonest claims, quote mining, their wedge document; just a little matter-of-fact information that paints them in their true colors.

I’ve noticed how shocked people are when they find out how the Dover board members behaved and lied. It seems to get their attention that something doesn’t smell right about IDC. If this can be shown to be the general pattern, maybe more folks will start being a little more skeptical of IDC claims.

the scientific community should view any type of reconciliation with a certain amount of skepticism.

I agree. I just read a different kind of attack om evolution coming from someone who would want us to call them pro-evolution and anti-ID here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/19/b[…];oref=slogin

Like IDers can claim to accept the age of the Earth and micro-evolution, Leon Wiseltier, the author of the book critique, accepts some things, but not this new fangled evolutionary psychology - no, that’s scientism and guilty of everything IDers fault materialistic science for in the Wedge document.

Like IDers can claim to accept the age of the Earth and micro-evolution, Leon Wiseltier, the author of the book critique, accepts some things, but not this new fangled evolutionary psychology - no, that’s scientism and guilty of everything IDers fault materialistic science for in the Wedge document.

In fairness, it should be pointed out that many behavioral scientists (none of them IDers or creationists or anti-evolutionists) do not accept that most human behaviors have genetic rather than cultural sources, and thus reject the very core thesis of evolutionary psychology.

I have much sympathy with that view.

B. Spitzer Wrote:

Speaking from a strictly scientific point of view, I can’t support evolution as a philosophy either, because— as a philosophy— it’s not testable against the empirical world.

As for your question about what the Catholic Church will do if (or when) scientists “step beyond the limits of science in making the claim that the theory of evolution has made Christianity obsolete”, I’m sure they’ll oppose those non-scientific claims. But that’s not a rejection of science. That’s a rejection of a philosophical stance.

Frankly, I think scientists should only be “supportive of science”, as you put it, up to the point where it departs from a reliance on empirically testable hypotheses. Being “supportive of science” in the philosophical realm strikes me as an oxymoron. Are you perhaps defining science differently than I am? For me, if it isn’t testable against the natural world, it doesn’t qualify as science— at least that’s my rough definition.

Good fences make good neighbors. IMO, it’s in the best interest of scientists to draw the line pretty much where the Catholic Church is drawing it— and to police it on both sides.

I agree – from a strictly scientific point of view. Science is essentially based upon a methodological naturalism which remains agnostic with regard to philosophical, metaphysical, ethical and religious issues. This is largely the result of the fact that empirical science must be either falsifiable – along the lines of Karl Popper’s Principle of Falsifiability – which has acted as a line of demarcation between empirical science and other claims to empirical knowledge – or testable in which the function of the Principle of Falsifiability has remained essentially intact. It is not metaphysical naturalism.

At the same time, I can certainly understand if people like Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett are interested in erecting essentially non-religious worldviews which in one way or another endorse some form of metaphysical naturalism. However, it should be made clear at least by other scientists (and preferably by metaphysical naturalists themselves) that when they do this, they are no longer speaking as scientists, but have entered the realm of philosophy and metaphysics – if only for the purpose of honesty and clarity.

Moreover, for people such as myself, I believe it worth keeping in mind that it is easiest to defend the rights of the non-religious to their views and their freedom of expression when it is part of a broader defense of religious freedom and religious tolerance. To the extent that religious individuals and organizations stand in defense of the of a secular, pluralistic society and the Separation of Church and State, they are acting to defend the rights of the religious and non-religious alike and should be viewed as allies.

‘Rev Dr’ Lenny Flank wrote:

In fairness, it should be pointed out that many behavioral scientists (none of them IDers or creationists or anti-evolutionists) do not accept that most human behaviors have genetic rather than cultural sources, and thus reject the very core thesis of evolutionary psychology.

Evolutionary psychology does not deny cultural influences on behavior. It’s a give and take – you adapt to an evolving culture, well, culturally, and if you don’t have the genetic resources to do so and the breed you fail to pass on your genes – It’s not an either or. What you’ve said is a false dichotomy and a straw man argument.

B Pitzer said, “As for your question about what the Catholic Church will do if (or when) scientists “step beyond the limits of science in making the claim that the theory of evolution has made Christianity obsolete”, I’m sure they’ll oppose those non-scientific claims. But that’s not a rejection of science.That’s a rejection of a philosophical stance”. Science,(even within the boundaries of its neutral explanation of the natural world),often raises questions to the veracity of certain philosophical teachings. There is obvious scientific contradictions within these statements,” With the Protestants, the Church insists that God created the world. “ Again, the Church sees no necessary conflict between the belief that God created directly the souls of Adam and Eve and the scientific hypothesis that Adam and Eve descended from non-human ancestors”. With the recent advancements in abiogenics and human genealogy, you can construct all the fences you like,but perhaps, unfortunately for the church, science will continue to keep moving them.

I wrote:

… you adapt to an evolving culture, well, culturally, and if you don’t have the genetic resources to do so and the breed you fail to pass on your genes —.…

That should be: “…if you don’t have the genetic resources to adapt to the culture you find yourself in and then fail to breed you thus fail to pass on your genes.

Implying as Lenny did: “genetic or cultural” is a false dichotomy. It’s both at the same time. If not some inherited species specific genes, our dogs would be speaking English and studying physics at college. If not for culture, we’d be living like the wolves - or rather wolf children.

In fairness, it should be pointed out that many behavioral scientists (none of them IDers or creationists or anti-evolutionists) do not accept that most human behaviors have genetic rather than cultural sources, and thus reject the very core thesis of evolutionary psychology.

Both of which are incorrect views, as any decent ethologist will tell you. All traits, including behavioral ones, are a product of gene by environment interactions. The relative contribution of each can vary among traits, of course, and can be studied in humans using sibling and twin analyses. In animals for which fewer ethical constraints exist, breeding experiments are used. What I’ve heard is that for some human behavioral traits, the contribution of both genes and environment is about 50% (or rather, 50% contribution toward some quantized measure of a behavioral trait). For reference, it appears to be about 70% genes and 30% environment for IQ scores (whatever that measures).

JONBOY:

Science,(even within the boundaries of its neutral explanation of the natural world),often raises questions to the veracity of certain philosophical teachings. There is obvious scientific contradictions within these statements,” With the Protestants, the Church insists that God created the world. “ Again, the Church sees no necessary conflict between the belief that God created directly the souls of Adam and Eve and the scientific hypothesis that Adam and Eve descended from non-human ancestors”. With the recent advancements in abiogenics and human genealogy, you can construct all the fences you like,but perhaps, unfortunately for the church, science will continue to keep moving them.

Again, my understanding is that science stops where the ability to make empirical tests stops. The statement “God created the world” is not detailed enough to be scientifically testable, because God’s mechanism for creating the world might well have been ‘natural’ forces. And how would you propose to test the idea that God directly created the souls of the first humans? For that matter, how would you propose to empirically test the idea that God directly creates every soul individually, even today?

These ideas aren’t open to scientific testing. Since testing is at the heart of science, I don’t understand how science can ever contradict or conflict with an idea that it can’t test. While our understanding of certain topics may change dramatically as science advances (the nature of consciousness is one example), there are certainly areas into which empirical science isn’t capable of going, even in theory.

J. G. Cox -

Someone - I believe it was P. Z. Myers - had a quote I liked. “Everything is 100% genetic and 100% environmental.” I’ll explain what this means soon, but first…

Technically, what stats like the ones you mention are trying to estimate is the fraction of the variance that is “determined” by one broad group of “causal” factors or the other. Often, such numbers are based on twin studies, making the oversimplified but possibly reasonable assumption that seperated-at-birth identical twins are “genetically identical” but “environmentally different”. I don’t mean to be dismissive of twin studies, which can be of great value, but the potential weaknesses behind the assumptions need to be borne in mind.

When someone makes the claim about IQ scores that you have quoted, what they mean is essentially this…

“If we took a population of genetically identical babies and scattered them throughout the world in diverse environments to be raised, and then twenty years later we gave them all IQ tests, and we took the mean, the variance, the standard deviation, and so on of the measures, we would expect the variance to be only 30% of what is observed when we give IQ tests to the general population”. I happen to think that this is probably wrong, and that the variance would be greater than this, but that’s another story. And I’m no expert on IQ tests. And as you said, “whatever they measure”.

IQ tests can be very useful in certain clinical situations, especially when a normal or high score rules out certain types of problems (for obvious reasons, a low score can far more easily be the result of many confounding issues). But that’s about it.

In fact, genes interact with the environment throughout an individual’s development and life. In fact, the genes in the parents germ cells are interacting with the environment even before they combine to form a zygote. It’s all always both.

I’ve personally been a believer in evolutionary psychology, broadly defined, long before I knew it had a name. (Also, I suspect that there may be exaggeratedly “pure” academic “evolutionary psychologists” with whom I don’t agree.) By which I do NOT mean that human personality traits or talents are “all genetic”, let alone that “people who happen to be on the bottom socially must be genetically inferior”, or any offensive and unkind nonsense like that, but rather, that much of our behavior is indeed governed by instinct, instincts that evolved and were selected for in our ancestors for millions, in some cases billions, of years. Did the “environment” “teach” you to know when your bladder is full (this is an extreme example, of course)?

Interestingly, one of the places where this idea was most positively received was at a meditation class I took at a yoga center a few years back (no, I don’t do yoga or meditate regularly these days, although I probably should). When I mentioned, tentatively, that much of our behavior is rather thoughtless, instinctive, and emotional, the teacher pointed out that this is more or less exactly what yogis and Buddhists believe, and part of what meditation is about.

It’s easy to get comfortable with Judge Jones’ decision and supporting opinion and the reversal by the Ohio Board of Education, but it’s premature to celebrate. Now begins the long grind of making evolution, accurately taught, the standard in every K-12 science classroom in the country. That will take some doing.

The public and the media focus on the high profile events like those in Ohio, Pennsylvania, or Kansas, but every day thousands of classroom teachers are teaching evolution according to their standards and their views, and those standards are too often far removed from what we’d expect to see. Last week the Toledo Blade reported on biology/life science teachers in the Toledo Public Schools and how they taught evolution. Disturbingly the Blade’s reporters had little difficulty finding teachers who teach creationism and deprecate evolution or those who simply skip it. That was in a big city system. Imagine the small town systems which inquiring reporters never visit and what goes on in them, unnoticed by everyone but the local fundamentalist congregations. From my experience visiting schools throughout this country over four decades what the Blade found is quite common. A significant portion of teachers either never mention evolution (doing so would elicit strong reaction from parents, and administrators don’t like that at all) or actively teach against it. State syllabi are nice, but in most states they have little real influence on what happens at the local level. Parents and taxpayers need to visit their local systems and find out what is actually being taught. If you’re a biologist, volunteer to help the biology teachers as a visiting lecturer. Push evolution for all its worth. Teachers who oppose evolution will be exposed and may leave the system. Teachers with weak spines will have their spines stiffened. Only through education over the long haul–and I mean decades–can change be effected and evolution given its proper place in biology and in the minds of the public.

B. Spitzer wrote:

And how would you propose to test the idea that God directly created the souls of the first humans?

Define what exactly a soul does, please. Many mental attributes can be tested to demonstrate their origin in the function of our biological neural nets.

This in some ways relates back to Leon Wiseltier’s critique of Daniel C. Dennett’s new book I noted earlier.

As long as ones religious claims never collapse into anything specific or defined they are safe from science’s critical eye, but they are also meaningless obfuscation without such specification and definition.

@ keanus

I agree. What we are confronting is, IMO, a deep-seated belief that is tightly integrated into many people’s identities. That sort of thing is only changed by constant pressure and requires turnover among generations. Compare it, perhaps, to how difficult and how slow has been the continuing eradication of racism in the U.S. Thus, the support of the clergy, however late we may feel it has come, is of great value as a way of increasing that pressure and spreading it into other aspects of people’s lives.

Comment #80977 Posted by PvM on February 20, 2006 01:57 AM

The NCSE was there in St Louis during the AAAS annual meeting

But there were more participants

Other collaborators* include the following organizations:

1. Academy of Science of St. Louis .….. 35. Washington University in St. Louis

Did anyone notice that not a single company or trade group was listed? Did corporate America participate in any way? None of the drug conglomerates? None of the biotech companies? Has any corporation whose bottom line is affected by the sciences decided to go on record as supporting proper science education? Is there any fear of boycott backlash by fundies?

sincerely

Epiphenomena aren’t physical, although they are produced by physical things (if that is indeed the case).

Sigh. Where do you get such incredibly wrong-headed ideas? A classic case of an epiphenomenon is the steam coming out of the stack of a steam locomotive; it plays no causal role in locomotion. There is no basis whatsoever for the claim that epiphenomena aren’t physical. If there were, then there could be no epiphenomenal materialists, yet you claim that all materialists are epiphenomenalists.

Dualists argue that consciousness is epiphenomenal and that there is thus no physical reason to have it, that it isn’t a result of evolution, and they argue that this undermines physicalism. If it were given that epiphenomena are non-physical then they wouldn’t need to make the argument. Anti-epiphenomenal physicalists, OTOH, use the same argument to argue that consciousness isn’t epiphenomenal. But according to you, there are no such physicalists. Epiphenomenal physicalists argue that consciousness is a necessary side effect, like the steam coming out of a locomotive. Or like spandrels. Perhaps you would claim that spandrels “aren’t physical”.

And when you’re making arguments in favour of physicalism, you’re vulnerable to the question of how purely mental entities could interact with the physical.

One after the other you make mind bogglingly question-begging, wrong-headed, and incorrect statements. Physicalism is the position that there are no “purely mental entities” – that all “mental entities” are fully explicable in physical terms, so there is no such vulnerability; to assert “purely mental entities” is simply to deny physicalism, not to provide an argument against it. On the contrary, it is substance dualism that suffers from what is known as the “interaction problem” – which is precisely “how purely mental entities could interact with the physical”. That this problem is intractable (Descartes waved his hands toward the pineal gland) is why substance dualism is a completely dead view in philosophy of mind.

btw, I have to say that I remain unconvinced by Dennett’s comments on zombies.

It’s odd that people say these sorts of things when they apparently have never read anything Dennett has said – even the stuff quoted here.

It seems to me that what Dennett is saying is, “It’s absurd to think that an unconscious being which behaves exactly as though it were conscious would ever come into existence on its own.”

Uh, no, Dennett has never said anything like that. Why would he, since whether zombies might come into existence is not an issue, and has no relevance to anything? Here’s a clue: if you think Dennett said something obviously dumb, he almost certainly didn’t say it.

What Dennett is referring to is the scenario of the “philosophical zombie”, or zombieworld: a world exactly like ours, with creatures exactly like us, with the only exception being that they aren’t conscious. Nonetheless, they have interminable debates about the nature of consciousness – something that Dennett suggests is preposterous.

But that’s not the point at all. A “zombie” could be a designed system (Aargh!!— sorry). Imagine that a programmer with too much spare time constructs a program that’s intended to pass a Turing test. The programmer provides the program with a list of every possible sentence that a human questioner might ask, and for each of these sentences, there is one response that the computer is programmed to give. (Go ahead and assume that the programmer includes on his list all sorts of variations in intonation, and/or that he maps out every possible “conversation” that the computer might have with the questioner, too.) It’s an absurd amount of work, but in this way it’s theoretically possible to build a completely deterministic, unconscious entity with the exact same responses that you’d expect from a conscious being.

Such systems quite obviously would not be physically or even functionally identical to us – we surely have the capacity to give more than one answer to any given question. In fact, such a system isn’t behaviorally the same as us, since we don’t always give the same answer to every question. We are incredibly context-sensitive, and so such a system must be also.

If you get things so blatantly and obviously wrong, might it not be possible that your belief that you have found errors in Dennett’s arguments is incredibly arrogant? As a purely objective matter, which of you, do you suppose, has more experience thinking about these issues?

Is it absurd to think that a programmer would have so much spare time? Sure. But the result would be an entity that, from the other end of the phone line or the computer screen, would not be distinguishable from a conscious person.

I can assure you that I could make that distinction. I might, for instance, ask it what the weather is like today, or what Bush’s latest lie is – something that the programmer could not have programmed in. Wow, gee, did you think of that? Did you subject your ideas to any sort of critical thought at all? We are, by virtue of being embedded in a dynamic unpredictable world, dynamic unpredictable systems.

Yet they would have very different subjective states.

Well, so do you and I, it seems. And if you want to claim that we have similar subjective states, what basis do you have for that? Perhaps I’m a robot intelligently designed by aliens. Would that guarantee that we have dissimilar subjective states? Why so? What determines what subjective states something has, and whether two entities have similar subjective states? Just what the heck is a “subjective state”, anyway?

Every step of the way, you folks beg all the questions, asserting the very things that are at issue.

I Wrote:

Such systems quite obviously would not be physically or even functionally identical to us — we surely have the capacity to give more than one answer to any given question. In fact, such a system isn’t behaviorally the same as us, since we don’t always give the same answer to every question. We are incredibly context-sensitive, and so such a system must be also.

Oops, you did write in parentheses and/or that he maps out every possible “conversation” that the computer might have with the questioner, too. But if you’re going specify something, why not specify it correctly up front, instead of incorrectly specifying it, then completely changing it in parentheses, and then only conditionally (“or”).

In any case, programming all the possible conversations still gets it wrong, because the trick is to have appropriate conversations, and those can’t be known beforehand. Witness the conversations of Bush, Cheney, and Rice with the American people about WMD – perhaps they are programmed the way you suggest, since they seem largely impervious to context. Competent humans, though, are “reality based”.

Regardless of how it is produced or arises, consciousness most definitely is non-material — my thoughts have no mass or spatial extension, and my qualia have no temperature.

This is precisely why the term “physicalism” is used instead of “materialism” – to avoid these sorts of silly and, at some level, intellectually dishonest objections. While homes have mass and spatial extension, the process of constructing a home does not – yet it is certainly physical. In the same way, thinking can be considered to be physical, and so can consciousness. As for thoughts and qualia – these are folk-theoretical entities that, if present in a physicalist theory of consciousness at all, would not map precisely onto the folk concepts. Nonetheless, the folk concepts would be explicable in the theory, just as folk concepts of physics are explicable in physical theory.

As for the “very different” subjective states, that’s exactly what I meant: having a subjective state is very different than not having one.

Ok, what is the difference? Can you say, without simply restating the claim in equivalent words? Chalmers says that it’s like being “all dark inside”. But of course we don’t have lightbulbs in our heads, and being all dark inside can’t be what it’s like to be a zombie, since supposedly it isn’t like anything to be a zombie.

The failure of even the leading proponent of this notion to be able to articulate this idea of “having a subjective state” that supposedly distinguishes conscious beings from non-conscious beings suggests that something’s seriously wrong with the idea. It strikes me that we no more literally “have a subjective state” than we “have a good time” or “have a need”. Needs, good times, and subjective states aren’t subjects of possession. “have a” here is idiomatic language used in descriptions. I may love my brother, but I don’t literally have “a love for my brother”, or any other subjective state. If I say that I am thinking of my brother lovingly, this reflects images, words, and moods, all of which have detailed physical causes. A zombie that has its visual, linguistic, and emotional centers of its brain active in just the way mine are would appear – to a cognitive scientist – to be thinking of its brother lovingly. It certainly (ex hypothesi) would claim that it is doing so with the exact same words I do. What then, precisely, would it be missing?

I will try one last time: Dennett says that if zombies are objectively functionally the same as humans, then they too necessarily have the same subjective states (or “statez”).

So for one last time you will repeat a patently untrue claim? Dennett has never said any such thing. Notably, he never refers to “statez” – you seem to live in a mental universe made completely of question begging, where you cannot conceive of any of your assumptions being false, and so you put words into the mouths of those who disagree with your assumptions to reconfigure them as if they agreed with your assumptions. Dennett refers to “understandz” and “believez”. These do not refer to “subjective states” (whatever those are). As I already noted, they refer to behaviors, the same sorts of behaviors by which we judge humans to believe things or understand things, since, as you recognize, we can’t access their “subjective states”. Your views and claims about Dennett’s position, as with your views and claims about just about everything under discussion here, are quite mistaken.

Dennett? Whose best-known work was rightly derided as “Consciousness Explained Away”?

Dear question-begger: your work here can rightly be derided as ignorant and stupid.

Marvin Minsky? The fellow who famously said, in 1967, “In 10 years, computers won’t even keep us as pets?” That Marvin Minsky?

This is the most moronic and dishonest of ad hominems. Minsky is also famous for saying 1982

“The AI problem is one of the hardest science has ever undertaken.”

Unlike a doofus like you, Minsky is actually capable of learning and evolving.

The phrase in your post that caught my eye was “every possible sentence that a human questioner might ask.” This is an infinite set, meaning that a necessarily finite database could not store all possible sentences. (Maybe ‘functionally infinite’ is more accurate, in which case I’ve overstated my claim.) But it’s my understanding that a discrete, combinatorial system, like a natural language, can produce an infinite number of utterances.

This isn’t a relevant objection, since all conversations are finite in length, and there are only a finite number of conversations that can be completed in any given finite amount of time.

It may not be likely, but all we need is possibility in order to demonstrate that a purely verbal behavioural test of consciousness (in other words, the Turing Test) won’t work.

The Turing Test was never proposed as a test of consciousness, it was proposed as a test of intelligence – actually a replacement for the hopelessly vague question “Can Machines Think?” – the title of Turing’s article.

In any case, this talk of “possibility” is nonsense, since it is logically possible that you are the only conscious person on earth. Not only isn’t a verbally behavioral test sufficient to logically prove consciousness, but no test is sufficient to logically prove consciousness. But that is not the same a saying that such tests “won’t work”; whether a test “works” has nothing to do with logical force. Talk of “possibility” is question-begging blather.

The phrase in your post that caught my eye was “every possible sentence that a human questioner might ask.” This is an infinite set, meaning that a necessarily finite database could not store all possible sentences. (Maybe ‘functionally infinite’ is more accurate, in which case I’ve overstated my claim.) But it’s my understanding that a discrete, combinatorial system, like a natural language, can produce an infinite number of utterances.

This isn’t a relevant objection, since all conversations are finite in length, and there are only a finite number of conversations that can be completed in any given finite amount of time.

As the author of the objection, I do feel that it’s relevant. It is not particularly telling against a “chinese room” type of argument, but, had it been responded to, it sets up the next line of reasoning, which is, even allowing for sheer ‘logical possibility,’ any attempt at ‘cheating’ the Turing Test with a GLUT (Tulse for ‘Giant Look Up Table’) still has to make use of some form of heuristic.

I was going to continue with this, but I gave it up for two reasons: 1. It appears that Tulse is an unreconstructed dualist, and I find that position hopelessly out of touch with the current state of both neuroscience and philosophy, and 2. You (Popper’s Ghost) have made most of the arguments I would have but better. So, kudos. (But, really, man. You’re awful busy today, for a dead guy.)

there’s a sense in which Searle’s “Chinese Room” is also an example of a look-up table

Searle’s Chinese Room is an example of a Turing Machine. The whole point of the CR is to demonstrate that no algorithm, no matter how sophisticated, can generate mental states. But the CR argument fails miserably, as numerous people, including David Chalmers (see pp. 322-326 of “The Conscious Mind”), have demonstrated. Sadly, philosophy departments are full of people who can’t reason their way out of a paper bag and have the intellectual honesty of Ann Coulter, who teach their equally mentally defective students that Searle proved something and that Daniel Dennett is a zombie who can’t grasp the obvious.

allowing for sheer ‘logical possibility,’ any attempt at ‘cheating’ the Turing Test with a GLUT (Tulse for ‘Giant Look Up Table’) still has to make use of some form of heuristic.

Given a time limit for the conversation, any heuristic algorithm can be run on all conversations that can be completed in that time, and the results can be stored in a HLUT (the proper term, as coined by Ned Block – “Humongous LookUp Table”). Ignoring practical limitations, the only reason a HLUT fails is the reason I gave – because it can’t know the future, and thus can’t anticipate what would be appropriate responses to queries that refer to facts not known at the time the table was composed. Such queries are a sure way to quickly identify chatterboxes, regardless of the sophistication of their heuristics (they can’t detect humans pretending to be chatterboxes, but Turing’s setup demanded that the human do its best to aid, not hinder, the tester). Only a system that is embedded in the world and can sample the information stream and make sense of it as events occur can withstand such challenges.

Popper’s Ghost wrote:

Dennett has never said any such thing. Notably, he never refers to “statez” —

You’re right. I slipped up when responding to Tulse by agreeing with him. I failed to note the behavior distinction.

The only “z” term Dennett uses here are “understandz” and “beliefsz.” http://ase.tufts.edu/cogstud/papers/unzombie.htm

They say just what we say, they understand what they say (or, not to beg any questions, they understandz what they say), they believez what we believe, right down to having beliefsz that perfectly mirror all our beliefs about inverted spectra, “qualia,” and every other possible topic of human reflection and conversation.

“Understandz” and “believez” do refer to behaviors we more easily infer because people state them explicitly.

Raging Bee Wrote:

What if the message is “Using science to understand the material world is not ungodly; but science won’t see God because God is beyond the material world.”? Do you really have a problem with that?

Yes. I said that I have no problem with anyone reporting scientific facts.

Using science to understand the material world is not ungodly

and

science won’t see God because God is beyond the material world

are not scientific facts, they are philosophical-religious propositions, which may or may not be true depending on:

(a) whether God exists;

and

(b) if He/She/It does, then what His/Her/Its nature is.

Nobody knows whether those propositions are true or not.

Funny, Norm, that you made that comment just as I was about to respond to this from Spitzer:

Okay, AFAICT, it’s only normdoering (and maybe Daniel Dennett) who are insisting that it’s not possible for a machine to exist that could be made to mimic consciousness without being conscious.

If consciousness is something that can be present or missing totally independent of the physical makeup of something (humans and zombies are physically identical, differing only in one being conscious and the other not), then how can consciousness be mimiced????

The fact is that everyone, even dualists, really understand that we use the word “consciousness” all the time to refer to behavior – but when it comes to the philosophy of mind, many people play this bizarre game in which they pretend that it refers to some ineffable experiential aether.

When it comes to mimicing, it’s worth considering David Chalmers’ notion of “functional invariance”. He notes that a simulation of a function is the function. My favorite example of this is that someone mimicing a brilliant chessplayer is a brilliant chessplayer, since what determines whether one is a brilliant chessplayer is solely the quality of play (mimicing a brilliant chessplayer doesn’t mean some actor claiming to be a brilliant chessplayer and playing some game he has memorized; it means that, if a(nother) brilliant chessplayer walks up to the mimic and asks to play, the mimic agrees – and plays brilliantly). In regard to consciousness, Chalmers says that, due to functional invariance, a computer that simulates the functions of a human brain would be conscious (but such computers in zombieworld would not be conscious, because zombieworld has different psychophysical laws).

My view is that most of the talk about these subjects suffers from unexamined (and, when examined, clearly erroneous) Platonic assumptions about language, treating words like “consciousness” as if their meanings are held in God’s mind or, as Quine put it, like objects hanging in a museum, with the meaning of each word as a caption under it. But words don’t have meanings in this way; meaning comes from the “language game” the Wittgenstein described – “meaning is use”.

What does it mean for a mimic of a conscious entity to not be conscious? I really don’t have any idea, because I don’t view consciousness as some sort of aether, or soulstuff. “is conscious” is a judgment that we make based upon observation; there is no fact of the matter as to whether something is conscious, because there are no objective criteria for whether something is conscious. To say that two entities act the same way but one is conscious and the other not, I demand some basis for making that distinction. If the basis is that one contains a biological brain and the other doesn’t, that’s tantamount to defining “conscious” as an attribute only of biological brains, which is entirely ad hoc. Before we can answer questions like “is it possible for a machine to exist that could be made to mimic consciousness without being conscious”, we need a theory of consciousness that defines the term. Otherwise we’re playing games like the old question “is a euglena animal or vegetable?”. The answer to the question came by virtue of defining our terms more carefully, not by figuring out what is the answer “really” is.

So how many angels can sit on the head of a pin, then . … ?

You already said that, Rev. Dr.

Is it okay by your eminence if we have a discussion that fails to engage your interest?

“Understandz” and “believez” do refer to behaviors we more easily infer because people state them explicitly.

It isn’t about explicit statement or ease of inference, just plain old inference from observation. Dennett writes:

They say just what we say, they understand what they say (or, not to beg any questions, they understandz what they say)

“they understand what they say” has a clear meaning – they react to an utterance “appropriately”; in a way that satisfies our expectations of a person who understands something said. Dennett uses “understandz” to avoid a fight (not beg a question) with those – such as Searle in his absurd Chinese Room paper – who would treat understanding as some sort of aetherial substance rather than a behavioral disposition. And he continues with

they believez what we believe, right down to having beliefsz that perfectly mirror all our beliefs about inverted spectra, “qualia,” and every other possible topic of human reflection and conversation.

Again, this isn’t just about explicit statements, it’s about all sorts of behavior from which we infer beliefs. For instance, if a zombie votes for zombie George W. Bush, we can infer that it believez that zGWB would make a better president than zombie John Kerry. If a zombie woman checks her zombie husband’s collar and finds an unfamiliar brand of lipstick, we can infer that she believez that he is cheating on her. We could enumerate billions of such beliefsz and inferences. After enough of them, it should become clear to even the most thick-headed dualist that there is no difference whatsoever between beliefsz and beliefs, but Dennett avoids ruling that by linguistic fiat.

Another point where you let Tulse slide is on his claim that Dennett doesn’t believe in the unity of consciousness (the point of his “Multiple Drafts” view – that isn’t the point of Multiple Drafts at all; they are called “drafts” because they haven’t yet come into consciousness. MD doesn’t have a “point”, it’s a theory. And I think you give Dennett too much credit when you write “At least Dennett’s ideas have the potential to inform research” – MD was drawn from research. As for ridicule of the Cartesian Theater, it is ridiculous and nearly everyone with any sense at all disavows it. But Dennett keeps pointing out how it still infects the thinking of even those who adamantly deny that they entertain such ridiculous notions.

Another bit of Tulsian question-begging absurdity is the nonsense about “I know of no one who claims to have measured subjective experience” – hardly relevant when he knows of so little. He might want to read C.L. Hardin’s Color for Philosophers. Of course it’s logically possible that all of the relationships that have been determined, that shape color and other perceptual spaces, are just relationships among “reports” and other observations, and not among the “subjective experiences” themselves – just as it’s logically possible that the Earth was formed 6000 years ago. But if “subjective experience” is by definition something that cannot be measured, then it is an utterly useless concept and an abuse of language.

BTW, the recognition that there are perceptual spaces, and that our so-called qualia are relational, does away with such dualistic nonsense as inverted spectra that assumes attributes of experience that are independent of any physical fact about the experiencer. Try to imagine someone who is exactly like you but their perception of left and right is switched – everything that seems like it’s on the right to you seems to them like what things on the left seem to you, and v.v. Of course, they call things that seem on the left to them (but on the right to you) “on the right”, because it’s a complete inversion; after all, they are physically identical to you. Of course, this makes no sense because left and right have no absolute character, they are meaningful only in relation to each other. Well, there’s every reason to think that the same applies to hues, but in a considerably more complex two-dimensional space. What it is for something to seem blue is comprised of where it sits relative to the way other hues seem – it has no absolute nature, and it’s meaningless to talk about “inverting” the perceptual spectrum because inverting it doesn’t change the relationships, any more than inverting left and right does.

Instead of hypothetical zombie worlds perhaps we should shift this discussion to some of the strange data that is really out there that can help illuminate what consciousness is and how it should be defined.

For example – what’s going on with multiple personality disorders? Do the different personalities have different consciousnesses?

What about the split brain experiments?

What about some of Oliver Sacks’ cases?

It seems I’ve had a hard time keeping my imagined zombie world straight and the definition seems to slip and slide depending on why you’re talking to.

For example — what’s going on with multiple personality disorders? Do the different personalities have different consciousnesses?

Assuming that there actually is such a disorder (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multip[…]_controversy ), it depends upon how you define consciousness, but the personalities are products of the same brain in the same body, with the same experiences. All of the memories of the personalities are stored in the same brain – which frankly makes me very sceptical of the reality of the disorder. In any case, I think calling them different consciousnesses implies more autonomy than there is. In fact, I don’t think referring to “a consciousness” is useful. They are referred to as personalities; let’s leave it at that.

What about the split brain experiments?

See http://psycprints.ecs.soton.ac.uk/a[…]ve/00000351/:

… There is an ongoing debate in the cognitive sciences – Dennett’s interpretation notwithstanding – about whether patients with severed corpus callosa have two separate streams of consciousness as a result, or whether consciousness is localized in only one hemisphere (Gazzaniga 1985; Gazzaniga and LeDoux 1978; Gazzaniga et al. 1979, 1987; Sperry 1965, 1977, 1985; Marks 1981; Natsoulas 1987). Of course, which side of the debate you are on depends a great deal upon what you think consciousness is.

What about some of Oliver Sacks’ cases?

The last line quoted above would seem to apply in many cases. The thing to keep in mind is that, in the absence of a theoretical framework that provides objective criteria, there is not a fact of the matter as to whether something or someone is conscious, and even with such a framework, there are indeterminate border cases. Is a man who cannot form long-term memories and constantly rediscovers his surroundings “conscious”? I don’t see that anything is gained by demanding a definitive answer to the question. What is certain is that he is badly broken, and deeply disturbing in the ways that he violates our expectations of a conscious human being.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by PvM published on February 19, 2006 11:53 PM.

How to get science across to the public was the previous entry in this blog.

AAAS: Teachers and Evolution on the Front Line is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Categories

Archives

Author Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.381

Site Meter