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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Making Consciousness Useless and Inexplicable

Consider these quotes:

In his new book Free Will, Sam Harris says, "This [neuroscientific] understanding reveals you to be a biochemical puppet." Jerry Coyne asserts in a USAToday column: "The ineluctable scientific conclusion is that although we feel that we’re characters in the play of our lives, rewriting our parts as we go along, in reality we’re puppets performing scripted parts written by the laws of physics."

At least these fellows understand the logical implication of reductionist materialism: if reductionist materialism is true, consciousness is both useless and inexplicable. "Evolving consciousness" certainly cannot aid a "biochemical puppet" in any way whatsoever: his consciousness will have no influence whatsoever on what his body actually does, and so cannot possibly give him an evolutionary edge.

As you can see from these quotes, this is no straw man I have invented: those are the words of two of the very leading lights of reductionist materialism. They understand what their metaphysics implies. That many people who have casually embraced the idea don't comprehend its implications is not surprising: the amount of hate with which one must be filled to launch such an assault on human dignity is fortunately beyond most people's carrying capacity.

And, of course, the view expressed by Harris and Coyne is self-defeating rubbish: the words that come out of the mouth (or the keyboard) of a biochemical puppet are not his "conclusions" or his "understanding," but whatever noises his biochemical masters caused him to emit.