25 October 2008

Another Mental Excursion

Science requires methodological naturalism. All this talk about “materialist ideology” is all a diversion from the truth, which is that creationists, dualists, and proponents of various kinds of woo want to change the fundamental and necessary rules of science to allow their religious beliefs to pass as science. They are doing this for purely ideological reasons, and they don’t care if they have to destroy modern science in the process. Yet, they have the gall to accuse scientists of being “materialist ideologues” when they are just defending of method of inquiry from ideological assault.


From the summary of a very good article discussing the DI's latest tomfoolery (HT: Pharyngula). One bit puzzles me...

"The Buddhist connection perhaps explains Schwartz’s predilection for abusing quantum mechanics to “justify” his claims for dualism."

I was under the impression that Buddhists, as well as Taoists, rejected Duality in favor of seeing all things as One. Admittedly, Buddhism isn't a single, monolithic entity, so its adherents may disagree on certain points, but this still strikes me as very odd. I suppose he might be trying to argue for some unit separate from the body that can be 'reborn' into the karmic cycle. But I think the only way to make that scientific would be to isolate the unit (whatever it might be), place it into a new body, and somehow show that there was a continuity of consciousness. If that were possible, however, it would no longer be supernatural speculation; it would become part of the naturalist model.

To be honest, I've never really seen the point of making a distinction between "natural" and "supernatural." If it exists and can be observed, it is part of Nature. Period. This is part of why I find it so absurd when people describe the greatest being of all as a god who is separate from the universe. In the first place, there's no way to observe such a being until it interacts with the universe; in the second place, it cannot really be the "greatest being of all." Take the union of said god with the universe and you've got a greater being. In the third place, how can a supposedly "omnipresent" god be separate from the universe in which it is omnipresent?

I have a sneaking suspicion that people who espouse such a viewpoint don't really feel connected to their own bodies. I can bring my awareness to any part of my body that I choose. With the right training, I could probably learn to control many bodily processes that are normally dealt with subconsciously*. How is it meaningful to say that I am separate from my body? Separable from my body is another issue. But as of this moment, whatever it is that I call "I" is one with my body. To be aware of something, truly aware, is to be One with it. Thus an omnipresent god who is aware of all that goes on in the universe is necessarily one with it. There is no room for the "supernatural" with such a viewpoint.

*One example: I used to play around at a mirror, trying to make the pupils dilate or construct at will. At one time I got pretty good at it, but it was a lot of work for very little pay-off, so I haven't been practicing it lately.


John said...

"I've never really seen the point of making a distinction between "natural" and "supernatural." "

"Supernatural" means "I can't explain it, so I'll make up something that can't be proven wrong," and is really a BS way of saying "I don't know"

Once a phenomenon is tested and explained using the scientific method, it is "natural"

Qalmlea said...

I agree completely with the last part. I'm undecided about the second. There are people who genuinely believe in their supernatural explanations, so it's not always a 'BS way of saying "I don't know."' At least, not consciously. *shrugs*