Thursday, December 22, 2005

Gideon's Blog

Noah Millman seems to have lost some enthusiasm for updating his blog. I for one hope he keeps at it. A couple of days ago he wrote a very intriguing post on ID, the self, Darwin, etc.

Ultimately I am unpersuaded by some of his arguments, but I have always been impressed with his ability to be able to see the relevant logical connections in these issues and pronounce upon them in an informed manner without claiming to definitively solve them.

"Forget about Darwin; there are already people running around claiming that the self is an illusion, and that's a far greater threat to ethical monotheism of any stripe."

Yes, absolutely. This is exactly the fear of Tom Wolfe I mentioned in my last post.

"I myself find the denial of the self logically problematic; illusions are perceived by selves - no self, no illusion. How then can the self itself be an illusion - who's doing the perceiving? But I recognize that while science has done essentially nothing to illuminate the deep abyss of consciousness itself...."

Again, this is absolutely true and strikes me as being obvious, though for some reason it seems to pass consideration among people who think about such things. In fact, I think that we can even go a bit further than this: the entire totality of science as it has ever been known or practiced is a function of consciousness. Somebody, somewhere has to think up the experiments, write the grant applications, record the readings from the stopwatches or whatever, and publish the papers. If there's no consciousness, there's no science.

"Even if consciousness turns out to be a singularity, it does not strike me as at all impossible that we'll unpack some very large chunks of what we currently attribute to that singularity and discover that they are in fact reducible to physical phenomena governed by law. I can imagine, for example, our discovering that what appears to be free will is, in fact, an illusion, a story we tell ourselves after the fact about how we came to decisions that were not consciously made at all. That's certainly the way my own mind feels to me some days."

This is interesting but ultimately I don't buy it. Noah seems to forget that when two things are logically forged together, you can push as well as pull on the connection between them. Even being your typical generic bourgeois shmoe, the spiritual experiences I have had, exalted and mundane, lead me to believe that my own free will is the most real thing there is, at least as real as Dalton's atomic model for water or some such. It's at least as likely that the epistemological strength of free will can be utilized to falsify erroneous science as it is that science will demonstrate free will as an illusion.

1 comment:

Prior Peter, OSB said...

Indeed, if we decide to investigate whether we have Freewill, we still have made a choice.
Rock Island Line,