Sunday, September 4, 2011

Critiquing a Deadly View of the World [Bob]

[In the response toMr. Gary Whittenberger's (GW) "critical essay" in the previous post, I offer the following with Scott Klusendorf's (SK's) permission. I will try to simplify the issues GW addresses and do my best to clarify what I see as the nature of their disagreement ... Bob]

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The limits of the medium

First, GW seems to want to hold SK accountable for too much. At various points in his rebuttal, GW chastises SK for: “[not] naming or quoting even one person who holds this position [of scientific materialism (SM)];” for not offering a detailed, point-by-point review of all the assertions and implications of SM; and for“[appearing] to assign human rights to single-celled zygotes because they have received souls [but providing] no evidence for souls, no evidence that souls are inserted at conception, and no consideration of consequences of this view for actual persons in the zygotes’ environment.” And, most egregiously, GW claims at one point that SK "does not deal with the tough questions" when in fact, he has not only written a book on the subject ("The Case for Life"), but one fourth of that book is specifically focused on the tough questions GW wants answered.

Each of these points is irrelevant to the case GW makes, but he needs to remember the title of SK’s article, the audience to whom it is targeted, and the space limits of the editorial process that come to bear with publishing such a magazine article. SK does not pretend to claim that this 2500 word article is an exhaustive critique of SM or, for that matter, an exhaustive defense of the pro-life view. Its simple purpose is to point out the lessons a typical lay pro-lifer can glean from comments made by a doctor in a popular TV show, and to show how being aware of Dr. Jenner’s views can be applicable to a reasoned defense of the pro-life position.

That’s it.

That said, GW’s case could not offer a better example of the inability of SM to assess a complete picture of reality in general, or the moral emptiness one ends up with in the attempt to use SM to defend abortion specifically. Within those two general categories, there are several deficiencies in GW’s essay that come to light.

An Incomplete Picture of Reality

GW attempts to classify his own version of SM through a series of statements about what SK “would say” (as opposed to what SK did say) if he were describing SM “correctly.” This series of statements proves to be very useful in showing the gaping holes in SM.

Klusendorf, the author, claims that the character Dr. Jenner is not “doing science” but is “doing philosophy,” but might he be doing both?

The simple answer to GW’s question is, “No.” There is not single a scientifically verifiable conclusion in Jenner’s or Crick’s statements. Both are drawing philosophical conclusions that are only possible if one accepts their common philosophical pre-commitment to materialism. Yes, there may be correlation between electrical impulses in the brain and memory, personality etc., but correlation does not equal causation. In fact, if SM is true, we have no reason to accept the truthfulness of any statement that Jenner (or Crick, or GW) makes … but more on that later.

If he were accurately reflecting the view of many scientists and philosophers, he would not say that in SM everything in the universe “must” be explained in physical terms; rather he would say that in SM the use of physical terms had proven more useful than the use of any other terms in explaining the universe.

More useful? I am interested in hearing about SM’s “usefulness” in accounting for the laws of logic and mathematics, the reality of numbers (or any other kind of concept), the reality of personal identity and self-knowledge, or the physical nature and location of thoughts or imaginings. These are just a few of the things we know most certainly. Indeed, each of these is a real, non-physical thing on which science itself depends at its most basic level, but that has absolutely no hope of being explained by SM even in principle.

He would say that nonmaterial things like souls, gods, and ghosts are still hypothetical and have not been established to exist by the evidence. He would not say that in SM matter alone constitutes ultimate reality, but that matter-energy and space-time constitute important parts of reality and yet much remains to be learned about reality.

Evidence for non-material things? First, this is a thread of argumentation that appears repeatedly in GW’s essay (he keeps asking for evidence of the soul). In response, one would first have to ask what he would accept as “evidence?” Given his adherence to SM, we can only assume that he means physical evidence.

Here, the gross, blind deficiency in the logic of SM proponents, who insist on physical evidence for non-physical things, never ceases to amaze. I am reminded of Time magazine’s proclamation in July of 1995 as recounted by Greg Koukl:
Time Magazine made a stunning announcement.  In an extensive article on the mind they wrote, “Despite our every instinct to the contrary, there is one thing that consciousness is not: some entity deep inside the brain that corresponds to the ‘self,’ some kernel of awareness that runs the show.” (July 17, 1995, p. 52).  In other words, there is no soul. 
How do they know this?  “After more than a century of looking for it, brain researchers have long since concluded that there is no conceivable place for such a self to be located in the physical brain, and that it simply doesn’t exist.”
Like GW, these folks apparently believe that if we search really, really hard we should be able to locate and surgically remove someone’s soul.

Seriously? Is it really that difficult to comprehend that science (the study of the physical universe) is the wrong tool for assessing metaphysical or non-physical reality? This is the silliness that comes with the demand that, as Koukl puts it, we “weigh a chicken with a yardstick.” It makes no sense. Yet, materialists make this demand all the time.

Second, SM completely and continually ignores or dismisses the overwhelming implication we have for the existence of a timeless, immaterial, powerful cause for the beginning of the entire physical universe as an exercise in wishful, baseless speculation. In its place they offer their own wishful speculation about an infinite number of other universes for which the total accumulated physical evidence amounts to exactly – zero. In other words, when it comes to matters of “evidence,” SM’s proclivity for hypocrisy literally knows no bounds.

He would not say that in SM the universe looks designed; he would merely say that the universe has some orderliness which can be comprehended.

Here GW fails to appreciate the unbridgeable materialistic chasm between orderliness and design. For the record, it is not just theists who recognize the design inherent in the universe (especially in the information content and capacity of DNA). Everybody does that. The difference is in the ridiculous lengths to which SM proponents will go to explain it away. Though it is beyond the scope of this discussion to delve into this issue, let me just say that we find orderliness in the structure of snowflakes and ice cubes. We find design in the features carved into the face of an elaborate snowman. SM is sufficient in explaining the order of the former. It has no hope of explaining the specified complexity and information content of the latter.

He would not say that in SM that science alone tells us truth, but he would say that so far science has proven to be the best method for investigating the natural world or the workings of reality. Unfortunately, Klusendorf distorts scientific materialism, as commonly held, and makes it out to be more dogmatic and exclusive than it actually is.

While I agree with GW that science is the best method of investigating the natural world, the flaw in his thinking rests in the assumption that the natural world constitutes all reality. He assumes this; he doesn’t prove it. Indeed, the simple examples(above) demonstrate pretty unequivocally that SM fails miserably in that attempt. As for distorting the dogmatism of SM, I will let one of SM’s great proponents speak about that for himself:

“Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against commonsense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs ...  in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated ‘just-so’ stories, because we have a prior commitment to materialism … Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”
Richard Lewontin
January 4, 1997
New York Review of Books

The simple truth is that GW defends SM in the same ways that any member of a religious priesthood defends their dogma. I will spare the reader that discussion but those who maybe interested can read a short essay on the issue (here: Defrocking The Priests of Scientism)

Finally, and most satisfyingly, in his discussion of paragraphs 8 and 9, GW addresses the topics of determinism and rational thought and therein offers us philosophical gold –which he unwittingly uses to completely sabotage his own argument.

It is fascinating to observe the tortured logic inherent in an argument that recognizes the reality of free will (as we all do), but is forced by the implications of SM to defend determinism.

GW tells us that the humans can have beliefs that are “determined by [their] genetic and environmental history up to [a] point [in time]” (emphasis mine), but then suddenly become “more rational” in the face of new information. So, in which state do we find GW? Is the argument he is offering the result of his own deterministic past (in which case we have no reason to accept it as containing any “truth”), or from his rational present(in which case his SM is proven false)? Pick one.

Here GW makes a valid point in questioning SK’s description of the “irrational forces of nature.” I would agree that nature is non-rational, not irrational. But the minor point of SK’s word choice is soon overwhelmed by GW’s more telling statement that “nature doesn’t think.”

Exactly!

GW insists that nature is the “whole show,” admits that “nature doesn’t think,” but then offers no explanation for how all those non-rational molecules have produced rational thoughts and ideas in a subset of nature, namely his own materialistic head. The particles clashing in GW’s gray matter can’t say anything “rational” without blowing up his own pre-determined adherence to SM.

In summary, the pre-suppositions demanded by SM leave its adherents incapable of even considering how limited and closed-minded their view is. They are so trapped within the materialist paradigm they simply can’t see reality for all the molecules.


A Gross Misunderstanding of the Pro-Life Position

As expected, his blind adherence to SM transfers nicely into GW’s failed critique of SK’s pro-life arguments.

He dismisses substance dualism because he is still trying to weigh a chicken with a yardstick, and because Paul of Tarsus was not a neuroscientist – as if only a neuroscientist could possibly comment on such a thing. (This begs the question: “Is GW a neuroscientist?” Not that it matters, of course, but I’m curious … as I digress).

Where SK argues for the continuity-in-kind of a developing fetus, GW wants to talk about Darwinian speciation.

Where SK uses continuity-of-personhood as a valid justification of punishment for moral culpability, GW insists that “altering the environment of an offending person, in some cases administering punishment, lowers the probability that the offender or others will engage in similar criminal behavior in the future.” While this may be true, it says precisely nothing about the notion that behavior is simply descriptive while altering behavior does nothing to explain why a behavior is wrong or what constitutes “proper” behavior –both of which are prescriptive.

But most troubling is the chilling vacuity in moral reasoning displayed in GW’s attempt to dismiss SK’s defense of the unborn. Before I go there, and since GW is apparently unfamiliar with it, I offer a simple summary of the pro-life position as defended by SK and the LTI staff:
  1. Human beings are valuable simply for what they are. Though Christian theists ground this notion in our being made in God’s image, it is not an unreasonable position and it does not depend on Christianity to be true. Even the most vehement materialist (Peter Singer excluded) seems to understand this simple fact.
  2. Scientifically, it is indisputable that a distinct, whole, living human being comes into existence at the moment of conception. Those who doubt this scientific fact don’t need to read a Bible, just an embryology textbook.
  3. Philosophically, the only differences between the unborn zygote/embryo/fetus each of us once were and the bornchild/adult we are today are matters of Size, Level of Development, Environment, and Degree of Dependency. None of these is morally significant nor would they justify killing any of us at an earlier stage in our development.
Taking these together, we argue that abortion is the unjustified taking of innocent human life. This is not a preference statement –we aren’t saying we don’t like abortion – it is a statement of objective moral truth. Taking innocent human life is morally wrong in and of itself.

Because he is apparently not familiar with this argument, GW’s reasoning does absolutely nothing to challenge any of its premises or the conclusion itself. This leaves him to ask questions and make assertions that range from irrelevant to downright bone-chilling in their moral bankruptcy.

He misunderstands some basic biological facts and this ignorance leads him to draw false moral conclusions. For instance, at one point he offers this hypothetical scenario:

If Jenner engineered human sperm, not fetuses, to eventually become adults who had ‘minimally firing synapse’ and who were trained to blow themselves up in the presence of walkers, would this be wrong? 

Though the moral point he is trying to make is unclear, one wonders if GW understands that a human sperm only contains half the DNA required to “eventually become an adult.” In order for someone to “engineer the sperm” toward that end, one would first have to combine the sperm with the DNA from an egg to create a human embryo that would develop into ... a fetus. A fetus is nothing more than a stage in the development of a human being toward adulthood. But this is a concept GW repeatedly misses.

Inreferring to the “unborn” Klusendorf misuses language, which is typical of anti-abortion-rights’ activists. It is proper to call early stage living human organisms by their proper names, like “zygotes, embryos, or fetuses …”

GW accuses SK of “misusing language,” and lectures us about how we should “properly” refer to early stage living organisms, all the while demonstrating that he has no apparent concept of what the language means. Zygotes, embryos, and fetuses are not different things. They are different stages in the development of the same thing – namely a whole, complete, living human being. Does GW not realize that he was once a zygote, embryo, and fetus? Does the fact that he developed from conception, through each of these stages (while unborn), until he was born mean that he was a different kind of thing at each stage along the way?

GW repeats this false assertion in several places by insisting that there is a difference in kind between an unborn human being and one who is born. This confusion about basic biological terms leads him to some rather bizarre assertions.

Contrary to the author, the “adult you” is not identical to the “fetal you”; it is similar, but not identical … in talking about the “unborn” the author is inappropriately trying to refer to fetuses as though they are babies.

Similar? True, the unborn is different in its level of development, but that does not change the kind of thing it is. What is the species and identity of “fetal you?” Is it different from “adult you?” GW seems to think so. Was GW not once “unborn?” Did his changing location 20 cm from inside his mother to outside his mother suddenly render him a "baby" that was a different kind of being or a different person than the one he is now?

It is twice as likely that a human zygote will die or be miscarried than that it will be born

It is also 100% likely that GW will die at some point. But this is hardly an argument we should accept to justify killing him earlier in his life. 

Is a one-celled human zygote really as valuable as an 18-year-old human person?

Yes. There is no difference in kind between the two. If GW has evidence that there is an intrinsic difference – a difference in kind, not an instrumental difference– between them, I encourage him to share it with us.

Here the author fails to acknowledge that unlike the person who has suffered a stroke and the loss of some cognitive functions, before a certain point in development a fetus has not manifested any cognitive functions. He is trying to compare apples to oranges.

No, GW is trying to turn apples into oranges. A person who suffers a stroke – or a pre-cognitive fetus – is still a human being and therefore valuable in virtue of the kind of thing it is. On a related note, his insistence on sentience, self-awareness, cognitive ability etc., as a measure of human value fails to take into account the fact that babies do not demonstrate these traits until weeks or months after they are born. GW’s criteria for assessing human value are arbitrary and irrelevant.

[SK] asks “Could doctors have justifiably killed you during your extended sleep...” Yes, they could, if you had previously stipulated in writing that you wished to be killed while in the coma when your chances of recovery were judged to be below a certain threshold, as determined by expert opinion.

Despite the fact that this is a completely different subject from the one being discussed, I would simply point out that I am unaware of any aborted human beings who have been afforded this luxury.

Each of these empty arguments fails miserably for the same reason – because each of them assumes that the unborn is not a human being. GW gives us no explanation for why the unborn may not be a human being and thereby avoids the moral question about why he thinks we should be allowed to kill it. In this propensity, he fancies himself clever and insightful, while the arguments he advances are the same old, tired ones that SK has been proving false for years.

GW’s confusion about the reality and continuity of human nature is bothersome. But what is most disturbing are the moral conclusions he draws based on this confusion. For that reason (and because this has already gone on too long), I will conclude with the most disturbing part of his view that is revealed in this question:

Why is a human organism always more valuable than a chicken organism? Might the latter be more valuable if a person is hungry?

Apparently, GW is serious in asking these questions – which is what led me to use the term “bone-chilling.” Since we’re asking questions here, does GW tell his wife (assuming he is married) that he wonders at times(especially when he is hungry) if she is more valuable than a chicken?

That is bad enough – but it is not the worst implication of the view he is putting forward. On GW’s SM, both his wife and a chicken are simply different forms of living “organisms” – bags of bones and flesh and protein – that would be perfectly acceptable in satisfying his appetite. Getting one’s genes into the next generation is all that counts. SM can’t say otherwise.

If he wants “scientific proof” of the value of human life he will get none. This is not the result of a deficiency in the pro-life argument; it is further evidence that SM is an incomplete philosophical position that cannot even begin to answer the most fundamental, and most important, questions about the world as we know it. The fact that a human “organism” is more valuable than a chicken organism is self-evident. But there is a name we give to the kind of person who requires an explanation for such a thing: psychopath.

Let me be crystal clear in stating that I am in no way suggesting that GW is a psychopath. I say this because I do not believe GW actually believes what he is implying with his question. I am simply pointing out that this is the kind of moral reasoning one is required to use to defend SM. So-called “skeptics” and sophists spout this kind of nonsense all the time, but none of them really adheres to it when they live out their lives in the real world.

SM is an empty, false, morally reprehensible way to understand the world. For this reason, applying it to the issue of abortion leads to empty, false, morally reprehensible justifications. I would like to thank GW for demonstrating this for us so clearly in his “critical essay.” It provides us with a powerful, real world example of the bankruptcy – both logically and morally – in the ideas he attempts to defend.
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38 comments:

  1. ell done, Bob (and SK)!

    Two observations: 1) Early on, GW claims that, if SK were accurate, "he would not say that in SM everything in the universe “must” be explained in physical terms...." So, if there is no philosophical imperative to insist on physical terms, why do SM adherents laugh or throw a fit when others use non-physicalist arguments to explain things like logic, self-awareness, etc.? They may be less "useful" (at least, to the committed materialist), but wouldn't they still be legitimate?

    2) Towards the end, GW makes his chilling statement about the circumstantial value of human vs. chicken organisms. "Might the latter be more valuable if a person is hungry?" Being consistent with GW's SM, though, why couldn't/shouldn't the human organism be an equally valid choice for consumption?

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  2. Part 1 of 11 of Whittenberger comment (GW1)

    First, I (Gary Whittenberger) would like to thank Scott Klusendorf (SK) for writing his article “What the ‘Walking Dead’ can Teach Pro-lifers” for the Christian Research Journal (Vol 34, No. 4, 2011, p. 28-31) and for posting my article criticizing his on the LTI website. Secondly, I’d like to thank Bob Perry (BP) for taking the time to write and post a response to my critical article. I think that free inquiry and a civil discussion of opposing viewpoints can promote understanding and enlightenment. In my response below, SK=Scott Klusendorf, GW0=my own responses to Klusendorf’s original article taken from my essay, BP1=Bob Perry’s first responses to me, and GW1=my first responses, the current ones, to Perry’s first responses. So, the sequence of communications was SK -> GW0 -> BP1 -> GW1. Mr. Perry has used “SM” to refer to “Scientific Materialism” and so I will continue that useage.

    Unfortunately, the characters’ limit for a reader’s comment on this blog is 4096, so I’ve had to break down my comment into 11 parts. This is a little cumbersome, but if the reader will just read the parts of my comment in succession, all will go well.

    BP1: First, GW seems to want to hold SK accountable for too much. At various points in his rebuttal, GW chastises SK for: “[not] naming or quoting even one person who holds this position [of scientific materialism (SM)];” for not offering a detailed, point-by-point review of all the assertions and implications of SM; and for“[appearing] to assign human rights to single-celled zygotes because they have received souls [but providing] no evidence for souls, no evidence that souls are inserted at conception, and no consideration of consequences of this view for actual persons in the zygotes’ environment.” And, most egregiously, GW claims at one point that SK "does not deal with the tough questions" when in fact, he has not only written a book on the subject ("The Case for Life"), but one fourth of that book is specifically focused on the tough questions GW wants answered.

    BP1: Each of these points is irrelevant to the case GW makes, but he needs to remember the title of SK’s article, the audience to whom it is targeted, and the space limits of the editorial process that come to bear with publishing such a magazine article. SK does not pretend to claim that this 2500 word article is an exhaustive critique of SM or, for that matter, an exhaustive defense of the pro-life view. Its simple purpose is to point out the lessons a typical lay pro-lifer can glean from comments made by a doctor in a popular TV show, and to show how being aware of Dr. Jenner’s views can be applicable to a reasoned defense of the pro-life position. That’s it.

    GW1: Yes, I realize that SK could not deal in a comprehensive way with all the issues and questions which I raised in my critique, but he should have dealt with most of them in a partial way or referred the reader to sources where he has dealt with them in a comprehensive way.

    BP1: That said, GW’s case could not offer a better example of the inability of SM to assess a complete picture of reality in general, or the moral emptiness one ends up with in the attempt to use SM to defend abortion specifically. Within those two general categories, there are several deficiencies in GW’s essay that come to light.

    GW1: It is important to remember that SM is not monolithic; there are several versions of it. Also, most advocates of SM do not intend to offer “a complete picture of reality in general,” but only a good working model of it, and most of them are not morally empty.

    BP1: GW attempts to classify his own version of SM through a series of statements about what SK “would say” (as opposed to what SK did say) if he were describing SM “correctly.” This series of statements proves to be very useful in showing the gaping holes in SM.

    GW1: Yes, I think SK implied and presented a stereotype or caricature of SM which most scientists and philosophers do not hold.

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  3. Part 2 of Whittenberger comment (GW1)

    GW0: Klusendorf, the author, claims that the character Dr. Jenner is not “doing science” but is “doing philosophy,” but might he be doing both?

    BP1: The simple answer to GW’s question is, “No.” There is not single a scientifically verifiable conclusion in Jenner’s or Crick’s statements. Both are drawing philosophical conclusions that are only possible if one accepts their common philosophical pre-commitment to materialism. Yes, there may be correlation between electrical impulses in the brain and memory, personality etc., but correlation does not equal causation. In fact, if SM is true, we have no reason to accept the truthfulness of any statement that Jenner (or Crick, or GW) makes … but more on that later.

    GW1: Actually I think that Jenner’s and Crick’s statements are possibly true even under a kind of dualism. If mental events are not identical to neuronal events, but are perfectly dependent on them, then Jenner’s and Crick’s statements might still be true. Yes, correlation does not equal correlation, as BP says, but if soul theory were true then one would not expect the high degree of correlation which has been found between “electrical impulses in the brain and memory, personality, etc.” Furthermore, some of the evidence is of a causal nature. For example, look at the changes in abilities and personality which are caused by damage to the brain. The “pre-commitment” to which BP refers is probably a “post-commitment” based on a careful examination of the evidence.

    GW0: If he [SK] were accurately reflecting the view of many scientists and philosophers, he would not say that in SM everything in the universe “must” be explained in physical terms; rather he would say that in SM the use of physical terms had proven more useful than the use of any other terms in explaining the universe.

    BP1: More useful? I am interested in hearing about SM’s“usefulness” in accounting for the laws of logic and mathematics, the reality of numbers (or any other kind of concept), the reality of personal identity and self-knowledge, or the physical nature and location of thoughts or imaginings. These are just a few of the things we know most certainly. Indeed, each of these is a real, non-physical thing on which science itself depends at its most basic level, but that has absolutely no hope of being explained by SM even in principle.

    GW1: Yes, more useful! Here, BP points out parts of the whole (the universe), which he thinks are exceptions, and ignores most parts of the whole which indeed follow the rule which I proposed. Also, he is being very presumptuous and pessimistic when he says that some things have “absolutely no hope” of being explained by SM. How does he know? That is what many religious people have said in the past, when they were later shown to be mistaken. I don’t have the time to go into all seven of BP’s examples, so I’ll just tackle one for now. Doesn’t SM explain the location of thoughts? I think it does. Don’t BP’s own thoughts occur in the same space that his brain occupies? We could show that putting a drop of LSD anywhere on BP’s brain would affect his thoughts but putting a drop anywhere else isolated from physical contact with his brain would not affect his thoughts. I think this would be pretty strong support for the hypothesis that his thoughts occur in the same 1260 cubic centimeters occupied by his brain.

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  4. Part 3 of Whittenberger comment (GW1)

    GW0: He [SK] would say that nonmaterial things like souls, gods, and ghosts are still hypothetical and have not been established to exist by the evidence. He would not say that in SM matter alone constitutes ultimate reality, but that matter-energy and space-time constitute important parts of reality and yet much remains to be learned about reality.

    BP1: Evidence for non-material things? First, this is a thread of argumentation that appears repeatedly in GW’s essay (he keeps asking for evidence of the soul). In response, one would first have to ask what he would accept as “evidence?” Given his adherence to SM, we can only assume that he means physical evidence.

    GW1: The burden to present evidence is on the person who makes the extraordinary claim that things like souls, gods, and ghosts exist. Given their adherence to at least souls and gods, SK and BP have an ethical obligation to present their evidence for these things for anyone else to examine. What is their evidence? And philosophically speaking, what is “evidence” anyway?

    BP1: Here, the gross, blind deficiency in the logic of SM proponents, who insist on physical evidence for non-physical things, never ceases to amaze. I am reminded of Time magazine’s proclamation in July of 1995 as recounted by Greg Koukl:

    Kokul quote: Time Magazine made a stunning announcement. In an extensive article on the mind they wrote, “Despite our every instinct to the contrary, there is one thing that consciousness is not: some entity deep inside the brain that corresponds to the ‘self,’ some kernel of awareness that runs the show.” (July 17, 1995, p. 52). In other words, there is no soul. How do they know this? “After more than a century of looking for it, brain researchers have long since concluded that there is no conceivable place for such a self to be located in the physical brain, and that it simply doesn’t exist.”

    BP1: Like GW, these folks apparently believe that if we search really, really hard we should be able to locate and surgically remove someone’s soul.

    GW1: No, these folks don’t believe any such thing. Does a soul exist? If SK and BP believe it does, then they have an ethical obligation to define “soul” and provide good evidence that it exists.

    BP1: Seriously? Is it really that difficult to comprehend that science (the study of the physical universe) is the wrong tool for assessing metaphysical or non-physical reality? This is the silliness that comes with the demand that, as Koukl puts it, we “weigh a chicken with a yardstick.” It makes no sense. Yet, materialists make this demand all the time.

    GW1: BP merely assumes ahead of time that science is “the study of the physical universe” and that science is not up to investigation of his soul or god hypothesis, but let’s find out. He should present a definition of “soul” and some evidence for its existence, and then we’ll see if science has anything useful to say about it.

    BP1: Second, SM completely and continually ignores or dismisses the overwhelming implication we have for the existence of a timeless, immaterial, powerful cause for the beginning of the entire physical universe as an exercise in wishful, baseless speculation. In its place they offer their own wishful speculation about an infinite number of other universes for which the total accumulated physical evidence amounts to exactly – zero. In other words, when it comes to matters of “evidence,” SM’s proclivity for hypocrisy literally knows no bounds.

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  5. Part 4 of Whittenberger comment (GW1)

    GW1: BP is making a rather big jump in going from zombies to the beginning of the universe, but I suppose his point has an indirect relevance. No, most advocates of SM neither ignore nor dismisses the hypothesis which BP presents here in his first sentence. We just think that the evidence isn’t good enough to accept it as probably true. Why would BP and others already accept it as probably true on the basis of such poor evidence, reason, and argument? My hypothesis is that they are engaged in wishful thinking. They wish there were a super person who was a cause for the beginning of the entire physical universe. Was there a “beginning of the entire physical universe”? We don’t know! There are many reputable scientists who now speculate that there wasn’t. (Please read the books The Endless Universe by Steinhardt and Turok and Once Before Time by Martin Bojowald for more insight into this.) If the physical universe did have a cause for its beginning (it might have had neither), although that cause would probably have been powerful, there is no good evidence that it would have been timeless, immaterial, or personal. The multiverse hypothesis is not on much better grounds than the God hypothesis; they are just two hypotheses offered to account for the alleged “beginning of the physical universe.” At this point, we just don’t know. There is no hypocrisy in considering different hypotheses.

    GW0: He [SK] would not say that in SM the universe looks designed; he would merely say that the universe has some orderliness which can be comprehended.

    BP1: Here GW fails to appreciate the unbridgeable materialistic chasm between orderliness and design. For the record, it is not just theists who recognize the design inherent in the universe (especially in the information content and capacity of DNA). Everybody does that. The difference is in the ridiculous lengths to which SM proponents will go to explain it away. Though it is beyond the scope of this discussion to delve into this issue, let me just say that we find orderliness in the structure of snowflakes and ice cubes. We find design in the features carved into the face of an elaborate snowman. SM is sufficient in explaining the order of the former. It has no hope of explaining the specified complexity and information content of the latter.

    GW1: Here BP fails to appreciate the real difference in meaning of the words “orderliness” and “design.” The former refers to structure, pattern, or set of reliable relationships. The latter refers to this and more; it assumes that a person caused or created the orderliness. Advocates of SM sometimes mistakenly use the word “design” when they really mean “orderliness.” The snowflakes, ice cubes, and snowman’s face all have orderliness, but only the latter is known to have been designed. SM can explain all of these, but just to take the latter: A human organism (with a brain) caused the orderliness of the snowman and its face (with snow, rocks, and sticks).

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  6. Part 5 of Whittenberger comment (GW1)

    GW0: He [SK] would not say that in SM that science alone tells us truth, but he would say that so far science has proven to be the best method for investigating the natural world or the workings of reality. Unfortunately, Klusendorf distorts scientific materialism, as commonly held, and makes it out to be more dogmatic and exclusive than it actually is.

    BP1: While I agree with GW that science is the best method of investigating the natural world, the flaw in his thinking rests in the assumption that the natural world constitutes all reality. He assumes this; he doesn’t prove it. Indeed, the simple examples (above) demonstrate pretty unequivocally that SM fails miserably in that attempt. As for distorting the dogmatism of SM, I will let one of SM’s great proponents speak about that for himself:

    GW1: It depends on what we mean by “the natural world.” Perhaps we could agree on a stronger claim – “Science is the best method, so far developed, to investigate reality.” Even if souls and gods did exist (were parts of reality), science is probably the best method, so far developed, to investigate them. The problem is that there is no good evidence that they exist.

    Lewontin quoted by BP: “Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against commonsense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs ... in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated ‘just-so’stories, because we have a prior commitment to materialism … Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”
    Richard Lewontin
    January 4, 1997
    New York Review of Books

    GW1: I think in this statement Lewontin supports a version of SM (remember that I said there were many versions?) which I and many other SM advocates do not support. We could allow a Divine Foot in the door, if there were good evidence to support it. Also, regarding materialism, it appears from SK’s original article that he accepts some version of materialism; after all he talks about two kinds of substances.

    BP1: The simple truth is that GW defends SM in the same ways that any member of a religious priesthood defends their dogma. I will spare the reader that discussion but those who maybe interested can read a short essay on the issue (here: Defrocking The Priests of Scientism).

    GW1: No, not only is that not “the simple truth” it is not the truth at all. Members of the religious priesthood are unencumbered by evidence, but I am very sensitive to it. Present good evidence, reasons, or arguments to believe in souls and gods, and I will believe in them. I haven’t seen any these yet, but I must keep an open mind.

    BP1: Finally, and most satisfyingly, in his discussion of paragraphs 8 and 9, GW addresses the topics of determinism and rational thought and therein offers us philosophical gold –which he unwittingly uses to completely sabotage his own argument.

    BP1: It is fascinating to observe the tortured logic inherent in an argument that recognizes the reality of free will (as we all do), but is forced by the implications of SM to defend determinism.

    GW1: We all recognize the reality of free will? Ah, no; that is simply not true. (Please read Ted Honderich’s books How Free Are You? and A Theory of Determinism or Sam Harris’ most recent book The Moral Landscape.) Probably most neuroscientists and philosophers of the mind now think that determinism is probably true.

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  7. Part 6 of Whittenberger comment (GW1)

    BP1: GW tells us that the humans can have beliefs that are “determined by [their] genetic and environmental history up to [a] point [in time]” (emphasis mine), but then suddenly become “more rational” in the face of new information. So, in which state do we find GW? Is the argument he is offering the result of his own deterministic past (in which case we have no reason to accept it as containing any “truth”), or from his rational present (in which case his SM is proven false)? Pick one.

    GW1: Here BP is just as confused about the issues as was SK in the original article. The presentation of new information by Jenner becomes a part of the listener’s environmental history which combines with the listener’s genetic history to probably determine his new subsequent belief, which may be judged as “more rational.” We will find that my own beliefs are rational, but whether or not they happen to be rational or irrational, they are still probably determined. (By the way, I claim that determinism is probably true, but I am not definite on this; I could be wrong.) Yes, if determinism is true, readers of this discussion still have good reasons to accept my argument as containing truth. Even false conclusions, like those of BP and SK, have probably been determined by their prior environmental and genetic histories. “True vs. false” is a judgement about the current belief not about the origin of the belief.

    BP1: Here GW makes a valid point in questioning SK’s description of the “irrational forces of nature.” I would agree that nature is non-rational, not irrational. But the minor point of SK’s word choice is soon overwhelmed by GW’s more telling statement that “nature doesn’t think.” Exactly!

    GW1: At least we are in agreement about a few things.

    BP1: GW insists that nature is the “whole show,” admits that “nature doesn’t think,” but then offers no explanation for how all those non-rational molecules have produced rational thoughts and ideas in a subset of nature, namely his own materialistic head. The particles clashing in GW’s gray matter can’t say anything “rational” without blowing up his own pre-determined adherence to SM.

    GW1: It appears that those nonrational molecules, connected in a particular way, have produced rational and irrational ideas in different persons and even in the same person. Yes, the particles clashing in my gray matter don’t say anything, but my mouth connected to my brain says plenty. The sentences which I utter reflect propositions which appear to be the result of a rational thinking process. Nothing has blown up so far.

    BP1: In summary, the pre-suppositions demanded by SM leave its adherents incapable of even considering how limited and closed-minded their view is. They are so trapped within the materialist paradigm they simply can’t see reality for all the molecules.

    GW1: Most of the so-called pre-suppositions of SM are actually solid conclusions based on evidence. Most adherents of SM (at least the version I’m supporting) are neither limited nor closed-minded. We are open to good evidence, reasons, and arguments. I think most advocates of souls and gods are really materialists; they just believe in a different kind of material than the rest of us do. Even SK talks about two substances in his original article. The problem is that there just isn’t good enough evidence to believe in “soul stuff.”

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  8. Part 7 of Whittenberger comment (GW1)

    BP1: As expected, his blind adherence to SM transfers nicely into GW’s failed critique of SK’s pro-life arguments.

    BP1: He dismisses substance dualism because he is still trying to weigh a chicken with a yardstick, and because Paul of Tarsus was not a neuroscientist – as if only a neuroscientist could possibly comment on such a thing. (This begs the question:“Is GW a neuroscientist?” Not that it matters, of course, but I’m curious … as I digress).

    GW1: Unfortunately, BP and SK don’t tell us much about their substance dualism. What are the two substances they believe in? What is the evidence for believing in these two sutstances? Paul of Tarsus was a bad philosopher too. My doctoral degree is in psychology.

    BP1: Where SK argues for the continuity-in-kind of a developing fetus, GW wants to talk about Darwinian speciation.

    GW: There is a continuity in kind for the developing fetus in the sense that it continues to have human DNA. So? I didn’t want to talk about Darwinian speciation, but I did talk very briefly about it because it was connected in an indirect way to the topic at hand.

    BP1: Where SK uses continuity-of-personhood as a valid justification of punishment for moral culpability, GW insists that “altering the environment of an offending person, in some cases administering punishment, lowers the probability that the offender or others will engage in similar criminal behavior in the future.” While this maybe true, it says precisely nothing about the notion that behavior is simply descriptive while altering behavior does nothing to explain why a behavior is wrong or what constitutes “proper” behavior –both of which are prescriptive.
    GW1: Whereas I do agree with SK about the continuity of kind, I do not agree with him about the continuity of personhood in the developing fetus. My claim is that the pre-sentient fetus is not a person.

    GW1: Let’s take closer look at the original statement in SK’s article and then my reply to it. SK was quoting Moreland and Rae who said “The notions of moral responsibility and criminal justice are both promised on a substance-dualist view of a person; otherwise it would be difficult to hold anyone responsible for immoral or criminal actions.” This seems blatantly false, and my response attempted to show why. It is not difficult at all to hold anyone responsible for immoral or criminal actions on either a substance-monist, substance-dualist, or substance-multiplist view of a person. Under any of these views, all that you need to do is recognize that punishment, when properly applied, will lower the probability of criminal or immoral behavior in an offender and those who observe him. How we decide whether or not some behavior is criminal (or immoral) is a whole different topic.

    BP1: But most troubling is the chilling vacuity in moral reasoning displayed in GW’s attempt to dismiss SK’s defense of the unborn. Before I go there, and since GW is apparently unfamiliar with it, I offer a simple summary of the pro-life position as defended by SK and the LTI staff:
    Human beings are valuable simply for what they are. Though Christian theists ground this notion in our being made in God’s image, it is not an unreasonable position and it does not depend on Christianity to be true. Even the most vehement materialist (Peter Singer excluded) seems to understand this simple fact.

    GW1: By referring to “the unborn,” BP (like SK and other anti-abortion-rights’ advocates) misuses language. I suggest that he and they use the proper terms for the stages of a human organism.

    GW1: “Being” as in “human being” has a double meaning. “Being” can merely mean “something which exists”. But it can also mean “a person” or “anything which has the properties of a person.” Although the first meaning is always appropriate to a human fetus, the second meaning is not always appropriate since the human fetus is not a person during its early stages. So, we should stick to the term “human organism” in these discussions to avoid ambiguity.

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  9. Part 8 of Whittenberger comment (GW1)

    GW1: BP repeats SK’s mistake and asserts “Human beings are valuable simply for what they are.” Just because he asserts it doesn’t make it true or correct. I request good evidence, reasons, or arguments for it. To whom are human beings valuable? Why are they valuable? Are they always valuable? If not, under what conditions are they valuable and not valuable? Is anything valuable simply because of “what it is”? How does BP know this? Are any other things valuable for “what they are” besides humans?

    GW1: I don’t think BP’s claim “Human beings are valuable simply for what they are” is a “simple fact” even though he says it is. I not convinced it’s a fact at all. It depends on an underlying theory of value which he must flesh out. Also, BP has not provided any good grounds to believe that God exists, that God created man in his own image, or that Christianity is true, and so he is not entitled to refer to these hypotheses as support for his specific claim above.
    BP1: Scientifically, it is indisputable that a distinct, whole, living human being comes into existence at the moment of conception. Those who doubt this scientific fact don’t need to read a Bible, just an embryology textbook.

    GW1: If “organism” is substituted for “being” and if the potential difficulties of twinning and chimeras are set aside, then I agree with BP’s first statement here. The Bible provides nothing useful on this subject.

    BP1: Philosophically, the only differences between the unborn zygote/embryo/fetus each of us once were and the bornchild/adult we are today are matters of Size, Level of Development, Environment, and Degree of Dependency. None of these is morally significant nor would they justify killing any of us at an earlier stage in our development.

    GW1: BP’s use of the term “unborn” is misleading and propagandistic, at the least. It has no place in this discussion. We are referring to early stage human living organisms (ESLHOs), i.e. zygotes, embryos, and fetuses, which may be miscarried, aborted, or born at later times. So, should we call them “UNMISCARRIED, UNABORTED, and UNBORN zygotes/embryos/fetuses”? No, we shouldn’t. We should merely call them “zygotes”, “embryos”, or “fetuses” (depending on stage of development), or use the acronym “ESLHO” to refer to all these in one category.

    GW1: Let me say right off the bat that I agree with BP that size and environment are not morally significant matters in our discussion, so we need not ruminate on them any further. But are level of development and degree of dependency not morally significant? Says who? Says BP? Who is he to decide? He must present good evidence, reasons, and/or arguments to support his position.

    BP1: Taking these together, we argue that abortion is the unjustified taking of innocent human life. This is not a preference statement –we aren’t saying we don’t like abortion – it is a statement of objective moral truth. Taking innocent human life is morally wrong in and of itself.

    GW1: The judgement of “innocent” vs. “guilty” is inapplicable to an ESHLO since it cannot engage in behaviors for which these judgements are applicable. The ESLHO is neither innocent nor guilty. Yes, the fetus is living when it is aborted, but nearly always abortion is justified, not unjustified. BP already implied earlier that judgements of moral wrongness involve prescriptions, and I agree with him on that. But although descriptions can be true or false, prescriptions can be neither! Thus, his concept of “objective moral truth” is invalid, as is the concept “objective moral falsehood.” Why does BP think that abortion is morally wrong? So far, I don’t know.

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  10. Part 9 of Whittenberger comment (GW1)

    BP1: Because he is apparently not familiar with this argument, GW’s reasoning does absolutely nothing to challenge any of its premises or the conclusion itself. This leaves him to ask questions and make assertions that range from irrelevant to downright bone-chilling in their moral bankruptcy.

    GW1: All my assertions are perfectly relevant, morally correct, and not bone-chilling. Just because BP disagrees doesn’t make them otherwise. This is what we have to debate.

    BP1: He misunderstands some basic biological facts and this ignorance leads him to draw false moral conclusions. For instance, at one point he offers this hypothetical scenario:

    GW0: If Jenner engineered human sperm, not fetuses, to eventually become adults who had ‘minimally firing synapse’ and who were trained to blow themselves up in the presence of walkers, would this be wrong?

    BP1: Though the moral point he is trying to make is unclear, one wonders if GW understands that a human sperm only contains half the DNA required to “eventually become an adult.” In order for someone to “engineer the sperm” toward that end, one would first have to combine the sperm with the DNA from an egg to create a human embryo that would develop into ... a fetus. A fetus is nothing more than a stage in the development of a human being toward adulthood. But this is a concept GW repeatedly misses.

    GW1: Of course, I realize that a human sperm only contains half the DNA! The scenario I gave was a hypothetical one. I don’t claim that it could be accomplished at the present time, BP is wrong to assume that the engineering I described could not (never) be accomplished before fertilization of the egg. The fictional scenario assumes that it could, and I wanted SK to deal with that. So far, neither SK nor BP have dealt with it. Of course a fetus is a stage in the development of a human organism; and I have never missed that concept as BP claims. Is not a sperm also a stage in the development of a human organism?

    GW0: In referring to the “unborn” Klusendorf misuses language, which is typical of anti-abortion-rights’ activists. It is proper to call early stage living human organisms by their proper names, like “zygotes, embryos, or fetuses …”

    BP1: GW accuses SK of “misusing language,” and lectures us about how we should “properly” refer to early stage living organisms, all the while demonstrating that he has no apparent concept of what the language means. Zygotes, embryos, and fetuses are not different things. They are different stages in the development of the same thing – namely a whole, complete, living human being. Does GW not realize that he was once a zygote, embryo, and fetus? Does the fact that he developed from conception, through each of these stages (while unborn), until he was born mean that he was a different kind of thing at each stage along the way?

    GW1: I agree with BP that the same human organism (not “human being”) can be described at different stages of development with the terms “zygote”, “embryo,” and “fetus.” (I was also unmiscarried, by the way.) However, I do not agree with BP that stage of development is irrelevant to moral judgements about abortion. We haven’t gotten to that yet.

    BP1: GW repeats this false assertion in several places by insisting that there is a difference in kind between an unborn human being and one who is born. This confusion about basic biological terms leads him to some rather bizarre assertions.

    GW1: BP continues to misuse language by referring to “an unborn human being.” The ESLHOs are human in kind from conception (in terms of their DNA in comparison with other animals’ DNA), but they vary in properties, qualities, characteristics, or functions at their different stages. I have no confusion here.

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  11. Part 10 of Whittenberger comment (GW1)

    GW0: Contrary to the author, the “adult you” is not identical to the “fetal you”; it is similar, but not identical … in talking about the “unborn” the author is inappropriately trying to refer to fetuses as though they are babies.

    BP1: Similar? True, the unborn is different in its level of development, but that does not change the kind of thing it is. What is the species and identity of “fetal you?” Is it different from “adult you?” GW seems to think so. Was GW not once “unborn?” Did his changing location 20 cm from inside his mother to outside his mother suddenly render him a "baby" that was a different kind of being or a different person than the one he is now?

    GW1: I think that BP and I are in basic agreement here. The “fetal you” is similar to the “adult you” in that it has the same DNA, but it is different in its stage of development. “Baby” refers to a living human organism outside the host woman. It cannot be properly used to refer to a fetus still inside the host woman, as anti-abortion-rights advocates are prone to do.

    GW0: It is twice as likely that a human zygote will die or be miscarried than that it will be born

    BP1: It is also 100% likely that GW will die at some point. But this is hardly an argument we should accept to justify killing him earlier in his life.

    GW1: My point about the odds was not made to justify abortion (there are perfectly good ways to do that), it was made to show the impropriety of using “unborn” to refer to a fetus, embryo, or zygote.

    GW0: Is a one-celled human zygote really as valuable as an 18-year-old human person?

    BP1: Yes. There is no difference in kind between the two. If GW has evidence that there is an intrinsic difference – a difference in kind, not an instrumental difference– between them, I encourage him to share it with us.

    GW1: So says BP. In other words, he values a zygote as much as an 18-year-old human person. But why should we accept his differential valuing? We’ve already agreed that the human organism has human DNA throughout its development, and therefore it retains its “kind” as compared to other species. I don’t know what BP means by “instrumental difference”; maybe he will tell us. The human organism has different properties, qualities, characteristics, or functional capacities at different stages of development. Is this not obvious?

    GW0: Here the author [SK] fails to acknowledge that unlike the person who has suffered a stroke and the loss of some cognitive functions, before a certain point in development a fetus has not manifested any cognitive functions. He is trying to compare apples to oranges.

    BP1: No, GW is trying to turn apples into oranges. A person who suffers a stroke – or a pre-cognitive fetus – is still a human being and therefore valuable in virtue of the kind of thing it is. On a related note, his insistence on sentience, self-awareness, cognitive ability etc., as a measure of human value fails to take into account the fact that babies do not demonstrate these traits until weeks or months after they are born. GW’s criteria for assessing human value are arbitrary and irrelevant.

    GW1: The pre-cognitive fetus is still a human organism (not a “human being”); I grant this. But BP has not justified his position that it is “therefore valuable in virtue of the kind of thing it is.” Says who? Valuable to whom? What makes it valuable? I’m waiting for BP’s theory of value to flesh this out.

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  12. Part 11 of Whittenberger comment (GW1)

    GW1: Actually some cognitive functions are demonstrated in fetuses in the later months of development. An important fact about development is that various functions come on-line and ramp up to increasing levels along a time line. This is why the different stages are important. Even the few stages we’ve discussed are too gross to capture the complexities of human development.

    GW1: I have implied that the current level of functioning in the developing ESLHO may be an appropriate criterion for valuing the life of the ESLHO. This is neither arbitrary nor irrelevant, and I don’t know why BP thinks it is. If I were being arbitrary about it, I’d just suggest that we put 39 numbers in a hat, each corresponding to a week in ESLHO development, pick out a number at random, and then declare that ESLHOs before that week shall have no right to life, but ESLHOs after that week shall have such a right. I’m doing nothing of the sort! My position is deliberately and rationally determined.

    GW0: [SK] asks “Could doctors have justifiably killed you during your extended sleep...” Yes, they could, if you had previously stipulated in writing that you wished to be killed while in the coma when your chances of recovery were judged to be below a certain threshold, as determined by expert opinion.

    BP1: Despite the fact that this is a completely different subject from the one being discussed, I would simply point out that I am unaware of any aborted human beings who have been afforded this luxury.

    GW1: That is because aborted human organisms are presentient! They do not think, feel, or make decisions.

    GW1: In his article SK asked when it would be morally correct to kill a person in a coma. I gave a rational answer, but BP doesn’t want to discuss this.

    BP1: Each of these empty arguments fails miserably for the same reason – because each of them assumes that the unborn is not a human being. GW gives us no explanation for why the unborn may not be a human being and thereby avoids the moral question about why he thinks we should be allowed to kill it. In this propensity, he fancies himself clever and insightful, while the arguments he advances are the same old, tired ones that SK has been proving false for years.

    GW1: BP continues to misuse the terms “unborn” and “human being.” The presentient fetus is not a human person! This is one of several reasons why we, as a human community, should not assign it a right to life. SK cannot prove a prescription false since prescriptions are neither true nor false.

    BP1: GW’s confusion about the reality and continuity of human nature is bothersome. But what is most disturbing are the moral conclusions he draws based on this confusion. For that reason (and because this has already gone on too long), I will conclude with the most disturbing part of his view that is revealed in this question:

    GW1: I am not confused. I am clear-headed and consistent.

    GW0: Why is a human organism always more valuable than a chicken organism? Might the latter be more valuable if a person is hungry?

    BP1: Apparently, GW is serious in asking these questions – which is what led me to use the term “bone-chilling.” Since we’re asking questions here, does GW tell his wife (assuming he is married) that he wonders at times (especially when he is hungry) if she is more valuable than a chicken?

    GW1: Yes, I’m serious in asking these questions, and I expect a serious answer which BP has not yet given. When I am hungry, the chicken is more valuable to me as an object to satisfy my hunger. I don’t plan on eating my wife. This illustrates the importance of asking these kinds of questions: Valuable to whom? Valuable under what circumstances? Valuable for what purposes? Etc. BP needs to lay out his view of valuing.

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  13. Part 12 of Whittenberger Comment (GW1)

    GW1: Reader/Commenter’s Note – It was necessary to use 12 parts rather than 11 parts. This is the last part. Thank you for your patience.

    BP1: That is bad enough – but it is not the worst implication of the view he is putting forward. On GW’s SM, both his wife and a chicken are simply different forms of living “organisms” – bags of bones and flesh and protein – that would be perfectly acceptable in satisfying his appetite. Getting one’s genes into the next generation is all that counts. SM can’t say otherwise.

    GW1: My wife and a chicken are different kinds of living organisms. Under certain circumstances either wold be perfectly acceptable in satisfying my appetite. I recently saw a TV 60 Minutes program about the miners who were trapped in a South American mine about a year ago, but who were rescued. One or two of them admitted that they would have eaten one of the other miners, if another had died and there was no other food. Would this be wrong? If so, why?

    BP1: If he wants “scientific proof” of the value of human life he will get none. This is not the result of a deficiency in the pro-life argument; it is further evidence that SM is an incomplete philosophical position that cannot even begin to answer the most fundamental, and most important, questions about the world as we know it. The fact that a human “organism” is more valuable than a chicken organism is self-evident. But there is a name we give to the kind of person who requires an explanation for such a thing: psychopath.

    GW1: Apparently, BP is getting tired and now just wants to brush the important issues aside. We agree that living human organisms are valuable under some circumstances. We disagree that they have the same value throughout the course of development. Because we have a disagreement about this is not a justification for BP to imply that I or some other advocate of scientific materialism is a psychopath. This amounts to an ad hominem attack, which is out of bounds in a serious discussion of this nature. I think an apology is in order.

    GW1: For BP to say “...SM is an incomplete philosophical position that cannot even begin to answer the most fundamental, and most important, questions about the world...” is simply question begging. So far, my version of SM has given reasonable answers to all the questions he has asked.

    BP1: Let me be crystal clear in stating that I am in no way suggesting that GW is a psychopath. I say this because I do not believe GW actually believes what he is implying with his question. I am simply pointing out that this is the kind of moral reasoning one is required to use to defend SM. So-called “skeptics” and sophists spout this kind of nonsense all the time, but none of them really adheres to it when they live out their lives in the real world.

    GW1: Yes, you are suggesting, through an invalid deduction, that I am a psychopath. You owe me an apology. I am a “skeptic”; I accept that label. I am not a sophist. Your argument is devolving into name calling or ad hominem attacks. Please get back to the main issues.

    BP1: SM is an empty, false, morally reprehensible way to understand the world. For this reason, applying it to the issue of abortion leads to empty, false, morally reprehensible justifications. I would like to thank GW for demonstrating this for us so clearly in his “critical essay.” It provides us with a powerful, real world example of the bankruptcy – both logically and morally – in the ideas he attempts to defend.

    GW1: Some versions of SM may be deficient, but the version I have been defending is valid. BP has failed to provide a proper defense of the points made by SK in his original article in the Christian Research Journal. I want to thank SK and BP for reading my critical article and posting it and to thank BP for engaging me in this discussion. He made some points which I will contemplate further. I do not appreciate, however, his references to psychopath and sophist which he made towards the end.

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  14. Below SR100 refers to the comment of Sirrahc on 9/5/2011 at 8:32 PM, and GW100 to my (Gary Whittenberger’s) response.

    SR100: Two observations: 1) Early on, GW claims that, if SK were accurate, "he would not say that in SM everything in the universe “must” be explained in physical terms...." So, if there is no philosophical imperative to insist on physical terms, why do SM adherents laugh or throw a fit when others use non-physicalist arguments to explain things like logic, self-awareness, etc.? They may be less "useful" (at least, to the committed materialist), but wouldn't they still be legitimate?

    GW100: As I’ve said a few times in this discussion, SM is not monolithic; there are many versions of it. I can’t speak for all SM adherents; I can speak for myself and perhaps for many others who think as I do. I don’t “laugh or throw a fit” when religious people attempt to explain things like logic, self-awareness, etc. with non-physicalist terms or arguments; I take them seriously. I accept the reality of logic and self-awareness. I just think a version of the SM model bests accounts for them. Non-physicalist arguments are certainly “legitimate” as hypotheses. The problem is that some people actually believe them without justification.

    SR100: 2) Towards the end, GW makes his chilling statement about the circumstantial value of human vs. chicken organisms. "Might the latter be more valuable if a person is hungry?" Being consistent with GW's SM, though, why couldn't/shouldn't the human organism be an equally valid choice for consumption?

    GW100: My statement may be chilling to you, but it is not chilling to me. I’m not that interested in your emotional reactions to my statements, but very interested in whether you think my statements are true/morally correct and why. I think that in some circumstances the human organism is a valid choice for consumption. Can’t you envision a situation in which you would eat another human organism and consider it to be ethical and prudent? See my comment about the South American miners in my response GW1 to BP1.

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  15. Sirrahc,
    I agree with both of your observations. As for the second one, I made that pont near the end of the post, thinking it would spur GW to re-think the position he was taking.

    Unfortunately, he did ... only to confirm what I thought was a hypothetically over-the-top example ... when he said:

    "My wife and a chicken are different kinds of living organisms. Under certain circumstances either wold (sic) be perfectly acceptable in satisfying my appetite."

    I'm not sure what else needs to be said after that.

    Thanks for reading ...

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  16. Gary W,

    Since you didn't say anything rude or out of line, and as a courtesy for the time you spent responding, I went ahead and posted all your comments. My summary response is this:

    I think you and I both made our positions fairly clear in our original posts, so I'm not sure why you feel the need to go paragraph-by-paragraph recopying each statement and restating your position again using different words. You have not given us any new information or any reason to take your SM or your hollow case in support of abortion any more seriously.

    It is hard to attempt to communicate with someone whose paradigm (in your case, SM) is so deeply entrenched that you literally cannot imagine that there is another way to look at things. You continue to repeat materialistic answers to explain non-material reality in your continued demand for physical evidence for EVERYTHING.

    Let me just say this: Whether you like it or not, science is not the be all and end all of determining truth. In fact, philosophy is made up of several disciplines (ethics, veritology epistemology, aesthetics etc.). Each of these are subsets of philosophy, and one subset of epistemology is science. So, while you think science and scientific "evidence" is the only way to know anything, what you apparently don't know is that science is a SUBSET of a SUBSET of philosophy.

    We can do philosophy without science, but we can't do science without philosophy.

    You seem to be missing that point.

    As for your demand for an apology, I thought I made it very clear that I was not calling you a psychopath when I said:

    "Let me be crystal clear in stating that I am in no way suggesting that GW is a psychopath. I say this because I do not believe GW actually believes what he is implying with his question. I am simply pointing out that this is the kind of moral reasoning one is required to use to defend SM. So-called “skeptics” and sophists spout this kind of nonsense all the time, but none of them really adheres to it when they live out their lives in the real world."

    If you cannot accept that, I'm not sure how to further explain it. If my use of the word "psychopath" offended you, please understand (as I clearly stated) that it is not you personally, but the moral ideas you are defending that I find reprehensible. I can separate you from those ideas because, once again, I don't think you really believe those ideas by living them out in the real world.

    Though I have to tell you that when you say stuff like: "My wife and a chicken are different kinds of living organisms. Under certain circumstances either wold (sic) be perfectly acceptable in satisfying my appetite." you are going to have a hard time getting people to take you seriously.

    I'll let others respond if they wish. I think you know where I stand.

    Thanks for your interest in these subjects and for subscribing to CRJ to at least hear the other side's views. I try to do the same so I appreciate it.

    ~ Bob Perry

    ReplyDelete
  17. I replied to one of Gary's comments here: http://lti-blog.blogspot.com/2011/09/gary-should-read-best-on-his-side.html

    ReplyDelete
  18. I shall assume that “Av8torBob” identifies Bob Perry (BP).

    Please see below my (Gary Whittenberger’s) response (GW2) to Bob Perry’s comment of 9-6-2011 at 19:34 AM (designated as BP2).

    GW quoted: "My wife and a chicken are different kinds of living organisms. Under certain circumstances either wold (sic) be perfectly acceptable in satisfying my appetite."

    BP2: I'm not sure what else needs to be said after that.

    GW2: There is much that needs to be said after that. As a starter I’ll ask you nearly the same question as I asked Sirrahc: Can’t you conceive of a situation in which you would eat another human being and consider this action to be both prudent and morally acceptable?

    GW2: I posed some unusual questions/scenarios to you and SK because I don’t think the two of you have thought enough about your theory of value.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Part 1 of 2 of GW3:

    BP3=third response of Bob Perry, GW3=third response of me, Gary Whittenberger

    BP3: Since you didn't say anything rude or out of line, and as a courtesy for the time you spent responding, I went ahead and posted all your comments. My summary response is this:

    GW3: Thank you for posting all my comments. That was fair-minded of you.

    BP3: I think you and I both made our positions fairly clear in our original posts, so I'm not sure why you feel the need to go paragraph-by-paragraph recopying each statement and restating your position again using different words. You have not given us any new information or any reason to take your SM or your hollow case in support of abortion any more seriously.

    GW3: Why do I feel the need to “go paragraph-by-paragraph”? Because I actually take all your words seriously. I think you are trying to communicate something which you think is important. I have an obligation to pay attention to, think about, and respond to what you say. At some places I restated my position using different words, but I did more than that – I provided new evidence, reasons, and arguments in support of my position. My case in support of abortion is not hollow; it is solid. Your case against abortion and abortion rights for women, as far as I can tell, is very weak, in my opinion. We disagree, but that’s the reason for discussion and debate.

    BP3: It is hard to attempt to communicate with someone whose paradigm (in your case, SM) is so deeply entrenched that you literally cannot imagine that there is another way to look at things. You continue to repeat materialistic answers to explain non-material reality in your continued demand for physical evidence for EVERYTHING.

    GW3: It’s not that hard to communicate with a person who has a different opinion if you really try hard at it. I imagine that there are many different ways of looking at things. But when I examine your way of looking at things, as you have presented your ideas in this discussion, I don’t think your way is buttressed by good evidence, reasons, or arguments. For example, your response here is question begging. Rather than just assuming that “nonmaterial reality” and such things as souls and gods already exist, you need to demonstrate that they do. The burden of rational demonstration is on you.

    BP3: Let me just say this: Whether you like it or not, science is not the be all and end all of determining truth. In fact, philosophy is made up of several disciplines (ethics, veritology epistemology, aesthetics etc.). Each of these are subsets of philosophy, and one subset of epistemology is science. So, while you think science and scientific "evidence" is the only way to know anything, what you apparently don't know is that science is a SUBSET of a SUBSET of philosophy.

    GW3: You said “science is not the be all and end all of determining truth” and I agree with you on that point. When you said “...while you think science...is the only way to know anything,” you are setting up a straw man argument since I never made this claim. Please re-read my previous comments about science. SK made the same mistake in his article that you made here – he set up an inaccurate stereotype of SM to which most scientists and philosophers do not adhere.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Part 2 of 2 of GW3:

    BP3=third response of Bob Perry, GW3=third response of me, Gary Whittenberger

    BP3: As for your demand for an apology, I thought I made it very clear that I was not calling you a psychopath when I said:

    BP2: "Let me be crystal clear in stating that I am in no way suggesting that GW is a psychopath. I say this because I do not believe GW actually believes what he is implying with his question. I am simply pointing out that this is the kind of moral reasoning one is required to use to defend SM. So-called “skeptics” and sophists spout this kind of nonsense all the time, but none of them really adheres to it when they live out their lives in the real world."

    BP3: If you cannot accept that, I'm not sure how to further explain it. If my use of the word "psychopath" offended you, please understand (as I clearly stated) that it is not you personally, but the moral ideas you are defending that I find reprehensible. I can separate you from those ideas because, once again, I don't think you really believe those ideas by living them out in the real world.

    GW3: I have re-examined your original use of the term “psychopath” and it appears that your underlying illogic went like this: 1) People who require an explanation for the claim “It is self-evident that a human organism is more valuable than a chicken organism” are psychopaths. 2) GW requires this type of explanation. 3) Therefore, GW is a psychopath. You did not say that I was a psychopath, but you clearly implied it. So, I request (not demand) an apology from you. It would be the right thing to do. Your use of the term “psychopath” is both inaccurate and offensive.

    GW3: I think your theory of valuing is poorly conceived, incomplete, and naive. I asked you (and SK) a challenging question involving differential and circumstantial valuing of humans and chickens, and what did you do? You brushed it aside with an ad hominem attack. Very unprofessional.

    GW3: Also, it is not an argument to say “I do not believe GW actually believes what he is implying.” I could say the same thing about you, and it would be equally useless. It is your job to flesh out what I am implying, and if you disagree with it, say that you disagree with it and clearly say why.

    BP3: Though I have to tell you that when you say stuff like: "My wife and a chicken are different kinds of living organisms. Under certain circumstances either wold (sic) be perfectly acceptable in satisfying my appetite." you are going to have a hard time getting people to take you seriously.

    GW3: Your comment here is really irrelevant since we aren’t discussing “how to get people to take you seriously.” Do you have a wife? Can’t you imagine any circumstances under which eating your wife would satisfy your appetite and be a morally acceptable action? This is a thought experiment designed to get you to think about your theory of valuing. Your failure to take the question seriously supports my hypothesis that you don’t have an adequate theory of valuing.

    BP3: Thanks for your interest in these subjects and for subscribing to CRJ to at least hear the other side's views. I try to do the same so I appreciate it.

    GW3: You are welcome. And thank you for the opportunity to engage in this discussion. If you like to hear the other side’s views, then you might want to purchase my book. For more information, just go to www.godwantsyoutobeanatheist.com

    Best regards.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Gary W,

    I am not an official member of LTI, but I have read SK's book many times and maintain my own personal blog on pro-life apologetics here: http://pro-lifeapologetics.blogspot.com/

    If you plan on making any more rebuttals, the one question I would like you to address is exactly what you are attempting to prove to us in writing this article?

    What I mean is that even if you are correct about your beliefs (and I believe Mr. Perry did an excellent job of showing that your assertions are far fetched and question begging) exactly what do you want pro-lifers like me to do?

    If your worldview is correct, then I don't see how you can claim that we shouldn't try to restrict abortion. Is it really a human right, and how does your worldview account for human rights of any kind?

    Can you give me scientific evidence for why I shouldn't fight against abortion or why the government shouldn't outlaw it? Even if my view is mistaken, what if I still don't want it to be legal?

    If our belief that all human beings regardless of size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency is illegitimate, where does the legitimacy of your belief about the right to an abortion come from?

    To quote SK,

    "Can atheism offer an equally plausible starting point for basic human rights? In short, I doubt my secular critic can get his own claim for fundamental abortion rights off the ground without borrowing from the very theisic worldview he so despises."

    ReplyDelete
  22. GW,

    Your question about the miners conflates two different issues. The question of whether or not it might be considered morally acceptable to eat a human corpse in some extreme circumstances is not the same as asking would it be appropriate and moral to kill another human being for the purposes of eating them. It seems that you miss this distinction in Bob's concern that your reductionist view of human beings leads you to question the value of chickens over humans in the event of extreme hunger. That is why most people distinguish between say the rugby players of the Uruguayan plane crash in the Andes that ate the bodies of those already killed and the people in the Ukraine that hunted and killed children to survive the Soviet collectivization famines of the early 1930's.

    Knowing Scott and Bob as I do, I can presume that they would tell you that it is never morally justified to kill another human being for the purposes of consuming them for food. That is why the roasting of a child in Josephus' s chronicling of the siege of Jerusalem is such a morally shocking moment. It is normal to recognize that humans are not the type of animal that it is permissible to slaughter for sustenance.

    Regards,
    Jay Watts

    ReplyDelete
  23. Gary,
    Do you realize that your position has been reduced to defending the cannibalism of your own wife? Have you mentioned this to her by any chance?

    Is that really a hill you want to die on?

    My pointing this out is not an ad hominem argument because (I repeat yet again) I do not think you really believe it. My point is simply that the philosophical view you defend leads logically to such a reprehensible end. You can see an outstanding video essay that addresses the issue of following SM arguments to their logical conclusions here: http://bit.ly/obPCFH

    For the record ... No, there is no situation in which I would consider doing such a thing. I would gladly accept a painful death before even considering it, no matter how "prudent" you might believe it to be.

    I posed some unusual questions/scenarios to you and SK because I don’t think the two of you have thought enough about your theory of value.

    I will leave it to our readers to decide which of us seems to have "thought enough about" human value. Is it those who use scientific and philosophical arguments to defend the intrinsic value of human life consistently from conception to natural death; or is it those whose view leads to a "prudent" defense of spousal cannibalism? Hmmm?

    I would also point out Scott's latest post which shows that you don't seem to have even seriously considered the views of those who argue from your side of the issue.

    [On a side note, please refrain from re-copying entire passages in your reply. The comments are becoming cumbersome and unreadable as a result]

    ReplyDelete
  24. Part 1 of 2 of GW300 response to JW300

    JW300 refers to Jay Whip’s comment of September 7, 2011 11:17 AM, and GW300 refers to my (Gary Whittenberger’s) response.

    JW300: I am not an official member of LTI, but I have read SK's book many times and maintain my own personal blog on pro-life apologetics here: http://pro-lifeapologetics.blogspot.com/

    GW300: I’m not an official member of LTI either. Thanks for the reference to your blog.

    JW300: If you plan on making any more rebuttals, the one question I would like you to address is exactly what you are attempting to prove to us in writing this article?

    GW300: That seems like an odd question to ask, but I’ll try to answer it. I’m trying to pursue truth and moral correctness. I think that SK and BP are off the mark, and I’m trying to show why this is the case.

    JW300: What I mean is that even if you are correct about your beliefs (and I believe Mr. Perry did an excellent job of showing that your assertions are far fetched and question begging) exactly what do you want pro-lifers like me to do?

    GW300: My assertions are not far fetched or question begging, and BP did not show that they are. What would I like pro-lifers like you to do? Correct your position.

    JW300: If your worldview is correct, then I don't see how you can claim that we shouldn't try to restrict abortion. Is it really a human right, and how does your worldview account for human rights of any kind?

    GW300: I do not think it is wrong to restrict abortion in all cases. For example, I think it is wrong for a woman to get an abortion to control the sex of the child she wants. I think we should try to discourage that. But, in almost all cases where women now seek abortions, I think we (you included) should encourage them, not discourage them, to go through with it.

    GW300: The community has assigned the right to control one’s body to adult human individuals over the age of 18. This means that, like men, women have the right to determine what goes into their bodies and what comes out of their bodies. An application of this right means that they have a right to remove a fetus (at the present time, one less than six months old) from their bodies, even if the removal causes death of the fetus. We should not do anything to usurp that right. We should not create a new right for younger fetuses (a right to life) which would conflict with the woman’s already existing right to control her body. In my worldview, rights are derived from the application of reason to the problems of living in a human community. Rights are objective, not subjective, but they are relative, not absolute. They must be formulated with respect to general conditions or cicumstances, so they are relative in that sense.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Part 2 of 2 of GW300 response to JW300

    JW300 refers to Jay Whip’s comment of September 7, 2011 11:17 AM, and GW300 refers to my (Gary Whittenberger’s) response.

    JW300: Can you give me scientific evidence for why I shouldn't fight against abortion or why the government shouldn't outlaw it? Even if my view is mistaken, what if I still don't want it to be legal?

    GW300: You shouldn’t fight against abortion because you are morally wrong when you do so. The government should not outlaw abortion because it would be morally wrong if it did. We all should use scientific evidence to inform our ethical decisions about abortion. So, far example, it is important to have a good knowledge of human biological development. Also, it is important to have a good knowledge of the consequences of forcing women to retain fetuses inside them and to raise children they don’t want on the community and on humanity as a whole. If one does not have a good scientific foundation, he will not be able to rationally derive the correct moral position on abortion.

    GW300: If your view is mistaken and you still don’t want abortion to be legal, then you should correct both your view and your want.

    JW300: If our belief that all human beings regardless of size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency is illegitimate, where does the legitimacy of your belief about the right to an abortion come from?

    GW300: I think your belief that level of development is irrelevant to the ethics of abortion is illegitimate. It implies that a one-celled zygote should have the same right to life as an 18-year-old human person. Why do you think this? Thinking that way interferes with a woman’s right to control her body. Also, the zygote is not a person. See my earlier comments about where the right to abortion comes from.

    JW300: To quote SK,
    "Can atheism offer an equally plausible starting point for basic human rights? In short, I doubt my secular critic can get his own claim for fundamental abortion rights off the ground without borrowing from the very theisic worldview he so despises."

    GW300: SK has a basic misunderstanding about atheism, and this is common among religious people. Atheism is not a worldview with a position on human rights. Atheism is merely a certain position on the existence of God, gods, and/or the supernatural. On the other hand, humanism is a worldview with a position on human rights. Actually, there are several versions of humanism, and I can tell you about the version I embrace.

    GW300: As I outlined above, a right to abortion “gets off the ground” in a humanist worldview because it is merely an application of anybody’s right to control their body. Why is God or a belief in God needed to establish that right? I don’t see why.

    ReplyDelete
  26. JW301 refers to the comment of Jay Watts made on September 7 at 2:29, and GW301 refers to my (Gary Whittenberger’s) response to it

    JW301: Your question about the miners conflates two different issues. The question of whether or not it might be considered morally acceptable to eat a human corpse in some extreme circumstances is not the same as asking would it be appropriate and moral to kill another human being for the purposes of eating them. It seems that you miss this distinction in Bob's concern that your reductionist view of human beings leads you to question the value of chickens over humans in the event of extreme hunger. That is why most people distinguish between say the rugby players of the Uruguayan plane crash in the Andes that ate the bodies of those already killed and the people in the Ukraine that hunted and killed children to survive the Soviet collectivization famines of the early 1930's.

    GW301: My purpose in bringing up the cannibalism issue was to prompt BP to present his theory of valuing since he has claimed that a human zygote has the same value as an 18-year-old human adult. Unfortunately, we seem to be getting into this particular much more than I had hoped, but I guess I’ll have to spend more time on it.

    GW301: I think you raise a good point here. Yes, I agree that, in general, it would be wrong to kill another human person for the purpose of eating them, but it would not be wrong to eat another human person if they were already dead, under some circumstances. But my general point is that valuing depends on circumstances. I value a human organism differently, depending on the circumstances, one of which is biological development. I don’t value a zygote as much as an adult human being.

    JW301: Knowing Scott and Bob as I do, I can presume that they would tell you that it is never morally justified to kill another human being for the purposes of consuming them for food. That is why the roasting of a child in Josephus' s chronicling of the siege of Jerusalem is such a morally shocking moment. It is normal to recognize that humans are not the type of animal that it is permissible to slaughter for sustenance.

    GW301: Ok, since you want to pursue this cannibalism issue further, I have a few questions for you: 1) Where did your idea that “humans are not the type of animal that it is permissible to slaughter for sustenance” come from? And is that a reasonable foundation? And 2) Is the moral prohibition which you propose absolute? In other words, can you conceive of any circumstances whatsoever under which it would be morally permissible to kill another human person for your own sustenance or the sustenance of your own children (assuming you have some)?

    GW301: I’m willing to spend a little time on this side issue, but I’d like to get back to the main issues of scientific materialism, the mind-brain relationship, abortion, and abortion rights which SK raised in his original article.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Part 1 of 2 of GW4 to BP4

    BP4 refers to Bob Perry’s comment of September 7, 2011 3:06 PM, and GW4 refers to my (Gary Whittenberger’s) response to it.

    BP4: Do you realize that your position has been reduced to defending the cannibalism of your own wife? Have you mentioned this to her by any chance? Is that really a hill you want to die on?

    GW4: I see this cannibalism issue as a side one. My purpose in presenting it was to encourage you to flesh out your theory of value which underlies a few of the more prominent claims you made like: 1.“Human beings are valuable simply for what they are.” 2. “None of these [Size, Level of Development, Environment, and Degree of Dependency] is morally significant nor would they justify killing any of us at an earlier stage in our development.” 3. “The fact that a human “organism” is more valuable than a chicken organism is self-evident.” All of these claims depend on a theory of value which you have not yet presented.

    BP4: My pointing this out is not an ad hominem argument because (I repeat yet again) I do not think you really believe it. My point is simply that the philosophical view you defend leads logically to such a reprehensible end. You can see an outstanding video essay that addresses the issue of following SM arguments to their logical conclusions here: http://bit.ly/obPCFH

    GW4: You don’t think I really believe that a chicken is more valuable than a human being under some circumstances? What is your evidence that I don’t believe it? Let me give you some contrary evidence: Because I think that in general it is wrong to kill another human being, especially in order to eat them, if I were in a situation of being starved I would value a chicken at that moment more than a human being. Why? Because I can kill the chicken, cook it, and eat it to satisfy my hunger. The point is that valuing is relative to circumstances. You are trying to claim that the valuing of human organisms is not relative to circumstances and furthermore that we should value a human zygote to the same degree that we value an adult human person. I think that position is indefensible, so I’d like to hear your defense of it.

    GW4: The philosophical view which I defend does not lead logically to a reprehensible end of any kind. If you think it does, then you must demonstrate this rather than just claiming it.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Part 2 of 2 of GW4 to BP4

    BP4 refers to Bob Perry’s comment of September 7, 2011 3:06 PM, and GW4 refers to my (Gary Whittenberger’s) response to it.

    GW4: I am reposting this Part 2 of 2 since it seems to have been lost.

    BP4: For the record ... No, there is no situation in which I would consider doing such a thing. I would gladly accept a painful death before even considering it, no matter how "prudent" you might believe it to be.

    GW4: So, you would not eat a human person who had already died in order to satisfy your hunger if you were starving? What is your justification for that position? And you would not kill another human person in order to eat them yourself or feed them to your own children under conditions of starvation? What is your justification for that position? Does prudence have anything to do with ethics?

    GW quoted: I posed some unusual questions/scenarios to you and SK because I don’t think the two of you have thought enough about your theory of value.

    BP4: I will leave it to our readers to decide which of us seems to have "thought enough about" human value. Is it those who use scientific and philosophical arguments to defend the intrinsic value of human life consistently from conception to natural death; or is it those whose view leads to a "prudent" defense of spousal cannibalism? Hmmm?

    GW4: This reader has concluded that you haven’t thought enough about your theory of human values.

    GW4: You are grandstanding and distorting my position without dealing with the central issue. You claim that human life has “intrinsic value.” Value to whom? How is value determined? Does the life of a human organism always have the same value, or does that value vary? Why do you think that a human zygote has the same value as an adult human person? Why should a human zygote have the same “right to life” as an adult human person? These are important questions you haven’t dealt with in our discussion. You’ve gotten hung up on the side issue of cannibalism I think in order to avoid dealing with the more basic issues I’ve identified here.

    BP4: I would also point out Scott's latest post which shows that you don't seem to have even seriously considered the views of those who argue from your side of the issue.

    GW4: As I explained to SK, it is not necessary that I read what you and he think I should read before I can question, challenge, doubt, or criticize your positions.

    BP4: [On a side note, please refrain from re-copying entire passages in your reply. The comments are becoming cumbersome and unreadable as a result]

    GW4: No, my comments are not becoming cumbersome and unreadable as a result of re-copying most passages. Just follow my comments in sequence and there should be no problem. [One thing that would help communication is if you removed the “number of characters” restriction for comments on the blog.] I copy most of your paragraphs because I take all your words seriously and I want to do them justice. My style makes the on-line discussion more like an actual in-person discussion where people do not talk in pages or long dissertations, but in paragraphs, taking turns. My style makes it easier for you and for readers to know which of my responses applies to which of your comments.

    GW4: I hypothesize that your request here is your preparation for censorship.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Gary, you asked: So, you would not eat a human person who had already died in order to satisfy your hunger if you were starving? What is your justification for that position? And you would not kill another human person in order to eat them yourself or feed them to your own children under conditions of starvation? What is your justification for that position?

    So this is a hill you want to die on after all. Amazing.

    I want to point out that it was Jay Watts who made the important distinction between killing a human being in order to eat it, and eating a human being who had already died. You did no such thing.

    I don't know how many times you want to ask this question in a different way but I can promise you that this is the last time I will answer it ... I believe human beings are valuable for the intrinsic value they hold simply in virtue of being human beings. Therefore, I would not resort to cannibalism.

    That is the justification for my position. I don't think I can be more clear about it.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Gary said:No, my comments are not becoming cumbersome and unreadable as a result of re-copying most passages. Just follow my comments in sequence and there should be no problem. [One thing that would help communication is if you removed the “number of characters” restriction for comments on the blog.]

    I hypothesize that your request here is your preparation for censorship.


    Gary, since this is the LTI Blog, we will be the judge of when comments are becoming cumbersome. You passed that point long ago. Additionally, there is no restriction on the "number of characters allowed" that we can change. You'll have to take that up with Blogger.com

    I hypothesize that your request here is your preparation for censorship.

    I specifically asked you not to recopy entire passages into the comments and you refuse on the pretext that this is "preparation for censorship." Again, incorrect. We have been handling commenters for many years in a perfectly acceptable manner without ever having this issue. So, if you continue to refuse to abide by our rules, comments will be closed.

    I will summarize my position one more time (below) to see if you respond with actual arguments. If you continue to put forth unsubstantiated assertions as "arguments," and load up the blog with volume instead of valuable discussion points, comments will be closed.

    Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Gary wrongly equates volume with content and persuasiveness. His voluminous comments still fail to address three basic points:

    1) SM denies a fully-orbed view of reality, not on evidence, but on presupposition. GW gives us no reason to believe that we should limit allowable the universe of possible causes for all events only to material causes. He completely ignores even the possibility of agent causation in the physical world and insists that SM "may" offer explanations for non-material reality "in the future," while completely missing the point that SM rules out non-material reality by definition.

    2) SM denies that some of the most basic aspects of reality are non-material and therefore inexplicable per SM. GW offers the following example to deny this point: Doesn’t SM explain the location of thoughts? I think it does. Don’t BP’s own thoughts occur in the same space that his brain occupies? We could show that putting a drop of LSD anywhere on BP’s brain would affect his thoughts but putting a drop anywhere else isolated from physical contact with his brain would not affect his thoughts.

    GW apparently missed my point that there is no doubt brain activity and thoughts are correlated. I never said otherwise. But how does his experiment prove causation? It doesn't. I could hook electrodes up to GW’s brain to monitor and locate all his brain activity, but I would never know what GW was thinking … unless he told me.

    3) GW sees no irony in his rational defense of non-rational determinism. He admits that nature is non-rational but insists that: Yes, the particles clashing in my gray matter don’t say anything, but my mouth connected to my brain says plenty.

    Does GW not realize that his mouth and brain not are simply extensions of his physical makeup … which he admits is non-rational? How does his mouth moving suddenly make him rational? He gives no explanation for why we should suddenly accept his deterministic argument because he moved his physical mouth to give it to us. Again, if he wants us to think he is being rational, his SM goes down in flames, while if he insists on defending his determinism, we have no reason to take his arguments seriously. They are nothing but the non-rational outcome of the matter and energy reacting in his neurons.

    4) GW refuses to accept our explanation for why a human zygote is equivalent in moral value to an 18 year old.

    One more time … A complete, whole, living human being comes into existence at the moment of conception. No parts are added to that entity. It develops completely from within itself according to its human nature (just like every other living thing). Claiming that a human being’s value depends on some trait it later develops (like sentience or self-awareness) misses the point that these traits may come and go during our lifetime yet fail to make us “non human.” He completely ignores the point that these specific traits develop after birth. Does this means GW defends infanticide? If not, where does he draw his arbitrary line on determining when human beings become valuable (if ever)?

    He never says.

    In summary, GW has given us no reason to take his "arguments" seriously … but plenty of reason to doubt his moral reasoning. Unless he offers something radically different than he has so far, I see no reason to continue this discussion. In that light, I will only accept specific replies to 1) through 4) above if he offers them.

    Cheers ...

    ReplyDelete
  32. GW5 to BP5

    BP5 refers to Bob Perry’s comment of September 12, 2011 6:27 PM, and GW5 to my (Gary Whittenberger’s) response to it.

    GW4: “So, you would not eat a human person who had already died in order to satisfy your hunger if you were starving? What is your justification for that position? And you would not kill another human person in order to eat them yourself or feed them to your own children under conditions of starvation? What is your justification for that position?”

    BP5: So this is a hill you want to die on after all. Amazing.

    GW5: Your emotional reaction of “amazing” is irrelevant. Please try to stick with the issues.

    BP5: I want to point out that it was Jay Watts who made the important distinction between killing a human being in order to eat it, and eating a human being who had already died. You did no such thing.

    GW5: I agree that Jay provided a good clarification of the dilemma.

    BP5: I don't know how many times you want to ask this question in a different way but I can promise you that this is the last time I will answer it ... I believe human beings are valuable for the intrinsic value they hold simply in virtue of being human beings. Therefore, I would not resort to cannibalism.

    GW5: Well, you really didn’t give direct answers to all four questions. I am still not sure whether or not you would eat a dead human person or feed it to your children, under conditions of starvation. I’d like a direct and clear answer to that question. On the other hand, I can infer from your response here that you would not kill another human person in order to eat them yourself or feed them to your own children under conditions of starvation. This means that if you, your wife, and your children were starving, along with a stranger, you would not kill the stranger in order to provide food for you and your family, and you would all die! I’m not sure I can go along with you on that, but first I’d like to hear from some other readers about it.

    GW5: I’m pleased that you brought up your idea that human beings have intrinsic value, because I think your entire concept of “intrinsic value” is invalid. (I will assume that you mean live human beings here.) I asked you several times to lay out your theory of valuing, but you avoided those questions, so I guess I’ll take a more direct approach.

    GW5: Nothing has intrinsic value since value is not a property which things naturally have; instead value is a property which is assigned by a person or group of persons. You don’t find value belonging to things in nature, including human beings. Rather value is something which is decided on or assigned by a person who is the valuer or evaluator. And so, you apparently assign the same value to a human zygote as you do to an adult human person. I do not, and women who use the “morning after pill” also do not. You think that I should assign the same values to these two things as you do, but I disagree. So, you see, your idea of “intrinsic value” falls apart on close examination. If you claim “human beings have intrinsic value,” you are simply mistaken. You have made a category error in your thinking.

    BP5: That is the justification for my position. I don't think I can be more clear about it.

    GW5: In this case I think you’ve been pretty clear about your justification, and it is seriously flawed.

    ReplyDelete
  33. GW6 to BP6

    BP6 refers to Bob Perry’s comment of September 12, 2011 6:46 PM, while GW6 refers to my (Gary Whittenberger’s) response to it

    GW4: No, my comments are not becoming cumbersome and unreadable as a result of re-copying most passages. Just follow my comments in sequence and there should be no problem. [One thing that would help communication is if you removed the “number of characters” restriction for comments on the blog.] I hypothesize that your request here is your preparation for censorship.

    BP6: Gary, since this is the LTI Blog, we will be the judge of when comments are becoming cumbersome. You passed that point long ago. Additionally, there is no restriction on the "number of characters allowed" that we can change. You'll have to take that up with Blogger.com

    GW6: And I will be another judge. My comments are not cumbersome. What do you think is cumbersome about my comments? They are comprehensive, detailed, sensitive, challenging, and orderly. What better comments could you possibly want?

    GW6: Thanks for the explanation on the restriction on number of characters. Since you are the owners of the blog, I think you should take this up with Blogger.com. It would improve your blog if there were no restriction on number of characters in a comment. For the time being, I will cope with the restriction the best I can.

    GW4: I hypothesize that your request here is your preparation for censorship.

    BP6: I specifically asked you not to recopy entire passages into the comments and you refuse on the pretext that this is "preparation for censorship." Again, incorrect. We have been handling commenters for many years in a perfectly acceptable manner without ever having this issue. So, if you continue to refuse to abide by our rules, comments will be closed.

    GW6: In other words, my hypothesis was correct – you ARE preparing for censorship! I thought so. You are preparing to handle my comments in a totally unacceptable manner. You are making up the rules as you go. (I don’t see any rules clearly posted on your blog.) You are making up a new rule, on the fly, to prohibit full quotation of another person. This is unprofessional and unethical on your part. You have an obligation to allow persons to express themselves in their own style. I gave you a perfectly good justification for my style. You quote me sometimes; I just quote you more often. There is nothing wrong with that; in fact, it is the right thing to do to avoid confusion.

    BP6: I will summarize my position one more time (below) to see if you respond with actual arguments. If you continue to put forth unsubstantiated assertions as "arguments," and load up the blog with volume instead of valuable discussion points, comments will be closed.

    GW6: Yes, I see that you are prone to censorship. You wish to exclude opinions which you don’t like, or don’t agree with, or are expressed in a style you don’t like. That is the essence of censorship.

    GW6: I hope that in your next comment you get to something of substance, instead of harping about my style which you don’t like.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Part 1 of 4 of GW7 to BP7

    BP7 refers to Bob Perry’s comment of September 12, 2011 7:53 PM, and GW7 refers to my (Gary Whittenberger’s) response to it.

    GW7: Ok, reading ahead, it does look like you are going to get off your obsession with my style of communication and get into some real substantive issues. Thanks.

    BP7: Gary wrongly equates volume with content and persuasiveness. His voluminous comments still fail to address three basic points:

    BP7: 1) SM denies a fully-orbed view of reality, not on evidence, but on presupposition. GW gives us no reason to believe that we should limit allowable the universe of possible causes for all events only to material causes. He completely ignores even the possibility of agent causation in the physical world and insists that SM "may" offer explanations for non-material reality "in the future," while completely missing the point that SM rules out non-material reality by definition.

    GW7: As I’ve said from the beginning, there are several versions of Scientific Materialism (SM), and I don’t pretend to defend all of them; I can only defend my own version. You continues to talk as though SM is monolithic. I’d like you to defend your particular version of Pre-Scientific Spiritualism (PSS) which includes your belief in souls and gods.

    GW7: I don’t have any presupposition that nonmaterial causes are impossible. They are possible! But if you want me to come to believe that there are any, then you will need to provide some pretty strong evidence for them. You have not done so, thus far. Apparent “agent causation” has a perfectly good explanation under various versions of SM. No, SM does not rule out non-material reality by definition, at least my version does not. If you will present solid evidence for the existence of a nonmaterial entity, then I will agree with you. But even if you were successful in doing this, it doesn’t mean that your attempts to show that gods and souls exist would be successful. You are obligated to independently demonstrate that these hypothetical things actually exist. And I think that your arguments against abortion do not work with or without gods and souls.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Part 2 of 4 of GW7 to BP7

    BP7 refers to Bob Perry’s comment of September 12, 2011 7:53 PM, and GW7 refers to my (Gary Whittenberger’s) response to it.

    BP7: 2) SM denies that some of the most basic aspects of reality are non-material and therefore inexplicable per SM. GW offers the following example to deny this point [See part 2 of GW1]: “Doesn’t SM explain the location of thoughts? I think it does. Don’t BP’s own thoughts occur in the same space that his brain occupies? We could show that putting a drop of LSD anywhere on BP’s brain would affect his thoughts but putting a drop anywhere else isolated from physical contact with his brain would not affect his thoughts.”

    BP7: GW apparently missed my point that there is no doubt brain activity and thoughts are correlated. I never said otherwise. But how does his experiment prove causation? It doesn't. I could hook electrodes up to GW’s brain to monitor and locate all his brain activity, but I would never know what GW was thinking … unless he told me.

    GW7: The experiment I proposed does involve causation since the drop of LSD at different locations is the independent variable which precedes in time the dependent variable which is the degree of disturbance in thought. You are correct that some of the research on brain-mind relations is just correlational in nature, but some of the research goes beyond this and is causal in nature. However, in addition, you fail to realize that even the correlational results are not compatible with your version of Pre-Scientific Spiritualism (PSS).

    GW7: I don’t have the reference right now, but I’ll summarize an experiment which shows the power of SM. Subjects were instructed to push a button on the left or on the right as soon as they had the inclination to do so. Their brains were monitored. Merely by viewing their “brain waves,” the experimenters were able to accurately predict which button the subjects would push, left or right, up to seven seconds before the subjects were aware of their own choices!

    ReplyDelete
  36. Part 3 of 4 of GW7 to BP7

    BP7 refers to Bob Perry’s comment of September 12, 2011 7:53 PM, and GW7 refers to my (Gary Whittenberger’s) response to it.

    BP7: 3) GW sees no irony in his rational defense of non-rational determinism. He admits that nature is non-rational but insists that: Yes, the particles clashing in my gray matter don’t say anything, but my mouth connected to my brain says plenty.

    GW7: Yes, there is no irony here. My explanation is a perfectly good one.

    BP7: Does GW not realize that his mouth and brain not are simply extensions of his physical makeup … which he admits is non-rational? How does his mouth moving suddenly make him rational? He gives no explanation for why we should suddenly accept his deterministic argument because he moved his physical mouth to give it to us. Again, if he wants us to think he is being rational, his SM goes down in flames, while if he insists on defending his determinism, we have no reason to take his arguments seriously. They are nothing but the non-rational outcome of the matter and energy reacting in his neurons.

    GW7: BP is confused, and I think it is because he confounds different levels of analysis. Some of the time you think rationally and at other times you think irrationally. This judgement is about the way you think on a particular occasion or about a particular problem. It is about whether or not you follow the rules of evidence, logic, and reason. It is about whether you have learned the skills of rational thinking or not, and whether you use these skills. Molecules cannot be rational or irrational; only minds can be rational or irrational. The terms just aren’t applicable to molecules. The judgement about deterministic vs. nondeterministic is about a different level of analysis. Do certain patterns of neuronal activity in your brain necessarily lead to other patterns in your brain and ultimately to your behavior? Or is there some wiggle room? If so, how much? As I said before I’m not sure about determinism. I think it is probably true, but I think it is too early in the history of science to make a definitive statement about it. But regardless, when you are rational or irrational on the level of analysis of the mind, either determinism or nondeterminism could be true at the neuronal level.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Part 4 of 4 of GW7 to BP7

    BP7 refers to Bob Perry’s comment of September 12, 2011 7:53 PM, and GW7 refers to my (Gary Whittenberger’s) response to it.

    BP7: 4) GW refuses to accept our explanation for why a human zygote is equivalent in moral value to an 18 year old.

    GW7: If value were an intrinsic property of things, then we’d already be in agreement with each other on the value of the human zygote. It would be like observing the strands of DNA in the zygote. Or, it would be like observing that birds have wings. But, as I explained earlier, the idea of intrinsic value is simply mistaken.

    BP7: One more time … A complete, whole, living human being comes into existence at the moment of conception. No parts are added to that entity. It develops completely from within itself according to its human nature (just like every other living thing). Claiming that a human being’s value depends on some trait it later develops (like sentience or self-awareness) misses the point that these traits may come and go during our lifetime yet fail to make us “non human.” He completely ignores the point that these specific traits develop after birth. Does this means GW defends infanticide? If not, where does he draw his arbitrary line on determining when human beings become valuable (if ever)? He never says.

    GW7: No, a human organism, not a human being, comes into existence at that time. Let’s get the terminology correct.

    GW7: Value is assigned; it is not inherent! Claiming that a human organism’s (not being’s) value should be assigned partly on the basis of stage of development or current properties does not miss the point; it is the point! It is the claim I am making. And you are claiming the opposite – that the assignment of value should not depend even partly on stage of development or current properties.

    GW7: You say “traits may come and go during our lifetime,” but you are ignoring a central point which I made earlier. There is a FIRST TIME when traits come! So, for example, sentience is not present in the zygote, but it is present in the 39-week-old fetus which may be born. Thus, sentience comes for the FIRST TIME, i.e. it begins, sometime between these two points in time. Science helps us determine when that occurs. If you do not agree with this analysis, then be specific and tell us which part you don’t agree with and why. If you agree with this analysis, then maybe we can talk more about when sentience begins.

    GW7: I’ve said all along and several times that the living human organism continues being human throughout its development (till it dies). The DNA remains human. Do not confuse humanness with personhood! They just aren’t the same thing.

    GW7: I do not ignore the facts of human development. I do not defend infanticide. And my line for assigning human rights is not arbitrary at all.

    GW7: I am going to pose another scenario to you which may clear things up quite a bit. Here it is: A woman is in her fourth month of pregnancy. After careful medical assessment, it has been determined that if the woman has her fetus aborted, she will live. But if she allows the fetus to remain inside her, she will die and the fetus will live. This is a real, but rare situation. My question to you is this: What should the woman do and why? Should the woman’s family, the doctors, or the state have any control in this matter? If so, why? If not, why not?

    ReplyDelete
  38. Enough is enough. I think it is obvious that we have been fair about allowing Gary to espouse his views, such as they are. In fact, even after being given a warning about how we wanted the discussion to continue, I allowed Gary to post another series of comments that directly violated our request. In those comments, Gary informs us that "he will be another judge" of what will be permitted in discussions ON OUR BLOG. Well, no he won't.

    Gary is a relativist as demonstrated here: Nothing has intrinsic value since value is not a property which things naturally have; instead value is a property which is assigned by a person or group of persons.

    As has been shown many, many times, both here and elsewhere, relativism is self-refuting.

    Gary refuses to accept that there is intrinsic value to human life, that determinism is also self-refuting, that there is a difference between the non-rational human brain and the rational human "mind," or that a human zygote has the same essence (is of the same "kind") as an 18 year-old but that it is just at an earlier stage in its development.

    His argument against each of these amounts to stomping his feet and yelling, "No, it isn't!"

    So, while I appreciate the shortcomings of SM and the dramatic absence of moral authority that his views have demonstrated throughout this discussion; and while I appreciate the civility with which he put forth his point of view, comments on this discussion are now closed ...

    Thanks ...

    ReplyDelete

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