April 30, 2015


Darwin's Robots: When Evolutionary Materialists Admit that Their Own Worldview Fails (Nancy Pearcey April 23, 2015, Evolution News)

A materialist philosophy reduces humans to machines -- complex robots determined by material forces. It denies the reality of free will, the power to make decisions. Yet all civilizations throughout history have recognized that humans are moral agents capable of making responsible choices. There is no society without some moral code. The testimony of universal human experience is that humans are personal beings capable of willing and choosing -- which means their origin must be a personal Being, not the blind forces of nature.

Even materialists often admit that, in practice, it is impossible for humans to live any other way. One philosopher jokes that if people deny free will, then when ordering at a restaurant they should say, "Just bring me whatever the laws of nature have determined I will get."

An especially clear example is Galen Strawson, a philosopher who states with great bravado, "The impossibility of free will ... can be proved with complete certainty." Yet in an interview, Strawson admits that, in practice, no one accepts his deterministic view. "To be honest, I can't really accept it myself," he says. "I can't really live with this fact from day to day. Can you, really?"

But if humans "can't really live with" the implications of a worldview, is it a reliable map to reality? Watch for phrases like this. Often they are clues that someone is trying to live out a worldview that does not fit the real world -- that he or she has bumped up against one of the intractable facts that point to the biblical God.

Darwinian Psychopaths

In What Science Offers the Humanities, Edward Slingerland, identifies himself as an unabashed materialist and reductionist. Slingerland argues that Darwinian materialism leads logically to the conclusion that humans are robots -- that our sense of having a will or self or consciousness is an illusion. Yet, he admits, it is an illusion we find impossible to shake. No one "can help acting like and at some level really feeling that he or she is free." We are "constitutionally incapable of experiencing ourselves and other conspecifics [humans] as robots."

One section in his book is even titled "We Are Robots Designed Not to Believe That We Are Robots."

Pearcey Hegel.jpgHow does Slingerland propose to resolve the contradiction between his "lived reality" and his deterministic philosophy? He does not even try. Instead he says "we need to pull off the trick of living with a dual consciousness, cultivating the ability to view human beings simultaneously under two descriptions: as physical systems and as persons." In other words, he explicitly recommends constructing a mental dichotomy. Philosophers sometimes picture the division using the image of two stories in a building: In the lower story, humans are "physical systems," in the upper story they are "persons."

Such compartmentalized thinking is what George Orwell famously called "doublethink," and it functions here as a philosophical coping mechanism. When a worldview fails to account for all of reality, what do adherents do? Do they say, "I guess my theory has been falsified; I'd better toss it out"? Most people do not give up that easily. Instead they suppress the things that their worldview cannot explain, walling them off into a conceptual area separate from reality -- an upper story of useful fictions. Wish fulfillment. Illusions.

Posted by at April 30, 2015 3:30 PM

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