Alex vs. Dillahunty commentary thread

S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#1
Discuss.

I find myself sort of on a middle road between the two. Will try to comment more but some quick thoughts:

I'd say "materialist propositions" rather than "dopey atheist creed" as it's more neutral language.

1. There is no purpose to anything. I maintain that my life has no purpose, no meaning, and no destiny. The same is true of the entire universe.

I think this is a complicated question, as some of the proposed metaphysics that include an afterlife seem meaningless to me. So even within a spiritual framework we might have destinies that feel meaningless, whereas in a world without spiritual forces on can forge their own meaning.

(Though one might argue that something feeling meaningful is itself a qualia offering credence to the Hard Problem.)
2. There is no "right" or "wrong". Free will is an illusion. I affirm that my morals come from my genes and my conditioning rather than any decisions I make, because there is no "me". It's an illusion.

I have to agree with Alex here. It's hard to see where anyone has solved the is-ought problem. From what I read of Harris, he simply asserts there are obvious goods and then slides this observation into the next one where he asserts utilitarianism is the best choice.

I've yet to see any argument for skeptical morality that doesn't make certain baseline assumptions, such as people having intrinsic rights. It seems determinist morality hinges on making sure your pretend choices are the right choices.
3. And there are no "good people". Nor have there ever been any mystics, sages, prophets, or saints. There are no "bad people" either.

Good people and bad people is a difficult question, regardless of a spiritual framework or one's position on free will. It seems that a host of factors will affect our decision making, if by no other means than what choices we think are available to us and how we evaluate those choices.

A kid raised to be a child soldier is going to look at the world in a way that is fundamentally different than how someone raised in the comforting arms of a wealthy NYC family will.

All that said, I do think one can still believe in Good and Evil without holding on to definitive evaluations of a person's alignment toward Good/Evil. None of what I've said above is really that far from Jesus's "hate the sin, love the sinner".

As for mystics and prophets, personally I'd say the jury is still out. Is Alex thinking of particular persons when asking about this?
4. All reports throughout history of encounters with spirits, angles, ghosts and supernatural beings are bunk, regardless of the credibility of the witnesses or there number.

This is an interesting question. I've wondered about this myself as I've talked to lots of people online and off about "paranormal" encounters in addition to reading some varied accounts. Could all these people by lying or suddenly experiencing a glitch in their sense?

This would mean even my close personal friends were deluded or intentionally deceiving me though I have little to no reason to doubt their sensory faculties in any other instance. Even Sam Harris noted -IIRC at an atheist conference- the separate, confirmed encounters people had with certain beings (machine elves?) while on DMT.

As he said then, I don't know what's up with that.

This question would likely benefit from the introduction of particular cases.
5. I am my brain. The death of my body is the death of me and my consciousness. All encounters with those who have died are an illusion.

Similar to question 4, it is difficult for me to simply accept all the people who've encountered spirits to be lying or deceived. It is possible however.

The other part of this is the arguments and evidence that suggests Mind comes before Matter. Nothing definitive for me, so jury is still out.

This question, like #4, would benefit from the introduction of particular cases, but also some philosophical arguments relating to the Hard Problem might be of use.
 
#2
Alex's strongest suit, is to show that people who hold an unreconstructed materialist position do not live their lives by those principles. That's fair enough (hypocrisy never goes out of fashion) but the materialist position is not a pragmatic one, it eschews all other metaphysics. Indeed, it does not even recognise itself as such. Dillahunty appears to recognise that dilemma but has yet to give examples which free him from its grip.

I fear this discussion will go the way of all the others - everything is a trick of the mind, including concepts like trick and mind - but we live in hope.
 
#3
I have to agree that Alex was a tad too provocative in his phrasing, and I think that set things off with an unfortunate tone.

Look: I could stay here arguing forever about this, but there are two delightful podcasts by Philip Mereton, where he interviewed Amit Goswami, that say it all:

http://webtalkradio.net/internet-ta...ion-is-a-worldview-revolution-on-the-horizon/

http://webtalkradio.net/internet-ta...yond-science-and-religion-creative-evolution/

If you only have time to listen to one, make it the first. They're both around an hour long.
 
#4
I don't believe the claims are true. That doesn't mean that I believe the claims are false.. [ ] ..But pointing out that a claim hasn't met it's burden of proof and cannot rationally be considered "true" is NOT the same as claiming that the claim is false.
I'm no philosopher, but Dillahunty's first underlined sentence, doesn't make much sense to me... with respect to the next two sentences I've quoted?

Perhaps it's just me... but if I didn't think that a certain claim/s had yet "...met its burden of proof...", and I also didn't "...believe the claims are false...", I would find difficulty in then making the statement "...I don't believe the claims are true...".

I think I would be more likely to say something like... I don't know if these claims are true or not, or, I remain to be convinced...
 
#5
If you only have time to listen to one, make it the first. They're both around an hour long.
Goswami sums things up very neatly. It is remarkable that materialists continue to behave as though quantum non-locality were a sideshow rather than the most intriguing scientific development in centuries.
 
#6
2. There is no "right" or "wrong". Free will is an illusion. I affirm that my morals come from my genes and my conditioning rather than any decisions I make, because there is no "me". It's an illusion.

I have to agree with Alex here. It's hard to see where anyone has solved the is-ought problem.
What "is-ought problem"? We can describe how things are, but that doesn't tell us how we should behave. What's the problem?

On to Alex's disjointed points:
There is no right or wrong that everyone agrees on in all cases. But we each have our own ideas of what's right and what's wrong. Saying that "there is no 'right' or 'wrong'" makes it sound like the atheist things everything is OK, and of course that's incorrect. Even phrasing that way is inflammatory and doesn't belong in a civil discussion.

Free will is an illusion: Matt subscribes to Dan Dennett's ideas, where he defines "free will" in a way that is compatible with materialism. I prefer to stick to the definition that most people use, and in that case it's an incoherent concept and of course we don't have it. My disagreement with Matt here is just one of semantics.

"there is no 'me'. It's an illusion." What? Of course there's a me - you can see me and talk to me.

3. And there are no "good people". Nor have there ever been any mystics, sages, prophets, or saints. There are no "bad people" either.


What the hell does the existence of mystics or saints have to do with the first and last ones about good and bad people?

4. All reports throughout history of encounters with spirits, angles, ghosts and supernatural beings are bunk, regardless of the credibility of the witnesses or there number.

I happen to think they're all bunk, but that's not a pre-determined idea but a conclusion based on evaluating the evidence. It seems to be bunk in every situation I've seen, and the very idea is incompatible with the rest of the observed world, so I'll tentatively take the conclusion that they're all bunk. Of course, I could change my mind based on evidence. I could also change my mind on the existence of leprechauns, and I consider that about as likely.


5. I am my brain. The death of my body is the death of me and my consciousness. All encounters with those who have died are an illusion.

"I am my brain" is shorthand - I'm also my body. It has nerve cells that extend my brain's reach beyond my head. But yeah, all encounters with those who have died are probably illusions, misinterpretations, or even hoaxes.

I thought it was pretty shocking, that Alex wanted to get into a conversation with Matt, but started off with disjointed, misspelled, insulting strawmen of what he thought Matt's positions were. That's not the way to engage a guest.
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#7
What "is-ought problem"?
Honestly Wikipedia can probably describe this better than I can:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Is–ought_problem

I thought it was pretty shocking, that Alex wanted to get into a conversation with Matt, but started off with disjointed, misspelled, insulting strawmen of what he thought Matt's positions were. That's not the way to engage a guest.
Well, he ultimately had no choice since it was decided from the Big Bang plus/minus some quantum randomness right? ;-)
 
#8
Honestly Wikipedia can probably describe this better than I can:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Is–ought_problem
Thanks for the link. I guess I still don't see a problem. "Is" is separate from "ought." No problem. Skimming the article, it seems that some people think that "ought" should be derived from "is," and it's clearly not, so it's a problem for them. For me, not so much.

Well, he ultimately had no choice since it was decided from the Big Bang plus/minus some quantum randomness right? ;-)
The quantum randomness renders the "decided from the Big Bang" as senseless. I take it you're addressing the free will question here, but Alex still made the choice to be that way. Without free will, we still make choices! It's just that those choices are the result of the electrochemical physics in our brains.
 
#10
Can you point out the process by which that stuff happens
Unlikely to be one process, gab. The brain appears to begin developing a "sense of self" in the early months of life, this continues to mature in subsequent years. You appear to underestimate the brain's ability to do this, but it seems no less likely than the brain constructing an antenna/receiver system.

...or are we in promissory realms?
Do you mean has anyone got it all worked out? No.
 
#11
...it seems no less likely than the brain constructing an antenna/receiver system.
The brain certainly appears to use it's own endogenous EM field in a feedback loop [1]. The brain is certainly affected by high power magnetic fields (TMS), thought to work by creating electrical currents. However, the brain also seems capable of transducing weak low-frequency magnetic fields of environmental strength (1 Gauss - 50/60 Hz) [2], the mechanism is unknown, but this process is not thought to use the same mechanism as TMS. The brains neuronal networks also appear to be more sensitive to weak environmental EM fields than individual neurons, and weak environmental EM fields appear capable of syncronising neuronal networks. [3]

I think the brain as a stochastic system does an incredible job of extracting useful information out of all this noise, but I do think that this has been achieved by evolving to 'actively' filter external environmental noise. I've reached the point that any notion that the brain exists in some chamber which is perfectly shielded from external fields just seems incredibly silly.

[1] Frohlich & McCormick 2010 "Endogenous Electric Fields May Guide Neocortical Network Activity"
[2] Marino at. al. 2004 "Effect of low-frequency magnetic fields on brain electrical activity in human subjects"
[3] Francis et. al. 2003 "Sensitivity of Neurons to Weak Electric Fields"
 
#12
Unlikely to be one process, gab. The brain appears to begin developing a "sense of self" in the early months of life, this continues to mature in subsequent years. You appear to underestimate the brain's ability to do this, but it seems no less likely than the brain constructing an antenna/receiver system.
I don't underestimate anything, but can spot prematurity in explanations. You continually claim physical mechanisms are 'no less likely' than others, but that's hardly an endorsement, especially when there's evidence of non-locality. Until someone provides a mechanism (and please no epiphenomenalism or other under the bonnet magic) I'm siding with quantum non-locality and the transceiver model.
 

Bart V

straw materialist
Member
#13
If this is the way Alex tries to invite someone from the skeptic side to the debate, then I am not surprised he does not find many takers.
It is very dissapointing to see that after years of doing this podcast, he still does not seem to grasp the other side's viewpoint.
This is an awful strawman, I suspect even some of the proponents here see that.
 
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