Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Orwellian world an inevitable outcome of materialist philosophy

In "Brave Newark World", law prof and columnist Mike S. Adams exposes an Orwellian world of reprogramming inside the dorms at the University of Delaware:
Presently, students are actually pressured or even required to take actions that outwardly indicate agreement with the university’s official ideology, regardless of their beliefs as individuals. Such actions include displaying specific door decorations and committing to reduce their ecological footprint by at least 20% and fighting for “oppressed social groups.” (There is no indication that one of these groups is made up of University of Delaware residents who are oppressed by RAs who can’t stop asking “how do you feel?”).

In the Office of Residence Life’s internal materials, these programs are described using a chilling language of ideological re-education. In a manual relating to the assessment of student learning the residence hall lesson plans are actually referred to as “treatments.”

I wrote a letter to Adams because, while I greatly respect the work of groups like The Fire in fighting intelectual oppression, I also think that a critical dimension is missing - the role that materialism inevitably plays in producing the Orwellian conditions is too often ignored:
Dear Dr. Adams,

Thank you for your continuing campaign to expose thought control and brainwashing. i try never to miss one of your excellent and eye-opening articles.

I believe that a good case can be made for the origin of brainwashing in materialist theories of mind.

Let me ask you this: If the university bigwigs believe that the mind is simply the accidental buzz of electrons produced by the activities of the brain (and that is a STANDARD belief among materialists), then why SHOULD they respect their students' minds?

Of course they attempt instead to direct the meaningless buzz down the desired path - for the same reason as you would wire your house's electricity in a way that suits your purposes.

A person who believes in the reality of the mind may be willing to die for intellectual freedom, but why should a person who does not believe in the reality of the mind suffer anything AT ALL for intellectual freedom?

That is why so few speak out against the abuses today, surely?

Here is the strange part: Contrary to the PR for materialism that you hear from pop science mags, the news from science does NOT support the materialist view of the mind. Montreal neuroscientist Mario Beauregard and I demonstrate that in our book, The Spiritual Brain: A neuroscientist's case for the existence of the soul.

It surprises me that people do not see more clearly that an inevitable outcome of materialist views is loss of respect for intellectual freedom.

In a materialist framework, the primary problem is not that there is no God but that there is no you in you and no me in me. So the university sees nothing wrong with training its students the way we train a dog - not to be a nuisance to himself or his masters.

To summarize, materialism cannot ground intellectual freedom EXCEPT as a form of mere licence. The right to have ideas other than those approved by the administration is like the right to do dope or pack heat on campus - subject to control or prohibition if things get "out of hand", in the view of the controllers. And in their view, it always does seem to get out of hand ...

As we say in The Spiritual Brain,
In a materialist view, freedom means simply that the determinist forces driving the neural circuits from within (genes, brain wiring, neurotransmitters) are not opposed by determinist forces driving them from without (social isolation, religious condemnation, laws). None of these forces is subject to rationality because rationality has no independent validity; it is merely one of the organizing illusions imposed by some neural networks on others. (P. 117)

In other words, materialist policies are not offered by a self to other selves but driven at an object by other objects. And if materialism is true, you are not. Otherwise, ...

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Consciousness - can it be a material phenomenon?

Granville Sewell has an interesting post and thread over at Uncommon Descent on consciousness, and the lack of an adequate current explanation for it. Here was my comment:

In The Spiritual Brain, Mario Beauregard and I devote Chapter 5 to the problem of materialist explanations of consciousness, as per Edelman, Koch, et cetera.

There are various materialist theories of consciousness. None address the "how" question effectively - probably because consciousness isn't a material phenomenon.

Materialists keep looking for material causes for the same reason that the guy who lost a dollar on Maple Street is looking for it on Main Street - because there is more light there, not because he is more likely to find it there. Quite the opposite, actually.

Re natural selection, anyone can invent a just-so story about how a given trait (monogamy, polygamy, adultery, rape, serial spouse murder) can be explained by natural selection. A modest amount of imagination suffices to invent just the cave man scenario where that specific form of behaviour paid off. I don't know why the theorists don't just write Clan of the Cave Bear novels.

Consciousness is especially problematic for natural selection theorizing because - unlike sex - it is rare. Many mammals and birds, and perhaps some reptiles, probably have a limited form of consciousness. We humans are the only creatures we know of in which the trait is highly developed. So clearly it is not a common part of the vast arsenal of creaturely survival.

That shouldn't be a surprise. Mere "consciousness" of prey and predators can be achieved - as it in fact is - by vast varieties of life forms that do not have or need brains, let alone consciousness (in the human sense).

In fact, one can go further and point out that many threats to survival and reproduction (suicide, organized warfare, non-parenting lifestyles, et cetera) only become possible with the advent of consciousness.

In any event, consciousness probably occurred rather suddenly. What of the very old burials where the body is placed in the fetal position, or with grave goods suggesting that the dead would live again? If things like that occurred comparatively suddenly, the process was not Darwinian.

But remember, there is more light on Main Street ...

The thing to see is that materialism is not applied to consciousness because it is a useful paradigm but because it is the only paradigm the materialist has. He cannot allow himself to consider any other approach and will - as recent events show - attempt to prevent others from doing so.

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