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Friday, October 31, 2008

3 Haul out the goblins that scared them before

One thing to know about the New Scientist's readership, or The National Enquirer's, for that matter: On some topics they actually do not particularly want correct information.

Just as National Enquirer readers do not gladly hear that a movie star is not getting a rumoured divorce, New Scientist readers do not want to know why many doctors and psychologists find non-materialist neuroscience promising rather than threatening. So they probably won't seek corrrect information or thank anyone for providing them with it.

So the Gefter piece obligingly illustrates another key strategy in the "hit piece" technique - misleading definitions.

1. We are told that Schwartz and Beauregard are "attempting to resurrect Cartesian dualism."

There are a number of models of dualism, and Beauregard and Schwartz think that interactive dualism is the best model, not Cartesian dualism. But knowing that might leave readers with questions or possible subjects to follow up on privately, in which case they might discover a whole new world out there that they don't want to know about and New Scientist never intended them to know about.

Anyway, while we are here, "dualism" is typically used by materialists as a term of abuse. That helps prevent people from seeing what should be obvious: The only alternative to dualism is monism - in other words, everything is material. That means that your consciousness - and any ideas you have as a result - are merely an illusion created by random firings of neurons.

So if you think that your consciousness and your ideas are in some sense real, that they do bring you into contact with reality, you are a dualist already! You think that non-material entities such as your ideas can actually exist. We can sort out what kind of dualist you are later. If, by contrast, you think that everything you have ever thought or ever will think is an illusion, arguing the case with you would be a waste of time.

Making "dualism"into a term of abuse is one way that hard core materialists keep a hold on their loyal and/or frightened followers. So, if the term scares you, think.

2. "ID [intelligent design] argues that biological life is too complex to have arisen through evolution."

Here, Gefter repeats a legacy media fidget - a false definition of intelligent design theory. For the record, intelligent design theorists like Michael Behe and William Dembski argue that the intricate machinery we find in cells requires design as well as chance and the repetitive laws of nature. That has nothing to do with whether evolution occurs, though it strongly implies that evolution is not random and purposeless.

However, I will not belabor that point here because - strictly speaking - it is not relevant to non-materialist neuroscience. If evolution had been random and meaningless, but had nonetheless produced minds that can act on brains, non-materialist neuroscience would be just the same today. As with her use of the term "creationists", Gefter is using the term "ID" to frighten her readers into refusing to consider non-materialist neuroscience in a reasonable way.

3. Henry Stapp's interpretation of quantum physics is "non-standard."

Stapp uses the von Neumann interpretation, which is a standard one:
In the interpretation of quantum physics created by physicist John Von Neumann (1903–1957), a particle only probably exists in one position or another; these probable positions are said to be "superposed" on each other. Measurement causes a "quantum collapse," meaning that the experimenter has chosen a position for the particle, thus ruling out the other positions. The Stapp and Schwartz model posits that this is analogous to the way in which attending to (measuring) a thought holds it in place, collapsing the probabilities on one position. This targeted attention strategy, which is used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorders, provides a model for how free will might work in a quantum system. The model assumes the existence of a mind that chooses the subject of attention, just as the quantum collapse assumes the existence of an experimenter who chooses the point of measurement. - The Spiritual Brain, p. 34.
Misleading statements and definitions can do a great deal to reassure readers that they need do no thinking outside the box. But these techniques cannot do everything. There is also the art of stripping context from people's words and then adding another, irrelevant context.

Next: 4 Context reduces fear. So get rid of context

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