Thursday, 23 October 2008

The new battleground for ID?

The ID crowd seems to be shifting its focus again. The newest movement is 'non-material neuroscience', or the idea that consciousness cannot be explained by the activity of the brain. This seems rather desperate: the suggestion is that if the brain doesn't explain consciousness, then god must have done it and there is room for a soul. By using the language of neuroscience, they wish to add credibility to a moronic idea.

The obvious fallacy, of course, is the usual ID one: even if they manage to show that consciousness cannot be explained in terms of brains, that does not imply in the slightest that god is responsible. The entire ID movement has been predicated on such false dichotomies so it's no surprise to see it here.

There's a slightly new twist with this one, however, and I promise I am not making this up: they say that since god is consciousness, theists have no need to explain it. The onus is on materialists to show that consciousness does stem from the brain. This is just pushing the false dichotomy even further than before: with classic ID, the 'explanation' for things being how they are is that everything is so perfectly suited - in their words - for their role. Unfortunately for them, this 'argument' is entirely blown away by the clearly sub-optimal and vestigial features of many organisms, including humans. So the new tactic is to claim that they don't have to explain consciousness at all. It just happens. Because god did it. This means that they can use god-of-the-gaps reasoning with almost perfect impunity: as soon as they find an aspect of consciousness that is not yet explained by science, they will claim that it can't be explained without an appeal to god. If someone fills that gap, they'll find another one.

At best, this can only ever be a delaying tactic. I often wonder whether this is deliberate, that they know they are preaching nonsense, but they are lying for Jesus. Perhaps they feel that the world would be a better place if more people believed in souls - regardless of the fact that they obviously don't exist - and so lying about it is justified by the end. Or perhaps they really are that batshit crazy.

It seems to me that they still haven't quite insulated themselves from having to explain things about consciousness. For example, don't they have to explain why at least some parts of consciousness have been demonstrated beyond doubt to be brain-related while (they claim) other bits are supernatural?

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