A while back, I asked:
…shouldn’t an atheist limit themselves to belief in brains only?
John W. Loftus took a stab, and here’s what he concluded:
Science repeatedly disconfirms that there is a mind.
Does it? I wish John would define his terms and cite evidence to support his claims. As we’ve seen elsewhere, why does he show such a penchant for bare assertion and undefined language? His claim seems ambiguous, and contradicts his statement that we should ask for positive evidence for that which we accept as true. As I’ve demonstrated several times before, why does John W. Loftus hold himself to a different standard? At any rate, if by mind he means something like “what the brain does,” then his claim is obviously false. Will anybody really agree that science has disconfirmed what the brain does? Since the answer is–or at least should be–an unequivocal no, I submit that John appears to be using mind analogously to the dualist soul, in the sense of an immaterial entity that either communicates and/or interacts with a physical entity.
Moving along, I noticed that he travels the road countless atheists and skeptics travel in this discussion:
Drugs, strokes, electromagnetic probing, and a nail through the brain can and does change a person’s emotions, ideas, thinking patterns, and a man’s personality itself.
A man’s personality? What about a woman’s? More to the point, so what? All of the time? This is a crucial question. Atheists like Loftus, dguller, Ebonmuse, Luke Muehlhauser, Sam Harris, et al. seem to misunderstand that this is not incompatible with dualism. Similarly, damaging hardware can and does alter software function. Does that mean software doesn’t exist, or that there’s no need for hardware? Folks, if there is a link between brain and mind–a premise I support–then it should be expected that brain damage can alter mental function. Loftus has not provided any evidence against the mind, and he attacks a straw man: no dualist I know claims that changes to the brain shouldn’t affect mental function. However, there is a subtle detail that needs to be parsed out.
In my experience, conventional materialist theories predict that brain damage necessarily alters mental function. Dualism, on the other hand, predicts that brain damage can alter mental function, but does not do so necessarily. IOW, if conventional materialist theories are true, it would seem that we should never find an instance where brain damage doesn’t alter mental function. If dualism is true, it would seem that we should find instances where brain damage alters mental function, but we should also find instances where brain damage does not alter mental function. Indeed, this is what we find. While this in no way proves dualism, it puts burden on the materialist to explain when and why brain damage shouldn’t alter mental function. Of course, all of this is subject to revision, but the take-home point is this: if the mind is what the brain does, why would the effect of brain damage on mental function be sporadic? To simply say that we don’t know enough about the brain seems like a cop-out, not to mention a tentative defeater for proponents of materialism. Consider the following remarks from John R. Searle, both taken from the same paper:
…we really do not understand how brain processes cause consciousness.
The key points of disagreement are that I insist that from everything we know about the brain, consciousness is causally reducible to brain processes… [Why I Am Not A Property Dualist]
I can’t help but chuckle, and ask: if we really don’t understand how brain processes cause consciousness, on what grounds can we sustain the presumption that brain processes cause consciousness? Back to Loftus:
In fact, as neurologist Sam Harris has said, if there is a mind there is no reason for God to have created us with brains.
First off, how about a citation? How do we know that John paraphrased Sam Harris accurately? Even if we presume he charitably interpreted Harris, the conclusion does not follow from the premise. Why should we accept this as true? Because Sam Harris can’t think of a reason? The argument from incredulity is a logical fallacy that essentially relies on a lack of imagination in the audience. This is an argument from incredulity, and, again, Loftus contradicts himself by failing to provide any positive evidence for that which he accepts as true.
If the mind tells the brain what signals to send to the arm then it can by-pass the brain altogether and simply send signals to the arm.
This is another bare assertion with no evidence to support it. Where’s that positive evidence you demand for every claim a theist makes, John?
The burden of proof is on the theist to show why unnecessary things were created.
Incorrect. The burden of proof is on John to show why the brain is unnecessary given dualism. That John lacks the imagination to conceive of a need for the brain is not evidence of its contingency. This is another argument from incredulity. Literally, it’s fallacy after fallacy here, from he who fancies himself on the intellectual highground.
If there is a mind we do not need our senses. Get it? If there is a mind that can interact with the brain then it can control the brain. If it can control the brain then it knows what the brain is doing. How it does this is left unexplained, but if we take that position seriously it can. Now if it can sense the brain then it can sense the outside world and so we do not need the five senses.
Yes, I get it: John can’t think of a reason for X, therefore X is not necessary. Again, John simply leaps to his conclusion. Can you count the unsupported assertions there? Nearing the end of his piece, John’s conclusion is a perfect example of the fallacious reasoning that supports so many of his arguments:
The mind supposedly has the characteristics of memory storage, critical thinking, decision-making and so on. What need then of a brain? I simply don’t see it based on theistic grounds.
Yet another argument from incredulity, rinsed, washed, and repeated. That John W. Loftus can’t wrap his head around a concept is neither evidence nor cogent argument against that concept.
So, to wrap it up: it is false to argue that since brain damage can alter mental function, dualism is false. Materialists need to burn the straw here.