Conscience in Mere Atoms - A Ghost in the Machine ~ BitterSweetLife

Monday, June 12, 2006

Conscience in Mere Atoms - A Ghost in the Machine

Ruined Truck

Over at my friend Aditya’s blog, I’ve been part of a conversation regarding the tenability of Atheism vs. the necessity of Christ. One of the claims that has come up is the supposed coherence of the people = matter perspective. Which is to say, we’re 100% biology, our emotions can be hormonally accounted for, and "the mind" is a riddle that Science will eventually solve.

I believe this idea is untenable on multiple levels, the first being that it amounts to making a religion out of Science. To believe that Science will eventually answer all questions and solve all mysteries, given adequate time and resources, is a mentality that amounts to “faith” in the extreme—since it must be held in defiance of the Mind vs. Brain enigma, the mind-boggling complexities of DNA, and other current fields of investigation.

Today, however, another difficulty with the machines-made-of-meat analysis occurred to me. Problem being:

If I am a biologically-driven animal through and through, my “primal” instincts are easy enough to account for. Eat, drink, be merry, etc. Convoluted arguments have even been presented to explain why altruistic actions can be made to coincide with a materialist framework (I don’t buy them). But suppose that I am eating, drinking, being merry, even sending some money across the ocean for disaster relief in the hopes that it will help out my tribe in the long run. All clear so far, right?

But then another instinct kicks in, this one more like a voice, a moral sensation. It sometimes occurs at what are, biologically speaking, the most inconvenient times. I’m about to save major face, or complete a power grab that will help assure the well-being of my descendants. Then this voice chimes in—rebelliously challenging my naturalistic impulses—and questions whether I’m doing what I should be. Pure insolence.

Sometimes the moral voice even pushes me in a direction entirely contrary to my “primal” feelings. I find myself doing things that will end up losing me friends, or moving me away from attractive women, or costing me financially, just because they are “right.”

Is evolution fighting against itself?

I see no way that a purely materialistic worldview can account for the existence of this mysterious thing we call “conscience.”

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Verashni said...

Strong stuff... I was having a debate with a BSc friend tonight, on the supposed empiricism of the sciences, and what I think is the myth of 'objective' facts that science presents us with and which society imbibes as an ideology and worldview. Consider the scientific 'facts' that justified racism a few years ago: facts that have since been thoroughly refuted. As W.E.B. DuBois once said: “Yesterday's science, today’s common sense and tomorrow’s nonsense.”

888 said...

Your instincts are right Ariel. Science will unravel the mysteries of the mind, but it will be a Spiritual Science which does so, not a materialistic one. Not everything in this world can be explained by matter- in fact not a lot at all when it comes down to it.


Ariel said...

I think that honesty compels scientists, theologians, and everyone, to be up front with their agendas. No one is really "objective," nor is this any tragedy.

Empirical evidence rarely presents us with an open-shut case, so we may as well be transparent about the worldview we're rooting for.

As it is, Verashni, the "myth of objective fact" has turned out to be the legend of the century. :)

888, I'm curious what you mean by "spiritual science." Care to elaborate?

888 said...

Here is a couple of sites from the Anthro science list that examine water's memory capabilities.


Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife