A Christmas Meditation
But a note in passing: two recent news stories related to some of the themes I touch upon in that piece, and which you may have noticed are dear to my heart, have appeared in the past week or two. One is an intriguing entry on Touchstone’s blog —scroll down to the December 15 entry entitled “Second Spring and Who's Your Brain?”— in which a philosopher named Jerry Fodor, whose research specialty seems to be cognitive science, is quoted as saying:
Nobody has the slightest idea how anything material could be conscious. Nobody even knows what it would be like to have the slightest idea about how anything material could be conscious.
Exactly. Far too many thinkers and researchers in fields ranging from evolution to artificial intelligence operate on the assumption that consciousness is a by-product of brain activity and is basically a computational function, inevitable when the computations become sufficiently complex. I have never understood what makes them think they can assume this. On the basis of mere intution and common-sense I have always thought it far (far, far) from obvious that it is true. For the sake of argument, I’m willing to suppose that it might be true, but its mere assertion is based on materialist assumptions, nothing more. And I’m glad to have my intuition confirmed by someone who has been studying the theoretical basis of consciousness for decades.
The other story is the news that formerly atheistic British philosopher Anthony Flew has changed his mind and now believes that the world we know is too complex to have developed by chance. Now of course people move back and forth between belief and unbelief all the time, and Flew is at pains to say that he is not postulating the God of Christians and Jews. Nevertheless, it’s encouraging to me that this certifiably very bright man now believes it is more reasonable to assert the hypothesis of intelligent design than the hypothesis of evolution by chance.
The grip of materialism on the Western mind is loosening. Happy Fourth Sunday of Advent, and Merry Christmas.