Monday, March 12, 2007

Deepak Chopra on The God Delusion - Part IV

To recap Deepak Chopra's objections to Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion:

  • In Part I Chopra claims that it is Dawkins' assertion that if Science can not explain the existence of something, that something does not exist. Hogwash. Apparently, Chopra does not understand Ockham's Razor: anything not required in an explanation is superfluous and must be cut from the final synthesis. God is not required to explain anything, and therefore has little chance of existing.
  • Part II is just a superfluous reiteration of his statement in Part I.
  • In Part III Chopra attempts to debunk materialism through the anthropic principle and the existence of Quantum Mechanics. The anthropic principle has taken a huge blow recently with the publication of the results of simulating the universe in the total absence of weak nuclear interactions. Quantum Mechanics is not only itself a part of materialism, it was BORN from materialism. In essence, Chopra debunks himself.

Time for Part IV, where Chopra asserts that Dawkins believes that:

The universe is neither intelligent nor conscious. Science doesn't need those ingredients to explain nature and its workings. Starting with atoms and molecules governed by strict physical laws, we will eventually explain everything.

Seeing as there is no evidence in support of an intelligent or conscious universe, I can not see how Chopra is able to refute this, and he doesn't disappoint. Instead, he makes an ad hoc attack: "This argument has to be made in a very loud voice with total conviction to sound plausible. Dawkins holds that humans are conscious because chemicals randomly collide in the brain to produce a phantom we ignorantly call the mind. This is a fashionable view and in fact is the logical outcome of arch materialism. Where else could mind come from if not molecules, assuming that molecules are the basis of the brain and therefore of reality itself?"

Where else indeed? "Common sense finds it hard to take this argument seriously, because it leads to nonsense. The brain contains an enormous amount of water and salt. Are we to assume that water is intelligent, or salt is conscious? If they aren't, then we must assume that throwing water and salt together--along with about six other basic building blocks of organic chemicals--suddenly makes them intelligent. The bald fact is that Dawkins defends an absurd position because he can't make the leap to a different set of assumptions." What is he saying? That a human body is composed of just carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, hydrogen and sulfur? It was once said that the human body is composed of about $6 of these chemicals. But this ignored that the synthesis of complex molecules is very expensive. The $6 figure was rather myopic. This is no different than Chopra's view. Consciousness comes from the enormously complex biochemistry and structure of the human brain, a result of evolutionary processes. The only assumption in Dawkins position is that consciousness is explainable via naturalism.

So what are Chopra's assumptions?

"--Consciousness is part of existence. It wasn't created by molecules.
--Intelligence is an aspect of consciousness.
--Intelligence grows as life grows. Both evolve from within. --The universe evolved along intelligent lines."

This is meaningless drivel. Is an amoeba conscious? It exists. Molecules exist, but are hardly conscious. Intelligence requires consciousness; it is not an aspect of it. Intelligence grows as life grows? I don't even know what that means. The universe evolved along intelligent lines? No. The universe is exactly as we would expect it to be in the absence of design. The big difference between Dawkins' and Chopra's positions is that in Dawkins' case, materialism is his starting point. He has no conclusion to influence his path. Chopra's on the other hand (and this is true of creationists as well) starts with his conclusion: the universe is conscious. It's his base assumption and his final answer, at which he arrives not from empirical evidence, but personal prejudice.

"If we remain sane and clear-headed, the reason to assume that consciousness exists is simple. There's no other way to account for it." This is just a God of the Gaps argument, or perhaps the Argument from Personal Incredulity. Either way it's bogus, weak and lazy. It says, "Oh, this is just too hard to understand. Let's chalk it up to some nebulous deity and go for a beer." This is a contemptible position. He claims that consciousness "isn't just plausible as part of nature, it's totally necessary." He poses a bizarre question to the reader: "Do you think you are conscious and intelligent, or are you being fooled by random chemical reactions inside your skull?" It's a total canard. Consciousness is, as I've said, a result of the brain's enormously complex biochemistry and structure. What he's done is reduced that to "random chemical reactions". This glib statement is another strawman: make a caricature of your opponent's position to make it sound ridiculous. But it's Chopra that comes across as ridiculous. I can't wait to trash the fifth installment.

13 comments:

island said...

The anthropic principle has taken a huge blow recently with the publication of the results of simulating the universe in the total absence of weak nuclear interactions.

Really?... look again:

Problems in a weakless universe
http://arxiv.org/abs/hep-ph/0609050

There's a valid argument against the creationist's leap of faith, but I doubt that you'll ever find it, due to the meaningless position that you assume.

Shamelessly Atheist said...

After reading this paper, it seems a weak retort. The point is that there are many possible universes. Maybe not all can support life (as we know it), but it is most definitely nowhere near being labeled as 'fine-tuned' as proponents of the anthropic principle make it out to be. Chopra's assertion that "if any one of six constants had been off by less than a millionth of 1 percent, the material universe couldn't exist" is baseless and just seems like he is parroting something he read off the Discover Institutes website.

If methodological naturalism is a meaningless position, then I'd better quit my day job. Science would be useless, yet its incredible success speaks otherwise. Spiritualism is a vacuous dead end. Chopra's version is even worse.

island said...

The point is that there are many possible universes.

Prove it. Chopra, is parroting something about the runaway effect that is common to the instability of the anthropic coincidences, but the only reason that the multiverse is even considered is because nobody has been able to model the evolution of the universe from first principles.

THE LEAST ACTION PRINCIPLE SAYS THAT THERE IS ONLY ONE POSSIBLE CONFIGURATION THAT OUR UNIVERSE CAN HAVE... but the failure of scientists to model this is why many have thrown-up thier hands to causality and first principles by giving the idea of an unprovable multiverse credence.

Spiritualism is a vacuous dead end.

This is true, but you don't appear to know the difference between old--school material naturalism and the new-age "free-thinker" mentality.

I agree though, Chopra is a pre-motivated moron.

Are you also ideologically ... "predispositioned"...? ... ;)

Shamelessly Atheist said...

LOL! Ya got me! The biggest problem of all is the universe seems to be a N of 1. I actually do subscribe to the position that the universe is the only way it could have been, but it's tough to come up with evidence for it.

Everyone has basic assumptions of the world around them. I do, you do. The difference between me and Chopra I suppose is that my assumptions are the beginning of the journey. His is what's at the end.

island said...

I actually do subscribe to the position that the universe is the only way it could have been, but it's tough to come up with evidence for it.

This is where people drop the anthropic ball, so to speak, because they assume that the principle is as complete as it gets, and so they don't even attempt to answer the question in this context, or they harbor a bunch of semi-established assumptions about the true nature of the universe that they don't consider to be open to review.

For example:

Question:
How does the observed low entropy configuration still satisfy the least action principle?

Answer:
The AP must be an energy conservation law.

Shamelessly Atheist said...

I reiterate: I actually do subscribe to the position that the universe is the only way it could have been, but it's tough to come up with evidence for it.

You have not established that this is so. The phrase "must be" is not evidential.

island said...

My point is that there is a logically implicated area for discovering said evidence, but it's hard to find evidence for something if you are predispositioned to only look everywhere else.

Shamelessly Atheist said...

How is requiring physical evidence looking in the "wrong place"?

island said...

Okay, in the first place, I didn't say that looking elsewhere is wrong or that it shouldn't be done, but my point is that nobody, and I mean nobody... (except Paul Davies)... ;)... even bothers to investigate the *most apparent* "smoking-gun" indicators.

You'll love this example, but I'm going on the assumption that you know who Lawrence Krauss is.

From edge.org - third culture:

"But when you look at CMB map, you also see that the structure that is observed, is in fact, in a weird way, correlated with the plane of the earth around the sun. Is this Copernicus coming back to haunt us? That's crazy. We're looking out at the whole universe. There's no way there should be a correlation of structure with our motion of the earth around the sun — the plane of the earth around the sun — the ecliptic. That would say we are truly the center of the universe."
-Lawrence Krauss

Now, if you were to press anyone on this fact (that I have included into the Wikipedia.org on the AP), then they will INEVITABLY tell you something very similar to... 'We have had "SOME" success at "explaining it away".

BUT...

And this is

... if I were to ask them what success that they'd had into investigations into the most apparent implication of the evidence, then they say something to the effect of:

'What investigation... Why should we give equal time to the most apparent implications of the evidence?'

That's crazy"
Says Lawrence

Wait just a freaking minute, Larry, isn't it direct observational evidence in support of a strong anthropic principle?

And still nobody sees any reason to look... cept me'n Paul.

That's not science, it's nothing better than preconceived ideological prejudice, at its finest.

island said...

... and then, when they can't refute my point, they inevitably sit in silent denial of the implication of the facts, rather than to admit that I have made a very strong point.

You know what I'm sayin, SA?... ;)

Brandon Carter called it, "anticentrist dogma", because the stubborn insistence of physicists to ignore the implication is what causes them to project cosmological principles that reflect mediocrity, which is not what is observed.

They've now gone "multiversal", while using anthropic selection in order to avoid the recognition of evidence for a strong anthropic structure principle.

I'm here to affirm that Brandon Carter was correct, and Paul Davies has noticed and expressed the same sentiment.

Believe me when I say that this is a disease of equal detriment to creationism.

Anonymous said...

The $6 chemical thing is not only th same as Chopra's ramblings, it IS one of his ramblings (The Seven Laws Of Spriitual Successs). Research before you write, my amoebic friend.

Shamelessly Atheist said...

Wow. What a totally pedantic thing to say, bacterium-brain! I was debunking what he wrote, and so I hit the nail on the head without researching him! Why would I want to research the vacuous writings of Chopra any further than I had to? Went way over your head, didn't I?

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