Archive for Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Letter: Mindless matter

March 19, 2013


To the editor:

Professor Leonard Krishtalka has a significant problem with his reliance on reason. He recently criticized the new pope because “explanations of how the natural world works is the province of … reason not dogma,” thus discounting religion.

C. S. Lewis stated Krishtalka’s problem this way: “The whole picture professes to depend on inferences from observed facts. Unless inference is valid, the whole picture disappears. Unless we can be sure that reality in the remotest nebula or the remotest part obeys the thought laws of the human scientist here and now in his laboratory — in other words, unless Reason is an absolute — all is in ruins. Yet those who ask me to believe this world picture also ask me to believe that Reason is simply the unforeseen and unintended byproduct of mindless matter at one stage of its endless and aimless becoming.”

In other words, as a consistent evolutionist Professor Krishtalka believes his own reason is the byproduct of mindless matter. Why should anyone trust the testimony of mindless matter?   


Dan Eyler 5 years, 3 months ago

Outstanding comments David. The professor of religion makes me chuckle when I read anything he writes. But after I chuckle I think about the confusion and sadness he brings to young people he preaches his mindless nonsense too.

voevoda 5 years, 3 months ago

Dr. Krishtalka is not a professor of religion, kansasfaithful. He is a professor of evolutionary biology. Perhaps you consider the teaching of evolution in itself to be "mindless nonsense" that brings only "confusion and sadness," but much of the improved understanding of the universe that allows us now to cure diseases and increase agricultural yields has resulted from scientific thinking of the sort Dr. Krishtalka teaches. You do not make religious faith more compelling by ridiculing an accomplished scientist, kansasfaithful.

Ken Lassman 5 years, 3 months ago

Why are you so intent on debasing matter? There is ample evidence to be in awe.

conservativejayhawk 5 years, 3 months ago

Really? Where are you confused? Arguments? REASONS?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 3 months ago

None of the above.

Where are you confused? And why do you need to seek clarification from imaginary beings?

jayhawklawrence 5 years, 3 months ago

Mr. Krishtalka possesses the audacity to question the creator of the universe by using the tools of science and reason.

If God exists, then who do you think he would be most interested in, those who spend their lives seeking to discover the minutiae of his creation and enjoy its awesome beauty or those who spend their time making personal attacks on those who question the policies and authority of flawed men?

Scientists have their place as do teachers and ministers. The problem, as Leonard pointed out, is that those in authority have a problem when it comes to questioning their own policies and traditions and believing that they are the only ones who are able to define the character of God.

Maddy Griffin 5 years, 3 months ago

Scientific theories can be proven.Religious theories cannot.

friendlyjhawk 5 years, 3 months ago

Anything written in a Kansas newspaper about the pope has no validity.

Cait McKnelly 5 years, 3 months ago

C.S Lewis wasn't a scientist. He was a Catholic apologist; so much so that he came near to permanently rupturing his relationship with J.R.R. Tolkien, with whom he had been close friends nearly their entire lives.
It sometimes amazes me that Christianists are so eager to force scientists into a niche of mutual exclusivity between God and science that, to many scientists, doesn't exist and which they rather vigorously oppose. Lewis Thomas and Richard Feynman, both, wrote extensively on non-scientific subjects and both explained their relationships with their respective deities and how they felt their relationship with science actually enhanced and beautified their relationships with God.
I agree with the professor that the natural world MUST be ruled by reason and CANNOT be ruled by dogma. Otherwise, we would all still be locked into believing the world is flat and the sun orbits the earth. But dogma and God are not the same. It's in that confusion and belief, by more than just the Church, that they are that Christianists fail and where science succeeds in showing just how much of a "god" that God really is.

voevoda 5 years, 3 months ago

Why is Mr. Upchurch trying to use reason to challenge Dr. Krishtalka's reliance upon reason?

Cait McKnelly 5 years, 3 months ago

Best...comment...ever. You win the internets. We can all go home now.

conservativejayhawk 5 years, 3 months ago

Because Mr. Upchurch's reason is a gift of God. It is not a gift of mindless matter, which is the issue no one has yet addressed.

voevoda 5 years, 3 months ago

Not so, convervativejayhawk. If Mr. Upchurch's reason is a gift of God, then Professor Krishtalka's reason is a gift of God, too. The only difference would be the willingness of each party to acknowledge God to the be ultimate source of reason, or not. As Professor Krishtalka pointed out in his original essay, engaging metaphysical questions in the course of doing scientific research has often impeded scientific research by placing certain topics off-limits and rendering certain scientific conclusions unacceptable on religious (non-scientific) grounds.

Mr. Upchurch's clumsy attempt to refute Professor Krishtalka's argument does not demonstrate that he enjoys superior reasoning ability. Instead, Mr Upchurch quotes C. S. Lewis' convoluted argument against scientists, and then simply calls upon readers to doubt what Professor Krishtalka says because he isn't a theist and you shouldn't trust anything a non-theist says. This is reasoning of a sort, as opposed to a testimony of faith. But it's not good reasoning. I suppose that God gives human beings different gifts, and maybe Mr. Upchurch has many gifts of the spiritual variety. But reasoning ability isn't one of them.

conservativejayhawk 5 years, 3 months ago

Indeed the professor's reason is a gift from God. That was Lewis's argument. Those who argue that mind came from mindlessness have a problem that no one has addressed.

It is not a question of "superior reasoning" it's a question of reasoning. What are the arguments that mindless matter can give rise to mind? And, if that is demonstrated what would be the significance? How can significance or meaning arise from mindless matter? There is no meaning in all involved in this discourse if it is only the result of mindless matter over time.

The professor has a wonderful mind. And, wonderful reasoning ability. That ability neither affirms nor denies Mr. Upchurch's argument.

voevoda 5 years, 3 months ago

You assume that human sentience (is this what you mean by "reason"?) can originate only from sentience--and a particular form of sentience, an omnipotent creator God. Those are assumptions, conservativejayhawk. It is equally easy to make the assumption you dismiss out of hand: that reason can indeed arise out of matter and is indeed a characteristic of some forms of matter, without any supernatural source. Professor Krishtalka's reluctance to share the asusmptions you and Mr. Upchurch insist upon in no way makes his reasoning "mindless." The fact that Mr. Upchurch does share them doesn't make his reasoning "mindful" or cogent.

jafs 5 years, 3 months ago

The scientifically honest answer to your question is that we don't know how human consciousness originated.

And, we don't know if there's any meaning to all of this either.

However, that doesn't negate the point that science is the endeavor designed to observe, analyze, and understand the physical universe as such, while religion is not designed for that.

conservativejayhawk 5 years, 3 months ago

No one has yet answered Mr. Upchurch's challenge regarding the source of the professor's reason.

C.S. Lewis, by the way, was an Anglican, not a Catholic. And, of course he was not making a "scientific" argument. Rather, a philosophic one. Which, again, no one has addressed.

Ken Lassman 5 years, 3 months ago

Why isn't the very structure of the universe the source of reason? How could it be otherwise? And you can't say that reason would stand even if the universe didn't, because reason requires relationship, and without the universe, there is none.

conservativejayhawk 5 years, 3 months ago

The orthodox Christian would reply, yes there is relationship in the universe. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have enjoyed a relationship from eternity. So the source of reason is not the universe apart from God, but indeed from God himself. Humans are created in the image and likeness of God.

jonas_opines 5 years, 3 months ago

"The orthodox Christian would reply. . . "

What evidence would they be drawing that from?

conservativejayhawk 5 years, 3 months ago

Indeed the universe does depend on relationship. The old theologians called it the "happy company of the Trinity." You are right that the universe would not stand without that relationship. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit from all eternity. And, humans are created in his image. Therefore they have reason as a gift from him. God is personal, not mindless matter. Which was Lewis's point.

Ken Lassman 5 years, 3 months ago

um, I was talking about reason being an immanent part of the material universe and it does so with or without any said trinity. Reason does not depend on a God, it depends on the universe, which provides it with the possibility of relationship in the first place.

Cait McKnelly 5 years, 3 months ago

Oops, got it backwards. Tolkien was the Catholic. Apparently, the fight between him and Tolkien was that Lewis DIDN'T convert to Catholicism. Bah. So, my statement should have said that he was an apologist for Christianity. It doesn't take away from the statement that he wasn't a scientist.

conservativejayhawk 5 years, 3 months ago

Are you arguing that only scientists are authoritative sources for scientific information? And, Lewis, to my knowledge never claimed to be a scientist.

MarcoPogo 5 years, 3 months ago

So it all comes down to deciding who to go with: the guy who gave us a race of little hairy-footed beings or the guy who gave us the talking lion.

Armstrong 5 years, 3 months ago

The only real question the Doc brings up is the value of his higher education

jonas_opines 5 years, 3 months ago

"Those who argue that mind came from mindlessness have a problem that no one has addressed."

Other than yourself, who exactly is making this argument? Saying that there is not a singular, god-mind in the universe is not the same as saying that there is nothing that might resemble a mind within matter, or at least demonstrates certain features of it. There's too much of matter unexplored to make that assumption. Perhaps even the singular atom, when examined with tools and knowledge past our current capabilities, has some capacity to make inferences, and use reason according to its scale and status, so to speak.

Even allowing that glaring, unnecessary, incorrect assumption to be poorly assumed to be true, here is the answer you're going to honestly get: "we don't know." So the question, as I see it, is: why do you think that your answer ("because God") is superior? You don't KNOW that. You only BELIEVE it. You have Faith that it is true, and you use, as you yourself labeled it above, a "philosopher's answer" to supposedly prove it, which of course you can't do empirically. You can only rely on inference, in this case, inference not even based on observable fact.

So if our inferences based on observed facts are so potentially flawed, as Mr. Upchurch uses Lewis to make claim to above, then how can you possibly claim that inferences based on unobserved phenomena (i.e. inferences based solely on inferences), are not flawed to an even greater degree?

Armstrong 5 years, 3 months ago

Jonas, you seem to come from the school of - A long time ago nothing happened, in fact so much nothing happened that something finally happened. When something finally happened something evolved into the universe, earth and finally humanity ( except Pauley Shore ). I have a pretty hard time buying that scenario.

jonas_opines 5 years, 3 months ago

Either you didn't read my post at all, or you're simply incapable of comprehending it properly, if that was the conclusion that you drew off of it. Not sure which it is, but perhaps both? Or, perhaps, you simply don't care to honestly examine it?

Anyway, didn't you bet that you'd stop posting if Romney lost the election? I don't see why I should waste any more time having an interchange with somebody who has so little credibility or integrity as to follow through on their public vows.

Jeff Barclay 5 years, 3 months ago

Reason, time, and chance are not mechanisms. They are names assigned to the process of thinking, the motion of objects in space, and randomness. How in the world did these three things get elevated to become the mechanisms of evolution? It is very short-sighted reasoning to have done so.

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