Re: letter to the editor

Moorad Alexanian (alexanian@UNCWIL.EDU)
Tue, 04 Nov 1997 10:35:40 -0500 (EST)

At 12:53 PM 11/3/97 -0700, Garry DeWeese wrote:

>>Clearly scientific studies will eventually link the physical structure of
>>the brain and its accompanying neural activity to the genetic makeup of an
>"Clearly" to whom? I do not think this is at all clear. You seem to be
>saying that brain structure is genetically determined. But if Glenn
>Morton's recent posts about the information required to specify the
>structure of the brain is correct, this is theoretically impossible.

The brain is a physical component which must be determined by the genetic
code of the individual. Isn't that what cloning is all about? What I said in
the letter is that human thought (conceptual thought) cannot now, and never
will, be explained in terms of brain action--the brain is a necessary, but
not sufficient, condition of conceptual thought. That will remain a mystery.

>>Therefore, all such human traits as charitableness,
>>criminality, drunkenness, hatefulness, kindliness, licentiousness, etc.,
>>will be shown to have a foundation in the genetic code that determines our
>>physical bodies.
>This certainly doesn't follow. Even granting that the structure of the
>brain is genetically determined, only a reductionist theory of mental
>properties would yield this conclusion. But eliminitive materialism has
>not been a very productive philosophy of mind in recent decades (Paul and
>Patricia Churchland notwithstanding). I think a good argument can be made
>that a biblical view of personal survival and identity afer death cannot be
>grounded in anything physical (even though what it means to be human is
>closely linked to the physical, and the Christian hope is the resurrection
>of the body, not the immortality of the soul).

I am attempting to contrast extreme materialism to the theistic worldview.
In the genre of dogs there is a bell shape spectrum of what a dog is. By
selective breeding, I am sure you can get all sorts of dogs with all sorts
of looks, kindliness, ferocity, disposition, etc. Of course, the sin nature
cannot be varied since there is none in animals.

>>Man/woman have a free will and so genes alone do not determine our final
>>actions. For some it is belief in God that determine which choices we
>>actually ought to make. Such questions of value, purpose, and meaning are
>>usually derived from religious beliefs and are not the result of mere brain
>>flashes. The consequences for crime and punishment are immense. For
>>instance, a criminal cannot just excuse his/her crimes by saying "my genes
>>made me do it."
>But if, as you say, all human traits "have a foundation in the genetic code
>that determines our physical bodies," it would seem that the criminal can
>claim just this. Further, given your position, it is difficult to make
>sense of the concept of free will, for anything which is reducible to
>physical processes is determined by the laws of physics (barring possible
>quantum indeterminacy entering the reasoning process).

I am arguing by showing how ridiculous the purely scientific view of man is.
Witness the strong stand of homosexuals on the nature of their sexual
preference--as being something one is born with. [I do not think quantum
mechanic makes the existence of free will any more possible than classical

>Now, your way out might be in the somewhat fuzzy terms "linked to" and
>"have a foundation in." If so, I'd appreciate you clarifying these terms.

My prejudice is that animals are highly sophisticated computers and the
difference between animals and man is one of kind not degree. Therefore, all
the scientific studies on animals will give rise to all sorts of benefits
for man, but the essence of our nature will never be determined by such
studies. One can view the animal as being analogous to our brain, purely
physical, but we are far more than that.