Re: [asa] Dawkins, religion, and children

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Date: Thu May 03 2007 - 10:27:00 EDT

Merv wrote:

> I agree with everything you wrote below, Wayne -- & yet, the neat
> packaging gives me pause. [no God means no meaning and nothing but
> biochemical masses doing what chemicals do... delusions or "truth" all
> in one big meaningless pot.] I'm sure atheists aren't taking this
> sitting down. In fact, isn't Dennet (I've only read one of his books &
> can't even remember which it was) working on resurrecting a notion of
> atheism minus the despair? If Christian scientific thinkers can dabble
> in kinds of naturalism and speak of "emergent" properties that defy
> reductionist analysis, then can't atheists pursue this angle as well and
> begin to postulate meaning and purpose in some purely Evolutionary
> sense? I think Dennet may be attempting it.

I mainly dabble in AI (artificial intelligence).

What I can say is that Dennett is strong AI, so
conceding anything to non-reductionist models would
be a grudging admission indeed. As Phil pointed out,
classical chaos can be worked out from a reductionist
approach. I'm not clear on the most recent issues with
quantum chaos, but as I recall, it is certainly less
amenable. The strong AIs rejected Penrose' ideas.
I am also doubtful of Penrose' microtubules as the #1
driving force in the mind, but though the brain may be
mostly meat, it is possible that quantum mechanics (QM)
may serve as something like the "salt".

With people working seriously on qbits (a method that
uses quantum entanglement to do computing and may
serve as the way to high scale computing of very
difficult problems), I'm not clear where strong AI is
headed now. QM appears to suggest that there really
is a non-local component to matter. Strong AIs have
traditionally seen the brain as a collection of modular
parts that build up over time.

My impression of more nuanced atheists and the weak AI camp,
is they are a little more tolerant of non-reductionist views (like QM)
than the strong reductionist views of Dennett & CO.

QM may offer a lead into an objective meaning.
But just as Dawkins and Dennett (in effect) worship material,
so the same flaw quickly emerges with worshiping QM. Whatever
QM is, if that can be said, it is not the sovereign ruler
that decides the rules any more than material is (at least the
way we theists would see it). So whether it is evolution,
evolution with classical emergent phenomena, or with QM thrown
in the pot, we are still grasping at an illusion. The meaning doesn't
come from these things even if it(meaning) comes as a result of them.

> The only difference would
> probably be that instead of God providing the meaning, it is supposed to
> come from "us" -- perhaps at some community level. If they ever seem
> successful in this, then it would be in defiance of our inclinations
> you/we express below. And we can still insist (and unanswerably so) that
> such "meaning" is still illusionary to the extent that it claims an
> objective basis. Nevertheless their labor (if taken to be successful)
> would begin to deflate the sting of this Christian argument. I still
> think that the only final "argument" that we will rest on will be on our
> faith in an objective Truth. And utility, such as what may be found at
> times or missing at other times, will only be a secondary support built
> on that prior foundation of objective truth recognized only by faith.
> But we should anticipate how we, as a Christian community, would/will
> respond to such "de-objectified" values construction.

One thing I seem to learn about being a Christian is I never get
an easy answer to these things. I really did think about this, but
all I can say is "in as much as God's Grace is upon you, let the
word of God be written on your heart, follow Christ where he
leads you, and bear his yoke as graciously as you have love
to do so. " If ever Christ is revealed through us, we have
finally done something right for a change.

Maybe we should
not see this as two rival gangs meeting out on the parking lot
for a "discussion". If we're really on Christ's side, they know
where to find us. If they find us there, maybe they can explain
it away as some effect of evolution, but that won't make it any
less true by our standards. Anyone can think, but being a doer
of the word can be the real hard part.

by Grace we proceed,

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Received on Thu May 3 10:27:22 2007

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