Why No Big Religious Objections to Molecular Biology and Neuroscience?

lpetrich
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Why No Big Religious Objections to Molecular Biology and Neuroscience?

In his article, Egnor's machine is uninhabited by any ghost, PZ Myers notes: "We're seeing an ongoing acceleration in scientific understanding that challenge the traditional truisms of the right wing religious culture warriors, and represent three fronts in our future battles." and lists evolution, reproductive and developmental biology, and neuroscience.

He notes that the battle over evolution has been going on for a century and a half, and that the battles over abortion and stem cells are signs of battles to come over reproductive and developmental biology, as human cloning and genetic engineering become more and more feasible.

But what I find most interesting is how he mentions that neuroscience " is building up a detailed picture of our minds, our consciousness, our selves as the products of purely material agents." He notes that that has mostly escaped the notice of theological culture warriors, and he notes that neurosurgeon and IDer Michael Egnor's defense of mind-body dualism may be the beginning of the end of that.

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Back to vitalism. It had been a respectable hypothesis for millennia; Aristotle had even proposed the existence of three kinds of life-stuff or vital force, the vegetable soul, the animal soul, and the rational soul. But during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, vitalism more and more came to seem like a hypothesis of a "vital force of the gaps", and after the early 20th cy., vitalism was gone from mainstream science, having been devastated by molecular biology. It's been hard for me to find detailed histories of the decline and fall of vitalism, but that's what I've been able to piece together.

Some New Agers and "alternative medicine" advocates continue to advocate vitalist theories, but unlike creationists, they are totally apolitical about that, not demanding that vitalism be given equal time in molecular-biology classes, for example.

But the theologians have ignored the molecular-biology revolution, even though it implies that living things are elaborate molecular-scale machines, and even though it clearly implies that one can "create life" without being a god. This has recently been done for a polio virus, though its assemblers cheated by using the gene and protein sequences of existing polio viruses.

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And now to the mind-body question. I find it surprising that the theologians have not gotten worked up over neuroscience, since many mind-related neuroscience discoveries imply some physicalist theory of mind as opposed to mind-body substance dualism. A variety of diseases, injuries, and surgical procetures of the brain have mental effects, and psychoactive substances have been known for millennia. And brain-scan technology reveals patterns of brain activity, which can be correlated with what thoughts and feelings and so forth that one has been having.

Lots of interesting results have come out of this. Consider Brains shut down reasoning skills for partisans, Democrat or Republican (merged). Several Presidential campaign workers were presented with contradictory statements from various candidates and their brains were scanned as they were doing so. The reasoning parts of their brains were active when they were analyzing other parties' candidates's statements, but not for those of their parties. Instead, brain parts involved in emotion and resolution of conflict had become active, especially when they were presented with resolutions of those contradictions. This is brain-function evidence of people being rigorously rational about all belief systems but theirs.


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Excellent! I really enjoyed

Excellent! I really enjoyed reading this article since I hold qualifications in neuroscience and molecular biology, and my current job involves molecular biology research. I think along identical lines, here I use my expertise in molecular biology to prove evolution:

http://www.rationalresponders.com/proteomics_and_its_applications_for_evolutionary_mechanisms_indisputable_proof_of_evolution_and_...

and here, neuroscience to show the mind/body/brain relationship:

http://www.rationalresponders.com/vitalism_immaterialism_and_christian_dualism_have_long_since_been_debunked_response

 

"Physical reality” isn’t some arbitrary demarcation. It is defined in terms of what we can systematically investigate, directly or not, by means of our senses. It is preposterous to assert that the process of systematic scientific reasoning arbitrarily excludes “non-physical explanations” because the very notion of “non-physical explanation” is contradictory.

-Me

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Great articles. Thanx.

Great articles. Thanx. Looks like the mind-stuff hypothesis is going the way of the life-stuff hypothesis.

And without the theologians saying much about that, though some theologians have come up with some creative defenses of their pet beliefs. Michael Martin in his article Problems with Heaven notes that theologian Peter van Inwagen has claimed that just before someone dies, God takes into Heaven that person's body while instantly replacing it with a replica that then dies and subsequently decomposes or gets burned or gets dissected or whatever.

And here's how to make your links look nicer: do {url=<url>}<link text>{/url} where you replace { and } with [ and ]. That way they won't stretch out the page.


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As always, I'm in total

As always, I'm in total agreement, in my neophyte capacity.

I'd love to see more of this hit the public, but it's hard to imagine it, since this isn't exactly the stuff of Bill O'Reilly or Oprah.

 

 

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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Unless many people come in

Unless many people come in contact with these findings (praise to the internet) theologians won't care either. I think that this very interesting research only reaches the people that care to look, and most of the people that care to look don't bother with theologians.

 

I am an engineer myself and I watch with amusement the mental gymnastics philosophers and theologians do in order to hold on to their magical thinking. 

A mystic is someone who wants to understand the universe, but is too lazy to study physics.


lpetrich
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And I wonder when the

And I wonder when the Xian-apologist revisionists will come along and claim "We never believed in mind-body dualism. That was something that came from outside."

I've already seen some such revisionism about beliefs about the age of the Universe, like a certain someone who has claimed that fundie Biblical literalism was unhistorical. He waved around what St. Augustine had said about how one should avoid making scientific errors in the service of one's religion. However, citing something like that is like citing the Sermon on the Mount to prove that Xianity is a pacifist religion.

The trouble is that before modern times, just about every Xian had believed that the Universe was created around 4000 BCE or 5500 BCE, depending on whether one uses the Masoretic or the Septuagint version of the Genesis patriarch chronologies. Archbishop Ussher had been following a tradition that was already old. And this was despite some pagans claiming that the Universe is MUCH older than that -- Augustine dismissed them with a huff in his book City of God. Diogenes Laertius in his Lives of the Eminent Philosophers stated that some Egyptians believe that philosophy had been revealed by Ptah/Hephaestus about 50,000 years ago, and Berossos claimed that the pre-Flood kings had ruled for a total of 432,000 years.

It took the progress of geology before that great discovery was made that it was not essential to Xianity to believe that the Universe is only about 6000 years old, and the fundies still reject this "discovery".


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lpetrich wrote: And I

lpetrich wrote:

And I wonder when the Xian-apologist revisionists will come along and claim "We never believed in mind-body dualism. That was something that came from outside."

If they do, they'll have to de-canonize Paul, and toss away  his writings.

 

Quote:

I've already seen some such revisionism about beliefs about the age of the Universe, like a certain someone who has claimed that fundie Biblical literalism was unhistorical. He waved around what St. Augustine had said about how one should avoid making scientific errors in the service of one's religion. However, citing something like that is like citing the Sermon on the Mount to prove that Xianity is a pacifist religion.

Interesting, and I've seen efforts to use the Sermon just as you state as well.

Quote:
 

The trouble is that before modern times, just about every Xian had believed that the Universe was created around 4000 BCE or 5500 BCE, depending on whether one uses the Masoretic or the Septuagint version of the Genesis patriarch chronologies. Archbishop Ussher had been following a tradition that was already old. And this was despite some pagans claiming that the Universe is MUCH older than that -- Augustine dismissed them with a huff in his book City of God. Diogenes Laertius in his Lives of the Eminent Philosophers stated that some Egyptians believe that philosophy had been revealed by Ptah/Hephaestus about 50,000 years ago, and Berossos claimed that the pre-Flood kings had ruled for a total of 432,000 years.

It took the progress of geology before that great discovery was made that it was not essential to Xianity to believe that the Universe is only about 6000 years old, and the fundies still reject this "discovery".

Enjoyed reading your posts, every informative. 

"Hitler burned people like Anne Frank, for that we call him evil.
"God" burns Anne Frank eternally. For that, theists call him 'good.'


lpetrich
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todangst wrote:

todangst wrote:
lpetrich wrote:

And I wonder when the Xian-apologist revisionists will come along and claim "We never believed in mind-body dualism. That was something that came from outside."

If they do, they'll have to de-canonize Paul, and toss away his writings.

At least if they are intellectually honest. However, I'm sure that they might find a way to weasel out of that, and to claim that believing that Paul believed in mind-body dualism makes you a sort of fundamentalist.

I've seen similar arguments that the "New Atheists" are acting like fundies because they are supposedly literal-minded about Biblical atrocities and other such things in the Bible.

Or else they'd argue that mind is a function of brain, but soul is something else, whatever it is.

And as to the age of the Universe, I think I'll start a thread on that question over in Rook Hawkins's Biblical Errancy forum.