Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Bradley Monton: The Hated Atheist and ID Sympathizer

Many hate atheist professor of philosophy, Bradley Monton, author of Seeking God in Science: An Atheist Defends Intelligent Design, and even want to see him fired. He explains:

  • The degree to which I have been attacked is actually pretty ludicrous. I gave a public lecture on intelligent design here at the University of Colorado, and a number of the school’s biology professors demanded that I be fired.
Perhaps such intolerance should become grounds for their own firing. However, in this present politically correct climate, this is not likely.  Instead, PC enables intolerance of a different nature. Monton explains that:

  • Some atheists exhibit a fundamentalism that prevents them from even imagining that someone reasonable, rational and intelligent could hold views different from their own.
  • I find the arguments of the opponents of ID too emotionally driven and not as intellectually robust as one would hope. I get upset with my fellow atheists who present bad arguments against intelligent design and then expect everyone to believe that they have somehow resolved the debate with these bad arguments.
No wonder he is hated by the PC crowd! This brings to mind the many dogmatic, atheistic assertions that evolution is a proven fact, beyond discussion, or that the multiverse is an adequate explanation for the fine-tuning of the cosmos. Meanwhile, Monton maintains that the theories of:

  • Infinite universes are insufficient when it comes to explaining away the apparent design of our own universe.
Monton was recently asked, in an interview conducted by Salvo Magazine, what type of evidence would lead him to fully embrace intelligent design. He responded:

  • Now, if it is found that [a non-material] mind plays a role in our brain processes alone, that by itself wouldn’t make me believe in God, though it would certainly make me more open to the idea. But if we were to discover that mind is interviewing in other places in the world besides our brain processes, then that would pretty much be the smoking gun. (Salvo Supplement, Fall 2013, 50)
Monton wants evidence that a non-material mind is interacting with a material, neurally wired brain, and I think that such evidence is available.

The late neuroscientist, Wilder Penfield, was a dualist. He found evidence for the brain-mind distinction. He would electrically stimulate the brain but noted that there were responses that seemed to be extra-physical:

  • Penfield would stimulate electrically the proper motor cortex of the conscious patents and challenge them to keep one hand from moving when the current was applied. The patient would seize this hand with the other hand and struggle to hold it still. Thus one hand under the control of the electrical current and the other hand under the control of the patient’s mind fought against each other. Penfield risked the explanation that the patient had not only a physical brain that was stimulated to action but also a nonphysical reality that interacted with the brain. (Dinesh D’Souza, Life After Death: The Evidence, 108)

Penfield found that his patients could distinguish between responses that had been electrically stimulated from those self-stimulated:

  • Invariably the patient would respond, by saying, “I didn’t do that. You did…No matter how much Penfield probed the cerebral cortex, he said, “There is no place…where electrical stimulation will cause a patient to believe or to decide.” That’s because those functions originate in the conscious self, not the brain. A lot of subsequent research has validated this. When Roger Sperry and his team studied the differences between the brain’s right and left hemispheres, they discovered the mind has a causal power independent of the brain’s activities. This led Sperry to conclude materialism and false. (J.P. Moreland, interviewed by Lee Strobel, Case for the Creator, 258)

If the brain is entirely a physical entity, we should expect that every type of mental activity could be stimulated, but this isn’t the case. While researchers have been able to stimulate a vast array of neural reactions, they haven’t been able to stimulate thoughts or beliefs.

Also, the very notion of freewill contradicts strict materialism. It affirms the fact that our choices aren’t totally determined by chemical-electrical responses, suggesting that there must be another reality present in order to explain it

The freewill problem is so daunting for the materialist - one who believes that everything is matter and energy. His narrow worldview leaves no room for freewill, something self-initiated, and therefore, many opt to deny its reality. Biologist E.O. Wilson writes:

  • The hidden preparation of mental activity gives the illusion of free will.
Illusion? If freewill is an illusion, we are merely dialoguing with sophisticated but morally non-responsible bio-chemical machines. (Jokingly, I tell such people that I don’t talk to machines – a reasonable choice, I think!)

Materialism requires the denial of dualism – the mind-brain distinction. It also requires the denial of near-death-experiences (NDEs), which strongly suggest the existence of a body-independent mind.

Raymond Moody published Life after Life in 1975 based upon 150 interviews with people who had claimed NDEs. Cardiologist and assistant professor at Emory University School of Medicine, Michael Sabom, had been highly skeptical. However,

  • Over a five year period he interviewed and compiled data on 116 persons who had had a close brush with death. Of these, 71 reported one form or another of near-death experience…Sabom conducted extended interviews with the ten who had detailed recollections, either of resuscitations or surgery. The results were astonishing. In every case, the accounts jibed with standard medical procedures; moreover, where medical records were available, the records of the procedures and the accounts of the patients perfectly matched. In all of these cases, [unconscious] patients observed details that they could not possibly have observed from their physical vantage point. (Patrick Glynn, God: The Evidence, 103-104)
Materialism also denies the testimonies of many indigenous cultures who have claimed extra-body experiences.

Our sense of having an unchanging personal identity, despite that fact that almost all of our molecules are replaced every several years, and our bodies undergo vast changes over the years, seems to suggest that we also possess something unchanging – a non-material soul. Even if we suddenly loose both of our legs, we still regard ourselves as the same person.

Meanwhile, it seems that a mind-brain distinction would best explain all of the above evidences.

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