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October 26, 2008

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The Country Shrink

Dr. Chalmers. I don't really know if strict dualism is a Christian concept or not. I'm not sure the Bible speaks to these issues. If anything, humans would be composed of 3 parts, but ultimately fused and inseparable. (Just as a disclosure so you know where I am coming from, I am a Christian and Creationist).

Popular imagination (the population-at-large), probably has little interest in the consciousness/materialism issue. It's really only the intellectual elites who are interested in these issues as far as I can tell.

I'm not sure how you square Darwinism with a non-materialist view of consciousness. Darwinism is at its theoretical basis materialistic. In terms of the mind, I think BF Skinner presented one of the best positions that squared with Darwinism and materialism in terms of the mind.

I think his position is at odds with the average materialist and Christian, because it doesn't allow for free will. Dennett's position on consciousness doesn't seem much different than Skinner's from what I can glean (I must confess to reading reviews and watching an interview with him, but not reading his books yet). It seems more of a case of flexibility of behavioral responses, but certainly nothing that is non-materialistic.

Shawn

C'mon, David...

You'd have to be living in a hole not to notice that this "consciousness" argument for theism has been used ad nauseum among anti-naturalists and theists for the nearly thirty years and longer; indeed, the argument, in various forms, since the times of the Neo-Platonists and Scholastics for the existence of the soul (and, from there, a springboard for advancing theism). Intelligent design, like all "God Of The Gaps" arguments, is eager to pounce on threatening, new, or underdeveloped issues in science (like evolution) and argue that they, if they cannot be subsumed into a supernaturalistic worldview, are illegitimate. All new, underdeveloped, or even "mysterious" areas of science have been (and are) used in this manner; from quantum mechanics, abiogenesis in biological evolution, the formation of language and semantics, to consciousness. Inevitable? Absolutely.

It has been touted and battled over since the revival of the philosophy of religion in the 50's and 60's, and especially with exponential fervor since the Popper/Eccles, Nagel, and Jackson publications; this has been a card in the theist's deck since your 1995 publication a fortiori. The intuitive force of the phenomenalist/qualia argument against materialism in its prospects of securing consciousness post mortem (in heaven, no doubt) and advance immaterialism are just too delectable for eager apologists and supernaturalist philosophers to confirm--in any way--their beliefs. You'd be amazed--stupefied even--at the armies of religious apologists, christian theists and philosophers, and even hordes of lay-evangelicals that are quick to cite you and the "intractability"/qualia argument against materialism in support of theism. Rivers of ink have been spilled for the cause of this argument; though you're perhaps an unwilling participant, I am guaranteed to hear an argument from an apologist that echoes your argument nearly verbatim in advancing theism. Believe it or not, by their own insistence (and mine), you've done supernaturalists an immense favor. For them, qualia are a godsend (figuratively and literally!).

Among supernaturalists and anti-naturalists (and anti-materialists) of all types, your (et al.) argument is much, much more famous than you think and has been used for advancing theism, in my presence, more times than I can count. Congregations of *thousands* have been taught it at once in megachurches, in innumerable (and exponentially popular and profitable) church seminars on apologetics across the United States, and is a staple argument of discussion in conferences, journals, books, etc. on the philosophy of religion.

Frankly, I'm surprised that you and other philosophers and scientists have just found out about the prevalence of this argument and its use among supernaturalists and proponents of intelligent design. The article, if anything, is far too modest and fails to emphasize the duration, scope, and depth which this argument has been used in advancing those causes.

The "large-scale theological intervention" has happened, and has been going on for a very long time now, folks.

The Country Shrink

Shawn, are you trying to use reverse psychology on Dr. Chalmers in order to get him to take your point of view? I doubt that will work. It's pretty clear to me that he neither agrees with Creationists (like me) or atheists (like yourself). Although I agree that a more consistent position with atheism is a deterministic perspective on consciousness. Most atheists; however, eschew purely deterministic notions of consciousness.... I really doubt that, on average, a non-materialistic view of consciousness is used by many for a basis for faith.

djc

Shawn: Certainly people have used the problem of consciousness for a long time to support theism, but one can do that without using it to oppose Darwinism. My post was mainly about the latter topic, not the former. No doubt anti-Darwinist uses have been around the place for some time too, but these have had much less prominence until recently.

Shrink: On squaring Darwinism with dualism, see the post. Karl Popper even used Darwinism about consciousness as a premise in an argument for dualism. I wouldn't go that far, but certainly many people have accepted Darwinism and rejected materialism. (N.B. As it happens, I'm an atheist.)

Shankar

You say "If interactionist dualism (on which consciousness has a causal role) is true, evolution might even select for certain states of consciousness because of their beneficial effects.".

And therein lies the rub. Now we are in the realm of mysticism (or at least non-computability) when qualia get involved. So evolution (defined in the strict mathematical sense, something that could be simulated on a computer) is then ruled out. And I think the latter brand is the one that's normally implied by that term, and the one the creationists oppose.

I myself am sympathetic to interactionist dualism. I think that at least at the phenotypical level the brain takes qualia-mediated short-cuts to coordinate an organism's behavior through some mysterious processes, which would be impossible otherwise (I don't have proof, it's just an intuition). I get the feeling procedural memory has a lot to do with this phenomenon. For software programmers, think of system function calls.

Yair

''If interactionist dualism (on which consciousness has a causal role) is true, evolution might even select for certain states of consciousness because of their beneficial effects. And if epiphenomenalism (on which consciousness has no causal role) is true, consciousness can still arise by evolution as a byproduct.''

I fail to understand the last part. If epiphenomenalism is true, evolution by natural selection has no power to explain the correspondence between mental and neural states and processing. Since there is no causal network, there is no reason why there would be an evolution towards consciousness and hence no explanation. While consciousness may still arise as a by-product, it seems a priori unjustified and merely a logical possibility without further justification.

I'd also note that other options are viable. I, for one, timidly support a panpsychism, or parallelism, of sorts.

Shankar: if the mental states are part of the causal network - as they are in interactionist dualism - then these relations can indeed be put into the computer, even if the emotional/awareness/subjective content cannot. Which is why evolution could make use of them in the way you suggest, and also why I see interactionist dualism as an empirical premise (that have is not, to the best of our measurements, correct). Essentially, interactionist dualism is the position that there is a thinking type of substance/matter (whether it has extension or not is besides the point), as well as the normal type of substance/matter; this cannot be ruled out, but we haven't detect any such matter, scientifically.

Shankar

Yair - "if the mental states are part of the causal network - as they are in interactionist dualism - then these relations can indeed be put into the computer, even if the emotional/awareness/subjective content cannot."

no, then it would reduce to epiphenomenalism since in the simulation we just build models of qualia without actually invoking them. we would only be simulating p-zombies. if we could bypass qualia and replace them with logical equivalents, then there is no question of interactionist dualism, and any qualia are only passive experiences, in other words, epiphenomenalism.

Yair

Shankar - Well, while you're definitely right I think that what you're saying is an attack against interactionist dualism more than anything else. To the extent that the qualia are within the causal net they can be modeled by their causal functions, and to the extent they are subjective they have no role in the causal net... Dualism hence does not solve the hard problem, it merely delegates it to only part (half?) of existence.

I guess I just find the idea that something could have a causal affect without being described in causal (functionalist) terms... incomprehensible. I'd even say incoherent.

Anibal

Though i maintain a materialist (naturalist) stand i believe the "hard problem" of conciousness is a scientific controversy subject to scientific (philosophic) analysis and hypothesis making. But creationism is taking this problem to his ideological cause against evolution by natural selection, and this is clearly a non sequitur.
Professor Chalmers i think you did well not be mentioned.

Ben

Hi Dave. I think you're right that the issues are independent, but there might also be some helpful analogies between the two debates. In particular, what creationists have to say to reconcile divine intervention with the biological evidence must be something similar to what interactionist dualists have to say to reconcile their view with evidence for the causal closure of the physical.

Conversely, if arguments from causal closure against interactionist dualism are successful, then it's plausible that an analogous argument from certain kinds of biological evidence against intelligent design might also be successful. Finally, epiphenomenalism corresponds to theism without creationism, so some arguments for and against epiphenomenalism might lead to analogous arguments for and against anti-creationist theism.

Mitchell Porter

The essence of the hard problem, metaphorically, is that the natural sciences postulate an "alphabet of being" which is manifestly insufficient to "spell out" consciousness, no matter how you stack up the ontological primitives it contains. What one needs is a new perspective on the basic elements and their modes of combination which can formally preserve the quantitative side of physics, while offering an analysis of consciousness true to the phenomenal facts. And if the causal structure of physics is more or less preserved, then so will be Darwinism; though some of the aspects of mind which naturalistic theorists of emergence expect to show up only late in the story might instead turn out to be ubiquitous. (E.g. see Nietzsche's animism, in the notes gathered under the title "The Mechanistic Interpretation of the World" by Walter Kaufmann in The Will to Power.)

Hbesh

s a cognitive psychologist I found this video very funny and interesting. Dan Dennett, a philosopher and a cognitive scientist, puts our Mind & Conscious on the spot light, and by experimenting with some clever "mind tricks", he shows us that what we see, is just what our mind wants to see.

http://www.logblo.com/2008/10/30/GreatLectureDanDennettCanWeKnowOurOwnMinds.aspx

LFW

Your post was very interesting. One comment: I am not sure why you write that "traditional theism requires that materialism be false." As I understand it, the Bible, if it suggests anything on the subject, suggests that there is no immaterial soul. Passages in the Old and New Testaments that refer to a resurrection either suggest that it is the body that is resurrected, or they are silent on the nature of the resurrection. It is also worth noting that while there is much scholarly debate on the nature of Aristotelian forms, Aristotle clearly did not understand the form (soul) of a person to survive the person's death. And, as I understand it, many of the Scholastic philosophers followed Aristotle in taking persons to be composites of matter and form, and were greatly influenced by Aristotle's theory of form. (I should also add that there are some scholars of ancient philosophy who take Aristotle to be committed to the immortality of nous in "De Anima," but this is a quite separate issue. At any rate, this reading of "De Anima" is contentious.) I do not claim to know much about Christian theology. Nor do I claim to know much about Aristotle or Medieval philosophy, for that matter. So, any or all of my previous comments may be wrong. However, it does seem to me that the common view that Christianity is committed to an immaterial soul is questionable at best, and in fact that it may very well be false. Personally, I do not understand why Christians should be in the least bit threatened by either materialism or evolution. I do not take a position on the debate between materialists and dualists myself, as I have not studied the debate, but I have always been strongly inclined toward materialism, and I accept evolution without reservations. I have wondered myself how dualism and evolution might be compatible, but since I take evolution to be non-negotiable, I would take the incompatibility of dualism and evolution, if they were incompatible, to tell against dualism, not evolution. At any rate, I am open to arguments for dualism, and one issue that I would like to see discussed more is that of how non-physical consciousness might arise in a world like our own. I hope that you write more on this subject in the future.

Joseph A.

Just as an aside - intelligent design is a broad concept, and a broad "movement". Not every ID proponent, not even all of the most prominent ones, disavow evolution, common descent, etc. When it comes to evolution, the central issue is with claims of such things being 'unguided' in an ultimate sense. Personally, I think science is incapable of ruling on such a question one way or the other, but what 'darwinism' means is something which shifts depending on who is speaking (ID-proponent or not), and does not always have a 1:1 correspondence with evolution.

Further, many of those with a strong interest in ID (Michael Egnor comes to mind) aren't concerned with evolution/darwinism exclusively - materialism is itself a big focus, so naturally the hard problem of consciousness will be referenced. However, that debate is usually kept distinct from evolution; the only time I've ever seen a consciousness argument linked closely to an evolutionary argument in ID is with regards to Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism. In which case naturalism, not evolution, was targeted - a consequence of his argument (if it succeeds) is that evolution could well be true. It would just be, at some level, guided.

Finally: I think it's a mistake to talk about 'traditional theism' as if there was a single, monolithic, unquestionable viewpoint on physicalism v immaterialism, mind, soul, God, etc even in as singular an entity as the Catholic Church, or in the jewish faith, etc. 'Traditional theism' has been developing over thousands of years, with quite a lot of philosophy, discussion, insight, and otherwise being built up in the process.

Anyway, Professor Chalmers, this (evolution-believing) christian enjoys your work, and your arguments - whether on the hard problem of consciousness, Nick Bostrom's simulation arguments, the extended mind, or otherwise. I hope that's encouraging rather than disturbing, regardless of your own (a)theistic inclinations.

djc

LFW: I said that traditional theism is incompatible with materialism not because of any commitment of theism to souls, but because I took it that traditional (Judeo-Christian) theism is committed to the existence of a nonphysical god.

Joseph: Again, my post was mainly concerned with anti-Darwinism (where Darwinism is equated roughly with evolution by natural selection), not with theism. Although I'm an atheist, I do recognize that various arguments in favor of theism have more substance to them than arguments against Darwinism. (And as someone who doesn't rule out that we're living in a computer simulation, I likewise don't rule out that our spacetime was created, though I'm highly doubtful that a creator would be worthy of worship or would have the moral properties traditionally attributed to a god.) Even in the realm of "design", I think that arguments for theism from the apparent fine-tuning of laws of physics are at least worth taking seriously. But the ID arguments against Darwinism that I've seen are far flimsier than this.

Joseph A.

DJC: Understood. Thank you for the clarification, as well as the pleasant response. Looking forward to more of your writings.

Louis Savain

LFW wrote: "Anyway, Professor Chalmers, this (evolution-believing) christian enjoys your work, and your arguments - whether on the hard problem of consciousness, Nick Bostrom's simulation arguments, the extended mind, or otherwise. I hope that's encouraging rather than disturbing, regardless of your own (a)theistic inclinations."

Since you are a Christian, what is your opinion on the following? Jesus is quoted to have said with regard to marriage that "He who made them [human beings] in the beginning, made them male and female." Does this not contradict the evolutionary stance that the sexes evolved? I think that Jesus' teaching clearly contradicts Darwinism; any assertion to the contrary is suspect at best and dishonest at worst.

I, too, am a Christian but I believe in programmed evolution. The Bible does not deny that sexual selection does change a species since there are many examples of this in the Old Testament. Having played with genetic algorithms, I can assure you that explaining the origin of species via random mutations and sexual selection (or any other non-directed mechanism) is nonsense on the face of it simply because the exponential explosion that emerges even at a very low threshold of complexity forbids it. The only way to have a successful evolution is for it to be highly constrained in such a way that only an extremely limited number of codes (compared to the overall complexity of the organism) are allowed to mutate randomly. This requires forethought and design. ID proponents call it front loading. Anything else, such as would be required by Darwinian evolution, is a pipe dream.

As an aside, the reason that consciousness is important to Christians and other religious-minded folks is that they have maintained for a long time that there is more to the mind than just the brain. Christians calls this other component of mind, spirit while Chalmers and others refer to it as consciousness. So any scientific evidence that supports non-materialism also increases the validity of their stance on evolution and design in the eyes of their followers. So I disagree with Chalmers that there should be no connection between the consciousness and anti-evolution debates.

Joseph A.

Heya Louis,

I wrote that, not LFW. But out of respect for Professor Chalmers, I'll decline to pursue such a conversation on his blog - clearly he doesn't want to step foot in that particular firefight. I can't say I blame him, whatever my own inclinations.

Still, I'll pop over to your own blog and comment there.

Shankar

The way I see it, ID cannot be ruled out either (and not in the sense of Russell's teapot). If we cannot figure out if we live in a simulation, then nothing seems impossible (think of video game cheat codes). Not to mention that the "hard problem" adds a whole new dimension to this enigma. Actually, these have to be treated as separate issues altogether. But again, Darwinism can neither be proved nor disproved by the existence of the hard problem.

Louis Savain

Shankar wrote: "But again, Darwinism can neither be proved nor disproved by the existence of the hard problem."

Well, I would think that consciousness adds an extra layer of complexity for evolution to shoot for. If consciousness and free will require a non-material component, somehow the brain must have evolved the correct (quantum) bio-chemical mechanism that makes it possible for it to interact with consciousness. In my opinion, this is not just extremely unlikely but impossible because evolution would have deemed it more advantageous to relinquish decision making to an unknown entity rather than continue to rely exclusively on the extremely successful adaptive mechanism of reinforcement learning. Besides, where is the missing link between concious and non-conscious humans?

PDN

Isn't the problem really centered on "design" rather than "intelligent design?" Since we are still far from understanding how consciousness is designed vis-a-vis the material world, we are even farther from claiming that there is some omnipotent/omniscient intelligence behind it. I am more interested in looking at various theories about possible designs (possibilities opened up by modern physics) and the role/nature of consciousness in the universe.

I'm also surprised that the problem of why the localized concsiousness that makes experience available to "me" was somehow "assigned" to "me" and not to someone or something else does not seem to play into these discussions. I think that this problem lies at the heart of why people believe intuitively that something like "souls" exist.

Apologies if this is off topic for this forum, I am relatively new to it but find it fascinating.

Dave

The failure of materialism, or more to the point, the failure of science to explain the mind, will always be perceived by the layman as a success for religion and by association, a success for creation and/or ID. This is true regardless of the fact that: “The problem of consciousness is indeed a serious challenge for materialism. In fact, I think it's a fatal problem for materialism, as I've argued at length here and there. But it simply isn't a problem for Darwinism in the same way. Even if one rejects materialism about consciousness, Darwinism can accommodate the resulting view straightforwardly.”

ID’ers will continue to attempt to get their agenda into schools, and the article cited is only another indication of a direction they are willing to take in order to have their religious affliction imposed on others. The people deciding what should be taught in schools don’t necessarily know enough about cognitive science to distinguish the failure of materialism from the perceived failure of Darwinism. The ID motto is, “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, …”

Vic P

David,

The whole debate is absolutely fascinating but to put it in proper perspective and free ourselves from the modern fundamentalists; consider the fact that many of the philosophers and theologians of the European Church in the middle ages and reformation were the greatest thinkers of their time. It's unfair to say that they were "stuck" on the heliocentric universe or literal seven days of creation. I think the key to the problem is not consciousness per se but if you consider all materisl as "conscious", what we have in animal life is living consciousness/biological machines and in ourselves thinking consciousness/biological machines. If you reply to my email, I would like to forward some of my own papers.

Justin

Whilst I don't consider myself a theist or an ID proponent, I do think that the "hard problem" can, in various ways, lend support to the plausibility of ID as a factor in evolution.

For example, here is a summary of a possible argument for the plausibility of ID (the full argument is here http://panexperientialism.blogspot.com/2008/08/case-for-intelligent-design.html) :

1. Subjective experience exists.

2. Panexperientialism is a plausible explanation of the relation between experience and the physical world.

3. A plausible form of panexperientialism is that which posits a universal, cosmic subject.

4. It is plausible that the universe is 'finely tuned' for life as a consequence of the drive towards differentiation of an anticipative cosmic subject.

5. Given 4, it is also plausible that the drive towards differentiation of an anticipative cosmic subject could be a factor in biological evolution.

lje

I was actually thinking about this very idea a few days ago. I agree with what Professor Chalmers has stated and his attitude towards the issue. What concerns me the most is if ID theorists manipulate the work of non-materialists regarding the problem of consciousness to their advantage, how will this affect non-materialist philosophers of mind, who are not ID supporters, in the philosophical community and academia? Will all philosophers who think there are problems with materialism be categorized as ID supporters? Will they be "expelled" from academia and denied tenure or even a job? Ben Stein would like to think that the answer to the latter is yes, but it is seemingly obvious that philosophers like Chalmers, Nagel, McGinn, etc. have all held tenured positions at some of the most prominent philosophy departments and have yet to be "expelled." I believe that ID theorists are going to try to strengthen their movement by manipulating the work of non-materialist philosophers of mind, but any serious philosopher or scientist will realize that the original works of Chalmers, Nagel, and McGinn are not products of Intelligent Design.

island

I'm pretty sure that consciousness is just a *necessary* function of the second law of thermodynamics, when a mechanism is needed, (for example only), to develop the technology that is *required* to... "crack tough energy gradients".

This puts a natural but purposeful guiding light on Darwin's theory, so you *could* call it a real scientific compromise that *should* make everybody happy... except for the little detail that notes how the rabid soldiers of the culture war don't give a damn about science and NOBODY on any side wants to give up any part of their "reasoned" righteousness.

Jonathan Baxter

There is one sense in which non-materialist accounts of consciousness undermine Darwin's account of natural selection, although it has nothing to do with religion.

On the quantum-mechanical view, the universe of today is simply the result of propagating forwards by about 14 billion years the wave-function that existed post big-bang (or by whatever is the current best estimate of the age of the universe).

Under the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, today's wave-function consists a superposition of states, in some of which the Earth is populated by highly-evolved, conscious creatures such as ourselves, but in others the Earth is still a primordial soup waiting for that first accident of protein synthesis to get things started.

Of course, the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics begs the question: why decompose the wave-function into that particular superposition? After all, from a purely physical perspective, a choice of basis that describes conscious beings is as arbitrary as any choice of basis. Conscious non-materialists have an easy answer to that: while there's nothing in physics that determines the choice of basis, our extra-physical conscious experience picks out the basis for us.

So where does this leave Darwinian evolution? It depends on what proportion of the current universal wave-function contains highly evolved creatures. If the probability mass (measure) of states with conscious observers or at least highly-evolved critters is significant, then you can argue that chance paid a very small role in the emergence of complex organisms. However, if complexity is in fact the exception, rather than the rule, with most of the wave-function still no more interesting than the primordial soup, then one could argue that chance probably played a much greater role in the development of complex critters than did classical evolution.

At least in principle this could be answered empirically: a full explanation of the development of a complex organism will involve a certain number of chance events (genetic mutations, exogenous events such as environmental change, etc), in addition to the usual Darwinian explanations involving natural selection of traits. If the chance events overwhelm the selection processes, you can argue that chance played a more important role than natural selection.

Note that this argument does not necessarily imply that the emergence of conscious observers or complex creatures is unlikely. Provided it is very likely that conscious observers will appear in some part of the wave-function after a suitable period of time, then you can argue that the existence of conscious observers is almost certain. But it does imply that any scientific explanation of the development of complex creatures will necessarily have to appeal to chance.

This is where the evolutionist argument against the Intelligent Designers is weakest: when the ID-ers argue that there is no evolutionary explanation for the development of complex things such as the human eye, the evolutionists counter with explanations involving critters with light-sensing cells evolving into proto-eyes and then fully functioning modern eyes. However, none of those steps are a complete description of how such transformations occur, and it may well be that some of them were simply the result of monumentally unlikely confluences of events.

Robin Herbert

"The simplest way to see this is to note that the "hard problem" does nothing to suggest that consciousness doesn't lawfully depend on physical processes, at least in the sense that certain physical states are reliably associated with certain states of consciousness in our world."

The problem is of course that if consciousness *depended* on physical processes, then whatever else was needed for consciousness would not be, in itself, be consciousness.

So you think it "seems objectively unreasonable" that physical processing could give rise to consciousness and yet you think it perfectly reasonable if you simply add one other non-conscious element the resulting system could give rise to consciousness.

Can you suggest what property this last, non-conscious, element would have that would make consciousness seem reasonable?

It seems to me that even if you abandon Materialism altogether you still have the hard problem of consciousness.

I, and a lot of other people, have the same question - how does abandoning Materialism solve the hard problem of consciousness? You still don't know how or why we are conscious. In fact there is no known metaphysic that can explain consciousness.

So far from being fatal to Materialism, the HPC seems irrelevant to it.

The other problem is that we know nothing of any physical thing except that it lawfully depends on physical processes. so "lawfully depends on physical processes" is pretty much a definition of "physical".

Steve Hayes

I'm not expert in this topic, as it's not my field. I couldn't care less about anti-Darwinism, and I know next to nothing about "Intelligent Design". I have to admit that I had not heard of "qualia" until I read your blog, and have yet to look it up to discover what it means.

But in my experience it has been the other way round. It is anti-theists who keep bringing materialistic theories of consciousness up to attack theism. An example is this this article by Stephen Pinker in Time, which anti-theists have referred me to.

But I thought he, and others, were drawing conclusions that were not warranted by the data. No doubt anti-Darwinists and proponents of "Intelligent Design" do the same, but they are not the only ones doing that.

Josh W

"The original works of Chalmers ... are not intelligent design."

Don't be so mean, I think they are pretty creative!

It is of course a fundimental truth that ID people are pure evil and must be expelled immediately, including those who associate with them. They are the enemy in our midst and if we are not constantly vigilant will betray us to the evil forces of the east!

With a bit more perspective, just define your differences with them. It may be that your ideas are more compatible with theirs than some of their enemies, if so fine. Don't be quick to draw up 1d battle lines, instead add nuance and depth. If you disagree with some of their arguments, say so, or if they are using your theories in an inconsistent way, defend the correct form.

As far as I can see your just being used as a hammer to crack people's smugness, either to add a bit of the humility so that proper dialogue can be established, or to do old-school paradox counting to say your opponent is talking nonsense. As you can imagine, I think the first is better, as we could do with less smugness all round!

Sam

I second Chalmers primary contention that the issues remain separated. As has been argued by a few philosophers in recent history, if near death experiences could be shown to not be something like a hallucination, that does not confirm that God exists. I nearly went crazy in my undergrad years with some students wanting to turn every philosophical discussion (especially this one) into a debate about God's existence. It's entirely possible that interactionist dualism is true and there is no God.

My complements to Dr. Chalmers for keeping the tone positive in his remarks.

P.S. I happen to be a theist, in the Judeo-Christian sense, without all the Scholastic trappings (I'm not sure God is all-powerful, all-knowing, etc.)

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