From Orac I just learned that creationist neurosurgeon Michael Egnor has accepted the Golden Woo I awarded him three weeks ago. This is the first formal acceptance. In accepting his award, Egnor quoted my snippet of his words that I quoted as a justification for bestowing the honor:
There is no shared property yet identified by science through which brain matter can cause mental acts like altruism. Material substances have mass and energy. Ideas have purpose and judgment. There is no commonality.
And he followed with
So I win this materialist's "Golden Woo Award" because I assert that there are properties of the mind, such as purpose and judgement, that are not properties of matter. Furthermore, I assert that this is a problem for materialism.
Yes. And the problem is just that – Egnor just asserts these things; he presents no evidence for them. He also conveniently ignores Steven Novella’s rebuttal, that I also linked, that starts with:
[Egnor’s argument] is utter rubbish on many levels. Egnor’s basic point is that the material brain cannot cause mental activity, which is immaterial. But he does not establish that premise, he merely assumes it and his justification is nothing more than semantics. He then accuses material scientists of assuming that mental functions are brain functions, while essentially dismissing a huge chunk of modern neuroscience as “interesting” but irrelevant by falsely invoking the “correlation is not causation” argument.
First, he is treating mental function as a pure abstraction – but in so doing he is assuming his conclusion and therefore is making a tautological argument.
And in my experience, this is the fundamental flaw with virtually all the philosophical arguments around this supposed “hard” problem, namely that the proponents of dualism (such as Egnor) or idealism, just assume that mental functions cannot be physically caused. And so ultimately, all their arguments circle back to (you guessed it) mental functions cannot be physically caused. Seriously – I don’t think I’ve ever had a debate with one of these people without circular reasoning making its customary honored guest appearance at a crucial time. Egnor follows this with a hilarious list of arguments from authority figures from Socrates, Plato and Aristotle through Galileo, Newton and Einstein, all of whom, we are supposed to believe, agreed with Egnor.
Sadly, there is no monetary stipend to go with the award as Egnor imagined, but then he wouldn’t need it to buy me the copy of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Philosophy that he thinks I need for the simple reason that I already have a copy. And I have read it. And, just as with Egnor’s writing, it contains not a shred of evidence that the mind is caused by anything other than the brain. FAIL. Still, if he really wants to spend some money on a book that might explain some things that he is obviously confused about, I humbly suggest this one. It’s nearly a buck more that the philosophy book, but then you get what you pay for.