AD Essay: Why we need science, not philosophy

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Kristina Wyman's picture
Professor Fred Bauer

If biology based on Darwinian evolution rather than divine creation poses a danger for gullible, intellectually defenseless Christian students, then any psychology reduced to neuroscience poses an even greater danger.

Why? Because it promotes the identification of the soul’s mind with the body’s brain. What’s worse, it creates a huge gap in fresh young students’ belief-systems, a gap that can be remedied only by integrating the most important ‘scientific’ discoveries of modern times, especially the most important one of all: Descartes’ discovery that clues to out-side-the-mind reality must first reach the CNS (central nervous system).

It is not as if the premises are esoteric.

Premise-fact #1: Light, essential for sight, always takes time, however short, to reach our eyes, where it creates upside-down images on our retinas. If you wear glasses, consider yourself fortunate. Why? Because, when you take off your glasses, the fact that what-you-see blurs proves you never see anything farther from you than retinal images that blur: common-sense logic tells you that, since nothing happens to distant things (e.g., writing on the blackboard during class), the distant things are not what-is-seen.

Premise-fact #2: Everyone knows the difference between seen color and heard sound. That’s why Aristotle singled out colors as the only things we see, properly speaking, just as sounds are literally the only things we hear. Nothing is seen if color is not seen, nothing heard if sound isn’t heard. But where are those colors and sounds?

Premise-fact #3: Combine those premises with Descartes’ brilliant discovery of the CNS and Newton’s discoveries about the spectrum, and you, too, must agree with Einstein’s conclusion: what we see and hear are not features of a never-experienced physical world, but rather “effects produced IN US!”
But where in us?

Premise-fact #4: Where? In our mind, not our brain (if it exists). Here is where neuroscience derails the quest for truth. Consider the nonsense found in Myers’ Psychology, used for AC’s PSY 101: “We say, ‘A tomato is red’… If no one sees the tomato, is it red? … The answer is no… Color, like all aspects of vision, resides not in the object but in the theater of our brains.”

Sorry. In the same way that there’s no blue color in the sky (as plane-flyers can attest), there’s no color in pitch-dark, skull-enclosed brains, only unseen neurological activities that (at most) cause those immaterial ‘effects’ in our mind. This is a point first stressed by Berkeley, predecessor of Kant and James.
Put those premises together, and the conclusion is iron-clad: you’ve never seen, heard, or felt anything except what William James, a greater psychologist than any alive today, called the contents of one’s “stream of consciousness,” an immaterial stream utterly distinct from any stream of biological events in the brain.

Consider further what Myers, a neuroscience advocate, writes: “The effect of hormones on experiences such as love reminds us that we would not be of the same mind if we were a bodiless brain. Brain+ body = mind. Nevertheless, say neuroscientists, the mind is what the brain does. . .” What’s worse he prefaces that with “When we’re thinking about our brain, we’re thinking with the brain—by firing countless millions of synapses and releasing billions of neurotransmitter molecules.”

Why worse? Because thinking is the best evidence of all to prove that our immortal soul is utterly distinct from the mortal body (& thus the brain), a fact presupposed by belief that we’re created for an eternity blessed with a vision of God. Plato explained that evidence more than two millennia ago. Saint Augustine conveyed it to Latin-speaking Europe. Descartes used it—“I think, therefore I am”—as the foundation of his revolutionizingMeditations, in the sixth of which, appealing to phantom-limb experience, he added that we cannot even sense our own brain-bearing body.

This last, surprising fact is referred to by W.Kohler in his Gestalt Psychology: “If the chair is seen ‘before me,’ the ‘me’ of this phrase means my body as an experience, of course, not my organism as an object of the physical world. Even psychologists do not seem to be always clear about this point.” Most of your professors—including most of your ‘philosophy’ professors—don’t, either! (To say the least.)

Back, then, to the danger of today’s allegedly ‘scientific’ psychology, imagined to be independent of ‘philosophical’ foundations. If biology based on Darwinian evolution (rather than divine creation) poses a danger for gullible, intellectually defenseless Christian students, then any psychology reduced to neuroscience poses an even greater danger. The mind—the very tool for learning the truth about this universe and our place in it—will be misrepresented, the evidence for that truth will be misanalysed, and many AC graduates will never learn what Pope John Paul II explained in 1996: “If the human body takes its origin from pre-existent matter, the spiritual soul is immediately created by God.”

Nor will they escape what Einstein called “a plebeian illusion,” that is, the illusion of the badly educated who believe that what they sense is an objectively real physical universe. Above all, they will never learn why, in the words of William James, “The ‘entire brain-process’ is not a physical fact at all.” It (the brain-process) refers to billions of separate molecules or cells, whose aggregation into ‘a brain’ is, James adds, “a fiction of popular speech.”

In other words, a construct.

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