Egnor is at it. Again...
Michael Egnor has written yet another piece for the Discovery Institute. This time, he wants to discuss:
Is altruism merely a matter of brain physiology- just the happy result of eons of evolution?His answer is a resounding no, since
For one process to cause another there must be a point of contact, in the sense that the processes linked in cause and effect must share properties in common.
The brain is a material substance. It has location, dimensions, weight, temperature, and energy.
Altruism, in contrast, has no matter or energy. It has no ‘location’, no weight, no dimension, no temperature. It has no properties of matter.
There is no shared property yet identified by science through which brain matter can cause mental acts like altruism.
A satisfactory explanation of altruism intrinsically requires a method open to immaterial causes.
Egnor asserts that traditional science CAN'T explain altruism, because immaterial things can't interact with material things and altruism, unlike your brain, is immaterial. In philosophy, this stance is known as Dualism. The thinking in dualism is that thoughts are separate from brain matter and exists more or less independently of it. Dualism does away with the problem of things like consciousness (by sweeping it under the carpet) that science has a hard time explaining. The biggest problem with dualism is that there is no way for the thoughts to communicate with brain matter. To reverse Egnor's argument from above: There is no shared property yet identified by science through which immaterial altruism can cause anything to happen in the brain. And if immaterial "things" can't communicate with the material, they can hardly have any effects either. So, it is rather peculiar that while Egnor critiques dualism, this is also what he is asserting is actually happening. He, not science, claims that there actually exists dualism.
Egnor complains regarding how science explains these things:
To evade this conundrum, materialist neuroscientists evoke ‘emergence’, which is a materialist way of asserting ‘It happens. Trust us’.Considering that there are studies being done to try to solve these kinds of problems, this is an interesting assertion. And very hypocritical considering that we are supposed to take Egnor and his ilk's word that there actually is something "immaterial". Why should trust them and not any actual real research that can count as positive evidence for their claim (this doesn't exist, btw)?
Altruism is obviously something very real; many people’s lives depend on it. We don’t know exactly what it is, but we know, by its properties, what it’s not. It’s not material. It shares no properties in common with matter. It can’t be caused by a piece of the brain.That's a funny thing to say, considering that even slime moulds display altruistic behaviour. And they don't even need brains. So perhaps Egnor is right to some extent (I'm being generous here).
‘My altruism is three inches from the edge of the table’ is, like Egnor says, a nonsensical statement. 'Michael Egnor's reasoning is three inches away from ignorance' might not be.