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Friday, October 10, 2008

Darwinism and popular culture: Still not clear how mind emerges from mud

Recently, I wrote about Stephen Craig Dilley's paper in the Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies attacking Larry Arnhart's "Darwinian conservatism" here (October 4, 2008):

Darwinism and popular culture: Darwinian conservatism means "disintegration of morality"?

That's St. Edward's University's Stephen Craig Dilley's view in a recent edition of Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies (Vol XX, 2008, whose theme this year is globalization).

Dilley is responding to Larry Arnhart, who has been promoting Darwinian conservatism (= why traditional Christians and others should embrace survival of the fittest).

His book-length efforts have been contested, and have prompted a book-length rejoinder from John West.

I have now had a chance to read the paper, and it is a powerful critique. Essentially, Dilley argues, Arnhart does not explain how the mind or free will could arise through Darwinian evolution. He uses the word "emergence" a lot, but not in a way that makes clear precisely how mind is supposed to have emerged from mud.
What is curious about Arnhart's lines of evidence is that five out of six are not so much arguments about how Darwinian evolution can manufacture a volitional mind, but rather statements about the mind itself. That is, most of Arnhart's purported evidence only supports the claim that there is, in fact, a mind capable of substantive choice, but fails to explain how an entity with these capacities arose. ... He describes the data, but does not explain their origin.
Well, when defending a theory of evolution, the money shot is explaining the origin of the subject. The result is
Arnhart's ordinary experience tells him one thing, while his Enlightenment convinctions tell him another. He thinks that material cause-and-effect are sufficient to produce human form and function, yet he also believes that humans are not just cogs in the cosmic machine, but that they choose their actions and are responsible for their behaviours. Indeed, he is caught between his worldview and the evidence of normal experience - a tension that lies at the heart of any attempt to unite reductionist Enlightenment science with traditional western and non-Western ways of thinking. Arnhart tries to diffuse this tension by the emergence thesis, yet this effort falters.
I can't find where Arnhart has replied as yet, but here's his blog with the search box set to "Dilley".

Readers who are interested in mind-brain issues should also check my Mindful Hack blog.

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:

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