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Our future, our universe, and other weighty topics

Thursday, August 20, 2020

They Dodge Evidence Like a Wife Saying “All Those Strange Panties Must Be Mine”

Let us consider the case of a wife who has an unfaithful husband with a careless mistress. Let's suppose the husband and the mistress engage in sex recklessly in the master bedroom of the wife's house, the very bed where the wife sleeps. Let's also suppose that the mistress has the careless habit of leaving her panties on the floor near the bed. Repeatedly the wife discovers on the floor these panties that she does not recognize.

Now such a wife may immediately recognize the truth after seeing the first of these panties. Or she may engage in denial. She may tell herself that the first strange pair of panties she sees under her bed must be one of her own panties. And she may keep telling herself the same thing, no matter how many unfamiliar panties she finds underneath the bed. Such are the defensive mechanisms that the mind sometimes uses to protect itself from evidence it doesn't want to accept.

Such a wife may resemble the modern physicalist who insists that there exists nothing but physical things such as matter and energy. Such a person will typically believe in a purposeless universe in which man is an incidental occurrence, an accidental product of blind chance. Such a person will think that there are no such things as souls or spirits or paranormal phenomena, that the only thing that can ever think is a thing with a brain, and that all human mental phenomena can be explained as brain activity.

Let us consider some of the “strange panties under the bed” that such a physicalist has ignored or tried to explain away.

The first “strange panty under the bed” is the sudden origin of the universe in the event scientists call the Big Bang. This discovery came as a rude surprise to our physicalists, who greatly preferred to believe that the universe had existed forever. Of course, a sudden origin of the universe (at just the right expansion rate allowing us to appear) is always something that resembles a divine creation, not something a physicalist wishes to believe in.

The second “strange panty under the bed” is the still unexplained origin of life, and the discovery of mountain-high requirements for such an event. The origin of even the simplest self-reproducing cell seems to require more than 100 different types of proteins (most of them a  complex invention no more likely to appear by chance than a fine-tuned 300-character computer subroutine), as well as fantastically improbable homochirality.  The probability of the chance origin of life can reasonably be compared to the likelihood of a typing monkey producing a highly complex functional computer program with many thousands of lines of fine-tuned  code. 

The third “strange panty under the bed” is the fine-tuning of the universe's fundamental constants, which allow for a habitable universe. Many examples can be given, one of which is the precise equality (to more than 20 decimal places) of the absolute magnitude of the charge of the electron and the absolute magnitude of the charge of the proton (a particle 1836 times more massive), a "coincidence" needed for stable planets, and one that we would not expect to occur in even 1 in 1,000,000,000,000,000 random universes. 

The fourth “strange panty under the bed” is the very well-documented fact of paranormal phenomena, such as near-death experiences, massively repetitive patterns in falling water drops,  very high scores in ESP tests, and cases when multiple observers saw the same apparition, phenomena which cannot be explained by any physical or neural effects. 

The fifth "strange panty under the bed" is the fact that a variety of normal mental phenomena (such as the preservation of memories for 60 years and instantaneous memory recall) are utterly inexplicable under the assumptions of physicalism, the human brain being a place of rapid protein turnover, relatively short synaptic lifetimes and high signal noise, without any indexing system or position notation system or read-write unit, something that should be quite incapable of producing feats of normal human experience such as the instantaneous recall of things that occurred fifty years ago or the instantaneous recognition of data items learned fifty years ago. 

The sixth "strange panty under the bed" is the fact of millions of different fine-tuned macroscopic biological forms on our planet,  which are not and cannot be specified by DNA molecules, such genomes specifying only low-level chemical information and not high-level structural information (contrary to frequent misstatements on this topic).  No such forms can be explained by the physicalist's preferred explanation of "random DNA mutations," there being absolutely nothing in DNA that specifies either cell structures, organ structures or large-scale body blueprints. 

Like the betrayed wife who keeps finding the panties left by her husband's careless mistress, and who keeps saying, “This strange panty must be mine,” a physicalist attempts to deny all the evidence contradicting his dogma that nothing exists but matter and energy. Does this mean that the stubborn physicialist is thinking as unsoundly as such a betrayed wife? No, he's thinking even more unsoundly.

While the betrayed wife's denial of the evidence is pretty laughable, she can at least offer a single unified excuse for rejecting all of the evidence she doesn't want to believe in. Her excuse may be: “How silly of me not to remember that I bought all those strange panties I keep finding underneath my bed– I must be losing my memory!” It's not a very plausible excuse, but at least it is a single excuse that can explain away all the evidence she has seen and wishes to avoid.

But our physicalist has no such unified excuse he can give to explain away all the evidence that he doesn't want to accept. So he must resort to a weird mishmash of implausible excuses, a strange smorgasboard of excuses.  He may claim that the universe suddenly originated from some “quantum fluctuation,” although he will have no clear idea of what he means by that (and no one has ever seen even a tiny speck appear in such a way). He may also claim that there is a vast infinity of universes, and that this somehow explains why our universe's fundamental constants are so fine-tuned (although if such an infinity of universes existed they would not actually make our universe any more likely to be as fine-tuned as it is). He may also claim that evidence for paranormal psychic phenomena is all faked, that apparition sightings are caused by mold spores, and that near-death experiences are a coincidentally similar set of hallucinations. He will conveniently ignore the fact that near-death experiences often occur to those whose brains have temporarily shut down because of cardiac arrest,  brains that are too inactive for neural hallucinations to be happening; and he will conveniently ignore how often deathbed apparitions are reported by those in clean hospital rooms or normal houses with no mold spores. He may also appeal to some quarter-baked super-speculative neural theories to try to get himself out of some of his difficulties in explaining human mental phenomena, maybe something requiring you to believe thermostats or rocks are a little bit conscious. He may appeal to some other flight-of-fancy "multiply the universe" scenario to try to extract himself out of some of his cosmological fine-tuning problems.  To hide some of his biology origin difficulties, he may resort to dubious boasts and misstatements, such as incorrect claims or insinuations about DNA, or implausible claims that protein complexity (totally unknown to nineteenth century scientists) can somehow be explained by some nineteenth century biology principle. 

So our physicalist must resort to an incredibly weird and farfetched smorgasboard of reasons for denying all of the evidence he wishes to deny, a strange potpourri which varies from the wildly speculative to the irrelevant to the misleading. The result is a  bizarre enormously extravagant hodgepodge that is less credible than the betrayed wife's “all those strange panties must be mine” reasoning, which at least has the virtue of being a simple cohesive speculation.

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