Cognition & Reality

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Promissory Materialism

Sir John Eccles, the Nobel-winning Australian neurophysiologist, coined the term “promissory materialism” for the doctrine that all mental states can be reduced to and explained by physiological states in the nervous system. Eccles  famously defended a theistic scientific position, but his insight need not be confined to the terms of debates about the existence of God. Much of what passes as “science” today depends on extrapolation from murky results to a description of life as a mere unraveling the strands of DNA.

Daniel Dennet, Steven Pinker and Richard Dawkins, among others, have promoted a theory of mind as a highly specialized organ that evolved as the human race evolved. Such a mind is a collection of specific faculties or modules almost literally designed for specific tasks, with its origins in the workings of the brain. This theory confuses levels of being, and draws its conclusions based largely on literally murky photos of the brain taken using advanced radiological techniques.

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