"All revolutions devour their own children." - Ernst Rohm
Rohm was a despicable bastard, but his life and death is a testament to this valuable truth. From an historical perspective, all revolutions – even the most worthy ones – have a habit of going too far and eventually – generations later – destroying those who benefit from it.
I was reminded of this line while participating in a comment thread at the Common Sense Atheist website.
During a discussion on the nature of consciousness, one commenter – Urbster 1 – wrote…
There is no “I”; Dennett explains this in his book, where he proposes a “multiple drafts” view of consciousness, in stark contrast to the “I” view (he calls it the “Cartesian theater” view) of consciousness. In Dennett’s view, our brains evolved to do lots of parallel processing tasks; consciousness, then, is like a virtual serial “I” machine running on top of these parallel processors.
I wrote back…
Dennett is a very dishonest man. To say – as he does – “there is no ‘I’” and then smugly wipe his hands clean of the subject is preposterous. That doesn’t answer anything. There is DEFINITELY an “I.” Who is writing this question? Me. “I.” Who is reading it? YOU! (Another “I.”).
The irony, of course, is that Dennett is merely taking materialism to its logical conclusion…If materialism can’t explain “I,” then “I” can’t exist.
While Dennett sips his margarita on the beach, I have some real questions to ask: What is consciousness? What is it made of? Where did it come from? How does it work? These are serious questions that deserve serious research, not just smoke and mirrors from atheist propagandists.
Urbster 1 continued to insist that “The ‘I’ IS reducible. It’s not just one thing; it’s many parts of the brain that come together to form this ‘story’ of an ‘I.’"
I wrote back…
“I” exist. I would also point out that “I” is the foundation of science. Don’t you remember Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am?” To postulate that the “I” is an illusion is to destroy reason and thus destroy the scientific enterprise in the long-term. You are making science intellectually defenseless to the theists you claim to oppose. Why science allowed itself to descend into this abyss I’ll never understand.
Nietzsche would be sympathetic to the point I’m trying to raise.
As told by Tom Wolfe in his essay Sorry but Your Soul Just Died…
[Nietzsche] added one final and perhaps ultimate piece of irony in a fragmentary passage in a notebook shortly before he lost his mind (to the late–nineteenth–century's great venereal scourge, syphilis). He predicted that eventually modern science would turn its juggernaut of skepticism upon itself, question the validity of its own foundations, tear them apart, and self–destruct. I thought about that in the summer of 1994 when a group of mathematicians and computer scientists held a conference at the Santa Fe Institute on "Limits to Scientific Knowledge." The consensus was that since the human mind is, after all, an entirely physical apparatus, a form of computer, the product of a particular genetic history, it is finite in its capabilities. Being finite, hardwired, it will probably never have the power to comprehend human existence in any complete way…
This, science's Ultimate Skepticism, has been spreading ever since then…If only Nietzsche were alive! He would have relished every minute of it!...
I suddenly had a picture of the entire astonishing edifice collapsing and modern man plunging headlong back into the primordial ooze. He's floundering, sloshing about, gulping for air, frantically treading ooze, when he feels something huge and smooth swim beneath him and boost him up, like some almighty dolphin. He can't see it, but he's much impressed. He names it God.
The Scientific Revolution bloomed in 1637 with Descartes’ earnest statement, “I think, therefore, I am.” Nearly 400 years later, by joyfully killing the “I,” the Scientific Revolution is eating its own children.
If there was ever a reason to move beyond materialism, this my friends, is it.
Note: This isn’t a full transcript. See the full comment thread at Luke’s website.
**UPDATE, DEC. 17, 2009**
Click below on the Comment section to read a fun exchange between me and "Ian." One clip...
Ian: “The only difference between the rock and the rabbit is that the rock's chemical processes are somewhat less complex, but that is a difference in quantity, not quality.”
TW: No. It’s more complicated than that. And I’ll try to create an analogy: Let’s compare, say, a mousetrap and a VCR. Both are made up of the same “stuff” but the thing that makes the VCR work is electricity. The “stuff” by itself (all those wires and buttons) can’t make the VCR work by itself. The electricity is essential. Ditto for life itself. There is a something “extra” in Life that science can’t explain, and even more worrisome, science doesn’t seem interested in trying to explain it (as shown by your flippant approach to this subject).