Friday, July 20, 2007

Why Complete Materialist?

Why did I name this blog Complete Materialist?

Simply this: I'm convinced beyond all doubt that all phenomena in the universe result from all-natural -- that is, 100 percent supernatural-free -- material causes, with "material" meaning "matter and energy." So, for me, "materialist" encompasses not just physical matter as in quarks, chemical elements, polysaccharides, or diamonds, but also energy, the flow of which animates matter, permits life through chemistry, gives us light, and makes possible backyard weinee roasts.

And, when I say "all phenomena" I mean exactly that, all phenomena, no exceptions. Me, you, indeed all life, nuclear energy, gravity, consciousness - human and non-human alike, all chemistry, all physics.

"All phenomena" also includes derivatives of these resulting from the nearly infinite ways these phenomena can combine, connect, rearrange, and interact. Additionally, I see more abstract ideas like friendship, devotion, string theory, courage, concern, and integral calculus as being completely natural consequences of specific neuronal interconnections: less concrete and oftentimes more transient than a physical object, but nonetheless having completely materialistic causes. This even holds true for those things people would refer to as "spiritual." Human spirituality experienced as senses of awe, wonder, transcendence, or oneness with everything, springs from the structure of our most amazing but still all-natural brains.

A corollary to all of this complete materialism is that nothing exists that is supernatural. Nothing supernatural. Zippo. Zilch. Nada. Not one iota. I began this post saying, I'm convinced beyond all doubt that all phenomena in the universe result from all-natural -- that is, 100 percent supernatural-free -- material causes, and I mean it. When I say "beyond all doubt" that's precisely where I stand. I am not at all closed-minded, but I know enough to know that I can't be convinced that anything supernatural actually exists.

But, how, you might ask, can I say in one breath that I am not closed-minded, and in the next say that I can't be convinced of the existence of supernatural stuff? It's a fair question that just screams to be asked. I think the question deserves a fair response, so I'll share my two main thoughts on why I can't be convinced that anything supernatural exists.

1. Under most circumstances, I agree completely with the notion that "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence," but in the case of the supernatural, I invoke a special exemption since the claims of supernatural power and influence have been pouring in for millennia and not one shred of credible evidence has been produced to support the idea that any supernatural something whatsoever has ever existed. I'll get deeper into this in later posts, but if we restrict ourselves to religion alone among the myriad supernatural concepts, we have tens of thousands of failed hypotheses if we consider only the gods.

2. One of the great interests I've had throughout my life has been in human sensory and perceptual systems and under what conditions they can and do lead us to a false sense of the world. We humans are quite susceptible to misperceiving the world for a variety of reasons: optical and auditory illusions and hallucinations; dreams that are indistinguishable from reality; hypnotic induction; effects due to the presence or absence of drugs like insulin, THC, or cocaine; physiological stresses like starvation, dehydration, heat stress, hypothermia, allergic reactions, infections, fever, poisons; psychological stresses like fear, uncertainty, anxiety; organic brain defects like tumors, schizophrenia, or Alzheimer's disease; erroneous or misleading information like that disseminated by many religionists about evolution, geology, and radioisotopic dating; lack of information like the earth is spherical, the earth orbits the sun, or the fact that how magic tricks are performed is not generally available to the public; intentional deception like the stage magic used by faith healers and psychics; lack of understanding of randomness, coincidence, probability, statistics, science and the natural world; the employment by media of techniques resulting from university and industry research into how to best influence the human mind for marketing purposes(note that it works very well); social-group-induced credulity which treats the willingness to accept the ideas of others without evidence as a desirable trait; and, sufficiently advanced technology that defies the best efforts of even highly techno-savvy individuals to detect its presence and use.

We can be and are easily led into seeing the world as different than it really is. Knowing this, if something appeared before me claiming to be a god and providing as evidence, "miracles," I would have no means whereby I could ascertain that I was not being deceived by an all-natural charlatan using a difficult-to-decipher technology designed to abuse known deficiencies in human perception. I would reject the claim of supernaturalism since my own perceptual shortcomings would provide a more adequate explanation for any purported "miracles."

I will gladly entertain arguments to the contrary, but, frankly, I do not know what case an alleged deity could make that would convince me that it was anything other than a 100 percent supernatural-free purveyor of an advanced technology.

So that is why I've named this blog Complete Materialist.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Questions for my readers

Over at Atheist Homeschooler, I posed the following questions to Fiery Ewok on the Open Forum 3 post. Since Complete Materialist is a new blog and I don't have an established readership, I'd like to get some idea of who's reading, what interests them, fires 'em up and makes them tick. Then, when my choice of blog topics is up in the air, I'll let my reader's interests tip the scales in favor of one to their liking.

Answer any or all. As you address these topics, feel free to toss in whatever creative spin you have on the question at hand.
  • What's the latest book you've read?
  • What's your favorite area of science?
  • What's the most recent thing you can think of where evidence new to you has forced you to accept a new understanding of an idea or to simply discard an old understanding?
  • What one fact about the natural world do you think would benefit humankind the most if it was known by every person on the planet?
  • Can you prove?: for an arbitrary integer greater than zero, the sum of its digits is evenly divisible by 9, if and only if the integer itself is also evenly divisible by 9.