Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Living in a Material World

"It’s clear that ideas share no properties with matter," writes ID proponent Michael Egnor in a post published yesterday on the Discovery Institute's Evolution News and Views blog. "Ideas have no mass, or length, or temperature, or location. They’re immaterial. Clearly, under ordinary circumstances the brain is necessary for our ideas to exist, but, because matter and ideas share no properties, it’s hard to see how the brain is sufficient for ideas to exist."

It is far from clear to RSR that ideas share no properties with matter. We don't know what it means -- and as always, Egnor does not bother to explain how this might be nor does he offer evidence of any kind to support his view -- to say that the brain is necessary, but somehow insufficient, for ideas to exist.

Let's do a thought experiment on ideas and the brain. Let's say for example that a small tribe of people in the Brazilian rain forest dies out, or through contact with the dominant culture loses its language. The language is spoken rather than written. No recordings of it were ever made. No missionary ever wrote it down. All the elders who once spoke this language are now dead. None of the young can speak it. Does this language still exist? If somehow it does, as Egnor believes, how might this language be reconstructed?

How about this: Two men are driving in a car. As they drive, they talk. They share ideas and observations. A little later, both are killed in a car accident. What happens to their conversation? Is the knowledge of what they discussed, the positions each took on the ideas in discussion, their various perceptions of the conversation preserved? Are they still floating around somewhere? Can we get a hold of them somehow?

If, as Egnor believes, ideas are immaterial. Not rooted in the human brain. What is the nature of their existence? As they say on the new SAT written essay: Explain.


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