Monday, October 08, 2018

Qualia and creationism

The stock objection to mature creation is that mature creation implicates God in a scheme of deception. I've often discussed that objection from various angles. Here's another approach: take the distinction between primary and secondary qualities, or physical properties and phenomenal qualia. The point is not that secondary qualities are merely psychological impressions. But these require a relation between the percipient and the sensible object. It isn't just the object in itself that generates these properties, but in combination with the mind or senses of the observer. (In addition, that's an argument for indirect realism). 

Yet for prescientific observers, these properties seem to be external to the observer. Seem to inhere in the sensible object. 

And this isn't an exceptional experience, but a systematic feature of how we perceive the physical world. Does that implicate God in a scheme of deception? 

Perhaps a critic of mature creation would say that's not deceptive in the same sense or relevant sense. If so, an objection based on divine deception will need to be considerable refined. Below is an illustration of the distinction at hand:

The distinction between ‘primary qualities’ and ‘secondary qualities’ was developed during the rise of modern science. In the first instance, we can think of this as a distinction between properties that science says objects have – size, shape, motion; and properties that depend upon particular ways of perceiving objects...But these theories – that colour is frequency of electromagnetic radiation, that smell and taste are chemical compounds – suggest that the world as we experience it through our senses and the world as science describes it are quite different. We experience all the wonderful properties of the senses; the world ‘as it is in itself’, as described by science, is ‘particles in motion’ and empty space.

Do secondary properties exist ‘in the object’ or ‘in the mind’ of the perceiver?...We could reply that physical objects aren’t ‘really’ coloured or don’t ‘really’ have a smell, because physical objects are made of molecules without colour or smell. But this misinterprets what it means to say that something is coloured or smells. To say that the table is brown is not to say that it must be composed of microscopic particles which are also brown. It is to say that the table looks brown to normal observers under normal conditions. The subatomic particles that make up a table don’t have to be brown for the table to be brown! 

Take another example: solidity. Science tells us that solid objects are, in fact, mostly empty space; the distances between atoms are huge compared to the size of the subatomic particles themselves. Does this mean that a table, because it is mostly empty space, is not solid? Of course not; atoms forming this rigid pattern, even with a great deal of empty space, comprise a solid. This is what the word ‘solid’ means.


  1. I have a question regarding creation and idealism again. I saw your prior post about Dr. John Byl's article about the idealist. I would like your thoughts on some comments that an idealist made. I think Blake was making this point on Dr. Byl's article.

    "Physical death for example remains death of the body. If we find out later that the body is made of mind-stuff rather than matter-stuff, it doesn't change the reality that the body really exists in the ontic sense. Just that it isn't made of the stuff we thought it was made of. (namely now its made of information rather than matter)

    And by extension this also then applies to the incarnation and the resurrection.

    It just means that all the properties you give matter are now transferred to mind -or at least immaterial stuff. (which the physics has already done quite neatly now anyway)
    It only doesn't make sense if you define "crucifixion" and "body" to mean "material" rather than "informational" and "simulation" to mean "fake" rather than "real." Which again are all just more language games, and are really more of a reflection of how you describe reality vs. what reality is itself. So this fails as a problem for the same reason as the previous issues fail as problems.

    This is a matter of different realism. I am not a physical realist yes, but I am a scientific realist. This is why I picked objective idealism over subjective idealism. Objective idealism is compatible with scientific realism via ontic structural realism. Meaning there is an external world just that external world is not physically real, though it is still real -meaning it still has a real structure we can study."

    The other and last thing was just that if God is timeless, then time is illusory(via objective idealist commitment). But couldn't the idealist just invoke B theory?

    1. On an idealist construction, mundane reality is like a collective dream. When we dream we have simulated bodies, although the dreamer doesn't normally see his own body. Other dream characters have simulated bodies. The dreamscape is simulated.

      That renders the Incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection illusory. In theory, there could be a hypostatic union just between the Son and a human soul. But the "body" would be imaginary. The death of the body would be imagery. The resurrection of the body would be imaginary. The only thing that could "die" under that scenario would be the soul. That would temporarily dissolve the hypostatic union.

      Likewise, all of Bible history would be illusory. Like a video game.

      It filters the Bible through a radical hermeneutical grid, like Gnosticism or ufology.

      If idealism is true, why do we suffer from excruciating physical conditions, when–in fact–there's no physical cause? What does it mean to die if physicalism is true?

      Idealism is philosophically interesting the way some skeptical thought-experiments are philosophically interesting. But that's not a reason to think it's realistic.

    2. I think the objection you are raising is accurate. It does render these things as a sort of simulation. But strangely enough the idealist won't see that as problematic. They think it is a problem of semantics. Real to an idealist is simply the world God imagines. But are you saying that is like saying the idealist is just saying the illusion is a real illusion?

      "If idealism is true, why do we suffer from excruciating physical conditions, when–in fact–there's no physical cause?"

      I thought that on idealism our experience would be the same as if there was a material world?

      I also was wondering if to get around the objection that idealism renders time illusory they couldn't simply invoke B-theory? God imagines the timeline in the order of events as they occur in the Bible.

    3. i) Why would God create a situation in which humans evidently suffer the affects of cancer cells when in reality they don't have physical bodies with cancer cells?

      ii) Idealism filters Biblical narratives through an extraneous hermeneutical filter that screens out the physical dimension. The "events" never happened as described. That's certainly not how the Bible was meant to be understood.

      It's like ufological interpretations. Jesus was really a space alien, viz. "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

      That superimposes an artificial lens on the text. That's surely not how Scripture was intended to be read. Same with idealism.

    4. The first question is interesting. I don't know what an idealist would say about that. I know that some like Quantum Mechanics and would take it to be this is just the world in which God conceives of such because his omniscience. But they deny that there is a difference between actual and possible worlds. All worlds are actual on that scheme. Whether or not they would try to posit a character Building explanation or some other theodicy remains possible.

      The second point is an issue that Idealist will just play an underdetermination accommodation game. We speak about creation of the world. They would posit that those statements are consistent with idealism because on idealism reality is just the thoughts of God. So, from their perspective, it seems like the objections are just presupposing that they are wrong to conclude they are wrong. Take the issue if whether or not it is an if idealism entails that this world is illusory. It seems that we may launch that criticism, but only on pains of assuming reality must be material. On idealism the material things we are speaking about are reducible to mental things.