Monday, November 13, 2017

What advances has materialism (naturalism) made in the last decade?

Primate studies is based on a simple principle: Humans share 98% of our genes with the chimpanzee, and therefore the 100% chimpanzee can help us understand ourselves. Hmmm. As British rabbi Harvey Belovski has pointed out, we share perhaps 30% of our genes with a banana. So can the banana help us 30% toward understanding ourselves? Maybe the chimp and the banana would make a better pair than the chimp and the human. The chimp would certainly think so. Seriously, what have primate studies really shown us? As anthropologist Jonathan Marks says, despite the public interest in efforts to teach apes to communicate with humans, “Unfortunately, they have nothing to say.” If so, the trail ends here.

Then there was artificial intelligence (AI). Remember, this is supposed to be the “age of spiritual machines,” when computers are becoming indistinguishable from humans. In reality, the human mind works quite differently from a computer, and simply increasing computing power does not produce characteristic human qualities. AI enthusiast Kenneth Silber complains, “This is a disappointing state of affairs.” It sure is, if you are HAL or Deeper Blue. [No computer has become inherently smarter than its programmers, for the same reasons as characters in a novel do not have more insight than the author. ] Notice the pattern? Ominously, all three media-darling disciplines fail at the same point: precisely the point at which, if materialism were true, they should succeed: Evolutionary psychology can’t explain uniquely human qualities. The 100 percent chimpanzee has nothing to say to the 98 percent chimpanzee. And the human brain is not enough like a computer that AI studies are even particularly relevant, great as their future achievements may be.

The end of promissory materialism?

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