From Liberal to Progressive, from Materialist to Physicalist

From Do Physicalists Believe in Black Holes?

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Many Darwinists object to the sobriquet “materialist” — they consider themselves physicalists. Responding to an article by Bernardo Kastrup, “Consciousness Cannot Have Evolved,” Darwinist Jerry Coyne explains:

Kastrup is dead wrong that materialism requires all entities to be measurable. [It is] is dead wrong that materialism requires all entities to be measurable. Here’s a question: do you have a liver? The answer is based not on measurement, but on observation. I have never heard a definition of “materialism” that requires quantitative measurement, but … it seems to be one [that is] confected to rule out consciousness as a material phenomenon, or the result of a material phenomenon. Unfortunately, [that] rules out a lot of material phenomena that can’t be quantified as well, like “love”. (I’ll let readers quibble about that one.)

[…big snippo…]

Of course, physicalists don’t deny that the world might contain many items that at first glance don’t seem physical — items of a biological, or psychological, or moral, or social nature. But they insist nevertheless that at the end of the day such items are either physical or supervene on the physical.

That seems pretty accurate, especially with “supervene on the physical” at the end (for that is what consciousness is), and it says nothing about quantitative characterization.

Extended Stuff, Thinking Stuff

The observation that materialism implies measurability derives from the Cartesian splitting of the world into res extense (extended stuff) and res cogitans (thinking stuff). Modern materialists are basically Cartesians who have jettisoned res cogitans. Everything, to materialists like Coyne, is extended stuff and the relationships between extended stuff. Everything is in some real sense measurable. 

Obviously, this materialist view of reality leaves out much of reality (love, reason, mercy, truth, etc.) so skittish materialists like Coyne often call themselves “physicalists,” which means that they only accept as real things that can be observed and tested by physical science. 

Physicalism Versus Modern Science

But with 20th-century science, even physicalism is untenable. For example, physics demonstrates the reality of singularities — black holes and the Big Bang itself — that are by definition not observable or testable by physical science. Singularities are undefined terms in Einstein’s equations of general relativity — terms in which the denominator goes to zero. They are quite real, but they are not physical in any sense — they are undefined by the methods of mathematics and physical science. Now of course the consequences of singularities can be observed and defined — the residual background radiation of the Big Bang, or the behavior of matter in the vicinity of a black hole are certainly observable. But the Big Bang singularity itself and the singularity at the core of each black hole are not natural — they are not a part of the natural world, and they are not things that we can know by the methods of physical science. If we could know them, they wouldn’t singularities — they wouldn’t be black holes or the Big Bang. 

Some of the most important advances in modern science entail the recognition of the existence of very real things that are unknowable by natural science. The supernatural is very real, and the materialist/physicalist denial of this reality is a rejection of modern science.

Editor’s note: See also:

How Black Holes Figure in the Argument for Cosmic Intelligent Design

First Ever Black Hole Image Points to Cosmology’s Big Message

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Interesting: black holes are not part of the natural world, and not testable/measurable by math & physics.

But their effects are quite real, and measurable.


As for nomenclature: I am not that finicky about exact terms. As Muhammad Ali demonstrated, you can indeed rename yourself, at least up to a point. But if Ali claimed that he was a woman, for example, that would not be ‘renaming’: that would be lying.

(And if I said that about him, he debatably would have the right to punch me in the face for such slander. Well, at least a biblical lash or three on my back after a proper trial.)

The materialist here are not lying, really: they are just fleeing from their earned reputation, tied to the logical implications of their position. Much as Liberals prefer to call themselves Progressives, as

  • bad election results started to hinder their march for evermore power and control over others, and
  • their longing to control people’s thoughts, words and actions started to turn their ‘Liberal’ label into a hilarious mockery.

As for the other well-known shift in self-naming, from Negro (as in NAACP) to Black to African-American, I’m not so sure what’s going on there. I can understand the abandonment of the word Negro to some extent, as it may have the whiff of servitude to some people. African-American always seemed to be a mite pretentious, though. *shrug*

My admiration for the Jew continues, by the way. No matter the hate, the malice, the discrimination, the flat-out murderous intent of their enemies, they remain who they are, come what may.

*respectful nod*

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