Who Built The Simulation ?

This New Scientist article on the Intelligent Design crowd reinforcing the dualism of mind stuff distinct from material stuff, as part of a theism vs Darwinism debate passed me by in my recent move a couple of months ago.

I’m pretty clearly a physicalist, a non-reductive materialist … both material-stuff and meaning-stuff arising from the same physics, but even the most scientific metaphysics requires its “first-cause” somewhere in the loop, ie even if the loop of existence has no beginning or end it has to “arise” out of something, some causal explanation. I’ve said many times that causation (in general) is the weirdest elusive thing in this whole stack of turtles.

P Z Myers Pharyngula blog on this article was picked-up by David Chalmers in his Fragments. David is one of those undoubtedly “clever” philosophers I’ve never quite “got” what his distinctive point is. As I type this I recall where I got stuck on his “supervenience” angle on causation, in fact reminded of that because as I perused his latest taxonomy of philosophy I couldn’t help noticing that “Causation” was the first entry under metaphysics with many topics under it (OK so C is early in the alphabet) … but I keep coming back to the point, whatever your metaphysics, your logic of causation has a hole in it somewhere … a first (or “necessary” injection of) cause.

David like most people in this debate, me included I guess, are keen to distance any intelligent designer God vs Darwinian explanations of emergence of complexity and design, from any mind-matter dualism debate.

David … a dualist in this regard … seems quite happy with his “Matrix” model … our whole world could be a (computer) simulation idea. Logically it’s as good a way as any to plug the hole in your metaphysics, even if it sounds far-fetched sci-fi, to posit a god-like software programmer .. but that sounds like a pretty intelligent designer to me, and a very weak way to suggest this is not really still about a theist / Darwinist deate too.

Whether you subscribe to a large measure or negligible measure of the intelligent teleological-looking design arising in Darwinian ways or not, there is a always a small measure of first-cause or pre-existence of the matrix itself … even if, as in my current case, that matrix is just the chaotic void pre-existing either mind or matter.

So far as I can see, pragmatism is the only response to this missing link. Reaching for a fantastical sky-hook is only ever a stop-gap, a Jamesian holiday from intellectual effort, even if it is a very long-lived, useful and therefore very valuable stop gap.

[PS – Aside – Distinguishing explanation from causation .. compare with Dennett on distinguishing physical determinism from morally free will.]

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