bookmark_borderDarwish talk

Last night Nonie Darwish, one of the favorite ex-Muslims of Fox News, visited campus.

She gave a strange talk. Part of was sensible enough, such as the bits where she pointed out the seriously illiberal aspects of Islamic law, with examples of everyday atrocities from countries where sharia has significant influence on laws and policies. (An example she gave about Turkish law, however, was mostly wrong, which didn’t inspire confidence.)

But then, she also went off the deep end with some regularity, such as cheering on recent paranoid efforts in the US to ban sharia law. (This is probably about as useful as banning alien abductions.)

The Q&A; afterwards was curious. Perhaps predictably, most Muslim students in the audience interpreted Darwish’s remarks as an attack on their community. But some of the Christian conservatives in the audience ate it all up; they were enthusiastically supporting Darwish.

By the end, all the Muslim students in the audience (and this includes some of my past and present students whom I know to be quite liberal) had long walked out. Only the Christians and a few quiet others like myself remained.

The experience makes me wonder what media figures such as Darwish are trying to accomplish. They’re not influencing the more liberal-minded among Muslims, who normally are as pissed off at the power of conservative mullahs as anybody. They got defensive and angry, and left feeling even more like their identity is under attack. And the Christians who remained just got their prejudices reinforced.

bookmark_borderTheocon intellectuals

I’ve just finished Herbert London’s America’s Secular Challenge: The Rise of a New National Religion. It’s a standard theocon screed, so there’s nothing new to it. It manages to sound both pompous and petulant, but that’s not unusual with these sorts of books.

What bothered me, however, was the author. The book is a hack job, utterly predictable once you know London’s version of right-wing ideology on offer, which is obvious from the first page. Typically, his “argument” depends on gross misrepresentations of secularism, and curious devices like treating New Atheists and New Agers as practically identical. In other words, it’s full of the sorts of mistakes that characterizes unserious advocacy—the mistakes I often have to warn my less talented students about.

And yet, London is not just the president of an influential right-wing think-tank, but “professor emeritus and the former John M. Olin Professor of Humanities at New York University.” You’d think that the academic culture of embarrassment-avoidance would have had some effect on him.

On the other hand, there’s that “Olin Professor” bit. So he was funded with right-wing foundation money even as an academic, it appears. So unimaginative hacks like London are perhaps data points in a larger story of the corruption of academia by money. Theocon intellectuals are “intellectuals” in the same sense that right-wing think-tanks do “research.”

bookmark_borderBrooks on “The Book of Mormon”

David Brooks is one of the very few conservative commentators I can read without retching. He offers dispassionate, reasoned argument unlike the screeching, foaming rants of Michelle Malkin (I think she should be tested for rabies), and he has nothing of the tinfoil-hat paranoia of Glenn Beck (Sha-na-na-na. Hey, hey, hey. Goodbye.). I like Brooks’ style too—straightforward and unaffected, unlike the prissy pontifications of George Will or the pomposity of Charles Krauthammer. In last Saturday’s (4/23) Houston Chronicle Brooks’ column reflects on important issues raised by, of all things, a Broadway musical, The Book of Mormon, written by, of all people, the creators of South Park.

Now, South Park is an entertainment I can take or leave (mostly leave), but The Book of Mormon sounds like a hoot. The reviews have been raves and audiences are enthusiastic. The show is about Mormon missionaries to Uganda, a nation devastated by AIDS and megalomaniacal warlords. According to Brooks, the show pokes fun at Mormon beliefs, but treats its characters with humanity and respect. Of course, Mormon beliefs go beyond bizarre into cloud-cuckoo-land: God lives on the planet Kolob, you can access genealogical records and save your ancestors postmortem, God planted twelve golden tablets in upstate New York, some Native Americans are related to Biblical Israelites, your can’t drink coffee, you have to wear funny underwear, you have to eat lime Jell-O (just kidding!), and so forth.

Yet, the message of The Book of Mormon (the musical) is that what matters about religion is that it inspires people to do good and courageous things, despite the weird dogmas and the pointless proscriptions (no tea either!). Indeed, says Brooks, the playwrights imply that religion would be an unalloyed good if people would take religious teachings metaphorically and not literally and would see that the essence of religion is service to others, not adherence to absolutist creeds. Brooks comments:

This warm theme infuses the play with humanity and compassion. It also plays very well to an educated American audience. Many Americans have always admired the style of belief that is spiritual but not doctrinal, pluralistic and not exclusive, which offers tools for serving the greater good but is not marred by intolerant theological judgments.

Brooks counters that the religions that actually motivate people to heroic acts of compassion and self-sacrifice are not the easygoing, genial, pluralistic ones but the rigorous, uncongenial, uncompromising ones:

That’s because people are not gods. No matter how special some individuals may think they are, they don’t have the ability to understand the world on their own, establish rules of good conduct on their own, impose the highest standards of conduct on their own or avoid the temptations of laziness on their own.

Brooks seems not to have heard of Bertrand Russell. Russell was born into the aristocracy in an aristocratic age and could easily have lived a life of indulgence in the privileges of his class. Instead, he became a socialist and ran for Parliament on the Labour ticket. He opened a progressive school, and served time in prison for protesting against the First World War. In 1961, at the age of 89, he was arrested again for demonstrating against nuclear weapons. Along the way, Russell wrote seventy books, 20,000 letters, and innumerable articles and essays. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature, and is recognized as one of the leading philosophers of the 20th Century. Agree or disagree with Russell, you will still have to admit that he was by no means lazy and that he imposed high standards on himself and tried very hard to live up to them. He also made a pretty fair effort to understand the world. Russell required neither the bribery of heaven nor the threat of hell to accomplish these things.

Well, Brooks might concede, Russell was a very special case. The vast majority need much firmer guidance if they are to achieve great things. Discipline means doing what you do not want to do when you do not want to do it and few people have the inner resources to impose such a regimen on themselves. Even the apparently pointless rules have their purpose:

Rigorous codes of conduct allow people to build their character. Changes in behavior change the mind, so small acts of ritual reinforce networks in the brain A Mormon denying herself coffee may seem like a silly thing, but regular acts of discipline can lay the foundation for extraordinary acts of self-control when it counts the most.

Actually, what such acts reinforce is not so much self-control but unquestioning and unhesitating obedience. This is why military training imposes such detailed and stringent rules governing the minutiae of personal appearance and behavior. If your sergeant lets you get sloppy about making your bed or tucking in your shirt, then you might hesitate when ordered to charge up Hamburger Hill. Clearly, in combat you have to have people who will obey orders instantly and without question. I’m not so sure this is a virtue in the vast majority of other situations. A religion that can get you to not drink coffee, or not eat oysters, or take ritual baths after menstruating, or wear your hair in funny dangling curls, or never shave your beard, or not uncover your face in public, or…will have an easier time getting you to strap on a bomb and set it off on a crowded bus.

This last point is the obvious reply to Brooks. You want heroic acts of self-sacrifice? Isn’t this what the suicide bomber is doing? The families and communities of successful suicide bombers celebrate them precisely as heroes whose supreme devotion has led them to the ultimate act of self-sacrifice. Heroic acts of terrorism are just the flip side of heroic acts of compassion. Give me the pluralistic, mushy
, muddle-headed, tolerant, easygoing religion any day. Such namby-pamby religions may produce fewer Mother Teresas than the fierce old creeds, but they will also generate fewer Osama bin Ladens.

Still, Brooks thinks that the creeds give us the guidance of ancient wisdom:

Rigorous theology provides believers with a map of reality. These maps may seem dry and schematic—most maps do compared with reality—but they contain the accumulated wisdom of thousands of co-believers who through the centuries have faced similar journeys and trials.

Really? If the Mormon beliefs represent the accumulated wisdom of ages, then I would have to say that the doctrines of Scientologists and Raelians do also.

Actually, here Brooks is probably thinking not of LDS beliefs but something like the Nicene Creed. Is the Nicene Creed a “map of reality?” Much of it hardly seems intelligible. Consider this part:

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, light from light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father;

Huh? Does Brooks, or anyone, really understands what homoousios (“of one Being”) really means? Besides, all creeds are social constructs, and reflect not eternal verities but the contingencies of local circumstance at the place and time of their formulation. The politics of the Constantinian age had more to do with the Nicene formulations than any dictates of Scripture or reason. The whole wording of the Creed’s Christological pronouncements, “…eternally begotten of the Father…Light from Light, true God of true God…of one Being with the Father” is a consequence of the acrimonious dispute between rival theologians Arius and Athanasius. This dispute was as much political, social, cultural, and ethnic as it was religious and, like all such disputes, was ultimately about power. Constantine wanted a united Church to consolidate his power. When people recite the Nicene Creed in church they are giving voice to a political manifesto of the Fourth Century. Of course, apologists will say that the “right” side won in those ancient disputes, but had the Arians won their present day defenders would be saying the same thing.

The upshot is that Brooks may well be right that, for instance, Catholicism is more effective in inspiring heroic acts of self-sacrificial devotion than, say, Unitarianism. I wonder, though, did Unitarians ever burn anyone at the stake?

bookmark_border“ReasonFest” in Lawrence, KS

The University of Kansas Society of Open-Minded Atheists and Agnostics is putting on a two-day festival May 6-7th. The first annual ReasonFest features a debate between Dan Barker and John-Mark Miravalle on “Does God Exist?” and a full day of secular speakers including Darrel Ray, Tom Clark, Hemant Mehta, James Underdown, and Annie Laurie Gaylor.

For more information, see the media release, a promo video, or a facebook notice.

bookmark_borderTo hell with the Democrats

The first US national election I got to vote in was 1988. I was disgusted with Reagan, and worried about the 1980s incarnation of the religious right. So I voted Democratic, and they lost.

In the 1992 presidential elections, I voted Democratic again. I was now thoroughly sick of the American right wing. The Democrats won: we got Clinton, Republican-lite. That was an improvement, I suppose. The Religious Right had less direct influence. Still, it was a center-right government, and all I ended up was being pissed off to a lesser degree. I cast a protest vote in 1996.

In 2000 it was back to the Democrats again. As always, the Republican alternative presented the prospect of turning too much power over to the loonies, particularly the Religious Right. And so it turned out to be, in many ways.

2004, Democrats for another loss. By 2008, I was so sick of the disastrous Bush era that I swallowed my dislike of yet another center-right Democrat and went for Obama.

In all midterm elections I have voted Democratic. I have always lived in reliably Republican or reliably Democratic districts, so my congressional votes have been irrelevant. But I did it anyway.

Now 2012 looms. I face the prospect of voting for yet another neoliberal Democrat whose policies are Republican-lite. And the only reason I can see for that is, yet again, that while the Democrats might be terrible, the Republicans are insane.

No matter who wins, business and financial interests will dominate government. Maybe the plutocratic factions that invest in the Democrats will be less Neanderthal than those who back the Republicans. Maybe the corporate looting will proceed at a slower pace under a second Obama term.

No matter who wins, church-state separation will continue to erode. Maybe with the Democrats we’ll get more inclusive, multicultural public endorsements of superstition.

No matter who wins, the US will continue its wars and its imperial madness, while threatening civil liberties back home. Maybe with Democrats—no, scratch that, it’s not worth even pretending that Democrats will be less hawkish or less prone to torture.

No matter who wins, a significant probability of environmental catastrophe looms. Maybe with Democrats we can postpone the collapse of civilization for a few more years. Maybe even until I’m dead. We certainly won’t do anything to avert catastrophe. That might interfere with someone making money.

Right now I’m sick of everything. There is little prospect that any of the interests I identify with will get represented to more than a token degree.

I accept that politics has to be about compromise. The lesser evil. Half a loaf. But for decades now I’ve been getting crumbs with shit mixed in.

So I’ve had enough. Yes, I’m a secular liberal socialist atheist evolutionist, and I understand that it is political poison for a candidate for office in the US to be associated with any of these things. But if a party wants my vote—or praise, or effort, or donations—it had better do something more substantial in line with my secular liberal socialist atheist evolutionist sensibilities. Otherwise, if I still vote for them anyway, I contribute, in however minor a fashion, to my own marginality.

Right now, Democrats have no incentive to take the concerns of people like me seriously. Perhaps this is because we are a politically insignificant minority. If so, maybe our efforts are best directed toward improving this situation, and just loyally voting for Democrats does not help. And if there is a significant secular liberal etc. etc. constituency, well, I suspect we have been stupid for not putting pressure on the Democrats. Withhold support, and perhaps Democratic hacks will notice an incentive to do more for us.

In any case, I’m done. I don’t think I can vote again for, say, Obama, while retaining my self-respect.

bookmark_borderBritish imam in trouble for defending evolution

The New Scientist reports on a British imam (prayer leader) who is in hot water in his religious community because he defended evolution as being compatible with a non-literally interpreted Quran.

A few notes:

  • I would guess that Usama Hasan defends a version of guided evolution—intelligent design through common descent. Even watered-down compromises like guided evolution are very controversial in some Muslim communities.
  • Explicit (rather than unconsidered default) creationism tends to be stronger in immigrant Muslim communities rather than majority-Muslim countries. The overtones of violence are there precisely because it is a British setting.

bookmark_borderCan it add up?

One thing I appreciate about more conservative varieties of supernatural belief is that it is, sometimes, false. Oh, ordinary religion has plenty of vagueness, indeterminacy, and various unclarities of meaning. But it also has enough anthropomorphism, allegedly historical stories, and similar linkages to ordinary cognition that, with some work, it can be patched up to achieve some form of intelligibility.

What follows is disappointing, since invariably such supernatural-claims-made-respectable turn out to be false. Wildly incongruous with modern science. Often, bronze-age superstition. Maybe even rank pseudoscience. But still, there is something good here. There is something nice and clean about falsehood.

But set that aside. Also set aside the religious thinking that is modern and sophisticated but also disconnected from any reality checks. (This gets rid of a lot of theology, but who wants to deal with anything so boring?) Maybe, after all that, there still are a few God-friendly intuitions that both have some possible connection with reality and some degree of academic respectability. Here are a few candidates:

  • Dualism, or some other kind of claim about the irreducible specialness of the mental that does not describe itself as dualism but still looks an awful lot like dualism,
  • Platonism, mathematical and otherwise, and allied with dualism or otherwise,
  • Hard moral realism, belief in objective prescriptive moral truths etc.,
  • Intelligent design-lite, in the sense of creativity ultimately not residing in a mindless physical world even though common descent is correct,
  • . . . Add your own . . .

Now, I think all such notions are mistaken. Seriously wrong. I am capable of getting more pissed off when I see Platonism among physicists than conventional religion. (Religion is a cultural thing. What’s the excuse for the more distilled bullshit you get only out of an intellectual tradition?)

But that’s a separate rant. What I don’t get is this: if I’m totally wrong (not unknown) and such notions are in some sense correct, what would it all add up to?

I understand that all this is relevant. Any one would undermine the most ambitious forms of naturalism or physicalism, which I consider the most serious threats to theism. So, just by clearing away some rivals, they could help make some version of supernatural God-belief more plausible.

But on the other hand, they add up to nothing remotely close to a supernatural God. It’s quite possible to have atheists who are dualists, or Platonists, or defenders of hard objective morality, or whatever. They are atheists with whom I have serious disagreements. But then, disagreement and disunity among nonbelievers is hardly anything new.

So again, even if some of the anti-physicalist intuitions that retain some degree of respectability were to suddenly start looking a lot more persuasive, I don’t see this as adding up to much in the way of support for God in any conventional sense.

bookmark_borderBrian Leiter on boycotting Synthese

I don’t consider the Intelligent Design movement of much intellectual interest anymore. It remains, however, fascinating from a political and cultural point of view.

So, make what you will about this latest political flap. The ID movement has brought some influence to bear on a usually well-respected philosophy of science journal, Synthese. Brian Leiter describes a boycott effort being organized as a consequence.

This is likely to remain largely an issue in academic circles. Still, it bears watching.

bookmark_borderThe Problem with Metaphysical Naturalism (According to Victor Reppert)

Victor Reppert and I have had a long series of exchanges (thirty five years) dating back to when we were both graduate students at Emory University. I do not think that we would come to agreement even if we were granted another thirty five years to debate, but I am determined at least to get clear on the grounds of some of our disagreements. As always, philosophical debate is impeded by the slipperiness of definitions. You think that you have ably refuted an opponent’s claim that X is Y, and he replies, “Ah, if I had meant by “X” and “Y” what you mean, your argument would succeed, but what I mean by “X” and “Y” is…” And so it goes, if not ad infinitum, at least ad nauseam. Could souls be natural entities? Well maybe if by “natural” you mean… Let me try then to draw a definitional line in the sand so that Victor and I can avoid frustration and not pull out the little hair each of us has left.
metaphysical naturalism (MN) is like the slogan “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”: “The causes of effects in the natural world stay in the natural world.” The “natural world” (which I also call “the physical universe”), in its broadest characterization, I understand to be space/time itself plus the matter and energy it contains and the fundamental laws that hold within this totality. MN as I understand it holds (1) that the total cause of any effect that occurs in the physical universe is also part of the physical universe (or perhaps just is the whole physical universe), and so the physical universe is causally closed. (2) The physical universe itself, in its most general, fundamental, or primordial features neither has nor needs a cause. (3) Putative non-physical entities, like Platonic forms, might exist, but they have no power to cause anything in the natural world.

I am a metaphysical naturalist (I am also willing to call myself a physicalist or a materialist). I think the simplest characterization of
If Victor is willing to accept my characterization of MN, perhaps we can spell out clearly some of the reasons he thinks that MN is unacceptable. Based on what he says in our most recent exchange, and in many earlier communications, I think that he objects that MN cannot account for four fundamental features of our mental lives:
It seems to me that a physical explanation, if we are sticking with standard definitions and are not expanding the notion of the physical to include things it doesn’t traditionally include, our concept of what it is for something to be a physical explanation, at least at the base level of analysis, is for it to lack four “mentalistic” characteristics. First, the explanation at the base level cannot include a purpose. Second it cannot include any intentionality. What a physical state is about cannot enter into the base-level explanation. Third, it cannot include any reference to normativity. No piece of matter, in the last analysis, goes where it goes because it ought to go there. Fourth, a naturalistic explanation of a material state cannot contain any reference to a first-person perspective.
He further adds that on the hypothesis of naturalism: “…the base level [of causation] is causally closed. This doesn’t mean that it’s deterministic, it means that nothing outside the physical system can affect where a particular atom goes, whether it’s an atom in a rock or an atom in a brain.”
I agree with everything Victor says in the two above quotes. I take it for granted that the brain’s activities, like any other physical effects, can be explained entirely in physical terms. In explaining neurons and their incredibly complex interactions, we will of course make no reference to purpose, intentionality, norms, or first-person experiences—no more than we would in explaining supernovae or the immune system. Yet, as Searle says, our conscious mental life is defined by its qualitative, intentional, and first-person aspects. As I have previously indicated, I see any attempt to deny, diminish, or dismiss the reality of consciousness as deeply pathological, bordering on derangement. Victor reminds me that eliminativists and behaviorists (who did deny, diminish, or dismiss the givens of consciousness) were trying to be consistent naturalists. There is something heroic (or maybe quixotic) about the attempt to buy consistency at the price of denying the undeniable—kind of like a theist who would attempt to circumvent the problem of evil by denying the existence of evil.
Besides, the mock-heroics of eliminativists and behaviorists were totally unnecessary. Can a naturalist consistently countenance explanations in terms of purposes, reasons, norms, etc.? I think so. Consider two alternative accounts of how Sam acquired a belief:
Why does Sam believe that Congressman Ryan’s budget proposals are ludicrous and cruel? Because he read Paul Krugman’s editorial making the argument that those proposals are ludicrous and cruel, and these arguments convinced Sam. Sam was swayed by Krugman’s deft use of logic and command of the economic facts in showing that the Ryan proposal would not alleviate the deficit, and would serve chiefly to further enrich the already fabulously wealthy while adding an extra burden of misery to those already miserable. Sam was particularly impressed by Krugman’s citation of reliable sources such as the Congressional Budget Office. Is this a legitimate explanation of why Sam believes that Congressman Ryan’s budget proposals are ludicrous and cruel? Absolutely. Let’s call this “explanation A.”
Now consider another, far more complex and unfamiliar explanation of why Sam believes that, etc. Actually, it will be an explanation-sketch, since it will be extremely incomplete: From time T1 to time T2 Sam’s brain was in a succession of active states, S1…Sn where that succession of brain states completely realized a succession of mental states, M1…Mn culminating in a mental state, Mn, which was Sam’s conscious conviction that Congressman Ryan’s budget proposals are etc. Each of those brain states S1…Sn will be complexly caused, being conditioned in part by other internal brain states and by the brain’s interaction, via the optic nerve, with light that has reflected from newsprint. That reflected light stimulates the production of nerve impulses in the eye which are carried by the optic nerve to the brain’s visual cortex, where it is complexly processed in intricate connection with other areas of the brain. Now
, supposing that this explanation-sketch could be filled out to a reasonable degree of completeness (like events inside a tornado, brain events may be too complex to model completely) would this be a legitimate explanation of why Sam believes that Congressman Ryan’s budget proposals are, etc.? Absolutely. Let’s call this “explanation B.”
I think what really divides us is that Victor holds that explanation A is incompatible with explanation B and I do not. Which of us is right? Victor is right if explanations A and B are mutually exclusive causal explanations of why Sam has his belief. I am right if they are causal explanations but do not mutually exclude. Alternative causal explanations need not compete. Why is it raining hard? Because the atmosphere at cloud level was saturated and the temperature dropped sharply causing the moisture to precipitate rapidly. Another explanation is that a strong cold front collided with a warm, humid, and unstable air mass generating strong thunderstorms. These accounts invoke different causal mechanisms, but are not mutually exclusive, and, indeed, are complementary.
Another possibility is that explanation A and explanation B do not mutually exclude because, though they both are explanatory, one is a causal explanation and the other is not, so they do not make competing claims about what caused Sam’s belief. Not all explanations are causal explanations, not even in science. The classic Hempel/Oppenheim deductive-nomological (DN) model of scientific explanation is a non-causal account. On the DN model, a natural occurrence is explained by subsuming it under a broader nomological. The orbital period of a particular natural satellite is explained by showing that this motion is predicted by Kepler’s Third Law of planetary motion, and by the appropriate initial conditions (the satellite’s distance from the sun). In short, this regularity is explained by showing it to be an instance of a broader regularity; no mention is made of the cause of the planet’s orbital motion. So, might it not be that one of the explanations of Sam’s belief is causal, and the other is non-causal, and they do not make competing claims?
Explanation B is obviously causal. My view is that explanation A is causal too, though in an indirect manner and we have to be very very careful to specify just what is doing the causing. When we say that Sam was convinced by Krugman’s arguments it seems to me perverse to attribute some very (I think in-principally) mysterious kind of causal power to the sense or propositional content of Krugman’s arguments. Attributing causal powers to Fregean Sinn (meaning), if this is what Victor wants to assert, just seems to me a straightforward category mistake. It is like saying that the set of all integers broke the deadlock between NFL players and owners. No, to say that Sam was convinced by Krugman’s arguments means that Sam considered Krugman’s claims, examined the supporting reasons, weighed them in the light of prior knowledge and norms of good reasoning, and judged that these were persuasive. However, considering Krugman’s claims, examining the supporting arguments, evaluating them, and judging them to be persuasive are things that Sam does with his brain, and happenings in Sam’s brain, being physical events, can cause things.
But if Sam’s belief is to be rational, must it not be Krugman’s reasons that convinced him, and is this not, ineluctably, to make a causal claim about the efficacy of those reasons in bringing about Sam’s agreement? No. The reasons qua propositional content (which are abstract objects) did not make Sam believe. Reasons qua propositional content can have no more causal powers than the least prime greater than one billion. Reasons have no causal power but reasoning does. Reasoning is something we do with our brains; it is an activity, a brain activity, just as doing jumping jacks is an activity of our moving limbs. The reasoning process, being fully realized in brain processes can have, qua physically realized, causal efficacy as much as any other physical process. Recognizing that Krugman’s arguments are cogent causes the recognition that his conclusion is supported. Recognizing is a physical process that can cause other recognitions.
But when asked why we believe something, don’t we typically cite reasons, and speak of these reasons as being the cause of our beliefs: “Yes, it was the reliable facts and figures Krugman cited, such as the report of the Congressional Budget Office, that led me [or maybe “compelled me” if I was initially skeptical of his claim] to accept his conclusion.” Terms like “led” and “compelled” imply causes. Yes, we do normally speak this way, as do I. But if I were being philosophically punctilious, I should say that it was not the reasons themselves that compelled me but my becoming aware of those reasons that compelled me—and becoming aware of reasons is something that the brain does.
For these reasons, I see explanations A and B as complementary and not competitors. Indeed, the chain of reasoning that caused Sam to reach his conclusion would be realized in that succession of brain states, S1 to Sn mentioned in explanation B. Now I am sure that absolutely nothing I have said here will settle anything between Victor and me. For one thing, Victor says that physical processes underdetermine mental ones. How does he know this? Has anyone observed two brains in an identical physical state but with different mental states? All the evidence—ALL—seems to support the claim that physical processes are necessary and sufficient for the mental. Where are the counterexamples? Saying “God” or “the soul” would obviously beg the question against me since I see no evidence whatsoever for either of these putative entities.