Some defence of substance dualism

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Yesterday I read this blog post https://ian-wardell.blogspot.com/2024/03...e.html?m=1 which is in itself a defence of substance dualism against “Ralph Lewis's Arguments against an Afterlife” (posted on psychologytoday.com). Ralph partially bases his attack on substance dualism using the classic argument of the Conservation Laws of energy and momentum:

Quote:Dualism so fundamentally contradicts the foundations and entire accumulated evidence of modern science that in order for it to be true, we would have to start rebuilding modern science from the ground up. If dualism turned out to be true, it would also be a complete mystery or fluke as to how most of our advanced technologies (including all of our electronics) work at all, since their design and engineering are based on the very principles that would necessarily be entirely invalidated if dualism were true.

This argument is ancient and were already formulated back in the days of Leibniz who wrote more than 200 years ago

Quote:… two important truths on this subject have been discovered since M. Descartes’ day. The first is that the quantity of absolute force which is in fact conserved is different from the quantity of movement, as I have demonstrated elsewhere. The second discovery is that the same direction is still conserved in all bodies together that are assumed as interacting, in whatever way they come into collision. If this rule had been known to M. Descartes, he would have taken the direction of bodies to be as independent of the soul as their force; and I believe that that would have led direct [sic] to the Hypothesis of Pre-established Harmony, whither these same rules have led me. For apart from the fact that the physical influence of one of these substances on the other is inexplicable, I recognized that without a complete derangement of the laws of Nature the soul could not act physically upon the body

I have been doing some digging on the Internet and found this interesting article from 2020 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9038821/ where the author examines the strength of the “Conservation Laws” argument. He concludes from theoretical reasoning that modern understandings of conditionality and locality in conservation laws show that conservation laws are not absolute but conditional on certain assumptions, which are often not met in scenarios involving immaterial influences such as those proposed by substance dualism. More specifically he reasons:

Conditionality:
Conservation laws, like energy conservation, hold true in closed systems without external influences. If an external influence, such as a non-physical mind, interacts with a physical system, the system is no longer closed.
Therefore, it is incorrect to assume that energy conservation must hold in the presence of such external influences. The objection that dualism violates conservation laws assumes without proof that these laws apply universally, even when there is an external influence, which is a question-begging assumption.
Locality:
Conservation laws are fundamentally local, meaning they apply at each point in space and time, not just globally across the entire universe.
This locality means that if a non-physical mind acts on a body, the energy or momentum might not be conserved in that local interaction, but this does not imply a global failure of conservation laws.
The interaction might result in local non-conservation, but this can be very small and localized, not affecting the broader physical systems significantly.
Combining Conditionality and Locality:
Because these conservation laws are conditional and local, their apparent violations due to mind-body interactions might be minor and not easily detectable. This means that minor, localized non-conservation events caused by immaterial influences don't necessarily lead to catastrophic failures in physical theories.
In a physical system influenced by a non-physical mind, what is observed as energy non-conservation locally (such as in a brain) does not imply that energy is not conserved globally. The localized effect might be within the tolerances of physical laws as understood in broader contexts.
Therefore, the modern understanding of conservation laws as conditional and local implies that the common objection to dualism based on these laws does not hold up because it fails to consider these nuanced aspects. This nuanced understanding shows that dualism does not necessarily violate conservation laws in a way that would falsify it. Instead, these laws simply don't apply universally in the same way when external influences are considered, allowing room for dualism without the supposed fatal flaw of violating fundamental physics.

I understand this reasoning is difficult to digest, but it indicates that it’s not straight forward to dismiss substance dualism by basic physics.

The author of the article eventually concludes that the strongest arguments against substance dualism derives from neuroscience (which I’m personally rather skeptical about) and then for obscure reasons I don’t understand, general relativity.

Ralph Lewis also makes other points which Ian addresses in his blog post. I just wanted to deep dive into the argument regarding the conservation laws with this post.
(This post was last modified: 2024-06-05, 04:13 PM by sbu. Edited 5 times in total.)
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I don't find the idea of universal laws existing without a Law Giver very convincing so this doesn't seem like a serious objection.

I also am unconvinced science would have to be built from the ground up, at least on the applied side. The materialist faith that tries to claim science would be destroyed though...
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


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(2024-06-05, 04:33 PM)Sciborg_S_Patel Wrote: I don't find the idea of universal laws existing without a Law Giver very convincing so this doesn't seem like a serious objection.

I also am unconvinced science would have to be built from the ground up, at least on the applied side. The materialist faith that tries to claim science would be destroyed though...

Electronics depends fundamentally on the conservation laws. They are very much in the realm of applied technology.
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(2024-06-05, 04:54 PM)sbu Wrote: Electronics depends fundamentally on the conservation laws. They are very much in the realm of applied technology.

Electronics are not going to turn off or go on the fritz just because we accept Survival though?

The regularities can be good enough to apply in certain cases and not others. We know the world [or at the least certain aspects of it] is [are] largely predictable, even with the foundations of this universe resting on quantum indeterminism.

It just seems like hyperbole that we cannot accept that the world has certain rules that apply only in particular contexts, when we already do this for QM vs GR?
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


(This post was last modified: 2024-06-05, 05:28 PM by Sciborg_S_Patel. Edited 1 time in total.)
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(2024-06-05, 05:28 PM)Sciborg_S_Patel Wrote: Electronics are not going to turn off or go on the fritz just because we accept Survival though?

The regularities can be good enough to apply in certain cases and not others. We know the world [or at the least certain aspects of it] is [are] largely predictable, even with the foundations of this universe resting on quantum indeterminism.

It just seems like hyperbole that we cannot accept that the world has certain rules that apply only in particular contexts, when we already do this for QM vs GR?

I tend to ignore the energy conservation argument and the supposed impossibility of interaction of the physical brain with a nonphysical mental substance, because these are theoretical considerations which appear to conflict with what I consider to be an overwhelming body of actual evidence for interactive dualism, found primarily in NDEs but also with some other psychical phenomena. These phenomena behave very much as would be predicted by interactive dualism. I think that evidence and observation always trumps theory, and that the theory needs to be changed if there is a conflict. These theoretical objections only count if every one of the multitude of NDEs with verifying evidence associated with them can be dismissed as erroneous misperceptions, coincidence, fraud, etc., which is exceedingly unlikely. And there are very many well verified cases of the reincarnation type (CORTs) which also behave very much as if interactive dualism is the case. Remember the old observation by William James that finding just one white crow proves the existence of white crows.
(This post was last modified: 2024-06-05, 08:32 PM by nbtruthman. Edited 2 times in total.)
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Very interesting, @sbu. I think Ian does a good job in his blog post, and the 2020 article you dug up was enlightening, although I skimmed a lot of the maths, being very rusty at it.

I think your summary of his reasoning is pretty good, albeit that he doesn't seem to like framing things in terms of "closed systems" as you do: "One sees the value of talking not about closed systems, but about symmetries (implying conservation laws) or violated/broken symmetries (not implying conservation laws): it is difficult to say whether a physical system potentially subject to mental influences is “closed” (that being a distinction not intended for the philosophy of mind), but it is perfectly clear that such a physical system lacks the symmetries of time- and space-translation invariance in the regions of mental influence."

It seems to be a minor objection though - a quibble even - because I think we all know what is meant by the "closed systems" framing in this context - and I even used a variant on it briefly recently in a similar context in another thread, writing that "probably most of us here don't hold to the causal closure of the physical anyhow".

This article fleshes out the bare bones of the sense in those sentiments, as also expressed by Ian in his blog post, and it's satisfying to see that at least according to the author they are technically correct and can be demonstrated to be such via rigorous mathematical formulations.

(2024-06-05, 04:02 PM)sbu Wrote: The author of the article eventually concludes that the strongest arguments against substance dualism derives from neuroscience (which I’m personally rather skeptical about)

I'm skeptical too, but I haven't thought carefully enough about it to be able to put flesh on the bones of that skepticism. How about you?

(2024-06-05, 04:02 PM)sbu Wrote: and then for obscure reasons I don’t understand, general relativity.

Yep, he didn't go into detail about that one so it's no wonder we didn't understand. He did provide a reference in the conclusion which maybe is worth checking out, although I very much suspect it would be far too technical for me.
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So Dualists think the brain is a physical object, subject to physical laws...but the mind/soul/psyche is another type of substance that isn't subject to said laws...

Does this mean, as Ian says, that Dualism lives and dies on some kind of quantum effect occurring in the brain that "bubbles up", so to speak, as classical level observations at the neuronal level?

It seems like a restrictive way of looking at Consciousness, Survival, Causation, etc...
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


(This post was last modified: 2024-06-06, 06:20 PM by Sciborg_S_Patel. Edited 1 time in total.)
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(2024-06-06, 07:44 AM)Laird Wrote: I think your summary of his reasoning is pretty good, albeit that he doesn't seem to like framing things in terms of "closed systems" as you do: "One sees the value of talking not about closed systems, but about symmetries (implying conservation laws) or violated/broken symmetries (not implying conservation laws): it is difficult to say whether a physical system potentially subject to mental influences is “closed” (that being a distinction not intended for the philosophy of mind), but it is perfectly clear that such a physical system lacks the symmetries of time- and space-translation invariance in the regions of mental influence."

I think 'closed system' is the classical term used to describe energy and momentum conservation, dating back to Newton, but it can be a bit vague. In the more formal Lagrangian description of classical mechanics, it can be proven mathematically that certain symmetries lead to conservation laws. Informally, I believe we are talking about the same concept.

(2024-06-06, 07:44 AM)Laird Wrote: I'm skeptical too, but I haven't thought carefully enough about it to be able to put flesh on the bones of that skepticism. How about you?

When I said I was skeptical, I was mainly referring to the massive failures of neuroimaging (fMRI). I'm not sure what neuroscience has contributed in debunking substance dualism that doesn't already arise from common experience about the relationship between the mind and the brain.

(2024-06-06, 07:44 AM)Laird Wrote: Yep, he didn't go into detail about that one so it's no wonder we didn't understand. He did provide a reference in the conclusion which maybe is worth checking out, although I very much suspect it would be far too technical for me.

I think the discussion goes off on a tangent when General Relativity is brought into the conversation. However, it's a great reminder that the world is much more complex and non-intuitive than it appears at first glance.
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(2024-06-06, 06:19 PM)Sciborg_S_Patel Wrote: Does this mean, as Ian says, that Dualism lives and dies on some kind of quantum effect occurring in the brain that "bubbles up", so to speak, as classical level observations at the neuronal level?

Yes substance dualism depends on a mechanism for the nonphysical mind to both alter and read the state of e.g a human brain.
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(2024-06-06, 10:01 PM)sbu Wrote: Yes substance dualism depends on a mechanism for the nonphysical mind to both alter and read the state of e.g a human brain.

But is this by necessity something that must be connected to the QM level?

I supposed, to some degree, almost all proponent positions would be strengthened by the necessary (but insufficient) correlate-of-consciousness in the brain to be at the level of quantum biology.

However I think this idea of a very lawful, mechanistic physical universe and a spiritual being that is free from said laws feels like an odd combination. It seems better for both Psi and Survival if this universe and the spiritual universe are not so distinct in nature.

Heck, even this suggestion that something at the quantum level - the foundational level of matter AFAIK - is influenced by the activity of the soul is suggesting there is a causal continuity between matter & mind. Is the idea here that every spirit has some minimal PK ability, but can only shift particles at the QM level?
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell



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