About Francis Collins and the NIH

For quite a long time I have tended to avoid directly addressing current politics.  It is not that I’m uninterested in politics per se; it’s that I think think that so much of the debates that go on here in the U.S. about politics tend toward disagreements that amount to almost nothing.  I just do not see much difference between the two big parties, and when I watch or listen to the pundits the rhetoric is almost exclusively “X is evil because s/he belongs to party Y.”  I find that pretty dull and uninteresting.  However, it has been pointed out to me that much of my writing lately has gotten very close to being political.  I suppose that is true, though it has nothing to do with party lines or anything so lame.  I suppose I’m interested in “bigger” issues.  Those bigger issues are about what I was thinking when Liza first sent me the New York Times piece written by Sam Harris, “Science Is in the Details,” an article the deals with Francis Collins being nominated to head up the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

In the past couple of days since I read it, several people have responded to this article or to the nomination of Collins in general, so it is unlikely that anything I’m saying here is novel, but I guess I feel compelled to chime in regardless.  For anyone who does not already know, Francis Collins is a top-notch geneticist who headed up the Human Genome Project.  As a scientist, much of his work deserves high praise.  Also, his leadership of the HGP showed his skill as leader of a large organization whose goals were important, whose work was difficult, and whose budget was immense.  Those qualifications would make him a natural choice for heading up the NIH.

Collins is also an evangelical Christian.  This position has led him to write a book entitled The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief. It is Collins’ evangelical leanings that have many people uncomfortable with his heading up the NIH, and, looking at his exact position in detail, it is not difficult to see why.

(For anyone here thinking that Collins is a standard Creationist or even a proponent of Intelligent Design, I should point out that this is not the case.  He fervently asserts that we are evolved creatures, and that the standard positions in I.D. of irreducible complexity and specified complexity are false, though he does find the notion of a fine-tuned universe persuasive).

The fact that Collins is a Christian, even an evangelical Christian, is not a problem to me.  However, it is disconcerting to me that the director of the NIH would hold some of the explicit beliefs that Collins does.  In the linked article by Harris the content of five PowerPoint slides is presented (the entirety of the lecture in question can be seen here).  The third slide reads:  “After evolution had prepared a sufficiently advanced ‘house’ (the human brain), God gifted humanity with the knowledge of good and evil (the moral law), with free will, and with an immortal soul.”  As a philosopher of mind and a proponent of science in general, I find such an assertion terribly troubling.  There is nothing in the dominant theories of mind that would support this, and there certainly is nothing in the sciences, especially neuroscience, that would support any such thing.  This seems to be a ridiculously twisted version of substance dualism, but not one with which I am readily familiar.  As such, I am baffled as to how anyone would justify such a position beyond mere blind faith.  And this is something the possible head of the NIH is espousing.  That should set off alarm bells for everyone.

So, what is really the problem here?  Well, besides the fact that it is a wildly unscientific proposal, something that should be troubling in itself coming from the possible director of one of country’s dominant scientific organizations, such a belief would seem to be in conflict with the genuine science that is going on in terms of the mind/brain.  How might the director of the National Institutes of Health decide to handle new research that deals with the actual work coming out of the neurosciences, especially in terms of mental illnesses, if that person believes that the mind is something other than the brain?  Surely it would be bizarre to suggest that altering brain chemistry would alter the soul, or that one’s knowledge of good and evil is somehow affected by brain structure, if those things are the result of some divine and non-physical “spark” placed there by God.  So, what would a person in such a position do with the research programs that explicitly state otherwise by attempting to treat such issues by dealing with the physical structures of the brain and the brain’s chemistry?

One possibility is that such a person might ignore their religious beliefs and proceed on the actual science and evidence pertaining to the issues in question.  But the problem is that there is no guarantee that this person would do any such thing.  In fact, if one takes these beliefs seriously, and Collins, as an avid apologist and Christian author, certainly seems to take this seriously, then such projects as those suggested would be a waste of time and money.  Further, there are possible avenues of benefit to those areas that would appear to be available to such a person, namely prayer and  meditation on God’s Word and Laws.  If it is true that, as Collins asserts, the human brain is merely a “house” for the mind and not the mind itself, then doing anything other than trusting in and praying to God would be foolish, or worse, a failure of faith in God.  This means that for those of us who take neuroscience and science-based psychology to be the best means available for dealing with issues of the mind the best we can hope is that Collins fails to live up to his duty to God and puts his faith aside.  This seems to be a dim hope.  Certainly, this might be what happens, in fact probably will be what happens, but it seems to be a strange thing indeed to hope that a person fails to do what he believes is right.  Rather, it seems as though it would be best to have someone in place would would be doing the right thing by using the best means available to deal with the problem.

Because of the above, I cannot help but be troubled by the potential appointment of Collins, or anyone like him, to the directorship of the NIH.  I find it strange that there are those out there who would ever want such a person in such a position at all.

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9 Responses to “About Francis Collins and the NIH”

  1. James Gray Says:

    He said that God gave us a soul and knowledge of good and evil. That doesn’t mean that there is no mind-body interaction. Even Descartes admitted that the mind and body interact.

    His belief is not necessarily a problem for science if (a) he is a scientific instrumentalist or (b) he thinks metaphysics is irrelevant to science.

    I am not convinced that it is necessary for all scientists to be materialists in order to be good scientists.

    • Jim Says:

      First, anyone who thinks that metaphysics is irrelevant to science doesn’t understand metaphysics in the least. Until I have evidence suggesting that such is the case I won’t be the uncharitable to Collins.
      How the mind and body interact is such a problem for Cartesian dualism that it was immediately attacked, and no legitimate resolution has ever been offered, so offering up Descartes as some sort of supporting authority is no help whatsoever. Unless you have some mechanism that explains how such interaction can occur, you really don’t have a leg to stand on as there is a perfectly good explanation available that explains every issue without the need to invoke an immaterial soul, namely that the mind and the body are the same thing.
      You do have to be at least a methodological naturalist to be a good scientist, and I just don’t see how you can hold even that position when you claim that there are things that science can’t explain, like the mind. If science can’t touch it, then it can’t touch it. It’s that simple. So if science can’t explain the mind, then attempting to understand or fix the mind using science is at best misguided and at worst an explicit rejection of one of Collins’ admitted articles of faith.

      • James Gray Says:

        I don’t know that science can “fix” the mind. When did that ever happen? However, we can try to repair the brain and help it heal. If the mind and body interact, that can be a good idea.

        You claim that Descartes and dualists are incoherent. That might be true, but so what? If the mind is too metaphysical for science, then we can just talk about the brain instead, and incoherent metaphysical beliefs would be irrelevant. Also, it isn’t clear that anyone’s metaphysical beliefs are entirely coherent. Is there some kind of strong metaphysical theory? For the most part philosophers don’t want to do metaphysics because it is notoriously bad philosophy. Instead, they would prefer to be agnostic or undecided in regard to metaphysical facts.

        A good materialist will not completely deny the existence of the mind and will end up with some kind of quasi-dualism. Searle, for example, says that the mind is exactly what it seems to be, but it is somehow physical anyway. That is still a kind of dualism. There are different kinds of physicality.

        I am not a dualist, but I suspect that they might argue that the natural sciences are irreducible. We can’t reduce chemistry to physics without auxiliary premises. We can’t reduce the mind to other scientific fields in that same way. Whether or not the mind is material or something else is still up to debate.

        Right now science is pretty careful about making metaphysical claims about the mind. Psychology is no longer supposed to be a science of the soul.

        Do you deny that it is possible to be a scientific instrumentalist? Do you think everyone has to be a scientific realist to be a good scientist?

        • Jim Says:

          I guess I want to say this as nicely as I can, and I don’t mean that in any sort of condescending way: it seems pretty clear you don’t have a good idea of what metaphysics is. I’m not at all clear what you think it is, but it’s definitely not that, so I don’t have a good way to respond to your issues with metaphysics and coherency. You can absolutely have a coherent metaphysics, and the mind is not “too metaphysical” for science. Saying that that the mind is the brain is an assertion about ontology, and that’s in the field of metaphysics. So saying the mind is the brain is a metaphysical assertion. Moreover, there are any number of metaphysical positions within science in general. I just don’t know how to address this except to say that you might want to do some research on metaphysics within legitimate philosophy.
          If the mind is the brain, and if by “fix” we mean bring into normal ranges, then science can absolutely come up with ways to fix the mind. That should be obvious. We do this all the time.
          Searle is not a dualist, but, so you know, his position is not popular. At all. So it isn’t helpful to use him as a defender of some position. That said, again, he is categorically not a dualist. He is explicit about that. For him, the mind is the brain, and only brains can be minds. There is not some extra thing there, so there is no dualism.
          I teach philosophy of mind for a living, and I have no idea what you mean when you say “There are different kinds of physicality,” in reference to the mind or anything else.
          Yes, you can be an instrumentalist. That has nothing to do with my point. No materialist theory of mind could in any way describe the mind, even merely as a pragmatic position, if you know what the mind is, it is non-physical, and it is something that you explicitly say that science can’t reach.

  2. James Gray Says:

    “I guess I want to say this as nicely as I can, and I don’t mean that in any sort of condescending way: it seems pretty clear you don’t have a good idea of what metaphysics is.”

    Why do you think I don’t know what metaphysics is?

    Keep in mind that there are different uses of the word metaphysics. You want there to be one definition and that is great, but that’s not reality.

    Instrumentalists in particular want to keep science away from metaphysics. Do you deny that?

    “I’m not at all clear what you think it is, but it’s definitely not that, so I don’t have a good way to respond to your issues with metaphysics and coherency. You can absolutely have a coherent metaphysics, and the mind is not “too metaphysical” for science. Saying that that the mind is the brain is an assertion about ontology, and that’s in the field of metaphysics. So saying the mind is the brain is a metaphysical assertion.”

    Yes, you don’t think the mind is too metaphysical for science, but psychologists tend to think it is. They do not say the brain is the mind. That is totally false. I also don’t know anyone who thinks the mind is the brain. If that is popular metaphysics, then popular metaphysics is incoherent with everyday experience. Qualia is not something you can find in the brain.

    “Moreover, there are any number of metaphysical positions within science in general. I just don’t know how to address this except to say that you might want to do some research on metaphysics within legitimate philosophy.”

    I have, but I don’t know what in particular you think is the most legitimate. I am familiar with Kripke, philosophy of the mind, the free will debate, etc.

    “If the mind is the brain, and if by “fix” we mean bring into normal ranges, then science can absolutely come up with ways to fix the mind. That should be obvious. We do this all the time.”

    Yes. This is a qualified statement and I don’t think many psychologists would agree that the brain is the mind.

    Also, what do you mean we do it all the time? When have we ever fixed a mind? What does that even mean to you?

    “Searle is not a dualist, but, so you know, his position is not popular. At all. So it isn’t helpful to use him as a defender of some position. That said, again, he is categorically not a dualist. He is explicit about that. For him, the mind is the brain, and only brains can be minds. There is not some extra thing there, so there is no dualism.”

    This is false. Searle does not think the mind is the brain. Where did you come up with that? I took Searle’s Philosophy of the Mind class at UC Berkeley. You are the one confused about his position.

    That said, Searle is not a substance dualist. However, there are dualistic elements within his philosophy of the mind. He admits that qualia is real. Consciousness is unified within space and time and it is full of tickles and itches just like it seems.

    “I teach philosophy of mind for a living, and I have no idea what you mean when you say “There are different kinds of physicality,” in reference to the mind or anything else.”

    I mean that a materialist does not have to say that everything is reducible atoms and energy. Consciousness as understood involving experiences, a first person point of view, and so on, can be physical. It just wouldn’t be physical in the naive sense that everything is reducible to atoms and energy (or strings, or what have you.)

    “Yes, you can be an instrumentalist. That has nothing to do with my point. No materialist theory of mind could in any way describe the mind, even merely as a pragmatic position, if you know what the mind is, it is non-physical, and it is something that you explicitly say that science can’t reach.”

    My point was that you are turning this into a black and white issue. Dualists admit that there is a mind-body connection. Their metaphysical beliefs might just be some kind of wild fantasy that would have almost no bearing onto their work whatsoever.

    You see it as black and white in the following way: You can be a materialst or a dualist. If you are a materialist, you think you can fix the mind because of the mind-body interaction. If you are a dualist, you must deny the mind-body interaction, so you can’t try to fix the mind.

    This is false because dualists admit that there is a mind body interaction. Their decision to be dualists might be inconsistent, but their belief in the mind body interaction is stronger and better justified than their belief in dualism. To ask a dualist to reject the mind-body interaction would be a “missing the point fallacy.” They should reject dualism, not the belief in the mind-body interaction. The fact that they don’t reject dualism might be proof that they are committing an error in judgment, but that doesn’t mean that dualists all give up on trying to cure mental illness.

    • Jim Says:

      I think you don’t know what metaphysics is because you talk about it like you don’t know what it is. There may be pop uses of the word, but you’re using it in the context of philosophy, and there it’s one of the main branches of philosophy. It’s right there with epistemology, logic, and ethics. There isn’t some big debate about this. There might be pop usages of ‘logic’ as well, but in the context of philosophy, philosophers know what it means, and they use it the same way. You made the statement “For the most part philosophers don’t want to do metaphysics because it is notoriously bad philosophy.” That shows that you clearly don’t know what metaphysics is. All philosophers do metaphysics. It can’t be avoided.
      Your question about instrumentalists is missing my point again. Collins isn’t an instrumentalist at all. He’s a realist. He thinks genes are real things. He thinks molecules are real things. He thinks all those entities are real things. He also think the soul is a real thing, that the soul is where reasoning goes on, and science can never reach the soul. There is nothing instrumental in that.
      Psychologist do not tend to think the mind is “too metaphysical” for them. If you have some idea what the mind is, then you have a a metaphysics of mind. I don’t know any psychologists that don’t. The dominant theory of mind in psychology today is functionalism. That’s the dominant ontological position. Next is probably identity theory, and there are even some behaviorists still running around. The least popular position is substance dualism. Those are all positions concerning the metaphysics of the mind.
      If you’ve read Kripke, a lot of phil of mind stuff, and a lot of free will stuff, and yet you think that those aren’t rife with metaphysical concerns, then I don’t think you understood what you were reading. Clearly, something has gone wrong. You can’t do philosophy at all and ignore metaphysics. You surely can’t do phil of mind, free will stuff, or deal with anything in Kripke and not deal with metaphysics.
      Most psychologists are functionalists who think that our minds are instantiated by brains. In that vein, minds need not necessarily be brains, but they must be something physical. Just like a chair might be made of wood, plastic, steel, rubber, quartz, etc, but it must be made of something, else it wouldn’t be able to function as a chair. So, while minds might also be instantiated by something else, say silicon chips or some goo in an alien’s “head,” it does require a physical instantiation, and for us that’s the brain. The identity theorists think the mind simply is the brain in the sense that they are numerically identical. Those are the two dominant positions. So you’re simply wrong in asserting that most psychologist don’t think the mind is the brain.
      We fix minds when we bring the various elements in brains into normal levels. That’s the entire goal of everything from traditional therapy to psychopharmacology. I don’t know what you think is going on when people take the various drugs prescribed to them by psychiatrists or when they get therapy from psychologists.
      If you took a class from Searle, and you think that he doesn’t think the mind is the brain, then I’m going to suggest that you misunderstood his position. Searle’s biological naturalism is spelled out by himself in detail and has received much criticism from others. It would be quite simple for you to go read about it. But, like I said, Searle’s position is not popular within phil of mind. Also, Searle believing that qualia are real does not entail that he is a dualist. Again, he is quite explicit that the mind is material, so substance dualism is ruled out, and he even wrote a paper entitled “Why I Am Not a Property Dualist,” so that rules that version of dualism out as well. I don’t know what “dualistic elements” you want to put on Searle, but being pretty familiar with his work and his temperament, I am certain he would not appreciate such at all.
      You can be a materialist and think that the mind is technically irreducible to the parts that make it up. But that need not in any way mean that you think it is something non-physical, and it certainly need not entail any kind of dualism. If consciousness is an emergent property, then you might suggest that it can’t be explained by reference to it’s parts, that the whole is greater than the sum of those parts, but that need not mean that there is something more to it than those parts. The “mousetrapness” of a mousetrap is not to be found in the wood, spring, cheese, etc, but that doesn’t mean that there is something to the mousetrap beyond those things. It just means that when those things are arranged in a certain way you get mousetraps. More and more I think you just have misunderstood your mind class with Searle, as that is just the kind of thing that he would say. But if you got from that that there needs to be something beyond that, that such means that there are “different kinds of physicality,” then you misunderstood him.
      I’m not turning this into anything. I’m accepting Collins’ position at face value. He says that our reasoning goes on in our soul, and our soul is beyond the reach of science. There is no way to get around that. That clearly means that the reasoning part of us, our minds, is beyond the reach of science! There is nothing instrumental about that position, and your continued attempts to turn this into an issue with instrumentalism is a red herring.

      • James Gray Says:

        “I think you don’t know what metaphysics is because you talk about it like you don’t know what it is. There may be pop uses of the word, but you’re using it in the context of philosophy, and there it’s one of the main branches of philosophy. It’s right there with epistemology, logic, and ethics. There isn’t some big debate about this. There might be pop usages of ‘logic’ as well, but in the context of philosophy, philosophers know what it means, and they use it the same way.”

        Really, just like “knowledge” means the same thing for all philosophers?

        “You made the statement “For the most part philosophers don’t want to do metaphysics because it is notoriously bad philosophy.” That shows that you clearly don’t know what metaphysics is. All philosophers do metaphysics. It can’t be avoided.”

        You think I don’t know what metaphysics is just because you think I said something false about philosophers? Sorry, but it is quite possible to have false beliefs concerning a term even when you know what it means. To fail to know what a word means requires that we use it inappropriately. How did I do that?

        It is true that metaphysics has a growing interest in philosophy, but philosophers would rather not do metaphysics when it can be avoided. The anti-metaphysical attitude peaked with Hume and continued with the Logical Positivists. (They have little to do with logic in the philosophical sense. They must be using it in the “pop” sense.)

        Also, didn’t Kant show that metaphysics is a waste of time? The “thing in itself” can’t be known. (OK, maybe he didn’t prove it, but he is part of the skeptical tradition towards metaphysics.)

        And yes metaphysics can be avoided quite a bit by accepting a pragmatic/instrumental view of knowledge. Scientific knowledge in particular.

        “Your question about instrumentalists is missing my point again. Collins isn’t an instrumentalist at all. He’s a realist. He thinks genes are real things. He thinks molecules are real things. He thinks all those entities are real things. He also think the soul is a real thing, that the soul is where reasoning goes on, and science can never reach the soul. There is nothing instrumental in that.”

        Then you missed my point. I said that dualism might not interfere with science as long as the dualists are instrumentalists. If Collins is not an instrumentalist, then we have more reason to believe his dualism might interfere with his scientific decisions.

        “Psychologist do not tend to think the mind is “too metaphysical” for them. If you have some idea what the mind is, then you have a a metaphysics of mind. I don’t know any psychologists that don’t. The dominant theory of mind in psychology today is functionalism. That’s the dominant ontological position. Next is probably identity theory, and there are even some behaviorists still running around. The least popular position is substance dualism. Those are all positions concerning the metaphysics of the mind.”

        You might be right about this, but I am not convinced. The mind is not fully understood by psychologists. They do not try to tell us what “love” really is or anything like that. They might be functionalists, but do psychologists require everyone accept functionalism? I think psychology itself requires very few metaphysical commitments. There might be some, but not much.

        “If you’ve read Kripke, a lot of phil of mind stuff, and a lot of free will stuff, and yet you think that those aren’t rife with metaphysical concerns, then I don’t think you understood what you were reading. Clearly, something has gone wrong. You can’t do philosophy at all and ignore metaphysics. You surely can’t do phil of mind, free will stuff, or deal with anything in Kripke and not deal with metaphysics.”

        I never said philosophers never do metaphysics. You are transforming what I said into a black and white statement. Philosophers try to avoid metaphysics, but it might be unavoidable to some extent. Yes, the philosophy of mind is a metaphysical philosophy. I have taken classes on metaphysical philosophy, but that doesn’t mean all philosophers take it seriously. Not all philosophers are thrilled with the philosophy of mind.

        “Most psychologists are functionalists who think that our minds are instantiated by brains. In that vein, minds need not necessarily be brains, but they must be something physical. Just like a chair might be made of wood, plastic, steel, rubber, quartz, etc, but it must be made of something, else it wouldn’t be able to function as a chair. So, while minds might also be instantiated by something else, say silicon chips or some goo in an alien’s “head,” it does require a physical instantiation, and for us that’s the brain. The identity theorists think the mind simply is the brain in the sense that they are numerically identical. Those are the two dominant positions. So you’re simply wrong in asserting that most psychologist don’t think the mind is the brain.”

        No, functionalism doesn’t say the mind is the brain. It’s a simplification and you know it. Most philosophers wouldn’t say “the mind is the brain.”

        However, if this is supposed to be a clarification of what you meant by, “the mind is the brain” that is fine.

        I agree that the mind is physical, but I don’t think it is just brain processes or a function of them, or tokens or whatever. The mind might be an emergent system feature of the brain instead. Anyway, that is somewhat irrelevant to the topic I guess.

        “We fix minds when we bring the various elements in brains into normal levels. That’s the entire goal of everything from traditional therapy to psychopharmacology. I don’t know what you think is going on when people take the various drugs prescribed to them by psychiatrists or when they get therapy from psychologists.”

        Drugs are meant to correct chemical imbalances, but they tend to cover symptoms rather than cure the actual problem. I need more proof that they have actually “fixed” someone’s brain with drugs.

        “If you took a class from Searle, and you think that he doesn’t think the mind is the brain, then I’m going to suggest that you misunderstood his position. Searle’s biological naturalism is spelled out by himself in detail and has received much criticism from others. It would be quite simple for you to go read about it. But, like I said, Searle’s position is not popular within phil of mind. Also, Searle believing that qualia are real does not entail that he is a dualist. Again, he is quite explicit that the mind is material, so substance dualism is ruled out, and he even wrote a paper entitled “Why I Am Not a Property Dualist,” so that rules that version of dualism out as well. I don’t know what “dualistic elements” you want to put on Searle, but being pretty familiar with his work and his temperament, I am certain he would not appreciate such at all.”

        The mind is a system feature of the brain. If the mind is the brain, then you suggest that he says that “the brain is a system feature of the brain.” Obviously that isn’t right.

        Also, he believes in free will. It’s not randomness and it’s incompatible with determinism. The mind for him is a whole new way physicality can be manifested. So we have two different ways physicality can be manifested. That is a kind of dualism of the physical.

        “You can be a materialist and think that the mind is technically irreducible to the parts that make it up…. But if you got from that that there needs to be something beyond that, that such means that there are “different kinds of physicality,” then you misunderstood him.”

        I am using the word “kind” loosely. There are parts of the world that have free will, qualia, etc. These are completely different properties than the other parts of the world have. I call that a different kind of physicality. What do you want to call it?

        “I’m not turning this into anything. I’m accepting Collins’ position at face value. He says that our reasoning goes on in our soul, and our soul is beyond the reach of science. There is no way to get around that. That clearly means that the reasoning part of us, our minds, is beyond the reach of science! There is nothing instrumental about that position, and your continued attempts to turn this into an issue with instrumentalism is a red herring.”

        No, you just missed my point. Instrumentalism could save dualists from being scientifically inconsistent. If he isn’t an instrumentalist, that is his loss.

        Now you ignored my big point to your entire article and I will explain it in more detail:

        The big point here is just that Collins and other dualists are incoherent. Here is what I take to be your argument:

        1. Collins is a dualist.
        2. Dualists can’t accept that the mind and brain interact.
        3. If a dualist can’t accept that the mind and brain interact, then they can’t accept progress in abnormal psychology.
        4. Therefore, Collins can’t accept progress made in abnormal psychology.

        My point is that premise 2 is false. Dualists are simply incoherent. They accept that the mind and body interact more than they accept dualism. They would reject dualism before they would reject the mind-body interaction.

        Here is an analogy to your argument against him:

        1. Christians believe that justice is served after death within an afterlife.
        2. Christians can’t accept that death is bad. (Anyone who believes that justice is served after death within an afterlife has no reason to see death as a bad thing.)
        3. If Christians can’t accept that death is bad, then they can’t reject murder.
        4. Therefore, Christians can’t reject murder.

        Again, this argument seems to have the same problem that I think yours has. It assumes people have to be coherent. Most Christians accept that murder must be rejected more than just about anything else they believe. They would reject that death leads to an afterlife before they decide not to reject murder.

        Of course, some Christians end up committing the “missing the point” fallacy and think murder is a good idea. That is not normal and it is a complete failure of rationality.

        • Jim Says:

          There’s so much to go through here, and I don’t have the time to hit it all. The whole first section I can reply to by simply reasserting that you still don’t have a grasp of what metaphysics is. Again, I’m not sure what you think metaphysics is, but it’s clear to me from the way you talk about it that it isn’t that. There’s just so much confusion in what you’ve said that I wouldn’t even know where to begin.
          One thing that is important to clear up is that I never said that substance dualists don’t think there can be mind/body interaction (though some don’t). Many do. The point of my reply to you was that there is no way to justify that position, and this has been recognized explicitly since Descartes. But that’s really tangential to the point of my post. The point of my post was that Collins can’t think that the research programs put forward by neuroscientists or science-based psychology for the purpose of learning about the mind could do any such think. He doesn’t think the mind is the brain, hence neuroscience will never get you any knowledge about the brain. He is explicit about this. Moreover, he says that such knowledge is beyond the reach of science. He doesn’t hedge that; he is explicit. It is that position that I was highlighting and suggesting might be worrisome.

  3. More on Francis Collins’ Nomination to the NIH « Apple Eaters Says:

    […] on Francis Collins’ Nomination to the NIH August 5, 2009 — Jim Since my initial post on Francis Collins’ nomination for director of the National Institutes of Health, even more […]


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