In the comments of my post on materialism, Ken B. lives up to the stereotypical materialist better than anyone could have hoped. Among his other claims, he said that dualism offers not a single testable prediction, whereas materialism is falsifiable. (If I misread him, I will retract these statements, but I’m pretty sure that’s what he said.) So I first asked Ken to tell me what kind of evidence would convince him that materialism is wrong.
Think about that for a second. Right now, just about everybody agrees that the materialist approach doesn’t offer a satisfactory explanation for consciousness and free will, in the same way that reductive materialism has “explained” thunder and lightning in terms of more basic physical properties. Furthermore, as the Feser’s discussion of Nagel suggested, there is a very compelling reason to think that even in principle reductive materialism can’t be applied to conscious experience, since some of us at least think by its very nature, conscious experience isn’t a physical thing. For example, when you “explain” the color red by reference to photons, you’re not saying that the photons are red. Instead you’re replacing what we mean by “red” with something else. There is a definite sense in which this very approach might not work when it comes to conscious experience.
So, whether you find what I just said compelling or not, my point is this: If this current state of affairs–where materialists haven’t yet come up with a satisfactory theory of consciousness/mind, and there are philosophical arguments held by many brilliant thinkers that suggest in principle it can never be done–isn’t sufficient to make one abandon materialism, then what would? It would be ironic if the hardcore “scientific minds” out there, are adhering to a non-falsifiable worldview that they adopt because it just suits their prejudices more than dualism does.
As far as predictive power, I said this:
OK Ken, I predict that if the attorney general of New York moves his vocal chords to create sound waves that correspond to the frequencies that you would hear as “we will fine gas station retailers $10,000 if they charge above $2/gallon,” then within 24 hours there will be large masses of organic material in hulking objects that are powered by combustion engines queuing up near certain latitude/longitude coordinates that I will specify beforehand. These are genuine, falsifiable predictions I will make for you. I am thinking you can’t come up with the same thing by relying on neuroscience.
Oh wait, this is cheating. You don’t mean this kind of thing, because “we all know” about this stuff. You’re talking about seeing an electric signal telling my hand to twitch before I realize I am trying to give you the finger. That’s what “mind” is all about.