Dialog With MTA President Lincoln Cannon


Cris: Lincoln, In your H+ Interview you stated that “Mormons typically believe that, after death, we continue to exist spiritually while awaiting the resurrection, when we will regain physical bodies.” However, you have also stated that you are a philosophical materialist. These two ideas are contradictory. How can one exist “spiritually” if materialism (everything is matter) is true?

Also you stated that “76% of Mormon Transhumanists identify as theists, and many of the others think God just doesn’t exist yet.” I suppose that means that 24% of Mormon Transhumanists are indeed atheists. You seem to lean that way from your comments here. Are you an atheist Lincoln? Does God exist… yet?

Lincoln: Hi Chris. I am a theist (google for “New God Argument”), and I consider spirit to be information, which always requires a material substrate.

Cris:  You offer information as an alternative to an immaterial spirit. But what is information made of?

I suppose it is true then that 24% of the Mormon Transhumanist Association  members are atheists?

(continued in the comments section)

About Cris Putnam
Logos Apologia is the ministry of Cris D. Putnam. The mission of Logos Apologia is to show that logic, science, history and faith are complementary, not contradictory and to bring that life-changing truth to everybody who wants to know.

Comments

  1. Information is relational — material symbols within material symbols, indefinitely.

    Most of the non-theist members of the MTA are agnostic; if I recall correctly, about 5% are atheist.

    • Cris Putnam says:

      If spiritual existence is merely information which is an “indefinite series of material symbols.”

      What sort of “material” are the symbols made of?

      Also you are implying an infinite regress. This controverts science as general relativity theory posits that the space time continuum had an absolute beginning.

      How is an infinite regress possible? Is the universe eternal?

  2. Spirit is not merely information. It is information. The “mere” suggests things I do not agree with.

    Symbols are made of all possible materials. The words you are reading now are symbols. You are a symbol.

    I am not necessarily implying an infinite regress. I use “indefinite” intentionally. It may or may not be infinite. Whether it’s infinite (or rather indefinitely expansive) may be observer-dependent — not just a matter of discovery, but also a creative act.

    That aside, infinite regress does not necessarily contradict contemporary cosmology. Any given verse of time and space may be embedded in another, and so on indefinitely. There are relative beginnings, at least, but it may be that even God does not know whether there was an absolute beginning.

    Cosmologically and philosophically, I am a pluralist. I posit an eternal multiverse. I consider monism a hypothesis less worthy of my trust, and I suspect empowered trust can make a difference in reality.

    • Cris Putnam says:

      Spirit is not merely information. It is information. The “mere” suggests things I do not agree with.

      I argue that symbols by definition represent something else. For instance, these words are symbols for ideas. Ideas are immaterial thus materialism is false.

      Symbols are made of all possible materials. The words you are reading now are symbols. You are a symbol.

      My name is a symbol for me. I am not a symbol, I am a person. Again symbols represent concepts and ideas like the number one. It is not a material entity it is an immaterial concept. Thus, materialism is logically incoherent.

      I am not necessarily implying an infinite regress. I use “indefinite” intentionally. It may or may not be infinite. Whether it’s infinite (or rather indefinitely expansive) may be observer-dependent — not just a matter of discovery, but also a creative act.

      Actually you are implying an infinite regress unless you ground the “indefinite series of material symbols” with something ultimate. Yet you haven’t; so your statement amounts to meaningless nonsense. You offered this as an explanation as to how dead persons survive without bodies until they are resurrected. If they are stored information how do you propose they are stored and in what medium?

      That aside, infinite regress does not necessarily contradict contemporary cosmology.

      But it does contradict rationality. Why is there something rather than nothing? If there is anything at all (I think there is) then something ultimate must have the power of being within its self. Effects need causes and God is a reasonable and adequate cause for the beginning of the universe.

      Any given verse of time and space may be embedded in another, and so on indefinitely. There are relative beginnings, at least, but it may be that even God does not know whether there was an absolute beginning.

      This is like Hinduism and eastern mysticism. As a minimal belief, Christians believe in a creator God (Gen 1:1). It seems that you deny another very basic tenet of classical Christianity : Creation. It is not an optional belief if you call yourself Christian. For symbols like the word “Christian” to have any meaning – basic definitions must be accepted. If no one agrees what a symbol stands for then it does not symbolize anything. It is meaningless. This is why I object to you calling yourself a Christian. You defy the basic core beliefs of Christianity. If one accepts your claim, they make the word meaningless.

      Cosmologically and philosophically, I am a pluralist. I posit an eternal multiverse. I consider monism a hypothesis less worthy of my trust, and I suspect empowered trust can make a difference in reality.

      Yet you claim philosophical materialism. When you trust, you make a decision in your consciousness. Yet consciousness is not material. Your beliefs seem rationally incoherent.

  3. D says:

    I must say that was an incredibly creative way of not answering the question…

    Either “spirit” and “matter” are two fundamentally different things, (and by definition are quite antithetical of one another), or, somehow they are extensions or manifestations of the same “stuff”, or one an extension of the other, or however that might be thought to work…

    In the end, you really do have to pick one explanation over the other… (because falling back on a position of infitite “multiverses” and relative beginnings, and Gods who may or may not know anything, is basically the same as having no position…)

    You may as well have answered by saying “I don’t know, and I don’t know if we can even really know anything at all…”

  4. Mormon scripture and sermons from Joseph Smith include the notion that spirit is fine matter in contrast to element as coarse matter. I consider that an approximation of, or metaphorical hand pointing the way to, the more modern idea that spirit is information. Information is not immaterial. Ideas are not immaterial. Where there is no matter, there is no information. Where there is no anatomy, ideas cannot be formulated. Likewise, spirit is not immaterial. Mormon scripture also includes the notions that spirit and element combined (not spirit alone) are the soul, and that spirit is in and through all things — not just in humans and not even just in living things.

    You touch on, as if uncontroversially concluded in accordance with your own perspective, the ages old debate between rationalism and empiricism. In addition to being a Mormon and a Transhumanist, I am a pragmatist of the Jamesian sort: a radical empiricist, to the point of considering even the monistic assumption on which rationalism is based to be only a hypothesis, contrasting with my preferred working hypothesis of pluralism. Some mistake this for relativism. It’s not. However, it does entail that objectivity is something like shared subjectivity rather than something like the opposite of subjectivity (as an aside, I think there are important moral ramifications to this distinction).

    Contrary to your insistence, I am neither implying nor rejecting an infinite regress. I am honestly assessing the sitation as unknown at least to me, and also to the point that I suspect it may be unknowable even for God. The working hypothesis of pluralists (at least this pluralist) is that there is no final answer to such questions. Whether we live in an absolute universe or an indefinite multiverse, we will never know. That’s my position.

    Pluralism does not contradict all forms of theism. It does contradict the form of theism that trusts in a God that created everything from nothing. It does not contradict the form of theism that trusts in a natural God that became God through natural means, suggesting how we might do the same. The God in which I put my trust created our world and is more benevolent than us. So far as I’m concerned, the superlatives attributed to God should be considered practical approximations relative to us.

    I don’t know how dead persons will be resurrected, but I trust they will be and that we should make reasonable efforts eventually to participate in the process. Speculative mechanisms come to mind. On the one hand, perhaps our spirits are recorded by God into backups outside our time and space, and perhaps we could learn to access these somehow to engineer a resurrection. On the other hand, perhaps our spirits are recorded into the structure of our own time and space with sufficient detail that we could engineer resurrection via an omega point or quantum archaeology (google the terms for more info).

    • Cris Putnam says:

      There’s too much there to address at once I would like to try to understand what you mean by this: “Information is not immaterial. Ideas are not immaterial.”

      What led you to that conclusion? Please explain, what material they are made of?

      BTW radical empiricism is self refuting and necessarily false.

  5. It’s a pragmatic working hypothesis. I cannot disprove the existence of that which is immaterial, but I also don’t see any practical value in positing that which is immaterial, and I see all kinds of practical value in positing empirical material access to everything. Assuming things to be inaccessible can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, and assuming things to be accessible can also be a self-fulfilling prophecy. I don’t see value in limiting ourselves by the prophecy of inaccessibility.

    • Cris Putnam says:

      Your mind is not your brain, your mind is an immaterial reality and it is accessible. Whatever connection there might be between mental states such as beliefs, thoughts, and feelings on the one hand, and brain-states on the other, the connection is not identity.

      Your assumption of inaccessibility is also false. Mental events cause physical events; for example, your decision to stamp on my foot causes your foot to land rapidly on mine. Physical events also cause mental events; for example, your foot landing on mine causes me to feel pain. There are laws that govern mind-body interaction. Mental and physical events are correlated.

      You really didn’t answer the question. “What led you to that conclusion?”

      Unless your answer is only pragmatism?

      “I also don’t see any practical value in positing that which is immaterial”

      What sort of material is “practical value” made of?

  6. Cris, while I don’t share your hypothesis that your mind is immaterial, I do agree that mind is more than the sum of brain parts. Mind is a particular organization of brain parts AND other organizations (still quite material) beyond the brain. We are more than brains. We think and feel with our entire anatomy and even its environment. There is no evidence and can be no evidence for your hypothesis of immaterial causes. That doesn’t mean you’re wrong, but it does mean that it doesn’t matter, except to the extent that the hypothesis itself is material in your thoughts, words and actions.

    What led me to the conclusion that spirit is material? Pragmatism. For practical reasons, I posit that everything is material, or at least that everything is empirically accessible. The alternative is consenting to inaccessibility, which is a practical detriment.

    Some materialists appeal to things-in-themselves beyond experience. I don’t. Rather, I ultimately reject the necessity of an absolute matter/experience or element/spirit or substrate/information dichotomy. Substrate can be information on another substrate. Spirit and element can be inseperably connected. Matter can be that which is experienced, and experience can be material. So there are subsets of materialists and empiricists with whom I disagree, as I disagree with immaterialists and rationalists — although, I’ll add, I could agree with immaterialism and rationalism understood in a particular way, but it would require consent that matter need not exist.

    • Cris Putnam says:

      “Mind is a particular organization of brain parts AND other organizations (still quite material) beyond the brain.”

      **What does this mean? What “other organizations”? What is the material they consist of? Hot fudge? Helium atoms? Beyond the brain where? Seriously, what is your evidence for this belief?

      “There is no evidence and can be no evidence for your hypothesis of immaterial causes.”

      **Not so. Reasoning is evidence. Brain-states have a specific location; mental states do not. Brain-states are as they are independent of any perceiver; mental states are not. Consciousness is something more than a physical process.

      “What led me to the conclusion that spirit is material? Pragmatism. For practical reasons, I posit that everything is material, or at least that everything is empirically accessible. The alternative is consenting to inaccessibility, which is a practical detriment.”

      **I already demonstrated why the immaterial mind is not inaccessible. Pragmatism entails the giving up of objective grounds for testing beliefs. Everything is viewed as in constant flux, and as a means rather than an ultimate end. The result is the most radical kind of subjectivism and relativism. Which does explain how you can live with holding such contradictory beliefs. However, in the real world it’s just not pragmatic to be a philosophical pragmatist.

      **Pragmatism claims that truth is defined as what is useful, what works, or what has good practical results. But it is possible to show that certain statements we know to be false on independent grounds are “true” on pragmatic grounds. If “true” and “useful” are synonymous, then after one says, “X is useful,” it should make sense to say, “X is true.” But of course there are a myriad of examples of useful fictions such as Mormon theology.

      **I’m still waiting for an answer for what kind material ideas are made of.

  7. Cris, as mentioned previously, we think with not just our brains, but with our whole bodies and even their environments by extension. Some books I recommend on this subject are “Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain” and “I am a Strange Loop”. Our minds, our anatomies and our environments are all information patterns in substrates, which themselves may be information patterns in substrates, and so on. There may be a final substrate, but assuming we’ve found it would be detrimental to the search for another. No matter how insistent you are, there is no evidence and can be no evidence for immateriality, of consciousness or anything else. Likewise, I cannot prove in any final way that all aspects of your conscious experience are material, but I assume they are so that I can continue to investigate them empirically. I see no value in the immaterialist hypothesis, unless everything is immaterial; and I see even less value in the rationalist hypothesis, unless everything is mind. If everything is immaterial mind then I’m an immaterialist rationalist. Otherwise, I’m a materialist empiricist. In neither case because I can disprove the alternative, but in both cases because the alternative is practically detrimental. Finally, I’ll add that your assessment of pragmatism is a straw man. If there is something we “know to be false on independent grounds” then it is false because it didn’t work in experience. As I mentioned before, pragmatism is not relativism, although that’s a common misunderstanding.

    • Cris Putnam says:

      There’s evidence from philosophy as I have shown and more importantly in God’s revelation in the Bible as I have pointed out. You do not even pretend to take God’s word seriously. Yet you accept the word of atheistic materialist philosophers on faith. You accept the dubious Mormon scripture and occultic ramblings of Joseph Smith when it is convenient for your transhumanism ambitions. This speaks volumes Lincoln.

      “If there is something we “know to be false on independent grounds” then it is false because it didn’t work in experience. As I mentioned before, pragmatism is not relativism, although that’s a common misunderstanding.”

      Not so, suppose a patient fears he has cancer. He visits a doctor, who runs tests. Sure enough, cancer is present. However, knowing the mental state of the patient, the doctor tells him that there must be surgery but that there is no cancer. The patient comes through the operation with flying colors. The lie has clearly “worked.” Therefore, on pragmatic grounds the lie must be true. Pragmatism undermines all truth – it is relativism. It also undermines the basis for all of morality. Hitler and Stalin are fine examples of pragmatists.

      I think its clear enough where you stand Lincoln. Thanks for sharing your beliefs. I hope one day you will repent and accept the Gospel. I made this video a while back. Think about it…

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