Élan Vital and Panpsychism

Élan vital is the hypothetical “life force” that was postulated to explain the differences between living and non-living systems. Self-organization, regeneration, metabolism, replication, evolution -- prior to modern biology, these phenomena were utterly mysterious. Immanuel Kant famously said, “There will never be an Isaac Newton for a blade of grass.” In 1907, Henri Bergson coined … Continue reading Élan Vital and Panpsychism

The Argument from Design and Fine-Tuning

“Everything in the world is made just so that we can manage to live in the world, and if the world was ever so little different we could not manage to live in it.” Fine-tuning These days, nearly a century after Russell delivered his famous address, Why I Am Not A Christian, we would call … Continue reading The Argument from Design and Fine-Tuning

Russell on the First Cause Argument

As Russell describes it, the First Cause argument goes “everything we see in this world has a cause, and as you go back in the chain of causes further and further you must come to a First Cause, and to that First Cause you give the name of God.” He first points out that causation … Continue reading Russell on the First Cause Argument

The Natural Law Argument

Laws imply a law-giver. Nature obeys laws. Therefore, there must be a natural law-giver. Bertrand Russell responded to this argument in his famous speech, Why I Am Not A Christian, “[T]he whole idea that natural laws imply a law-giver is due to a confusion between natural and human laws. Human laws are behests commanding you … Continue reading The Natural Law Argument

Bertrand Russell on Two Moral Arguments for God

Euthyphro One moral argument, says Russell, “is to say that there would be no right or wrong unless God existed.” He invites us to grant, for the sake of argument, that morality is real and objective in some sense. “The point I am concerned with is that, if you are quite sure there is a … Continue reading Bertrand Russell on Two Moral Arguments for God

Wolves, Dogs, and Belyaev’s Foxes

In the 1950s, the geneticist Dimitri Belyaev succeeded in domesticating the Russian silver fox. His work was described by The New York Times as “arguably the most extraordinary breeding experiment ever conducted,” and according to Scientific American’s Jason Goldman, Belyaev “may be the man most responsible for our understanding of the process by which wolves … Continue reading Wolves, Dogs, and Belyaev’s Foxes

Panpsychism: “Show me the evidence!”

A common response to panpsychism is some variation of “Show me the evidence!” “If you make a factual claim, you must provide empirical evidence…” The problem of consciousness is unlike all other problems because consciousness is unobservable. And not for the same reason that postulates like electrons are unobservable, but we’ll get to that later. … Continue reading Panpsychism: “Show me the evidence!”