Monday, December 7, 2020

Review of the Philosophy Book, War of the Worldviews by the Phyisicist Leonard Mlodinow and Spirituality leader Deepak Chopra

War of the Worldviews: Where Science and Spirituality Meet--and Do Not

This book shows great potential. Consider the depth of the worldview questions that Chopra and Mlodinow answer based upon their counter views of Reality!

How Did the Universe Emerge?

Is the Universe Conscious?

Is the Universe Evolving?

What is the Nature of Time?

Is the Universe Alive?

What Is Life?

Is there Design in the Universe?

What Makes us Human?

How Do Genes Work?

Did Darwin Go Wrong?

What Is the Connection Between Mind and Brain?

Does the Brain Dictate Behavior?

Is the Brain Like a Computer?

Is the Universe Thinking Through Us?

Is God an illusion?

What Is the Future of Belief?

Is There a Fundamental Reality?

And Mlodinow’s explanations are lucid, detailed, and measured. Chopra less so, though he makes a few good points that show the weaknesses of Mlodinow’s worldview, Naturalism.

The huge problem elephant in the room is Chopra’s ‘Spirituality” an Asian religious philosophical worldview, basically a non-organized Hinduism shorn of ritual and mythology based mostly in the Upanishads. He not so subtly fails to explain the central essence of his beliefs-- that all is God.

Though he hints at it by quoting the famous statement in the Upanishads that Reality is ‘THAT’; we humans are THAT! A famous rock group in the late 1960’s wrote a New Age song with that key line as its chorus.

In shocking contrast, Mlodinow’s “Reductionist” view diminishes the human species to only physical particles, though he tries to avoid the nihilism of many modern hard atheist/materialists by being civil in his responses and trying to present a humanistic view of the human species.

But he never explains how IF mind only comes from the brain, and the brain from mindless and meaningless evolution, and at the microlevel reality is deterministic, how in the cosmos can humans have any significance, how can “wonder” and “caring,” exist except as illusions, etc. How can humans have any worth, be more than particles moving about?

At the same time I was listening to the Audible version of this book, I read an intriguing review of British philosopher Christian List’s book, Why Free Will Is Real, and also listened to a deep interview with him by Michael Shermer of Skeptic Magazine.

Though, at times List is also unclear how one can avoid the opposite abysses of Scylla versus Charybdis—all is aware Mind versus all is meaningless atoms-- at least he does explain a middle way.

Like the famous astrophysicist George Ellis, and other non-reductionists, List explains the key is to realize higher-level activities in reality can’t be reduced to only microlevel atoms (like materialists and other reductionists attempt to do).

For instance, it’s the case of comparing physics at the microphysical level where only atoms are moving about with in contrast, the physicist at the conscious aware level wo is taking a break and deciding whether or not to have tea or coffee:-).

Or think how different only atoms physically determined reality is from at a far more complex different level, a psychologist helps an emotionally disturbed human to choose to change his destructive habits.

Or how different only atoms in a materialistic reality is from at the more complex level where an architect plans whether or not to use steel and glass on the front side of a new office building.

Obviously, the latter 2 examples of humans making choices can’t be reduced to only the movement of deterministic atoms from the Big Bang.

List’s view of reality is very different from both the “Conscious Mind of the Universe” of Chopra and the hard materialism of Mlovodov.

While Mldodov presents his case more moderately than such as Sam Harris with his podcast “Tumors All the Way Down,” the claims seem to be essentially the same-- only atoms are real, not human value and worth, and alternative and creative choices.

Those are illusions. And Jerry Coyne who claims that a human who “chooses” to murder or rape couldn’t have done otherwise since all atoms at the physical level of Reality determines everything.

Overall, though War of Worldview is worth the read, I was dissatisfied with both worldviews, would choose neither.

Evaluation: C+

Dan Wilcox


Bill said...

Excellent essay/review. I enjoyed it very much. One of the most important challenges we have ever faced as a species will be how we preserve the notion of free will in the face of the compelling scientific arguments against it; for without it, how can life have meaning and how can humans have responsibility? From your review I gather that this book is not making an important contribution to that discussion. Let us hope that thoughtful people wrestle seriously with the subject, before humanity finds itself drowning in a sea of despair.

Daniel Wilcox said...

Thanks, Bill for stopping by and sharing your comment. I've been encountering more and more people who deny that there is moral responsibility, claim that there is no human choice, and even claim that our consciousness is an illusion, etc.
I don't even see how they can function on a daily basis. Not only is it despairing, but it seems like that sort of nihilism leads to the death of civilization.

On a far happier note, I see that your farm (in Virginia, as I recall) continues to have some great animals.:-) Hope you and your family are staying healthy in this difficult time.