Review by Don Watson
Gary contends that scientific research can reveal the presence of a "Guiding-Organizing-Designing process (G.O.D.)." However, because his arguments consistently rely on logical fallacies, semantic errors, self-reference, and category mistakes, his book disproves its own thesis. But judging from conversations and correspondences I've had with him, he remains blind to this irony.
To support his contention, Gary relies on an experiment with precognitive dreams, experiments with random events, and an analogy with the origin of sand paintings. The precognition experiment shows that Gary is a gifted experimentalist. But his interpretation of that experiment and the sand paintings in terms of what he terms the "G.O.D hypothesis" shows that he's not a theorist.
Theorists develop and analyze conceptual frameworks with intellectual discipline and rigorous logic. Both of these are absent from Gary's book. Instead, his careless use of language and logic create a deceptive hodge-podge of words that obfuscates, rather than reveals, the irrelevance of science to theology. When I say it's deceptive, I don't mean that Gary is dishonest. I mean that his ignorance of theoretics allows him to fool, not only his readers, but himself.
Semantic trickery includes the liberal use of wild words in argumentation. Because they are ambiguous, wild words serve the same purpose as wild cards, i.e., they can represent anything that suits Gary's purpose in his arguments. This is a critical mistake, because using words or other symbols that lack consistent meanings might be acceptable in philosophy, sophistry, or theology, but not in science.
The wild words he uses most are "consciousness," "mind," "intelligence," "superintelligence," and "process." Consider the term "consciousness," which he doesn't define, but uses as if it means something specific. He referred to "a cosmic consciousness that exists beyond space and time." He also refers to survival of consciousness, transforming consciousness, brains creating consciousness, consciousness requiring invisible external fields, group consciousness, "a Universal Organizing Consciousness," and so on. By his usage, then, "consciousness" is variously an entity, a state, an epiphenomenon, or a function. In short, this key word in his book is meaningless.
As for the term "process," Gary regularly characterizes G.O.D. as a process, but he doesn't explain why he does this. Further, he contradicts himself in doing so. For example, in Chapter 3, he refers to "intervention by the invisible hand of a G.O.D. process." Entities, not processes, possess hands, invisible or not. And in Chapter 6, he asks a series of questions: 1) "Was the G.O.D. process (aka Sam) listening...?"; 2) "Did the G.O.D. process understand...?"; 3) "Did the G.O.D. process appreciate...?"; 4) "Did the G.O.D. process play some role...?"; and 5) "Did the G.O.D. process recognize...?"
It should be obvious to Gary that processes don't listen, understand, appreciate, play roles, or recognize. Despite his protestations, he obviously referenced an anthropomorphic entitya deity.
The key logical fallacy Gary uses is the circular argument, in which a conclusion is included in a premise. Concerning the precognition experiment, he tacitly began with the premise that "an extraordinary invisible intelligence ... played a fundamental role in the conduct of our lives," then "deduced" that a "superintelligent process" guided the events of the experiment. Because there's no reason to assume that premise, he could have just as logically begun with anything, for instance, a unicorn or an invisible, fire-breathing dragon. In this case, he would conclude that a unicorn or dragon guided the experiment.
Gary's sand painting argument depends on a flagrant category mistake. He implicitly places manmade objectssand paintings and a Windows OSand naturally occurring objectsthe evolving universe and DNA moleculesin the same category. Thus, he doesn't distinguish the categories named "artificial" and "natural."
It's valid to include natural and artificial things in the same category if it is known they share the attributes that define the category. For example, elephants and cars are in the category of things that can be seen, smelled, heard, felt, and tasted. However, if an argument rests on the origin of natural and artificial thingsas Gary's doesit isn't valid to include them in the same category unless it is known beforehand that their origins are known.
Though Gary apparently does not recognize it, this category mistake has fatal consequences for his main thesis. Here's his argument, reduced to its essentials: Because a sand painting is made by an intelligent artist, thenby analogythe evolving universe and DNA must be made by an intelligent god. For this analogy to be valid, natural and artificial things must be in the same category with respect to their origins. If they are not, the analogy fails. But if they are arbitrarily assigned to the same category, then the argument is circular. Either way, relying on the sand painting analogy is decidedly unscientific. Note that this is the same category mistake William Paley made in his famous watchmaker argument.
Another logical fallacy, the false dilemma, is so important to Gary's argument that he uses it as the title for Chapter 9: "Chance Versus Intelligent DesignWhich Is It?" If these were the only possible explanations of Earth's increasing organization and complexity that are characteristic of life, consciousness, and evolution, Gary would make his case by showing that chance alone can't explain them. Obviously, that's his intent. The problem is, the errors in his book also show that a very bright experimental scientist can't prove that intelligent design explains them, either.
This isn't the end of the story, though. Gary's false dilemma fails to acknowledge the existence of another theory that explains increasing organization. The Theory of Enformed Systems (TES) is an alternative explanation, and Gary knows it. In fact, he is a co-author on several formal presentations of this TES. His lack of understanding TES doesn't excuse his ignoring it in his argumentation.
Of course, Gary isn't alone in depending on the false dilemma. This fallacy is the common way of characterizing the ongoing conflict between proponents of teaching intelligent design in public schools as an alternative to the theory of evolution. Perhaps he hopes that his book will help the religious advocates of ID to claim scientific reasoning as the basis of their faith. I hope he doesn't, but whether or not he does, I don't expect his logical fallacies and other mistakes to deter those who rely on faith, not science, to convince themselves of the "truth."
Like other believers, Gary relies on self-reference to establish the "truth" as he sees it. In Chapter 14, he wrote:
Declaring himself a "truthist" illustrates that even a scientist can rely on self-reference to form and reinforce his beliefs. I coined the term "autistic certainty" to label a particular kind of mental mechanism for self-deception. "Autistic" means self-referenced without regard to external reality, so "autistic certainty" means holding firm beliefs that are supported by a logical fallacy of this form: "I don't believe anything that's not true. I believe X; therefore X must be true."
Finally, consider this critical question in the FAQ section of the book: "What kind of evidence would convince you that the G.O.D. process theory was wrong?"
Gary's answered, in part, this way:
Of course, I don't know what he finds implausible about TESan alternative theory that he knows of.
The problem here is that Gary has adopted a hypothesis that can't be disconfirmed, even in principle. Because he characterizes God as "a universal intelligence, source and energy of all that is," [emphsis added] it would be necessary to discover something that does not exist. Since this is absurd by self-contradiction, it's impossible.
His answer also includes this statement:
In my analysis, I've pointed out several fundamental flaws in his reasoning that are fatal to his theory. Will he recant? We'll see.
In conclusion, we can return to the claim Gary made in the Prologue:
I'm convinced that Gary believes in the god he describes, and this is not a problem. However, he also believes"that science can lead us to God," and this belief is a major problem. He was courageous in writing that because he put his credibility as a scientist on the line. Moreover, if he used the reasoning and experimental observations he described in the book to convince himself, he has succeeded only in deceiving himself.
The Yin and Yang of science are experiment and theory.
Regrettably, however, experimental scientists have been trained and enculturated
to ignore the intellectual discipline and logical rigor necessary for
serious theoretics. Instead, they devote their lives to doing experiments
and publishing the results, and dabble in theory on the side. This book
is an excellent example of the shoddy results of such dabbling.
June 9, 2006