A Non-Fact and Some Implications
I ran across this bizarre article by William Lane Craig that P.Z. Myers absolutely destroys from a biological standpoint. What's interesting, as a philosophy student, is that Craig commits himself to something really problematic in his conditional claims about the animal brain. The claim that I'm concerned with is this one:
"[E]ven though animals like dogs, cats, and horses experience pain, nevertheless the evidence is that they do not experience level (3), the awareness that they are in pain. For the awareness that one is oneself in pain requires self-awareness, which is centered in the pre-frontal cortex of the brain—a section of the brain which is missing in all animals except for the humanoid primates. Thus, amazingly, even though animals may experience pain, they are not aware of being in pain.
Let's clear up a few things, first, before addressing the claim that I actually find interesting:
(1) As PZ points out, the claim that "the PFC is missing in all animals except humanoid primates" is just false.(2) While many speculate (myself included) that the PFC is a necessary structure for self-representation, this is not really definitive, and many are still skeptical of the claim that it is necessary, given (particularly) developmental neuroconstructivist arguments about brain-plasticity.
(1) is way more interesting than (2), for most people. It's pretty bizarre that Craig would print a claim that is demonstrably false and not defensible in the least, and then rest his entire argument on that claim, as he does in the article.
But what I think is way more interesting is what Craig commits himself to.
Craig is committing himself to the counterfactual claim that:
C1: The pre-frontal cortex is a necessary condition for self-representation.
Craig has actually just rejected Cartesian dualism (and neo-Cartesian views of the 'soul') in that claim. If you assert that the neurological processes that are involved in self-representation are necessary for the existence of self-representation, then you are rejecting the possibility that something can self-represent without those processes. That's the basic mode.
The problem is that, then, some sort of 'immaterial consciousness' (whether that's a soul or a God) would be logically impossible.
I actually think that a version of this claim is true, and its part of my reason for rejecting many religious claims and claims about things like spirits and demons and so on; my version allows for multiple realizability, and is far more generalized. It looks like: "Some set of physical states of affairs is necessary for the existence of some corresponding mental states."
Of course, Craig can't allow that if he wants to have an immaterial God who can self-represent. He has to stare down the question: Does God then have a prefrontal cortex?