05 September 2011

Anything is possible?

Back in April, Nature had an extended podcast with David Eagleman. Eagleman has also been profiled here.

Eagleman described some of his ideas as “possibilianism,” which might be summarized as “Anything’s possible.” He said:

It’s not committing to either of these two sides (Theistic or atheism, apparently - ZF), which I think are way too limited for modern discussion.

It bugged me, and I had been meaning to write a critique of the idea since April. I blogged about other things instead, and Jerry Coyne beat me to it.

As a lover of science fiction, I love exploring possibilities. It’s a great form of intellectual play, and play can lead to serious work. But Eagleman seems think that generating possibilities is enough, and is unwilling to sort through them to determine which is the best that reflects reality. This struck me as throwing your hands in the air and refusing to make a decision. As scientists, the point of generating possibilities is to arrive at a conclusion, not just sit and ooh and aah at all the things that could be in the mind.

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