Sunday, August 4, 2019

#2223: Jeffrey M. Schwartz

Jeffrey M. Schwartz is a psychiatrist with a genuine research background. He is also a religious fundamentalist, signatory to the Discovery Institute’s nonsense petition A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism, and featured in the 2008 creationist promotion “documentary” Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, where he told Ben Stein that science should not be separated from religion, that is, that dogma should be allowed to overrule empirical research if you don’t like what the data tell you. As for evolution, Schwartz seems to accept evolution in general, but thinks that humans are exempt and able to transcend their origins for reasons that seem to lay closer to Deepak Chopra than to Kent Hovind.

Schwartz is, however, most famous as a proponent of non-materialist neuroscience. Schwartz’s argument for dualism is basically a combination of an argument from incredulity, and a (handwaving) appeal to quantum theory and the New Age (and false) notion that quantum physics somehow demonstrates that a “mind” is a necessary component for anything to happen (Schwartz’s coauthor is Henry Stapp, who is a defender of this, shall we say, non-standard  – though “refuted” would be more accurate – interpretation of quantum mechanics, which would, if true, be evidence for classical idealism, not dualism); there is a concise discussion of their silliness here. Schwartz provides no actual alternative dualist hypothesis that has been worked out in any detail, such as testable predictions, whatsoever, of course, preferring to handwave about a “mental force” that he argues solely by assertion is a natural feature of the universe and not magic. And no: neuroplasticity and what Schwartz calls “reprogramming the brainis of course not evidence for dualism, insofar as nothing can be evidence for a hypothesis that has not even been coherently defined.

Jeffrey M. Schwartz must not be confused with Jeffrey H. Schwartz, who is also something of a crackpot but does, as a physical anthropologist, at least have a rudimentary understanding of the basics of evolution (and whose writings have been a source of quote mining among creationists like Ray Comfort).

Diagnosis: Pseudophilosophy in the service of religion. Schwartz is a real scientist and has done some real science; but his reframing of his research in handwavy mumbo-jumbo has nothing to do with science. Now, some might say that Schwartz’s views are arguably not that radically silly; still, he has aligned himself with the anti-science movement and stalwartly supports their campaigns against science, reason and civilization.

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