More on that Gelernter article.
First something I want to get off my chest - I really struggled hard to get through the beginning of the article. Little jabs and barbs like "scientists['s...] locker-room braggadocio", "if scientists were rat-catchers", "punks, bullies, and hangers-on", "the sin against the Holy Ghost that pious scientists are taught never to forgive", "the intelligentsia was so furious that it formed a lynch mob" - all directed at a specific category of people - this is classic "us versus them" signaling that would normally lead me to flip the bozo bit and quickly move on to more interesting reading. I only soldiered on because of the aforementioned glowing recommendations from smart people.
(For the record, a lynch mob typically involves pitchforks and beatings, culminating in a hanging. Careless use of this phrase in contexts where you only mean "many people disagreed with person X" is going to be offensive to a bunch of groups whose relatives' lives were claimed by actual lynch mobs.)
It doesn't get much better; for instance, Gelertner next launches a mostly gratuitous attack on Kurtzweil and those who subscribe to his ideas. There is some actual argument in there: "man as we know him is the top growth on a tall tree in a large forest", "if you make lots of people grossly different, they are all lost together" - but you really have to struggle to get to it amid all the bile.
I don't really know Kurtzweil's work, and I'd readily agree that a firm prediction of "Singularity by the year 2045" is going overboard and making Singularitarians in general look a bit silly. But none of this supports Gelernter's points; it's just venting.
Gelernter insists on trotting out straw-man caricatures of imagined opponents' positions, and in the process misrepresents not just one or two individuals but scientists in general. By way of Searle, he suggests that scientists refuse to "accept the existence of things that can’t be weighed or measured, tracked or photographed" because such things are "damned annoying". This isn't a critique so much as a childish taunt. Not all scientists are obsessed with measurement, and there are such things as qualitative research and so-called soft sciences.
His arguments against Dennett's views are of the same sort - I've mostly dealt with them in my previous post.
When he argues, "computationalists cannot account for emotion", he again displays apparent ignorance of lots of significant work in evolutionary psychology (see for instance Tooby and Cosmides' overview, linked.) Fear, for instance, can be quite readily explained in terms of an ensemble of psychological and behavioral dispositions that are appropriate in threatening situations (and thus fitness-enhancing): it would be poor design for this response to cohabit easily with, say, curiosity or aesthetic joy; but it is good design for it to be associated with heightened sensory awareness. The resulting configuration of portions of our mind, smaller than the whole, is what we experience as the "inner feeling" of fear.
When he uses "thirst" as an example of something that cannot be accounted for by a functionalist perspective, and adds that "[the] feeling, in turn, explains such expressions as 'I am thirsty for knowledge,' although this “thirst” has nothing to do with the heat outside", I want to refer him to Hofstadter's work on the role of analogy in human thought - work that is quite compatible with functionalism.
I can't make head or tails of what Gelernter wants to make of the so-called "Zombie argument" - Dennett has dealt with that quite convincingly (http://ase.tufts.edu/cogstud/dennett/papers/unzombie.htm
). He mostly seems to want to count David Chalmers as being on his side.
But, again, the way he closes this section makes it quite clear for me what he's on about: "Just as God anchors morality, God’s is the viewpoint that knows you are conscious."
Time and again, to sum up, this article turns a blind eye to the sophisticated versions of the argument it pretends to rebut in strawman form. That makes me mad - and there is no mystery about this "inner experience" for me.
What I'm seeing, overall, is a familiar religious diatribe against the (perceived) encroachment of the sciences, thinly disguised as a critique of the arrogance of the current
scientific establishment. The latter viewpoint happens to be one I agree with, and this is perhaps why some of my smart friends appear to buy the pitch as a whole; to me, though, it is a wolf in sheep's clothing.