Saturday, October 2, 2010

273: Hard to believe

"All human knowledge begins with intuitions, proceeds thence to concepts, and ends with ideas." ; That is what Immanuel Kant says in his "Critique of Pure Reason "(1781).

I think, that this is a example of a perfect understanding of the mind. And this in 1781, when there didn't exist any knowledge of the brain or neurobiology. Even Kant already understood that the brain had a life of its own.

In the former lecture I concluded that we can distinguish three belief-systems: Science, Religion and the profane supernatural. As Kant says, they begin with intuitions.

They end up with ideas, but are these ideas ideas about the world around us in the sense that we may call it knowledge? In fact, the only belief-system that leads to knowledge about reality is science. And science is based on logic and rationality.

However, this conviction has lead to the belief, that science is the safest way to deal with the world around us. Just look what we have achieved in technology, physics or in medicines and healthcare.

From an evolutionary point of view this may be right, so what to do with the supernatural part of our thinking. In 2006 Richard Dawkins had an outspoken opinion about it in his book "The God Delusion".

"I decry supernaturalism in all its forms, and the most effective way to proceed will be to concentrate on the form most likely familiar to my readers—the form that impinges most threateningly on all our societies. . . .

I am attacking God, all gods, anything and everything supernatural, wherever and whenever they have been or will be invented."

But does this attack make sense or is it fighting windmills like our well known Don Quichotte did? I think it is fighting windmills due to the design of our mind.

Supernatural beliefs may emerge spontaneously in children as they develop as a natural by-product of their mind design. These beliefs do not need to come from culture.

For a great part religious beliefs come from education. Children are easy to believe what others tell them, but on the other hand our brain is strongly inclined to accept these beliefs too.

A good example of such a the belief is creationism. From childhood on our basic intuition about the world is, that it is organized as it is in dead matter, living creatures, plants , insects, animals, humans….

As a child you have no other experience than that the world was there, is there and tomorrow will there be too. Because the mind is inclined to supernatural beliefs, it is quite willing to believe that this was created just like that at some given moment.

Our minds are naturally inclined to a creationist view. After all, creationism was created by the human mind, whereas evolution by natural selection is a fact that was discovered.

How can the complexity of design emerge without a designer? That is what our mind can not grasp, because experience tells us that for instance building a car is a very complex process which starts with a designer and a design.

A second thing is that our mind is not able to understand is the possibility of an evolution taking millions of years. In our short live the best we can experience is the birth of a baby and witness its development, which means it just grows up…Nothing new emerges. All was there from the beginning…head hands, toes and so on.

So evolution theory is contrary to our intuitions. The fact that we are genetically equal for 98% with a chimpanzee and even for 50% with a banana, we still have trouble to believe for us that all life in all its diversity came from the same basic matter.

Let alone, that we easily can believe that all this diversity and complexity emerged in a rather random process of evolution over a period of million years. Our intuition is that developments must have a goal, isn't it?

Despite all efforts, we must conclude that it is not feasible to try to ban all kinds of supernatural thinking, including religion. It is in our genes.

To quote Bruce Hood: "The geneticist Dean Hamer has even identified a gene, vesicular monoamine transporter 2, or VMAT2, that is linked to the personality traits of spirituality.

He found that in a survey of over two hundred people including twins, those who share religiosity also share VMAT2. This gene controls a number of the brain chemicals responsible for controlling moods.

Neuroscientists such as Andrew Newberg have even made progress toward identifying the relevant neural circuitry that is activated during religious experiences, again suggesting a brain-based account for the spiritual.So maybe our brains and our own unique mind design determine whether we believe or not."

And did you ever realize that Second Life has supernatural traits. Ever seen two avatars hug? And you there at the keyboard, what do you see and feel? Just pixels moving on a screen or do you experience more?

The Discussion

[13:25] Gemma Cleanslate: :-)
[13:26] herman Bergson: Thank you....
[13:26] herman Bergson: If you have a question or remark..plz feel free
[13:26] Bejiita Imao: ah
[13:26] Gemma Cleanslate: did you see that Stephen Hawkings has a new book out that explains that the universe could come without a creator??
[13:27] herman Bergson: and it was a woman who smiled....^_^
[13:27] Gemma Cleanslate: he is not saying that there is not one
[13:27] herman Bergson: Yes Hawkins is a problem...
[13:27] Gemma Cleanslate: he is just saying that there is proof that there is a possibililty that it was not necessary
[13:27] Adriana Jinn: don't you think that intuition is totally apart
[13:27] herman Bergson: Yes...a bit weird argument...
[13:28] herman Bergson: one thing...
[13:28] herman Bergson: it is chaos among cosmologists…any theory goes...
[13:28] herman Bergson: that string theory is just nothing..
[13:28] herman Bergson: here we see the same thing as in understanding evolution...
[13:29] herman Bergson: our brain cant understand it....
[13:29] Gemma Cleanslate: very true
[13:29] herman Bergson: just simple example...
[13:29] Bejiita Imako: aaa yes hard to grasp
[13:29] herman Bergson: they talk about a big bang....
[13:29] herman Bergson: inmy opinion..complete bull
[13:29] Bejiita Imako: hmm im not sure about it either
[13:30] Bejiita Imako: I hope the LHC will shed some light on it
[13:30] herman Bergson: for that big bang had to take place WHERE???
[13:30] herman Bergson: In Space???
[13:30] Gemma Cleanslate: well yes
[13:30] Qwark Allen: between two universes
[13:30] Gemma Cleanslate: where else
[13:30] herman Bergson: But then we get into an infinite regress...
[13:30] Qwark Allen: the colisions of two of them
[13:30] Bejiita Imako: i mean how can a explosion occur from nothing
[13:30] Gemma Cleanslate: i guess we have to read hawkings book
[13:30] herman Bergson: Exactly...
[13:30] Adriana Jinn: yes
[13:30] Qwark Allen: it was massive impact
[13:30] Bejiita Imako: what caused that explosion
[13:31] Gemma Cleanslate: that is what he will try to tell you
[13:31] Gemma Cleanslate: i think
[13:31] Gemma Cleanslate: not sure about the big bang theory
[13:31] Bruce Mowbray: Neuro-biologists like Andrew Newberg reduce "spiritual thought" to brain function. . . . Do they consider there might be a substrate to brain physiology?
[13:31] Gemma Cleanslate: is in there
[13:31] herman Bergson: They arent all happy with Hawkins stand Gemma...not at all...
[13:32] herman Bergson: it is just a theory..where he puts his money on...
[13:32] herman Bergson: Ok Back to Bruce and our focus of today..
[13:33] herman Bergson: Is brain acivity an other word for mind...?
[13:33] herman Bergson: We will dig into that question when we go into th emore philosophical discourses...
[13:33] herman Bergson: for now yes..
[13:34] Qwark Allen: there could be brain activity, and no mind on it
[13:34] herman Bergson: brain activity = the mind...
[13:34] Gemma Cleanslate: ah true
[13:34] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:34] herman Bergson: no brain activity = no mind presnt
[13:34] Adriana Jinn: yes
[13:34] Qwark Allen: brain activity it`s a cinequanon for mind, but not allways
[13:35] herman Bergson: But this has serious consequences for religious ideas for instance..
[13:35] Bruce Mowbray: "no brain activity = no mind present" can neither be proved nor disproved.
[13:35] herman Bergson: sine qua non
[13:35] herman Bergson: yes
[13:36] Adriana Jinn: when you are in a coma what happens ?
[13:36] herman Bergson: Well we come in the philosophical battle field...
[13:37] Qwark Allen: depends on the cause, and on type of coma
[13:37] herman Bergson: For now I stay out of that debate and act as a pure materialist...
[13:37] herman Bergson: Well coma Adriana ..there are various kinds..
[13:37] herman Bergson: there is a brain condition where the person still is aware of his environment..
[13:38] herman Bergson: we dont knw exactly what the coma is..
[13:38] Adriana Jinn: but the mind is not present ?
[13:38] herman Bergson: yes the mind is present...
[13:38] Bejiita Imako: then you wouldn't be aware if your surroundings
[13:38] herman Bergson: there are cases of people recovering from a coma...
[13:38] Gemma Cleanslate: oh yesz
[13:38] Gemma Cleanslate: perfectly well
[13:38] herman Bergson: who had heard all discussions at the bed by doctors and others
[13:39] Qwark Allen: in the guineess, there are a person that recovered from the coma 50 years after
[13:39] Adriana Jinn: i would think that the brain is there but not the mind
[13:39] herman Bergson: the brain is a very complex machine...
[13:39] Gemma Cleanslate: i think the mind is there just impaired at the time
[13:39] Qwark Allen: got in come while was a child
[13:39] Adriana Jinn: yes sure
[13:39] Qwark Allen: coma*
[13:39] Gemma Cleanslate: unable to work through the brain
[13:39] Bruce Mowbray: Suppose I have a "reverence" for the Big Bang and the evolutionary process. . . . (I am a Pantheist.) --- Is that not also a "religious experience" even though there is nothing super-natural about it?
[13:39] Gemma Cleanslate: to the body
[13:39] Bruce Mowbray: reverence --- not reference. sorry.
[13:40] Gemma Cleanslate: that was one form of religion yes bruce
[13:40] herman Bergson: the mind is just the activity of braincells like movement of th eare is just acrivity of muscles
[13:40] herman Bergson: of the arm
[13:41] Bruce Mowbray: So, my neurons are firing like those of a Christian fundamentalist -- but the object of my "worship" is Nature. . .
[13:41] Gemma Cleanslate: oh my i hope not
[13:41] Gemma Cleanslate: the cf i mean
[13:41] herman Bergson: Well I mentioned in the might depend on your genes..:-)
[13:41] Bruce Mowbray: It seems to me that reduction through neuro-biology is very similar to CF --
[13:42] Adriana Jinn: yes
[13:42] herman Bergson: To put it in an extreme way...
[13:42] Bruce Mowbray: We now pronounce brain chemistry, etc. as THE WAY IT IS.
[13:42] herman Bergson: your genes and brain determine whter you are a spiritual person or not
[13:42] Bruce Mowbray: That's a perfect example of what I am driving at.
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: well could be any fundalmentalist then not just christian ..... jewish .... muslim.....hindu......
[13:43] Qwark Allen: i think the socio-cultural surrouding there, have a big importance
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: not to mention all the others
[13:43] Bruce Mowbray: Pre-destination to Calvin is now "determinism" via brain physiology.
[13:43] herman Bergson: Well..there are two things...
[13:43] Gemma Cleanslate: :-)
[13:43] herman Bergson: not too fast here plz....
[13:44] herman Bergson: one thing..yes Bruce ..we have to face the debate on determinism...
[13:44] herman Bergson: and second....
[13:44] Bruce Mowbray wonders when neuro-plasticity will be mentioned.
[13:44] herman Bergson: tho the mind has an inclination to belief in supernatural things...
[13:45] herman Bergson: on the one hand it differs from person to person
[13:45] herman Bergson: and differs form culture to culture where a person is born..
[13:45] herman Bergson: so the nature / nurture balance differs from situation to situation
[13:46] Bruce Mowbray: So. . . . it's either cultural determinism or neurological determinism....? Is individual choice to change one's brain also determined?
[13:46] herman Bergson: when I am an illiterate afgan is quite different forma European relation to the use of supersense
[13:47] Bruce Mowbray: If I chose to meditated -- and bring forth in my brain the results of meditation -- is that choice determined?
[13:47] herman Bergson: Bruce..I promise get a whole series of lectures onthat for you especially ^_^
[13:47] Gemma Cleanslate: :-)
[13:48] Bruce Mowbray: fine -- but meanwhile I will operate on the assumption (and the experience) that I am free to bring forth changes in the functioning of my brain.
[13:48] herman Bergson: Because you hit the bulls eye yes...
[13:48] Gemma Cleanslate: let us know how that works
[13:48] Bruce Mowbray: neuro-plasticity.
[13:48] herman Bergson: smiles...
[13:49] Bejiita Imao: ㋡
[13:49] herman Bergson: neuro gymnastics
[13:49] Bruce Mowbray: changes in the physiology of the brain -- brought about by my personal choice.
[13:49] Gemma Cleanslate: ok
[13:49] Gemma Cleanslate: we all do that
[13:49] Qwark Allen: yep
[13:49] herman Bergson: Oh Bruce...
[13:49] Bejiita Imako: can be possible at least in part i think
[13:49] Qwark Allen: more or less
[13:49] Bruce Mowbray: A simple phrase: "What fires together, wires together...."
[13:49] herman Bergson: You really are walking on the wild side now...^_^
[13:50] Bruce Mowbray: Wild? Folks have been meditating for thousands of years....
[13:50] Gemma Cleanslate: it will be interesting
[13:50] herman Bergson: Great!!!!!
[13:50] Bruce Mowbray: in order to change their brain function.
[13:50] Bruce Mowbray: Now we see it through our instruments.
[13:50] Qwark Allen: just not, if you have a stroke, or any brain illness
[13:50] herman Bergson: You just point at what is ahead of us Bruce...!
[13:50] Bruce Mowbray: ok.
[13:50] Bruce Mowbray sits on hands.
[13:50] Qwark Allen: some are genetic
[13:50] herman Bergson: smiles
[13:50] herman Bergson: thnx Bruce lol
[13:50] Bruce Mowbray: ;-)
[13:50] Bejiita Imao: ㋡
[13:50] Qwark Allen: it`s your genes, that made possible you have that choice bruce
[13:51] herman Bergson: Well this is a terrific discussion...
[13:51] Gemma Cleanslate: very interesting
[13:51] herman Bergson: It shows what we still have to face...!
[13:51] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:51] Bejiita Imako: really ㋡
[13:51] Qwark Allen: ;-)))
[13:51] Gemma Cleanslate: thursday more
[13:52] Adriana Jinn: for true
[13:52] Qwark Allen: Hooooooo!!!!!!! \O/ \O/ \O/
[13:52] Qwark Allen: | | |
[13:52] Qwark Allen: / \ / \ / \
[13:52] herman Bergson: For the time being I will stick to my materialist approach...
[13:52] Gemma Cleanslate: :-)
[13:52] herman Bergson: So thank you all..this was great ..thnx Bruce inparticualr
[13:52] Gemma Cleanslate: yw
[13:52] Gemma Cleanslate: ssee you all thursday
[13:52] Bejiita Imako: yay¨
[13:52] Qwark Allen: ¸¸.☆´ ¯¨☆.¸¸`☆** **☆´ ¸¸.☆¨¯`☆ H E R MA N ☆´ ¯¨☆.¸¸`☆** **☆´ ¸¸.☆¨¯`
[13:52] Qwark Allen: yw
[13:52] Bejiita Imako: YAY! (yay!)
[13:53] herman Bergson: We still have a long way to go...
[[13:53] Bruce Mowbray: Thank you everyone.
[13:53] Gemma Cleanslate: oh yes
[13:53] Bejiita Imako: awesome
[13:53] herman Bergson: Thank you all
[13:53] Gemma Cleanslate: yw
[13:53] Gemma Cleanslate: Bye, Bye ㋡
[13:53] herman Bergson: Class dismissed
[13:53] bergfrau Apfelbaum: ty herman!! ty class :-))
[13:53] Adriana Jinn: thank you herman and thanks all
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