Posts Tagged ‘soul’

Wikipedia Zapping: Soul

July 17, 2013

The word is probably an adaptation by early missionaries—particularly Ulfilas, apostle to the Goths during the 3rd century—of a native Germanic concept, which was a translation of Greek ψυχή psychē “life, spirit, consciousness”.

According to some religions (including the Abrahamic religions in most of their forms), souls—or at least immortal souls capable of union with the divine[2]—belong only to human beings. (more…)

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My Rebuttal to a Metaphysicist

July 6, 2012

“To not believe in the Spiritual realm of our existence means nothing I say will matter to ya”

I disagree. I can listen to your arguments all day despite being a materialist. I think you fear that nothing you can say will be able to change my mind because that might mean that you don’t really have something revolutionary to say. You might use the same arguments others have used already and that have been shot down and let’s face it, so far religion  vs science is 0 –  100, the scientific method is the champion. We know now that we know. We know that we are things that know things, including the thing that is ourselves. We can look at it, we can feel it, we can hear it, we can taste it, we can smell it, we can dissect it, we can build on it, we can articulate it, we can reason about it, we can imagine it, we can dream of it, we can be it, we can be attracted to it, we can do it, as they say, we can fuck it, eat it and put it in a dumpster.

So, what is it? It’s you. Your body, your mind, your memories, your mental connection of interrelated concepts, your neurochemoelectrobiological processes and structures, your neuron cells, your hydrophobic cell walls, the enormous and unique molecule DNA that has created your body. Did God create billions of galaxies with billions of stars in each to fuse the tiny, teeny, really, really, really petite and wee lil little protons into atoms and blew up the stars like they were just flares that fizzle and die in a second? We’re really small compared to the star balls bursting while our sun is 4500 000 000 years old, as is the solar system, including earth but not the people who have lived here for not a very long time considering the threat of the bursting bubble overhead. But since we’re so small, we don’t have to worry about that happening any time soon. Instead we adapt to an environment which contains a sun, and an atmosphere, and gravity, and trees, and bugs, and water and carbon and nitrogen, which contain the same atoms that make up the DNA molecule. Wasn’t it clever of God to make everything out of the most common things, makes so much more sense. Almost so much sense it was self-evident and would happen even without a god just because of the laws of gravity and chemistry and matter and motion. Surely, it’d be hard to predict that humans would exist and we are unique, but the universe is material and it can be predicted, you just need more computational power than is in the universe to predict it, however, some predictions don’t need 100% accuracy. We can use our knowledge of the material world to explore ourselves, the universe and the smallest and biggest and oldest and fastest and the edges of the universe, although that might take millions of years and I’ll just mention it now and wont make it part of my election campaign for king of the universe in the year 232,100 ANNO DOMINI.

So, how can it be mental? We can study the body and compare objectively with each other and then compare that with our subjective experience. We find that it’s coherent to talk of the body as a material structure, a chemical signature in the universe, brought forth as a shield to protect and nourish the spread of the DNA molecule. That’s the meaning of life. As social and mental beings we don’t have to care about the meaning of life if we don’t want to. It is not coherent to talk about angels and gods and unicorns. Instead we ask if the body holds the answers to our souls and it turns out that the mind is produced by a machine which we can describe in detail down to the size of atoms, we even find the material causes of the mental experiences that proponents of metaphysics invoke as evidence for their immaterial claims. We can find the answers to deja vu, fear, vision, feelings, sex, the belief that the universe must be like humans, caring and willful, the belief that we are a magical constant that travels through time, but time is just a function of motion and we are not constant souls, we are new states of mind produces every new day, every time a single thing moves in the brain (except the sub/unconscious stuff), produced by the machine and always brand new. The reason we think we are continuous is because when our new us’ experience the world, the think about their past as it has been stored in the neurocellular structure and is activated by the input and roundput in the brain and upon remembering the past experiences of the body, we identify with that body, mistaking it for a soul.

Can Materialism Explain Mary’s Room?

October 19, 2010

The thought experiment was originally proposed by Frank Jackson as follows [in 1982]:

Mary is a brilliant scientist who is, for whatever reason, forced to investigate the world from a black and white room via a black and white television monitor. She specializes in the neurophysiology of vision and acquires, let us suppose, all the physical information there is to obtain about what goes on when we see ripe tomatoes, or the sky, and use terms like ‘red’, ‘blue’, and so on. She discovers, for example, just which wavelength combinations from the sky stimulate the retina, and exactly how this produces via the central nervous system the contraction of the vocal cords and expulsion of air from the lungs that results in the uttering of the sentence ‘The sky is blue’. […] What will happen when Mary is released from her black and white room or is given a color television monitor? Will she learn anything or not? [4]

If she learns something new, then, supposedly, immaterial qualia exists. Check the arguments for and against on wikipedia, Mary’s Room.

Now, this is my materialist solution:

She has only received stimuli that affect neurochemistry telling her that the sound “blue”, how it is muscularly pronounced and all the other things she reads or hears about blueness belongs to 475 nm wavelength photons as reflected by objects. She has not received the photon itself so the neurochemistry will be completely novel and the experience therefore also novel. However, this doesn’t say anything about whether qualia is immaterial or not, it is stricly a material formulation of the dilemma. To me, qualia is knowledge, so it’s wrong to differentiate between the two and ask whether she knows about the qualia or not because the knowledge existing in the auditory neurochemistry is impossibly the same knowledge that exists in the visual neurochemistry, i.e. no matter how much you know about vision, that knowledge exists in neurons that are impossibly the same neurons as the neurons in the optic nerve. If the neurons in the optic nerve are never stimulated by the retina but used only in an auditory network, then they’re not really an optic nerve now are they. The quality of qualia relies on what the senses are capable of sensing because the mind IS the physical senses, so knowing/experiencing visual qualia of a blue car is an electrochemical activity behind the retina that is different from the visual qualia of reading a text about blue car visual qualia and different from the auditory qualia of being told what qualia is.

It’s actually just a matter of spotting the error in the premise. Knowing everything about anything is impossible, but even if Mary knows terribly much through all kinds of experiences she doesn’t know the experience of photons on the retina, not only does she not know what it “feels like” but she has never had the physical experience and thus not the physical knowledge of the photon hitting the retina. So, even though her brain has learned the word blue and all other things that have entered her brain, she hasn’t learned the blue photon hitting the retina because it has not hit yet. This means the premise is false, she doesn’t know everything there is to know about colour.

An interesting side note is that learning is a physical process of growing relative connections in the brain through sensing outside stimuli and working with internal stimuli (like the neurology constituting a memory that fires and causes happiness). The older you get the less of the original structure remains and the original structure [see Chomsky on language] is designed to make sense of colour stimuli so given enough time a monochrome or blind person can’t neurologically adapt to and make sense of colour stimuli. We see the same deterioration of ability to decipher auditory stimuli in grown-ups with cochlia implants. It might be too late for Mary to see colors well or at all.

A second side note is that she might be so well educated in photon wavelengths that she will think it folly that some people use so few words to describe the differences. Of course, learning means differentiating between stimuli so even assuming she still has the ability to learn colour vision at old age it will require some biological time for the neural pathways to build up connections with the linguistic centre and memories and so on, but once she’s done that, also given her extraordinary interest in the matter, she might refrain from using “simply red” to denote a colour and emphasize the differences between shades of red by giving each wavelength a unique name. Psychologically this seems like a likely response to someone who’s been locked-up in a monochromatic prison for a few years and learnt everything there is to know about colour.

Does the Soul Exist?

October 2, 2010

“I sense, therefore I have senses”

The short answer to the question is no and the long answer is very long but maybe I can summarize the reasons why there’s nothing metaphysical, all things metaphysical are human inventions/ideas.

1. Power greed. People use religion for their own purposes and knowingly invent false fantasies for egotistical reasons.

2. Lack of understanding. We can’t see what cells, quarks or stars are really made of without sophisticated instruments and we still have many questions.

3. Gullibility. A lot of people believe in their ancestors and authority figures, misinterpret (consciously, subconsciously and non-consciously) or pass on other people’s lies because it fits with their own convictions, it’s a sort of combination of lack of understanding and wishful thinking but not exactly either of them. Even the supposedly cynically power greedy may suffer from gullibility and the other five reasons.

4. Wishful thinking. We all want a purpose in life, we don’t want to be mere mortal bodies, we want to be special, we want there to be a reason for our existence, we are very afraid of death (see bottom of post) and often it’s just because people are unhappy.

5. How? A) When during 3 billions years of evolution did the souls enter the organisms? B) When during the creation process of an individual organism does the soul enter? C) Where did the soul come from? D) Where does it go when we’re asleep, dead or not paying attention? E) How does the soul control the organism? All of these questions are nonsensical in light of scientific research.

6. “Why?” Human minds are limited, they simplify the universe into nouns and verbs so they can have an understanding of the universe along the formula verb->noun. An example is having sex->baby or burning->heat. This idea of cause and effect is a simplification because the entire universe is just one single continuous process, but our understanding is based on dissecting items by going backwards in the chain of events using the question why, creating more and more concepts by dividing concepts into smaller parts and relating them to each other in a monocomplex network (the brain is physically and functionally such a network). However there’s no end to this ultimately flawed line of inquiry, so there never was and never will be an ultimate reason for the same reason time will never stop, we only ever exist in the present. Mind you that although our method is ultimately flawed, it’s relatively true.

7. “Who am I?” Descartes said “I think, therefore I am” implying there has to be a metaphysical I, effectively dividing the I into a body and a soul, a two-in-one being. He didn’t say “I think, therefore I am a physical being” or “I think, therefore I exist as a physical being”. I would have said “I sense, therefore I have senses” or I=the sensations of my body or I=body.

My advice: Don’t invent a magical alternative reality with immaterial souls and Gods and a supernatural system for explaining these fantasies. Instead, accept being your body, in this reality, with all its limitations. You’re a monkey. A really cool one.

(Promises of an after-life: In norse mythology, if you die in battle you get to go to Valhall and feast on the pig Sæhrimner for all eternity, because the day after it’s eaten it’s alive again. Judaism, Christianity and Islam say that if you’ve been good/believe in God/ask forgiveness you go to a paradisical place called heaven for all eternity. Greek heroes went to Elysium. Jehovas say that the good people will live for a thousand years of peace on earth and the Jehovas themselves, 144000 to be specific, will rule the earth from heaven. Buddhism and Hindusim say you are reborn after death and get to live again, and again, and again and so on until you reach moksha/nirvana or become one with the universal soul/god for eternity. More after-lives)

Prosthetic Gods by thefrailestthing.com

July 31, 2010

See the post here: http://thefrailestthing.com/2010/07/29/prosthetic-gods/

enleuk Says:
July 30, 2010 at 7:19 AM

Technology has been a part of ourselves for a long time. We define ourselves through wall papers, car brands, cell phone colours, clothes et cetera. And there’s no reason to draw the line where the skin ends, mainly because it’s a fuzzy line that can’t be drawn even if you wanted to define yourself as a unitary being. You can cut a thumb off and you’d still be you.

In cognitive science the mind is often talked of as extended beyond the brain. The brain functions like a command central that fetches information from the memory and brings it to awareness. Similarly, a library and even the internet is accessible to this brain function and the only difference is that you’re getting the information from outside the brain instead of from the memory. The library, if you have index knowledge of it, is a part of your mind.

What I find interested is how we will modify our bodies in the future. There’s no theoretical problem in changing the DNA to produce a 500 ft tall metal human. At the same time there’s no theoretical problem in building a 500 ft tall metal exo-skeleton with a driving seat fit for a human connected directly to the brain (Brain-Machine Interface). And similarly there’s no theoretical problem in building a 500 ft tall metal robot with a learning artificial neural net as complex over even more complex than a human brain.

The philosophical problem for those who believe in a soul and other metaphysical phenomena would be to explain why these three beings are all self-conscious. A materialist would not face this problem. A deconstructivist would say the metaphors of soul and self-consciousness are misleading. A Buddhist would say that the material reality is a delusion. But a dualist and a transcendentalist would have to say that the robot was programmed to say it was self-conscious and that in reality what the robot is saying are just words. I’d say, in reality, that’s exactly what humans are already doing. Language is confusing our understanding of existence.