New Atheism (aka that movement with a door-kin at the from)

I watched a documentary called “The Unbelievers” on netflix recently. It followed Richard Dawkins and Lauwance Krauss as they toured various auditoriums and rallies.

One thing I quickly noticed was the religious fervour of these atheists. I saw how dogmatical and evangelical they had become.

These are the signs of belief systems that have lost their kernel of belief. They are the death-throes of an ideology.

That ideology is Positivism.

Man stubbornly clings in his deluded pride to the belief that he can know everything. As he loses the faith in his pride he clutches out to others to confirm that “Yes, yes! I’m right aren’t I? We can know can’t we?”. To confirm that he is who he thought he was.

This is why the Atheist doesn’t just enter into combat with the theist but both theist and atheist join forces against philosophy.

Philosophy points to both naked emperors and says “None of you are wearing clothes you buffoons!”

Philosophy says “To answer the question “where did the universe come from?” you would need to step outside before the event and watch the fucking thing”

Philosophy says “Empiricism is your base assumption! All you can do is observe and describe. What you call an explanation is merely taking a description to a more general or specific level”

And Philosophy finally says, gritting it’s teeth and wiping the sweat off it’s brow “Atheism is a meta-physical claim. You are actually making a claim about what came before the big bang. A claim you have no means of falsifying!

“And sure Hawkins picture of how you could dig something out of nothing was pretty. The story it presented was one among many non-falsifiable stories. No different in verifiability to the God hypothesis.

“Oh begone from me you myth-mongers! All pushing your tales on me and swearing their true”

But these enlightenment fossils stamp their feet in childish tantrums; screaming at reality “YOU ARE KNOWABLE!” As if tantrums ever got ice-creams off a good mummy 😛

Babies are Awesome!

One of the most amazing things that every human does (in fact every animal with eyes (probably)) is figure out how to see.

Now I can’t remember the time before I learned to see – or rather before I learnt to make any sense out of what I saw – but I’m reasonably certain that we’re not born with the idea of 3-dimensional space. The effect the game of peek-a-boo has on babies is evidence of this. If the child had a sense of 3-d space as developed as that of an adult it would not be fooled into thinking that an object had disappeared because it was covered by another object. This indicates a progressive creation of the concept of space.

Think about what it actually is that you see. You don’t see 3 dimensional objects. What you see are a load of 2 dimensional shapes. As you move these shapes undergo geometric transformations such as reflection, stretching, increase/decrease in size and change of shape. We make sense of all these transformations through the concept of 3 dimensional space. In effect what we see (the 2-dimensional image) is a representation of reality (which may or may not be 3-d) and what we experience is a 3 dimensional represention of a 2 dimensional representation of reality (or something).

Imagine yourself in the position of the baby before it has even created this concept. What evidence/information does it have to go on? We wouldn’t be able to conceive of such things as are represented by the sentence “When I move my neck the shapes undergo so and so transformation.” Rather we would be limited to saying things like “When I have a certain sensation then the shapes I see undergo so and so transformation”. This is because the concept “moving my neck” presupposes the concept of 3-d space.

 

The amazing thing is that out of this famine of information babies create the concept 3-dimensional space that makes sense of so many disparate elements. Not only visual elements but it brings into one cohesive whole touch, smell, taste, sight and hearing. I mean think about; it’s awesome! It makes what Einstein did seem paltry.

A similar puzzle is how does a baby learn language?

Creating Part of a Possible Answer to “What is Consciousness?” that would Account for consciousness’ Inexplicableness Part 2

In order to make a way of seeing consciousness that would explain why it is unexplainable more comprehesable I’ll have recourse to the concept of a formal language. A formal language is a language that is made up of strings all of which are derived from axioms via rules. To bring this out I will use a simple formal language as an example. The language I will use I have borrowed from “Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid” by Douglas R. Hofstadter (which is a damn good read by the way! It doesn’t treat you like an idiot like a lot of “Popular” science/philosophy books do).

The “MIU-System” is made up of 3 letters: M, I, and U.
It has one axiom: MI
It has 4 rules (These I have quoted directly from the book):
1. If you possess a string whose last letter is I, you can add on a U at the end.
For example MI can become MIU. MIUI can become MIUIU. MIII can become MIIIU
2. Suppose you have Mx. Then you may add Mxx to your collection. For example MI can become MII. MIUI can become MIUIIUI. MIII can become MIIIIII.
3. If III occurs in one of the strings in your collection, you may make a new string with U in place of III. So MIII can become MU.
4. If UU occurs inside one of your strings, you can drop it. So MIUU can become MI.
The book offers a puzzle as a means of getting us to play with the system. The puzzle is can you make MU from MI in the system.

So an example of a try would be:

MI
MII (via rule 2)
MIIII (via rule 2)
MUI (via rule 3 (note you could also make MIU with the same rule))
MUIU (via rule 1)
And so on….

Don’t worry this is going somewhere – it is leading to a formulation of why consciousness is inexplicable! Well I will just state why in a simple sentence now but continue to clarify over the next few blogs.

In any formal system any theorum (that is a string that is derived from an axiom (either immediately or mediately)) is explicable by referring to the strings that came before, the rules of derivation and the axioms. But the axioms, rules, and components of the strings are not explicable but have to be taken on faith… Basically given at the beginning. Now I think reality is somewhat like a formal system all be it incredibly complex. I think consciousness is a fundamental and irreducible component of that system. That it is like a component, axiom or law if you will.

On the verification principle

The verification principle – which states that a statement is meaningful if it can be reduced to items of experience and is logically consistent or necessary – isn’t really talking about truth or meaning. It is never-the-less a useful principle because demarcates between the realms of statements that we can verify, about which we can say they true or false and the realms of statements that we cannot verify.

Essientially it is a dicision procedure for ascertaining the truth value of certain statements but just because a statement doesn’t fall within its remit doesn’t mean that the statement is meaningless. It means we are unable to say whether or not that statement is true. This is because the verification principle is really saying something about our capacity to know things and is not a statement about things independent of us.

The belief that meaningfulness is defined as that which can be dealt with by the verification principle is easily broken by the question: “Is the verification principle meaningful?”. Also because the verification principle takes as given two things – namely experience and logic – it cannot of itself attribute meaning to those things. If our cognition or rather our capacity to discover the truth value of statements is expressed by the verification principle (and I believe it is) then we have to take experience and logic on faith. In fact this isn’t a decision we ever make or can make because we just do despite our philosophizing otherwise.

The problem with this is that we cannot help but make metaphysical statements and ask metaphysical questions. By metaphysical I mean that which is outside the remit of the verification principle. We ask questions like “What causes experience?” This is totally meaningless within a system defined by verificationism but never-the-less it is obviously a valid question that arises naturally upon minimal reflection. The verification principle cannot be used to judge any answer to this question because it uses the content of experience – and only the content of experience (Hume showed quite well that logic is nothing but a kind of heuristic conditioning garnered from our experience) – to verify.

It’s like there is a box and we are in the box. We want to know what is outside of the box but all we have to talk about is what is inside the box. Any statement we make will be a statement about the inside of the box. It may be the case that the outside of the box is like the inside of the box, or that it is analogically similar but we cannot decide which of the many statements is true or false until we step outside of the box which we cannot do!

Consciousness

Consciousness is one of the most puzzling and marvelous things. It is puzzling when we attempt to put it into words. What exactly is consciousness?

 

 

 

 

I don’t believe science will ever be able to “prove” or show that consciousness is a product of the brain. The most it will be able to do is develop a catalog that lists the mental phenomena that occur when certain physical phenomena occur. But you will never be able to know what mental phenomena will happen just by looking at the neurological phenomena. You will have to have both.

 

 

 

For example pain. Neuro-scientists have found that when you stimulate a certain area of the brain – I think it’s the C fibers but that may be inaccurate (it’s irrelevant to the point I am making) – that a person experiences pain. So they can write in their catalog “Area x of brain produces mental phenomena pain”. But if there were just a brain without a mouth or means of expression then it would be impossible to discover what “it” felt when you prodded it.

 

 

 

But what about psycho-somatic pain? When feelings like depression cause people to experience pain? This is quite puzzling because you could say that just as in the first case physical manipulation of the c-fibers caused pain in this case there is a different kind of manipulation. It seems to be hinting at the idea that the brain is a gateway between the mental (spiritual/non-physical) and the physical. A device whereby the one effects the other.

 

 

 

The statement that “we are conscious” isn’t quite accurate. Rather there is a consciousness of us or I. Everything that makes you you, that is an active being with preferences and patterns of behavior are things you are aware of. Consciousness needs to be there before there can be a you.

 

 

 

There is a passage in the Upanishads that describes the relationship between you and consciousness:

“There are two birds, two sweet friends, who dwell on the self-same tree. The one eats the fruits thereof, and the other looks on in silence.”

 

The puzzle of consciousness isn’t so much in defining it – it’s awareness – it’s in the question “what is it that is consciousness?”. It seems that any conceivable answer is going to be something that we are conscious of and therefore it couldn’t be the answer. It’s a lot like consciousness is the light-beam of a light-house and no matter where it turns it cannot find itself.

Science cannot explain anything! But it’s damn good at describing stuff!!!

Why does an apple fall to the ground?

Many of you will be sitting there with your hands stretched eagerly into the air and the word “Gravity” waiting expectantly on the tip of your tongue.

Do you know what gravity is?

“A force” I hear you say. But what is a force? All you’ve done is switch one word that we don’t know the meaning of with another word we don’t know the meaning of.

“A force is something that does something”

And what is that “something” that does something?

The law of gravity isn’t an explanation of why things fall it’s a description of how they fall.

The Law of gravity – according to Newton – is this: F = G (m1m2/r2). This equation tells us how much force will be exerted between two bodies. The force is measured in Newtons. So essentially this equation tells us that if I was stood on an object (m1) that was placed at a distance (r) from another object (m2) then if I had one of those springy things for measuring newtons it would measure however many newtons the equation stated (F). So this just tells us how much one body is being effected by another and allows us to make predictions because we have noticed a pattern. It doesn’t tell us why it is effected in the way it is or why it doesn’t behave differently than it does. It doesn’t tell us why this particular pattern is there and not another.

Or more basically newton’s law states that objects of mass attract. So to answer “ Why do objects of mass attract?” with gravity is like saying “Objects of mass attract because objects of mass attract”. Which though true is not an explanation; it’s a tautology.

But why does this relationship hold? What actually is gravity? Just by slapping an equation on it doesn’t mean it’s explained. It is merely a description which though useful doesn’t answer the question “Why does the apple do what it does?”.

Even relativity doesn’t do much to help. Einstein said that instead of objects of mass pulling one another they fell towards one another. This is because they cause space/time to warp. But how do they cause space/time to warp? Why does space/time warp in exactly the way it does? See the same problems Newton had when he wanted to cape around in the cape of explanation are here when Einstein tries to wear it! Science is descriptive not explicative!!!

I hope you’re noticing a pattern here. For every supposed explanation there is always the annoying little kid who says “But, sir, why is it that particular way? How did that come about?” and the answer always complicates the picture.

The problem is that science is stuck in a loop. One of the main works of science is to explain phenomena. This is really impossible so really science should stick to what it is good at: Description and Discovery.

The reason is that science thinks that an explanation is when you refer phenomena to laws. But what about the question: “Why are the laws as they are? How did they come to be?”.

There is the idea I’ve heard recently that the laws are what they are now due to temperature variations at the big bang.

OK – I say to the religiously dogmatic scientist priest– Why do those specific temperature variations create the specific laws we have?

Why do any specific temperature variations at the big bang cause their specific effects and not a different effect?

All you have done is explain the laws we have now with another set of laws that describe the relationship between laws we have now and temperature variations at the big bang. Don’t you see that they require an explanation? Don’t you see that ultimately explication is impossible?

This isn’t me saying “Science stick your nose out of what doesn’t concern you”. I mean call descriptions explanations all you want but don’t come running to me when the kids wake up!