Tag Αρχεία: Dawkins

Σε Ορθολογισμός και Αυταπάτες

This post started as a reply to M Cuffe’s comment on my post on The God Delusion. M Cuffe suggested that I’m merely asserting an individual’s right to be irrational, or ignorant. Ναι, I am indeed saying that one has the right to be irrational. But that statement stems from something that I believe is deeper. It stems from what we mean by rationality, and why we think it is a good thing to be rational. I know it sounds “irrational,” but I’m talking about rationality as Persig talked about it in Ζεν και η τέχνη της συντήρησης μοτοσικλετών.

Stepping back a bit, rationality is quintessentially a worldview. By rational, we mean things that seem normal to our commonsense. So the notion of a nuclear bomb moving or obliterating a mountain is rational, although we have never seen it. You believe it because it is consistent with your worldview. I believe it too, πιστέψτε με. I was a nuclear physicist not too long ago. 🙂

And a god (or faith) moving mountains is clearly ludicrous to our rationality. I’m not asking people to give equal rational weight to faith and bomb moving mountains. I’m merely encouraging them to examine why they believe in one and not the other. Calling one more rational is just another way of saying that you choose to believe one more than the other. Γιατί?

Thinking along those lines, I come to the conclusion that it is only a question of worldviews or belief systems. I personally subscribe to your worldview based on rationality as well, which is why I consider myself also an atheist (although one of my readers thought I was merely confused :-))

A god as an old man hiding behind the clouds is not consistent with our worldview. But it may have been a metaphor for something else. Let me explain. We have these abstract concepts of happiness, perfection, grief etc. Are these things real? Should we believe they exist? Such questions don’t make too much sense because these concepts are all in our minds. Αλλά στη συνέχεια,, what isn’t?

Let’s take perfection, για παράδειγμα. Let’s say we assign some human form to it, so that we could explain it to a child or something. We then call it, λένε, the goddess of perfection or whatever. Over generations, for whatever reason, the notion of perfection disappears from our awareness, but the metaphor of the goddess remains. Τώρα, to somebody who believes in the reality perfection, and therefore the existence of the goddess, it is not a delusion. In that belief system, in that context and worldview, it makes perfect sense. But in the absence of the abstract concept of perfection, the goddess becomes a delusion.

I believe that a large part of our collective wisdom is handed down in the form of such metaphors. Instead of dismissing them as delusions because their context is gone, we should perhaps try harder to rediscover the lost concepts. I also believe such metaphors exist in other fields that seem to work well. Take, για παράδειγμα, the Qi concept in traditional Chinese medicine, the five elements (or three body types) in Ayurveda and so on. To the extent that traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda work, there has to be some knowledge buried in those practices. If we write off their basis merely because their metaphors are not consistent with our rationality, we may be writing off some potential sources of new or forgotten knowledge.

Επιπλέον, I believe that some of our smarter geniuses indeed see delusional metaphors in what we take to be supremely real.


Στη θέση μου σχετικά Μια πιθανή Θεός, Ανέφερα τυφλή όραση ως παράδειγμα της αίσθησης που δεν οδηγεί σε συνειδητή αντίληψη. Αυτή η αξιοσημείωτη νευρολογικό σύνδρομο απεικονίζει τη στενή διασύνδεση μεταξύ αίσθηση της πραγματικότητας και της συνείδησης. Larry Weiscrantz και ο Alan Cowey ανακάλυψε τυφλή όραση στην Οξφόρδη για 25 χρόνια πριν.

Τύφλωση μπορεί να είναι φυσιολογική, όταν η φυσική μάτι δεν λειτουργεί σωστά. Ή μπορεί να είναι νευρολογικά, όταν το μάτι είναι fne αλλά η οπτική επεξεργασία σήματος έχει απομειωθεί. Για παράδειγμα, αν το δεξί οπτικό φλοιό μας είναι κατεστραμμένο, είμαστε τυφλοί στην αριστερή πλευρά. Κατά την εξέταση ενός ασθενούς με μια τέτοια νευρολογική τύφλωση στη μία πλευρά, Weiscrantz έλαμψε ένα μικρό σημείο του φωτός στην τυφλή πλευρά του ασθενούς. Weiscrantz τότε ζήτησε από τον ασθενή να επισημάνω σε αυτό. Ο ασθενής διαμαρτυρήθηκε ότι δεν μπορούσε να το δει και δεν θα μπορούσε ενδεχομένως να επισημάνω σε αυτό. Weiscrantz του ζήτησε να δοκιμάσετε έτσι και αλλιώς. Στη συνέχεια ο ασθενής προχώρησε στο σημείο ακριβώς στο σημείο του φωτός που ο ίδιος δεν μπορούσε να αντιληφθεί συνειδητά.

Μετά από εκατοντάδες δοκιμές, έγινε φανερό ότι ο ασθενής θα μπορούσε να δείξει σωστά σε ενενήντα εννέα τοις εκατό των δοκιμών, έστω και αν ο ίδιος υποστήριξε σε κάθε δίκη που ήταν μόνο εικασία. Πώς ο ασθενής να καθορίσει τη θέση του ένα αόρατο αντικείμενο και το σημείο σε αυτό με ακρίβεια? Η νευρολογική λόγος είναι ότι όλοι μας έχουμε δύο οπτικές οδούς. Το νέο οπτικό μονοπάτι περνά μέσα από το οπτικό φλοιό. Η παλιά, εφεδρικό μονοπάτι περνά μέσα από το στέλεχος του εγκεφάλου μας στο ανώτερο έπαρμα.

Η αιτία της τύφλωσης των ασθενών μας ήταν πως ο οπτικός φλοιός του είχε καταστραφεί, και δεν είχε πάρει τα σήματα από το ένα μάτι και οπτικά νεύρα του. Ωστόσο, τα μηνύματα πήραν τη διαδρομή παράλληλα με το ανώτερο έπαρμα, χρησιμοποιώντας το παλιό μονοπάτι. Αυτή η εκτροπή του επέτρεψε να εντοπίσετε το αντικείμενο στο χώρο και να κατευθύνει το χέρι του με ακρίβεια το σημείο στο αόρατο αντικείμενο. Τι αυτό το σύνδρομο των τυφλών-θέαμα μας δείχνει ότι μόνο το νέο οπτικό μονοπάτι οδηγεί σε μια συνειδητή εμπειρία. Ενώ το παλιό μονοπάτι είναι τέλεια χρησιμοποιήσιμη (για την επιβίωση, για παράδειγμα), δεν οδηγεί σε συνειδητή εμπειρία της όρασης.

Μια ενδιαφέρουσα νευρολογική πάθηση, καμία αμφιβολία. Αλλά τυφλή όραση είναι περισσότερο από αυτό. Πρόκειται για μια μάλλον προκαλούν σύγχυση φιλοσοφικό αίνιγμα. Το σημείο του φωτός που ο ασθενής μπορούσε να δει — ήταν το πραγματικό? Βέβαιος, ξέρουμε ότι ήταν πραγματική. Αλλά τι θα γινόταν αν όλοι μας ήταν τυφλοί, άτομα με μειωμένη όραση? Αν κάποιοι από εμάς άρχισαν να αναπτύσσουν μια επίφαση της ευαισθητοποίησης ως αποτέλεσμα της τυφλής όρασης μας, Θα έχουμε τους πιστέψουμε, ή να καλέσετε παραληρητικές? Εάν υπάρχουν αισθήσεις που μπορούμε να αγνοεί, πόσο σίγουροι μπορούμε να είμαστε από το “ανιχνεύονται”? Ή από μας “αυταπάτες”?

Αυτή η θέση είναι ένα δημοσιευμένο κείμενο του τμήματος σε Το Unreal Universe. Οι πληροφορίες προέρχονται από Οι αναδυόμενες Νου: Reith Διαλέξεις για τις Νευροεπιστήμες (BBC Radio, 2003) δίνεται από V. S. Ramachandran, ο διευθυντής του Κέντρου για την Εγκέφαλος και Νόηση, Σαν Ντιέγκο, ΟΠΩΣ, ΗΠΑ. Το βιβλίο μου αναφέρεται σε διάφορα παραδείγματα των φυσιολογικών ανωμαλιών του εγκεφάλου και αντιληπτικές τους εκδήλωση αυτής της σειράς διαλέξεων.

Μια πιθανή Θεός

In my review of The God Delusion, I promised to post a plausible concept of God. Με “a plausible concept,” I mean a concept that doesn’t violate the known principles of science, and should therefore be consistent with the so-called scientific worldview. Το μυαλό σας, the plausibility of the concept says nothing about its veracity; but it may say something about it being a delusion.

Of all the sciences, physics seems to be the one most at odds with the God concept. Σαφώς, evolutionary biology is none too happy with it either, if Dawkins is anything to go by. But that analysis is for another post.

Let’s start by analyzing a physicist’s way of “proving” that there is no God. The argument usually goes something like this:

If there is a God who is capable of affecting me in any way, then there should be some force exerted by that God on me. There should be some interaction. Since the interaction is big enough to affect me, I should be able to use this particular interaction to “measure” the God-intensity. So far, I haven’t been able to measure any such God-related force. So either there is no God that affects me in any way, or there is a God that affects me through deviously disguised interactions so that whenever I try to measure the interaction, I’m always fooled. Τώρα, you tell me what is more likely. By Occam’s Razor, the simplest explanation (that there is no God that can affect me) has the highest chance of being right.

While this is a good argument (and one I used to make), it is built on a couple of implicit assumptions that are rather tricky to spot. The first assumption is that we cannot be affected by an interaction that we cannot sense. This assumption is not necessarily true.

Modern cosmology needs at least one other kind of interaction to account for dark matter and dark energy. Let’s call this unknown interaction the dark interaction. Even though we cannot sense the dark interaction, we are subject to it exactly as all other (known) matter is. The existence of this interaction beyond our senses is sufficient to break the physicist’s proof. A plausible God can affect us, without our being able to sense it, through dark interactions.

But that is not the end of the story. The physicist can still argue, “Fine, if we cannot sense this God, how would we know he exists? And why do so many people claim they can feel him?” This argument is based on the assumptions on conscious experience and sensing. The hidden assumptions in the physicist’s questions (πάλι, not necessarily true) είναι:

  1. Sensing should lead to a conscious perception.
  2. All humans should have the same sense modality.

An example of sensing that does not lead to conscious perception is the syndrome of blind sight. (I will post more on it later). A patient suffering from blind sight can point to the light spot he cannot consciously see. Έτσι, sensing without conscious perception is possible. The second assumption that all men are created equal (in terms of sensory modality) does not have any a priori reason to be true. It is possible that some people may be able to sense the dark interaction (or some other kind of interaction that God chooses) without being conscious of it.

So it is possible to argue that there is a God that affects us through a hitherto unknown interaction. And that some 95% of us can sense this interaction, and the others are atheists. What this argument illustrates is the plausibility of God. Ακριβέστερα, it demonstrates the consistency of a concept of God with physics. It is not meant to be a proof of the existence of God. And that is why, despite the plausibility of God, I am still an atheist.

In retrospect, this argument did not have to be so complicated. It boils down to saying that there are limits on our knowledge, and to what is knowable. There is plenty of room for God outside these limits. It is also a classic argument by those who believe in God — you don’t know everything, so how do you know there isn’t ένας Θεός?

The God Delusion

I am an atheist. So I agree completely with all the arguments of The God Delusion. As a review of the book, that statement should be the end of it. But somehow the book gave me a strange feeling of dissatisfaction. Μπορείτε να δείτε, you may believe in God. Or you may not. Or you may actively believe that there is no God. I fall in this the last category. But I still know that it is only my belief, and that thought fills me with a humility that I feel Dawkins lacks.

Τώρα, it is one thing to say that the concept of God is inconsistent with the worldview you have developed, perhaps with the help of science. The concept is indeed very inconsistent with my own personal worldview, which is why I am an atheist. But it is quite a different matter to discount the concept as a delusion. I believe that our knowledge is incomplete. And that there is plenty of room for a possible God to hide beyond the realms of our current knowledge. Does it mean that we should call our ignorance God and kneel before it? I don’t think so, but if somebody does, that is their prerogative.

Μπορείτε να δείτε, it is all a question of what your worldview is. And how much rigor and consistency you demand of it. Έτσι, what is a worldview? Κατά τη γνώμη μου,, a worldview is the extension of your knowledge. We all have a certain amount of knowledge. We also have a lot of sensory data that comes in every moment that we have to process. We do most of this processing automatically, without conscious effort. But some of the higher level data and information that we encounter merit a closer analysis. How do we do it, given that we may not know much about it? We use our commonsense, our pre-conceived notions, the value systems our parents and teachers left in us and so on. One of these things that we use, or perhaps the totality of these things, is our worldview.

Let’s take an example. Douglas Adams tells us that dolphins are actually smarter than us and have regular inter-galactic communication. Καλά, we have no way of refuting this claim (που, φυσικά, is only a joke). But our worldview tells us that it is unlikely to be true. And we don’t believe it — as though we know it is not true.

Another example, one that Bertram Russell once cited. Scripture tells us that faith can move mountains. Some people believe it. Science tells us that a nuclear blast can, καλά, move mountains. Some people believe that too. Note that most people haven’t directly witnessed either. But even for those who believe in the faith-mountain connection, nuclear energy moving mountains is far more plausible a belief. It is just a lot more consistent with our current worldview.

Τώρα, just because God is a delusion according to Dawkins’s worldview (or mine, for that matter), should you buy it? Not unless it is inconsistent with yours as well. Worldviews are hard to change. So are our stances vis-a-vis God and science, when seen as belief-systems — as the movie Contact vividly illustrates. If you missed it, you should watch it. Repeatedly, αν χρειαστεί. It is a good movie anyway.

It is true what they say about a scientific worldview being inconsistent with any sensible notion of a god. But worldviews are a funny thing. Nothing prevents you from tolerating inconsistencies in your worldview. Although Dawkins goes to some length to absolve Einstein of this lack of consistency, the conventional wisdom is that he did believe in God. The truth of the matter is that our collective knowledge (even after adding Einstein’s massive contribution) is limited. There really is plenty of room beyond its limits for God (or eight million gods, if I were to believe my parents), as I will try to show in my next post.

That, Ωστόσο,, is only the tip of the iceberg. Once we admit that there are limits to our knowledge, and to what is knowable, we will soon find ourselves staring at other delusions. What is the point it discounting a God delusion, while embracing a space-delusion? In a universe that is unreal, everything is a delusion, not just God. Ξέρω, you think it is just my sanity that is unreal, but I may convince you otherwise. In another post.