الوسم المحفوظات: ريتشارد دوكينز

On Rationality and Delusions

This post started as a reply to M Cuffe’s comment on my post on الله الوهم. M Cuffe suggested that I’m merely asserting an individual’s right to be irrational, or ignorant. نعم, 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 زن والفن من صيانة للدراجات النارية.

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, ثق بي. 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. لماذا?

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. اسمحوا لي أن أشرح. 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. ولكن بعد ذلك, what isn’t?

Let’s take perfection, على سبيل المثال. 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, قول, 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. الآن, 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. أخذ, على سبيل المثال, 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.

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

أعمى البصر

In my post on مقنع الله, I cited blind-sight as an example of sensing that does not lead to conscious perception. This remarkable neurological syndrome illustrates the tight interconnection between our sense of reality and consciousness. Larry Weiscrantz and Alan Cowey discovered blind-sight at Oxford about 25 years ago.

Blindness can be physiological, when the physical eye is not functioning properly. Or it can be neurological, when the eye is fne but the visual signal processing is impaired. مثلا, if our right visual cortex is damaged, we are blind on the left side. When examining a patient with such a neurological blindness on one side, Weiscrantz shined a little spot of light on the patient’s blind side. Weiscrantz then asked the patient to point to it. The patient protested that he could not see it and could not possibly point to it. Weiscrantz asked him to try anyway. The patient then proceeded to point accurately to the spot of light that he could not consciously perceive.

After hundreds of trials, it became obvious that the patient could point correctly in ninety-nine percent of trials, even though he claimed on each trial that he was only guessing. How did the patient determine the location of an invisible object and point to it accurately? The neurological reason is that we all have two visual pathways. The new visual pathway goes through the visual cortex. The old, backup pathway runs through our brain stem to the superior colliculus.

The cause of our patient’s blindness was that his visual cortex was damaged, and it did not get the signals from one eye and its optic nerves. But the signals took the parallel route to the superior colliculus, using the old pathway. This rerouting allowed him to locate the object in space and guide his hand accurately to point to the invisible object. What this syndrome of blind-sight shows us is that only the new visual pathway leads to a conscious experience. While the old pathway is perfectly usable (for survival, على سبيل المثال), it does not lead to a conscious experience of vision.

An interesting neurological condition, لا شك. But blind-sight is more than that. It is a rather confounding philosophical conundrum. The spot of light that the patient could see — was it real? بالتأكيد, we know it was real. But what if all of us were blind-sighted? If some of us started developing a semblance of awareness as a result of our blind-sight, would we believe them, or call them delusional? If there are senses that we can be unaware of, how sure can we be of the “sensed”? Or of our “delusions”?

This post is an edited version of section in غير واقعي الكون. The information comes from العقل الناشئة: ريث محاضرات في علم الأعصاب (BBC Radio, 2003) given by V. S. راماشاندران, the director of the Center for Brain and Cognition, San Diego, CA, الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية. My book refers to several examples of physiological brain anomalies and their perceptual manifestation from this lecture series.

مقنع الله

In my review of الله الوهم, I promised to post a plausible concept of God. من قبل “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. فتذكروا, 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. بوضوح, 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. الآن, 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 (مرة أخرى, not necessarily true) هي:

  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. وهكذا, 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. أكثر دقة, 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, وإلى ما يمكن معرفته. 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 اله?

الله الوهم

أنا ملحد. لذلك أنا أتفق تماما مع كل حجج الله الوهم. كما استعراض الكتاب, وينبغي أن يكون هذا البيان نهاية لها. ولكن ما أعطاني الكتاب شعور غريب من عدم الرضا. ترى, تؤمنوا بالله. أو لا يجوز لك. أو تؤمنوا بنشاط أن لا إله. أنا تقع في هذه الفئة الأخيرة. ولكن ما زلت أعلم أنه ليس سوى إيماني, وهذا الفكر يملأ لي مع التواضع أن أشعر دوكينز يفتقر.

الآن, هو شيء واحد لنقول أن مفهوم الله لا يتفق مع النظرة كنت قد وضعت, ربما بمساعدة من العلم. هذا المفهوم هو في الواقع يتعارض جدا مع نظرتي للعالم الشخصية, وهذا هو السبب أنا ملحد. وإنما هو مسألة مختلفة تماما لخصم مفهوم والوهم. وأعتقد أن معرفتنا ناقصة. وأن هناك الكثير من الغرفة لاحتمال الله لإخفاء ما وراء العوالم من معرفتنا الحالية. فهل يعني ذلك أن علينا أن ندعو الله جهلنا والركوع قبل أن? أنا لا أعتقد ذلك, ولكن إذا كان شخص ما لا, هذا هو شانهم.

ترى, كل ذلك هو سؤال ما هي نظرتك للعالم. وكم الصرامة والاتساق كنت الطلب منه. هكذا, ما هي وجهة نظر عالمية? في رأيي, نظرة عالمية هي امتداد لعلمك. علينا جميعا أن قدرا معينا من المعرفة. لدينا أيضا الكثير من البيانات الحسية التي تأتي في كل لحظة أن لدينا لمعالجة. نفعل أكثر من هذه المعالجة تلقائيا, دون جهد واع. ولكن بعض البيانات مستوى أعلى والمعلومات التي نواجهها الجدارة التحليل الدقيق. كيف نفعل ذلك, نظرا لأننا قد لا نعرف الكثير عن ذلك? نستخدم التعقل لدينا, لدينا أفكار مسبقة،, نظم القيم لدينا الآباء والمعلمين يقم فينا وهلم جرا. واحدة من هذه الأشياء التي نستخدمها, أو ربما مجمل هذه الأمور, هي نظرتنا إلى العالم.

دعونا نأخذ مثالا على ذلك. دوغلاس آدمز يخبرنا أن الدلافين هي في الواقع أكثر ذكاء منا، ولها الاتصال بين المجرات العادية. جيد, لدينا أي وسيلة لدحض هذا الادعاء (التي, بالطبع, ليست سوى نكتة). ولكن نظرتنا إلى العالم يقول لنا أنه من غير المرجح أن يكون صحيحا. ونحن لا نعتقد أنه — كما لو أننا نعرف أنه ليس صحيحا.

مثال آخر, واحد بيرترام راسيل استشهد مرة واحدة. الكتاب المقدس يخبرنا أن الإيمان يمكن أن تحرك الجبال. بعض الناس يعتقدون أنه. العلم يخبرنا بأن الانفجار النووي يمكن, جيد, تحريك الجبال. بعض الناس يعتقدون ذلك أيضا. لاحظ أن معظم الناس لم يشهد إما مباشرة. ولكن حتى بالنسبة لأولئك الذين يعتقدون في اتصال الإيمان الجبلية, الطاقة النووية تحريك الجبال هي أكثر احتمالا بكثير الاعتقاد. انها مجرد الكثير من يتسق مع النظرة الحالية لدينا.

الآن, فقط لأن الله هو الوهم وفقا لدوكينز في النظرة (أو الألغام, لهذه المسألة), يجب شرائه? لا ما لم يتعارض مع يدكم فضلا. وجهات نظر عالمية من الصعب تغيير. وذلك مواقفنا تجاه في مواجهة الله والعلم, عندما ينظر إليها على أنها أنظمة الاعتقاد — والفيلم يوضح بجلاء الاتصال. إذا كنت أخطأت, يجب مشاهدته. مرارا وتكرارا, إذا لزم الأمر. هو فيلم جيد على أي حال.

وصحيح ما يقولون عن وجهة نظر عالمية العلمية كونها تتعارض مع أي فكرة معقولة إله. ولكن وجهات النظر العالمية هي شيء مضحك. لا شيء يمنعك من التناقضات التسامح في نظرتك للعالم. على الرغم من أن يذهب إلى دوكينز بشيء من التفصيل لتبرئة أينشتاين هذا عدم اتساق, الحكمة التقليدية هي أنه لم يؤمن بالله. حقيقة الأمر هي أن المعرفة الجماعية (حتى بعد إضافة مساهمة أينشتاين ضخمة) يقتصر. هناك فعلا الكثير من الغرفة أبعد حدوده في سبيل الله (أو ثمانية ملايين الآلهة, إذا كان لي أن أصدق والدي), كما سأحاول أن تظهر في وجهتي المقبلة بعد.

أن, لكن, ليست سوى غيض من فيض. وبمجرد أن نعترف أن هناك حدودا لمعرفتنا, وإلى ما يمكن معرفته, سوف نجد أنفسنا قريبا يحدق في الأوهام أخرى. ما هي النقطة أنه خصم الوهم الله, بينما تحتضن A-الوهم الفضاء? في الكون الذي هو غير واقعي, كل شيء هو الوهم, ليس فقط الله. وأنا أعلم, كنت اعتقد انها مجرد بلدي التعقل الذي هو غير واقعي, لكنني قد اقناع لكم خلاف ذلك. في وظيفة أخرى.