From a purely skeptical point of view, not to be confused with a cynical point of view, the various fields of the Unexplained are clogged with everyone’s individual ideas about what their various field of interest is, and how it should be investigated. What they all seem to want is for science to take them seriously, and investigate their personal favorite, and when it does not then they cry foul, or cover-up, or simply say “you have to be open minded.”
No, really it is not anyone’s obligation to you to be open minded, especially when what you really mean is “just accept what I am saying as fact without proof.”
From an article in Commentary Magazine
The Closing of the Scientific Mind
The huge cultural authority science has acquired over the past century imposes large duties on every scientist. Scientists have acquired the power to impress and intimidate every time they open their mouths, and it is their responsibility to keep this power in mind no matter what they say or do. Too many have forgotten their obligation to approach with due respect the scholarly, artistic, religious, humanistic work that has always been mankind’s main spiritual support. Scientists are (on average) no more likely to understand this work than the man in the street is to understand quantum physics. But science used to know enough to approach cautiously and admire from outside, and to build its own work on a deep belief in human dignity. No longer.
If science possesses a “cultural authority” it is because science has substanitally contributed to the perpetuation of culture and the survival of the human species. Subjective thinking makes demons out of diseases, stigmatizes the afflicted and treats them (if at all) with wholly ineffective methods. Objective science makes diseases out of demons and has treated and cured countless people effectively and with a growing body of knowledge. Science does not make progress toward the cure for cancer by worrying about who might be offended by the work or concerning itself that one particular group of believers either chooses to accept that any divine entity A: will cure them if it deems them worthy or B: simply wants them to suffer.
Science has no direct relationship to art or religion, or the spirituality of humanity and it has no obligations toward preserving or protecting these issues. Science as a body of knowledge is only obligated to the accuracy of that knowledge. As a method of investigation, science’s only obligation is to pursue every avenue (short of violating the law, and even then those laws are often imposed by subjective fears) to build upon that on body of knowledge with no obligation to protect some specific belief for the sake of not hurting anyone’s feelings because it might contradict what they choose to believe.
Many scientists are proud of having booted man off his throne at the center of the universe and reduced him to just one more creature—an especially annoying one—in the great intergalactic zoo. That is their right. But when scientists use this locker-room braggadocio to belittle the human viewpoint, to belittle human life and values and virtues and civilization and moral, spiritual, and religious discoveries, which is all we human beings possess or ever will, they have outrun their own empiricism. They are abusing their cultural standing. Science has become an international bully.
What exactly are the discoveries of religion? For centuries religion has done everything it could to suppress the search for knowledge which challenges dogma, or denies it with observable facts. What braggadocio to not only claim there is such a thing as religious discovery, but to go further and claim those discoveries to be “all we human beings possess or ever will” when the fact is quite the opposite. All we possess in knowledge, and material goods and the technology which provides both has come from objective observation and rational analysis. “To Belittle human life?” Individual and subjective philosophies have done far more to devalue life, choosing to objectify that life which does not agree with the philosophy in hand, and then eliminate that life for failing to agree. Human life has been extended, preserved (for good or ill) through knowledge, not philosophy. And while some may attempt to make the case that that very same technology is now threatening our existence, damaging the environment, destroying our food, the fact is that it is subjective use of those technologies to meet the personal philosophies of greed and self superiority that are the motivators behind that harm.
Thomas Nagel is an eminent philosopher and professor at NYU. In Mind & Cosmos, he shows with terse, meticulous thoroughness why mainstream thought on the workings of the mind is intellectually bankrupt. He explains why Darwinian evolution is insufficient to explain the emergence of consciousness—the capacity to feel or experience the world. He then offers his own ideas on consciousness, which are speculative, incomplete, tentative, and provocative—in the tradition of science and philosophy.
I have not read the text, nor am I familiar with it so will not presume to argue specifics one way or the other. However, science has often, if not always disagreed upon new ideas. So have philosophies and dogmas, though rarely over new ideas preferring to beat away at old ones. Some would argue it is the primary pursuit and occupation of philosophy and dogma to offer insubstantial arguments of self interest, where disagreements of science settle upon an answer through progressive investigation. The statement above correctly identifies Nagel’s ideas as just that, ideas. Are we to assume from Gelernter’s point of view that it ends there. Nagel expresses an idea and it should end there? Consider the question of consciousness answered because someone has a question? Is that what Nagel himself thinks, or is he proposing that something should be investigated, objectively.
Evolution though proven in laboratory conditions, is still considered a theory. As such it is assumed it is incomplete and further investigation needed. Those investigations are happening, but they are not completed until data is found and analyzed. It is unfortunate that resources for such pursuits are limited, but it is also a fact. If there are scientists who disagree on where those resources are better spent, that is human nature. Yet Gelernter’s entire view here is that we should just accept
The Kurzweil Cult
The voice most strongly associated with what I’ve termed roboticism is that of Ray Kurzweil, a leading technologist and inventor. The Kurzweil Cult teaches that, given the strong and ever-increasing pace of technological progress and change, a fateful crossover point is approaching. He calls this point the “singularity.” After the year 2045 (mark your calendars!), machine intelligence will dominate human intelligence to the extent that men will no longer understand machines any more than potato chips understand mathematical topology. Men will already have begun an orgy of machinification—implanting chips in their bodies and brains, and fine-tuning their own and their children’s genetic material. Kurzweil believes in “transhumanism,” the merging of men and machines. He believes human immortality is just around the corner. He works for Google.
If you are going to resort to outright lies to make your case, you don’t have much of one. Here is what the actual singularity proposes:
The technological singularity, or simply the singularity, is a hypothetical moment in time when artificial intelligence will have progressed to the point of a greater-than-human intelligence, radically changing civilization, and perhaps human nature.
It is purely the paranoia of Gelernter that: “…machine intelligence will dominate human intelligence to the extent that men will no longer understand machines any more than potato chips understand mathematical topology.”
Your subjective, conscious experience is just as real as the tree outside your window or the photons striking your retina—even though you alone feel it. Many philosophers and scientists today tend to dismiss the subjective and focus wholly on an objective, third-person reality—a reality that would be just the same if men had no minds. They treat subjective reality as a footnote, or they ignore it, or they announce that, actually, it doesn’t even exist.
Subjective conscious experience is unique and personal, any two people experiencing the same event or observing the same object will always have different views based upon a lifetime of previous but variable other experiences. The tree outside your window remains what it is no matter who is looking at it. One person may find it aesthetically pleasing and another quite the opposite, yet they can agree, must agree that the tree is itself and can readily identify that tree by its species, it’s photograph, or possibly it’s detailed description. The tree exists as what it is, as all trees exist and always have regardless of our being conscious of them.
Science is objectivity. To blame or criticize this position is absurd. Science is not philosophy nor does it ever pretend to be. People may propose that it is, but that is another of the flaws of subjectivity. Unfortunately for this argument, the main people who propose science as a philosophy are the same people who object to science not being “open minded” to take their personal philosophy seriously.
Subjectivity is your private experience of the world: your sensations; your mental life and inner landscape; your experiences of sweet and bitter, blue and gold, soft and hard; your beliefs, plans, pains, hopes, fears, theories, imagined vacation trips and gardens and girlfriends and Ferraris, your sense of right and wrong, good and evil. This is your subjective world. It is just as real as the objective physical world.
No, it is not. As I said above, your subjective view can easily completely contradict another person’s subjective view. Both can be subjectively true, but as far as physical reality is concerned, contradictions cannot exist simultaneously Anyone who wishes to prove otherwise can simply demonstrate where water is both at it’s boiling point and it’s freezing point in the exact same place at the exact same time. Or where they can stand in full sunlight in complete darkness at the same time.
The Brain as Computer.
The dominant, mainstream view of mind nowadays among philosophers and many scientists is computationalism, also known as cognitivism. This view is inspired by the idea that minds are to brains as software is to computers. “Think of the brain,” writes Daniel Dennett of Tufts University in his influential 1991 Consciousness Explained, “as a computer.” In some ways this is an apt analogy. In others, it is crazy. At any rate, it is one of the intellectual milestones of modern times.
But the master analogy—between mind and software, brain and computer—is fatally flawed. It falls apart once you mull these simple facts:
I am going to deal with these one at a time, and I have to say a computer science professor from Yale should have known better than to make pretty much any of these statements.
1. You can transfer a program easily from one computer to another, but you can’t transfer a mind, ever, from one brain to another.
Which is it? Are we equating the mind to a computer, or to a computer program? By your own definition the Mind Consider the mind….
And since you raise the topic of Ray Kurzweil and the Singularity above, it is a shame you do not understand that a part of that prediction is the capacity to make that exact transfer. The science is being done even now.
…has its own structure and laws: It has desires, emotions, imagination; it is conscious
Well, Desires, emotions, imagination, any of these could be considered a program in and of themselves, and these can be transferred from one person to another. Read a good book lately? As for programs being easily transferred, ever tried to load a Linux program onto a Mac, or tried to run an app from your Android phone on your iPad? There may be equivalent programs but those posses subtle differences, do not always have the same appearance or features and they are not direct transfers. I cannot get my Android to talk to my Palm, which is only a few years older. Whereas, ideas from one culture, expressed in a different language, from a different time and a unique perspective CAN become integrated into a completely new environment, by completely new people, if they look at those ideas objectively.
2. You can run an endless series of different programs on any one computer, but only one “program” runs, or ever can run, on any one human brain.
Again you are lacking significant definition here. Your brain multitasks quite well, ask any athlete, or person who multitasks through their day. What are the exact limitations of the programs the human brain when it comes to “programs?” How many different human languages are there? It is possible to learn any one of them, and we go further to begin to translate languages in the broader animal kingdom. Are we incapable of learning new tasks?
3. Software is transparent. I can read off the precise state of the entire program at any time. Minds are opaque—there is no way I can know what you are thinking unless you tell me.
Disengenuous. You cannot know “the precise state of the entire program at any time” unless you are accessing the computer in some way, just exactly as if you are asking it. Asking the computer is no different than asking a person. Then, isn’t this entire article about telling science it needs to be more open-minded about wider definitions of human experience and consciousness? Here you are rejecting the concept of ESP, or mental empathy out of hand?
4. Computers can be erased; minds cannot.
Ever known anyone in a coma or a vegetative state? Morality may prevent us from doing so, but we certainly possess the capability to carry out this process.
5. Computers can be made to operate precisely as we choose; minds cannot.
You obviously have never read the history of Nazi Germany, Jonestown, Heaven’s Gate, Scientology, and that list goes on.
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