The Case Against Reality

April 27, 2016 § 3 Comments


Hoffman: We’ve been shaped to have perceptions that keep us alive, so we have to take them seriously. If I see something that I think of as a snake, I don’t pick it up. If I see a train, I don’t step in front of it. I’ve evolved these symbols to keep me alive, so I have to take them seriously. But it’s a logical flaw to think that if we have to take it seriously, we also have to take it literally.

Gefter: If snakes aren’t snakes and trains aren’t trains, what are they?

Hoffman: Snakes and trains, like the particles of physics, have no objective, observer-independent features. The snake I see is a description created by my sensory system to inform me of the fitness consequences of my actions. Evolution shapes acceptable solutions, not optimal ones. A snake is an acceptable solution to the problem of telling me how to act in a situation. My snakes and trains are my mental representations; your snakes and trains are your mental representations.

I have long pondered this. Anyone who’s taken a sense-enhancing substance can tell you that what our eyes transmit to our brains on a normal day is not the extent of what we can see. If our perception of the world can be so drastically affected, how can our everyday perception be trusted? It can’t. 🙂

Go get your mind bent. If it doesn’t make you suddenly feel the world beyond our accepted perception, you’re boring and dead.

This is beautiful:

Hoffman: Physics tells us that there are no public physical objects. So what’s going on? Here’s how I think about it. I can talk to you about my headache and believe that I am communicating effectively with you, because you’ve had your own headaches. The same thing is true as apples and the moon and the sun and the universe. Just like you have your own headache, you have your own moon.

And this is astounding:

Hoffman: I can take two conscious agents and have them interact, and the mathematical structure of that interaction also satisfies the definition of a conscious agent. This mathematics is telling me something. I can take two minds, and they can generate a new, unified single mind. Here’s a concrete example. We have two hemispheres in our brain. But when you do a split-brain operation, a complete transection of the corpus callosum, you get clear evidence of two separate consciousnesses. Before that slicing happened, it seemed there was a single unified consciousness. So it’s not implausible that there is a single conscious agent. And yet it’s also the case that there are two conscious agents there, and you can see that when they’re split.

Within our bodies, we have two separate consciousnesses. Put two people into a room and have them interact, and we form another consciousness machine from four separate consciousnesses. Perhaps all of these (all the human consciousnesses in existence) are really part of one consciousness. Perhaps this network, making up one brain, is what the world IS.

For a long time, people have been saying there’s no God because that’s ‘impossible’. The trouble is, the more we learn through turning away from God and exploring science, the more we see that there are things outside our own capacity for perception and understanding. And that’s where God probably lives.

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