Matthew Alper, Have Skeptics Lost Their Edge? |448|

Alex

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#1
Matthew Alper, Have Skeptics Lost Their Edge? |448|
by Alex Tsakiris | May 12 | Consciousness Science, Near-Death Experience, Skepticism
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Matthew Alper wrote a best selling selling science book 10 years ago, and hasn’t updated it since.


photo by: Skeptiko

Alex Tsakiris: [00:00:00] Welcome to Skeptiko where we explore controversial science and spirituality with leading researchers, thinkers, and their critics. I’m your host, Alex Tsakiris and today we’re joined by Matthew Alper, who a few years ago wrote a book, The “God” Part of the Brain. A book that received a tremendous amount of praise, was very well received and a lot of people liked it, especially a lot of really smart people like the ones that I’m showing up here on the screen. I was doing a radio interview the other day. Here’s how this interview came about. There’s this show, Midnight in the Desert, and I’m talking to the producer beforehand and she’s telling me about this guy who came on the show and the host was so frustrated, the guy’s an atheist and he’s a skeptic, and he’s so frustrated, they didn’t even finish the interview. And I was like, “Man, this is my kind of guy, I need to talk to this guy.”

Matthew Alper: [00:01:00] Well, that’s actually a nice way of saying that they hung up on me.

Alex Tsakiris: So, as you know from listening to this show, folks who have listened to it. I love exchanging and a lot of ideas. I’m open to especially hashing out things with people who are coming at things from this kind of materialistic perspective, which is the dominant view within science. And this God part of the brain thing is something we’ve certainly talked about a ton on this show. So I thought it would be great to have you on and to kind of hash this out and to, go over this. So, Matthew, thanks so much for coming on. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and more about the book, The “God” Part of the Brain? (continued below)
 
#4
Thing is, on one level, I think Alpert is correct. Because we are self-reflectively aware and know that we will die, some degree of existential angst is unsurprising. That's quite probably a contributory factor to various human belief systems in which people can posit and believe in the eternal nature of human essence or soul. I feel reasonably sure that many people are believers for the very reason he states: they want to create for themselves some kind of assurance of personal eternality.

That said, just because some, or even many, people do that doesn't constitute proof that there's nothing to eternality, or more generally, what many think of as "spirituality". If one is prepared to look at such questions using the scientific method (which despite what Alpert asserts, goes on in a number of academic and other serious settings), the fact is, many of the bedrock assumptions of materialism are being tested.

He seems to me to be a naive realist, implicitly believing in the literal reality of what his senses tell him. For him, there really is a world out there that is exactly how it appears to be. The brain really is just a collection of material stuff arranged in a certain manner, out of which there really does emerge, in some as-yet unfathomable way, consciousness.

That's his free miracle: the one assumption he can't seem to truly question. Things are exactly and only what he perceives them to be, or what those in authority tell him he should perceive them to be (few of us are credentialled physicists and understand things in the same way they do at extreme scales -- either microscopic or macroscopic). The biggest thing he has going for him is that thinking in such a way is what enables us to engineer things that actually seem to work - everything from wheels to Hadron colliders. How could they all work in reliable and predictable ways unless what seems material is the basis for everything?

All over the place, in many different scientific areas, this largely received opinion is being questioned. The textbooks, however, continue to promulgate the view that the world is made of billiard balls that collide in various interesting ways even when the evidence mounts that correlation isn't causation. "Zombie science" as Jonathan Wells termed it in his book Zombie Science: More Icons of Evolution isn't just restricted to evolution: it permeates science as a whole.

Many of the people examining the tenets of materialism at the cutting edge, although they know it's questionable, still talk to the general public and even undergraduate and postgraduate students in terms of zombie science. It's good as dead, but still it walks around proclaiming it's alive and well. For whatever reason, though at least some scientists are aware of the limitations of the materialistic model of reality (and that's what in truth it is), it's a cultural imperative to tow the company line lest the scientific thought police get on your case and get you ostracised.

If materialists could at least accept in principle that materialism is just one way of modelling reality -- granted, a highly useful one in terms of empirical observations and engineering achievements -- and not necessarily reality itself, some kind of dialogue would be possible. But there are underlying ideological and metaphysical reasons why that isn't presently happening to any great extent, perhaps particularly (and somewhat ironically) in scientific areas quite far removed from physics. Many ardent materialists are quite often in the biological sciences, for example.

Either the universe is material, or materiality is an artifact of the way we perceive. The latter IMO is where Bernardo Kastrup and Donald Hoffman (amongst others) are coming from. If one's base assumption/free miracle is the former, then attempts to converse are unlikely to succeed, witness towards then end of the interview where Alpert, it seemed to me, was mostly positing as fact the very things that materialism asserts in order to prove itself. It's all very circular and it would be nice if there were some way to induce at least a scintilla of doubt.

Just getting a person like Alpert to at least intellectually understand and consider something like idealism, and how, if true, it could undermine his position, would be a major achievement. But for him it simply can't be so and so he won't really even consider the possibility. I have nothing personal against him, and in some respects his journey recapitulates my own, so I think I understand his take on things, but will he ever understand other viewpoints, or will he continue to kick the rock, like Samuel Johnson, thus refuting non-materialism?

Have to wait and see, but doesn't seem like there's much hope right now. My only plea would be for him to try to see materialism as a somewhat useful and successful model when it comes to adapting ourselves to reality as we perceive it, whilst retaining at least some skepticism/openness towards the possibility that appearances could be deceptive.
 

Alex

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#7
yes these "skeptics" are boring.
kind of agree. I always feel a little torn because as you know some very respectable people still buy in:
"I very much enjoyed the account of your spiritual journey and believe it would make excellent reading for every college student - the resultant residence-hall debates would be the best part of their education. It often occurs to me that if, against all odds, there is a judgmental God and heaven, it will come to pass that when the pearly gates open, those who had the valor to think for themselves will be escorted to the head of the line, garlanded, and given their own personal audience." ― Edward O. Wilson, two-time Pulitzer Prize-Winner

"This is an essential book for those in search of a scientific understanding of man's spiritual nature. Matthew Alper navigates the reader through a labyrinth of intriguing questions and then offers undoubtedly clear answers that lead to a better understanding of our objective reality." ― Elena Rusyn, MD, PhD; Gray Laboratory; Harvard Medical School

"What a wonderful book you have written. It was not only brilliant and provocative but also revolutionary in its approach to spirituality as an inherited trait."― Arnold Sadwin, MD, former chief of Neuropsychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania

"A lively manifesto...For the discipline's specific application to the matter at hand, I've seen nothing that matches the fury of The 'God' Part of the Brain, which perhaps explains why it's earned something of a cult following." ― Salon.com

"All 6 billion plus inhabitants of Earth should be in possession of this book. Alper's tome should be placed in the sacred writings' section of libraries, bookstores, and dwellings throughout the world. Matthew Alper is the new Galileo...Immensely important...Defines in a clear and concise manner what each of us already knew but were afraid to admit and exclaim."― John Scoggins, PhD
 
#8
It was revealing to me that Alper, a former history teacher, dismissively equated the likelihood of the existence of the historical Mohammed with that of the mythical Zeus (06:13). This was perhaps the most egregious example of a general lack of intellectual rigor. Yet Alper, who wrote a highly successful book among other achievements, clearly isn’t stupid. This lack of intellectual rigor is something that I’ve observed time and again with materialists and the “skeptical” community in general. They are almost universally ignorant of current research contradicting their worldview, and when confronted with such evidence, dismissively reject it, sight unseen, as “fringe”.

Or when confronted with basic and well-known quantum mechanical evidence, refuse to see the obvious fact that the observer effect (for instance) is an aspect of reality. Alper was wrong to assume that the observer effect only applied to subatomic particles (last I heard they were up to massive fullerenes), but so what? What is Alper’s point? Does he not understand that the very subatomic particles that he dismisses as irrelevant to his worldview happen to be the fundamental units upon which that worldview is constructed? He is actually arguing that while reality’s fundamental building blocks are indeed brought into concrete existence by observation alone (requiring consciousness somewhere along the line), from then on up it’s all just material “stuff”. In other words, Alper “explains away” the observer effect by arguing from the basis of philosophical idealism. And he doesn’t even realize it! The irony is exquisite.

I also saw how, after you gave Alper the names of two well-respected American colleges that offered degrees encompassing studies in near-death experiences, Alper shamelessly shifted the goalposts from “ one legitimate college that offers you a degree in near-death experiences “ to “let’s just say the top 10 schools in America…”

Anyway, enough dissection. As to whether you should keep interviewing materialists and “skeptics” in general, I feel strongly that you should. Not only do I enjoy seeing them thoroughly undressed (as it were) but you are perhaps overlooking the fact that your typically slam–dunk refutations of their beliefs are new to your more recent viewers and listeners. So yes, keep inviting them Alex. Great stuff!

PS You were amazingly patient btw!
 
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#9
Hey Alex,

Great show. ;;/? I suppose this is why I do not allow 22 year old wannabe screenplay writers to instruct me about physics, logic and philosophy. Two things he is doing, which are malicious in their praxis - dehumanize your opponent, and then set them up for unnecessary conflict:

Dehumanization

Watch the permissive and condemnation differences between the way in which he treats himself, and the way he treats those whom he sees as his opponents ('magical thinkers'):

So first of all, the opinions of the masses [about the material being monist or conscious being fundamental], the mostly uneducated masses, the uneducated masses that gave us the government we have today ;), don’t represent to me a valid or viable. If I wanted to put together a new technology, some new type of nuclear missile, I would not say, “Hey, masses, let’s think tank on this.” I would look for the 0.001% who are diligently spending their life studying these specific things for my answers. (Very poorly thought out false equivalency in the same vein as the poorly crafted Jesus and Zeus false equivalency)​

I believe that consciousness is a physical reality. End of story. [Materialism] adds up, it passes the common sense test.
This is called a high and low or hypocrisy fallacy.

If you use common perception to frame the world around you - you posses a mental flaw (spot) and have overstepped your allowable bounds of expertise. But if he uses 'common sense' to make a final claim concerning the world - he is within his rights of sound mind.

If you reach a 'magical thinking' conclusion, then you are uneducatedly treading on the domain of the gods - the physicists, the scientists who are the diligently-spending-their-life-studying-these-sorts-of-things .001% experts. However, if he (also not educated) comes up with the right answer, then he is allowed to aspire to the level of scientist-peer and to pass this judgement as a common sense result of science.

What he is doing here is de-humanizing his opponent. Stripping them of their rights as humanity and awarding those rights solely to himself and his fellows. It is an insidious sleight-of-hand. Where one is corrupt in their skepticism, there also will they be corrupt in their heart. This is why I choose ignostic atheism - as it does not seek to dehumanize those who think differently.

Catalyseur - Fomenting Conflict

A second implication of what he is doing here is acting as a catalyseur fomenting conflict between science/scientists, and the 'magical thinking' lay public. Notice he has slipped by the implication to the lay-believer here that scientists, the 'spend-their-life-studying-these-sorts-of-things experts' - mostly all ("sure, you can point to the fringe guy who wrote a book") disagree with the 'magical thinkers', or have a superior position on the matter to them - and disdain or despise them. To wit:

But apparently you can, because people you’re saying are getting PhDs in near-death experiences, and to me, that’s the equivalent of a two-headed bat with Hitler’s brain (Another very poorly thought out false equivalency). You will not find one college, one legitimate college that offers you a degree in near-death experiences. Now, if it was a valid science, I should be able to major in it like I could geology. I don’t want to be an optometrist or urologist, I want to be a near-death experiencist.
Note: Again with the false equivalency. The major he claims does not exist is called palliative care and you can get a degree in it. Duke, Boston College, GWU, Stanford all have major disciplines in palliative care. One may choose to study the near death experience as a subset of this just as one can choose to pursue a controversial theory of macular degeneration as an eye surgeon - but they don't offer a major in macular degeneration as that is a topical sub-discipline. I don't think this guy actually graduated from a university.

What this tension between the lay public and science serves is to shift the spotlight onto him. Like a kid who poses a bully against a weaker kid on the playground in order to gain popularity - he gains control, book sales and celebrity by fomenting the conflict and acting as a go between in order to make the bully (science) perceive that the weak kid has offended him, and to make the weak kid (lay public) think that the bully hates him and will beat him up if he gets anywhere near him.

These are malicious practices. They are tricks of the trade of fake skepticism.
 
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#10
I suppose there is a limited value in interviewing a hardened sceptic from time to time, but it really is rather tasteless - leaving nothing interesting to think about! The best podcasts leave me think about them for days afterwards.

I also saw how, after you gave Alper the names of two well-respected American colleges that offered degrees encompassing studies in near-death experiences, Alper shamelessly shifted the goalposts from “ one legitimate college that offers you a degree in near-death experiences “ to “let’s just say the top 10 schools in America…”
Well of course, maybe he doesn't realise just what courses colleges do offer these days - gender studies, intersectionality, navel gazing .............
So first of all, the opinions of the masses [about the material being monist or conscious being fundamental], the mostly uneducated masses, the uneducated masses that gave us the government we have today ;), don’t represent to me a valid or viable. If I wanted to put together a new technology, some new type of nuclear missile, I would not say, “Hey, masses, let’s think tank on this.” I would look for the 0.001% who are diligently spending their life studying these specific things for my answers. (Very poorly thought out false equivalency in the same vein as the poorly crafted Jesus and Zeus false equivalency)
That is the way a lot of people think, and the logic of not arguing against what experts tell you, has a certain common sense to it. For example, I once made the mistake of taking statins because the doctor said they would be good for me. What followed, cured me of taking prescription drugs without looking them up on the internet. However, if I broke a bone, I'd trust the doctors and nurses to fix me up, and I'd take their advice. I suppose the relevant difference (putting aside Big Pharma) is that in one case, the advise is based on a long chain of reasoning containing some very dodgy steps, and the other is based on someone's long experience of fixing broken bones - rather like I know a builder I can trust to sort out any problems with our house.

Part of science's con-trick is that instead of frankly acknowledging the mystery of QM, they obfuscated the issue by coming up with umpteen different interpretations and not even admitting that each interpretation is incredibly hard to believe. For example, how easy is it to believe that the universe bifurcates every single time a wave function collapses - the Many Worlds Interpretation. If only people realised just how bizarre QM is, it might help them to understand that an extended reality to consciousness - one that collapses wave functions - is a simpler solution.

David
 

Alex

Administrator
#11
Thing is, on one level, I think Alpert is correct... He seems to me to be a naive realist, ...That's his free miracle
I totally get your point... on the other hand I keep coming back how completely absurd it is for these guys to continue to believe this stuff. there is a part of their belief system that's really at a Noah's Ark kind of level.
 

Alex

Administrator
#12
Hey Alex,

Great show. ;;/? I suppose this is why I do not allow 22 year old wannabe screenplay writers to instruct me about physics, logic and philosophy. Two things he is doing, which are malicious in their praxis - dehumanize your opponent, and then set them up for unnecesarry conflict:

Dehumanization

Watch the permissive and condemnation differences between the way in which he treats himself, and the way he treats those whom he sees as his opponents ('magical thinkers'):

So first of all, the opinions of the masses [about the material being monist or conscious being fundamental], the mostly uneducated masses, the uneducated masses that gave us the government we have today ;), don’t represent to me a valid or viable. If I wanted to put together a new technology, some new type of nuclear missile, I would not say, “Hey, masses, let’s think tank on this.” I would look for the 0.001% who are diligently spending their life studying these specific things for my answers. (Very poorly thought out false equivalency in the same vein as the poorly crafted Jesus and Zeus false equivalency)​

I believe that consciousness is a physical reality. End of story. [Materialism] adds up, it passes the commonsense test.
This is called a high and low or hypocrisy fallacy.

If you use common perception to frame the world around you - you posses a mental flaw (spot) and have overstepped your allowable bounds of expertise. But if he uses 'common sense' to make a final claim concerning the world - he is within his rights of sound mind.

If you reach a 'magical thinking' conclusion, then you are uneducatedly treading on the domain of the gods - the physicists, the scientists who are the diligently-spending-their-life-studying-these-sorts-of-things .001% experts. However, if he (also not educated) comes up with the right answer, then he is allowed to aspire to the level of scientist-peer and to pass this judgement as a common sense result of science.

What he is doing here is de-humanizing his opponent. Stripping them of their rights as humanity and awarding those rights solely to himself and his fellows. It is an insidious sleight-of-hand. Where one is corrupt in their skepticism, there also will they be corrupt in their heart. This is why I choose ignostic atheism - as it does not seek to dehumanize those who think differently.

Catalyseur - Fomenting Conflict

A second implication of what he is doing here is acting as a catalyseur fomenting conflict between science/scientists, and the 'magical thinking' lay public. Notice he has slipped by the implication to the lay-believer here that scientists, the 'spend-their-life-studying-these-sorts-of-things experts' - mostly all ("sure, you can point to the fringe guy who wrote a book") disagree with the 'magical thinkers', or have a superior position on the matter to them - and disdain or despise them. To wit:

But apparently you can, because people you’re saying are getting PhDs in near-death experiences, and to me, that’s the equivalent of a two-headed bat with Hitler’s brain (Another very poorly thought out false equivalency). You will not find one college, one legitimate college that offers you a degree in near-death experiences. Now, if it was a valid science, I should be able to major in it like I could geology. I don’t want to be an optometrist or urologist, I want to be a near-death experiencist.
Note: Again with the false equivalency. The major he claims does not exist is called palliative care and you can get a degree in it. Duke, Boston College, GWU, Stanford all have major disciplines in palliative care. One may choose to study the near death experience as a subset of this just as one can choose to pursue a controversial theory of macular degeneration as an eye surgeon - but they don't offer a major in macular degeneration as that is a topical sub-discipline. I don't think this guy actually graduated from a university.

What this tension between the lay public and science serves is to shift the spotlight onto him. Like a kid who poses a bully against a weaker kid on the playground in order to gain popularity - he gains control, book sales and celebrity by fomenting the conflict and acting as a go between in order to make the bully (science) perceive that the weak kid has offended him, and to make the weak kid (lay public) think that the bully hates him up and will beat him up if he gets anywhere near him.

These are malicious practices. They are tricks of the trade of fake skepticism.
wow... look who's back!!! great to see you TES.
 
#13
"Material is dead." -Niche

Interviews with rigid skeptics are boring. Verbal debates are not the best way to settle any serious conflict as they are mostly rhetoric and no reasonable person is going to change their mind about an important matter in one conversation - much less a fundamental cornerstone of their worldview that was arrived at over years of self study and struggle. Following the data takes a lot of time. Short clips of this or that will not and should not convince anyone of anything. At best these serve as spring boards for other conversations. Written engagements with opposing viewpoints are more productive.

Level III inside baseball discussions are preferred. If someone wants to listen to Level I they can go back into the Skeptiko archives :)

Perhaps we have a "God Part of the Brain" hardwired to belief in magical thinking... perhaps we also have some hardwiring to the naive realism of materialism. When a baby starts grabbing hard objects and chewing on them, that is when materialism begins. All knowledge is a web of metaphors rooted in sensory experiences. The hard immutable object forms the basis of the metaphor of material.

For millions of years we encountered ROCKS. They are hard, dead, heavy, opaque, and without some heavy duty tools – immutable. Many of them are so heavy they are immovable. For millions of years we didn’t change rocks. We changed for rocks. We went around them or over them, but we certainly didn’t will them out of the way.

There are other substances in our environment that are softer, lighter, more translucent, more mysterious, and seemingly less dead: cats, water, air, etc.

So we have a spectrum of sensory experiences and all of our abstractions and metaphysical musings are metaphors extrapolating direct sensory experience to things we cannot directly sense.

When rationalism and the scientific method appeared, we humbly decided to stop attempting to impose our will directly upon the universe and instead we decided to consider everything to be a rock. We don’t change rocks. We change for rocks. We took our sensory experiences of rocks and abstracted them into something called the “object”. We dissected objects and found more objects and we called the whole assembly a “material”.

So our notion of “material” is rooted in our sensory experience of dead rocks. By extension, materialism is the belief that everything is essentially a bunch of dead rocks. The decision to believe everything is an assembly of dead rocks is arbitrary. It initially began as a noble humble decision to detach ourselves from nature so as to let nature teach us her ways, and it resulted in the brightest minds among us deciding they are themselves a bunch of dead rocks.
https://hurmanetar.wordpress.com/2018/04/04/death-of-materialism/
Ontology is a fun game but is ultimately like finding the beginning of a circle. You arrive where you start. If you start with materialism, you arrive there. If you start with consciousness, you arrive there.

The materialists and the theists are following the same instinctive impulse: reduce reality to just ONE thing. The materialists go with the metaphor grounded in the sensory experience of hard things. The Theists go with the metaphor grounded in the fuzzy internal feelings of meaning and emotion evoked by a story.

The idea that reality is ONE thing seems to be logically self-consistent: if there were TWO things, either, A) they don't interact ever so we might as well ignore the 2nd thing or B) they do interact in which case they form a system which can be considered ONE thing.

But suppose for moment that this circular self-referential logic is incorrect. Suppose there are fundamentally THREE things: There is Thing 1, Thing 2, and the boundary between them where they interact is the 3rd Thing. Now suppose you ARE this Third Thing existing as a thin fuzzy complex boundary between the other two fundamental things. The materialists say we are Thing 1 and the Theists say we are Thing 2, but both fail to realize that we are in fact Thing 3 existing on the boundary between the two.

Is a point real? No, of course not. It is merely a slice of a line. Is a line real? No, it has no thickness; it is merely a slice of a plane. Is a plane real? No, it has no depth; it is merely a slice of a solid object. Is a solid object real? No, it has no duration; it is merely a slice of a timeline. Is a timeline real? No, a timeline is a memory and a memory is only real at the point in time you remember it and points don't exist. So nothing is real? Yes, only that which is not a "thing" is real. What is a thing? A thing is a word. You may substitute "thing" for anything: Rocks, Material, God.

IMG_0698.jpg
 
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#14
It was revealing to me that Alper, a former history teacher, dismissively equated the likelihood of the existence of the historical Mohammed with that of the mythical Zeus (06:13). This was perhaps the most egregious example of a general lack of intellectual rigor.
Apparently, there's little evidence (outside the Quran and Hadith) that Muhammed did actually exist (unlike Jesus, for example, for whom there is a modicum of evidence outside biblical sources). Perhaps he did and perhaps he didn't, but everything that's said about him may be very largely a matter of faith rather than fact. Still, it's a fair point that it's poor thinking to compare Muhammed with Zeus.

Or when confronted with basic and well-known quantum mechanical evidence, refuse to see the obvious fact that the observer effect (for instance) is an aspect of reality. Alper was wrong to assume that the observer effect only applied to subatomic particles (last I heard they were up to massive fullerenes), but so what? What is Alper’s point? Does he not understand that the very subatomic particles that he dismisses as irrelevant to his worldview happen to be the fundamental units upon which that worldview is constructed? He is actually arguing that while reality’s fundamental building blocks are indeed brought into concrete existence by observation alone (requiring consciousness somewhere along the line), from then on up it’s all just material “stuff”. In other words, Alper “explains away” the observer effect by arguing from the basis of philosophical idealism. And he doesn’t even realize it! The irony is exquisite.
The bit highlighted in red is disputed. Apparently, the "observer" needn't necessarily be represented by human consciousness -- see here. But I suppose Bishop Berkeley might have said that God is the ultimate consciousness, maintaining everything; the "quantum observer", far from being non-conscious, would be part of the omnipresent awareness/influence of a deity. I suppose Bernardo Kastrup might put it in terms of everything being in the non-self-reflective consciousness of M@L (Mind-At-Large). This would include all the inanimate "objects" (actually mental processes occurring in M@L) that we can perceive, as well as the self-reflective consciousnesses of living organisms -- which he sees as dissociated mental processes within M@L.

One interesting point about the reference I linked to is that it seems possible to vary the degree of influence of the quantum observer. IOW, it isn't always the case that either particles or waves can be detected. Sometimes, it's almost an "analogue" situation, where there's a range of effects from none, through some, to maximal, interference depending on the experimental conditions pertaining.
 

Alex

Administrator
#15
"Material is dead." -Niche
real q u o t e or are you paraphrasing... I tried to Google




Level III inside baseball discussions are preferred. If someone wants to listen to Level I they can go back into the Skeptiko archives :)
I hear you... Then again we are all involved in an ongoing cultural conversation. I think most of us on this formum would acknowledge that this kind of conversation would have sounded very different 10 years ago... I mean, the fact that it's boring because Alper is shown to be completely incapable of handling the data is progress, no?

Perhaps we have a "God Part of the Brain" hardwired to belief in magical thinking... perhaps we also have some hardwiring to the naive realism of materialism. When a baby starts grabbing hard objects and chewing on them, that is when materialism begins. All knowledge is a web of metaphors rooted in sensory experiences. The hard immutable object forms the basis of the metaphor of material.
nah, seems to me like hardwiring is just a minimally useful idea that needs to be thrown in the trash bin of History
 
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Alex

Administrator
#16
It was revealing to me that Alper, a former history teacher, dismissively equated the likelihood of the existence of the historical Mohammed with that of the mythical Zeus (06:13). This was perhaps the most egregious example of a general lack of intellectual rigor. Yet Alper, who wrote a highly successful book among other achievements, clearly isn’t stupid. This lack of intellectual rigor is something that I’ve observed time and again with materialists and the “skeptical” community in general. They are almost universally ignorant of current research contradicting their worldview, and when confronted with such evidence, dismissively reject it, sight unseen, as “fringe”.
great point... And I think it's more interesting than it might seem to be. the fact that otherwise smart people like Alper can be reduced to Noah's Ark level silly proclamations speaks to our" cultural sickness" to borrow a phrase from our friend Bernardo kastrup. I think we might make more progress if we addressed this sickness head on with compassion, but unwavering firmness.
 
#17
real q u o t e or are you paraphrasing... I tried to Google
"Material is dead." -Niche (fake quote I made up)
"God is dead." -Nietzsche (actual quote)

Niche: a hollowed out space in a rock.
Materialism: everything is made of dead empty rocks.
I put it at the beginning of a blog that I linked/copied from titled Death of Materialism.

I hear you... Then again we are all involved in an ongoing cultural conversation. I think most of us on this form with acknowledge that this kind of conversation would have sounded very different 10 years ago... I mean, the fact that it's boring because Alper is shown to be completely incapable of handling the data is progress no?
Yes the cultural war is happening and needs to happen. I'm glad others are fighting it. Suppose you have some trench warfare going on over here where two lines are not budging. You can keep sending men over the top into no-man's land to die or you can invade the weaker areas until they're surrounded. Engaging with hardcore skeptics is fighting in no-man's land with machine gun nests and barbed wire.

But what does victory look like? I guess we got a definition of victory from this discussion: victory is accredited classes and degrees in Psi.

What does a world look like where respectable intelligent people graduate with a B.S. in precognition? Do they go to work at their local pre-crime department?

Open question: can you systematize and institutionalize and make available to the masses something that is at its core a violation of the system?
If Psi wedges itself into the ambiguity that results from a handful of broken cogs in the gears of the universal mechanism, what happens if we chip more teeth off those gears and they start skipping more often?

nah, hardwiring is just a minimally useful idea that needs to be thrown in the trash bin of History
Applying the word "hardwiring" is a way of diminishing an idea by making it seem to be programmed by dumb old nature rather than arrived at through higher reason.

But my point was that all knowledge is made of symbols and those symbols must be grounded in our sensory experience. That sensory experience can be dimensioned along a spectrum with hard solid immutable things at one end and fleeting mutable fuzzy invisible feelings on the other end.

In attempt to develop an ontology people seem to gravitate towards one end of this spectrum or the other.
 
#19
great point... And I think it's more interesting than it might seem to be. the fact that otherwise smart people like Alper can be reduced to Noah's Ark level silly proclamations speaks to our" cultural sickness" to borrow a phrase from our friend Bernardo kastrup. I think we might make more progress if we addressed this sickness head on with compassion, but unwavering firmness.
Maybe one way is to trap him into coming to the conclusion that a simulation of the human brain would be conscious just like the real thing - then you set up a scenario - as I have on this forum on occasions - that arrives at increasingly bizarre conclusions, and goes like this:

OK let's say you take a volunteer who is thinking about his last love affair and writing his thoughts into his diary. Then you scan his brain and place all the resultant data into a super-large computer (C).

Then you run a program (P) on the computer that performs a simulation of the brain using the scan data data (X) and eventually outputs a statement (S) just as the voluteer would have done in his diary!

You then quieten your victim down about the fact that this step is not feasible - maybe you remind him of all the cartoons of rocket chips approaching the speed of light used in books on Relativity - explaining the concept of a gedanken experiment.

Then you point out that since the volunteer was thinking about his last love affair when he was scanned, when the simulation program should do exactly the same thing - feeling the same emotions. And that also, this can be represented as C+P + X=> S .

Now you point out that the computer really just performs logical operations, so "C+P + X=> S" is equivalent to a rather odd mathematical theorem - true throughout space-time.

If your victim doesn't start to doubt materialism before this point, you ask your victim if he really believes that a complicated maths equation can think about a love affair and right something sensible about it - together with actually feeling the appropriate emotions. Moreover, would these emotions really be accessible to any creature who processed the same chunk of maths anywhere in space-time?

David
 
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Without putting words in his mouth (and I’m yet to listen to the interview) he might ask on the the “usefulness” of such skepticism/openness?
The usefulness, as I see it, is in helping prevent polarisation in society. After all, people on all sides seem to abhor polarisation, at least paying lip-service to it. Trouble is, lots of people on all sides seem to attempt to combat polarisation by becoming... more polarised rather than less. Lots of us seem to be falling over trying to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps.

Perhaps the only escape from the situation is via a preparedness to remain truly skeptical/open. This is something that requires personal integrity and dedication to the truth -- which boils down to the realisation that the only truth we can have consists in the acceptance of our enormous ignorance. In other words, it relies on a capacity for humility.

I'm not holding my breath. Although I can see the utility in humility, it's devilishly hard to actually be humble; for anyone -- including yours truly.
 
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