Imagine you and your friend find a coin on the street, and without either of you examining the coin carefully, you make a bet. If a flip of the coin turns up “heads”, you must pay your friend a dollar, and every time it turns up “tails”, he pays you a dollar.
You flip. A “heads” turns up. You pay your friend a dollar.
You make the same deal again, and again a “heads” deprives you of another dollar.
Not wanting to cut your losses, and certain that there are at least a few “tails” ahead, you try again. “Heads”.
You sigh as you hand over a 3rd dollar, but then challenge your friend to a 4th flip. Again you lose. Continue reading →
We are most fundamentally emotional creatures, and the most fundamental realm of meaning is that of emotion. From the time we are infants, our emotional brains are busy sorting through these needy emotions and attempting to carve out a social identity, a set of things we can call “true”, and a code of behavior. But there is nothing as subjectively real as our emotions.
So we are compelled by these emotions to construct an edifice that can comfortably house our emotions by providing psychological, epistemological and moral frameworks over which we can then drape image, and respectably present ourselves to society.
Because the goal is to cloak our raw and muddled emotions under more presentable walls of definition, this enterprise is inherently illusory, and is most commonly self-delusional. Yet by the time we reach adulthood, we have constructed an elaborate edifice that, if matching the expectations of society, can assure our social well-being.
I’d like to deconstruct the various walls of meaning to expose the raw emotions that we often do not want to admit lie at the foundation of being.
Identity. This is the most transparent. Many realize that identity is static only where it is thought static. Personhood can change significantly over a lifetime. We say “this is who I am” at our peril. Constructing rigid walls of identity lock us into a self that forfeits a more colorful and fuller life. But, to avoid the swirling and persistent uncertainty and fear, our adolescent minds forge an identity that we often find hard to later modify. We begin to see the image that we have constructed upon our emotions as a rigid entity, and prior to our emotions. This self-delusion serves to maximize predictability and minimize risks, but it often leads to marginal lives. If we can recognize that it is emotions that are the substrate to our identities, and take measures to directly address those emotions rather than merely repainting the peeling facade the same color from time to time, life can become much more dynamic and enriching.
This post is an elaboration of #2 from a list of things I’ve learned late in life. Assessing the tool of assessment is the first step of assessment.
Prior to the understanding of the microscopic dynamics of neurons, the brains of cadavers were prodded and poked at with nothing uncovered that would suggest anything other than the widespread assumption that the folds of gray matter merely housed an immaterial agent of beliefs and the will. And this was intuitive. After all, we feel like we are more than neurons; that we are an immaterial soul that transcends the prison of our physical existence. In conjunction with our intuitive feelings of soulfulness, the nature of this soul was usually defined by a top-down ideology, most commonly a religion.
However, as scientific tools and method allowed us to more deeply examine the physical tissue of the brain, Continue reading →
The interview of Tom Clark by Ginger Campbell linked to below is unquestionably one of the best commentaries on the essence and implications of naturalism out there. It confronts head-on the issues of free will, morality, and what it is to be human.
It says that we are all natural creatures, that nature is what there is, and that nature is enough: That we don’t need anything supernatural to describe ourselves, nor do we need anything supernatural in order to lead meaningful, moral, and effective lives.
Some suggest that the material logic of the world presupposes the prior mental logic of a creator. I suggest the inverse. It is the material logic that constrains our mental logic, and that we are improperly projecting this emergent mental logic back onto material logic.
Is there any reason to suppose that mind is prior to matter? I believe not.
Another way to state this is that our mental logic is merely descriptive (not prescriptive) of the material logic of our universe.
I intend to nudge you towards this conclusion with a succession of examples.
Is DNA code? This question has been answered affirmatively by some in an attempt to argue that DNA requires an intelligent author. Therefore the more fundamental question is “Did DNA arise from a natural process or from an intelligent designer?”
This is a legitimate question, but not a unique one. Throughout history, millions of similar questions have been asked, all having the basic form of “Does X have a natural or a supernatural cause?” Plug pandemics, lighting or psychotic behavior into X as examples.
For most of these millions of questions of causation throughout history, there have been 2 basic approaches.