an atheist view of the mind

Discuss arguments for existence of God and faith in general. Any aspect of any orientation toward religion/spirituality, as long as it is based upon a positive open to other people attitude.

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QuantumTroll
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an atheist view of the mind

Post by QuantumTroll » Thu Mar 13, 2008 12:15 pm

A lot of people (probably everyone except agnostics and atheists) believe that the mind is something special. I'm going to use the word "magical", but I don't mean anything insulting by that, I just want to use simple terms. The Magical Mind theory comes in many forms, but they all say the same essential thing: the mind is not an ordinary natural physical process. Your mind may be an aspect of the Mind of God, or your mind might live on after your brain dies, or your mind is something special that sits behind your eyes and thinks. It's all very hard to describe, and people have been failing at describing the mind for centuries, probably longer.

The Magical Mind theory is entrenched in today's world. Special rules of ethics apply to beings with minds, everyone feels that there's something there, and all religions incorporate the sense of the self into their beliefs.

I think that there may be a lot of people who find it difficult to understand the staunch atheist who says "balderdash" to all this. Are they denying that they exist, don't they see and feel the way regular people do, what's the big idea? It's not only believers who see this as a challenge, every thoughtful atheist must come to terms with the fact that s/he experiences existence.

My thoughts on this topic are far from complete. This may be one of the questions that we can never answer, because the nature of the problem is such that we can't actually verify our theory. That means that this question will remain strictly in the sandbox of armchair philosophy until further notice. Philosophy of this kind (unverifiable) is for entertainment purposes only.

My Universal Mind theory comes in two parts. The easy part is a naturalistic explanation of the observable phenomena. The hard part attempts to explain the mysterious homunculus behind the eyes, or the mystical sense of existence.

Psychologists have done the work on the "easy" part. Sense data goes in, and processing gets done. There's so much information about how all this works that I'm just going to stop here. Right now, we cannot build a machine that can think, but people in the field have found nothing that is theoretically impossible. Clearly, if such a machine is built then there's a natural explanation for all the observable aspects of the mind. If you do not believe a thinking machine will be built, then I'd love to hear your reasoning. Personally, I expect mammalian intelligence within 20 years, and superhuman intelligence a decade thereafter.

Now for the "hard" part. Does the machine we built (or the child we just had) have the same experience of existing we do? How do we tell? Obviously, we cannot tell the difference, and we never will. This is the wrong approach. I will assume that anything that does the sort of thinking that humans do has the same experience. Again, if you disagree with this assumption, I'd love to hear why.

(stomach just grumbled, i will make this short)

Who is looking through our eyes, then, if it isn't a "spirit" of some sort? The short answer is that we are who is looking through our eyes. Suppose that experiencing things is a property of the universe, so that there's "spirit" everywhere, not just in our heads. This "Universal Spirit" is very minimalistic, in fact it does nothing at all except experience the state of things. The reason we seem special is that brains have a very complex state, and brains are able to think about themselves and actually figure out that they exist. If you look at a droplet of water, there's not much going on. The Universal Spirit in the droplet would just register heat coming in and water molecules evaporating away, and it would be completely unaware that it is experiencing this. A droplet has no brain with which to do any realizing. The internal state of the amoeba is a million times more complicated, so the Universal Spirit in an amoeba would experience all the biochemistry that is involved in a living thing, but there is still no awareness. Moving up to mammals, the brain has become complex and somewhat aware of its own state. By extension, the part of the Universal Spirit that the mammal has experiences some self-awareness. With humans, obviously, this self-awareness has increased to a higher degree.

Why does this make sense? First of all, we're not completely self-aware. We're unable to feel our cells, we don't know our subconscious, and in fact we're not aware of anything that the top level of our brain isn't aware of. This wouldn't necessarily be the case with other theories, but the Universal Spirit theory says that we only experience things that are reflected in the state of a part of our brain.
Another observation that is consistent is that telepathy and similar hokum doesn't work. The Universal Spirit doesn't do much of anything, so it's not going to do magic for us.
I said I'd keep it short, so I'll fill on more reasons to believe me on request ;)

Before I close, I want to head off any claims that I'm becoming religious. Notice that I took a simple (if vague) hypothesis, extrapolated, and checked it for consistency with observations. Notice also that the Universal Spirit (which sounds hokey) is not any sort of god or being. You can't pray to it, listen to it, or derive non-trivial morality from it. It's not even aware, unless you are aware.

Generally, I've avoided thinking about this subject by reasoning that sufficiently complex systems give rise to the illusion of awareness. This is a hand wave explanation, because there's no theory of how this works. The attempt that I've just finished describing goes a level deeper, explaining how we, other mammals, and ultimately rocks relate to "awareness". By introducing one simple entity, I've explained quite a lot, and I can make the prediction that thinking machines will feel the roughly same about their awareness as we do. However, I haven't even ventured a single word on what this "property of the universe" actually entails, I just presented it as an a priori idea. Well, I simply haven't had any productive thoughts on that yet, so I'll refrain from comment. It does bug me, though, but that's why I said that this post is for entertainment purposes only.

ZAROVE
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Re: an atheist view of the mind

Post by ZAROVE » Thu Mar 13, 2008 12:35 pm

I'll address this post later in detail but woudl liek to cite, again, for htose who seem to miss it, that no even all THeists beleive the Mind ( or soul) is seperate fromt eh Body. WIlliam Tyndale is a cheif example I usually use, thogh he wa snot alone. He beleived when we died we died, and our minds stopped with us. We awaited then the future ressurection.


So it snto altogather accurate to say htis sort of thinkign is limited to Agnostics or Ateits.

The use of the word Magical is also unfortunatr even withthe disclaimer.

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Re: an atheist view of the mind

Post by QuantumTroll » Thu Mar 13, 2008 12:42 pm

ZAROVE wrote:I'll address this post later in detail but woudl liek to cite, again, for htose who seem to miss it, that no even all THeists beleive the Mind ( or soul) is seperate fromt eh Body. WIlliam Tyndale is a cheif example I usually use, thogh he wa snot alone. He beleived when we died we died, and our minds stopped with us. We awaited then the future ressurection.


So it snto altogather accurate to say htis sort of thinkign is limited to Agnostics or Ateits.
Cool 8-)
The use of the word Magical is also unfortunatr even withthe disclaimer.
I didn't even end up using the word much, so introducing it was quite pointless. You have my apology and my promise to think twice about doing it again.

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Re: an atheist view of the mind

Post by ChumpChange » Thu Mar 13, 2008 12:58 pm

I dont believe the human mind is magical or supernatural. Its not an unreasonable theory but I dont believe it. I think that eventually we will find out everything we want to know about our brains through science. When we die the brain dies too. We dont take the brain with us in the after life it stays with the rest of the body. I also dont believe that there is a spirit looking through my eyes. I am looking through my eyes. Not all christians are so supernaturally inclined. I do believe there is something special about the human brain but I have no reason to believe that it is supernatural. The reason the human mind is able to reflect upon itself is because thats the way the human race was created. We were created in Gods image and therefore have consciousness. I dont automatically assume that the consciousness lies within the human brain.
"Behold, I have found only this, that God made men upright, but they have sought out many devices."

-Ecclesiastes 7:29

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QuantumTroll
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Re: an atheist view of the mind

Post by QuantumTroll » Thu Mar 13, 2008 5:38 pm

ChumpChange wrote:I dont believe the human mind is magical or supernatural. Its not an unreasonable theory but I dont believe it. I think that eventually we will find out everything we want to know about our brains through science. When we die the brain dies too. We dont take the brain with us in the after life it stays with the rest of the body. I also dont believe that there is a spirit looking through my eyes. I am looking through my eyes. Not all christians are so supernaturally inclined. I do believe there is something special about the human brain but I have no reason to believe that it is supernatural. The reason the human mind is able to reflect upon itself is because thats the way the human race was created. We were created in Gods image and therefore have consciousness. I dont automatically assume that the consciousness lies within the human brain.
It appears that I've misunderstood a number of Christians (I assume that's what you are) view of the mind. I thought the usual scheme that Christians believed was that the soul is the "homunculus behind the eyes" and that the soul continues to exist after the body dies. The soul is often described as eternal, unchanging, the "real you", and belonging to God. Are your beliefs about the human mind the norm among Christians, or am I on target for most but just not for you?

Liberal Christianity really makes generalizing over large swaths of humanity difficult. Why don't you conform to your less reasonable peers so I can lecture at you? Nah, I'm kidding. Thinkers are to be preferred over believers, even if the thinking diverges from mine. :)

Actually, on rereading your post, I'm confused. "I dont automatically assume that the consciousness lies within the human brain" seems to suggest that you don't really believe that a brain produces consciousness. Where does consciousness lie if it is not supernatural and it is not in the brain? Do you think that thinking machines are possible?

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ChumpChange
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Re: an atheist view of the mind

Post by ChumpChange » Thu Mar 13, 2008 5:55 pm

QuantumTroll wrote:
ChumpChange wrote:I dont believe the human mind is magical or supernatural. Its not an unreasonable theory but I dont believe it. I think that eventually we will find out everything we want to know about our brains through science. When we die the brain dies too. We dont take the brain with us in the after life it stays with the rest of the body. I also dont believe that there is a spirit looking through my eyes. I am looking through my eyes. Not all christians are so supernaturally inclined. I do believe there is something special about the human brain but I have no reason to believe that it is supernatural. The reason the human mind is able to reflect upon itself is because thats the way the human race was created. We were created in Gods image and therefore have consciousness. I dont automatically assume that the consciousness lies within the human brain.
It appears that I've misunderstood a number of Christians (I assume that's what you are) view of the mind. I thought the usual scheme that Christians believed was that the soul is the "homunculus behind the eyes" and that the soul continues to exist after the body dies. The soul is often described as eternal, unchanging, the "real you", and belonging to God. Are your beliefs about the human mind the norm among Christians, or am I on target for most but just not for you?

Liberal Christianity really makes generalizing over large swaths of humanity difficult. Why don't you conform to your less reasonable peers so I can lecture at you? Nah, I'm kidding. Thinkers are to be preferred over believers, even if the thinking diverges from mine. :)

Actually, on rereading your post, I'm confused. "I dont automatically assume that the consciousness lies within the human brain" seems to suggest that you don't really believe that a brain produces consciousness. Where does consciousness lie if it is not supernatural and it is not in the brain? Do you think that thinking machines are possible?

There is no doctrine for specific beliefs about the human consciousness from my christian understanding. The Bible doesnt tell us where the soul is located within the body and seeing how the soul is not physical I doubt that it has to reside within the physical human body. I do believe that the human soul is eternal but I dont assume its unchanging. Im not sure if my views are the norm or not but a topic like the human soul is bound to conjure up some quirky theories. Also i dont think that the brain produces consciousness because I believe that when the brain dies the consciousness lives on. I believe that we are our consciousness and that we just happen to have a human body as well but only for our duration on earth. I think its highly possible that God is a consciousness although I know people who would strongly disagree with that.

I suspect that thinking machines could be possible if one can first give a machine emotion. I doubt that will ever be possible.
"Behold, I have found only this, that God made men upright, but they have sought out many devices."

-Ecclesiastes 7:29

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Re: an atheist view of the mind

Post by Metacrock » Thu Mar 13, 2008 7:50 pm

my pages on consciousness

http://www.doxa.ws/science/Mind_spirit.html

artical by a freind of mine who tears Dennett to peices.

http://www.doxa.ws/science/Mind_spirit5.html
Have Theology, Will argue: wire Metacrock
Buy My book: The Trace of God: Warrant for belief

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Re: an atheist view of the mind

Post by Metacrock » Thu Mar 13, 2008 7:53 pm

ChumpChange wrote:
QuantumTroll wrote:
ChumpChange wrote:I dont believe the human mind is magical or supernatural. Its not an unreasonable theory but I dont believe it. I think that eventually we will find out everything we want to know about our brains through science. When we die the brain dies too. We dont take the brain with us in the after life it stays with the rest of the body. I also dont believe that there is a spirit looking through my eyes. I am looking through my eyes. Not all christians are so supernaturally inclined. I do believe there is something special about the human brain but I have no reason to believe that it is supernatural. The reason the human mind is able to reflect upon itself is because thats the way the human race was created. We were created in Gods image and therefore have consciousness. I dont automatically assume that the consciousness lies within the human brain.
It appears that I've misunderstood a number of Christians (I assume that's what you are) view of the mind. I thought the usual scheme that Christians believed was that the soul is the "homunculus behind the eyes" and that the soul continues to exist after the body dies. The soul is often described as eternal, unchanging, the "real you", and belonging to God. Are your beliefs about the human mind the norm among Christians, or am I on target for most but just not for you?

Liberal Christianity really makes generalizing over large swaths of humanity difficult. Why don't you conform to your less reasonable peers so I can lecture at you? Nah, I'm kidding. Thinkers are to be preferred over believers, even if the thinking diverges from mine. :)

Actually, on rereading your post, I'm confused. "I dont automatically assume that the consciousness lies within the human brain" seems to suggest that you don't really believe that a brain produces consciousness. Where does consciousness lie if it is not supernatural and it is not in the brain? Do you think that thinking machines are possible?

There is no doctrine for specific beliefs about the human consciousness from my christian understanding. The Bible doesnt tell us where the soul is located within the body and seeing how the soul is not physical I doubt that it has to reside within the physical human body. I do believe that the human soul is eternal but I dont assume its unchanging. Im not sure if my views are the norm or not but a topic like the human soul is bound to conjure up some quirky theories. Also i dont think that the brain produces consciousness because I believe that when the brain dies the consciousness lives on. I believe that we are our consciousness and that we just happen to have a human body as well but only for our duration on earth. I think its highly possible that God is a consciousness although I know people who would strongly disagree with that.

I suspect that thinking machines could be possible if one can first give a machine emotion. I doubt that will ever be possible.


I do not beileve that the sour or the spirit is like caspter the ghost. I don't beileve we have a little gohost figure in side us. I see the soul as a symobl for the overall life and the spirit is mind. I do believe the spirit lives on, but as consciousness which God can preserve, not a little capster ghost figure.
Have Theology, Will argue: wire Metacrock
Buy My book: The Trace of God: Warrant for belief

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