Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

From leg to leg

Some snippets from a conversation I'm having over email onthe topic of religion and artificial intelligence.. the quotedsections are his.

>Christians and others give high priority to presuppositions that don't>support a mechanical view of human beings>many realities don't fit into a materialist model: values, purpose,>consciousness,love, sense that relationships with other persons goes>beyond the physical, intuition (I'm impressed by the fact that even>though the physical body is totally renewed every so many years, there is>a continuity of the person across these gaps..also amazed how it's>possible to have close friends that I spend hours with, often not>speaking at all, but nevertheless experiencing a powerful sense that we>are in communion with each other..sometimes even when we are separated by>a great distance)

On the contrary -- all of those are understandable in the materialistschool of models. The briefest one to explain, intuition, may be just aresult of our brain not recording all of its reasoning in the memory store.We might say that intuition is deep, subconscious, and less static thought.

A challenge to the nonmaterialists -- what do they say to the experimentswhere areas of the brain are artificially stimulated and people come to feelunexplained emotions? There are all sorts of fascinating research where,either with MRI or stimulus, many of the capacities of the brain are invoked,and of course, similarly, studies on people who have suffered injury thathave affected their functionality in very precise ways.

Scientifically, the religious models don't really offer much of anything --they only rarely offer predictive models of human behavior, and whilescientists continue their experiments and theories, the religious people,be they muslim, christian, or wiccan, are usually either sitting on thesidelines naysaying or talking in their temple about how the work issacrelige, and should be stopped, perhaps burning or locking up thescientist in the process. So many great minds have been lost or stifledbecause of religion, so much time wasted.. Consider the rules for the'creation science' folk, where to join people must pledge that, beforetheir scientific commitment, they will hold to a belief in christianity.Good science there. Alan Turing... one of the most important figures inthe school of computer science.. forced to take hormone treatments becausehe was a homosexual, eventually committed suicide when he started to growbreasts. Socrates... Copernicus..

I'm not claiming you to quite being the same thing, but pointing out thatreligious establishments only rarely took the time to understand how thescientific community and process works, and only rarely has it been lessthan hostile to it. One interesting example of what happened when a branchof the church did, during the first enlightenment, when the church establishedcentres of religious learning to reintegrate knowledge bought back from theArabs after the dark ages, was that the university side of the church andthe chapel side of the church had nasty (and sometimes violent) disagreements.

>Pat, what are the essential features of your materialist view of the>world?

I don't really understand the question. I'll take a stab at what I thinkyou're getting at...

We live in a complex world, with all sorts of ideas floating around, and,presumably, a reality that sits behind our subjectivity. Apart from tryingto understand it, we also have other needs, for a society, for safety, andemotional satisfaction. People try to construct a worldview, based onwhat they see, what they think might be, and what they desire. People arecomplex too, with a wide variety of desires that often are at conflict witheach other. Some grouping/ranking of the values come to 'rule' in a person,and people often marginalize the other values or attempt to pretend they don'texist, in a sense fearing themselves. Moral/Ethical/Pragma systems are waysto harness those values in a consistant fashion, and because to some degreethese values appear to be common to humanity, and because people don't wantto be the sole person striving for a better society (again defined by thosevalues), people universalize their values. One way to do so is throughPhilosophy (the path I advocate). Another, when philosophy doesn't have enoughteeth, is to claim that these universalized values are intrinsic to thenature of things, and to create gods, spirits, and other concepts needed toenforce the value system. This is the primary purpose of religion -- otherbenefits are that it can offer emotionally satisfying explanations forhappenstance (from weather (Zeus's Anger) to why we're here(To rise to thecelestial bureaucracy)), satisfy a vengance instinct (Sheol/Tartarus/Hell),and act as a vehicle for cultural continuity and growth. The last isparticularly important -- religion ties into deep needs of humanity, and unlikemany other cultural elements, is difficult to change (and disruptive whenchanged). Governments use it to justify/influence their existence and laws,parents use it to teach their children to behave, and it even acts, on acultural-mimetic level, as a type of genetic code on societies, in that whensocieties have less mimetically-optimal arrangements, they are statisticallyweaker in the survival sense.

From another facet of the worldview, we're creatures like the other creatureson earth, intellectually advanced over the others, and the only creatures tohave advanced language capacity (other great apes have a limited signlanguage in the wild, etc). We have a variety of viewpoints, and don'treally understand ourselves very well. We have a lot of illusions that we'reonly starting to take off and examine, and often struggle with inner/outerdesire/value conflicts

>Another thought..even if we admit a strict correlation between mental and>physical states and events, it doesn't follow that brain events are>always the causes and mental states the effects? It seems that often>mental states affect brain states. As we form concepts, meditate on God,>worry about these cases it seems that mental activity produces>brain activity, and not the reverse.

That doesn't follow. You're still thinking of them as seperate entities,while I suggest that they are one and the same. We might as well askif computation causes bits to shift on a computer, or if the bits shiftingcause computation.

Tags: philosophy

  • Triplets

    I was pointed at two articles, and decided to add a third. The topics should be familiar (activism, feminism); the post would be a bit long to host…

  • Diversity in Tech

    In the technical meetups I've been part of in NYC, I've been noticing a demographics shift from them being practically all-male (e.g. 1-2 women in a…

  • Commentary on the Human Rights Campaign

    I recently was pointed at a blog post suggesting people reject the Human Rights Campaign, a large social justice organisation that focuses on…

  • Post a new comment


    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded