Belief Without Proof : Evidence and the World – #9 – Consciousness Exists

LawPundit does not limit itself to the legal field. There are all kinds of laws and beliefs in this world beyond “law” itself and also encompassing the laws of the physical sciences and the humanities. Interestingly, much of what we believe in science is not based on evidence but rather on intuition or guesswork.

The highly acclaimed Edge Foundation has 120 prominent minds commenting on John Brockman’s question: “WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IS TRUE EVEN THOUGH YOU CANNOT PROVE IT?”

We comment on these comments by 120 prominent minds: This is #9.

Belief Without Proof : Evidence and the World – #9 – Consciousness Exists

DANIEL GILBERT, a psychologist at Harvard University, believes that consciousness exists and he has not “the slightest doubt that everyone I know has an inner life, a subjective experience, a sense of self, that is very much like mine.”

We agree. Is not the entire organization of our human world based upon this oft unstated belief?

Belief Without Proof : Evidence and the World – #8 – Birds have Dialects

LawPundit does not limit itself to the legal field. There are all kinds of laws and beliefs in this world beyond “law” itself and also encompassing the laws of the physical sciences and the humanities. Interestingly, much of what we believe in science is not based on evidence but rather on intuition or guesswork.

The highly acclaimed Edge Foundation has 120 prominent minds commenting on John Brockman’s question: “WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IS TRUE EVEN THOUGH YOU CANNOT PROVE IT?”

We comment on these comments by 120 prominent minds: This is #8.

Belief Without Proof : Evidence and the World – #8 – Birds have Dialects

GEORGE B. DYSON, science Historian and author of Project Orion: The True Story of the Atomic Spaceship believes that birds not only have dialects, but that the borders of these dialects may be similar to the language dialect borders of humans.

We agree. Influences of environment and climate impose themselves upon human language, such as the north to south shift of “p” to “pf” to “f”, so why should this be any different for birds, or any other animal for that matter?

A master of the hunt who recently passed away and who we knew in England had 80 hounds (do not say “dogs”), each of whom responded unfailingly to their particular name. Only people who have not worked with animals entertain strange notions about them and think that animals have no understanding of language, including some human terms, especially their names. Of course, they have their “own” language too, and just as the appearance of animals varies with geographic location, so also will their animal language expression vary with that same location.

Belief Without Proof : Evidence and the World – #6 & #7 – Consciousness is Based on Language

LawPundit does not limit itself to the legal field. There are all kinds of laws and beliefs in this world beyond “law” itself and also encompassing the laws of the physical sciences and the humanities. Interestingly, much of what we believe in science is not based on evidence but rather on intuition or guesswork.

The highly acclaimed Edge Foundation has 120 prominent minds commenting on John Brockman’s question: “WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IS TRUE EVEN THOUGH YOU CANNOT PROVE IT?”

We comment on these comments by 120 prominent minds: This is #6 & #7.

Belief Without Proof : Evidence and the World – #6 & #7 – Consciousness is Based on Language (Calvin, Dennett)

WILLIAM CALVIN, neurobiologist, University of Washington and author of A Brief History of the Mind: From Apes to Intellect and Beyond and DANIEL C. DENNETT, philosopher, Tufts University and author of Freedom Evolves believe that consciousness is based on language, in the case of Calvin, that consciousness is structured intellect with good quality control, especially in preschoolers, and in the case of Dennet, that human language is a necessary precondition to consciousness.

We definitely disagree.

Although language surely plays a great part in structuring modern consciousness, we must ask the chicken and egg question: Which came first – language or human consciousness? We would argue that human consciousness gave origin to language and not vice versa. Language could not have originated in a vacuum. Hence, language develops in concert with consciousness.

Indeed, as a parent having seen the development of an infant from day one, it would appear to us that it is the human consciousness of an infant which permits him or her to learn a language in the first place. It is a different consciousness which prohibits animals from learning that same human language. This does not mean that animals have no consciousness, but rather that this consciousness is not human.

Furthermore, as someone who has seen first hand a human being recovering from a brain operation over time, it is quite clear that individual human consciousness is based on a sense of individual identity, which is a function of memory and recognition. A person recovering from brain surgery can for a time not know who he or she is and also not recognize close loved ones, even when the language facility is still clearly present. One can speak like a human, but still have human consciousness greatly impaired.

The corollary theory to those of Calvin and Dennett would be that the most verbally language-adept humans would have an elevated consciousness over their fellows, a theory which would be negated by a deaf-mute painter and which is also simply negated by experience. Many people have been taught a human language and still have remained primitive brutes. Just view the daily news of events. Other people have been nerds at language, for example Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton (via Shark Blog), but have demonstrated exceptional “human” abilities.

We would argue that language can be used to structure existing human consciousness – that, yes. But that human consciousness must be there to begin with, which we think is a function of genetics and the way the universe works, and not just of the acquisition of language.

Belief Without Proof : Evidence and the World – #5 – Our Universe is not Unique

LawPundit does not limit itself to the legal field. There are all kinds of laws and beliefs in this world beyond “law” itself and also encompassing the laws of the physical sciences and the humanities. Interestingly, much of what we believe in science is not based on evidence but rather on intuition or guesswork.

The highly acclaimed Edge Foundation has 120 prominent minds commenting on John Brockman’s question: “WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IS TRUE EVEN THOUGH YOU CANNOT PROVE IT?”

We comment on these comments by 120 prominent minds: This is #5.

Belief Without Proof : Evidence and the World – #5 – Our Universe is not Unique

LAWRENCE KRAUSS, physicist at Case Western Reserve University and author of Atom, believes that our universe is not unique, writing:

“At every instant there may be many universes being born, and others dying….I nevertheless find it satisfying to think that it is likely that not only are we not located in a particularly special place in our universe, but that our universe itself may be relatively insignificant on a larger cosmic scale.”

What else can we say. We agree. Except that we would add that each of us is a part of the larger universe and that the essence of the universe is IN US. We are not outside looking inside. We are inside looking inside. Whatever the universe is made up of, so are we too. For us, that is the ultimate comfort and the ultimate root of religious faith. The universe (seen as all of existence) probably has no center and no end, so that the center is where we make it. Perhaps that is one motivation for living and one beauty of each individual life. We were born (as matter) in the stars and to there shall we return, as the ancient Pharaohs long ago believed.

Belief Without Proof : Evidence and the World – #4 – Progress

LawPundit does not limit itself to the legal field. There are all kinds of laws and beliefs in this world beyond “law” itself and also encompassing the laws of the physical sciences and the humanities. Interestingly, much of what we believe in science is not based on evidence but rather on intuition or guesswork.

The highly acclaimed Edge Foundation has 120 prominent minds commenting on John Brockman’s question: “WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IS TRUE EVEN THOUGH YOU CANNOT PROVE IT?”

We comment on these comments by 120 prominent minds: This is #4.

Belief Without Proof : Evidence and the World – #4 – Progress

NEIL GERSHENFELD, physicist at MIT and author of When Things Start to Think believes that there is such a thing as “Progress“. Neil says that the belief in progress is a “leap of faith” and that technology has left us with mixed blessings.

We think that a belief in progress is a matter also of definition. If we plug the term “progress” into Google as “define:progress”, the resulting definitions contain a number of similar but yet different concepts for a definition of progress, terms such as advancement, improvement, betterment, growth, movement forward and development.

Obviously, if we insist on a definition of progress which includes a qualitative evaluation of the state of things at any given point in time in man’s history, believing in progress as “betterment” or “improvement” is sometimes difficult. A man sitting at his computer might believe in progress. A man holding a weapon on a field of war may have his doubts.

On the other hand, since everything in nature is either in the process of growth or decay, a definition of progress which encompasses the concept of growth will surely find many advocates. Indeed, perhaps progress is always a combination of growth AND decay, i.e. something along the lines of two steps forward and one step backward.

The idea of “moving forward” coincides in my view with a vision of time as a one-directional vector. We may not know where we are going, but we are moving…indeed, we have no choice but to move.

Belief Without Proof : Evidence and the World – #3 – Animals have Feelings

LawPundit does not limit itself to the legal field. There are all kinds of laws and beliefs in this world beyond “law” itself and also encompassing the laws of the physical sciences and the humanities. Interestingly, much of what we believe in science is not based on evidence but rather on intuition or guesswork.

The highly acclaimed Edge Foundation has 120 prominent minds commenting on John Brockman’s question: “WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IS TRUE EVEN THOUGH YOU CANNOT PROVE IT?”

We comment on these comments by 120 prominent minds: This is #3.

Belief Without Proof : Evidence and the World – #3 – Animals have Feelings

JOSEPH LEDOUX, Neuroscientist, New York University, and author of The Synaptic Self, believes that animals have feelings and other states of consciousness.

Most anyone who has household pets will vouch for the fact that animals have feelings. We find it rather remarkable that people ever came to the idea that they do not. Perhaps the feelings are not the same as experienced by humans, but they are feelings nevertheless – or have you never had a cat turn its back on you, or purr on your lap?

Belief Without Proof : Evidence and the World – #2 – Mental processes outside the body?

LawPundit does not limit itself to the legal field. There are all kinds of laws and beliefs in this world beyond “law” itself and also encompassing the laws of the physical sciences and the humanities. Interestingly, much of what we believe in science is not based on evidence but rather on intuition or guesswork.

The highly acclaimed Edge Foundation has 120 prominent minds commenting on John Brockman’s question: “WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IS TRUE EVEN THOUGH YOU CANNOT PROVE IT?”

We comment on these comments by 120 prominent minds: This is #2.

Belief Without Proof : Evidence and the World – #2 – Mental processes outside the body?

STEPHEN KOSSLYN, Psychologist, Harvard University and Author of Wet Mind: The New Cognitive Neuroscience asks whether mental processes can have an out-of-body existence.

Kosslyn has stated that “the mind is what the brain does” and notes that much of what the brain does is an interaction with the brains of others, something that he calls the use of Social Prosthetic Systems (SPSs). The brain is essentially “extending” itself beyond the limitations of the body in which it is found.

A good example which we might use to illustrate Kosslyn’s idea would be the value of blogging to blog readers, where “other people’s brains come to serve as extensions of your own brain.”

More drastic out-of-body experiences have been documented for the brain in patients with neurological problems and are seen as body-cognition disorders, perhaps localized in the angular gyrus of the brain. Abnormalities in the symmetry of the angular gyrus have also been linked to schizophrenia.

Of course, Kosslyn is much more interested in the projection of the brain (in the mind of its owner) into the outer world and interacting outside of itself, something we each do every day, for example, in putting our thoughts into action, or even in simply conversing.