Are There Other Minds On Youtube? (Part 1)

Having a chat with someone on youtube called cindyisa10.  The video they commented on is Richard Carrier’s talk at Skepticon One.

Here is the conversation so far:

cindyisa10
Shared publicly – Aug 7, 2015

Dr. Carrier has built an entire presentation and agenda on the false dichotomy of “Religion vs Science”.  The correct dichotomy is “Theistic Religion vs Atheistic Naturalism”. The title should be ‘Why Atheistic Naturalism is better than Theism and always has been’. Here’s why. Both theism and atheistic Naturalism make philosophical claims that go beyond the empirical scientific evidence. For example, Science simply states that matter and quantum fields exist. Atheistic Naturalism modifies this by asserting that ONLY matter and quantum fields exist. As you can see, the Naturalistic claim goes beyond the evidence and extrapolates and/or infers a philosophical conclusion that isn’t adequately supported by the evidence. This is why theism and Naturalism should correctly be classified as “philosophical” rather than “scientific” world views.


Gnomefro
Sep 14, 2015

+cindyisa10 That would undermine pretty much his entire talk though. His point is largely that scientific values are better than theistic ones and Naturalism offers no values at all.
And of course, it’s not a false dichotomy at all. Religious faith based values are in fact completely contrary to scientific values.


bpansky
Oct 18, 2015

+cindyisa10

No, he defined a true dichotomy in the talk. He includes philosophy/extrapolation as potentially being scientific or unscientific, depending on how they are done (regardless of whether they rise to the level of academic science or not).


cindyisa10
Yesterday 10:27 AM

+bpansky Could you please clarify your point. Perhaps you think the dichotomy then is one between science and philosophy? If something is philosophical, then by definition, it’s not scientific. Right? Have you heard of the demarcation problem?


bpansky
Yesterday 3:20 PM

+cindyisa10
Your response is a bit difficult to understand.

“Perhaps you think the dichotomy then is one between science and philosophy?”

Which dichotomy?

” If something is philosophical, then by definition, it’s not scientific. Right?”

No. And clearly in the video, Carrier is also disagreeing with you here. I’m not sure how you missed that. He defines so many words and concepts in his talk, this should have been clear. Proposing definitions and sticking to them also means that the demarcation problem is irrelevant to the contents of this talk.


cindyisa10
Yesterday 6:09 PM

+bpansky I’ll just cut to the chase. Dr Carrier clearly states around 14:00 that we should:
1) Reason from experience
2) Claim nothing more than the evidence proves
3) Accept you could be wrong
4) Allow the evidence to change your mind

With the above said, Do you suspend belief in the existence of other minds? For example, how would you scientifically test the claim that a self-aware mind beyond your own exists?


bpansky
6:51 PM

+cindyisa10

I’m not sure what “chase” you are cutting to. This is a confusing change in the conversation to me.

There is always the suspension of some small percent of certainty. Nothing I infer about the outside world will be 100% certain. But I do not suspend all belief (in this case, in the existence of other minds, I consider their existence to be near certain).

It’s easy to test if there are other things that are similar to our own minds. Just make predictions based on the hypothesis that the thing in question does indeed have a mind, see if those predictions hold true to experience. Also look at the hypothesized cause of our own mind, the brain, and see if the other thing has something like that. I don’t see any difficulty. And I don’t see what this has to do with our conversation.


cindyisa10
9:11 PM

+bpansky“Nothing I infer about the outside world will be 100% certain.”

Of course and your assumption that the world exists “out” there isn’t certain either. Right?

“But I do not suspend all belief (in this case, in the existence of other minds, I consider their existence to be near certain).”

How so? That’s the problem. You have no empirical evidence or scientific methodology to determine, demonstrate, and confirm that other minds and/or physical systems are in fact self-aware. Because of this, you’re violating Dr Carrier’s 2nd rule which states we should “claim nothing more than the evidence proves.” Aren’t you claiming near certainty without having sufficient evidence to prove this?

“It’s easy to test if there are other things that are similar to our own minds. Just make predictions based on the hypothesis that the thing in question does indeed have a mind, see if those predictions hold true to experience.”

I believe I asked you to demonstrate how you would scientifically test the claim that a SELF-AWARE mind beyond your own exists? How would you determine if Star Trek’s character ‘Data’ has a self-aware mind? He obviously acts like many other humans.

“Also look at the hypothesized cause of our own mind, the brain, and see if the other thing has something like that. I don’t see any difficulty.”

My contention still stands until you can provide empirical evidence that a physical system is or isn’t self-aware. How do we determine that Dr Carrier isn’t a p-zombie for example?

“And I don’t see what this has to do with our conversation.”

It has everything to do with our little conversation. If you follow Dr. Carrier’s methodology to it’s end and fully live the scientific and religious life that he preaches, then you SHOULD suspend belief in the existence of other minds. At 25:15, Dr. Carrier states that “All scientific findings fail to confirm any god” followed by several other premises. At 25:00, Dr. Carrier concludes “therefore, there is no scientific reason to believe in god.” The problem is that this argument ALSO cuts against other minds. Because you have no empirical scientific evidence or methodology to ascertain and determine if a physical system or mind beyond your own is self-aware, then you SHOULD suspend belief in other minds. As you can see, the demarcation problem IS your problem. It’s entertaining when a person demands evidence for a cosmic mind when they can’t provide evidence for ANY self-aware mind beyond their own. 😉


Notice that last sentence.  We seem to be dealing with a theist.  And that kind of looks like a Nuclear Argument.

Also notice how odd that is about demanding “evidence for a cosmic mind”.  If they could demonstrate evidence of something that must either be a mind or a p-zombie, then atheism might have a problem.  But we don’t have any such evidence of such a thing.  So that was a silly red herring.

I’ll respond later.

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8 Comments

  1. There is plenty of evidence for a “cosmic mind”. The problem is, its all subjective evidence, which currently puts it out of the reach of natural science. Science has begun to study the mind (the “running program”) with MRI, PET, SQID, and even more powerful technologies, but we still don’t understand consciousness. An agnostic would say that, by Occam’s razor, naturalism is the best hypothesis that explains what we know. A naturalist would say its the truth. Asserting that naturalism is the whole truth without any evidence that that is so is not scientific, its dogmatic.

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      • Example: I just finished reviewing “Proof of Heaven”. While it is entirely subjective evidence, I find it compelling. If “Om” is not actually an external entity, it’s still a fascinating subjective creation. And BTW, I’m not saying that subjective evidence (transcendental experiences, NDEs, visions, prophetic dreams, and the like) are a lock, simply that they weaken the argument from Occam’s razor against theism. I will take a look at Carrier’s book; I’ve been avoiding him because I find him to be a political ideologue. On the other hand, I highly recommend Sam Harris, particularly his book “Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion”. Despite the fact that Harris is considered one of the “four horsemen”, his approach is very reasoned. He himself has said he considers himself agnostic, rather than atheist.

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      • Oy, “Proof of Heaven”? That’s got some nonsense and lies. As usual.

        https://skepticalteacher.wordpress.com/2013/07/11/proof-of-heaven-author-has-proof-called-into-question/

        http://www.esquire.com/entertainment/interviews/a23248/the-prophet/

        His argument about when the memories formed doesn’t work anyways, because our perception of time can’t be trusted when we are hallucinating. (Just like our visual perception can’t be trusted when we are hallucinating). For example, DMT drug trips sometimes cause people to feel like they experience many years in the span of fifteen minutes. Also, ordinary dreams at night can can feel like hours or days, even if they last less than an hour.

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      • While I agree that the scientific case for the Alexander’s NDE occurring while his cerebral cortex was shut down is incomplete (I’ve yet to really see any evidence), I don’t doubt his testimony regarding what he experienced. The question then is why this experience? We may one day have an answer to what produces NDEs, religious visions, and the like. But as of now, we don’t. To say that that proves they are natural phenomena is dogmatic. If you said you were certain beyond a reasonable doubt, your opinion would be close to mine. I would say a natural explanation for NDEs is likely, based on the number of similar things (like, for example, demonic visitations being largely explained as side effects of sleep paralysis), but I think there is still room for doubt. Thinking we know anything close to all there is to know is simple arrogance.

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      • I didn’t say “that” proves, nor that we know all there is to know. You are the one who said it was evidence for a “cosmic mind”. It isn’t. It isn’t evidence of anything supernatural. Indeed, naturalism actually predicts unusual experiences when physical brain activity is unusual. Also, there is reason to doubt his testimony of what he experienced too. At least somewhat. Because he evidently embellished the story.

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  2. Someone experiencing a cosmic mind is evidence of a cosmic mind. You are right that the experiences of users DMT (as described by Sam Harris in his book on spirituality) and stroke victims like Jill Bolte Taylor do make his evidence less convincing. But there is some interesting phenomenon going on there. Maybe it is access to a more primitive preconscious mind. I think it’s premature to say we’re certain there is no cosmic mind. Richard Dawkins once said that on a scale of 1 to 8, where one was certainty of a God and 8 was certainty of no god, he would be a 7. I think that is sound. All of my personal evidence that there is something supernatural is subjective. Whether you think of it as accessing the cosmic mind, the collective subconscious, or merely a different mode of thought, exploring the “spiritual” dimension of the mind is worth doing.

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