Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
; you might even be able to "read" the brain, scanning for neuronal activity and deducing correctly that the subject sees a red flash. However, it is impossible to know what it feels like to see a red flash unless you have the actual experience yourself.
So I maintain that there is this extra bit of information -subjective experience or qualia - that you do not automatically have even if you know everything about the brain to an arbitrary level of precision. Moreover, it cannot be derived even in theory from the laws of physics - even though, of course, it is totally dependent on the laws of physics, like everything else in the Universe.
I'll grant you that the subjective experience of "red" etc cannot be derived from a theory of physics.
However, by Occam's Razor we can say that the qualia that other people experience are the same as those that we experience.
The reasoning is as follows:
The theorem that the qualia are the same is justifiable on the simple theory that near-identical physical brain structure and function
(amongst humans) leads to near-identical perception of the qualia of consciousness.
What simple theory which is consistent with the rest of our scientific knowledge would justify that the qualia are significantly
different? Right now, in the absence of such a qualia-difference-explaining theory, and with a plausible and simple and
non-revolutionary and reasonable theory of qualia-sameness, a scientific-thinking default assumption should be qualia-sameness.
---- Long aside: Parallel example:
A similar "Occam's Razor" argument can explain why the scientific-thinking default assumption should be in the non-existence
of God, except for the undeniable existence of "God" as a human abstract concept, like the concept of "Nation-State".
There is a simple and reasonable theory of intelligent co-operating agent behaviour which runs something like that
1. We do a lot of reasoning about how agents, and in particular animal agents and intelligent human agents, affect
the outcomes in the world.
2. We do a lot of reasoning about how to influence these agents to act on the world as we would wish.
3. An "unknown-agent" proxy is an easy-to-understand extension to such an agent-behaviour and effects theory.
4. We can extend the same attitudes of obeisance and desire to please to the unknown-agent-proxy as we would
to any powerful animal agent or powerful human (king, warlord) agent. If we do (we would reason), we may
obtain the unknown-agent-proxy's favour and the outcome of unknown-agency events might come out in our favor.
Note that the fundamental fallacy in the ancients' God-theory here is the ascription of unknown-cause events
as being the effects of intelligent agency. This is an example of a theory that is elegant, simple, and wrong. Physical
science and mathematics has by now provided alternative explanations (which have the advantage of being consistent with each other
and with observation i.e. of being logical and scientific) for the vast majority of the types of events (cosmic and planetary
origin, and life and human origin, weather, illness, love (reflection and elaboration of mating instincts into stories at
conscious-level of brain, in an information-processing model of brain/mind), crop-failure, failure or success of various
forms of psychological make-up and group-organizational behavior (reasons that kings might be successful or not) etc.,
5. Humans with intellect and other leadership qualities would also see how to harness the power implicit in the populace's
fear of and desire to be obeisant to the unknown-agent-proxy (i.e. the god). By proclaiming that they have special
access to the god, knowledge of its intentions, ability to influence it etc. they can harness the psychologically based
power that the god has over the believers' actions, and turn it into power that they themselves (the priesthood, the
god-kings or just kings-by-divine-right) have over the populace. Convenient. Too convenient not to result in a whole
entrenched societal structure of rules and hierarchical authority connected ultimately to the authority of the god itself.
6. Such an organised religion structure, or "god"-empowered government structure, if it succeeds in organizing
people for an extended period of time, as it seems they did, would naturally tend to take on a life of its own, a
self-reinforcing aspect, an "autopoietic" function as one of its functions. This self-preservation subfunction of
the "god"-empowered governance organization would take the form of religious education about the great history
of beneficial acts and mercies and wisdoms conferred on the people over their glorious history by the "god" via
In my view, the governance aspect; that is the societal cohesion and organization aspect of always was the genuine
essence of organized religions, and also of divine-right governments. The "god"-basis was just a convenient and
effective way of obtaining allegience, quelling dissent, and thus maintaining the organization, which, being an
organization of co-operating agents into an emergent system, brings benefits of its own simply for being an organization.
These benefits are often (and deliberately (for autopoietic reasons)) misttributed back to (credited to) the "god" itself.
It is no co-incidence that each major civilization (and in the past, each smaller tribe or aboriginal nation)
comes with its own god. The harnessing by great human leaders of the psychologically-based power of
the "god"-concept to be a tool of, and the autopoietic basis of, human hierarchical organization structures,
fully explains the "one-god-and-religion-per-successful-group with civilizational norms and shared cultural history"
The connection between ethnicity and religion is similarly explainable in that the group that organizes together
and thus believes together (notice the order of those clauses) also tends to breed together more than with members
of another such group, and these two intertwined tendencies (group cohesion and in-group-breeding)
leads to genetic AND cultural homogeneity within each civilization, and genetic and cultural diversity between
separated civilizations, over time.
So there is a fairly simple, adequate theory that explains the rise of the concept of god and the rise of religion
in human society.
So in scientific terms, the onus is on those who would propose an alternative theory (such as "God really exists")
to provide a similar simple theory as to why their premise is more plausible.
Notice that I claim that my theory is adequate (sufficient) to explain human attitudes toward god(s) and to explain the
occurrence of religions. While it is true that a theory in which god really existed would also include everything
I said (i.e. the leader-humans would still harness the power to create emergent human organizations.
It's just that they'd be harnessing real power, not illusory power), there would have to ADDITIONAL explanation
for what the "real god" is, how it came to be etc etc.
In my "occam's razor" theory of god, I've explained what the god is (a cultural artifact as a result
of "causal-agent-reasoning in the development of human cooperative behaviour) . I claim that's a sufficient
explanation which requires no further explanation of what a "real god" is, or how it came to be.
We NEED NOT explain "real god" because we have an adequate, explanatory, simple theory that can explain
observations of "god-belief" and religion formation and characteristics.
So, apart from being a possibly entertaining digression, I hope this example has shown how presence of
a simple, adequate theory of something (god, or sameness-of-qualia-of-consciousness) puts the onus on those
who claim the opposite to provide a similarly simple, cosnsistent, and explanatory alternative theory.