If I brainstorm, am I?
We witness the hints of reasoning capability in the large language models today. If Descartes is not right and thinking does not imply that I am, then what does? What is then left for a human to be? If there is only matter, is the human mind also matter, and is the mind replicable in a machine?
Materialism and Life
Are there any alternatives to materialism? The belief that life is a primary building block? Religion seems to put the idea of life, the idea of a god, front and center of the worldview instead of a dead matter of materialism. Does this partially explain higher birth rates in religious populations?
Because life is the self-directing, self-replicating, and self-improving so stationarity or uniformity would be against that, and so from this a concept of a central one god would be expected. People find it easier to relate to and follow other people, so it is simpler to understand a god as a person. Notice David Deutsch’s conjecture and criticism (Popper, Xenophanes) and points on disobedience necessity for creation of an AGI.
Was René Girard right that the Bible’s exposure of the scapegoat mechanism (e.g. Leviticus 16:21-22) shortcuts mimetic conflicts, and so is necessary? I wonder if individualism also provides similar mechanism.
Had Soviet Russia collapsed, partially because ruling communism attempted to remove religion with their materialist view, but itself had lower birthrates, and so the demographics eventually shifted towards people who grew up in non-communist communities, which eventually rejected communism causing the union to collapse? Look at the chart of the Russian birthrates plummeting after 1910, which coincides with the Russian Revolution. Note that Lenin had no children, Stalin had 3, Khrushchev (de-Stalinization) had 5, Brezhnev (neo-Stalinist) had 2.
Science and Religion
Here are 4 great quotes from Sabine Hossenfelder’s (contemporary, theoretical physicist, science communicator) book Existential Physics:
- “However, the God hypothesis has no quantifiable explanatory power. You can’t calculate anything from it. That doesn’t make it wrong, but it does make it unscientific.”
- “I begin by asking him (David Deutsch), too, whether he is religious. He answers with a straightforward no. He doesn’t seem to have anything to add, so I move on to reductionism.”
- “Scientists can learn from religion that not every get-together needs to come with a teachable lesson. … to share experiences, or look forward to a traditional ceremony. Science is severely lacking in such social integration. … we should talk more about how scientific understanding made a difference for non-experts.”
- “Maybe, then, the universe is evolving toward a state in which it understands itself, and we are part of its ongoing quest. This quest began when natural selection favored species that made correct predictions about their environment, moved on to organisms that became increasingly better at understanding nature, and now continues with our (more or less) organized scientific enterprise, nationally and internationally, individually and institutionally.
Conjecture and Criticism
Science progresses through conjecture and criticism if we follow Popper’s ideas. David Deutsch explained these ideas and popularized them in The Beginning of Infinity. Bible proverbs often praise criticism: “A wise man listens to advice” and “Better is open rebuke”. Regarding the conjectures, the bible verses promote understanding and wisdom. We have a biblical proverb: “The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out.”
Prayer from a Secular Perspective
Prayer may also be a problem-solving method by working backward from the end goal (e.g., Amazon) or inversion of Charlie Munger. Sometimes, it is a method of practicing gratitude, which has positive psychological effects. From another point of view, prayer can be akin to meditation, which also seems to have positive psychological effects.
Criticism of Mystical Pop Cultures
A very unusual book The Pragmatist’s Guide to Crafting Religion is a compilation information on cultures, religions, and traditions. It identifies elements of soft or pop culture or soft culture beliefs: wishing thinking, crystals, wow-effect large things like universe, lacking specificity or containing unknowable. While these seem to be similar to intuitive early religions, in wealthy societies these are associated with very low birth rates.
How does your philosophy shape your life? I hope you became more by brainstorming today with me.