Wednesday, February 18, 2009

"Why Don't We Pick Up Each Other's Thoughts?"

It's a question I've heard that sometimes comes up with dualists, and they tend to act as if it's a problem for materialism and neuroscience. I think I caught Nick asking something like this before I shifted the debate. (Feel free to pick it up over here.) Quite frankly, I see it as one of a myriad questions dualists have to answer. Neon Genesis Evangelion answered it with the completely fictional "AT Field" that kept people from turning into orange Tang until that trippy movie. But mostly bent space into a nearly indestructible forcefield in the series. Or something. NGE's weird.

The reason I can't read your thoughts is pretty much the same reason why my laptop doesn't pick up Armored Core data from my CD/DVD/Blu Ray shelves, memory cards, or my PS3's harddrive. They aren't connected. There's no Playstation memory card slot on my computer. The disks are on the shelves, not in my drive. My PS3 and laptop aren't configured to talk to one another.

And until we get up to Ghost in the Shell, with our brains in robot bodies (with chainsaws for hands! Bzzzzz!), my brain doesn't have any hardware to connect with yours. For now, we have to settle for very indirect communications, like text and speech. And there's a lot of interpretation layers to get past. I process information differently than you. I reject anecdotes as "silver bullets" in an argument, for example. I do this because I know there are more reliable forms of evidence that produce more consistent results.

But back to the point: This bizarre argument is a problem for dualism, not materialism. Dualists are still in dire need of a description of the soul, and they need it to explain why there's no data leaking between souls. My computer isn't playing Samurai Champloo right now because the DVD's too far away and not aligned with the laser in my laptop's drive. I'm not reading your thoughts because there are no neurotransmitters or whatever relaying information between our brains. Undetectable, undefined souls, well, you dualists out there still need to explain.


Anonymous said...

I've never heard this one, and frankly I'm at a loss as to what confusing of ideas could produce such a question.

On a slightly related note, I hear a lot of psychics go on about "brain waves" and designing some sort of "reciever" for them.

Unfortunately, this shows a lack of knowledge of what brain wave actually means.

When neuroscientists talk about brain waves, they don't mean that brains emit light on some frequency. They refer to the electrical activity in the brain and refer to the patterns of that activity as waves. It's not being radiated out though, so there's nothing for a reciever to pick up. This misconception is probably what leads to everything from X-Men to Star Trek talking about waves as if they are emitted. I often think that if I ever went into one of these universes, I'd be an anomaly immune to all sorts of psychic mind probes (and along those same lines, be undetectable via spirit energy or chakra in other fictional worlds, the closest thing to a special power I'd have there).

Back in my "semi-duelist" days I occasionally wondered why I am aware of myself and not the person next to me, and what prevented my awareness from being of that person's life, but that more or less just helped lead me to my current state, where I don't even think of "qualia" as being special or significantly different, programatically speaking, from any other processing something might do.

Bronze Dog said...

DJ: I've never heard this one, and frankly I'm at a loss as to what confusing of ideas could produce such a question.

You and me both. Chatted with my brother about it, and he was at a loss, too. Then again, I often note projection in woos, where their problems suddenly become ours...

Sometime I should give a Creationist a hard time about why they aren't desperately searching for crocoducks.

King of Ferrets said...

Weird? NGE is weird?

There has to exist some stronger adjective for it.

MWchase said...

I should watch through it some time... I've created plot outlines for things that were supposed to deny objective reality, so...

(Note that I didn't say they weren't weird plot outlines.)

I'm guessing you'd want to phrase the crocoduck question as "Why didn't god create crocoducks? Or weaselcrows?"

King of Ferrets said...

And badger-snakes!

Valhar2000 said...

How the hell could that be a problem for materialism? It is exactly what you would expect if there were no soul at all! Do these people ever think before they talk?

Unknown said...

NGE in a nutshell:

The creator is working through his own serious psychological issues. To understand him remember that Shinji is a self-insert.

You can go right to crazy when describing NGE.

Bronze Dog said...

Valhar2000: Do these people ever think before they talk?

Signs point to "No."