When Rebutting Arguments For the Existence of God

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This business of defining consciousness as arising with the Greeks, is so ethno-centric, so west-centered, as to be mind boggling. Supposedly the first western poet was a woman who lived ~8000BC in Sumeria. There were tribes all over Northern Europe, labeled barbarians by the Romans, who were literate, used symbols, worked metal, lived in peace for approximately 10,000 years. The East Indians claim civilized history in excess of 150,000 years. This idea that consciousness evolved in what we call "The Cradle Of Civilization", is not well founded in reality. I think of it more in terms of, "The Cradle Of Chaos", it is not a lot different, than it always has been there, at least ethically, only now they have more efficient weapons. The complaints and power mongering are just the same.

I read something today, that put me in mind of Genesis, and some "spiritual" prohibitions, and offerings. In trying to come up with clean stem cell lines, that have no animal contact "no sodomy", they are using some special medium to carry the fetal cells "infant sacrifice", and they are using cells from the foreskins of babies, "The tradition of sacrifice of the foreskin". Those three things, just rang a bell with me today. In the last few years, it has seemed to me that Genesis is the rehashed description of a genetics experiment, if it is anything at all.

I guess if we were sentient bugs in a jar, the kid that caught us for his science experiment, would seem like a God.
 
  • #52
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Dayle Record said:
This business of defining consciousness as arising with the Greeks, is so ethno-centric, so west-centered, as to be mind boggling. ...
I am not trying to defend the view, that consciousness recently arose, but clearly it did at some point in evolutionary history. Your comments made me goole, both to get the name of book correct and since the first hit was a resume of some interest, I paste it below:
Going back to the the earliest writings and studying particularly the many early civilizations of the Near East, Jaynes came to the conclusion that most of the people in these archaic cultures were *not* subjectively conscious as we understand it today.

Jaynes provides extensive illustrations--ranging from Sumer, Ur, Babylon, Egyptian, Early Mycenean, Hebrew, and even Mayan and Asian cultures--that support his theory of the bicameral mind. But he mainly focuses on Mycenean (Greek) material--and it is this material which we will examine mostly in this post.

Jaynes bluntly declares "There is in general no consciousness in the ILIAD." Analyzing Homer's great epic, Jaynes came to the conclusion that the characters of the Trojan siege did not have conscious minds, no introspection, as we know it in the modern human. [Julian Jaynes, THE ORIGIN OF CONSCIOUSNESS IN THE BREAKDOWN OF THE BICAMERAL MIND, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1976, p. 69]

Whether Achilles or Agamemnon, there was no sense of subjectivity. Rather they were men whom the gods pushed about like robots. The gods sang epics through their lips. Jayne declares that these Iliadic heroes heard "voices," real speech and directions from the gods--as clearly as those diagnosed epileptic or schizophrenic today.

Jaynes stresses that the Iliadic man did not possess subjectivity as we do--rather "he had no awareness of his awareness of the world, no internal mind-space to introspect upon." This mentality of the Myceneans, Jaynes calls the bicameral mind. [Ibid, p. 75]

Now what was this bicameral mind? Jaynes briefly discusses brain biology--in that there are three speech areas, for most located in the left hemisphere. They are: (1) the supplemental motor cortex; (2) Broca's area; and (3) Wernicke's area. Jaynes focuses on Wernicke's area, which is chiefly the posterior part of the left temporal lobe. It is Wernicke's area that is crucial for human speech.

Pursuing the bicameral mind, Jaynes focuses on the corpus callosum, the major inter-connector between the brain's hemispheres. In human brains the corpus callosum can be likened to a small bridge, a band of transverse fibers, only slightly more than one-eighth of an inch in diameter. This bridge "collects from most of the temporal lobe cortex but particularly the middle gyrus of the temporal lobe in Wernicke's area." And it was this bridge that served as the means by which the "gods" who dwelled in one hemisphere of the human brain were able to give "directions" to the other hemisphere. It is like thinking of the "two hemispheres of the brain almost as two individuals." Hence the bicameral mind! [Ibid, p. 117]

Archaic humans were ordered and moved by the gods through both auditory hallucinations and visual hallucinations. The gods mainly "talked" to them--but sometimes "appeared," such as Athene appeared to Achilles. And "when visual hallucinations occur with voices, they are merely shining light or cloudy fog, as Thetis came to Achilles or Yahwey to Moses." [Ibid, p. 93]

Jaynes believes in the mentality of the early Mycenean that volition, planning and initiative were literally organized with no consciousness whatsoever. Rather such volition was "told" to the individual--"sometimes with the visual aura of a familiar friend or authority figure or 'god,' or sometimes as a voice alone." [Ibid, p. 75]

Now Jaynes thinks the great agricultural civilizations that spread over much of the Near East by 5000 b.c.e. reflected the bicameral mind. These civilizations were rigid theocracies! They were reminiscent of the Queen Bee and the bee-hive. These bicameral societies reflected "hierarchies of officials, soldiers, or works, inventory of goods, statements of goods owed to the ruler, and particular to gods." [Ibid, p. 80]

Jaynes contests that such theocracies were the only means for a bicameral civilization to survive. Circumventing chaos, these rigid hierarchies allowed for "lesser men hallucinating the voices of authorities over them, and those authorities hallucinating yet higher ones, and so" to kings and gods. [Ibid, p. 79]

According to Julian Jaynes, "the idols of a bicameral world are the carefully tended centers of social control, with auditory hallucinations instead of pheromones." [Ibid, p. 144]

In these ancient bicameral societies the idol or the statue was literally the god, so says Jaynes. The god/goddess had its own house. It was usually the center of a temple complex. The size varied according to the importance of the god and, of course, the wealth of the city.

In these theocracies the owner of the land was the divine idol--and the people were the tenants. The steward-king served the god by administrating the god's estates. According to cuneiform texts, the gods also enjoyed eating, drinking, music and dancing. They required beds for sleeping and connubial visits from other gods. They (the statues) were washed and dressed, driven around on special occasions. Ceremony and ritual evolved around these idols.

The collapse of the bicameral mind came slowly, it was a slow erosive breakdown. But Jaynes spotted the first serious indications of collapse by the time of Egypt's Middle Kingdom, around 1700 b.c.e. Authority had started to crumble--and due to this Egypt had to re-unify itself, hence the Middle Kingdom.

Jaynes considers that this slow collapse was caused by natural disasters, such as the Santorini volcanic explosion that devastated many Greek islands. Migration of different peoples into new areas disrupted the bicameral societies already in place. Conquest over peoples by others resulted in further collapse. And writing gradually eroded the "auditory authority of the bicameral mind." [Ibid, pp. 208, 212-213, 220]

Jaynes felt a real tipoff of this bicameral breakdown could be discerned in the Babylonian lines: "My god has forsaken me and disappeared, My goddess has failed me and keeps at a distance... [To Marduk]

It was with this, according to Jaynes, that one could detect for the first time the mighty themes of the world religions: "Why have the gods left us? Like friends who depart from us, they must be offended. Our misfortunes are our punishments for our offenses. We go down on our knees, begging to be forgiven. And then find redemption in some return of the word of a god." [Ibid, p. 226]

For Jaynes this ruin, this bitter bicameral breakdown led to the growth of subjective consciousness in Greece. Moving from the ILIAD, Jaynes declares that Homer's ODYSSEY is unlike its predecessor. Here we have wily Odysseus, the hero of many devices, a man of a "new mentality." The ODYSSEY was about a man who was learning how to get along in a "ruined and god-weakened world." [Ibid, 272-273]

With the Golden Age of Greece, in the starstruck sixth century b.c.e., with Solon, with Thales, Anaximander, and Pythagoras, Jaynes claims we are now with human minds with whom we can feel mentally at home!
 
  • #53
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I am not sure why the Jayne theory is so compelling for you, that you would deny bicameral mind, or consciousness to anyone who lived before the Odyssey was written. I don't think that the religion of the Greeks was mass Schizophrenia, brought on by miniscule connections between the right and left hemispheres of the brain.

The Greek plays, were far too insightful to be a product of non conscious beings, beings who write at all, display a high degree of sophistication, distilling passion, humor, history, math, poetry from real time to two dimensional metaphor on a page.
 
  • #54
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Of course, Pascal's Wager works only for people who are considering the Judo-Christian-Islaamic "God" and are open to the possibility. Not to mention people who can make themselves believe something for a reward...

I agree with Dayle on the Greeks. Although they were sadly religious, they were very intelligent for their time, and deserve a lot of credit. There were definitely great conscious minds at work.
 
  • #55
loseyourname
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Dayle Record said:
I am not sure why the Jayne theory is so compelling for you, that you would deny bicameral mind, or consciousness to anyone who lived before the Odyssey was written. I don't think that the religion of the Greeks was mass Schizophrenia, brought on by miniscule connections between the right and left hemispheres of the brain.

The Greek plays, were far too insightful to be a product of non conscious beings, beings who write at all, display a high degree of sophistication, distilling passion, humor, history, math, poetry from real time to two dimensional metaphor on a page.
The Greek playwrights all came well after the time of Homer. In fact, the Iliad and Odyssey actually predate Homer and are rooted in oral tradition. Homer was simply the first man to write them down. I wouldn't rely on literature to tell us whether or not a particular group of people experienced subjective consciousness in the same way we do, but it is clear from studying Greek epic poetry that they had to concept of a self. Socrates seems to be the first person to ever put forth this idea that humans are self-determined and have an aspect to their being beyond the mechanical, physical workings of their bodies. Even Aristophanes, in Clouds, mocks the Socratic idea of a spiritual self. There is evidence from earlier eastern writings that humans had previously considered themselves to be spiritual beings of some sort, but as far as being self-determined, Socrates really seems to be the first.
 
  • #56
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Dayle Record said:
I am not sure why the Jayne theory is so compelling for you, that you would deny bicameral mind, or consciousness to anyone who lived before the Odyssey was written. I don't think that the religion of the Greeks was mass Schizophrenia, brought on by miniscule connections between the right and left hemispheres of the brain. The Greek plays, were far too insightful to be a product of non conscious beings, beings who write at all, display a high degree of sophistication, distilling passion, humor, history, math, poetry from real time to two dimensional metaphor on a page.
Several points:
1) James is inventing the concept of a "bicameral mind" thus one who follows him would not "deny" it to the preconscious peoples.
2) I only found JJ very well informed both in his knowledge of ancient societies and in neurophysiology. (I don't recall for sure, but think he was head of Princeton's linguistic dept - anyway he was a "pre-Chompski" linguist - one who was more concerned with words and different languages that some innate "grammar of all mankind."

3) I am almost sure he read the old works of many societies in the original and few challenge his understanding of them. If he came to the conclusion, that the early peoples thought differently than modern man, were directed by inner voices that they assumed were Gods, etc.; I suspect he has better reason for this view than I have to disagree. Most tradition of the Bible's origin is that it is the "word of God" spoken to the writers. Apparently it is true of almost all old texts that the writer is only doing as told.

4) I tend not to know what to think about when mankind first became conscious. As far as it being required to write a good story, I doubt that. I think I once read a pretty good one, written solely by a computer. I know computers make good musics. The concept of "zombies" (not the drugged bodies of Haiti ) of philosophers discussing the "other minds" problem is a good example also of fact that a well told story is no proof of a conscious author. I also am not an expert on Greek plays, but it is my impression that the audience was not disturbed when the "deus ex machina" stepped in to set thing right - perhaps that was they way it was for them in their lives, at least for their grand parents - I.e. until recently for them.

5) Dan Dennet (Consciousness Explained, et al) believes that at some unconscious level you create stories, constantly revising them, and that your consiousness is the current version you are telling yourself. If he is correct, it is obvious that you do not require consciousness to make up the story - It is the other way round - the story is making up the consciousness.

6) Again please do not take this as a defense of JJ - he is so far advanced in this area compared to me that any such effort on my part would be silly. - Read his book and decide for your self if he has a good case or not. don't prejudge him without doing so. I bet he is much better informed on the subject than you also.
 
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  • #57
Les Sleeth
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Billy T said:
I tend not to know what to think about when mankind first became conscious. As far as it being required to write a good story, I doubt that. I think I once read a pretty good one, written solely by a computer. I know computers make good musics. The concept of "zombies" (not the drugged bodies of Haiti ) of philosophers discussing the "other minds" problem is a good example also of fact that a well told story is no proof of a conscious author. I also am not an expert on Greek plays, but it is my impression that the audience was not disturbed when the "deus ex machina" stepped in to set thing right - perhaps that was they way it was for them in their lives, at least for their grand parents - I.e. until recently for them.
Just a couple of small points before addressing your main idea. The computer doesn't write a story or music in the absense of consciousness since it requires programming and sophiticated machinery to do so, both of which were organized into existence by human consciousness.


Billy T said:
Dan Dennet (Consciousness Explained, et al) believes that at some unconscious level you create stories, constantly revising them, and that your consiousness is the current version you are telling yourself. If he is correct, it is obvious that you do not require consciousness to make up the story - It is the other way round - the story is making up the consciousness.
Dennett's theory is one designed to fit his a priori beliefs about consciousness. His unconscious story building is explained by my point below.


Billy T said:
James is inventing the concept of a "bicameral mind" . . . If he came to the conclusion, that the early peoples thought differently than modern man, were directed by inner voices that they assumed were Gods, . . . I tend not to know what to think about when mankind first became conscious.
I read James' book when it first came out, so it has been awhile. But I remember thinking then, as I still do, that humanity is still bicameral. I don't see why anyone would believe we are much different.

Do we have voices in our heads? Yep. Can we stop the voices? Nope. You can prove this by closing your eyes and attempting to make your mind stop talking. It won't shut up, and that is how it is for the vast majority of humans.

Then think about what determines much of what that internal dialogue goes on about. As we grow up, our interaction with reality (which includes parents, society, other people, pain, our own predilections, etc.) conditions us. We are encouraged to like and dislike, to fear and long for, to believe and disbelieve . . . So although we might call the voice in our head "my idea" or "my view," often it hasn't been consciously decided by the individual at all (or at least entirely).

Do we listen to our non-stop chattering mind? Yes we do, and we accept its conclusions and act on them. But if we haven't fully decided ourselves the make up of that mind, then aren't we in a sense really unconsciously listening to a "god" who tells us what to do?

It might be that ancients, lacking any understanding of how consciousness works, misunderstood their runaway minds more than we do. They might have interpreted all that chatter as a voice from God, or whatever. But I don't see it as any different than what goes on today, except we understand better that it is our own brain talking, and also some of us train and organize our minds so the educated, thoughtful person does better at reason and interpretation.

I say, until we get enough control over the mind to make it stop, we will continue to be bicameral, with one aspect of the mind enslaved to cogitating, while the receptive side sits there enthralled listening to its machinations.

Once one stills the mind, an interesting thing happens . . . unity. That is, the conscious part of us leaps to the forefront to be more fully in the experience of the moment; and that thinking aspect takes a back seat like a good servant, and waits until called on before opening its mouth.
 
  • #58
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I don't think we have much difference in our POVs. but....
Les Sleeth said:
Just a couple of small points before addressing your main idea. The computer doesn't write a story or music in the absense of consciousness since it requires programming and sophiticated machinery to do so, both of which were organized into existence by human consciousness.
Certainly both the computer and the software are the product of human consciousness, but the point was that the author of the story need not be conscious. The existence of greek produced stories, music and plays was being advance as proof that the greeks were conscious. I was just refuting this argument. The guy/gals who designed to computer and those that wrote the story/ music/ play writing software could all be dead and yet the computer, with no consciousness at all, could still be cranking out story/ music/ plays - that was my point - No consciousness required for this type of activity - hence claiming it is, is a bad argument.
Les Sleeth said:
Dennett's theory is one designed to fit his a priori beliefs about consciousness. His unconscious story building is explained by my point below.
I don't really care why he wrote it. It was just more convenient, well know evidence, if he is anywhere near right, that production of stories is not good evidence for the existence of consciousness. Again, I am not arguing that JJ is correct - only that the arguments based on story production agains JJ are very weak, if they have any force at all.
Les Sleeth said:
I read James' book when it first came out, so it has been awhile. But I remember thinking then, as I still do, that humanity is still bicameral. I don't see why anyone would believe we are much different.
Me too. Me too. I doubt JJ would claim that there has been any significant change in the physiology of the brain. I think he is claiming, as you basically do, that we understand the "voice" we hear differently; however, I think he was saying that the ancients were more like modern schizophrenics, in that they thought their voices came from real external sources.
Les Sleeth said:
Then think about what determines much of what that internal dialogue goes on about. As we grow up, our interaction with reality (which includes parents, society, other people, pain, our own predilections, etc.) conditions us. We are encouraged to like and dislike, to fear and long for, to believe and disbelieve . . . So although we might call the voice in our head "my idea" or "my view," often it hasn't been consciously decided by the individual at all (or at least entirely).
Perhaps you should make some comments like this in my thread ("What Price Free Will") Your reasons and my understanding of Physics and Biology are what lead me to believe for many years that genuine free will was impossible - that we only have the illusion of making real choices. See attachment to post 1 of that thread to learn why I have recently changed my view (and learn the price I am willing to pay for genuine free will).
Les Sleeth said:
....
 
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  • #59
Les Sleeth
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Billy T said:
. . . the point was that the author of the story need not be conscious. The existence of greek produced stories, music and plays was being advance as proof that the greeks were conscious. I was just refuting this argument. The guy/gals who designed to computer and those that wrote the story/ music/ play writing software could all be dead and yet the computer, with no consciousness at all, could still be cranking out story/ music/ plays - that was my point - No consciousness required for this type of activity - hence claiming it is, is a bad argument.
I suppose we'll have to disagree. As far as I am concerned, the argument that a creative story (such as the Greeks wrote) can come about unconsciously is not demostrated with a computer program that can write creatively after being designed by a conscious human to do so. IMO, for the point to be valid, I think you have to keep consciousness out of the loop entirely.


Billy T said:
See attachment to post 1 of that thread to learn why I have recently changed my view (and learn the price I am willing to pay for genuine free will).
Okay, I'll check it out.
 
  • #60
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Les Sleeth said:
I suppose we'll have to disagree. As far as I am concerned, the argument that a creative story (such as the Greeks wrote) can come about unconsciously is not demostrated with a computer program that can write creatively after being designed by a conscious human to do so. IMO, for the point to be valid, I think you have to keep consciousness out of the loop entirely.
Perhaps we should, just agree to disagree, but in post 56 there are 6 numbered points. (No. 1 &2 do not really refute your view - 2 is just "appeal to authority" and far be it from me to ever think that "authorities" are always right.) :rofl:

However you are only responding to one of the three separate arguments in point No. 4. The unconscious computers write stories, music, and plays argument. What about some of the other points I made there in point 4?

Let me also note (expand point 4) that the type of "thought" Big Blue used to defeat the world champion chess player is not at all like his, but judged by their performence, both were playing very good chess. That is based on performance alone, you really can not infer much about the nature of the thought/ consciousness that is producing the performance. You could claim it does not matter - thought as a mental process does not exist, but that behaviorist view not only is out of style, it has been destroyed, especially by linguists, even linguists like JJ, instead of like Chompski. Until you address this and the two independent other arguments in point 4 and some of the other points, I will continue to think you have a very weak case for rejecting JJ's claim - Again I a not trying to say he is correct - only that he knows a lot more about it than I do and makes a pretty good case as far as I can judge. I am quite convinced it is an honest case in that his facts about what is to be found in the ancient writings, and how their societies were organized around their god kings is correct. Something relatively unique did happen to the way man thought with the later Greeks. JJ's idea may be right, even though it is hard to believe.
 
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  • #61
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Billy T said:
Pascal, a very firm believer in a very minor sect, had an interesting POV on how one should act on the alternatives: If God does not exist it won't matter if I believe in him. If he does, then I had better. The "best alternative" is clear.
aka Pascal's wager.
Fine if you are just worried about divine retribution and are happy to be a hypocrite. I would like to think that humankind can rise above that kind of thing - have the courage of your convictions.

MF :smile:
 

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