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Sunday, 19 June 2011

The Daft Things People Believe

Imagine.  You’re walking down Main Street one day and you bump into man who is talking to the people in the street as though they’re a public meeting.  Because you have nothing better to do you slip him some spare change for a drink and get into conversation with him.

He tells you he has come with a special message to the world.  Everyone is in mortal danger and only by following him can they be saved.

You decide to humour him a little and ask him how he knows this and what makes him think he’s a messenger. 

He tells you his mother was a virgin.

“Okay”, you think. “Let’s see where this is going”. You ask him about this mortal danger that we’re all in.

“It’s my father.” He explains.  “He has something especially unpleasant prepared for you and only I can set you free from it."

“Er... I thought you said your mother was a virgin!  How does that square with having a cruel and threatening father?"

“That’s not the point!  My mother WAS a virgin because I’m pure so she MUST have been.  Anyway, my father is invisible and doesn’t live on Earth.  He didn’t make her pregnant in the normal way.  She saw a man with wings and he told her she was pregnant."

"And another thing! My father isn’t cruel.  He’s only like that because he loves you.  You wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for him!”

Dilemma: should you cross over to the other side of the street out of harm’s way, or should you stay with him to look after him until something can be done for him?

Extraordinary to think that, before we understood mental illness, people used to think this condition was caused by magical beings living inside you.  A few people still think that way, apparently.

4 comments:

  1. Awesome post. Can't believe it's taken me so long to find your blog. So, very, well, said!

    RAmen.

    ReplyDelete
  2. If we believe that there is a physical reality, containing observables such as for example, the communication of signals from brain to hand, then the question arises: is a belief in communication from an "outside source" into the physical universe, consistent with the belief in a physical reality?
    I need to define "outside source" and the definition i use is "that which is not constrained by the observed rules applicable within the observed physical reality" This definition is intended to apply to the such constructs as ghosts, indwelling spirits of individuals, demons, gods, in the manner that such constructs may exist in the minds of people who are in other respects apparently near-rational.
    If any outside source sends a signal into the observed reality, then, we cannot have any means of predicting the consequences of our decisions.
    This follows as a consequence of not having reliable data.
    The unreliability of data is the consequence of having an outside source providing alternate signals which may conceivably interfere with the signals arriving from the observable reality.
    In other words, we might think we received signals from the physical reality, but we were simply "seeing things" (as per common usage of the phrase) .
    There would be no way to be sure which of our measurements are measurements of the physical reality, and which are measure,ents of a signal from an outside source.
    It follows then, that an absence of certainty that any matter under discussion, can be discussed on the basis that there are some measured facts as input, would possibly be a consistent viewpoint. It would also be a viewpoint that permits no purpose to discussion. The person holding that view might use time to better effect by communing with the outside sources, than discussing matters with people who believe there are some measured facts to use for prediction of outcome.
    What is clearly inconsistent, is to hold that there are facts, observed in a physical reality, and that there is certainty regarding the measurement of the observed facts - whilst at the same time holding the belief that signals enter the observable reality from an outside source.
    By way of example: suppose a christian studies neurology. How does the christian neurologist know that he is observing the actions of neurons in the brain of another? Could not the same apparent observation be created by an outside source sending a complex signal directly to the neurons of the observing christian neurologist?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anything which can interact in any way with anything in the universe is, by definition, in the universe and cannot be outside or separate from it.

      In fact, there can be no 'outside' in the conventional sense because there is no space or time for an outside to be in, hence the universe is finite but unbounded.

      What you are describing are idiopathic hallucinations that arise within our neurophysiology.

      Delete

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