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If one assumes that the human brain has no external intelligence behind it, as you all do, then how can you ever say that the beliefs you form are more valid than those formed by somebody else, using their brain? In other words, how can you trust your brain to be interpreting things correctly? What is correct, what is true, ultimately? How could you say for sure?


(remembering that your brain has no external, ultimate intelligence backing it up) then can you really claim the high ground in our differences?

You seem to be operating on the premise that, unless there is "an external, ultimate intelligence" to act as Supreme Author and Arbiter of Truth, a kind of metaphysical referee, then there's no way for one person to be wrong and another to be right.  Solipsism is true, and the only reason we live in a shared, orderly reality is because there's one Intelligence who's the boss, and he imposes a coherent, ordered reality on the rest of us.  In a nutshell: Monarchy as the Grand Unified Theory.

In ancient times, it was a common mythic trope for cultures to envision the primordial state of Existence as a metaphysical and ontological chaos, until a Somebody or other showed up and put things to rights, like a mother stepping in to clean up her children's messy playroom.  It makes intuitive sense.  People in ancient times could tell that when there was a strong king on the throne, the nation had law and order, but if the king was assassinated and the priests and nobles squabbled amongst each other in the game of thrones, there was chaos.  However, applying this to cosmology and ontology is a mistake.  We look at Existence through human-colored glasses, and it is far easier for us to imagine "Amun-Re" as the explanation for the Sun, than to figure out and calculate the equations for nuclear fusion and celestial mechanics.  Without the human-colored glasses though, "Amun-Re" is far more complicated.  We can program a computer to produce a fairly accurate model of solar fusion, magnetic fields, plasma currents and so on, and the celestial mechanics of the Solar System.  We are presently nowhere near being able to produce an accurate software emulation of an intelligent, personal Sun God.  Even if we could emulate the intelligence and personality of a Sun God, we would still need to incorporate all the equations for solar fusion and celestial mechanics in order for our model to be accurate.  So rather than being simple and parsimonious as an explanation, Divine Intelligence is actually a gigantic, unnecessary add-on.  Personal intelligence is extremely hard.  It only seems simple because each of us already has one, and looks at Existence through it.

"But how can you have laws of physics if there isn't a Physics Lawgiver?"

First of all, what we mistakenly call "laws" of physics aren't Royal Decrees that asteroids and rivers obey because they'd get sent to Hell if they didn't.[1]  They're descriptions of how things do behave.  Is a Physics Lawgiver necessary for such regularities to exist?  No.  In fact, that question is completely bass ackward.

Try to imagine Existence as the primordial ontological chaos of the ancient creation myths.  There's no natural regularities, no logic, math doesn't work, and so on.  2 + 2 can be whatever it likes at any given moment, A can be Non-A at the same time and in the same respect, the Chicago Cubs can win a World Series...you get the picture.  As in the myths, a Supreme Intelligence tries to appear or emerge and put things to rights.  But how can it?  Since there's no logic, there's no way for this Intelligence to be what it is and not something else: Yahweh rather than Atum or the Great Mother or Brahman or...etc..  There's no regularities, so there's no way for an Intelligence to actually work; no way for it to think or perceive or speak its orders and expect to be heard.  That would require something like sound (or electromagnetic waves, or whatever would transmit the Intelligence's words), with the ability to form a coherent pattern that remains consistent with its own identity once it is emitted.  The things receiving the Divine command would have to be "things" in the first place, and have some capacity to receive and obey the command.  This argument is like saying, "Math could not work unless there was a Supreme Computer to make all the calculations.  If there wasn't a Supreme Computer, how would a billiard ball know which way to bounce and how far to roll when it's hit with a cue ball?"  To the contrary, it is only possible to construct a computer (Supreme or otherwise) if reality behaves in such a way that computation (i.e. math) already works.

In other words: the natural regularities are necessary for intelligence (or Intelligence) to exist, not the other way around.  Furthermore, human-like personal "Intelligence" of the sort you're talking about here can't even exist by itself.  If there was one, solitary Intelligence, who would teach it how to talk?  If it has no words and there are no other objects outside of itself, how could it think?  It would have no way to arrange its thoughts and nothing to think about.  How could it even form a concept of order or disorder, or decide that Force ought to equal Mass times Acceleration or that there ought to be an Uncertainty Principle or anything that behaves according to the Schrodinger Wave Equation?  A baby raised in a sensory deprivation tank would never become "intelligent," much less supremely so.  "Intelligence" as we know it is something that only develops in communities of intelligence-capable beings, in the context of an external reality.  Just as a watch found in a forest is proof not of a single Watchmaker, but of an entire civilization,[2] any argument in favor of a god is an argument for a pantheon.

Since natural regularities are ontologically prior to intelligence, intelligence cannot be posited as an explanation for why there are natural regularities.  Therefore, not only do we not need gods as an explanatory mechanism for how intelligences like ourselves can figure out how reality works (the ability to do so is what makes us "intelligent" in the first place), gods are a non-parsimonious excrescence that exists only because we look at reality through human-colored glasses and expect it to have a human face.
 1. The use of the word "laws" in this context is another example of our human-colored glasses tinting our perceptions of reality.
 2. A solitary, feral individual would never need to tell time precisely (no appointments to miss!) or have written numbers or a system of hours, minutes, and seconds, much less be able to construct the watch alone from scratch.
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nogodsforme Made my brain hurt-- in a good way. August 18, 2012, 02:26:56 PM