Monday, February 26, 2007

A Third Proof Of GOD

If you and I are able to communicate, we will find that our minds work almost exactly the same. This is true all over the world. It is true of primitives, isolated tribal groups, and sophisticated first-worlders. Why haven't our minds evolved in very different ways? Why don't we have Babylonian confusion?

Because God created our minds.

The rest of the story

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

The link for "The rest of the story" goes to a correct url, but it seems the story there is now missing.

I would ask the writer what they mean when they say "our minds work almost exactly the same". Why choose brains and not hands? Regardless, it's not clear to me why the following is valid:

1. Human brains are similar, in an undefined sense, to other human brains.
2. Therefore, God exists.

Kit

bernardo said...

Well said, Kit.

Mountains in North America are shaped similarly to mountains in Asia. Therefore, God!

Randy Kirk said...

You guys think you're going to slide with those lame arguments. We're talking about something far more complex and likely to be differentiated by seperation. Try again. I'll give you a mulligan.

Randy Kirk said...

URL is correct. Click on article source.

Anonymous said...

Randy,

I'm simply presenting what I interpreted as your argument (or the argument of the original writer). If you think I'm incorrect, please display how you think the argument would be correctly described, in formal logic form if possible.

Kit

Anonymous said...

Randy,

So, I had a quick read-over at the "The rest of the story" pdf (I'm at work at the moment, so I didn't get to read it in detail yet), and to say that I have problems with their logic is putting it very lightly. I immediately noticed multiple uses of the false dichotomy fallacy throughout, and also many fallacious straw-man descriptions of the "naturalist" point of view.

When I have the time, I'll read it in more detail.

Kit

Tom Foss said...

You guys think you're going to slide with those lame arguments. We're talking about something far more complex and likely to be differentiated by seperation. Try again. I'll give you a mulligan.

You're calling others on lame arguments? When you posit this circularity as a proof of God? "Our brains are similar. This is because God created them. Therefore, God exists"? The premises assume the conclusion, this argument is fallacious, and is certainly no better explanation than science offers.

Our minds have quite likely evolved differently, but we all come from the same basic stock, we are all of one species, and we all have been around for a very brief time, in terms of evolutionary timescales. The result is that any physiological differences in human brains are subtle and minor. Our brains are also very similar to the brains of most mammals, with the same shape, the same basic parts, the same basic functions assigned to those basic parts, and so on. The farther back along the tree of life you go, the more variation you will find, the more differences you will find from humans. But the human branch is relatively newly split from its progenitors, and one would expect quite a bit of uniformity across the species when it comes to the basic parts. Our efforts to ease the pressures of selection, and the increasingly interconnected communities help to decrease the severity of the changes that might otherwise occur.

And even if this circular argument provided proof of a God, it certainly wouldn't provide proof for the God of the Bible. Any Creator god could fit in that spot, as could any designer, any entity which seeded the cosmos, any mystical force, etc. "Why are we so similar? Magic created us." No, I'm afraid you'd have to do better than that.

Hey Skipper said...

Well said, Tom.

Besides, it isn't at all clear that there are not some population dependent differences.

Not big, not enough to prevent communication, but probably there, nonetheless. For example, it may well be that the Chinese, on average, are slightly smarter than everyone else.

So you are assuming as true that which you haven't proven, and which is at least plausibly contradicted by the evidence.

And, on top of that, you ignore the 800 lb elephant in the room.

Women's brains.

BTW: Word verification, upon which Blogger has bestowed nearly catatonic stupidity (e.g, why, for Pete's sake can you not set a counter that will allow someone who has successfully verified some number of times harassment free access?) presents the field, but not the word, when running Firefox 1.5.0.6 on a Macbook.

Works fine in Safari.

That said, we have recently turned it off at The Daily Duck. The onslaught of comment spam that made us use it in the first place seems either to have almost completely abated, or is getting almost completely blocked by Blogger.

Randy Kirk said...

Admitting I don't know anything about the following, I will postulate that the American Indian populations were isolated from one another and from all of the European populations for at least many 1000's of years, and potentially millions of years. The Pacific Island groups were even more isolated. Even within these groups, they were isolated from one another.

The languages that developed were very different. The cultures different. But the commonality of the understandings of morality, the ways of communicating love, beauty, sacrifice, etc. were striking. Once language could be translated between any two groups, the rest was extremely similar.

Why didn't one group evolve to act more like cats, with tribes of only a dozen or two? Why not more like bison with herding instincts? The potential variations are almost limitless.

bernardo said...

"Why didn't one group evolve to act more like cats, with tribes of only a dozen or two? Why not more like bison with herding instincts?"

Um... because we have human brains.

Why didn't some tribes evolve wings and fly? Why didn't some tribes develop the ability to breathe underwater? Why didn't any of them develop infra-red vision?

Because thousands of years just isn't very long. Because, given the same brain layout, plus the pressures of any society or tribe, almost every person will want the same things, like the same things, and show the same response to most stimuli.

The IMAGINABLE variations are almost limitless. But the way the brain works, and the way societies work, make these kinds of changes very slow. So, sure, the changes you propose could develop a whole lot faster than the superpowers I mentioned, but maybe not in 1000s years.

Love and beauty are very deep in the human brain. They precede our ability to be consciously aware of them. (And, as has been mentioned on this blog, the desire to sacrifice so as to help your family might be deeper still). Similarly, since everyone pretty much likes and dislikes similar things, morality is pretty similar for everyone. Most of these feelings are driven by the workings of not just human brains but most mammal brains. We're just more aware of what our brains do.

Some things about different cultures are different - such as art, the role of women, linguistic concepts, and minor differences about the relationship that citizens have with each other, their government, and their society. Some things about different cultures are the same, since they are effects of a desire to maximize everyone's well-being, to ensure safety, health, and (to whatever extent is practical) justice, and to fulfill people's curiosity about the world. Those things that are the same - which you claim to be most things, or at least most important things, and I agree - are the result of everyone having pretty similar brains.

And here's another idea: Tribes and societies live in the world, and are subject to pressures such as climate, the availability of different kinds of food at different times, the presence of hostile (or perhaps friendly) enemy tribes, the abundance or scarcity of resources to make stuff out of, the threat of predators and disease, as well as the nature of the people that make them up: love, sacrifice, jealousy, and the different desires and customs I wrote about in previous paragraphs. All those things make tribal behavior subject to evolution. Tribes will change their behavior if this makes them better suited to their natural environment. Human creativity may allow different tribes in similar situations to face them in different ways, but there usually is some optimal way of doing things given certain resources and challenges, so it's no wonder that tribes in similar but distant environments behave similarly. They can change their behavior by deliberate use of foresight rather than relying on random mutations, but the fact is, they are all trying to solve very similar optimization problems, so any crazy variation either works very well (in which case it will probably be discovered by other tribes soon) or does not last very long.

That's my take on it anyways.

Randy Kirk said...

So, if I understand you, you would assume that all humans alive today are descendants of one prehuman species. Thus, we may only be talking many 1000's of years since this happened. And you would assume that the major functions of communication etc., were only present in humans. Thus there hasn't been enough time for the kind of differentiation that would result in difficulty in communicating between advanced multi-cultural civilization and isolated tribes?

bernardo said...

"So, if I understand you, you would assume that all humans alive today are descendants of one prehuman species."

You mean, I assume this because I think we all have pretty much the same brain? Yeah, I guess so.

"Thus, we may only be talking many 1000's of years since this happened."

Paleontological evidence seems to suggest less than a million years, so yeah, I'd guess in the hundreds of thousands. Why does that matter? If natural selection means that maintaining certain behaviors is optimal and leads to a more successful tribe/society, then you can wait as many 1000s of years as you want, those certain behaviors will not change.

"And you would assume that the major functions of communication etc., were only present in humans."

Why is that a necessary assumption? Members of other species communicate among themselves, sometimes even with us in limited ways.

"Thus there hasn't been enough time for the kind of differentiation that would result in difficulty in communicating between advanced multi-cultural civilization and isolated tribes?"

We are all human. We want the same things, need the same things, dislike the same things, use the same facial expressions to show certain emotions, are worried by the same things, are pleased by the same things. So it's basically like we all have the same things to talk about. You might say that society could change in such a way that members of society no longer think/talk/worry about the same things as more "primitive" tribes (some people may say this has happened already), but this would mean we stop being human and start being something else (which could happen). But, while my main worries are about my job and payments that support systems that support my comfort (worries which may at first appear to be worries entirely unrelated to tribal living), the bottom line is still that I want food, a safe place to rest, interesting/beautiful stuff to think about/enjoy, fun social interactions, and the safety and health of my family. Any "primitive" tribal human can relate to that.

Randy Kirk said...

Circular reasoning. We want the same things since our brains work the same way, therefore since we want the same things our brains end up working the same way.

I am imagining isolated tribes in tropical regions with relatively easy food supplies year round, limited issues regarding shelter, and big problems with predators and insects vs high plains Indians with dramatic weather shifts, substantial food issues, and few predators or insect issues. Assuming that their brains were similar in size, layout, function, etc 100,000 years ago, why wouldn't we expect substantial differences to have evolved based on such dramatic NEEDS variations.

At the same time, what would be even built into such a brain that would generate desires for community rather than small tribe.

Randy Kirk said...

Sorry about the lack of question marks above.

Hey Skipper said...

Randy:

I am imagining isolated tribes in tropical regions with relatively easy food supplies year round, limited issues regarding shelter, and big problems with predators and insects vs high plains Indians with dramatic weather shifts, substantial food issues, and few predators or insect issues.

The details of the problems are unimportant. The capabilities required to solve these problems is the same: abstraction, futurity, detection of reciprocity and deceit, communication, etc.

In simplistic terms, you would require one computer to do image processing, another to do spreadsheets, and yet another for word processing.

That makes no sense, because even though the ends are different, the means are the same.

Just so for human brains.

bernardo said...

"Circular reasoning."

Not quite. Yes, "We want the same things since our brains work the same way". I never meant to imply that "since we want the same things our brains must work the same way". I assume that our brains work the same way because we are one species, because we can breed across races with no problems, which means our genes (which tell our bodies how to come together during development) must be about the same, which means our brains are built about the same way.

Well, dogs are one species, but each breed (or "race") can typically have temperaments quite different from what other breeds typically have. Some breeds are hyper, some breeds are aggressive, some breeds are calm, etc. Is that the kind of change you're looking for?

"I am imagining isolated tribes in tropical regions... Assuming that their brains were similar in size, layout, function, etc 100,000 years ago, why wouldn't we expect substantial differences to have evolved based on such dramatic NEEDS variations."

Because we have minds that reason, rather than being completely guided by genes and instinct. We can decide that such-and-such behaviors would help us survive in a given environment (with certain resources, dangers, etc), and we can do these behaviors right away, without having to wait for evolution to kill off the people to whom their genes make those behaviors appear counter-intuitive. The fact that we can "shut up" our genetic impulses with our reason means that behaviors evolve very quickly, as ideas that we can experiment with, rather than as genes that take many many generations to be selected. Ideas get selected strongly and absolutely the minute the first guy is eaten by a lion, while the gene for lion-fear would take generations to select itself (and, meanwhile, all the people without that gene would get eaten). This is a bit of an exaggeration but you get the idea: Once we can make experiments and deliberate decisions based on the results, genes stop dictating our behavior, and our behavior stops causing the natural selection of genes. I'm not implying that these two guides to behavior (genetics and reason) switched instantaneously, but once reason did take over (probably some hundreds of thousands of years ago), natural selection is negligible and we're pretty much stuck with whatever gene-set we had at that time.

"what would be even built into such a brain that would generate desires for community rather than small tribe?"

Reason. Big groups are safer, make it more likely that SOMEONE will find food, that SOMEONE will have an idea about how to satisfy a need... And if the group commits itself to mutual survival and justice at the cost of everyone's sacrifice (i.e. a society), and if there are enough people for roles to be broken up (hunting, farming, tool-making, taking care of kids), then you have much less to fear in case you are not as physically apt as your neighbors. Once people have a mind that can reason, eventually they will see the benefits of society, and that vision will slowly coalesce into reality.

Randy Kirk said...

Lots of good ideas there. I need to really walk through this one, when I have nothing else on my mind. (brain, heh heh...get it.) But I actually mean it, too.

Randy Kirk said...

Bernardo says:

"We can decide that such-and-such behaviors would help us survive in a given environment (with certain resources, dangers, etc), and we can do these behaviors right away, without having to wait for evolution to kill off the people to whom their genes make those behaviors appear counter-intuitive"

Seems that we do some really bad deciding. Maybe more bad than good.

bernardo said...

Wow, you say atheists are arrogant, and then you say that you are in a position to determine that most of humanity's choices are bad?

And say we DO do a lot of really bad deciding. What solution do you propose to this problem? Following our instincts? In that direction lie chaos and anarchy, the results of animalistic selfishness. I suggest pragmatism, which can be defined as learning to make better choices based on learning from your mistakes and from those of other people.

Randy Kirk said...

Bernardo, you seemed to have missed my modifier "seems." However, who could disagree. I may not believe in man caused global warming, but I do believe in man caused bad air.

I may be glad we developed atomic weapons before the Germans, but I'm not glad anybody developed it or any lessor weapon with the intent of killing others.

Thalidomide comes to mind. Kinsey doing sex experiments on infants seems like a bad idea.