In Defense of Scientific Realism and Down to Earth Physical Reality.
Besides my own edification, I've spent these weeks and months of effort hoping to produce a document of value for individuals (especially students) who recognize what a deliberate misadventure Hoffman's Case Against Reality is, but may not have the time to get into the weeds in order to recognize and think about his rhetorical fancy dancing, sleight of hand, and other tactics utilized by the professor.
I didn't tackle this project because I was under any illusion of being able to help convert professor Hoffman, or any of the others who seem to drink up on this sort of fantasizing. Erich von Daniken and his spacemen has come to mind, even more often was Elizabeth Holmes with her Theranos blackbox that was too good to be true, but in a world with little appreciation for biology, they lapped up the dream, to heck with reality, we're going to make money. (Why be surprised so many deny the COVID virus.)
These past chapters are your road map highlighting the landmarks of rhetorical deception. Since these contrarian sales pitches all follow basically the same script, you'll find these lessons valuable across the board - scroll to the bottom to find an index.
Hoffman’s Case Against Reality assures us:
DH: “Spacetime is your virtual reality.
The objects you see are your invention.
You create them with a glance and destroy them with a blink.” (10,¶91)
Hoffman bases this claim on his Fitness Beats Truth theorem which tells us that winning genes don’t code for “truth” they code for “fitness.”
(click on the image for better viewing)
The professor never comes close to adequately defining his factors, “truth” and “fitness.” "Fitness” makes intuitive sense, but “truth” is problematic.
“Truth” has no place within the processes of our natural world; nor in the dance between geology and biology; nor within cumulative harmonic change over time that created this cornucopia Earth we inherited. It's no wonder that "truth" loses in Hoffman's world.
Fitness, accuracy, ‘close enough’ and luck, those are what matters out here. “Truth” is a human construct, a product of our own conceptions and confined to our amazing, yet limited, mindscapes.
A review of Donald Hoffman’s, Case Against Reality,
Appendix, The Right to Be Wrong
(aka, Appeal to normalizing delusional thinking)
To further underscore his disconnect from our actual natural world, he suggests that science should be capable of defining “who we are” (ch10,¶74) as though there’s some accurate ideal answer science could arrive at. It's hubristic and foolish to the core.
Science is about accurately understanding our physical world and learning and improving. Always being aware that new surprises lay in store, because frankly, our minds aren’t up to comprehending the full scope and complexity of the natural reality around us.
l’ll admit, I still don’t understand how the Fitness Beats Truth (FBT) theorem justifies Hoffman’s Interface Theory of Perception (ITP), which demotes our senses and brains to bystanders as Hoffmanian Conscious Agents feed it information. Or something like that, it remains rather vague and incoherent, promising everything, explaining nothing. A blackbox you could say.
HD: “Conscious Realism makes a bold claim: consciousness, not spacetime and its objects, is fundamental reality and it’s properly described as a network of conscious agents … conscious agents combine to create more and more complex agents. …” (ch10, ¶78-83)
I can’t argue with that math.
Though, it does beg the question: What's its real world relevance?
All of this inscrutable math occurs within a simplified, idealized, digitized, universe that bears no resemblance to the infinite folds within folds of harmonic, cumulative, constructive complexity that permeates the biosphere of our Earth and its living creatures.
Furthermore, where is there room for any humanity in this idealized universe for philosophical computer programmers and their mathematical logic games?
I've read and reread his book and studied Hoffman's descriptions and tried to imagine these Hoffmanian Conscious Agents while walking around in the outdoors and it devolves into dizzying crazy making. None of it resonates with the many layers of life and biosphere I walk through and sense. If anything, these Conscious Agents are a route to insanity - read Zen and the Art of Motorcycles Maintenance for that story.
What’s the point professor? I mean, conscious agents having no substance? How are they going to experience anything, in order to be conscious of it? What's the mechanism through which these agents impart experience into the human mind? It's never addressed.
Our bodies drive our consciousness and when that ends, so does our consciousness, ask any dead person you may see. Professor, please stop confusing the perceived with the perceiver.
Consciousness is a product of something that's interacting with an environment. Try to imagine the beautiful pageant of our physical evolution through deep time.
The earliest cells could not have evolved had not the various components been aware of each other on some level. Later, Eukaryotic cells engulfed and nurtured once independent cells into a complex community within single cells. That, in turn, created a universe of potential, along with an unending pageant, of emergent properties and amazing creatures.
The point is that life requires a certain consciousness to begin with and so on up the ladder, as complexity increased, so too did consciousness. At some point it starts developing self-awareness, then memory started organizing itself, then contemplation. All as a result of incredibly organized biological complexity interacting with its environment and evolving over generations.
It’s really quite simple, logical, beautiful, mystifying, yet it's also a reality too many ignore in favor of fanciful, too much is never enough, pipe-dreams. Time to wake up Hoffman, we live in this world, not at Planck scales dodging quantum weirdness. Or not, people are what they are, and will believe anything they like, no matter how fundamentally delusional it may be.
I wanted to work my way through Hoffman's Case Against Reality and it's 'provocative' nay, outlandish, rhetoric and claims, to force myself to better understand it's ideas, live with them a little, to think through their implications and my objections and to see if I could enunciate them in a flowing rational concise manner.
I'm blessed in that most my adult life has been in rural settings, close to dark skies and open vistas. The tragedy is that these days most people on Earth are confined within cities, living and working under roofs and within walls, traveling within cages to other rooms, to spend the other half of their lives confined in yet more rooms, all the while plugged into computers and mass media.
No chance for interacting with our natural Earth and being open to learn her lessons. There are slivers of nature for the lucky ones, and next to nothing for the rest, with poisoned wastelands for all too many poor.
Given this situation it's easy to understand why so many have lost touch with simple down to Earth realities. I'm a lucky one and truly blessed to live out here on 40 wonderful acres in America's southwest so I'm not as susceptible to the Hollywood Dreaming flimflam.
I possess something else within my heart, something born of my intimate friendship with Earth and her ways and means over the course of my life.
This Earth and her biosphere could not exist if not for photons and stable atoms, molecules, etc. Only through a long, long, long, long, long process of change over time could these building blocks lead to stuff and eventually us.
Everything we know and are a part of lies within this Physicalist reality, isn't that worth defending?
I say Hoffman is playing basketball in zero-gravity because he's lost sight of his place within the universe, thus lost all footing. He's been seduced by his own imagination and forgotten that there's a very real boundary between the beliefs unfolding within his mindscape and the actually physical reality he was born out of and will die back into when our short gift of life is revoked by time.
Hoffman offers his readers a pill, all I have to offer this Christmas season is a simpler more down to Earth perspective on our human condition, here's the summary, link to see complete essay:
... In the years since I’ve kept learning more about Earth’s amazing evolution and geophysics and also the scientific process itself. A process that’s basically a set of rules for gathering and assessing our observations in an honest, open and disciplined manner that all who understand science can trust and participate in.Recently it occurred to me that what Stephen Gould was missing was a much more fundamental divide that is crying out for recognition.Specifically, the Magisteria of Physical Reality vs the Magisteria of our Human Mindscape.In this perspective we acknowledge that Earth and her physical processes and the pageant of evolution are the fundamental timeless touchstones of reality.
Part of Earth’s physical reality is that we humans were created by Earth out of her processes. ...The missing key is appreciating the fundamental “Magisteria of Physical Reality,” and recognizing both science and religion are products of the “Magisteria of Our Mindscape.”Science seeks to objectively learn about our physical world, but we should still recognize all our understanding is embedded within and constrained by our mindscape.Religion is all about the human mindscape itself, with its wonderful struggles, fears, spiritual undercurrents, needs and stories we create to give our live’s meaning and make it worth living, or at least bearable.What’s the point?Religions, Science, political beliefs, art, heaven, hell, even God they are all products of the human mindscape, generations of imaginings built upon previous generations of imaginings, all the way down.That's not to say they are the same thing, they are not!
Though I think both are valid human endeavors,
still fundamentally qualitatively different.
Religion deals with the inside of our minds, hearts and souls,Science does its best to objectively understand the physical world beyond all that.
Frontiers in Psychology - June 17, 2014
“Probing the interface theory of perception: Reply to commentaries, Donald D. Hoffman, Manish Singh & Chetan Prakash"
Psychonomic Bulletin & Review. volume 22, pages1551–1576(2015)
We propose that selection favors nonveridical perceptions that are tuned to fitness. Current textbooks assert, to the contrary, that perception is useful because, in the normal case, it is veridical. Intuition, both lay and expert, clearly sides with the textbooks. We thus expected that some commentators would reject our proposal and provide counterarguments that could stimulate a productive debate. ...
(3.02) Barton Anderson - Where does fitness fit in theories of perception?
(3.03) Jonathan Cohen - Perceptual representation, veridicality, and the interface theory of perception.
(3.04) Shimon Edelman - Varieties of perceptual truth and their possible evolutionary roots.
(3.05) Jacob Feldman - Bayesian inference and “truth”: a comment on Hoffman, Singh, and Prakash.
(3.06) Chris Fields -Reverse engineering the world: a commentary on Hoffman, Singh, and Prakash,
“The interface theory of perception”.
(3.07) Jan Koenderink - Esse est Percipi & Verum est Factum.
(3.08) Rainer Mausfeld - Notions such as “truth” or “correspondence to the objective world” play no role in explanatory accounts of perception.
(3.09) Brian P. McLaughlin and E. J. Green - Are icons sense data?
(3.10) Zygmunt Pizlo - Philosophizing cannot substitute for experimentation: comment on Hoffman, Singh & Prakash.
(3.11) Matthew Schlesinger - Interface theory of perception leaves me hungry for more.
Student Resources - Background info:
(4.01) Rainer Mausfeld: ‘Truth’ has no role in explanatory accounts of perception.
(4.02) Paul Mealing: considers Hoffman's "Objects of Consciousness.”
(4.03) The Case For Reality: Because Apparently Someone Needs to Make One
(4.04) Sabine Hossenfelder in Defense of Scientific Realism and Physical Reality
(4.05) "Emergence" - A Handy Summary and Resources
(4.06) Physical Origins of Mind - Dr. Siegel, Allen Institute Brain Science, Tononi, Koch.
(4.07) Can you trust Frontiers in Psychology research papers? Students' Resource
(4.08) Critical Thinking Skills - In Defense of Reality - A Student Resource
(4.09) Philo+Sophia - Love of Wisdom - A Student Resource
Dr. Mark Solms deftly demystifies Chalmers’ “Hard Problem” of Consciousness, while incidentally highlighting why Hoffman’s “Conscious Agents” are luftgeschäft.
My homemade philosophical underpinning . . .
(7.01) An Alternative Philosophical Perspective - “Earth Centrism”
(7.02) Appreciating the Physical Reality ~ Human Mindscape divide
(7.03) Being an element in Earth’s Pageant of Evolution
Feel free to copy and share
Email: citizenschallenge gmail com
Public notice to W.W.Norton Co and Donald Hoffman:
Donald Hoffman Playing Basketball in Zero-Gravity,
a critical review:
The Case Against Reality :
Why Evolution Hid The Truth From Our Eyes
By Donald Hoffman
Published August 13th 2019
Publisher: W.W. Norton Company
©all rights reserved
I hereby claim FairUse on the grounds that Donald Hoffman’s “The Case Against Reality” is part of an ongoing public dialogue which Hoffman explicitly encourages others to join. He invited critique and I accept his challenge.
I intend to be a witness for a fact based DeepTime, Evolutionary perspective on our “human mind” -“physical reality” interface.
To do Hoffman’s arguments justice I’m compelled to reprint quite a few of them as I go through his book and I appreciate both W.W. Norton Company and Donald Hoffman’s understanding, and I hope for their consent.
email: citizenschallenge at gmail
Students Introduction to Reality Based Brain/Consciousness Research
Consciousness: here, there and everywhere? Giulio Tononi and Christof Koch
The Integrated Information Theory of Consciousness, Dr. Christof Koch,
Allen Institute for Brain Science, Coding & Vision 101, 12-part undergraduate-level lecture series
Some Elements of an Evolutionary Theory of Perception
Perceptual Systems, Historical Background, Innate And Learned Classical perceptual phenomena, Broad theoretical approaches, Current research/future developments.
Agnes Szokolszky, Catherine Read, Zsolt Palatinus, et al., 2019
Eric P. Charles, 2017,
Kristian Tylén, Riccardo Fusaroli, Sergio Rojo, et al. PNAS 2020
doi.org/10.1146/annurev-earth-082517-010120, March 21, 2018
Eve R. Schneider, Elena O. Gracheva, and Slav N. Bagriantsev, 2016
Leda Cosmides & John Tooby, Handbook of Emotions, 2000
Simon Neubauer, Jean-Jacques Hublin and Philipp Gunz, 2018:
Rainer Mausfeld, PhD.
By: Stephen Burnett, PhD, Nature Education Knowledge 3(10):75
H. Clark Barrett
by: Andrea Korte, February 19, 2017
The bottom line, courtesy of:
Mysteries of Modern Physics by Sean Carroll
Jan 29, 2020 - Darwin College Lecture Series
. . . these are the particles that make up you and this table and me and this laptop and really everything that you have ever seen with your eyes touched with your fingers smelled with your nose in your life.
Furthermore we know how they interact with each other and even better than that, the most impressive fact is that there will not be a discovery tomorrow or next century or a million years from now which says you know what there was another particle or another force that we didn't know about but now we realize plays a crucial role in our everyday life.
As far as our everyday life is concerned by which I really mean what you can see with your eyes touch with your hands etc we’re done finding the underlying ingredients. That is an enormous achievement in human history one that does not get enough credit, because of course as soon as we do it we go on to the next thing.
Physics is not done. I'm not saying that physics is done, but physics has understood certain things and those things include everything you encounter in your everyday life - unless you're a professional experimental physicist or unless you're looking of course outside our everyday life at the universe and other places where we don't know what’s going on. …
I keep thinking there's a group, or two, out there that's looking for me, my knowledge, my attitude, and my writing style, which wants to improve, but it needs serious feedback to accomplish that.
At this point I'm writing for the few. Those few for whom this resonates. Those who appreciate this amazing Earth, and her story, along with having a conception of deep time.
Those who appreciate that things are going to keep getting weirder and darker. I think we could benefit from networking a little. Not to save our world, sadly we're past that. How about just for some community of like minded, to help each other simply by being there and willing to discuss things most remain willfully oblivious to.
Let me recommend a good place to visit if you want to engage in some intelligent discussion, the Center For Inquiry Forum.