I've put together this 9 page preview of my "Hoffman playing basketball in zero-gravity" critique in order to send a hard copy to scientists and others who's work I've featured during this project, maybe even get a little feedback.
I'm sharing because during the year I worked on this project my homework has evolved into a rich student resource, with copious links, references and insights for the young critical thinker writing a paper or report. Especially those that want to dig into Donald Hoffman's Case Against Reality, for themselves, this is a goldmine.
That's also why I'm taking the opportunity to post this online and send hard copies to some others. You see, I'm trying to find out if this resonates with anyone out there in the world beyond my rural Colorado cabin. If the following does resonates with you, I'd love to hear from you. Serious feedback, critique, suggestions, networking is invited.
Thank you for your time,
Peter Miesler (aka Citizenschallenge)
citizenschallenge at gmail
A preview of Cc’s “Hoffman playing basketball in zerogravity”
a critical review of “The Case Against Reality”
(5.01) With a summary, explaining why I've pursued this project.
These days science is under multiple attacks, much of it built upon malicious, deliberately fabricated falsehoods concocted by ruthless special self-interests, with bottomless bank accounts and control of screaming social media machines.
But some is self-inflicted because in these modern times ‘provocative' gets more adulation than simple learning and constructively building upon understood fundamentals and exercising critical thinking skills.
An excellent example of this malaise is Donald Hoffman’s “Case Against Reality, why evolution hid the truth from our eyes,” with its insistence that science needs meta-physical thinking to comprehend human consciousness. The book’s content, suggested to me, plain old Abrahamic dualism wrapped up in scientific pretense. This has gotten me to wondering about how much of modern thinking, such as Chalmers’ “Hard Problem” of consciousness is intractable simply because they are still trapped within a bubble of Abrahamic inspired dualistic mindset, with its unrealistic divisions, impossible expectations, along with its superlative self-centeredness.
My project, Hoffman Playing Basketball in Zero-gravity Review is intended to identify the book's red flags and to offer solid critique, backed by information and sources that will provide students with the facts they need to see through Hoffman’s smokescreen for themselves.
Food for thought you could say. I'm specifically targeting those curious students already concerned with American’s descent into delusional anti-science thinking, students who are hungry for ideas on how to constructively confront today’s rising tide of belligerent willful ignorance.
My goal is sharing my paper trail, a bibliography, along with a virtual debate. The complete online version is easily skimmed, with copious references and links to relevant resources. I’m hoping it can help others better prepare for the nitty gritty of their own projects.
I wish you well, Peter Miesler, aka Citizenschallenge.
I've been challenged with the question: "Why am I so ‘obsessed’ with Hoffman’s Case Against Reality?"
Why did I spent over a half year, listening to it, reading it, and thinking about it, then nearly another half year and thousands of words dissecting Donald Hoffman’s book, The Case Against Reality, why evolution hid the truth from our eyes?
It’s a fair enough question and I’ll tell you why,
* It started with Donald Hoffman boasting that he’s doing serious solid science that is relevant to our daily lives. When all he’s doing is sophisticated mathematical games, computer modeling, philosophizing, wrapped in just-so storytelling. None of it deserves being called serious science. [1.02-C.A.R.-Ch10a]
* Getting further into the book, I found my down to Earth sensibilities and my respect for physical sciences increasingly offended by this man’s glib disregard for natural facts as scientists have refined them over time. [1.04-C.A.R.-Ch10c]
* His dismissal of physical sciences and the physicalist paradigm were as laughable, as they were irritatingly disingenuous. [1.14-C.A.R.-Appendix]
* His notion that the perceiver composes the perceived, is childish. [1.07-C.A.R.-Ch3]
After all, doesn’t light need to reflect off an object before we can perceive it? The perceiver composes an impression of the perceived. How does Hoffman justify such gross distortions of physical fact? [1.09-C.A.R.-Ch5]
- His constant reliance on computer analogies to answer questions - is reminiscent of an evangelical’s dependence on interpreting their own Bible to make their case, such debate tactics are not acceptable for a scientist. [4.02-C.A.R.-Mealing]
- His constant conflation of Objective Reality and Physical Reality, needs a spotlight. [1.12-C.A.R.-Ch8]
“Objective” being a product of our minds doing their best to keep subjective human biases out of their observation and learning process. Thus, science’s dependence on process and measurements; physical evidence and repeatability; facts at hand driving understanding with a community of experts always looking over each other’s shoulders; constructively learning from mistakes; along with a demand for honesty at all levels of the process!
* His tendency to imply that Evolution has agency reveals a limited appreciation for actual “wet” evolution unfolding one day at a time, over the course of deep time. [1.09-C.A.R.-Ch5]
* In fact, turns out the only thing Hoffman knows about Evolution is Evolutionary Game Theory. He's never studied actual Evolution. Realizing that, made Hoffman’s simplistic sweeping pronouncements regarding Evolution that much more galling. [1.13-C.A.R.-Ch9]
* Then, his quantum level rhetorical fancy dancing that disingenuously projects conclusions from atom smasher experiments into our macroscopic day to day reality, was like listening to nails being scrapped across a chalkboard. [1.10-C.A.R.-Ch6]
* Hoffman joins the chorus of talking head$, proclaiming “Space-time and Reality is Doomed,” with a deeper awareness beckoning, one step beyond. How do they figure that reality is doomed? Basically because their latest and greatest math breaks down, leaving them with no other conclusion. [1.11-C.A.R.-Ch7]
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- Then to fill in this contrived void, Donald’s imaginative storytelling comes to the rescue with Hoffmanian Conscious Agents that zip around interpreting reality for us, because the reality we think we are seeing, isn’t really there, says Professor Hoffman. He assures us that he has the math to “prove” it. [2.03-OofC.2/4]
- Over all, I found Hoffman’s writing to be a type specimen of falling so in love with one’s own ideas, that one gets trapped within their own Mindscape, and loses touch with physical reality. Which I reckon is fine for fiction and the what-if world of philosophizing, but it’s not science. It’s an insult to intelligence and centuries worth of learning via global communities of scientists, competitive experts looking over each other’s shoulders, who created today’s scientific understanding, and offensive to me. [1.06-C.A.R.-Ch2]
For me, Hoffman’s sort of delusional parlor games aren’t fun anymore. Times on this planet are ever more difficult, thanks exactly to that sort of mass acceptance of frivolous flights of fantasy that blind people to the actual evolving biophysical reality surrounding us. [1.08-C.A.R.-Ch4]
Additionally, Hoffman provided me with an excellent vehicle for wrestling with and further developing my own notions. That is, a more down to Earth, (built upon a foundation of nature's facts), physical reality respecting, Earth Centrist philosophy.
With so many complaints, I sound like a big grump, but the thing is, I can rationally and factually support my complaints.
That’s why it was important for me to challenge myself with thoroughly dissecting Hoffman’s book from start to finish. I needed to verify and document the perceived deceptions that I found so disturbing from the first time I listened to the book, through to my last reading. I’ve now stated my case and provided detailed red flags, specific arguments, evidence, along with further resources, in a fairly organized manner - ready for review and response. Being a non-academic I know this project leaves plenty of room for improvement, but I’ll leave that to others with a stronger background.
I invite debate, but even more importantly, I want to offer this as a student resource regarding the topic of rhetorical deception, for those with whom these concerns resonate. I hope that it might be helpful to some sharp activists and students of political deception. Students interested in better understanding, and confronting, the liars’ rhetorical tricks of the trade.
If Donald Hoffman had categorized his book “The Case Against Reality: Why Evolution Hid The Truth From Our Eyes” as new age literature, metaphysical intellectual entertainment, I’d have no complaints. It’s his insistence on passing it off as a serious scientific effort that begs a frank detailed response. Even if I’m only a thoughtful spectator and no academic.
Science is a set of rules and an attitude for observing and striving to understand our physical world, it’s about atoms and molecules, all they create, including biology and our planet’s biosphere, along with the rules all of it follows. Science strives for objectivity, it demands facts and rejects ego driven flights of fancy and deception.
All of us view the world through our own unique perspective, which of course is the product of genes, upbringing, environment, cumulative learning and experiences that produce inevitable biases in how we perceive the same bits of information. Admittedly, there’s an ocean of difference between the professor and myself.
Donald David Hoffman (12/29/55) is a cognitive psychologist and popular science author. He is a Professor in the Dept of Cognitive Sciences at the University of California, Irvine, with joint appointments in the Dept of Philosophy, the Dept of Logic and Philosophy of Science, and the School of Computer Science.
Hoffman studies consciousness, visual perception and evolutionary psychology using mathematical models and psychophysical experiments. His research subjects include facial attractiveness, the recognition of shape, the perception of motion and color, the evolution of perception, and the mind-body problem. (wiki)
Me, I’m on the outside looking in on academia. Born the same year as Hoffman, mine was a skilled working-man’s life, with a youthful passion for traveling and life long passion for learning about Earth’s story through science, personal observation, thinking, discussing, reading quality popular publications and books, documentaries, visiting libraries, museums, then the internet and always pondering the fundamental questions, comparing stories and facts presented (and omitted) while fitting together pieces of the puzzle. I’ve been astounded at all science has been learning and sharing. For me it’s been more enthralling than pro sports, Hollywood, shopping, or the rest of today’s distractions.
In particular, I’ve been impressed that even with all the unexpected surprises over these decades, there remains an underlying harmony and consistency that’s amazing. Our understanding has been like an image coming into better focus as more pixels of information are gathered. Seems like proof enough that we’ve developed a reasonably accurate understanding of reality, even if some mysteries and surprises remain. We shouldn’t glibly turn our backs on all we've learned.
To hear someone of Hoffman’s stature simply dismiss it all and populate our day to day reality with imagined icons replacing material stuff; reduce Evolution to a computer interface & game theory analogies; topped off with “conscious agents” zinging around like so many photons. It’s mystifying, disconcerting, crazy-making, and a hell of a challenge for me to get to work on enunciating a more down to Earth perspective on the evolution of perceiving the reality we are embedded within.
Hoffman begins his book with a quote from a founding father of science,
DH writes: I think that tastes, odors, colors, and so on . . . reside in consciousness. Hence if the living creature were removed, all these qualities would be wiped away and annihilated.
What I find curious is that was penned a life time before people started understanding the light spectrum, hundreds of years before we started understanding biochemistry and learning about the molecular structures that make up odors and tastes.
Today, we physically understand what creates different tastes, smells and other sensations. We observe how living creatures, receive and perceive those sense signals in bewildering detail. Pretending that away is foolish.
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It's true that how we ultimately perceive those signals within our minds, remains shrouded in mystery, even as scientists keep learning more details about our brain.
But, all that is a perception question - it in no way negates the fact that we understand physically, molecularly, what creates those different tastes, smells and other sensations. There’s no mystery, it is material stuff that can be measured, described and replicated.
DH asks: “Why do our senses exist to reveal the truth?” (¶2)
That's not scientific, it's a leading question intent on setting the stage for storytelling.
Evolution doesn’t care about truth. “Truth” is a lawyer’s conception that does not translate into the ways and means of our Earth’s living biosphere or the lives of its creatures.
Senses were honed through experimentation, attrition and experience over eons to better collect incoming information from the environment, process it through neurons and brains into information the mind could use to guide its body’s actions as appropriate in light of immediate real world situations and challenges.
Doing the best one can with what one has, is a better approximation for what’s needed in an ever changing, fast moving, complex reality, where shear luck also plays a role.
DH: “Why are our eyes, and all our senses, reliable guides? … the real world we assume consists of… objects in space and time. They exist even if no living creature observes them. Our senses are simply a window on this objective reality.” (¶2)
Notice how DH morphs the “real world” of “objects in space and time” into “objective reality,” he does this throughout the book without examining just what his “objective reality” is all about.
Donald Hoffman: “These (scientific) hunches are wrong.” (¶4)
As they say in the movies: “Hoffman, them are fighting words.”
DH (goes on to explain): “It’s that the very language of objects in space and time is simply the wrong language to describe objective reality. This is not a hunch. It is a theorem of evolution by natural selection that wallops our hunches.” (¶4)
Here again Hoffman points to ‘objective reality’ - but objectivity, or the lack thereof, is a product that unfolds within our minds, it is a conscious property, not a physical one.
DH: “It is a theorem of evolution by natural selection that wallops our hunches.” (¶4)
Look at that, Hoffman declares victory by presenting his theorem as though that settled it. Theorems are manmade concoctions that require assumptions and judgement calls to be made, including unaddressed limits to their applicability.
DH: “This is what evolution has done. It has endowed us with senses that hide the truth and display the simple icons we need to survive long enough to raise offspring. Space as you perceive it when you look around, is just your desktop - a 3D desktop.” (¶8)
“… I explain why evolution hid objective reality and endowed us instead with an interface of objects in space and time.” (¶13)
This sounds mighty close to dancing with some sort of Intelligent Design notions.
Why write off the experiences of the full range of Earth and medical sciences these past few hundred years, with their increasingly sophisticated observation equipment that consistently produce surprises, yet those surprises just as consistently make sense in hindsight as we learn things we didn’t know before. All pointing to an overall harmonious and accurate (if incomplete) understanding of the physical reality our minds are embedded within.
All of that Hoffman theatrically dismisses as a ‘hunch,’ that’s entertainment, not science, or rational thinking.
DH: “Together, we will explore how this counter intuitive idea dovetails with discoveries in physics that are equally counter intuitive.” (¶13)
Here, Hoffman refers to his explorations of the quantum realm at the very divide between physical matter and energy. The reality of single atoms and smaller, in a world where ~5,000,000,000,000 atoms can dance on the head of a pin.
Hoffman never justifies projecting experimental conclusions from that realm of physics at its absolute tiniest, up into our human macroscopic reality of measurable solid substances and organisms with lives unfolding within an inescapable space and time. But he certainly does it.
DH: “If our senses hide reality behind an interface, then what is that reality? I don’t know. But in chapter 10 we explore the idea that conscious experiences are fundamental…” (¶26)
DH: “Perhaps the universe itself is a massive social network of conscious agents that experiment, decide and act. . . . Instead, matter and spacetime arise from consciousness - as a perpetual interface” (¶27)
By confusing physical reality with our perception of reality, Hoffman ends up with a muddle that’s of no use in our pragmatic real day to day world, but it makes for a beguiling story that seems to sell well in a Hollywood world.
A critique of Donald Hoffman’s “Case Against Reality - Why Evolution Hide The Truth From Our Eyes” provides a framework to better enunciate a more down to Earth understanding of our human condition and to explore the profound divide between our mind and the physical reality that created us and that we exist within. The reality that simply IS.
Page 4 of 9
Donald Hoffman Playing Basketball in Zero-Gravity
A critical review of “The Case Against Reality: Why Evolution Hid The Truth From Our Eyes”
Table of Contents
This preview includes the highlighted chapters.
1) A chapter by chapter dissection of Hoffman’s book “The Case Against Reality”
2) A closer look at Hoffmanian “Objects of Consciousness”
Frontiers in Psychology - June 17, 2014
3) Student Resource - Ten Learned Responses
by Donald D. Hoffman, Manish Singh & Chetan Prakash"
Abstract: We propose that selection favors nonveridical perceptions that are tuned to fitness. … We thus expected that some commentators would reject our proposal and provide counterarguments that could stimulate a productive debate. … (HSP)
(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, Prakash.
(3.06) Chris Fields - Reverse engineering the world: a commentary on Hoffman, Singh, Prakash, ITP
(3.07) Jan Koenderink - Esse est Percipi & Verum est Factum.
(3.08) Rainer Mausfeld - Notions such as “truth” or “correspondence to the objective world”
(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.
4) Student Resource - Background information
(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? Student Resource
(4.08) Critical Thinking Skills - In Defense of Reality - A Student Resource
(4.09) Philo+Sophia - Love of Wisdom - A Student Resource
5) Summary of my critique
6) Dr. Mark Solms deftly demystifies Chalmers’ “Hard Problem” of Consciousness
7) Distilling my 66 years worth of wondering at this magnificent pageant unfolding around me:
Note regarding the following, quotes, links and bibliographic references have been deleted from these pages to save space. For the complete student reference and guide visit: A Case For Reality.
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Public notice to W.W.Norton Co & 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, 2019 ~ Publisher: W.W. Norton Company - ISBN13: 9780393254693 - © 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.
Peter Miesler, aka citizenschallenge
email: citizenschallenge gmail com
(3.01) Diary - But, wait! There’s more. Hoffman's responses.
Probing the interface theory of perception, ten responses
I thought I was finished with the review portion of my "Hoffman playing basketball in zero-gravity” project.
Then I sent Professor Hoffman an email asking if he’d responded to Dr. Mausfeld’s paper and he was kind enough to send me a link to more than I had bargained for: “Probing the interface theory of perception: Reply to commentaries” Hoffman, Singh, Prakash, September 30, 2015. It's their response to a collection of 10 expert comments further exploring Hoffman, Singh & Prakash's Interface Theory of Perception (ITP).
I’ve spent the past few hours with Barton Anderson's critique and it’s surprisingly interesting, edifying and humbling. It makes me want to repeat that I’m no scholar and don’t presume to be one. What I am is a guy who’s spent my days paying attention to my life, the natural world around me and the lessons Earth scientists have discovered and distilled for general consumption.
I believe much of our disconnect from our Earth’s life sustaining biosphere comes from missing a subtle but crucial appreciation for the “Physical Reality ~ Human Mindscape divide.” With too many falling in love with the beauty & ingenuity of their own ideas and losing sight of the physical reality we are actually embedded within every moment of our existence.
I believe an explicit appreciation for Earth, as our touchstone with reality, is a necessary prerequisite for truly understanding our selves.
“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. … (HSP)
The details on these 10 chapter reviews can be found at, ConfrontingScienceContrarians.blogspot.com
(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: The interface theory of perception leaves me hungry for more.
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Solms’ talk was a revelation. I spent the next two days binging on all the talks by Solms that I could find. Amazingly, they don’t get repetitive as so often happens, he’s always covering some new ground and there’s so much to absorb, and there weren't any red flags. Instead my early gut feelings about my consciousness being a part of this body I exist within were vindicated with more information than I could absorb.
It was like arriving at an oasis after a treacherous withering desert ordeal and being handed a pitcher of cool clean water and nourishment. Finally, someone that made sense and though he doesn’t actually discuss evolution much, it’s obvious that he has a bottom up Evolutionary understanding of consciousness. As opposed to Hoffman’s fascination with Hollywood/Madison Avenue’s top down perspective on our human consciousness. And, Solms is full of surprises!
What’s the bottomline? Relax, we don’t need any metaphysical life-jackets.
Fundamentally, it’s turning out that our mind and consciousness is the inside reflection of our body/brain interacting with its dynamic environment. Consciousness is an interaction, not a thing! It’s simple, if mind-blowing, yet explainable and understandable.
The “Hard Problem” turns out to be the human Ego vs. God issue, which I've come to see as a hangover from our collective Abrahamic world views, but I'll save that for the final chapters of this preview.
6) Dr. Mark Solms deftly demystifies Chalmers’ “Hard Problem” of Consciousness
What is “Earth Centrism”?
The Earth Centrist’s perspective acknowledges Earth, her material constituents and physical processes, unfolding one day at a time, as our fundamental touchstone with reality. We acknowledge Earth and glory in understanding her pageant of Evolution and appreciating how that pageant is reflected within our own bodies.
We glory in the physical fact that humans were created out of Earth's evolving biosphere.
Science shows us that we belong to the nurturing mammalian branch of one of Earth’s amazing animal kingdoms. Yet, it’s undeniable that something quite unique happened around six million years ago when certain apes took a wild improbable evolutionary turn.
By and by, besides the marvel of our two hands, we developed two feet and legs, that could stand tall and run for hours, combined with keen eyes and a growing brain that learned rapidly and remembered.
During this period our brain physically morphed in some significant ways that enabled it to host a profound leap in cognitive information processing, storage and retrieval ability. On the outside hominids learned to make tools, hunt, fish, and select plants, plus they mastered fire for cooking and better living.
On the inside our brains were growing and benefiting from the new super nourishment of cooked food while human curiosity and adventures started filling and stretching our Mindscapes with experiences, questions, and knowledge beyond anything the "natural" physical Earth ever knew.
By Mindscape, I mean the product of all that our body/brain perceives and processes, which of course, evolutionarily speaking, was dependent on our brain’s hardware keeping pace with and driving the ever increasing volume of information and thoughts.
While the human mind and spirit seem ineffable mysteries, they are also of tremendous consequence and real-world physical power. They drove our growing ability to study and manipulate our world; to communicate and record our experiences; and to formulate explanations for a world full of mysteries, threats, challenges and wonders.
People learned to think and gossip and paint pictures upon the canvas of cave walls, and even better, upon the canvas of each other’s imaginations. We’ve been adding to our mind’s awareness and complexity ever since.
Of course, while all this was going on our extraordinary human mind was also beginning to wonder about the ‘Why’ of the world it observed and the difficult, fragile, short lives we were allotted.
In seeking comfort and answers to unknowable questions it seems inevitable that Gods would inhabit our Mindscape. I suspect inspired by buried memories of being coddled within mom’s protective loving bosom those first couple years of life.
No doubt these “Gods” enabled further successes, though not through super-natural interventions, rather through their ability to form, conform, reform & transform the Mindscapes of the people beginning to congregate. Thus, combining pragmatic civil societal needs with universally felt, but keenly personal questions, fears, and dreams.
During the middle ages tribal stories, accepted ancient doctrines, and religious “truths” were no longer enough to satisfy our Mindscape’s growing desire for ever better understanding and power over our destinies and the biosphere that sustains us.
The human mind took another tremendous leap forward in awareness with the Intellectual Enlightenment and the birth of serious disciplined scientific study. Science’s success was dazzling in its ability to learn about, control and manipulate Earth’s physical resources and to transform entire environments.
Science was so successful that today most believe we are the masters of our world and too many have fallen into the hubristic trap of believing our ever fertile Mindscape is reality itself. But now I’m digressing, back on point, in summary,
Earth Centrism, is a perspective on our human condition that’s based on the understanding that Earth is our fundamental touchstone with Physical Reality and that we are creatures made through Earth’s own natural processes.
Earth Centrism comes from appreciating the “Human Mindscape ~ Physical Reality divide.” It also helps in getting a handle on how the paternalistic Abrahamic traditions, with their self-serving attitudes towards other peoples, creatures, landscapes and resources imposed a simplistic dualistic default that has blinded humanity to a clear understanding of this planet, it’s processes, deep-time and how it created us.
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The Mind/Brain conundrum and the Hard Problem of Consciousness are rooted in ancient religious and philosophical dualistic arguments, contrivances of our minds, dressed up in modern language. As though reality needs to prove itself to us.
Earth Centrism is founded on the understanding that scientific study of the material world is our best window into understanding our own lives within physical reality. Because Science is, at its core, a set of rules for observing and recording and learning about our natural world that strives as much as possible to eliminate human ego driven biases from its deliberations.
Science is founded on an unspoken understanding that we need each other to keep ourselves honest. It’s a community of educated, competitive, skeptical, experts who are constantly looking over each other’s shoulders. With fidelity to honesty being science’s Golden Rule.
I also contend that science offers spiritual/mystical challenges, experiences and resolutions, well beyond anything offered by the traditions of our self-made, ego straddled, religions with their tunnel vision and that ingrained resentment towards Earth and learning.
Earth Centrism is a personal emergent appreciation. When the sum total of all those insights one has collected from a life time of wonder and learning come together into a tapestry, a pageant of life and circumstance that is harmonious and graspable. When understanding and increasing awareness blossoms into a visceral connection that infuses one’s body and outlook upon life with the simple reality of being a transient element in Earth’s evolution.
Along with that comes a grounded feeling. A deep inside awareness that, I have arrived. I am a child of Earth, and it is beautiful, and this moment is mine.
I can't figure out, why isn’t it self-evident that consciousness and mind can’t be understood by studying modern people in these modern times? It requires an evolutionary perspective of the natural, biological forces at work. First producing simple creatures that eventually evolved into complex creatures, with branches that eventually evolved into Homo during the last minute+ of Evolution’s 24 hours of Creation, only then into Homo sapiens a mere 3, 4 seconds ago.
How does one ponder the human brain and mind without wondering about all the time before Homo? We evolved out of the mammalian class of animals. Think about it, the breast-feeding body plan with a lifestyle built around nurturing their young, developing families and even communities.
Physical Reality is the physical world of atoms, molecules, universal laws of physics, biology and Earth’s laws of nature. It is Earth’s dance between geology and biology and time and Earth's evolving creatures. For this discussion, one in particular, one that learned to contemplate the universe along with its own short life and its coming death.
Human Mindscape is all that goes on inside of our minds. The landscape of our thoughts and desires and impulses and those various voices and personalities who inhabit our thoughts and Being. The ineffable ideas that our hands can turn into physical reality and change our planet.
The me, myself and I, and all that unfolds within the thoughts just beyond the biological sparks and chemical cascades unfolding within our physical bodies and brains as they navigate their environments.
The evolutionary biologist and historian of science Stephen J. Gould wrote an essay in 1997, “Non-overlapping Magisteria” in an attempt to address the tension between scientific truths and religious truths.
His solution was the notion of “Non-overlapping Magisteria” (NOMA) which delineated two teaching “authorities” (magisterium), the “magisteria of science” and the “magisteria of religion.” It wasn’t his original idea, rather a continuation of a centuries old dialogue between scientists and the Catholic Church that I won’t get into.
In any event, Gould concluded there should be no conflict because each realm had its’ own domain of “teaching authority.” Since these “magisteria” do not overlap, they cannot contradict each other and should be able to exist in mutual respect.
When it first came out, I loved the essay because of my own struggling intellectual spiritual journey which was embedded within gathering and learning from sober scientific knowledge about this Earth and her story, while dealing with the spiritual aspect of ‘touching Earth’ and having experienced ‘God’s breath’ against my back, so to speak.
Gould’s idea was interesting and it gained a lot of attention and lively discussion, but in the end seems to have offered little to either side. For myself, the criticisms made sense and my enthusiasm faded away. Still, the conflict kept echoing like an unresolved challenge as I increasingly engaged faith-shackled contrarians towards climate science and evolution (then it was reinvigorated by my adventures through Prof. Hoffman's mindscape.) These days I see that Gould’s missing key was appreciating our human mind ~ reality divide and how that distorted our thinking.
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 participate in and trust because it is a community of skeptical experts who are always looking over each other’s shoulders. It’s also predicated on the notion that fidelity to honesty and truth matters.
Too many celebrity talkers have become so infatuated with the wonderful ideas their genius creates, that they lose sight of the actually physical reality they are trying to render.
Science seeks to objectively learn about our physical world, but we ought to 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, same as political beliefs, heaven, hell, art, music, 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 they're both valid human endeavors, but 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, doing its best to eliminate ego and bias from its deliberations.
Page 8 of 9
Although I’m a family man, with my share of friends, along with being community-minded, there’s a part of me that rarely fully connects with people, leaving me with an impression of being on the outside looking in and trying to make sense of the self-destructive impulses that have been driving us people towards a disastrous future.
Over the decades I’ve spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out what it was that made my fundamental outlook and instincts so foreign to the general mindset. It’s only recently, with the hindsight of 65 (now 66) years, and coming off of this “Hoffman Playing Basketball in Zero-gravity project” with all it’s side trips and then discovering the light at the end of the tunnel with Dr. Mark Solms enunciating the outlines of Neuropsychoanalysis and a rational approach to understanding our minds unfolding within our bodies.
A body of work which convincingly demystifies Chalmers’ “Hard Problem” (and all the distracting intellectual mischief that’s given rise to) and points the way to a rational biological understanding of consciousness. Neuropsychology and neuropsychoanalysis brings us face to face with the reality that our consciousness is basically the inside reflection of our body/brain interacting with its environment. Think of it, consciousness as interaction, not a thing.
Now there’s something worth chewing on if you’re looking for intellectual or spiritual challenge.
Back to my struggle to make sense out of myself. A year ago I was able to enunciate the thing I believe makes me different. Basically, I possess a visceral awareness of, and appreciation for, being an element in Earth’s Pageant of Evolution.
But, what was it that opened up this potential for me? Why did those religious mindsets always feel foreign, if not plain wrong, to me?
Recently I finally nailed that one too. It goes back to my early childhood, even before starting kindergarten at John J. Audubon Elementary school in Chicago. I’d been playing in the pool of warming sunlight streaming through the window onto our living room carpet, the light was making the floating dust specks look like stars. I remember focusing on their movements, then watching ‘em whooshing after my mom when she’d pass by. I was already fascinated by the night sky full of sparkling lights and these dust motes transported me into a space filled with stars and distant galaxies.
Then I hear myself asking my mom: “What is God?"
I like to think it took her a few beats, then she answered:
“A speck of dust that wanted to be more”.
I must have been primed because it blew me away, literally permeated my entire being. After the initial shock wore off, it didn’t provide any sort of answers, it was more like a suggestion, a question, even a challenge to do better. God as a speck that simply wanted to be more. It was beautiful, awesome, and this little boy carried that conception right into school and it has remained with me for the rest of my life. Like a mantra echoing in the distance. It’s taken over 60 years for that echo to fully blossom and for me to appreciate, not just how, but the why that set me on my singular path.
I believe what happened was that the notion of a tiny speck of dust wanting to be more wound up filling in and satisfying my "God" niche’ - that thing, that I believe, resides within all humans, and that parents, caregivers, society fills in with religion as a child grows into an adult.
In a couple years when the self-serving Abrahamic God was presented to me, there was no place for it to grab hold of in my brain or heart, I was free of its shackles and free to make my own sense of the world.
This sense of self and spiritual connectivity with Earth emerged out of a little tree-hugging and a lifetime of curiosity, learning about myself, Earth, deep-time’s amazing evolutionary story, the development of life and creatures, our biosphere and ourselves.
Such as realizing how the components of my own physical body had their origins eons ago. Not an intellectual knowing, but literally up close and bloody personal, viscerally learning first-hand how, for the most part, mammals have the same skeleton and organs I do, of course in different proportions. Just the same, it was a profound realization that illuminated the deep kinship between my own body and other creatures.
Or taking it even further back in time and realizing how Earth herself had to go through intense processing before promising molecular building blocks and biological solutions to life’s challenges would have the material resources at hand, within appropriate environments, to allow them to be put to the test and prosper.
It’s a long, amazingly complex story that keeps getting richer as more evidence gets collected and processed into shared scientific knowledge. Folds within folds of cumulative harmonic complexity flowing down the cascade of time.
In the end, the thought of being an intelligent self-aware element of creation, one who is capable of savoring the pageant of Earth’s amazing Evolution is more than comforting.
It provides me with a spiritual foundation and solidity in the face of challenges, inevitable failings and my coming death. Not that I'm above any of it, I still live the dramas and struggles of being me, but I understand the music and it doesn't scare me anymore. The mindset of the kayaker striving to find the best line through the successive cascades of my life and being rewarded with a transcendent depth of awareness, peace and contentment, no Holy Book, or fast-talking pick-pocket preachers can get close to offering.
It's good news worth passing around to those who are honestly curious about understanding themselves within the context of Earth’s Evolution and the realities of scientific understanding.
Page 9 of 9
Among the lessons I’ve taken away from my Hoffman adventure is that as I’ve followed the philosophical roots of “dualism” back through Descartes (1600s) and on past Anselm (1000s), one thing has become clear. the entire philosophical edifice of this Mind-Body “Problem” was formed from within that Abrahamic God-fearing mindset that gave us the three major religions, with their self-serving patriarchal mentality, heaven and hell, along with branding dualism’s hard boundaries and need for a sense of certitude into our imagination and onto our expectations.
The Abrahamic worldview perceives people as isolated objects, not only from this planet, but each other, even from ourselves. The creatures we live with and the landscapes we exist within are treated with contempt and wanton waste.
Regarding the “Mind-Body Problem.”
Dr. Solms makes a wonderful analogy that highlights the error being made:
Question: Was it the lightning or thunder that killed the golfer?
It’s a meaningless question.
Lightning and thunder are simply different aspects of the same phenomena.
Our Mind and consciousness is the interior reflection of our living body (both its interior housekeeping and external interaction with the environment). We simply cannot have one without the other.
We are embedded within an interconnected web of life. We are creatures who are the direct product of Earth’s Pageant of Evolution. Why isn’t that reflected in modern philosophical discourse?
Learning to appreciate the deep-time of Evolution puts an entirely different richer light upon our interior existence. An awareness that encompasses the whole of time, and this planet that created us, and the pageant of creatures that preceded us.
It also gives us a deeper appreciation for the continuity of life. Life is good, life is precious, but death is no enemy, painful though it may be. Death is part of the cycle that brings forth new life. Revel in the pageant you are blessed enough to be witnessing. While you can.
As for God?
Who is “God,” but a creation of our unique complex human minds dealing with our day to days?
Where did God come from?
From human curiosity and wonder. From puzzling over observations, contemplating questions, seeking answers. From love and hunger and fears in the night and glorying in the warming sunrise. From contemplating the suddenly dead carcass of a loved one. From buried memories of being coddled within mom’s loving protective bosom and missing those who are gone.
From our need for someone truly personal, who’s always there, never dying, ready to listen to our constant chatter, ideas, complaints, fears, longings, wishes, all of it in complete confidence.
Think about it, our relationship with our god is the most intimate relationship of our lives and reflects our ego in every way. All of it, happening within our mind, or more descriptively, within our Mindscape.
Point being, we are the product of our Earth - and God is the product of our mind. That’s why our conceptions of God always wind up driven by our Ego, not by some outside force.
Nothing wrong with that, if only we could bring ourselves to explicitly recognize as much.
For some people these realities are jarring and resented, but that doesn’t make it any less the reality all of us exist within. For others, if these ideas resonate, take comfort, stay true to your gut instinct, do your homework, you'll get there.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Looking further afield - Cc's Elevator Pitch ~~~~~~~~~~~~
We The People have a moral & ethical right - along with a pragmatic need - to learn what scientists have learned about this planet's biosphere and climate engine without constant dishonest crossfire.
We should not tolerate serious scientists always being drown out by amoral, dishonest and frankly ignorant arguments - that an astoundingly ruthless PR factory repeats over and over again, without ever learning a damned thing from the evidence in front of us.
Unless we are changing minds, we are losing.
© Peter Miesler
(Yet, feel free to copy, use and share. 2021-12-19)
citizenschallenge at gmail