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Observing without brain
Recovering from Cartesianism
We play an essential role in the universe, despite some claims of modern science. We are in fact the center of it. Are we observing without brain?
The Copernican (R/D)evolution
Before the Copernican Revolution, most of our models were centered around us. Take for example the model of Ptolemy. The earth was surrounded by the moon, then Mercury, Venus, the sun…. He saw very strange movements for the planets, they did not perform circular movements, but according to epicycles.
This video at the end of this article shows the earth as a center, with the planets moving around it. It is easy to imagine for us that they center around a particular center that we do not perceive. The center of these planets is of course the son, but Ptolemy did not know this.
This model change when Copernicus told us that there are no special observers. The implications of this change are far reaching. The Copernican principle in essence tells us that the place one measures from does not matter. This created a huge change. All of a sudden, man who was observing and creating philosophy became disembodied from the universe. He was not the center anymore.
This change (not coincidentally) came right around the time of the protestant revolution (an attack on metaphysical hierarchy), cartesian dualism (separation between mind and body) and caused the creation of modern science.
Cartesian dualism creates the fact that the image in our mind is not of the same essence as the object observed. If we see a glass, then the glass in our mind is not of the same essence of the glass seen. It splits the body and the mind in two.
It tells us that the mental can exist outside of the body, and that thinking is separated from the body. One can already see the problems with this.
The problem is twofold. Firstly, we say the that the mind (res cogitans) is different from the matter. This creates a weird subjectivity. All things in the world are somehow only neurons wiring in our mind. Is the grass you are seeing truly green? It is easy to see how this eventually leads to solipsism, where only the mind exists and all else in an illusion.
On the other hand, we tend to remove the mind from the matter (this matter is called res extens). When thinking of persons, they are just simply a body of flesh, or more extremely merely atoms. This another kind of dangerous opposite.
Modern medicine rarely takes into account how the person thinks about his recovery (instead of just simply looking at the biological), although it plays a role. This eventually leads to materialism (researching the matter without the form). The word mind can be interpreted in many ways. In a way, the mind is what holds something together. If the unifying principle is removed, then it becomes clear how we start looking at lower and lower levels of (material) reality (until we reach quantum physics, where everything becomes very weird).
The brain does influence the matter around us. If we want to place something somewhere else, we can. If we want to create a meal from different ingredients we can.
It is inherently connected to the mind-body problem which stipulates that there exist an objective reality outside our mind.
From cartesian dualism, it is easy to see how modern science developed, abstracting the mind from the equation made observing the natural world. It is one of the logical consequences of claiming there is no special observer.
Before, everything needed to be put inside a proper metaphysical/theological framework, which coheres. Removing this framework has allowed us to increase our knowledge of the material world. But we’re close to reaching a limit, with the weird discoveries done in quantum science.
This is one of the great problems of modern science, and will return in full force in the coming years. Science is a method. It is a tool. A tool can be used for building, but as well for destructing. The person using the tool incorporates it in a belief framework.
Copernicus basically assumes that our place in the universe does not matter. But it is of high importance. To us, it seems that every galaxy around us is moving further away from us. But if one measures at different places in the universe, then one would know that regardless of the place of observation, everywhere every galaxy is expanding. It does matter where one stands, if one wants to measure.
A second claim, is that the Axis of evil is correlated to the plane of the solar system. This axis of evil is immensely large. The chance for this to occur is quite small. One can interpret this in only two ways: we are the center of the universe in reality (and only occurs on our place) or we are measuring ourselves (which means that the location matters).
The chance for the first way to occur is immensely small (not impossible). The second means that we are in fact measuring ourselves. We are interpreting the place we are standing on and we read it in the Axis of Evil. What are we measuring here, the observer or the observed? Something with an extremely small chance, or ourselves.
This second is extremely important, because it would claim that there is a special place of observation. That it does matter where a person is standing (and that time might also play a role).
When removing the observer, one forgets that the observer is still standing in a particular place on a particular time. This all matters. The observer plays a particular role in the universe.
Again, let me say it does not mean that the earth is the center of all. It means more that the place one measures (or where one experiences) and the mind you use matter. It is possible to take any planet and start measuring there (use it as the center of the universe). But we still live on the earth, and earth-based knowledge is important.
This again puts ourselves back in our own body, close to home. Because we are a living human being with a baggage of experiences, which help frame our reality. Is this not objective? Yes, it still is. Because the mind objectively is part of the universe.
Materialism has done great efforts to prove that only matter exist (“thoughts are only neurons wiring in your head”, “God is not in the material world”). It has changed the world in tremendous ways, increasing our knowledge of the material world. But it is far from complete.
The addition of consciousness inside the scientific system would again create a man-centered universe.
Experiments and the Observer
It’s easy to see how the copernican principle (no special observers) relate to modern day physics, which removes the observer. There is only the train that moves forward. This works up to a certain amount.
When there are many variables at play in an experiment, it becomes harder and harder to abstract the measurer. Firstly there is the hypothesis which frames, then the actual performance of the experiment, then the interpretation of the data. All contain many variables which can be influenced.
The implications of this might reach even further. When we are performing physical experiments, what are we really measuring? When there are many variables at play, surely the observer of the experiment influences the experiment.
We forgot the observer, the human consciousness, through which all is interpreted.
We are the center of the universe. This is objective. We look through our eyes, with our body. We see the sun rising, we see it setting. Is there something more real than our direct experience and the consequence of our actions? Our daily experience is the most direct and the most real experience.
Our consciousness is unique (but is not the biggest one). Our consciousnesses scales up into collective intelligence (take a boat for example). Besides that, because we are one of the highest beings with consciousness, we can control the nature around us.
Our consciousness sees meaning first (categories first). Take the example of a cat (we need to derive the length of its tail). First we need to be sure that it a cat we are researching. This problem is not trivial. How do we determine that something is a cat? The problem of perceiving categories are not trivial. Science assumes these categories already exist and then researches the different properties of them.
But what determines how we see this categories? This is the essential conundrum that has not been explained to us. This is the essential problem with science. It is ignorant of the value framework it is working inside.
Not seeing the category of something can be a serious problem. If you have not learnt about a specific category, you can be oblivious to it. If you’ve never seen a cat, how would you recognise one? Smaller categories and objects in the world scale into higher ones (the door is part of the house). Not being able to recognise categories is a problem. If you cannot recognise the door, despite recognising the house and the wood of which the door is composed, you cannot enter the house. The category exists at a certain level.
These two examples to show that correctly recognising categories (and learning about them is essential for life). In our modern times, we learn about concepts and that most of them are only games of the mind. Then it is easy to come to the conclusion that they are subjective and everyone makes his own definition. This then leads to false conceptions of something and problems of communication. If you cannot agree about the definition of a concept, then the logical consequence is mental and ultimately physical isolation.
Secondly, if your definitions are wrong, this will lead to you shaping the world in wrong ways. If your definition of a dog is actually a fish, and someone tells you to walk the dog, then you will be frustrated. If your conception of reality does not match it, you will hurt yourself.
Another example how meaning shapes the world is search engines. Search engines rank the best result. Best is something quantitative relating to a standard. If your framework is based around saving the environment, and each time you search on the search engine the most polluting companies appear, then this person will not use it anymore. There is an opposition between the belief framework of the person and of the search engine. One of the two has to adapt. Search engines can shape reality through attention.
All this to explain that the concepts a person is using (and knows) will reflect his material reality. The science he is performing and the results will often reflect his/her personal beliefs. In essence, it always returns pointing back to the person observer if one wants a complete description of the data.
Attention creates the world
We can see the consequence of this. Attention basically shapes the world. Whatever you look at, creates the world. But this frame is shaped by your thinking (your viewpoint or beliefs on the world).
C. S. Lewis writes on this. In Mere Christianity he recounts how modern people often talk about progress or improving education. If you ask these people towards what we should progress, or what aspect of education should be improved (and towards what goal), silence remains.
The two examples (progress and education) above move towards a goal, they have a teleology. This goal creates a framework (moral). These are the goal, but more built out. For example, if the goal is optimizing IQ scores, then the system orients itself to that. From that moment on, all research will be focused on improving IQ score. In schools, the focus of everything will be learning about the different tests used in IQ scores and so on. In conclusion, you can already see how “low” this goal is on the hierarchy. It shapes everything. The higher the telos or the goal, the safer. All societies/groups/persons have a highest principle (except strongly degenerating ones).
The reason for this, is that the goal of every group, shapes the material world. It basically frames the lens of their reality.
Whatever you give your attention to, grows (not only on an individual level, but on a more grand scale as well). This is an easy principle to understand. If a society only focuses on improving IQ scores, then the principle of improved IQ scores will grow in the world. Feed something immaterial and it will grow.
It is interesting to note that some categories or goals are higher than other ones. For example, love your animals is lower than love all living beings. This again is lower than love everything. You can see how principles rise in the ontological hierarchy.
But to do that, to change the material world, one has to be embedded inside a framework.
The consequences of reintroducing consciousness
We are obsessed with the material world, but it is only part of our real world. All that we see has to be interpreted in a coherent metaphysical framework. We humans have the capacity to correctly interpret this framework, or to pervert it.
This metaphysical framework is essential, because in it a hierarchy is built.
In this rather long essay, I’ve shown how consciousness is essential for a correct conception of the sciences. We are still humans standing on a particular place and time. If we ignore this knowledge, the measurements will inevitably show this. They will always point back to our beliefs. This is why it is important to not forget the philosophy we believe in. It acts as a filter to what we observe in an objective world. Consciousness is primary, because through it we perceive all.
Are we measuring the measured or the measurer?
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