Daily Archives: 2004-08-19

Yes, we have a soul. But it’s made of lots of tiny robots.

I just happened to stumble upon FretDFire’s first blog entry which launched me off into a flurry of searches on Daniel C Dennet. He wrote a book called Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, which seems to contain this insightful tidbit:

[I]f you want to *reason* about faith, and offer a reasoned (and reason-responsive) defense of faith as an extra category of belief worthy of special consideration, I’m eager to [participate]. I certainly grant the existence of the phenomenom of faith; what I want to see is a reasoned ground for taking faith as a *way of getting to the truth*, and not, say, just as a way people comfort themselves and each other (a worthy function that I do take seriously). But you must not expect me to go along with your defense of faith as a path to truth if at any point you appeal to the very dispensation you are supposedly trying to justify. Before you appeal to faith when reason has you backed into a corner, think about whether you really want to abandon reason when reason is on your side. You are sightseeing with a loved one in a foreign land, and your loved one is brutally murdered in front of your eyes. At the trial it turns out that in this land friends of the accused may be called as witnesses for the defense, testifying about their faith in his innocence. You watch the parade of his moist-eyed friends, obviously sincere, proudly proclaiming their undying faith in the innocence of the man you saw commit the terrible deed. The judge listens intently and respectfully, obviously more moved by this outpouring than by all the evidence presented by the prosecution. Is this not a nightmare? Would you be willing to live in such a land? Or would you be willing to be operated on by a surgeon you tells you that whenever a little voice in him tells him to disregard his medical training, he listens to the little voice? I know it passes in polite company to let people have it both ways, and under most circumstances I wholeheartedly cooperate with this benign agreement. But we’re seriously trying to get at the truth here, and if you think that this common but unspoken understanding about faith is anything better than socially useful obfuscation to avoid mutual embarrassment and loss of face, you have either seen much more deeply into the issue that any philosopher ever has (for none has ever come up with a good defense of this) or you are kidding yourself.

This may be why he gets paid bucks to write books about these things and I try not to talk to people about religion anymore. I think that things just get more wonderful when you realize how truly amazing and complicated the real world is instead of closing all that off by saying “I have a magic spark that is hidden in me that powers my body and is where my thoughts come from and thats that.”

When I want escapist fantasy I’ll turn to some excellent fiction that is labelled as such and is well crafted. But more amazing than that is the stuff I’ve been reading lately about neuropsychology. My friend Jaime got me started by handing me a book that I absolutely can’t remember the name of and that I gave to a friend. The author was much inspired by Oliver Sacks. I then picked up Sacks’ “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat” and am just blown away again by how good these books are. By examining the tales of actual patiants we can get a better grasp on what exactly is the mind that’s doing all this thinking, typing this blog, reading this blog.

Is it a magic spark or is it something even more wonderful, the balance of the most complex and interesting machine ever created?


See the man say it his damn self!

Bugmenot we hardly knew ye

Bugmenot.com was a great idea. An idea whose time had clearly come. And an idea whose time, it seems has clearly gone.

The idea was this. Instead of you registering for a new site every time you wanted to read a new york times article, you just go to bugmenot and they would hand you a handy dandy username and password that was, get this: already registered. This saves you the tedious time of thinking up fake email addresses or, worse, having to register a fake hotmail address just to get the confirmation email. It even came with a handy firefox plugin that would allow you to right click on the page and pop up a user name and password then and there.

Admittedly, if I gave a fuck who was reading my stuff, I might be a tad perturbed by the idea of people sharing password and identities and whatnot. On the other hand, I might be surprised to learn that you can’t always trust who’s at the other end of an ethernet cable. I might wise up and say “If I’m going to let everyone register for free to see this stuff, and a suspicious number of my users have email addresses like fuck@you.com or h@t.com, perhaps I should just skip that pesky registration in the first place!”

Bugmenot, an efficient warrior in the war against internet stupidity, struck down.