Defending the Blivit!

Over at 'Evangelical Realism', a site I used to visit with some regularity, there is an ongoing battle between some fellow named Alan Roebuck and some familiar faces about the importance of consciousness as a 'proof' of the existence of non-material things which with the usual slight of hand means that God exists. QED and a smug smile. It makes me crazy how people think.

Here's most human thought in a nutshell:
  • We make shit up.
  • We convince ourselves that the shit we concocted is real.
  • We defend the made up shit with logic based upon the inscrutable nature of made up shit.
  • We remember the 2 experiences that support the shit and ignore the 12 billion that don't.
  • We scoff at skeptics who insist on evidence because shit plays by its own rules.

Did I miss anything?

Let's take an example. There exists a thing called a Blivit. A Blivit, as anyone knows, is 20 pounds of dung in a ten pound bag. We know it exists despite the materialistic limitations of said ten pound bag. The fact that rationally, 20 pounds won't fit is immaterial... A Blivit exists and can be defending through logic. Ontologically, a perfect Blivit must also exist since perfection must exist. Any silly naysayer just doesn't get it because we know it exists through means not limited by ridiculous notions of material evidence. It FEELS like I'm carrying around 20 pounds so it must be true.

Consciousness is another such a concept. Consciousness is not a substance, it is a word. It's a word that was created to describe something long before humans had any knowledge of the underlying physical processes. It’s just a label we insist on clinging to when describing a complex set of neurosensory perceptions created by well studied anatomic and physiologic structures and processes. These processes are accessible to anyone with an interest in neuroanatomy and physiology. These disciplines form the strong basis for taking a material view of the mind. Most (if not all) of the emotions, perceptions, mental states (including deeply religious ones) can be reliably duplicated by stimulation of specific regions of the brain or the application of either neurotransmitters or their analogs. As a corollary, damage to these regions results in predictable alterations in emotion, cognition, perception, notion of self, or even spirituality. These constitute very strong evidence of a material explanation of thought processes. No evidence of any consciousness outside of the constraints of neuroanatomy has ever been demonstrated in any valid test. Claims to such have always been anecdotal, biased or poorly tested. Such claims have not been repeatable nor have they demonstrated any findings that cannot be explained by the neurosciences. Neuroscience experimentation has resulted in enormous support for a material explanation of the mind while other explanations fail to provide any support outside of philosophy debates.

Can you measure consciousness? Who cares! It's a word we made up to describe a bunch of processes that are completely governed by the anatomy and physiology of the brain. These can be measured and studied. It's time to stop studying Blivits.


pboyfloyd said...


Jared said...

Holy hell, I'm going to have to dig into this one...

Michael Lockridge said...

Yet I suspect that you do not argue that all subjective states are equal in value.

Or, do you?

Brain farts?

Brilliant brain farts!

Jared said...

I would reproduce the comment I submitted there, but damn it ended up long; instead, I uploaded it to Google Docs:


I really do want to delve into this one day as a blog post, but I'm just having a hard time finding a place to begin; do I start with the genetic side, the A&P side, electrochemical processes, cell signalling, hormonal influences, or one of the myriad of other possible places. The comment by Roebuck "You are making things too complicated" is just so telling that he hasn't a clue in the world about how the brain actually works. As I responded "things are complicated; deal with it."

Harvey said...

Once again, we ar faced with the inevitable resistance between belief and reality. Belief (in general) derives from:
1) fear
2) lack of understanding of phenomena
3) desire for things to be different than reality
4) ALL of the above

If one holds beliefs, particularly if they are dear to one's heart, it may be unacceptable to pay attention to anything that suggests another reality.

As usual, Pliny, a great post! Unfortunately, it will be ignored, misconstrued, and/or blown off as being "too complicated".

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

Wow Jared - I saw your response and it appears that I have released the Fury's... ;) Nicely done and very concise considering the subject.

Mike, No I don't equate all subjective states. I do try to respect those that do not impinge on others. My point has never been that subjective perception is invalid or lacks worth. My subjective state of love for my family is something that I cherish regardless of its underlying physiology.

My point is that unless we understand and study the true root causes of what we think we are, we will never make progress.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

".....only pointing out a well known gap in our understanding, thank you, we know, back to your village, they miss you there." (Jared from his answer on ER)

I laughed out loud at that one - subtle - well not too, but funny.

Jared said...

I want someone to put together a highly concise summary of the scientific knowledge of perception, memory, and emotion so I can just post a link in cases like this. I'll gladly help on this, but I lack sufficient familiarity with the subject to really get a thorough summary. I know enough to play the fisk-an-idiot game all day, though.