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"Reliability of senses" argument

squonk
Posts: 12
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10/9/2016 8:31:21 PM
Posted: 1 month ago
"We think of our eyes as open windows and our ears as empty tubes. We experience the out-there as if we are a tiny homunculus gazing from holes in our heads at a world that is flooded with light, music and colour. But this is not true. The things that you are seeing right now are not out there in front of you, but inside your head, being reconstructed in more than thirty sites across your brain. The light is not out there. The objects are not out there. The music is not out there. A violin has no sound without a brain to process it; a rose petal has no colour. It is all a re-creation. A vision. A useful guess about what the world might look like, that is built well enough that we are able to negotiate it successfully.

Of course, real versions of everything are out there -- but not the versions that you are seeing. Those are merely your brain's impressions of how the world appears. Our eyes, skin, tongue and ears receive information, not as pictures, touches, tastes or notes, but as pulses of electricity. That is all we really know -- the pulses. Your brain translates those pulses into a re-creation of reality that it can sensibly interact with. It is not known how all this disparate electrical data coalesces into the experience we all have of viewing some kind of inner television screen -- but we do know that there si no television in your head; no single area, that is, which all the neural wiring leads to. We also know that the brain has a great many sleights and shortcuts and mirage-generating powers in its arsenal, and that it somehow manages to bring them together into one central, magisterial illusion: that reality and your place within it is simple, understandable and clear. Under its spell, you have become, in the words of neuroscientist Professor Chris Firth, 'the invisible actor at the centre of the world.'"

"The world appears to be coloured because, in the back of each eye, in an area of just one square millimetre, we have three varieties of cone that interpret incoming visual information as either red, blue, or green. Every colour you will ever see is a blend of this triumvirate of basics. We assume that this is simply what the world looks like but, yet again, this is a lie. The atoms that make everything up have no colour. There are no colours inside the brain. Light waves are not coloured. So where are colours? They are another illusion, created to specific cells in the brain that have been located, so I am informed, in the visual area of the striate cortex V4. A fish such as a skate has no colour cones at all and so experiences the world in black and white. If you now feel superior to the skate and assume that you, the special human, have access to the full and fantastic panoply of shades that make up true reality, then I am afraid I have to tell you that some birds and insects have four, five, or even six colour receptors, compared to our sorry three. Their experience of the multi-multi-multi-coloured world is impossible for any human to even begin to imagine.

Because sight is of such pre-eminent importance to us, we assume that vision is the best way of negotiating the world. But this, too, is not objectively true. Dogs live, principally, in a world of smells; moles in a world of touch, bats live in a world of noise and knifefish in a world of electricity. Their experiences of reality are specialized for their particular environments and survival needs, their perceptions profoundly different and no less valid than ours.

According to Professor Eagleman, 'Our brain is aware of very little of what is out there.' It's preoccupation is with presenting to us -- and drawing our attention to -- the things that might be important for our well-being. Our ears are only capable of hearing a small number of the sounds that are actually present in our environment; our eyes are blind for whole rainbows of visible light -- less than a ten-trillionth of the spectrum is available to us. Right now, mobile-phone signals, soap operas, radio-broadcasted music and who knows what else are everywhere: in front of you, above your head, inside you. And yet you don't see them of hear them, because -- much like a black-and-white television is blind to blue skies and green seas -- you lack the equipment. In a sense, brains operate on a 'need to know' basis only."

"The world that you experience as objectively real is your own personal model of reality, and your brain tends to assume that everything new that you experience coheres to that model."

( From The Unpersuadables: Adventures with the Enemies of Science, by Richard Storr )

Numerous times on debate.org, I've encountered Christians who offer this challenge to atheists: "How do you know you can trust your senses? I know I can trust my senses because the Bible says God created them to be reliable!" Well, science tell us that what we see, smell, taste, and touch is not "objective reality."
Dirty.Harry
Posts: 1,585
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10/9/2016 8:37:57 PM
Posted: 1 month ago
The question about trusting senses is a very valid one. We have little choice of course, but it is trust. One can't logically use one's senses to prove that one's senses are trustworthy. The reason this comes up when debating atheists is that they often seem to think that materialism (which underpins science) is somehow proven but it isn't it is a belief.
Looncall
Posts: 454
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10/9/2016 8:53:41 PM
Posted: 1 month ago
At 10/9/2016 8:37:57 PM, Dirty.Harry wrote:
The question about trusting senses is a very valid one. We have little choice of course, but it is trust. One can't logically use one's senses to prove that one's senses are trustworthy. The reason this comes up when debating atheists is that they often seem to think that materialism (which underpins science) is somehow proven but it isn't it is a belief.

This is overstated. There are things like repeatability and agreement among independent observers to be considered. Science works, after all. You trust your life to the results of observation every day.

The most one can infer from your notion is that obtaining knowledge takes careful work. It is not a back door through which one can sneak in gods.

This guff about unreliable senses is a typical scam of religonists.
The metaphysicist has no laboratory.
squonk
Posts: 12
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10/9/2016 8:54:21 PM
Posted: 1 month ago
At 10/9/2016 8:37:57 PM, Dirty.Harry wrote:
The question about trusting senses is a very valid one. We have little choice of course, but it is trust. One can't logically use one's senses to prove that one's senses are trustworthy. The reason this comes up when debating atheists is that they often seem to think that materialism (which underpins science) is somehow proven but it isn't it is a belief.

Sure, you can't use your senses to prove that your senses are trustworthy. But you can use science to prove that your senses are untrustworthy;
there are colours we can't see, smells we can't smell, flavours we can't taste, and sounds we can't hear. There's nothing "objectively real" about the reality we perceive. Curious, if God created our senses to be so very reliable, how we only perceive a fraction of what's out there.

The "God created my senses to be reliable, so I know they're reliable" argument doesn't hold up, either. How do you know God created your senses to be reliable? You READ it in the Bible? You HEARD you Pastor tell you? At the end of the day, you're using your senses to confirm your senses.