Today Ron E. left a comment on a recent churchless post that I like a lot and share below.
I readily admit that my fondness for the comment, which extends to almost all of the comments Ron leaves on this blog, largely is based on the fact that he and I look at reality in much the same way.
In a word, naturalistically. Meaning, we as human beings are not separate from the natural world, but are an integral aspect of nature. Nature is us, to put it in three words.
But since we're Homo sapiens, not a rock, a bolt of lightning, or some other non-sentient aspect of nature, we're a part of nature with a mind. But mind isn't something ethereal. Consciousness isn't either.
Mind and consciousness, which may be the same thing, arise from the physical goings-on of the human brain. No need to posit a soul or any other supernatural entity. The brain creates the mind, which is us. So it makes sense to say, the brain is us.
This is both really obvious, and really controversial -- for those who believe (without any demonstrable evidence) that humans possess some special ingredient that isn't physical, survives the death of the body, and/or has a connection with God or some other form of divinity.
Sure, awareness or consciousness does seem ethereal. But the Earth seems flat; the Sun seems to rise and set; matter seems solid; time seems separate from space. All of those seemings aren't true, so there's no reason to assume that the seeming transcendent nature of mind and consciousness is true either.
Many findings of science have come to be accepted by the vast majority of people. However, it's going to take quite a while for the near-certain fact that you and I and everyone else are made of meat, with the brain being a special form of meat, to become a truth that resonates intimately with most people.
It might be that this won't happen until advanced artificial intelligences are commonplace, being indistinguishable or even superior to human intelligence. Perhaps only then will humans truly understand that what we are is no different from what everything else in nature is: natural, not supernatural.
Here's the comment from Ron E. Courtesy of Amazon, I've ordered the book he's reading. I like that Barrett takes a contrarian approach to emotions and the mind. Maybe she's right. Maybe she's wrong. But her book seems to be well-written, thoughtful, and provocative, reason enough for me to buy it.
I have recently been reading Lisa Fieldman Barrett’s, "How Emotions Are Made." Her research describes how the brain constructs everything we experience, including emotions. She states: “Its story features unfamiliar characters like simulation and concepts and degeneracy, and it takes place throughout the whole brain at once.”
I mention Barrett’s studies because similar to the studies described in Brian’s latest blog on the Self-Reference Effect which states that “SREs then, are a way to investigate how our sense of self emerges from the workings of the brain—something that multiple research groups have studied intensely”, it is another study that points to the brain as being the source of all that we experience.
For years, studies have revealed how much of what we experience results from the brain, including how the self emerges from the brain and builds our identities. By now, it should be pretty obvious that the brain creates the mind with its entire cognitive repertoire – and basically operates not through actualities but through predictions.
But apparently, the brain is not alone in creating the wonder that is us, simply because the brain's responses are dependent on the body and its senses and its environment – which importantly includes other people. The self then is a construct of all the on-going variables that our organism exists with and encounters every moment.
How revelatory it would be to realise the disconnectedness that we are and how we create our own worlds. How ‘heavenly’ it would be to be able to drop systems of belief that serve to separate and alienate us from each other and the world around us.