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Pop science speaks: Ventriloquists, religion, and consciousness


One almost doesn’t expect to see a hedder like this: How Consciousness Explains Ventriloquists and Religion But there it is.

Were I writing a parody of pop science writing today, I would put that in my sketch notes, then erase it, saying no, no, too obvious. Even cheerleaders for “science” don’t write like that.

But there it is… and the rest follows: From neuroscientist Michael Graziano at the Atlantic:

One of the more surreal examples of social perception is ventriloquism, which pits perception against cognition. Everyone in the audience knows cognitively that there’s no mind in the puppet’s wooden head, but we still can’t help falling for the illusion.

The ultimate example may be our attribution of consciousness to ourselves.

Spirituality is another example. God is a social perception. Deities, angels, ghosts, devils, and presences are all consequences of the same machinery in the brain constructing models of conscious minds and attributing them to the spaces around us. People “know” these things not because they logically deduce them, but because machinery in the brain constructs the information at a level deeper than cognition, and in a way that doesn’t easily allow for doubt.

The ultimate example may be our attribution of consciousness to ourselves. The brain constructs a self-model, just as it constructs models of other minds. The self-model is more detailed, more continuous, but essentially the same. We’re just as convinced of the existence of our own inner essence as Terri Schiavo’s parents were of their daughter’s consciousness. More.

The fact that we really don’t know anything about consciousness, except what is wrong with current ideas, makes the field especially susceptible to this kind of thing. Note also Graziano’s defense of starving Terri Schiavo to death and be sure we will be hearing way more of that. Say what you want about these people, they are not kidding.

See also: Neuroscience tried wholly embracing naturalism, but then the brain got away

Thomas Nagel: “The intelligentsia was so furious [at him] that it formed a lynch mob”

Neuroscientist: Consciousness is not a neural phenomenon

Would we give up naturalism to solve the hard problem of consciousness?Would we give up naturalism to solve the problem of consciousness?

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