Showing posts from January, 2020

The Case Against Reality

When the male Australian Jewel Beetle searches for a female it follows a few very simple rules. "Look for something brown, shiny and dimpled".

It so happened that discarded beer bottles, of a certain type, had these characteristics. The species almost went extinct (before the design of the bottled was altered) as males ignored females and swarmed on the bottles - they were bigger after all!

Back when the beetle's perception system evolved there was nothing else in the environment that that had these characteristics, so additional rules such as 'look for something beetle shaped' were unnecessary.

Donald Hoffman in his book The Case Against Reality argues that our perceptions, are like this.

Do we see the world as it truly is? Hoffman says no. We see what we need in order to survive. Our perceptions are not a window onto reality, but instead are interfaces constructed by natural selection.

Just as an email icon, on our computer desktop, tells us next to nothing about th…

The lights are on

The world, the universe, is full to the brim with wonders. The most amazing of all, to my mind, is one that everyone has access to every morning as soon as they wake up - consciousness. It's a puzzle that continues to baffle science. How does matter come together in such a way that suddenly the 'lights are on'. How does the collection of atoms in our brains become aware - so that it's 'like something' to be us. And just what *is* a sensation? Take the sensations of hearing a bird singing. The physics and biology of the process are well known. The bird uses energy - originally from the sun - to move the muscles in its vocal organ - this in turn moves air molecules. Some of these enter our ear, vibrating the eardrum and causing nerve impulses to be sent to the brain where they are interpreted - sensed as bird song *Sensed as bird song* - this final part is where the "miracle" happens. Just what is the birdsongness of bird song, the greeness of green, t…

Celebrating the New Year with a fine display of willow catkins