Reponse to a Believer in "Naked Brains"

“"Religion" has many definitions, but what distinguishes it from simple "spirituality" is dogma, a canon of beliefs that cannot be questioned.”

On the contrary, both science and religion have “a canon of beliefs that cannot be questioned.” In science, the Big Bang Theory currently is one of the best examples of that. It is a rare cosmologist who does not subscribe to the theory. But as I show in TTAOS and in TSW, the fundamental difference between science and religion is that each holds opposing assumptions that are not completely provable (that is why there is no end to the debate between them). One either believes that “matter and the motion of matter neither can be created nor destroyed” or one does not. One either believes that there are material causes for all effects, or one does not. In an infinite universe it is impossible to discover all the causes for even one effect. Nevertheless, we must believe in causality in order to do science. As I have argued in TTAOS and TSW, dogmatism is not the essential difference between science and religion. Instead, we simply are dogmatic about opposing assumptions. As scientists, we know what truth is and how to find it. For us, truth may be found only by interacting with the external world. Our ideas about the external world must be tested through observation and experiment. Religion has no such requirement.

“In science, it is acceptable to assert anything... provided there is evidence. The "naked brains" idea is no doubt weird…”

There is, of course, absolutely no “evidence” that “naked brains” could exist. That conjecture is based on at least two basic errors:

1. The microcosmic view based in today’s all-too-prevalent systems philosophy, which overemphasizes the system and neglects the environment. I thought it especially silly because brains are so obviously parts of a “univironment.” Brains are microcosms that require a very special macrocosm for their evolution and existence. “Naked” they are not.

2. The application of probability theory in an erroneous way. Because the universe and everything within it is infinite, mathematics can never provide us with more than a mere cartoon of reality. Math is a servant of science; science is not a servant of math (as it currently is in modern physics and cosmology). Probability theory, like science, is appropriately used to describe what we know and what we don’t know. But the example given is akin to the equally silly one about monkeys typing all the great books, simply because one can calculate a probability for such. Anyone who asserts that there is evidence for that needs to write more books and do less calculation.

“But then again, so is a universe that goes on forever and ever. At least a naked brain can be imagined. I can't imagine "forever," because it is not a finite conception, and the mind only deals in finitudes.”

What you or I can imagine has nothing whatever to do with whether the universe is finite or infinite. The universe doesn’t “care.” It just is; everywhere and for all time. Empty space can be imagined, but it has been found nowhere. I have no trouble imagining an infinite, eternal 3-dimensional universe. Good luck with imagining the universe exploding out of nothing!

It is true that “multiple interpretations are the food of science,” but this does not mean that science allows for just any old interpretation. In TSW I claim that valid interpretations must be founded on “The Ten Assumptions of Science.” Just because UNCERTAINTY (It is impossible to know everything about anything, but it is possible to know more about anything) is one of the assumptions, does not mean that anything goes. Speculations or interpretations must fit the other nine assumptions as well as the facts regarding a specific situation. I don’t regard it as being particularly dogmatic to state that brains require special nourishment from their surroundings for their survival. NASA, for example, doesn’t send astronauts into space without including some of the environment responsible for their evolution. An astronaut, like a “naked brain,” would not survive long in outer space without that connection. We know a lot about what it takes for a brain to survive, and it has very little to do with the probabilities promulgated by the New York Times.
Thus, I certainly don’t believe your statement that “Naked brains are possible.” I assume, instead, that the infinite universe has a huge number of brains in regions so far not discovered, but from what I know about their evolution on earth, I don’t believe that a single one of them could be naked and completely isolated from its environment. The NYT article is just another version of “Math Gone Wild.”

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