If anyone wants to share their thoughts on the following, please do. If it doesn’t flow or make sense, tell me.
It’s my first rough draft for the prelude to this CAR post-mortem project that’s been occupying my thoughts for months.
If Donald Hoffman (DH) had categorized his book “The Case Against Reality : Why Evolution Hid The Truth From Our Eyes” as new age literature, metaphysical intellectual entertainment, I’d have no complaints. It’s his insistence on passing it off as serious science that begs a frank detailed response, even if I’m only a thoughtful spectator and no academic.
All of us view the world through our own unique perspective, which of course is the product of genes, upbringing, environment, cumulative learning and experiences that produce inevitable biases in how we perceive the same bits of information. Admittedly, there’s an ocean of difference between the professor and myself, which will be reflected in my critique.
Donald David Hoffman (12/29/55) is a cognitive psychologist and popular science author. He is a Professor in the Dept of Cognitive Sciences at the University of California, Irvine, with joint appointments in the Dept of Philosophy, the Dept of Logic and Philosophy of Science, and the School of Computer Science.
Hoffman studies consciousness, visual perception and evolutionary psychology using mathematical models and psychophysical experiments. His research subjects include facial attractiveness, the recognition of shape, the perception of motion and color, the evolution of perception, and the mind-body problem. (wiki)
Me, I’m on the outside looking in. Born the same year Hoffman was, mine was a working-man’s life with a love for learning about Earth’s story through science via personal research, reading quality publications, along with books, visiting libraries, museums, then the internet and always pondering the fundamental questions and being astounded at all science was learning and sharing.
In particular, I’ve been impressed that even with all the unexpected surprises over these decades, there remained an underlying harmony and consistency that’s astounding.
Then to hear someone of Hoffman’s stature simply dismiss it all and replace our day to day reality with imaginary icons, and evolution with computer interface & games analogies, topped off with “conscious agents” zinging around like so many photons, it’s bewildering, disconcerting and a hell of challenge to enunciate my perspective and confront his contrived vision with a much more down to Earth vision of perception, reality, and our human condition upon this planet that created us.
Hoffman begins his book with a quote from a famous father of science,
I think that tastes, odors, colors, and so on . . .
reside in consciousness. Hence if the living
creature were removed, all these qualities
would be wiped away and annihilated.
In fairness, that was penned a life time before people started understanding the light spectrum, hundreds of years before we started understanding biochemistry and learning about the molecular structures that made up odors and tastes.
Today, we understand physically what creates different tastes, smells and other sensations. We also understand how our body processes those sense signals in amazing detail.
How those signals are ultimately perceived within my mind, remains shrouded in mystery, even as scientists keep learning more details about my brain. I imagine it was that particular mystery that great man was grappling with.
Still, that’s a perception question - it in no way negates the fact that we understand physically, molecularly, what creates those different tastes, smells and other sensations. It is material stuff. Does stuff vanish when we are not there to witness it, then reappear according to my own whim? Of course not, unless one believes the universe revolves only around them.
We also understand how our body processes those sense signals in amazing detail. That’s not to be sniffed at.
DH: Why are our eyes, and all our sense, reliable guides? … the real world we assume… objects in space and time… Our senses are simply a window on this objective reality.
Notice how DH morphs the “real world” of “objects in space and time” into “objective reality,” he does this throughout the book without really examining just what his “objective reality” is.
There’s no acknowledging the profound divide between our perceptions and the physical reality that we’ve been born into.
I contend that metaphorically speaking, “objective reality” is the reflection of reality against the retina of our mind’s eye. It is the product of our brain processing the information that our senses are collecting from one’s physical reality.
Objects in space and time are made out of atoms, molecules and follow specific well understood natural ‘laws’. What we see around us is the ongoing result of billions of years worth of Physical Reality unfolding via time and Evolution through her various ways and means.
It will continue long after we are all gone. To seriously entertain the notion that “Physical Reality” depends or cares about how we perceive it, is hubris maximus.