Friday, 28 November 2014

Science and the Afterlife

It seems to be widely believed that modern science has shown that there is no afterlife, that this life is the only one we will have, that only this physical world exists and only gullible people are disposed to question such established truths.

This is a complete travesty of what is actually the case.  What very few people seem to know, or  understand, is that science completely leaves out consciousness in its description of reality.  Indeed, so far as science is concerned, we might as well all be what has been termed philosophical zombies  -- that is to say we might as well all be entirely devoid of any conscious experiences whatsoever, even though we externally look and behave exactly like real people.

This is because it is held that we are merely very sophisticated biological machines.  Thus it is the physical events in our brains, together with the input from our 5 senses, which wholly explains everything we ever do, say, and think.  In and of itself consciousness is not regarded as having any causal efficacy.  Hence I am typing this out, not because of an intent on my part to express certain ideas, but due to physical laws playing out.

Now materialists deny this, but only by advancing a transparently false metaphysical hypothesis.  This hypothesis is that consciousness is the very same thing as the underlying neuronal activity, or it is the very same thing as what the brain does.  Note here they are not saying that such processes causes or produces consciousness, rather consciousness is one and the very same thing as some physical process.

It seems to me transparently clear that such a claim is vacuous.  Physical things and processes are characterised by mass, electric charge  and so on. They have a location, they can be measured and anyone can potentially observe them.    Conscious experience, on the other hand, is wholly defined by its qualitativeness -- the pain of a toothache, the taste of Pepsi, the experience of greenness, the feeling of contentment  -- all these are paradigmatic examples of conscious experiences, or qualia as they are sometimes referred to.  Most importantly ones consciousness can only be known by you, no one else can observe your pain, your jealousy and so on.   Since physical processes and conscious experiences have absolutely nothing in common whatsoever, then to say they are one and the very same thing is simply an abuse of language (although of course it is still possible one can cause the other, and vice versa).

The truth of the matter is that we have this philosophical problem called the mind/body problem.  It's persisted for thousands of years and we are no closer to solving it now in the 21st Century than we have ever been.  The proposed materialist solutions are acts of desperation.

The truth is that consciousness exists in its own right.  And we cannot perceive anyone else's consciousness, we can only infer it from their bodily behaviour.  So consciousness itself is invisible, we only infer its presence in other people via the voluntary movement of their bodies and their speech.  When their bodies cease to function at death nothing can be definitively concluded about the consciousness which formerly was able to move that body.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Mathematics, Education and School

I have just started watching a TV programme about peoples' numerical skills in the UK. It claims that around half the adult population has the mathematics ability of a primary school child (ages 5-11 I think).  So if half of the population has learnt nothing about maths from 11 onwards, then it seems to follow that no purpose was served in them attending maths classes from the age 11 onwards.  At least not in terms of their education.

This seems to me to be a deplorable situation when we consider that mathematics is the second most important skill that we should acquire at school; the most important of course being English Language. There again many peoples' English language skills are also equally abysmal and they don't seem to have learnt much in this subject after 11 years old either.

Yet people harp on about how incredibly important school is and claim it's disadvantageous for a child even if he or she misses a single day. Well, if we are to believe this statistic, then at least for half of us this doesn't appear to be true.

Consider also that apart from holidays children are required to attend school 5 days a week from 9am-4pm (in my day, might be 9-3 now?). It seems to me that to a significant degree we are robbed of our childhood and in engaging in childhood pleasures such as playing, or reading, or doing any one of innumerable pleasurable things. Instead we are compelled to sit in classrooms where a significant proportion of us learn very little and are presumably bored to tears. To rub it in further UK Government ministers keep proposing that children should attend school at an earlier and earlier age, and do more homework!

Although this might sound surprising to many, I actually regret not playing truant in my school days. I learnt next to nothing before the age of around 14.  In all honestly being compelled to attend school up to the age of 14 was a lamentable disgraceful waste of my childhood.

It seems to me there's something really seriously wrong with the whole system. I've asked many people what a 1/3 divided by a 1/9 equals.   A good majority of people give me the wrong answer -- most often 1/27.  This suggests that they either do not understand what a fraction is, do not understand what "divide" means, or quite possibly do not understand what either word means.  The answer is of course 3.  1/3 divided by a 1/9 means how many times does 1/9 go into 1/3.  Since 3/9 is another way of expressing 1/3, then the answer is 3.

And many people use "your" rather than "you're", loose rather than lose, "noone" rather than "no one", there instead of their or they're.  The list goes on and on.  I should hasten to add that my grammatical skills are not particular impressive, but the good majority of people have even worse skills in this area.

I don't know the methods by which children have been taught in recent years.  But clearly -- at least for mathematics and English language -- a serious rethink in how children are taught these subjects is in order.  It also seems to me that reducing the hours we attend school might be a good idea -- perhaps attending 9am- 12pm for 5 days a week.  It frees up more time for children to pursue activities of their own choosing, and possibly might ignite a greater interest, and hence a greater understanding in the subjects being taught if  they are not being continually exposed to the same subject matter.  I'm interested in the philosophy of mind, but if I were compelled to think and write about it for hours every day, then that flame of interest might well be in danger of diminishing.