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ETpro's avatar

Could the ancients who heard God speak have been actually hearing their own nascent cognitive mind?

Asked by ETpro (34472points) August 22nd, 2010

In a 2007 update of his 1996 book, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind author and psychologist Julian Jaynes explores further his disturbing but thoroughly fascinating theory of human brain bicameralism.

In 2007 he published a series of essays, Reflections on the Dawn of Consciousness: Julian Jaynes’ Bicameral Mind Theory Revisited. further exploring his theory.

Jaynes posits that humans as recently as 3,000 years ago did not think like we do today. He theorizes that experiences and memories from the right hemisphere of the brain were transmitted to the left hemisphere (the portion handling day to day routine activities) as auditory hallucinations. In studying ancient religious texts, he finds confirmation for this. Perhaps the fathers of the world’s great religions really did think they heard God talking to them.

Jaynes says that only as man developed written language and delved into deeper thought did the two hemispheres evolve to today’s point of integration, and that the evolution is probably not yet complete. He believes that in another 3,000 years, average brains will be capable of the incredible feats of thought we now find only in profoundly gifted savants.

An example of the split brain most of us have experienced is when you are driving on a long trip, and the freeway is mostly devoid of traffic. We can suddenly seem to awaken from a reverie to find that our unconscious mind has safely driven 50 miles while our conscious mind was occupied with thoughts completely unrelated to driving a car. A more powerful and disturbing example is schizophrenia, where one part of the mind consciously hears voices from another—voices that seem for all the world to come from beyond the schizophrenic’s head.

It’s a disturbing but strangely compelling theory. What are your thoughts?

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56 Answers

BoBo1946's avatar

“he finds confirmation for this.” How could he do that? Confirm this finding. Is it not an educated guess on his part? I don’t have a clue how to answer this question, but a very good question. Maybe Zophu can shed some light here.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

So I’ve heard – could have been anything. What I do believe, though, that to people who need religion, no proof of it being anything else is necessary, it won’t work to bring ‘em back.

BoBo1946's avatar

@ETpro I just believe…i certainly understand the complexity of the issues, but trying to intellectualize God, miracles, etc. is futile in my mind. I’ve been tested on these issues before and no way for me to understand it, i just believe.

BoBo1946's avatar

@zophu would you hurry up….really looking foward to your answer. Sunday Night Football is waiting…loll

Oh, forget it…you and Jake will take all night…LOLL..

See you guys and girls later.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I read the 1996 book, but I have not read the 2007 essays. It is a compelling hypothesis, but I found little in the book to safely say that it can be called a theory. How can we test his ideas? What experiments can we perform on the minds of ancients? We can’t.

Still, there is much in the book to think about. I’m working from memory, since I gave away my copy during a move many years ago. I remember something to the effect of “language equals culture.” That is a radical idea, and one that I find particularly interesting. He posits that the way we form language has a direct bearing on the way we interpret the world. Our language shapes the way we see events. Fascinating.

BoBo1946's avatar

@hawaii_jake What experiments can we perform on the minds of ancients? We can’t.


BoBo1946's avatar

@zophu send me a copy of your book. I’m going to watch the game. loll

BoBo1946's avatar

probably going to be a best seller…well, i’m gone Z!

Seek's avatar

I have Richard Dawkins on the brain, as I’m about halfway through “The God Delusion” for the first time.

In it, he raised an interesting point -

Our brains are complex processing centers that do not give us an accurate account of our surroundings. Instead, all input data is filtered through our knowledge and perceptions. This allows us to react more quickly to potential emergency situations.

This is why we see monsters in the shadows, why a stray hair from our own head feels exactly like a spider on our arm, and why the wind whispering through the trees sounds just like someone talking. Now, if we’re already in the impressionable state of religiosity, the whispers can take on meanings based on those religious feelings.

As fascinating as the theory described above seems, I’d have to read further into it to give a real opinion. However, I don’t believe 3,000 years of evolution is going to give us a race of savants. 3,000 years isn’t as much time as it sounds like.

BoBo1946's avatar

does Fluther know Z’s phone #? either Z is writing a book or kill over…been waiting for 20 minutes. Just kidding Z…loll

zophu's avatar

Sorry. Multitasking. Just a minute.

BoBo1946's avatar

lmao…, you tell me Z….love it.

zophu's avatar

I had visual and auditory hallucinations as a kid. Not all of them felt unnatural, some may have been beneficial, especially the ones I had while in healthy environments. Thinking about how the “natural world” feels when you go out hiking after leaving the language-bound culture of your settlement, it isn’t such a crazy idea, that maybe people who were more immersed in the rawness of the wilderness thought in very different ways than we do now.

The problem with trying to figure out the specifics of how people thought thousands of years ago is that the only way we can do it is through language. Beyond the problem of trying to understand the thoughts of those who left no language, we may not be able to appropriately understand the meanings of language that was left. It’s possible that there were understandings of existence that we are not capable of holding today. It may be impossible to determine exactly how people thought that long ago, even with thorough analysis of their languages in relation with what we consider universal meanings.

It’s a dangerous assumption, that we are on a one-track course of progression into higher awareness. There may have been things lost that were not obsolete. This makes me think of this video. The speaker mentions a case where a tribe distinguishes apparently identical plants by how they ”‘sing’ to them in the full moon.” This type of intuition is probably related to this bicameralism thing.

Language is the harnessing of thoughts. It only makes sense that we would lose significant freedom in the use of it. I’ve always been repelled by the notion that language is static, or definitive in any way. I don’t feel I think in only language, despite the popular philosophical belief. There are forms of existence that make up our thoughts that are not symbols, the essence of thought is not language. It’s only visa versa.

I think religion did come from this—this domestication of thought into external language. I think that is why we are inclined to see it as a developmental phase in human history. You don’t need tangible hallucinations to feel influenced by your “unconscious” mind. Maybe the stronger hallucinations shared by significant religious leaders are what tap into people’s desperate attempts to access the old-mind and inspire such loyalty. It would be like me showing fire to someone who had never seen it before, then extinguishing it. I would own their wonder, for as long as I never taught them how to start a fire of their own, and as long as they never discovered it for themselves. And I wouldn’t have to worry about that, because sparks can be seen from a distance, even in the dark. I could stop them; steel their flint, piss on their kindling and call it holy. They would still believe in the fire, and I would still be the master of it.

Point is, yes. I think religion has roots in these old ways of thought. And in civilized religion, the exploitation of these old ways of thought.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@zophu : You wrote, “There are forms of existence that make up our thoughts that are not symbols, the essence of thought is not language.” Interesting.

First, language is not made up of symbols. That’s writing. Language is made of sounds. It’s made of memes, if you want to be technical. At least, I think that’s what they’re called. I’m only an amateur linguist. It seems to me that—perhaps—the chemicals in my brain necessary for me to create the sounds for language could also create the illusion of sound. I could hear something that’s not really there.

I happen to be bipolar and have had such experiences. Luckily, I live in a time and place where medication is available for me to control these occurences. I take the medications religiously.

I am bothered by the idea that you seem to be suggesting. Namely, that thoughts can transcend language. I understand that I can have emotions, but those are processed and interpreted by my brain with the use of language. It seems that everything comes back to language.

And how can I think without language? I can be a consciousless animal and live purely in the moment with very little thought of the past and none of the future. But am I thinking? Even Descartes’ famous “I think, therefore I am” is formed of words or language.

It seems to me that thought is made of language.

ipso's avatar

Yes the ancients heard their own minds, but I attribute that to what people today hear as “God” in their own minds.

It was not some lost function of ancient hemispheric dissonance. It’s not some lost genesis. The same exact thing happens today – in people you know.

Greek minds, Heathen minds, and human minds in general, were just fine thank you, well before today’s God was cobbled together from His ancestors.

(But then.., I’ve not read the book, so I have no idea the actual proposition he presents.)

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Dawkins purports “Our brains are complex processing centers that do not give us an accurate account of our surroundings.”

Now is that account of “Our brains” an accurate or inaccurate assessment?

“First, language is not made up of symbols. That’s writing. Language is made of sounds.”

The sounds of spoken language are symbols of thought.

“Could the ancients who heard God speak have been actually hearing their own nascent cognitive mind?”

Certainly. They don’t even have to be “ancients”. Just ask Jim Jones, David Koresh, or Marshall Applewhite… uh, no sorry, I guess you can’t.

woodcutter's avatar

today in modern times there are lots of laws that make common drugs illegal do to their known effects and danger. Just maybe some of those early guys were high and that could’ve helped them think they were seeing and hearing things?

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

People don’t need drugs to make them think they “were seeing and hearing things…”

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies : I think we may be arguing the chicken and the egg thing here, but how can the sounds of language be a symbol of thought, if thought is made up of language?

BarnacleBill's avatar

I believe that human nature remains constant over time. That being said, the origins of God most likely stem from a 5 year old driving his parent crazy, asking why. Why, why, why, why, why!!!????? Dad finally hit the wall where, it slipped out, “Because God made it?”

“But how do you know he did, Daddy?”

“Because he spoke to me and told me so.”

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Thought is not made of language. It is expressed into physicality upon the tool of language.

Thought is immaterial. Language is material.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies : I’m having a real hard time with the idea that thought is not language. How can I accomplish anything even if it’s only inside my head that isn’t made up of language? “I think, therefore I am.” Thinking is done in language. Isn’t it?

zophu's avatar

Could it be proven with language, that thought is not synonymous with language?

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Yes thinking is accomplished with language. I’ve been very consistent about this for years, often claiming that: No thought may be thunk without a language to think that thought upon.

The Cognitive Studies department at Washington University uses no less than 70 language tests to determine a patients conscious awareness.

However, a hammer is not the same as hammering. Thus, a language is not the same as thought. One is used to accomplish the other.

@zophu “Could it be proven with language, that thought is not synonymous with language?”

Yes. You used the tool of written language to transmit your thought to me. You could have used color codes, morse code, smoke signals… or an infinite amount of physical mediums to express your thought… but none of those mediums are the thought itself.

Language is material. Thought is immaterial.

Bono has an unformed thought. An idea is upon him. But it is unformed until writing it down. He now has a formed thought that we call Sunday Bloody Sunday. Language expresses that thought to others as sheet music, mp3, cassette tape, youtube, and 10 million CD’s sold. Those mediums of language are not 10 million or more thoughts. They are 10 million mediums expressing one thought. The one thought of Bono.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@hawaii_jake You might be interested in The Language of Thought Hypothesis, which supports much of what you are saying, that thought, at it’s most fundamental nature, is in fact, language.

I do not disagree much, but I do disagree.

For instance, there is an image in my mind at this very moment. It represents nothing besides itself. It is not shaped like anything else that I have ever encountered. I created this image, but there is no syntactical structure to it whatsoever. Although it is only an image in my mind, it is a real entity because it does not represent anything besides itself. I can use language to describe it, but the description is not the described. That’s basically the only problem I have with LOTH. Other than that, I’m fine with it.

You may also be interested in the Sphota Theory of Language presented by Bhartrihari, whereas language is a tool that humans use to express Brahman into the material realm.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies : Thank you. I will definitely check out both those books.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Thank you. I’m so happy to know that others are as interested about language as I am. A real pleasure. Let me know what you think.

Coloma's avatar

Interesting, but my brain ( predominately right ) is far too relaxed after a spaghetti dinner and a few glasses of Cabernet to comment on this right now, I need light, fluffy discussion.

Wait…I think I hear a voice….lol

zophu's avatar

Maybe a good way to think of language is as artificial thought. Constructs become unstable when they are not regularly referred from natural elements. The strongest foundation will fail when the earth beneath it shifts. I think that expresses why I am uncomfortable with the idea that language=thought.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@Coloma The frogs are trying to tell you something… “the spaghetti needed salt”

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@zophu “Maybe a good way to think of language is as artificial thought.”

That’s what A.I. research hopes to promote.

Qingu's avatar

The cognitive science behind this assertion seems pretty sketchy to me, though to be fair I haven’t looked into it much.

Whether ancient cult leaders believed they were hearing voices or if they were simply charlatans, it doesn’t really mean anything they “heard” is worth following.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@Qingu I completely agree. But entertain me for a moment… Supposing they were charlatans or believed voices were actually heard, yes I agree it’s not worth following. However, if there might be others, more reasonable, who knew they were charlatans, or believed the voices were from their own minds, when in fact it really was God, but they refused to hear it because they reasoned it away. Well, if it really was the voice of God, albeit an unheeded one, would it then “mean anything” or be “worth following”?

Qingu's avatar

Man, what?

I could just as easily say, “Maybe space aliens really communicated telepathically with some of the ancients… but perhaps some people reasoned it away. Would it mean anything or be worth following if the ramblings of some ancient cultist was really the voice of space aliens?”

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

I look at it like this. If there really is a God being, then it must be so advanced in every aspect, especially language, that humans would have a very difficult time translating and understanding the full essence of the G concepts anyway.

Put another way, even if I was able to get a coherent message into the mind of my dog, my dog would still be limited to understanding and communicated that message to other dogs, with the mind of a dog.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

But @Qingu, you didn’t answer my question. Sure ok it could be aliens, and it could or could not mean anything at all. But what about my question…?

If it really was the voice of G, albeit unheeded, if it really was G, would it be worth following or mean anything?

jerv's avatar

I have always been of the impression that if you talk to God then you are pious, but if God talks to you then you are insane,

I believe it not only possible, but likely that any communications we attribute to God are actually some corner of our own minds.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

What about knowledge that couldn’t possibly have come from our own minds?

Not only have I had unwitting thoughts enter my mind that had absolutely no resource to be there initially, but there is no shortage of purported prophetic ramblings from every religious writ.

Qingu's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies, the question you are asking is tautological, not rhetorical.

“If there really was a god, wouldn’t it matter that god really talked to people?”

“If there really are space aliens, wouldn’t it matter that they talk to people?”

You’re asking me to admit the importance of a hypothetical event.

As for “prophetic” ramblings, do you have any examples? That’s a tremendous claim that you’ve casually thrown out there. There is certainly nothing prophetic in the Bible or Quran that I’m familiar with (or Nostradamus, or Rush Limbaugh’s book).

Qingu's avatar

@jerv, I don’t agree with you.

Certainly there are some people who actually do hear voices and attribute it to gods. But I don’t think most religious people are this way. I think most religious people are simply stupid and/or dishonest.

For example, take George W. Bush, a man who repeatedly claimed to speak with the Christian god and be guided by this deity. Was he being dishonest? Well—I’ll be charitable. I think it’s entirely possible that Bush honestly believed, on some level, that God was guiding him. Such a belief would probably be incredibly comforting; not all that dissimilar from a widow believing God guided her dead husband into heaven. On another level, perhaps he genuinely believed that he was perceiving divine patterns in the universe, even in a fallible human way, that guided his decisions. Of course, on another level, it’s all bullshit.

The lines between “charlatanry,” “dishonesty,” and “willful ignorance” aren’t all that clear.

ETpro's avatar

@hawaii_jake I’m glad you have read it, albeit long ago. The only way we can look at how the ancients thought is by reading what they wrote, and comparing that to similar thinkers today, whom we can test. Admittedly, that’s less than perfect scientific method. I am confident that language has a great impact on culture. It is difficult if not impossible for a culture to develop ideas and institutions for which its people have no words.

@Seek_Kolinahr Wnjoy Dawkins. He’s a provocative writer and thinker. I don’t think that Jaynes is speaking of 3,000 years of natural selection at work. Rather, I think he is referring to cultural evolution as man becomes more knowledgeable and has to use his brain in different ways in order to cope with modern society.

@zophu This is obviously something you have given some thought. Thanks for an informative and thought-provoking answer. In truth, we cannot probe haw people thought 3,000 years ago. For goodness sakes, it’s difficult enough to do today with MRIs and all sorts of test instrumentation. We can look at their writings, and we can also look at what they did. Often, what someone does tells much more about their thought process than what they say to the outside world.

@hawaii_jake & @zophu Regarding this thought of yours, “There are forms of existence that make up our thoughts that are not symbols, the essence of thought is not language.” there appears to be a built-in language of the mind. It has been dubbed “mentalese”. Even without language, humans are able to think using it. THey can solve problems, manage simple barters, handle rudimentary counting to keep trades fair, and much more.

@ipso Agreed.

@zophu You asked, “Could it be proven with language, that thought is not synonymous with language?” How’s this. Before there was language, someone thought of language.

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies THanks for the links to additional reading. As to dismissing the voice within, I have a very high degree of confidence that any GOd capable of creating this Universe and all that lies withoin—including developing the plan for all life, would be quite able to communicate to us in a way we aould definitely know was coming from the supreme being. After all, our minds would have been His design.

@Qingu Well, that lets George W. Bush off the hook. Even though the CIA told him they had no conclusive proof Saddam had any WMD stockpile or active manufacturing of WMDs, he had to listen to God. It is all GOd’s fault there weren’t any WMDs really there.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@Qingu “You’re asking me to admit the importance of a hypothetical event.”

If and only if statements are quite reasonable and used in logic every day to address legitimate and hypothetical truth propositions.

Would you avoid vacationing in Pakistan if and only if there hadn’t been a catastrophic flood?

Would you avoid vacationing in Pakistan if and only if the citizens were all zombies?

So, please stop avoiding my direct hypothetical question to you specifically.
Would the word of G be worth following or mean anything to you at all, if and only if G actually existed?

@Qingu “As for “prophetic” ramblings, do you have any examples? That’s a tremendous claim that you’ve casually thrown out there.”

Correct me if I’m mistaken please, but didn’t you once tell me that you went through Seminary? Am I confusing you with someone else? Anyway, I never claimed the prophecies were true or valid. That’s why I said “purported prophetic ramblings”. Surely you wouldn’t deny that ancient writ is fully loaded with “purported prophetic ramblings”, would you?

The concept of prophecy is found throughout all of the world’s religions. To a certain degree prophecy is an integral concept within any religion. The term has found deep usage in two of the world’s largest religious groups, Christianity and Islam, along with many others.

Biblical Prophecy

Hindu Prophecy

Islamic Prophecy

Buddhist Prophecy

Hopi Prophecy

Egyptian Prophecy

Greek Prophecy

African Prophecy

ratboy's avatar

Temple Grandin has some strong opinions about the relation of thought to language.

Qingu's avatar

I didn’t go to Seminary, but I did major in religious studies, so I’ve read the Bible.

Sure, it has “purported” prophecies, but so does the videogame “The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time.”

One of my favorite Biblical prophecies claims that the city of Tyre will be destroyed, never to be rebuilt (Google Maps disagrees).

Seek's avatar


Considering Richard Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist and author of the well-sourced book I mentioned earlier, and I am a high-school graduate housewife, I’ll pretty much take his word for it.

Coloma's avatar

I think some mysteries remain mysteries, as it’s always been.

I’ve said it before, but, personally, I LIKE the mysterious quality that surrounds this life.

Animals possess an innate 6th sense because they are more in touch with their surroundings on a cellular level minus the constant mind chatter humans have to contend with.

Maybe these voices are not just developmental biological brain theory, maybe they are manisfestations from a time humans were more in touch with the mystery.

We all know that animals have a much more highly evolved sense of intuitiveness than humans.

Do they really, or has the human animal just lost touch with this 6th sense BECAUSE of the incessant noise of mind that keeps a fundamental knowing of the mysterious below the radar?

Qingu's avatar

Why do you think non-human animals have a more highly evolved sense of intuitiveness?

Coloma's avatar


Let me rephrase that, animals are in touch, most humans have lost this ability.

Animals do not have the mind sewage filtering out their beingness and connectivity.

Of course, there are some humans that are truly in touch with their intuitive side,( God, Universe ) certain enlightened spiritual gurus, teachers, but the vast majority of humanity functions in a fogbank of repetitive and obsessive thought that keeps this deep primal ‘knowing’ at bay.

Qingu's avatar

I don’t think animals are more “in touch” with some magical power.

Animals (including humans) have a lot of instincts. Some animal behavior is more governed by instincts. Humans, along with many other primates, also have learned behavior on top of instincts. In humans, this category of behavior has blossomed to become the entirety of our cultures.

So perhaps human behavior is, on the balance, less instinctual than, say, a cat’s or an insect’s. That doesn’t mean we’re less “in touch,” it means our behavior is less robotic and less programmed directly by our genes.

Coloma's avatar


I maintain the we have lost much of our in-touch-ness because the human mind is out of control.

Learning to tame the mind opens up a whole new realm, but it is a rare thing indeed that many ever pursue the path of mind disciplines.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr But what are we taking his word for? He said that our brains don’t give us an accurate account of reality. Well, is that an accurate account? Point being, that one cannot make that statement without it being self contradictory.

Seek's avatar


I believe my wording caused you to misunderstand the intent of my statement. I take full blame for this.

Our brains do not give us a literal interpretation of reality. The way our brain processes stimuli allows us to react more quickly to emergency situations than if we had to interpret our surroundings using every available piece of data simultaneously. If you hear a buzz in your ear, you think “bee!” and move quickly away. It’s a nearly instant reaction. You don’t sit there and think of every alternative source for the noise.

This also means that sometimes our brain interprets incorrectly. As an experiment, you can blindfold a friend, and press a cold piece of metal to their forehead. Their brain will most likely interpret the sensation as “wet” before “cold”.

When you apply this to sound, because we as humans communicate through spoken word, we are likely to interpret vague sounds as words in our language. The onomatopoeia of a “Bob White” or Quail, a raven’s “nevermore”, a babbling brook, an owl asking the eternal “Who? Who?”

I know I lay in bed at night very often in a quiet house, and think I hear someone talking, and think the TV is on (I thought I turned it off!). It’s invariably something as mundane as my son’s fan, or the neighbor three houses down practicing bass guitar, or raccoons in the trash can. It was simply my brain misinterpreting the information into something that I might have worried about.

How many times has a new parent heard a cat meowing outside, and shot up out of a deep sleep, thinking the baby was crying?

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

I understand @Seek_Kolinahr. And while your examples are valid for passing notions and embarrassing moments, they do not account for detailed instructions such as the Ten Commandments or and entire conversation between Krishna and Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita.

Yes, the baby is sound asleep, but no matter how cleverly the feline cries, her mew cannot possibly be mistaken as authoring the Muslim creed of Islam.

Sorry @ETpro, I certainly don’t mean to hijack your thread. I tried to avoid it… I really really did friend, but @Seek just had to use that word… you know… that word “information”.

@Seek_Kolinahr ” brain misinterpreting the information…”

I understand my friend. I truly do, all too well. My motivation lies in exposing the parody and fallacy of that statement in the context presented. It (the word Information) has been misunderstood, reinvented and abused for far too long. And it presents the Atheist Materialist (Dawkins) with an unavoidable paradox.

Dawkins coined the term “Apparent Design”. I agree with his assessment completely. Yet by claiming that Information is “interpreted” from a “babbling brook”, one must somehow justify that the “babbling brook” has somehow transmitted a message representing Information. I used your example of “babbling brook” because it is the only one that does not involve a creature with a genome. And this is our main concern here, for it illustrates the notion of religious enlightenment coming from talking trees, whispering streams, and burning bushes that instruct Moses to birth a violent nation.

The “brook”, the stream, the trees, the bush… are not Information. They are simply Observable Phenomenon and nothing more. They are not Info and have no Info to communicate to humans either. They have no transmitter, and no code to transmit a message upon. And since they do not transmit Info, then there is absolutely nothing to interpret. Interpretation requires a message a priori.

Without Interpretation, we are left with Description. Description does not require a message to be received from the Observable Phenomenon. Description does not require “babbling brooks” to transmit a message to humans for them to Interpret.

In honor of Dawkins “Apparent Design”, I have coined the term “Apparent Information” to describe those who believe that Tree Rings somehow tell us about Growing Seasons, when in fact they don’t, and they can’t. It takes two sentient observers to describe each of those observable phenomenon separately. When the descriptions about the Tree Rings are compared with the descriptions of the Growing Seasons, we then confidently infer a relationship between the two sets of sentient authored data. But no human can speak the language of Dogwood, and thus there is nothing to Interpret from them.

Science is not a game of Interpretation. Science is a game of description and inference. Dawkins should know better. Yet by claiming otherwise, he unwittingly becomes a parody of the religious fanatics he would otherwise mock. The observable universe does not transmit information for Dawkins to interpret any more than the burning bush transmitted a message for Moses to interpret.

Seek's avatar

I never once claimed that any religious text was the product of misinterpreting the “voices of the wind”.

I claimed that people who honestly believe they’re hearing the voice of God (and not simply claiming to do so out of their own desires) are very likely mistaken, due to wishful thinking combined with misinterpreted external stimuli.

Holy texts are based on many things, including vocal tradition, philosophies, desire for control, and possible hallucinogenic drugs.

The brook, the wind in the trees, etc. do submit data in the form of sound waves. Noise goes in, the brain interprets the noise into something it recognizes. Perhaps I was remiss in using the word “information”. That word was mine, not Dawkins’. You’ll notice it was not in quotes, and I do not have a habit of quoting sources without citing them.

Of course no rational human being truly anthropomorphises the tree by believing it “tells” anything. Again, I never claimed this. Nor did Dawkins. You’re arguing against a stance I never took.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

I understand. Sorry to be so pointed.

This is an extremely deep question. Getting to the root of it requires an analytical approach far beyond the surface of the Q. And this brings up another observation. It is our human propensity to personify objects and objectify people which make these discussions difficult to address. And it reveals how cleverly the deception of metaphorical terminologies can influence our thinking without us ever realizing it.

How does the wind “submit”?

ETpro's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies Regarding “I certainly don’t mean to hijack your thread. I tried to avoid it” please do not worry. I can’t recall when I more thoroughly enjoyed a hijacking than I have this one between you and @Seek_Kolinahr.

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