Kilroy Was Here
February 20, 2003
In Descartes's Mediations, Descartes loses sleep by forcing himself to doubt the existence of reality:
12. I will suppose, then, not that Deity, who is sovereignly good and the fountain of truth, but that some malignant demon, who is at once exceedingly potent and deceitful, has employed all his artifice to deceive me; I will suppose that the sky, the air, the earth, colors, figures, sounds, and all external things, are nothing better than the illusions of dreams, by means of which this being has laid snares for my credulity... [Descartes, Mediations, Meditation 1]
Studies may now show that this "malignant demon" is in fact our own mind. Consider the following from Michael Schemmer
Five centuries ago demons haunted our world, with incubi and succubi tormenting victims as they lay asleep. Two centuries ago spirits haunted our world, with ghosts and ghouls harassing sufferers during all hours of the night. This past century aliens haunted our world, with grays and greens abducting captives and whisking them away for probing and prodding. Nowadays people are reporting out-of-body experiences, floating above their beds.What is going on here? Are these elusive creatures and mysterious phenomena in our world or in our minds? New evidence adds weight to the notion that they are, in fact, products of the brain. Neuroscientist Michael Persinger, in his laboratory at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, for example, can induce all these perceptions in subjects by subjecting their temporal lobes to patterns of magnetic fields. (I tried it myself and had a mild out-of-body experience.)
As I wrote in December, while some may think that atheism is merely a negative position decrying lack of proof in some supreme being, more and more scientific evidence is being proposed to actual describe 'religious' and 'supernatural' human experiences in purely natural ways. The best positive arguments for atheism may lie in human being's understanding of the brain and its workings as well as the understanding of evolution on the human species development.
Descartes would appreciate this. It was from his own attempt to understand the workings of his own mind that precipitated his belief in the mind-body duality, and, from there, his belief in God.
If science can show us more reasons for why this mind-body duality does not exist and how the architecture of our brain developed through evolution lead us to an illusory belief in God, then, I'm sure that Descartes would reexamine his position, and may find himself with more uncertainty in his life, but also more truth.
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