The bus stop analogy

by slimboyfat 29 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • slimboyfat

    Suppose we were naïve observers, given the following data, and asked to draw a conclusion.

    We see people gather at a busy bus stop several times a day. At first one person, then another, and another, until they form a group. Then a bus arrives, the people get on board, and the bus takes them on their journey.

    We might ask, what causes the bus to arrive? Every time the bus arrives is preceded by a group of people gathering at the bus stop. It would be perfectly rational, as a naïve observer, to conclude that the people gathering at the bus stop is what causes the bus to arrive. Hundreds of observations support this simple conclusion.

    Of course we know that’s not how it works. Buses have timetables, and drivers who try to stick to timetables, and passengers who read timetables and coordinate their actions according. The people gathering at the bus stop do not cause the bus to arrive. They gather at the bus stop because they know the bus is coming.

    But if you didn’t know about timetables, and you didn’t know that people gather because they know a bus is coming, it would be perfectly reasonable to draw the other conclusion: that people gathering at the bus stop is what is causing the buses to arrive.

    The question is, are we making a similar mistake with consciousness and the brain? We know that events in the brain are closely correlated with thoughts and emotional states. We then make what seems to be the reasonable deduction that the physical events in the brain are what cause us to feel and think certain things. We have no idea how a physical event could cause a thought or a feeling, but we trust there must be some causal link direct from one to the other.

    But what if we are looking at it the wrong way? People gathering at a bus stop do not cause a bus to arrive, and physical events in the brain do not cause feelings or thoughts. In each case the two things coincide because of a deeper cause below the surface.

    The reason this possibility should be taken seriously is because we have no rational explanation for why or how a physical event can cause a feeling or a thought. Saying an event in the brain causes a thought to occur takes two different kinds of phenomena and links them mysteriously and without explanation.

    Maybe there is something deeper going on here that we do not understand.

  • truth_b_known

    I suggest reading the book Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. It gets into how the brain functions. The brain is an organ. Like any other organ its job is to keep us alive.

    Not all thoughts you have are generated by you. Emotions are ways the brain communicates to you. They are like alarms and defense mechanisms with anger be the quickest, simplest of them all. In fact, anger is rooted in fear.

    That is why it is import to quiet the non-stop talking in our heads the brain generates as a means to force us to deal with potential future problems. If you don't anxiety will get the better of you.

    I have also heard it said by another author that our brains are geared to believe that which we think is beneficial to us. Sort of like living a paradise...

  • Overrated

    I have seen a picture of a bus going in circles with a sign saying Armageddon just around the corner. This is a good picture of the concept of JWism.

  • BluesBrother

    An alien studying the arrival of buses at multiple bus stops would soon realise that buses arrive and depart whether or not anyone is waiting. So people wait in expectation , and some miss it and have a long wait.

  • slimboyfat
    I hope those aliens would also have a better insight into consciousness and how it arises because we currently have no clue.
  • Anna Marina
    Anna Marina

    There's a train station for sale. Trains haven't stopped there for years.

    What causes the train station to be put up for sale?

    Say have you ever gone to the end of a queue and left because there was someone already there?

  • Anony Mous
    Anony Mous

    @Slimboyfat: there is an easy answer and it is called the scientific method. Yes, if you’re sampling one instance of an event, you will draw the wrong conclusion. Thus scientists will attempt to sample multiple independent and dependent events in different locations to try to deduce a theory.

    In your bus example, scientists wouldn’t just look and note the event, they would find other bus stops and see if the same occurs there too. Then they would attempt to control the variables of the experiment by withholding the bus or withholding the people or moving the bus stop and seeing what happens. You can kind of see in that case that if you withhold the people, the bus still shows up, thus you can conclude it wasn’t the people causing the bus to show up.

    Likewise with the brain, what you’re looking for is explained through DTI analysis of the brain, you’re basically sticking a bunch of people in an MRI and see whether the blood flow preceded or succeeded an event. And you can confirm it in the other direction as well by activating the area through for example electrodes or magnets you can activate feelings and thoughts.

    The brain is very complex but healthy brains are relatively well understood at this point. We don’t know a lot about the specifics of consciousness or memory, but we know where those things happen. We have to continue probing and changing variables, the biggest problem is that humans are a valuable commodity, unlike the Nazis or China you can’t just kill or alter a ton of people in the pursuit of knowledge.

  • slimboyfat
    My point wasn’t that the real cause of buses arriving at bus stops can never be worked out. My point was that it’s possible people might get the wrong idea if not aware of all the facts. The question is whether a similar situation pertains with consciousness.

    There are real problems with a purely materialist explanation of consciousness. Indeed it’s fair to ask whether materialism really offers any explanation at all, other than a simple assertion that consciousness can arise from matter.

    How can a physical event in the brain turn into a thought? They are two different kinds of things.

    Saying that physical events in the brain cause consciousness is about as scientific as saying a chocolate bar can turn into a Mozart symphony, or that a machine can turn Wednesday into dancing pony.

    Merely asserting that events in the brain must turn into thoughts is not an explanation.

    Idealism offers a more rational explanation that doesn’t involve the kind of magic that materialism invokes when it claims consciousness arises from the material.

  • Magnum

    This is a subject in which I have extreme interest. I haven't had time to watch the video posted above (will watch later). But, just wanted to relate that I've had this question for decades: "Does consciousness, awareness, etc. answer solely to physics or is there something else - beyond or outside the realm of physics - going on?" In another words, will we ever be able to explain consciousness using physics and/or math?

    I think about how, ultimately, biology is physics. For example, a biologist studying plant nutrition will encounter photosynthesis. Explaining photosynthesis requires an understanding of how electrons move through the cycle involved and and an accounting of energy throughout the cycle (so, it requires chemistry). Then, going deeper and understanding electrons (their behavior, nature, etc.) requires physics (the fundamental science). Photosynthesis is well understood.

    I wonder whether we will ever be able to understand consciousness and explain it as we do photosynthesis. If we do ever get to that point, then there will be more evidence that we are just machines - answering to existing laws of physics as do all other machines.

    I personally hope/wish there is something more and that we're not just machines.

  • MeanMrMustard

    So the aliens form a falsifiable hypothesis that the groups of congregating people cause the busses to arrive. Then they test the hypothesis and soon find out it fails when busses stop even when no people are there.

    In this case the hypothesis is that consciousness causes brain activity, rather than brain activity causing consciousness.

    Is it falsifiable?

    If I choke you and restrict blood flow to your brain, you lose consciencousness. What does that imply about the hypothesis?

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