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View from the other side

The very next opinion in the NY Times’ article on what scientists believe but they can’t prove is a striking contrast.

Nicholas Humphrey
Psychologist, London School of Economics; author, “The Mind Made Flesh”
I believe that human consciousness is a conjuring trick, designed to fool us into thinking we are in the presence of an inexplicable mystery. Who is the conjuror and why is s/he doing it? The conjuror is natural selection, and the purpose has been to bolster human self-confidence and self-importance – so as to increase the value we each place on our own and others’ lives.

This is really interesting. Humphrey is arguing that he is irrelevant, the fact that he thinks is irrelevant, and by extension all culture is coincidental. The only force in the universe is “natural selection”, here virtually personified as a being, performing a trick – making a bunch of dumb apes in a purposeless system imagine that their existence has meaning. The idea is quite clever, and his formulation is catching. But it does seem a lot like projecting an existential crisis onto the entire universe. His book title speaks more than the author perhaps intended; he is really trying to negate the mind by reducing it to matter. His position is the most basic philosophical materialism, and it is interesting to note that this is one of those things that he admits to believing but not being able to prove.

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