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 Post subject: Conscious "Gods"?
PostPosted: Mon Jan 01, 2007 12:35 am 
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This is a very speculative line of questioning I'm about to put forward, but I have wondered about it for decades--ever since I first read Jaynes's book.

At the beginning of chapter 4 (p.84), Jaynes writes:

"...at one time human nature was split in two, an executive part called a god, and a follower part called a man. Neither part was conscious."

Here are my speculative questions:

Is it inconceivable that the god-part could ever, under any circumstances, attain consciousness?

If it is possible, what evidence of this attainment might one expect to see?

And, if it is possible, what would be required for it to occur? For instance (consider these scenarios based on Jaynes's "features of "consciousness" in chapter 2):

What if the "Analog 'I'"/"Metaphor 'Me'" of self-consciousness could have substituted in its place some sort of an "Analog 'I-God'"/Metaphor 'Me-God'"?

Or, what if the "Analog 'I'"/"Metaphor 'Me'" of self-consciousness could have substituted in its place some sort of an "Analog 'I-God'"/Metaphor'We-the group (or nation, in the case of a national-God)'. Here, I am imagining, in sciencefiction-like fashion, an organismal sort of society in which the "God" is operating as a sort of group-consciousness (as one might expect, perhaps, of a right-hemisphere, holistic sort of consciousness).

Of course, any such form of right-hemispheric consciousness (assuming the standard left-right arrangement of faculties) would still be operating in individual brains, I'm not proposing any sort trans-human "wiring" via ESP or anything flakey like that.

Far-out speculations, I agree, but what exactly would make such scenarios impossible?

Fun to think about (for me, at least!). What do you think?

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Mark Zima

My blog (essays+forum) site is godmemes.com


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jan 03, 2007 10:57 am 
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It's nice to see someone thinking about these ideas in new and creative ways.

For the moment I'll just add the brief comment that interestingly consciousness seems to be somehow linked to the dominant language hemisphere in that split brain patients have no awareness of directions given to their right hemisphere (in right handed patients), yet can act on these directions. However, they are able to introspect and have full, normal awareness of directions given to their left hemisphere.

So somehow consciousness seems to be linked to the language-dominant hemisphere and thus self awarness is associated with that hemisphere when the connection between the two hemispheres is severed.

Would this necessarily have been the case in bicameral man? It's hard to say, but it seems likely given that the commands of the right hemisphere were interpreted as coming from an outside source (chief, king, or gods), rather than from their own mind.

This link between conscious awareness and the language-dominant hemisphere seems significant. If consciousness arose in the right (or "god") hemisphere perhaps we'd still see a similar scenario to modern man, only with the language areas of the left hemisphere becoming subordinate?


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 Post subject: Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches by Marvin Harris
PostPosted: Tue Feb 20, 2007 5:41 pm 
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While this does not directly address your question it may shed some light on it. Marvin Harris' book [u]Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches[/u] examines cultural and religious taboos that at first look seem to be counterproductive and may in fact be against the short term interests of an individual but which function in the long term interests of the culture.

For example he notes how Westerners are bemused that Indians, even though they are starving, will not eat cattle. However, he points out that without the taboo, most of the cows would be killed and eaten in a short time and the culture would be deprived of the long term benefit of milk being available. Furthermore raising cattle for food would be more of a strain on their land than raising vegetable crops with less benefit. (a la Diet for a Small Planet.)

Harris cites many examples like this however he does not address how and by whom these taboos are created. I inferred that he was implying a wise priest caste was making decisions for the good of their society and implementing them as religious taboos.

However, combining this with Jaynes' description of the Oracle at Delphi really does make me wonder about a Jungian collective subconscious type of god whose "personality" is transmitted from individual to individual through learned imitation. The idea being that this personality, inhabiting each individual, reflects the will and interests of the community.

Again there is no implication here that the god is conscious only that it has a different set of goals and desires than the individual and surpercedes the individuals will when there is conflict.


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 Post subject: Re: Conscious "Gods"?
PostPosted: Tue Apr 14, 2009 9:10 pm 
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"godmemes: Is it inconceivable that the god-part could ever, under any circumstances, attain consciousness?
If it is possible, what evidence of this attainment might one expect to see?"

Perhaps schizophrenia is the hallucinatory, non-dominant, side of the brain taking temporary control over the person, likely because of extreme stress. The schizophrenic wouldn't have consciousness while in this state because as the Moderator said, "consciousness seems to be somehow linked to the dominant language hemisphere." What if under extreme stress bicameral man, presumably schizophrenic man as well, could lose (or give) control to the non-speech, or hallucinatory hemisphere? So then the question is, are schizophrenics bicameral man effectively?

"Moderator: So somehow consciousness seems to be linked to the language-dominant hemisphere and thus self awareness is associated with that hemisphere when the connection between the two hemispheres is severed. This link between conscious awareness and the language-dominant hemisphere seems significant. If consciousness arose in the right (or "god") hemisphere perhaps we'd still see a similar scenario to modern man, only with the language areas of the left hemisphere becoming subordinate?"

Isn't the fact that "consciousness is linked to the dominant language hemisphere" exactly what Julian Jaynes would have predicted? Because if consciousness is built upon metaphorical mind space then language is required to construct these metaphors, so the non-speech or hallucinatory hemisphere can not have consciousness. This could explain Alien Hand Syndrome, the condition where separating the two hemispheres of the brain (usually in cases of severe epilepsy) can cause one of the patient's hands "to take on a mind of its own."[1]

"Alien hand behavior can be distinguished from reflexive behavior in that the former is flexibly purposive while the latter is obligatory. Sometimes the sufferer will not be aware of what the alien hand is doing until it is brought to his or her attention, or until the hand does something that draws their attention to its behavior." [1]

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[1] "Alien hand syndrome (Dr. Strangelove syndrome) is an unusual neurological disorder in which one of the sufferer's hands seems to take on a mind of its own. AHS is best documented in cases where a person has had the two hemispheres of their brain surgically separated, a procedure sometimes used to relieve the symptoms of extreme cases of epilepsy."

"The hand effectively has 'a will of its own.' Alien hands can perform complex acts such as undoing buttons, removing clothing, and manipulating tools. Alien behavior can be distinguished from reflexive behavior in that the former is flexibly purposive while the latter is obligatory. Sometimes the sufferer will not be aware of what the alien hand is doing until it is brought to his or her attention, or until the hand does something that draws their attention to its behavior.

Sufferers of alien hand will often personify the rogue limb, for example believing it to be "possessed" by some intelligent or alien spirit or an entity that they may name or identify. There is a clear distinction between the behaviors of the two hands in which the affected hand is viewed as "wayward" and sometimes "disobedient" and generally out of the realm of their own voluntary control, while the unaffected hand is under normal volitional control. At times, particularly in patients who have sustained damage to the corpus callosum that connects the two cerebral hemispheres (see also split-brain), the hands appear to be acting in opposition to each other. For example, one patient was observed putting a cigar into her mouth with her intact, 'controlled' hand (her right, dominant hand), following which her alien, non-dominant, left hand came up to grasp the cigar, pull the cigar out of her mouth, and toss it away before it could be lit by the controlled, dominant, right hand. The patient then surmised that "I guess 'he' doesn't want me to smoke that cigar".

This condition has been thought to provide a fascinating window into the nature of human consciousness as it relates to voluntary action, processes underlying decision making and conscious volition, as well as the general nature of human agency and intentionality. Besides its relevancy to the understanding of the neurobiologic basis of human action, these observations would appear to have significant relevance for the general philosophy of action. In that the recognition of this condition depends upon linking an observation of a particular behavior--the appearance of a purposeful limb behavior--to either a direct report or inference regarding the experience of the actor in the course of producing the movement, and then correlating this relation to brain pathophysiology, alien hand syndrome and its study may be viewed as within the purview of neurophenomenology.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alien_hand_syndrome


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 Post subject: Re: Conscious "Gods"?
PostPosted: Sat Apr 18, 2009 8:04 pm 
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Memento Mori wrote:
"The hand effectively has 'a will of its own.' Alien hands can perform complex acts such as undoing buttons, removing clothing, and manipulating tools. Alien behavior can be distinguished from reflexive behavior in that the former is flexibly purposive while the latter is obligatory. Sometimes the sufferer will not be aware of what the alien hand is doing until it is brought to his or her attention, or until the hand does something that draws their attention to its behavior.

Sufferers of alien hand will often personify the rogue limb, for example believing it to be "possessed" by some intelligent or alien spirit or an entity that they may name or identify. There is a clear distinction between the behaviors of the two hands in which the affected hand is viewed as "wayward" and sometimes "disobedient" and generally out of the realm of their own voluntary control, while the unaffected hand is under normal volitional control.


Fascinating. I had forgotten about this phenomenon.


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 Post subject: Re: Conscious "Gods"?
PostPosted: Tue Jun 16, 2009 9:56 am 
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Moderator wrote:
So somehow consciousness seems to be linked to the language-dominant hemisphere and thus self awarness is associated with that hemisphere when the connection between the two hemispheres is severed.


Since consciousness is linked to the language-dominant hemisphere then what happens if someone is born left-handed but learned to write with their right hand since everyone else in the class was doing so and the teacher wasn't properly trained to teach left-handed people to write? Does this mean that both sides of their brains would have a speech producing region?

This may be an over-simplification, but since they are left handed then their right hemisphere should be responsible for speech production and whatnot, but if they were taught to write with their right hand then they'd be using their left hemisphere when they should've been using their right. So this would mean that both hemispheres would be capable of speech production? Couldn't this cause far-reaching difficulties for the person?


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 Post subject: Re: Conscious "Gods"?
PostPosted: Mon Jun 22, 2009 4:51 pm 
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I'm just going to throw this out there as a crazy idea:

Maybe the right hemisphere is conscious and has been all along, but "we" just don't know it? Since the only way we can deduce consciousness is through some sort of language, and the right hemisphere is incapable of language, it might just be trapped inside itself if you will. We could surmise that the right hemisphere has no desire to communicate with the outside world. It is content to control things in its own way and to express itself in the world of dreams and hallucinations. So I wonder. Is there any way to prove that the right hemisphere has no self awareness?

Disclaimer: this was a spur-of-the-moment post so feel free to laugh or ridicule it :lol:


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 Post subject: Re: Conscious "Gods"?
PostPosted: Tue Jun 23, 2009 5:37 pm 
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For a spur of the moment thought it is a very insightful one. You've just stepped into an as yet unresolved (to my mind) philosophical debate that has been simmering (most recently) for at least a couple of decades. Considering how fascinating the idea is, it gets remarkably little attention.

To summarize very briefly, the idea started (I think) back in 1844 with Wigan and his book "The Duality of Mind." It's been republished and is definitely worth reading by anyone interested in Jaynes's ideas (I believe it's on Google books as well as a free download).

For reasons not altogether clear, the dual brain debate subsided around the turn of last century (see Harrington: "Medicine, Mind, and the Double Brain"). It was taken over my behaviorism, etc. until the idea was "rediscovered" after the startling results of the split-brain experiments (Sperry, Bogen, Gazzaniga, etc.).

In these patients, for a short time at least, after the surgery the person seemed to have two independent spheres of consciousness. This has been written up in many places but there is a good discussion of it in "The User Illusion."

The question then arose: Did the right hemisphere consciousness emerge in full form after the surgery, or was it there all along, but simply unable to communicate?

Dr. Joseph Bogen, the philosopher Roland Puccetti (see: "Two Brains, Two Minds? Wigan's Theory of Mental Duality"), and to some extent maybe Gazzaniga (I'd have to check) argued for the latter, while Daniel Dennett and many others felt this was just too weird and disturbing and argued for the former. However, I don't find the arguments against the dual mind theory all that persuasive.

It's definitely a very interesting subject...


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 Post subject: Re: Conscious "Gods"?
PostPosted: Sun Jul 05, 2009 9:21 am 
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Thank you moderator! This could provide rich fodder for science-fiction stories and bizarre, new-age type theories. Do you happen to have a link for a free download of "The Duality of the Mind"?


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 Post subject: Re: Conscious "Gods"?
PostPosted: Tue Jul 14, 2009 4:51 pm 
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Here you go:

A New View of Insanity: The Duality of the Mind by Arthur Ladbroke Wigan (1844)

http://books.google.com/books?id=HTvFWWVt_bcC&dq=duality%20of%20mind%20wigan&pg=PR9


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 Post subject: Re: Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches by Marvin Harris
PostPosted: Mon Sep 26, 2011 5:32 pm 
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Zoroaster wrote:
Marvin Harris' book Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches examines cultural and religious taboos that at first look seem to be counterproductive and may in fact be against the short term interests of an individual but which function in the long term interests of the culture.
For example he notes how Westerners are bemused that Indians, even though they are starving, will not eat cattle. However, he points out that without the taboo, most of the cows would be killed and eaten in a short time and the culture would be deprived of the long term benefit of milk being available. Furthermore raising cattle for food would be more of a strain on their land than raising vegetable crops with less benefit. (a la Diet for a Small Planet.)
Harris cites many examples like this however he does not address how and by whom these taboos are created. I inferred that he was implying a wise priest caste was making decisions for the good of their society and implementing them as religious taboos.

I think most evolutionary psychologists (of whom Marvin Harris was a predecessor) would agree that behaviors which seem to be against the short term interests of individuals but function for the long term interests of the population are primarily the result of accident, not any planned strategy by leaders or a collective subconscious agreement among the populace. For every adaptive cultural behavior, there are probably twice as many that are maladaptive which are a result of accident as well, leading eventually to social disintegration. To read about the latter, I would suggest Sick Societies by Robert Edgerton.

A plausible explanation for the origin of the Hindu taboo against eating cows might be as follows: during a period of drought or famine, certain families or clans which only had one or two cows, and which were producing milk, decided not to slaughter their cows so as to keep the milk coming. Other families or clans made the hasty decision to slaughter all their cows. In the aggregate, those who kept their cows alive survived the famine, and those who slaughtered their cows either died or were incorporated into the surviving families. The meme grew that it was not wise to kill your cows, for who knows when the next famine would come. That meme eventually took on a religious connotation, enshrined in a formal taboo, even when the taboo may have not been necessary in certain regions or periods. In my experience and observations, leaders who can wisely see far into the future and create laws out of whole cloth (but are nonsensical to the general populace) are far and few between. Most leaders are most concerned with maintaining their positions, whether they are US senators or holy men of India 4000 years ago.


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