Hero4Thought wrote a post titled Human Desire & Awareness The post starts out with
As I reflect on my continued departure from having a belief in God I’m trying to pinpoint some of the important factors that bring believers and skeptics to diverge where they do.
That got me thinking the way that lots of things do. Cogito ergo sum
The only thing that we can truly be certain of knowing is that we think, and therefore we somehow exist. We can be certain of no other thing. As children we learn about the world we are presented with and how it works. Empathy ensures that we like to see fairness and good outcomes, even for others. Of course, when you compare your feelings about those in Nepal recently you may feel no honest pity for them because their plight has not activated empathetic simulation of their condition.
The reality is that all we know of the life of another is merely a story being told in the simulation of the world that runs in our brains, and in that simulation the same nerves that interpret pain signals from our body are active when we see others in pain. In a way, all that is input to our brain is as real as anything we experience via our nerves.
The cut on your finger is not real, the sensation that you feel is merely electrical impulses sent to your brain to be input to the simulation. There the pain registers because your brain tells you that that set of signals causes pain and so other parts of your brain react to those signals in your brains simulation. It is theoretically possible to cause someone vast amounts of pain simply by inputting the right signals to the brain.
The reality is that nothing is real. Every last bit of it is reduced to electrical signals and input to our brains for the simulation. The tight connection between our nerves and senses and our brain gives us the illusion that we are part of a world that is outside and bigger than that of our body.
There is a confirmation bias at work. If we can appear to witness good things and justice happening for others, then in this world we seem connected to it must also be possible for us to experience both justice and goodness. Conversely, experiencing it vicariously drives a need to want it as a first hand experience.
When the rules we use to understand this impossibly unreal world are examined and compared to all the knowledge we have acquired in any way or form, our brains do the math to calculate outcomes of cause and effect scenarios. This is done in the simulation, or at least we are only self aware of the stuff that happens in the simulation. We stop being believers when we are forced by some knowledge to admit to ourselves that the math does not add up any more in consideration of gods and the supernatural. Then we use every tool available to square the problem to get the math to again work out right. Induction, deduction, anger, frustration, even fear. Then we eventually work out that if there is no god the math begins to work out again.
Knowledge is what makes us different from the believers. Not simply possession of that knowledge but the willingness and ability to apply it to the simulation of the world that we run in our heads. Believers don’t want to learn about biology, physics etc. To do so would cause pain, actual pain. Rearranging the rules in our simulation activates those bits which register pain from our nerves. In our heads both a paper cut and changing the rules around register as pain. Pain is bad and to be avoided. When you stay on the straight and narrow path you avoid the pain. The road less travelled is the one laden with pain brought on by new knowledge.
For me, this is where believers and non-believers part ways.