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Just A Thought, True Or Not True!

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Posted by Richard D. Stafford, Ph.D. on April 19, 2002 16:20:35 UTC

Hi Aurino,

I think you miss the essence of what I am saying.

***** Aurino:
That said, I also think you fail to understand some of the roles explanations, theories, rationalizations, in a word, conscious thought play in people's life.

No, I think I am fully aware of the role those explanations, theories, rationalizations etc. play in people's life. What bothers me is the prevalent primitive notion that these things have to be "true" to provide that kind of benefit! It is simply stupid and short sighted for people to think any of these things are "true!"

***** Aurino:
Now here I disagree vehemently. The subconscious works in mysterious ways, if you don't feed it theories, it won't tell you what to do. Sometimes the most fantastical, off-the-mark, delusional theories can produce some quite amazing results. Sometimes I think the whole point of thinking about theories is to keep your conscious mind busy while your subconscious does the real thinking, the one that actually produces results.

I don't know if you have ever seen "Mad Magazine" (it was a popular comic publication about 50 years ago). There was one issue which contained a sequence about "Mandrake the Magician". He was a current hero in a popular comic book. Mandrake had the power to hypnotize people into believing what ever he wanted them to believe. Anyway, in the Mad Magazine parody of him, he falls on economic hard times so he uses a mirror to hypnotize himself into believing the city dump is actually a grand estate with all the benefits of wealth. It's funny and it reminds me very much of exactly what you are talking about above! Also, notice how the last sentence above, "Sometimes I think the whole point of thinking about theories is to keep your conscious mind busy while your subconscious does the real thinking, the one that actually produces results", essentially discounts what you have said just prior to that!

I am of the position that the conscious mind has a power not available to the subconscious mind. That is the fact that the conscious mind can actually be totally and completely logical. Advantage of that fact should be taken. (Actually, the subconscious mind does not and can not use that constraint for the very simple reason that, under that constraint, most problems cannot be solved.)

***** Aurino:
If that is true, then all "theories" are equal, including your own. Chris' model of the universe, Paul's, Yanniru's, Alan's, yours, mine, they all should be judged by their usefulness, by what you can achieve by thinking about them.

First, the "truth" of anything is totally beside the point (see my post "Science is not simple" above) what I am talking about is communication. We cannot communicate unless we have some concepts in common. What I show is that any set of internally self consistent concepts must contain a subset which must map into known science (at least that part of science which is internally self consistent). Thus there does indeed exist a set of concepts which we can all agree are "facts" even if they are no more than constructs of our imagination.

If you stand back and look at the communication problem, you should realize that the only evidence you have that you understand what someone else is saying is that, with regard to the same specific ideas (where you are assuming you know what he means) you reach the same conclusions. In that whole procedure there is one very tremendous assumption; you are assuming that you and he mean the same things by the words you use.

Now, in the real world, it turns out that a lot of problems one runs into are isomorphic to one another. Any thinking person must admit that there could possibly exist some very large scale isomorphisms (think about the telephone exchange problem Alan mentioned). Now exactly what would you expect if two people discussing two different problems had their images of reality confused by looking at reality from two different perspectives which were almost isomorphic to one another. You have a situation ripe for misunderstanding.

Since making sure that our subconscious image of reality is without contradiction is next to impossible, it is entirely possible that both parties might be equally logical concerning their arguments and that the disagreements can be traced directly to the fact that they are actually talking about two different problems which are close to being isomorphic but not quite isomorphic.

The existence of that problem is very significant and there exists no way of surmounting it. The only thing we can say is that, if the problem under discussion is completely isomorphic, then it doesn't make any difference if our concepts are violently different, the arguments will work just fine anyway. We may be talking about totally different things (no real communication to speak of) but we can still assist one another in solving our problems. (In fact, exactly that senario has been used in comic movies many times!)

It is a version of that problem discussed in the movie "Contact". How do you establish communications with an alien? What people don't comprehend is that we are all aliens to one another. None of us have any direct communications upon which we can be sure our interpretation is correct. Even in the most accepted common concept of all (Barring Alan of course) all we know comes from experiences interpreted by an organism grown up from a single cell. Why would you believe their images of the Universe are identical?

Essentially, if someone disagrees with the universality of science (that component which can be shown to be 100% internally consistent) than I immediately know the situation is one of two distinct possibilities: either his arguments are not well thought out (in which case what he has to say is not worth listening to) or we are simply not speaking the same dialect (a very important set of concepts in my world view are not mapped correctly into his world view). In either case, it does little good to think we are communicating.

I personally think miscommunication is the single greatest problem between human beings and I would like to see it improved. They ought to get on the same page before they begin spouting their opinions otherwise, it is not worth our time to listen.

Just a thought -- Dick

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