Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Mind's Eye Shortcoming

How many colors do you see? If you answer 4 your mind should not be trusted- it is lying to you. The blue and green are one and the same color. Always be skeptical of your mind, instead rely on hard science. From Akiyoshi Kitaoka.


Big Myk said...

Wow. That's pretty incrediburgable. Even in the enhanced pictures I see blue. How else do our senses lie to us?

James R Harvey said...

Blue? Green? I see The Rape of Medusa.

'Hard science' doesn't rely on the mind? My mind tells me to be skeptical of hard science. Isn't there some Heideggerian lesson in all of this?

Big Myk said...

There's a Heideggerian lesson to be learned in almost everything.

Peter I said...

Having recently been to the louvre, you may have been referring to RAFT of the medusa by Delacroix. Raping medusa...that would be a weird story.

Peter H of Lebo said...

Obviously color differentiation and hard science does not rely on the human mind.

Hard science relies on evidence to refine knowledge concerning the workings of the universe. For instance, independent of the mind the green color is in 520-570 nm range regardless of the observer (or need for an observer-ex. the photons of the green light will stay the same with or without the human mind), the mind is misinterpreting that color data and therefore lying to you, science is not. Though science can not prove something uniquely true it can disprove that you see the Rape of Medusa http://www.pinktentacle.com/2008/12/scientists-extract-images-directly-from-brain/

Your mind will never trump the scientific theory of gravity no matter how skeptical you are nor will the picture in this blog emit a different wavelength if willed by your brain. Science does not rely on a 3 pound organ.

Finally, Heideggerian is placing human bias on top of science and calling that science.

Big Myk said...

I hardly consider myself one of those postmodern culture nazis whose only idea is that everything boils down to subjective interests and perspectives and that facts and evidence are just pawns what is essentially a political struggle. Alan Sokal pretty effectively pointed out that this emperor had no clothes.

But, it is at least equally wrong to suppose that science is a pursuit fundamentally different from all other human activity inasmuch as it has a unique relation to ultimate, objective reality and whose conclusions cannot be explained in any other way except to say that they are true.

Pete, you need to go back and dust off your copy of Thomas Kuhn.

Peter H of Lebo said...

I explicitly said, "science can not prove something uniquely true". I also did not completely contradict Thomas Kuhn-the inevitable of bias to creep into science 'because of the human mind-hence two scientists disagree'. I separated science from the idea of human limited science. Science does not need the human mind. Its framework or the ability to build knowledge about the universe could work fine along side an A.I computer or anything else in the universe. In fact the human mind is just a terrible scientistic tool- case in point Jim seeing Medusa.

I guess I wasn't clear, though science can never prove something uniquely true (not its purpose). It definitely can disprove- thankfully getting rid of all this bullcrap philosophical relativity idea of seeing blue versus seeing green. The specie's mind that supersedes us may react differently (again like us a limitation of its brain as a scientific tool) than we do from the color green but that will not change the fact that the photons' wavelength is 520-570nm. Just because you are blind doesn't mean that the sun is not there. Thus science does not rely on the mind as Jim asserted, instead science is solely based on gathering evidence to understand the universe.

Mistakes do not originate from science, instead from the shortcomings of an animalistic brain of a primitive evolutionary creature that will be eventual replace by a better model. Science will not go the way of the human species.

James R Harvey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James R Harvey said...

I hate it when I try to be funny and mess it up. It was supposed to be the "Raft of Medusa", a reference to the Peanuts cartoon when Linus and Lucy are lying on a hill looking at the passing clouds (the universe). Lucy says something like, "I see a horse...I see a face." Linus studies a cloud and announces he sees the "Raft of Medusa" (famous painting by Gericault).

Big Myk said...

I remembered the comic differently, and maybe Schultz had more than one version of it. Linus and Charlie Brown are lying on a hillside gazing at clouds. Linus says, "See that one cloud over
there? It sort of looks like the profile of Thomas Eakins, the famous portrait painter. And that other group over there—that looks as though it could be a map of British Honduras. And then do you see that large group up there? I see the stoning of St. Stephen. Over on the other side, I can see the figure of the Apostle Paul standing."

Linuis goes on: "And what do you see in the clouds Charlie Brown?"

"Well, I was going to say I saw a ducky and a horsey, but I've changed my mind."

Very Heideggerian.

James R Harvey said...

Yes, your version is more accurate... funnier too. I always change it to the 'Raft of Medusa' or 'The Entry of the Crusaders into Constantinople" since they are such detailed, colorful works and make it seem all the funnier. I missed elder Peter's entry. He caught it before I did...and yes I thought it was Delacroix also but I looked it up. Now 'Crusaders...' is Delacroix.

As to science, I think Pete H. said it best as "gathering evidence to understand the universe." Some of his other statements seem a little scary and contradictory to that, but I'll go with "gathering evidence to understand the universe." I like it.

Big Myk said...

Pete, Jim is more gracious than I am – I am not willing to let your latest comment go unanswered. On the other hand, there’s so much wrong here, I don’t quite know where to begin.

You’ll not get an argument from me that science is the gathering of evidence to understand the universe. But, you can’t separate “science” from human science. If you want to gather evidence to understand the universe, you must have a gatherer and it must be gathered in a way which is understandable to that gatherer. It doesn’t matter who your gatherer is, whether it’s human or some future creature humans will evolve into, or an A.I. computer, every gatherer or observer will have its own point of view, its own hardwiring which will determine what tools it will use, what phenomena it will examine, how it will interpret the data, what questions are important or worth answering. Even the instrument which measures wavelength is of human origin, and is subject to similar human bias as we find in direct observation. To suggest that that there is some “pure” science out there which would involve no longer looking through the observer’s glass darkly but seeing the universe face-to-face as it “really” is, even if theoretically possible, has no meaning for us poor souls who must depend on our own senses and mental capacity.

Beyond this, you cannot have pure nonhuman science because the observer ultimately affects what is observed, seen most acutely in the quantum world. As an observer, the scientist participates in the phenomenon which he is observing and alters it. Science can never see anything in its “pure” state; it has in a sense polluted it by its very presence. Or, another way to put it is, the scientist is part of the reality he is observing. There’s simply no way of knowing some kind of absolute object truth out there which exists apart from the observer.

And then, perhaps the most troubling aspect of saying something like "science does not rely on the mind," is that it assumes that there actually is some completely correct “truth” which can be known separate from any particular knower. Most, if not all, of our current theories will eventually be revised in various ways. Will we still be defining the color green by the fact that its photons' wavelength is 520-570nm a hundred years from now? I doubt it.

Among other problems, the very idea that knowledge can be absolutely true is just another belief about how things are or should be. Why should the universe conform itself to the hopelessly quaint human notion of truth?

If there really was some perfectly correct knowledge about the universe and we were, however imperfectly, actually approaching that knowledge, you would expect that the rate of new theories and new discoveries and other improvements in science would be decreasing as we approached that knowledge, and there are fewer holes to fill. But quite the opposite is happening. Instead, as our knowledge has improved, changes in theories and additions to our knowledge are not slowing down but speeding up, and our own certainty about these theories decreases. The more we know, the more we know we don’t know.

The fact is, what drives science is not the certainty of approaching truth. It is quite the opposite. It was only by giving up clinging to certainty that science became such a powerful source of understanding. We endlessly continue improving our ways of studying and thinking about the natural world, with no access to standards of perfect knowledge and no need for them.

The purpose of science is not to reach some absolutely correct truth about the universe. Its purpose is to increase understanding –- human understanding. And for that, you need the human mind. In fact, for that purpose, there’s no better tool.

Anonymous said...

I hate it when I try to be smart and mess it up. Jim of course is right about the Raft of Medusa artist - not Delacroix but Gericault. Is does hang in the Louvre but I did not see it on my most recent visit which consisted of runing with Martin and Renee straight to the Mona Lisa(Michelangelo), checking it off our list and exiting. Francis and Michael may have spent their time more profitably taking on some locals in soccer in the Tuilleries.