Blockbuster

A Response to Ned Block's "Blockhead"In a classic 1981 paper titled "Psychologism and Behaviourism", the philosopher Ned Block proposed a thought experiment that has been dubbed "Blockhead" in his honor. Block's experiment has to do with the Turing test, itself a classic proposal on how to test for the presence of intelligence in a machine (or some other suitable non-human agent). The Turing test consists of a human, the judge, conversing via computer terminal with two agents. One of the … [Read more...]

Priming the Mind

In a previous post from Daylight Atheism titled "On Presuppositions" (all the way back in February 2006!), I wrote about how subconscious biases and prejudices, instilled in us by culture and surroundings, can exert a disturbingly measurable effect on our behavior. However, there is more to this story that deserves to be told. In the previous post, I wrote about persistent biases, those that are apparently supported and reinforced frequently enough over long enough periods of time to become … [Read more...]

Popular Delusions IV: Hauntings

John Knott, the owner of Quadrille, a fabric and wall coverings company based in Manhattan, expected surprises when he bought a weekend home in the country, an 1839 Greek Revival house in Kinderhook in Columbia County, N.Y. Inconveniences were bound to crop up — a leaky roof, problematic plumbing, boiler issues. But he was not expecting ghosts.—Kathryn Matthews, "This Old House Has Ghosts". The New York Times, 13 October 2006.Aside from belief in God and the associated religious t … [Read more...]

On Pushing Back

The recent violence in Lebanon, as well as the worsening sectarian bloodshed in Iraq, that have dominated the headlines in recent weeks remind us of the sheer unending vindictiveness of religious warfare. Indeed, of all the worst trouble spots in the world either currently or in recent memory - Yugoslavia, Northern Ireland, India and Pakistan, Sudan - religion has played a major causative role in virtually every one. The defenders of religion assert that it has brought into the world much good … [Read more...]

Seeking the Hidden Switches

Two juxtaposed articles in the June/July issue of Scientific American Mind offer some intriguing insights into how theistic beliefs may have first developed in the human species. First, an article titled Preschool Determinists:When cognitive scientists Laura E. Schulz of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Jessica Sommerville of the University of Washington tested preschoolers, they discovered that the kids were thoroughgoing "causal determinists." The children assumed that … [Read more...]

Book Review: Breaking the Spell

Daniel Dennett has written about free will, consciousness, the mind, evolution, and natural selection. In his latest book, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, he turns his attention to a new topic, the origin and role of religion in the human species. Although Dennett is avowedly an atheist, this book is not about whether God exists per se. Instead, it is more an exploration of how it came about, what purpose it served in the past and what purpose it serves today, and whether … [Read more...]

On Presuppositions

Malcolm Gladwell. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. Little, Brown and Company: New York, 2005.D.L. Rosenhan. "On Being Sane in Insane Places." Science, vol.179, no.4070, p.250-258 (19 January 1973).In 1973, the peer-reviewed journal Science published a now-classic study in psychology. In its introduction, the study's author, D.L. Rosenhan, pointed out that the criteria for determining whether someone is mentally ill are highly subjective. The provocative question Rosenhan asked … [Read more...]

Cracking the Fortune Cookie

A Response to John Searle's Chinese Room AnalogyJohn Searle. "Minds, Brains, and Programs." Behavioral and Brain Sciences, vol. 3, p. 417-424 (1980).In a famous 1980 paper titled "Minds, Brains and Programs", the philosopher John Searle proposed a notorious thought experiment, now known as the Chinese Room, relating to the possibility of artificial intelligence. Searle has no objection to "weak AI", the claim that a properly programmed computer can help teach us about the mind; but he … [Read more...]

Are Evolved Minds Reliable Truth-Finders?

In recent years, Christian apologists such as Alvin Plantinga have advanced arguments purporting to prove that evolutionary naturalism is a self-refuting worldview. According to these people, if evolution is true and there is no intelligent creator-god, then humans' sensory and rational faculties were created by a blind process that is not concerned with truth or falsity, and therefore those faculties themselves could not reliably detect truth or falsity. The conclusion, as Plantinga and others … [Read more...]


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