It is time for us to accept that our mind exists entirely within ourselves. The construct that is Duality is false.

For far too long humans have talked about our “mind” almost as a separate part of our existence. We long to avoid death and we would like to believe that we aren’t just the product of cells, chemicals and electricity. We talk about consciousness as though it’s some magical, other worldly, thing that produces us. There’s this idea that we have “free will” and we are able to make choices and react to things outside of our experiences. The worst possible interpretation of this is that our mind is our soul and it will be preserved when our body dies. This kind of thought leads to myths and stories of eternal life, these things are dangerous to mankind.

The evidence is quite clear though. We exist within our bodies. Our thoughts are contained within our skulls. There is no single place within our brains where our “soul” or consciousness reside. What we consider to be our thoughts and free will are simply electrical and chemical signals developed within our brain, across the entirety of it. If parts of our brains are damaged our personality may change. Other parts of the brain can learn how to counteract the damaged parts. We are the sum of our experiences mixed with some pretty basic instincts.

Just because I dismiss the human psychological construction of duality doesn’t mean I don’t find everything fascinating. It is simply quite stunning how we have developed over time to become these thinking beings, able to discover the rules of the world around them, able to manipulate the environment to produce more humans. Very slowly we are coming to a collective recognition that we are failing the planet, that we need to stop carrying on, but that requires political will and that is desperately lacking.

Our emotions are chemicals and reactions developed and evolved over millennia. This doesn’t make it any less magical. It makes it more magical. The mystery isn’t removed when we accept what is plainly true, it allows us to wonder at what we now know. Just because we know the truth it doesn’t stop feelings being real.

On the matter of free will I should explain why we have none. We have the ability to make decisions and we constantly do that based on the available information. As our decisions are part of a chemical and electrical brain it is clear to me that if we were placed in exactly the same situation again with the same stimulae we would make the same decision. There is no way we would have done something different. Our language has developed so that we talk about “changing the course of history”. What a bullshit phrase that is. The things that have been can’t be changed. The course of our futures is unknown. We don’t change the future. The future just happens. We can’t change the decisions we have already made and we most definitely won’t choose a different path in the future. We are the product of our chemistry.

Does this mean that we can predict our future choices? No. Our brains are quite brilliantly complicated and simple at the same time. There is no way we can really model a brain at the moment. We can’t take a snap shot of our brains and then run those processes forward. Even if we could as soon as the external influences were different the two minds would diverge with increasing speed.

I am constantly amazed at how we humans have developed our understanding of the universe while at the same time deluding ourselves about reality.

Evidence – How To Change My Mind

Let’s take something that is quite obviously a load of rubbish: Homoeopathy. I will now state the following:

Homoeopathy does not work

My reasoning for homoeopathy goes as follows:

  • Implausible (there is no prior plausibility that suggests HOW it should work)
  • No good scientific evidence to show it works

I want to make the following clear:

I would love for homoeopathy to work. It would revolutionise medicine and curing people and it would also create whole new areas of physics for us to learn about.

However, the evidence does not show it works. The gold standard of medical trials, double blind random controlled, all show negative. See my “discussion“.

If you can show me the evidence and it needs to be good evidence then I would be willing to change my mind. I will shout it from the rooftops and I will become your cheerleader. I will work tirelessly for your cause because it would be so wonderful.

If you can show me the evidence I will change my mind.

I think that’s quite a simple rule to live by. It does mean I have to be able to evaluate the quality of evidence and I could make mistakes there, but I am willing to correct myself.

If what you are suggesting is a quite remarkable “new thing” then the evidence needs to also be quite remarkable to persuade me. If what you are suggesting adds to my current understanding then it will take a normal amount evidence. This is not to say I am closed minded. I would love to be wrong about many of the things I currently know are not true. It would be a brilliant and happy thing to be shown good evidence for something you say is true. As I mentioned earlier I would happily change my mind. Here’s a list of types of evidence ranging from very bad to good:

  • Anecdote [NOT evidence. NOT even interesting]
  • Testimony [NOT evidence. Human memory is remarkably poor at recalling what happened]
  • Human Experience [NOT evidence. We can only explain the world within our understanding]
  • A single experiment or non-blinded medical trial [an interesting start but NOT fact]
  • Results of single experiment reproduced by teams working separately [Good evidence]
  • A medical trial which is controlled [still more interesting]
  • Results of different reproducible experiments leading to same conclusion [this can go in stone]
  • Results of large scale double-blinded placebo controlled medical trial NOT paid for by pharmaceutical company [expect the results to lower efficacy a bit over time but this is a good treatment]

The wonderful thing about this process of requiring evidence, oh I know, let’s call it the scientific method, is that it does not rely on me believing. The truth is there whether I believe it or not. A scientist working in Japan should come to the same conclusions as a scientist working in Brazil. The scientific method leads us to knowledge whatever our social and cultural background.

A good place to start when faced with something you understand to be quite fanciful is to ask for the VERY BEST evidence for the thing. If this is poor, then walk away. Do NOT accept the following argument:

Oh, the effects are subtle and can’t be measured.

If the effects are that subtle that they can’t be measured by scientific means then they don’t exist. We observe our world and we do our best to understand it and measure it. If you can’t measure it then it deserves to be rubbished. Just because someone believes it dearly it doesn’t mean it’s any more true. Aren’t we doing them an injustice by not educating them?