What's the point of a religion if it constantly updates to adapt to changing society?

Only evidence that the conventional understanding is wrong.


Let me remind everyone of where this started. I responded to a statement that there was no evidence for physicalism by giving some evidence for it. No one claimed that the evidence was proof of it.
Yes, it is a hard problem. But hard problems are an indication of our lack of understanding at the moment, and not evidence for anything. Do you think the existence of this problem is in someway a disproof of physicalism?
Chalmers, in the video, gave no evidence for or against anything, except perhaps his discomfort with physicalism.
As I said this sounds exactly like the way creationists use our lack of understanding of how and/or why the Big Bang happened (definitely another hard problem) to justify a supernatural explanation.
Is panpsychism supernatural? At first blush it looks like it, but when I get a chance I’ll look into it further.

BTW, do you consider personality an aspect of consciousness? If not, maybe you could define consciousness in your view. If so, how can changes of personality through physical changes to the brain get explained?

And to reiterate, the hard problem points to something that physicalism cannot not yet explain, but does not indicate in the slightest that it is not a comprehensive explanation, since no physicalist would claim, I think, that we have a comprehensive current understanding. You’d have to show that no such comprehensive understanding is possible, not that we don’t have it yet.

No, it indicates more than just gaps in knowledge. It indicates that the paradigm is wrong.

That’s why Chalmers’ initial paper caused such a big stir, and why is still being argued over and debated.

This is really the question, right? If someone gets hit on the head, or a brain tumor, or a stroke, it can change their personality. Does CTE somehow affect the soul, or whatever this guy claims that consciousness comes from? What’s the mechanism for physical changes to the brain affecting the non-physical soul or whatever?

My friend’s mother just died of brain cancer. They found the cancer because her personality was changing, and that just got worse and worse as there was more and more damage to the brain. Someone with Alzheimer’s disease will have personality changes as well – sometimes getting more aggressive or more meek or more afraid.

All of that comports with the physical brain giving rise to the mind and consciousness, and doesn’t need any non-physical aspect to explain.

Could you summarize his proof, or at least argument, that consciousness cannot arise from purely physical causes? He certainly doesn’t give one in the linked talk.
So far this looking like an appeal to ignorance fallacy on his part and an appeal to authority fallacy on your part.

The arguments exist, but they are complex, and you are not willing to put in even a small amount of time to try to understand anything complex, so why should I waste my own time?

If you have any intellectual curiosity you can look into it. If you don’t, then there’s no point.

I’ve done post-grad work in theoretical physics with real scientists, and spent a lot of time in vacations as a research assistant with real scientists, including at a nuclear accelerator. I’ve heard a lot of way-out discussions, even among very senior faculty, and I’ll tell you one thing. Real scientists have very open minds to the most weird ideas, and genuine intellectual curiosity.

There’s a difference between real scientists and devotees of scientism. There’s a difference between people who are arguing in good faith and people who already ‘know the truth’ and are only looking to score points and feel superior.

So good luck to you, and I’m out of here.

The answer is of course a variation of “I could, but you would only(fill in the blank), so I’m not gonna”.

Does the Chinese Room Problem have any part in his work?
And my mind is way open. Just not open enough so my brains fall out.

Maybe the title of the OP is worth returning to?

What’s the point of religion …? Before going to the “if” part the first has to really be answered.

FWIW I see religion as having several “points”:

  1. It historically served the function of supporting common values of a group, basic axioms/revealed truths, from which various rules of behavior and even laws followed. Some of the values were explicitly stated as tenets of the faith. Some were inferred from the stories that the faith considered its key myths (and myths can be true stories, so take no offense).

  2. It was a folk science. Not understanding, the unknown, is scary. A story may be wrong but thinking we know is often easier than knowing we do not.

  3. It provided a means to bond a group cohesively with statements of this is who “we” are (as opposed to “them”). That was originally tribal but is also allowed an identification across cultures that were otherwise different (Christianity across the Roman Empire and beyond).

Can religion continue to serve to serve those points, any or all, as society changes? Does it need to stay static to do so, or does staying static as society changes prevent its ability to serve any of those points?

I posit that the basic values being maintained, especially by way of the stories we tell ourselves that tell us who we are and what we are, persists as important as society changes, and as the society changes the rules that follow change to reflect new realities and understandings. (I may not believe the story of Moses and Exodus but I very much value it as a key myth that supports certain values and love Pesach for that reason almost as much for the family gathering, the food, and the sense of comfort in participation in traditions.)

That religion’s role as folk science is currently harmful and has been for a long time.

And that its “we” as opposed to “them” is a Not Good Thing but when it is not religion it will be something else, be it nation or ethnicity or whatever. Regrettably that is what we are.

Explaining “the soul” and what happens after we die, is a big deal for some religions but not all of them through history, and does not seem to be “the point” of faith for religion in the abstract.


It’s been a while since we’ve done the consciousness thing, hasn’t it! The scientific work on consciousness is complex but fun. Conclusive answers to consciousness as an emergent property are not yet known, but there is much work on the neural correlates of consciousness (NCC) and how various patterns of brain activity seem to underpin it. Hofstadter’s “I am a Strange Loop” is an older good treatment of the subject as well.

I held Seders for my family long after I stopped believing in any god.
And there are plenty of secular rites and celebrations which are similar, which I think support your point. The true story of the first Thanksgiving is a lot different from the Thanksgiving myth we were all taught. I believe more than one culture celebrates battles they may have lost or which may have been futile as a way of cultural bonding.
Where I live a goodly number of people with Christmas lights and Christmas packages in their arms at the malls have no belief in Jesus or Christianity or even the Western style of god.
Kind of a cultural bonding, It would be hard to explain to a visiting Martian.

Adding this in here FWIW.

I was a firm atheist in my youth but somewhere in adulthood developed a god concept of sorts, Spinoza inspired, that relates to the consciousness hijack.

Conscious seems to be emergent of certain patterns of information processing. The universe seems to be most fundamentally information processing. To me as consciousness is emergent of information interactions in our brains so could what could be thought of as god emergent of self-similar information interactions at a much much high level. Of course this is not a god that gives a hoot. But I do believe that that meta consciousness far beyond our ability to comprehend exists.

It impacts what I choose to do ( in so much as I choose) not at all.

Don’t ignore the possibility (whether you believe it or not) that
4. God really did communicate with a person or group and give them a message or messages of some kind.

My first impulse response. Really immaterial. The question still is what’s the point of god having done that, what does it accomplish?

I guess maybe establishing a quid pro quo? For the religion that has the true full revealed truth god gets worship and a group following god’s or gods’ directives get the promise of their group doing well, or themselves as individuals, now or in a hereafter.

But since the question is “religion”, not a specific one, and one of them being the true experience of god or gods’ word is usually incompatible with the others being the experienced true word, it fails as the point for the abstract. Such can really be the truth and just the point for just one religion: “ours”.

ETA - further interpreting what was meant by what god or gods had said can change over time.

I’ve heard many Christians claim exactly this. However what God tells them is nothing that their own brains couldn’t tell them - you can get through this, be good, etc. Never which horses are going to win the next day at Belmont, but you better donate your winnings to charity.

If God ever talks to me, I’m going to ask if P = NP, with an appropriate counterexample or proof. Then we’d be talking.

Your ideas intrigue me and I’d like to subscribe to your newsletter.

Old Doper memes aside, I’ve worked in information for over 50 years and I don’t see it. I’ve seen the universe described as an information processor, and certainly light from stars, say, includes information, but there are no real messages. It could be a useful way of looking at things, but it isn’t fundamental.
I know that emergence of intelligence from lots of computation has been popular (look at Mike in “A Moon is a Harsh Mistress”) but the internet has an immense amount of information processing and no consciousness has arisen.
Biological entities usually contain some sort of feedback, for temperature regulation for instance. I suspect you know more of them than I do. Computers have similar features. Processors have thermal diodes buried in them to detect if the silicon is getting too hot, and then throttling back the clock. The one thing computers don’t have is a feedback loop to examine the code it is running. Animals don’t have that either, our subconscious minds don’t but our conscious minds do. The universe exhibits none of this feedback.
Descartes said “I think therefore I am.” Perhaps we could add “I know I think, therefore I am conscious.”

No claim of messages literally from the stars is made.

One basic idea of quantum physics is that all things only exist in relation to/interaction with other things. The cat is neither dead or alive until it interacts. The interaction is what created reality: interactions are information. That is pretty basic. But it can be taken farther than that: information may be the fundament of the universe.

Conceptually explained here, which I readily admit goes deeper into the weeds than I can wade:

But we really don’t need to go that far.

Before going further I do strongly recommend “I am a Strange Loop” as a very interesting read. I won’t do the book justice in a brief synopsis. Bottom line however may be (inadequately) put as positing that consciousness is emergent of certain sorts of nested self-referential information processing patterns with tangled hierarchies, that Hofstadter calls “strange loops”. This article summarizes a bit better than I can, albeit critically.

The first part there is simply incorrect. We have feedback and interactions from bottom up and top down at all levels of our biological information processing. It is self-similar at different scales. One theory of consciousness sees feedback resonance in those nested loops as the basis of consciousness: Adaptive Resonance Theory.

More details here if you want to get in deeper.

The second part is a key statement though. None that we’ve seen and none that we’ve looked for. An attempt to deal with this construct scientifically would be to imagine if it is, at least theoretically, testable. IF we were able to establish with some degree of confidence that the consciousness was an emergent phenomenon of nested strange loops of information processing (theoretically possible to some degree of confidence I suspect) then could there, theoretically, be a way to look for patterns of information occurring in self-similar patterns at higher levels, fractalish? Maybe not starting the look at a universe level but seeing if those patterns replicate at societal levels of information exchange, and yes that includes along the internet exchanging information? I do suspect there are information theory experts who could make that sort of analysis tractable … At a galaxy scale the time scale would be beyond our lifetimes to observe of course, so not testable, but if true at one level up the hypothesis would at least be worth entertaining.

Bottom line though is such a god concept is, like the Spinozan one, not of much use to the points of religion. And until and unless testable should be rejected pending actual supporting evidence. Still I’ve had fun with the thoughts!

Chalmers didn’t say anything about “evidence”, because he’s just making shit up, but he certainly believes that consciousness is some kind of weird magical substance that operates comparably to magical Christian souls.

If you look at evidence, of course, you think about if for a few minutes and realize that if souls or panpsychism were real, there wouldn’t be any such thing as an “angry drunk”. Chemical reactions in the brain could maybe ‘fog up’ your physical senses like sight and balance, but they couldn’t make your etherial soul angry or disinhibited. So from an evidentiary perspective, the disproof of souls/panpsychism is blatantly obvious and as close as the nearest bar.

As for the “hard” problem of consciousness itself, the only thing hard about it is that as something subjective, it’s difficult to prove that it’s happening from an objective perspective. If we make an AI that says “I’m happy” then people will say, “No you’re not, you’re just a computer”. And the computer, like Canadians, would be completely incapable of proving that they have the consciousness and emotions they claim to be experiencing.

Heck, the whole concept of “philosophical zombies” is based on the idea that philosophers reserve the right to declare anyone and anything to be a soulless automaton, regardless of all facts and evidence against that claim. They’ll certainly apply it to robots and AI.

“The Eternal Truth is never-changing, and the phenomenological world that arises from it is ever-changing, and the ever-changing is never different from the never-changing.”

This is the start of the Hindu branch of non-dualistic metaphysics called Advaita Vedanta.

So there is an unchanging core in Hinduism (called Brahman or Purusha) that is timeless, causeless, formless, attributeless, and indescribable by the senses. Everything that emanates from it is subject to the three modes of nature: growth, sustenance and destruction. This includes the entire Universe/Multiverse and everything it it.

So as part of the changeable nature (or Prakriti) societies and civilizations too are born, mature and die. While a society is alive and flourishing, that part of the scriptural base (I am only talking about Hinduism here) which defines moral codes for society is also expected to evolve/be reinterpreted to stay relevant to the people who live in that society at that time. Such rules are deshachara (place-dependent) and kalachara (time-dependent).

When seen from this context, Hinduism does not endlessly contort itself to adapt to a rapidly evolving society. It doesn’t have to. Its core is by definition unchangeable (hence the Sanskrit name of Hinduism is Sanatana Dharma: Sanatana = Eternal and hence unchanging). The changeable aspects can be / must be reinterpreted and overhauled by great religious reformers from time to time so that the old is discarded and the new is embraced while staying true to the unchanging spirit of the Vedas. The purpose of the overhaul is to better guide people of that place and age toward the unchanging Truth. The destination always remains the same, but the paths are refined or rerouted to enable the travelers of that era reach the destination.

That’s an extremely embroidered ripoff of an old English-Irish joke that was in a jokebook my brother bought in England in the 1960s. Figures that poor excuse of a comic tried to pass it off as his own.