dimanche 28 août 2011

The farther one travels, the less one knows

Après avoir effectué le premier vol spatial il y a 50 ans, Youri Gagarine avait déclaré quelques jours plus tard qu'il n'avait pas vu Dieu dans l'espace. Voilà ce qui s'appelle du matérialisme à l'état brut!

On peut être tenté à ce souvenir de faire la même remarque lorsque l'on considère les progrès extraordinaires des neurosciences et de l'imagerie médicale en particulier. 

Il est à présent possible de visualiser les aires d'activité cérébrale de notre cerveau, on sait que ce sont les neurones réunis par les synapses qui organisent et régulent les flux électriques qui parcourent l'organe qui nous met en relation avec le monde, on sait tout cela et mille autre choses que j'ignore et je me dis qu'un croyant ferait la même réflexion : je ne vois pas l'âme.

Non seulement on ne "voit" pas l'âme bien sûr mais on ne voit pas davantage l'esprit ou la conscience.

Toutes les images du monde, les scanners et les IRM ne nous présenteront jamais que des objets externes à notre perception de nous-mêmes, comme si la pensée ne se reconnaissait pas dans le miroir qui lui est présenté et où elle ne voit qu'une représentation étrangère à elle-même.

N'est-il pas étonnant que ces flux et charges électriques qui rendent possible l'exploration cérébrale - nous sommes bien là au centre du monde en quelque sorte - soit totalement impuissants à se reconnaître eux-mêmes et restent soumis à la volonté de la conscience qui en est issue?

Ces micro courants électriques ne nous apparaissent finalement que comme d'autres éléments constitutifs de notre corps, tels le sang, les protéines ou je ne sais quel agrégat d'eau et d'humeurs.

Les milliards de neurones et synapses, les milliards d'étincelles qui chaque seconde connectent les uns et les autres se présentent bien pour ce qu'ils sont : des données physico-chimiques dépourvues de tout sens et de toute signification. Où est notre conscience? Où sont nos souvenirs? Où sont nos émotions? Sans parler même de notre inconscient...   

Pour indispensable que soit la connaissance du fonctionnement de notre cerveau à des fins thérapeutiques par exemple, force nous est de constater que nous en sommes au même point d'ignorance relativement à la relation corps/esprit qu'il y a 10.000 et 100.000 ans, parce qu'il n'y a précisément rien à savoir ni à apprendre à ce sujet.

C'est un mystère destiné à le rester, ce qui permet à la religion et à la métaphysique toutes les hypothèses, encore que la métaphysique soit infiniment plus raisonnable dans son ambition.

Explorer plus avant encore le fonctionnement du cerveau, accéder au niveau moléculaire des cellules, voir in situ jusqu'aux atomes et aux électrons qui circulent dans la masse spongieuse de nos cerveaux ne nous avancera jamais d'un iota mais donnera toujours davantage raison à Lao Tseu : Plus loin tu voyageras et moins tu sauras.

31 commentaires:

Anijo a dit…

At this time and place none of us understand the details of how all of the billions of neurons and trillions of synapses interact to form what we know as thought. As much as humankind would prefer to understanding everything, they don't.

The answer to life, the universe, and everything.

Flocon a dit…

I didn't know (as usual) this series you link to Anijo.

But there is an article (as usual) on Wiki.

It's a funny thing obviously and for what I understand it must be a cult book/film among teenagers or Science fiction readers/addicts.

There always are deep and challenging questions and answers in these British or American works of imagination. And they're all delivered with humor and wit! I like them, I do.

It's in the wake of Lewis Caroll's Alice. I've read the book of an English mathematician some years ago in the same vein but I unfortunately can't remember his name right now.

Great books that Adams wrote with insightful propositions and answers. This one in particular : If people aren't satisfied with the answer it is because they may not have really understood the question.

C'est vraiment de la philosophie du langage dont il est question ici, which opens an ocean of ideas and thoughts.

Could work in psychology too, re relations between men and women. One the two gender may not have understood the question the other asked and conversely.

Wow, the more I read the article the more enthusiastic I am.

Heck! I learn that Douglas Adams died three months ago!!

Hadn't you linked to this video I would never have heard of him and his genial work. A quoi cela tient... ce que l'on sait (ou pas).

But now I've learned the ultimate answer is 42 :-) Case closed!

Anijo a dit…

Même Google connaît la bonne réponse.

I'm not a huge fan of science fiction, but I have read a bit of Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C Clarke and Douglas Adams. This is one of my favorite passages from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:

"I have detected," he said, "disturbances in the wash." …
"The wash?" said Arthur.
"The space-time wash," said Ford.

Why," he said, "is there a sofa in that field?"

"I told you!" shouted Ford, leaping to his feet. "Eddies in the space-time continuum!"

"And this is his sofa, is it?" asked Arthur

Anijo a dit…

Impressionant comme t'avais vite compris que le film (dont j'avais fais un lien) était une adaption d'un livre par Douglas Adams.

Flocon a dit…

As much as humankind would prefer to understanding everything, they don't."

Did you know you're a neo-Kantian Anijo?

Human reason, in one sphere of its cognition, is called upon to consider questions, which it cannot decline, as they are presented by its own nature, but which it cannot answer, as they transcend every faculty of the mind.

I notice Humankind is conjugated as a plural subject (they don't).

"Impressionant comme t'avais vite compris que le film (dont j'avais fais un lien) était une adaption d'un livre par Douglas Adams."

At the speed of light bien sûr since we're talking about neurons, synapses and all their silly friends. Also it helped that the title of the book was written on the YouTube page ;-)

Anijo a dit…

Did you know you're a neo-Kantian Anijo?
Non. Ben, ça alors. Imagine une petite Américaine, Indienne et aussi une Kantian.... :-D

Also it helped that the title of the book was written on the YouTube page

Ouah, le titre du livre y était écrit, mais il n'y avait aucune indication que le film était une adaption de son livre.

I notice Humankind is conjugated as a plural subject (they don't).and all their silly friends

lol... I must be one of their friends considering how silly that I am. ;)

Anijo a dit…

Flocon said:
At the speed of light bien sûr since we're talking about neurons, synapses and all their silly friends


There was a young woman named Bright
Whose speed was much faster than light.
She set out one day,
In a relative way,
And returned home the previous night

Anijo a dit…

I notice Humankind is conjugated as a plural subject (they don't).and all their silly friends

Humankind is singular in English. My stupid mistake. Forgive me for this error.

Flocon a dit…

No later than yesterday there was a short program on tv about Neuromarketing.

Needless to say the guys weren't exactly talking about God, the soul, Kant and even less Laozi...

L'article de Wiki est intéressant (as usual) et mentionne les memes, Richard Dawkins et all.

Anonyme a dit…

//Humankind is singular in English. My stupid mistake.//

Anijo: I think you are too quick to admit an error.

I am traveling and without access to a British dictionary. But a misspent youth in Bermuda and four years working in the UK convince me that the British insist that collective nouns (humankind, for example) are plural.

So in the US and Canada, humankind is singular.

But in the UK, my ear tells me it is plural. Check the BBC usage.

On the road again...

Ned Ludd a dit…

All children are born atheists and it takes years of indoctrination by
their parents to make them Christians or Jews or Muslims, etc. This
is reinforced by their neighbors and community. So it is mistake to say
something like "a Christian child". For some reason, this doesn't always take hold with the child, with me for example. I never had to give up religion because I had never really bought into it. For others it takes years, often with personal conflict, to get over it. Jonathan Miller explains it well in "A Rough History of Disbelief" aka "A Brief History of Disbelief".

In a park or playground, or in some documentaries, you can see children of all different origins running around, laughing, inventing games to play with each other or playing games they have learned. They don't seem to have a care in the world. But in just a few years they will be typified and lose this spontaneity. This is a cultural effect and nothing innate.

"The country I come from is called the MidWest,
I was raised and brought up there, the laws to abide,
and that the land that I come from had God on its side."
Bob Dylan.

Most Christian children believe in Santa Claus and many of different
origins have an imaginary friend, or even an imaginary best friend. But they give these up, usually around the age of 6 or 7. For some reason they don't give up the Big Daddy imaginary friend in the sky.

An extension of Miller's program is also on the net "The Atheism Tapes" where he has longer interviews with people like Arthur Miller, Steven Weinberg, and Colin McGinn.

A Tapes

Ned Ludd a dit…

Ambrose Bierce, "ROAD, n. A strip of land along which one may pass from where it is too tiresome to be to where it is futile to go."

Devil's Dictionary

Anijo a dit…

Hi Semperfi! Such a delight to have you drop a line. ☺

Thank you. I checked out what the Grammar Girl had to say about this

There are around 200 collective nouns in the English language. Sometimes they take a singular verb, but other times they take a plural verb. The most important thing to realize is that there are no hard and fast rules here, only trends. Usually, which verb you use depends on two things: whether you consider the collective noun to be a single unit or to be made up of individuals, and whether you’re American or British.

Anijo a dit…

Interesting that you quote Bob Dylan. He was not an atheist. I have found that most musicians and artists who I'm familiar with aren't atheists. The only musician that comes to mind who is an atheist is Frank Zappa.

Anijo a dit…


Do you play billiards well?

Flocon a dit…


Just in case, I wasn't being ironic with my remark about the plural of humankind it's just that I tought I had something new to learn.

Now SemperFidelis gives some valuable piece of information and your grammar Girl link (does it also work for boys or is it a girlie thing???) tells me I'm not about to master this kind of singular/plural situation :-(

Flocon a dit…


A long comment which gives me ideas for posts to come.

We're on the same book on this topic but I think a little correction is due here.

"All children are born atheists"

Err... no, they're not since atheism is a sound reaction of the mind against senseless fairytales like the body reacts when it is given anti natural substances which are poisonous.

But a little dose day after day of the worst insanities will do the trick like a daily dose of poison will in the end leave the body dependent on the poison and even asking for it because it actually needs it.

Cela dit je sais bien que c'est une "maladresse" d'expression and that you don't need me to learn these things.


Pour ce qui concerne Bob Dylan je me souviens du jour où j'ai appris qu'il était devenu chrétien (that's right isn' it?) et de mon étonnement.

Finalement je me dis que vivre dans une culture où certaines valeurs sont omniprésentes finit par faire le même effet que vivre dans un cellier toute sa vie. Il y en a qui succombent aux vapeur d'alcool et d'autres non.

Quand pendant des siècles on a enseigné aux Japonais que l'Empereur était le fils de Dieu ou aux Européens que la terre était plate, à la fin ils le croient.


"Most Christian children believe in Santa Claus... but they give these up For some reason they don't give up the Big Daddy imaginary friend in the sky.

The reason why they give up about Santa Claus is that their parents tell them he's an invention.

Should people never be told the truth about Santa Claus, they'd believe he exists somewhere north of Finland.

"For some reason, this doesn't always take hold with the child"

Voilà un autre mystère au même titre que le caractère des uns et des autres.

La psychologie explique beaucoup de choses, la psychanalyse aussi mais il faut du moins avoir du matériel, lequel se constitue au fil des années.

Toddlers aged some months if not weeks (I'm not used to them and don't want to) already have different tendancies and the bastards they will be some years later are already here to observe.


Flocon a dit…

Ambrose Bierce was a witty one when I read some of his quotes.

I remember you once mentioned An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge which I read and also his Devil's dictionary. Both books have an entry in the French Wiki.

Je ne suis pas sûr qu'il soit très connu en-dehors des États-Unis like Mark Twain is though.

Anonyme a dit…

//Do you play billiards well?//

Yes. I prefer the snooker variant. In spite of this failing, I still have my security clearance. Obviously, the Republic is slip, slip sliding away....


Ned Ludd a dit…

Anijo, I used the Dylan song to illustrate the state of mind that one finds so often in the U.S., not intending to include him in the non-believer group.

I grew up myself in the Midwest, not far from where Dylan grew up, so I have always loved that lyric, in fact the whole song, "With God on our side". The same song has the lyrics, "For you don't count the dead when God's on your side."
and "And you never ask questions when God's on your side."

I think it would be safe to say that John Lennon was an atheist.

Flocon a dit…


you mention John Lennon as an atheist, you may as well refer to almost all British musicians. Mick Jagger is more famous for him writing Sympathy for the Devil than for his pious observations of the ten commandments...

"I watched with glee
While your kings and queens
Fought for ten decades
For the gods they made"

That one is worth watching.

C'est un truc américain cette obsession religieuse, nothing of that sort in most continental Europe as you know.

Anijo a dit…

Yes. I prefer the snooker variant.

Another indication of the time you spent in the U.K.

Anijo a dit…

John Lennon an atheist?

Despite his familiar image as a hippy icon who invited us to imagine a world without religion, Lennon says he was “one of Christ’s biggest fans” and felt emotional in church.

In the interview, which was recorded in 1969 and is being aired on BBC Radio 4′s Sunday programme, he talks about the Church of England, his vision of heaven, and expresses disappointment at not being allowed to marry his second wife, Yoko Ono, in church.

On heaven, he says: “I haven’t got any sort of dream of a physical heaven where there’s lots of chocolate and pretty women in nightgowns, playing harps. I believe you can make heaven within your own mind. The kingdom of heaven is within you, Christ said, and I believe that.”

Cathedral plays Lennon's Imagine

Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, said on her Facebook page that the idea was ‘so beautiful, it made me choke up’.

Anijo a dit…

C'est un truc américain cette obsession religieuse, nothing of that sort in most continental Europe as you know.

Well, not being religious is not the same as being an atheist. Frank Lloyd Wright, for example, was not religious, but he was not an atheist.

Flocon, you remember EYGH who used to visit your blog (originally from SF's blog)? Well, she was religious and she was a French woman, so it's not just un truc américain.

Ned Ludd a dit…

Some parts of the Jagger interview are similar to a Mccartney interview.

Paul puts the responsibility where it lies.

McCartney LSD

Ned Ludd a dit…


"The kingdom of heaven is within you" seems to be a metaphor. Scientist Stephen J. Gould used the same metaphor in one of his texts about morals and the mind, and he certainly wasn't a believer.

Lennon's rejection of heaven as a real place would lead me to think he is using the expression as Gould did. But in the end, I can't tell if it means one thing or another.

Flocon a dit…


Just for information, EYGH was born English speaking Canadian though I don't know how she came in France and acquired French citizenship. Through marriage probably.

The last time she visited the blog was in February last year.

Also your conclusion that since EYGH is French the whole religious thing isn't generally American is logically questionable... ;-)

Flocon a dit…

Ned (and Anijo for that matter),

Here's another interview with Paul on the same topic.

Just curious, would you have objected going out with Paul (the real one I mean) because he wasn't enough of a macho and a bit too feminine? (Not that it was too difficult for him to pick up any girl he wanted though...).

Flocon a dit…


Je reviens sur cette question de John Lennon being or not being religious et le lien que tu donnes (un blog as a matter of fact).

I know I once again risk the scourge of your wrath mais se poser ce genre de question est typiquement américain, du moins les Américains et les croyants en général qui veulent à tout prix utiliser le moindre indice pour récupérer dans leurs rangs tout ce qui passe à portée.

(This is not a deliberate attack on Americans Anijo!!! ;-))

Quant à la cathédrale de Liverpool, rien de plus normal qu'elle célèbre l'enfant du pays.


This song (1968) provided the title of the post.

Here's a version with just the Indian music. Unexpected...

Anijo a dit…

I know I once again risk the scourge of your wrath mais se poser ce genre de question est typiquement américain

Well, Flocon it was you and Ned who were discussing this question. I simply responded to said question by pointing out that Lennon was not an atheist. Nothing more, nothing less. As you often do, you mention the scourge of my supposed wrath et toujours le même refrain... Je suis anti-américain moi? Ben, j'aime bien pas la musique américain quand même ! Et puis il faut dire que les américains ont ce truq religieuse tu comprends, alors c'est pour ça etc etc etc.

Ou les femmes aiment/pensent/sentent une chose et les hommes aiment/pensent/sentent qqchose d'autre etc etc etc.

En fin de compte tout ça à faire avec les stéréotypes simpliste and without any real meaning.

I want to connect with you on an honest and real level Flocon. I am weary of stereotypes.

And you and Ned go on and on about what it is that women supposedly like or discuss amongst themselves without any consideration to the fact that there are so many different kinds of women in the world...

Ned Ludd a dit…

Off-topic but I remember September 11th, but 1973 not 2001.

That was the day that American state-terrorism used Pinochet to overthrow President Allende.

Pinochet undoubtedly assassinated more Chilians than were killed in the other 911. But I doubt you will find one American in a million who knows about that.