« Making Sense with Sam Harris

#174 — Life & Mind

2019-11-04 | 🔗

In this episode of the Making Sense podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Richard Dawkins. They discuss the strangeness of the “gene’s-eye view" of the world, the limits of Darwinian thinking when applied to human life, the concept of the extended phenotype, ideologies as meme complexes, whether consciousness might be an epiphenomenon, psychedelics, meditation, and other topics.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Welcome to the making sense, Podcast Sam Harris, okay, housekeeping today. I don't think so today, speaking with Richard Dawkins. Richard needs no introduction on this podcast, but note that he has a new book out title outgrowing God, a beginner's guide. In this conversation, we mostly take your questions and we start by discussing the strangeness of the jeans, I view of the world within move into to the limits of darwinian thinking. One ally to human life, we talk His concept of the extended phenotype and memetics. We look at how ideologies act as meme complexes? We talk with consciousness, might be, the phenomenon. Therefore, might not have been evolved
under selective pressure, and then we talk about psychedelics and meditation. I actually lead, Richard in a guided meditation and the effects of that you can hear for yourself. And I'll have something more to say in my afterward so now further delay. I bring you Richard Dawkins, B You still be you still trembling hard. Remember the wisdom. Out of the old days, who trembles before the flame in the flood and the winds that blow through the starry ways, let the story wins and the flame in the flood hover over and hide for. He has no part with the lonely majestical multitude. What home is that it's an early one is from the wind among the reeds. I think well is wonderful! Reading and and the perfect sound check, I am here with Richard Dawkins Richard thanks for
make on the podcast. Thank you very much and thank you for coming to the Biltmore hotel. Making me go to your studio, this is this: is old school. I I, I love it. So you and I have done a bunch of events together. I hope we haven't run out of things to talk about. I worry about that kind of thing you ever saw in the interest of of not I need to that problem. I decided to go out on social media and ask for questions, and this is this. Is That's the perfect algorithm, because I can, I know what kinds of questions we've hit in the past and simultaneously gets us what our respective audiences want to hear and- and I have no fear that we're going to cover the same territory. The same way again so hit one or two of them have seen my new book? Maybe not, maybe to recently I don't know it was just mention. The new books are so that we we've done that the new book, is outgrowing God, thank God, yeah, and this is for teenagers right yeah. It's sort of them
lot of complaints of being that it's just like the God delusion actually isn't. Just like the God delusion it's different and it's it's sort of designed for teenagers. Yes, and we can obviously spend much time or as little time on these questions we and an open any doors that they suggest to us, but the first frivolous w. Is this surprises me? This means nothing, but do you realize that the most prominent athex are all areas. I see you're an Aries. I'm an Aries hitch was wasn't areas, what is an aries Matt Dillahunty is in there the great film to auto Preminger's once approached by us on that tone on the set of one of his films that g Mr Preminger, what sign are you? He said they do not disturb sign. That's my at to one's astrology right. Well, I guess I don't believe in astrology. So the first question which I think was-
Will set us on a nice path, it won't preempt everything else but This is somebody who clearly exasperated with the prospect that we might focus exclusively on atheism or bashing religion and he says, for goodness sake, get him talking in detail about the means, I view of natural selection, the extended phenotype arguments surrounding group selection and punctuated equilibrium. The women met has, rather ironically, taken on a life of its own and so on, not just God. For God, so that this covers a lot of ground and I do want to do those topics- justice. So, let's I think people are are so casually aware of the revolution: that has been wrought in our thinking, based on on our understanding of Darwinism and was really was really crystallized in your book. The selfish gene, but it is, receded into the
background of our thinking, and it is such a strange view of the mechanics of things and the lodge of things into at? Maybe, let's just spend a little time talking about the nature of replication and I'd like to think if it has receded into the background, that's because it simply accepted which of it among profession, Biologists of the sort of field type it and yet none the general public the has going of the house. Yes, the general public, it's not I suppose it is a bit strange and it's sort of is an turning on its head of the what used to be the more orthodox you dial down, wins all natural selection at the level of the individual. So I thought of individuals as competing with each other within the species, he was always within species competition and he, of course aware that survival is only a means to the end of reproduction and
his other great book. Well, one of his other great books, the descent of man, is largely about sexual selection. It down to Florida, where that success, that production was also vitally important, and- any hereditary tendency to be, for example, sexually, attractive or good at competing, members of their own sex would also be be favored But Darwin didn't have gene language, he had no concept of the particulate gene, which Mendel introduced, and that articulate view of genetics was, actually essential to natural selection. Becaus, as it was pointed out in Darwin's own time. If genetics was ending as everybody in the nineteen century except mental thought, if, if it the kind of mixture of a father and a mother. Then
variation would disappear, as the generations went by each generation would be more uniform than the previous one in which is there would be no variation left for natural selection to work on this actually advanced as a and uh against natural selection. Actually- this an argument against manifest facts, because we don't get more like as a general right by Mendel solve that problem, but Darwin didn't realize that I don't think mental relative properly and it wasn't until the. NEO darwinian synthesis of the 1930s that it was realized that actually natural selection is all about jeans changing their frequency. So some, Things become more frequent in the population, others less frequent in the population. That's what it's all about!. I suppose all that I did really was to take that. NEO darwinian view and. Put it in a more selling, more poetic way and say: that that means that the individual is just vehicle
for carrying jeans around and passing them on, and it's temporary. I called it away survival machine right, that's the strange idea we have what you call it strange in that that is a bit strange. I suppose that that that I I I called him a robot survival machine, an individual organism. Is a device for passing on jeans, The selfish gene is quite large. About not selfishness. It's often misunderstood because of the title is being about cell or even advocacy of selfishness is actually mostly. Altruism The selfish gene explain is altruism at the individual level, but If you take a gene's eye view of human life. Many strange things happen. First, you see that there's a logic by which certain genes would have been selected: and the behaviors they would. They would encode would be grandfathered into the human condition, and yet
evolution can't see most of what we care about The logic of evolution is anything that has allowed these specific replicators to perpetuate themselves has been selected, for right. So it's like we are here to spawn and sure that our progeny successfully spawn And I don't know what what what what what age do you think? Historically, evolution ceases to care about us, I guess grandparents are still if the if the business and cut off and it's a it's a it's a gradual process, but the the elderly The older the animal is the it is already too every produced right and so we're all descended from ancestor most of whom we produced when they were relatively young yeah. If you wanted, if you may have been reproduced when they, when they were old, and this of course. Why we age, because, because what we're we're descended
from young ancestors and very often whatever it took to be successful when you were young made, actually more likely to die and this especially true, of course, of sexual selection, where brilliant colored. Male bird say I'm more likely to, locate jeans for being brilliantly colored, but then dying Becaus. Her How does that sound? And in fact I just just the bus that track females and that's a extreme case, but it but sort of model for the darwinian theory of aging right right, so, but there so something about the extended family that would have been selected me that you think grandparents are good yes and yes and help and I'm sure that that's right and and and in in, species where grandparents can, with her then Maybe a kind of change of a point. Wait is to a certain age you can do your jeans, more goodbye, caring for grandchildren right
you can by having more more children. That again, wouldn't be as a cut off point. But that probably is true Humans and a number of other species, perhaps but if we're talking about, running viable governments and societies, democracies, capitalism, pursuing scientific, trysts, building technology that doesn't destroy us. These are things that obviously are, are parasitic on cognitive traits that have been involved, evolution can't really see these days That's right. I mean I think that so much All human life is, gone beyond natural selection would election, put us in the world and the way that we are in our brains and our bodies. Are, designed by natural selection. To survive under wild conditions in Africa and we
move beyond that, and so what? What we think of a successful in our society, as is really sort of pretty much left left after selection behind, but also to put too fine a point on it, but this is a and observe Several of us have made in various contexts. If you were going, Take a rigorously jeans, I view of the human circumstance Certainly is a man, the thing you would want to do most. The thing that you would find most fulfilling in life. The thing to which you would purpose more every day is to donate your spa Arm to a sperm bank- yes, so that you could have in tens of thousand yes children for whom you have no financial or that resource rent until it, the the fact that sperm, then, as I actually paid, is thoroughly. I'm darwinian and is a wonderful example of how far we have actually advanced Europe. It's not that I sing because natural selection
Cannot build into our brains a kind of but if awareness of water, but what are jeans so to speak, would want or it can do is build in rules of thumb which would work under natural conditions, and so it is a for sex, makes perfect sense because that their whole of history, of heard of I mean evolutionary history has has tended, need to reproduction, but it is outer donate. Your sperm is something quite different. It's it's, not perceive that technology, but not I just see that you're there have a few notorious cases seducing their own sperm, careful, yeah, there's things like that, but but it is to a naive Darwin and it is a surprising fact, Sperm donors have to be paid, and Darwin would think that they would pay to donate. Right, yeah and pay quite a lot. Yes, okay, so let's just talk about
what jeans are for a moment. It's a jeans are a kind of men either they're a kind of in coding of knowledge in the sense that- and you know, stop me if you think at any point this these analogies break down, but in echoes of David Deutsch here, where is knowledge as a kind of soul, into a problem. It's a genetically inscribed solution to. Problems that our ancestors have successfully fastly yeah. Exactly. I have a chat in I'm, leaving the rainbow called the genetic book of the dead. Just a takes off from the Hindu kind of classic the tibetan book the deputy division looking today sorry buddy so the genetic book, the dead, I see the genome. Well, let's say themes of a species as a coded document
describing ancestral worlds in which ancestors survived that it's sort of that sort of true, because they are a a subset of genes which have helped ancestors to survive and in principle it should be possible in some future date for technology has advanced for in Apple genesis to read the genome of an individual, and actually read off a description all the worlds in which the ancestors of that animal lived lesser extent. I think perhaps it easier you can. The body of the animal of the animal? If you, if I like, to think that if you took a whole lot of water dwelling animals, same mammals the officers seals, whales, water, shrews, marsupials, swimming animals and things they don't have webbed feet say, for example, that well
and so that's an obvious one. But if you, if you actually made a list of characteristics of dwelling mammals, income tax a desert, leading mammals. You find a of things that all the water dwelling ones have in common. Including probably some biochemical ones and genetic ones, and so that's part of the description. Genetic, because the dead describes water or just desert right, and one day, but I maybe maybe I'll even write a book called the genetic book of the dead trying to flesh out this. This idea yeah. And, of course it could also look forward prospectively to situations which we now to take. The human case are not. Well adapted to that's right. I mean you're out Genessee. The dead is always up the description of the past and it helps the animal survive to the extent that
future resembles the past year on the whole it does in. If, if, if, if the world were totally capricious such that you could not predict the future on the basis of the past, then not lecturing wouldn't work, but nature doesn't. Very capriciously as the years go by it on the on the whole tomorrow, it's pretty similar to. Yesterday, actually a specific question: the touches on a point that someone asks why we need vaccinations or acquired immunity to diseases at all. Why can't the mother pass on her immunity to her offspring. Would that be enough? evolutionary benefit, so acquired immunity, because they're on the assumption that the environment does change change enough that that's the best album to run yes, I suppose is? The immune system is a kind of term, moment to moment substitute for natural selection. Natural selection, so for generations and clips the animal to deal with. Circumstances that arise
perennially audist over over a long period. The immune system is all about equipping the adapting the animal to insult that attack it during its own lifetime. From moment to moment there always new epidemics, always always new viruses cropping up more. So that's what the immune system is about. And and vaccination is as a question. Is apparently immune system of that yeah, but it would seem good be immune to everything that your mother had encountered. It would, I suppose we are. We tend to be immune to everything that most of our ancestors have encountered with. Just just our mother you seem to have a mechanism for passing on the particular is the mother had chickenpox. We don't inherit an eternity to chicken one thing this frame in this part of the car. Patient. For me, as I watched you're somewhat stifling conversation with Bret Weinstein,
I greatly admire. I've done many events with, but he had a kind of axe to grind with you around, if not group selection something he was calling the lineage selection and more broad Please speak in a sense that evolutionary Thinking should cover many of the details of human. I like we're war, making, genocide, NASH, Liz them to agree that. That you were disinclined to it to extend it. And also just this notion that. Religion should certainly be considered an extended phenotype mom, It's generally should be considered an extended phenotype. I'm just wondering what the the. I can't do a good impersonation of Brett for this conversation, but wondering just what are the? What are you, concerns around. What are the limitations in darwinian thinking when we're talking about high level humans
social yeah on on on psychological, confirms what I I I huseyin Myopic Weinstein's stand out ridiculous. You divestiture that he has to be a member of evergreen evergreen. Yes, I mean he's a real hero, standing up against that nonsense, the extended phenotype. I think is often. Miss used to the idea of extending the time is often misuse, and I think we should remind people what, if he does actually of the feet and type in is that which the jeans engineer in a body which which, in a darwinian sense, would help the genes to survive. So we part of the phenotype of of genes that help the jeans survive. And behavior patterns and crests and sharp talons and sharp teeth and things So we normally think of gene its program bodies to develop phenotypes phenotypes help
to survive, and that helps the genes that built them survive. That's the it happens in jeans. Do it by process of embryonic development causing the body to develop the necessary phenotypes. The extended phenotype is phenotype is outside the body in which the gene sets and my classic this animal artifacts and things like birds, nests. Where the nest, especially complicated ness like that of a weaverbird, oh obviously an adaptation I mean just like an organ: it did it's beautifully shaped for particular purpose. Booster for example, long tubular nest to prevent snake it's getting in. That is a perfectly good phenotype right. But it's not much of the body that your jeans are producing, that Nagisa, producing that they're producing still doing it very embryology, but the embryology then, as it were, reaches inside the body info, behavior in this case
this building behavior, but that It's only out of yet one more step in the embryonic chain of causation. Embryonic channel causation begins with DNA Francine proteins and that influences. Something else would influence is something else. Division neurone production in the in the brain, which has the eventual consequences of causing the bird to build a nest of a particular shape. So there's just this causation start dna protein in going through various. Complicated steps in embryology and then the final outside the body. So I called it. The extended phenotype Well, then, the idea is generalized too. Let's see I want to here at the risk of derailing you. I want to pause here to close the door to a certain species of doubt that evolution, can explain the diversity of life that we see is now an hour, I'm just closing the door to the creationist, intelligent designers for the moment, 'cause one
concerns. Is that with any? we take any example of phenotype. You take a bat swing. For instance, evolution could not have produced a bat swing in Nova, you know, I mean I functional backswing. What you need is some incremental path from knowing at all yes to a bat swing. An each increment has to survive of the of evolution. It has to be useful and lead to differential success, So you have to imagine here to explain any. Speciation in any any path by which we have reached the diversity of life that we see, you have to explain how each increment the first little bum that became the wing. How that in itself was useful and many people just throw up their hands there and say well, there's clearly no way can do that, so there must be some other explanation. Yes, thank you for reminding people of that I mean that is, of course, very important and Of course, evolution has to take whatever
Is that and modify it? It it's not like a little bump. That appears, in this case it's already existing arm here the case insects probably was a little bump right because that's not using an existing limb. But yes, you. Stride with it with a bad. It's it's literally the hand yeah and as a membrane, stretched between the fingers, which is not difficult to engineer and biologically because in the embryo there will Isn't it a membrane between the fingers and actually it's it's car. After way, there's a kind of sculpture process whereby the membrane is removed. All that needs to happen in bats is that that sculpting process didn't happen, the membrane state and, of course, things get hugely wrong yeah pterosaurs. Do it differently. They just have one big finger right and they stretch that between the legs and let's differently again, but in case. It makes you What's already, there modifies what's already there rather than starting De Novo, which is what a human
engineer, would do throw the restart with a clean design on the on the drawing board your but is a about the extended phenotype corrective to before we get there yeah. So what so? What is the argument that some non functional precursor wing. Would nevertheless have those useful in it. Yes, I mean this is this is a favorite problem and what what's the use of half a wing there are a large number of animals that don't exactly fly but slide. The increase there for example, arboreal animals, squirrels say who leapt from branch to branch and it's a dangerous process leaf, leaving from branch to branch. So any slight increase in flight service they're, not really flight services, but any slight increase in the surface area that present to the air will increase distance to squirrel, can leave the tale of fluffy tail of a squirrel.
Access. It sort of rudimentary aerofoil that in This is the distance as colonel can jump to one flying squirrels that just squirrels, but I pray they have membrane between the fallen and the hind limb, which starts without no doubt is just a bit of membrane in the in the armpit we just slightly increase the unit, could just leave one foot further, your cause of that, and then when that was Eric, then next generation. President next ten generations could leave ten feet further, so you have a steady gradient of improvement. Are there Orthogonal gradients that could explain some of these intermediate forms like heat regulation. Something that well that's been suggested for insects. Yes, it's been suggested that in the insect they really did start by just bumps growing out of the thorax. Rather than modifying existing limbs, and it has
suggested that originally these with them a regular tree or well solar panels, and then, when they got out to a certain size for their thermoregulatory function. Then they then happened to actor there. A files and and They then became wings and in Wings are moved not by names, as I said, but by movements of the thorax, so the the the thorax is is their muscles in the thoracic that contracted in various ways which, because these flaps to to to to go up and down. Interestingly some insects flat their wings up and down with a separate new. Will command from the central nervous system is up down up down other insects, Have a kind of motors rating motor, whether the central, nervous system. That says it's switch on or switch off and the most
itself does rhythmic turn up down up down up down and the frequency of the oscillation is the time not by the central nervous system, but just by the harmonic properties of the of the motor system. Ok, so back to the extended yeah. Well, the next step after the idea of artifacts after the idea of birds, nest say. There are many cases where parasites calculate their hosts to increase the chance that they will be propagated to the next stage of the of the parasitic cycle. So looks, for example, I usually have an intermediate host, which might be a snail it might be and and- and they need to get into that definitive host, which might be a sheep or a cow and send taste of these so called brain worm in the aunt. For example, the worm in the end
burrows into the brain of the ant and chain, is the behavior of the ant to make the more likely to be eaten by a sheep call crawls up to the office of stems in heat of the day rather going down into the ground. So deep recite is a kind of puppet master which is too late in the ant know. To get one now that, to me is an extended phenotype, jeans in the in the in the in the worm, the phenotypic effect in ant behavior. I think there is there's some evidence that Toxoplasmosis and some other organisms opera in mammals like ourselves and very likely in people in similar ways, to make that much water is more like a deposit on yeah, my momma find yeah, I mean rabies is the classic example of it here. The the the rabies virus, essentially makes rapid dog, for example, more likely to bite and
the mouth and pass on the the virus when it when it bites. It also makes The animal more likely to to Roman wander far and wide, rather than stick around it at home, you're, which then spreads the virus more more widely. So that's sixty then type of parasite, and then you They parasites, don't always live inside. Their hosts. Cuckoos calculate, their hosts, a Koukaku, Nestle terrible bird. Yeah talk about that manipulates, the host of the beautiful adaptations that mean supernormal gape and things like that this is again manipulating the host behavior is the host The change in the whose behavior is an extended in a type of Cuckoo Jeans jeans change host behavior more, I need to survive it works via cuckoo embryology, but the final stage in that chain of events in cocoa embryology is to
behavior, which seduce is the host read. Lower every other, whatever it is, and so that in his extended phenotype and then the next final stage in my argument would be all birdsong all animal, communication. Well, one animal manipulates another. You can think, extended phenotype. So a gene that changes in one animal has an extended FINA, effect on another animal via a call, a song, a crest, a flash, a conspicuous so my whole vision of animal signaling is a great network of extended phenotypes right, before we talk about the the prospect of something like, religion or any other doctrine or institution being extended, phenotype for humankind. Let's briefly talk about this other species of replicator, the
team, which is a a term of your coinage, which has a importantly different kind of now it now that we've all will spend lives on social media. But these are also, but it's it's not. It is actually a decent analogy. To, yes is a meme I mean I I I wanted to. I want to make the point that that What message is replication in jeans genes are consummate, replicate, then they and they achieve their replication success by manipulating bodies by the processes of embryology I wanted to make the point that any replicator could do that doesn't have dna and, of course, on the planets. It almost certainly isn't dna. If there is life on other planets, the problem is but then I said well, maybe we don't have to go to other planets because maybe memes be cultural replicators could be the basis of darwinian selection there. Actually our cultural replicators. No doubt about that, I mean things spread. Does it matter? that they don't randomly very
mutation, isn't I don't think that matters? No. I mean it, incidentally, happens to be true that genetic mutation is random, but even that is only random in the sense that it not guided towards improvement. But mutation is not random. In other senses, mutations are induced by cosmic rays, for example, that's non random but mutation is random in the sense that it's not. What do you mean non random. If it comes from cosmic ray compartment. Well, it has a course. It's predictable that that that that, if, if you, if you subject yourself to but the but the specific base pair, that's being targeted, as is random, prism That's true yeah, that's true, but what's more important. Is that it's random with respect to improvement. So there's no tendency font for mutation to be, as it were Dissipating what's necessary for survival, it is random in that sense, and the great majority mutations are actually deleterious. Ok, so, but so
when we talk about memes right so now, meme is almost any cultural Oct, an idea that is religious, replicate that that's real that's replicated, so it could be if a close fashion or something like that or a speech mannerism. Awesome here is is that is that, if I- which I use with disconcerting frequency, do you I never use I've given up on? Is such a wonderful word to mean it really does mean right now, This means okay, I'm part of the slide into until yes one language evolves? Because after I am an American with this, this would be pretty good. It's a good case, because language does evolve, and so we have to accept that year and I think there probably is some randomness and not to say cosmic Ray bombardment that accounts for the changes in in speech patterns. But most memes. It seems to me
the changes in them are engineered, at least with some forward thought, as with survivability, though, so it doesn't really matter, we natural selection would still work even if rotation. Genetic mutation was engineered and of course it can be with. We are now in a position to do that, right, kinetic engineering is which I will talk about the so the fact that the the basis or the change directed or not. Still have an environment where things are competing and there's differential success so the environment is providing a kind of select exactly yes, so me The ideas ways of doing things really all of human. Sure an ideology. This is being continually produced, an spread and going in and out of fashion, and so this is the don't
medics and then they're literally are what are now called. You know, memes, on the internet, graphics paired with text that add on social media. That spread various ideas. I don't know how do you feel about appropriate. Well, I'm a I'm at work, I'm not too keen on that appropriation because it it rather- and they are very specific example of the- for me, would rather think about whether natural selection of sort actually guides the spread of memes and I like the idea of a mean complex, Plex Memeplex, where something like a religion like Roman Catholicism. Today I got it doesn't mean complex and individual memes might be the idea of life after death or the idea that you have to Confess your sins and virgin birth virgin birth, and just gene complexes are sets of g,
is which flourished in each other's presence and that. I think we have an extremely important idea in genetic evolution. So then, might be something similar in meaning complexes here. So there's is a common fate to these various yeah various meme, yes earlier, you're all hitch together, yeah, that's right and I I like to think of say sorry, the gene complex of a of a carnivore species like leopards. Well, you have come teeth carnivorous eyes carnivorous carnivorous limbs, they all together, on the other hand, you have antelope women had their herbivore prey eyes, noses etc, which go together. If you suddenly antelope and answer hello gene into it into a leopard gene pool, it probably wouldn't wouldn't work. It wouldn't cooperate well with the other genes of the of the leopard
play. A very skittish leopard, yes yes, yes, yes, apparently leopard clouded leopard and so a speech This is a collection of mutually patible jeans which go well together. As opposed to another species which is complex in different genes. Well, I believe you might do the same kind of thing with mean complexes but the theory hasn't been really sort of worked out right. I think it might be. Ok so We have meme complexes, something like Roman Catholicism and. What was being urged upon you and your conversation with Brett and I've seen this come up many times before. Is that something like roman, Catholicism should be, or a religion in general should be considered part of the extended phenotype of years. I never liked that. I never liked. I think, that's
taking the idea of the extended phenotype beyond where it should be, and I think it detracts from people meditate to comprehend the idea. The extended phenotype supposed to be a genetic effect. Which manifests itself outside the body in the same the ways genetic effect manifest itself inside the body and people have some. I don't think Brett does this, but people have sometimes said to me isn't a building. I like the building when in the moment and extended type. And I think that would only be true if say, the jeans that cost architects to design a different kind of building? And there aren't I mean I does this. No does no gene that that makes an architect more likely to make gothic arch. Rather than romanesque arches so or or mirror survival dependence on buildings. Is not enough for now. I don't think so, because variation in buildings is not
the genetic control right and- and I dot. Very much of the variation in Religious habits is under genetic control if laws than you might make some sort of the case file talking about is that if it does it, it's not like that, and so I think that it's possible to push an idea too far, and I think that's what's going on here. So what about the prospect? that having religions lead to differential success of various groups, that's quite a different idea and that's worth considering in its own right and also it's Potsworth, consid bring in its own right is the idea that individuals having religions might survive better road has been suggested and might be true and This opens the door to what's been called group select and I've never been a fan of group selection Darwin himself was it wasn't called group selection, then,
domino almost always was talking about individual surviving better in within a species. Darwin did it again in the descent of man. In one passage talk about a kind of group selection where he suggested that groups of groups of humans. Who were had some kind of social cohesion who ok well towards each other had altruism toward each other cooperation. Would be more likely to survive and groups that didn't and. So that would be a form of group selection. I suppose in some ways I prefer compare that not to group selection but too. Species competition a bit like when razor was introduced from America into Britain as a sort of the exercise. We did that to you. Is that a good idea or bad? I have an idea and it grow The red squirrel Extinct
I think that's that a better analogy for a group group. That say, has a has a war like aggressive God, like Yahweh or like some of the Norse gods, you could make a case that having a and to God maybe one who rewards martyrs in a martyrs heaven that kind of. Religion might spread as as kind of group effect as a kind of species. An ecological competition effect but I call I would call that ecological competition, rather than group selection. I think we have because it's so, let's just Create a exam, Let's say that. Hitler one. The Second World WAR, and we are now living under the thousand year Reich and everyone who's. Not a nazi is now dead, so Nazism would have triumphed. Overall competing political ideologies. So.
We are on some level, you can say well. This is a a selective, a fact right. This is deal with. There were various competitors for the ways of thinking and one has finally dominated cancel all others, but that doesn't to suggest an analogy to the rep location. Mom, don't think it does? No, I don't think it does mean is they closer would be, if say, within any country, individuals who espouse nazi beliefs were more like survives in individuals who didn't that would be an individual differential survival effect, which probably would also be the case. That would be a close at that analogy to darwinian selection- and we might do a kind of analysis of that see memes survive better than Anti means, for example, that that that would be at the case of memetics yeah. I think I think, that might actually be the environment we're currently in on social media
comment on that. So I guess one final, so there are there how to Questions in what is now called Neo darwinian picture. That are significant challenges to the model I mean there. Many people's there and Brett you know, frankly, is one of these people there, many people speaking as though NEO Darwinism, and perhaps you should actually define that term is basically flawed in a way that should be troubling to biologists and pub Yes, I did. I don't think that I Any flourishing science will will change, of course, and. Steve Gould was fond of saying that the modern synthesis is effectively dead, understand. I thought that was a rather irritating a tempted almost self publicity he was irritating in many ways. In many ways
what what is your first to find the Darnell? Okay, I need NEO Darwinism is the is the the near near darwinian synthesis. As in a joint effort. One thousand nine hundred and thirty is really of, the Bible, R, a Fisher Jbs hold since your rights and smile. He does Jansky Simpson and others, and it was seeing darwinian evolution as changes in gene frequency in populations, that was the population genetic part of it. Seeing well, the Palins logical part of it would be seeing major macro, evolutionary change, as micro evolution writ large so that This was showing how from generation to generation you could get slight changes in gene frequency and the paleontologist like Sim.
Was showing that such micro, evolutionary changes it related over millions of years, tens hundreds of millions of years. Is changes from from fish to mammal, so the this. This movement of the 1930s and 40s were still in it. It hasn't really. Change much they've been I Does Wd Hamilton with his? This is off ouch. And can send it to. Dr Ism is one major, eight and and fonts the nineteen sixties and seventies, but the, but was still in the NEO darwinian era, and you don't think there are gaping holes in the theory that they should keep No, I don't I mean there are. There are questions that remain to be on set at one of the big riddles. Is the evolution of sex know what what what what sex is good for, and lots of the most distinguished NEO darwinian theorists of gravel grappled with that problem.
The origin of the darwinian process is still a bit of mystery. How did the first replicator arise And was it certainly wasn't? Dna? Actually I mean first replicator would have been something else, would've been RNA. Maybe that's a good ability and that's one of the more fashionable ideas? But still in the realm of faerie? It may never become settled because it happened a long time ago and may be impossible to to repeat exactly what have and we know the kind of thing it be. Did what's the origin of something self replicating, possibly RNA. So what about epigenetics and the way in which they say this feature of our biology, seems to suggest a almost a quasi lamarckian kind of in the art of this. This is a strange word that the genetics, because actually originally, it jumps, another word for the way they see, embryology and and
every cell in in the might talk to click every my talk to him reproducing cell in the body the same genes right here, yet your your other number sell them out all the genes that your brain cells right, yes and and yet and different healings get get get turned on, and so the epigenetic environment of a of a gene in the in in in the brain cell is different from that in the in in in the liver cell and and so that, epigenetics the. Has been hijacked fashionably recently. By people with, as you say, kind of near Lamarckian bent to suggest that some of that epigenetic the plasmic environment, in which some as it turned on and others are not can get it in heritage to the next generation and that does seem to happen in some cases, so examples like the stress experienced by the
other with the yes in utero. Yes, it was that the yeah, the changing hormonal environment there can actually yes creates some durable effect on the expression of genes in them, yes that that that does seem to be that there or a few rare cases like that. I don't think it's worth the attention that it's been given. I prefer to reserve the word epigenetics for the ordinary process of embryology and say just occasionally there may be effects which do pass on to the next generation? Maybe the grand grandchild generation. But it's not one of these things that goes on forever. Like genetic mutation, what is the current frontier of evolutionary allergies. If you could pick one question, get an answer to what would be the on the top of your list. Well,
lake the genetics is advancing at a huge rate and is exciting because in in a way that would have delighted ninety Doman, I suspected he could have understood it, genetics has become digital and become a branch of computer science, and it's really astonishing. The way am you can interpret the whole of genetics in a sort of computer like way, and so that's giving rise to all sorts of rapid advances. Techniques of gene manipulation. Things like that. So that's the sort of most fast growing. Area remaining problems, as I say, the origin of life. The problem sex is a problem consciousness. How How does brain physiology give rise to the subjective? sensation Qualia, and this is now you're
a lighting up on my central. I know I mean this baffles me in the way that I'm not even sure what an answer would look like to that to that sort of question, but, but I think it clear does belong in the realm of biology. It is a physical problem. It's not is not a I'm going to doing this. To wanting the concerns about consciousness is that it seems conceivable to me that it's not doing anything but it's an epiphenomenon which would seem to undercut any selective, rash yes, that's right. I mean when Th Huxley, consider this. He likened it to the the whistle on on a steam engine which was just just just whistles and doesn't actually provide any propulsive power, yeah, which which it is deeply counter intuitive to people, but when you think of and and this actually brings me to topic that you and I haven't spoken much about and
You know I don't. I don't know how much you know of my thinking in this area that these are topics where I diverge pretty starkly from our friend and colleague Dan Dennett in thinking about things like free will and the nation self and consciousness, but it is obvious you physiologically, and I would are also argue it can be obvious subjectively, from in the first person side. If you pay attention, everything You are aware of everything that you are doing your thoughts and intentions and emotions and perceptions, so generated unconsciously and if consciousness is just a matter of information processing in the brain which is again not proven, but you know that's a thesis,
which I am it's going to be with him, which is a year on very firm ground. If that's your your supposition, if that is the case, then whatever consciousness is at the level of neural substrates. In our case, it's cash value causally has to be at the level of neural substrates and yes, the, which is to say that the first person side of it, the feeling about the quality of It isn't doing anything. So much of what our minds are doing is going on in the dark. At least, apparently I mean in the sense that you can't subjectively fact you you I'm talking to talk into it may be maybe, to you than either of us realize right. There may be something that is like to be the information process. In your cerebellum right now, but I can't talk to that. No and I I've known no knowledge of exactly, and so so when you survey everything you do have knowledge of this objectively, and you see that you can
yeah. I know what you're going to think next until you think it right in the thought just appears. If I ask you to think of Emile, you enjoyed right now. You've had many meals and if you pay attention to what this process is like right, so just think of a meal that you have enjoyed subjectively this experience, as you have, as candidates for inclusion kind of I kind of percolating on the the margins of consciousness. You'll. Think of all of that, you know that steak I had in Dallas that, good. But let's let you know, but there was an omelet in Paris that was also and then you settle on one. So that's the conscious qualitative side of it. You thought of the steak you thought of the omelet and again there were That was another meals, at least that you could have potentially thought of that did not appear at all so there was some kind of quasi darwinian contest happening in the dark and promoted a few candidates. You can
Subjectively know why you picked one versus the other, so you can go back and forth between them for me for an hour and a half now and you'll just finally stop on one all of this is happening. Unconsciously, yes, so what is consciousness doing quite once a day once for to quote Monty Python, and on this kind of conversation, my brain hurts, and I haven't. I can't think my way through that. I doubt that anybody else can, but that's no come such and I'm I'm at one time I was rather drone to Nick Humphries idea- that of the of what he called in a. I did because we are so intense. Social, have social species and one of the This is important things we have to do is second guess: what are they, individuals are going to do it's not like just the ordinary understanding zoom into it.
Physics and knowing that, if you drop something it'll fall innocent. Species, the other individual is going to do. Next is one of the most important things you have to do, and it's very complicated and very difficult and Humphrey's point. Is that By looking into your self introspection, you did helps you to? Second guess what your rivals, all your sexual partners or children, whatever it is predators, perhaps I'm going to do but I don't think that really gets at the philosophical. No, because a again the mental processes that accomplish that it predicted I might form about what you're going to do next is also. See the network. I know this- I it's like my being to follow the rules of grammar. You can do that without even know I there are rules of grammar once you learn detecting facial. James, and I gaze all this has happened,
Does it does it help to proceed from the idea that Everything we see is actually an internal model that we've constructed something like a but a table. I'd like the perspective on things. We have an internal model of the table which we, which we construct and Visual illusions like naked cubes, which haven't ambiguous model more the retinal image, is completely compatible. Two alternative internal mod, and so we are forced to. Choose one or the other. What we have to do is alternate between them. Does that help everywhere we go, we are receiving. Internal models which are updated I sense data which, which have been
all the time in which which are helping us to construct them or to even pull out of the filing cabinet which of our repertoire of internal models with we again, I don't really- I don't anyway in which. You couldn't come up with a form of words which, and your question of we actually need consciousness. It is possible that it is a spandrel Yes, I'd like houses whistle, yes, it is, it is not not selected for because it isn't doing anything, and we just happened to get it at some point, whether it is a file genetically, we don't know what, how far down to push it. But let's say it started with you know anything more complex than a cricket or Maybe it's just mammals, so I don't know, but it's we just may live in the universe where a certain complexity of information processing you
synonymous with the lights coming on for no good reason and again, this is this. Is subjectively mysterious because forget about crickets and forget about Lower mammals, so much of what our own brains are doing seems not to be associated with consciousness, of course, that that my zone, all of our yeah yeah, so things can get very complex and still not be associated with qualitative subjective point of view on the universe or so it would seem yes, this one's talking to my colleague, David Mcfarland, and I sort of made the point that common common enough. You know I know that I'm conscious, but I didn't know that you're, conscious and- and he said I'm not conscious rather floored me so actually a few questions on twitter for us about psychedelics, an meditation and whether you have tried either
I know the answer to that. I know the answer. The first just saw you on Joe Rogan, and I also suppose the question to you, maybe ago when we're on on stage together. I assume you have not dropped acid in the meantime haven't, I'm still kind of tempted to in a way yeah yeah. And what are your thoughts about I well since I haven't done it, I don't really have much to say, let's the day somebody who's recommending something called Micro Diss at night and and what that is even know what that really is well, that was so a micra does is just a as it sounds, a much smaller those than the water do conventional. Those so so, if you're talking about something like LSD, a full dose. Something like one hundred micrograms or beyond gives you a fairly spectacular for better or worse. Change in your phenomenology that lasts, you know ten or twelve hours. If you take one hundred micrograms of LSD. One thing is:
Guaranteed you will be feeling very unlike the status quo, within an hour or so and you'll stay that way for, like ten hours, a micro dose of LSD, something like you know, 120th of of a real doe, something like five micrograms. Give you a more or less subliminal and it it it it it's it's not nothing. I mean you, you will feel something very, very likely what gates as possible you you'll nothing other than more awake along some access that not quite the same as having a lot of caffeine, is a stimulant effect but It's pointed in the direction that you'll you may detect as being when you've been point, you don't get MIKE for bad trips. No! No! I would it be you. I think the worst case for a micro does would be something like into just feeling a little anxious like this. Do in effect, maybe handle some anxiety, yes, but
in the normal case, I would expect you to feel maybe especially clear, headed. Okay. Now I, like things like the sunlight in the room, is a little bit brighter and little more, interesting, but do you actually write a better book when you're when you're clear headed? Yeah, no, I think I think you might you know I Crito of LSD, this the only thing I've ever Michael, I would expect most people to find it car. Kind of performance. Enhancing- and this I mean it is now. I think you back with us and Silicon valley- the micro doesn't yeah okay and hence the that you have You have this meme in your head, I'm sure someone who knew someone yeah google amended that talking about Michael, doesn't well, I I said in the office trying that I would be up for trying a profit. This is well perhaps I mean I was I was tempted, but I read the doors of perception, Aldous Huxley and, I want to read that message, not not not Ellis deep breath
my cousin John Smith, is was at Silk Institute in San Diego for many years, he he, I think, actually introduced Aldous Huxley to psychedelics. That would have been backing yes and he. In one of in his book. Has his own masculine experience, which is similar to Aldous Huxley's eye offered a yes trip by a friend and I What about it? And I actually I my cousin John yeah this weather he recommended it. He said no, because of the danger of a bad trip which he said is polling that that this is not worth the risk. Here is what he said. It is a a bad trip, It is certainly appalling and there's more of a risk of a bad trip with LSD than with something like MDMA, there's tradeoffs here again, I'm not a clinician, I'm not your doctor to take take, take all of these admonitions admonition with a grain of salt, but the
truth about LSD is that it is again now measured in Micrograms right, not Milligrams, which is the normal as of a normal drug. So it's it is active in the in the the tiniest quantity and it certainly seems to be physiologically I think any argument that that LSD is is neurotoxic is and that meant no permanent effects. Right yeah I mean there's. No there's no physical risk with Ellis ok, I'm not even sure where there's any kind of lethal dose and there's you know, there's a lethal dose of water right so the costs. So there must be something between full dress and a might good as yes, your yes, so yeah, that's! So that's on the you could hand arm. I was except the prospect of having a very bad time psychologically. Is there with LSD? Yes, I could see- as I I you know, if if you ever did something like that, I would want you to do it in the presence of a proper guide. You know who who
I do with something like MDMA, otherwise known as ecstasy. There's much less of a prospect of having a bad time psychologically it in truth is not actually considered a psych like or state, doesn't change your perceptual field and all that much if at all, it's much more of a an emotional rewriting of Europe software? So, like you experience your you can experience something much more in the vein of unconditional love, which again is a can be a total e lane and transformative experience, but it's not not in the domain of of having massive perceptual Yes, or even Changes at the level of your you know: ideas, it's not it's not, some kind of on regular basis we did was like to have, but
There is a a cabbie out. Here's and again this is this- is research that has been fairly politicized and I think there is at least one academics, broad, polluting, our understanding of of the possible toxicity of MDMA ecstasy. Ecstasy, there are people, I trust now who think that, there is no evidence that is neurotoxic, but I'm just speaking from experience. It seems like it is certainly harder on your your body physiologically, there's kind of a speed component to it, and it's going to seem like something that is probably good for you physiologically, and that you would want to do this. A hundred times There are many psychedelics that introduce experiences that seem to give warrant too religious. Like these are the kinds of experiences you can have where you can read.
I understand that, in the absence of a scientific worldview or even in a more likely in the context of a is specifically mythological, you know ancient understanding of the the the forces of nature. You have an experience like this and it would seem to be a man serve datum in favor of a magical mystical. Yes, I I I could imagine that in my case, and possibly in your house, it would probably put other than make one think of anything supernatural in high it's one sort of Sagan Esque feeling of under the universe and and and looking out in glorying in the the side of a galaxy that kind of thing yeah. Well it does that, and it also can you can bring your experience into closer convergence with things we
Already understand about the nature of the mind I mean so, for instance, I so you were just referencing some the fact that your experience of the world isn't an unmediated experience of the world. What you are you are experiencing experiencing a kind of use interface, where everything is yeah yeah the table, you can touch the traffic you can see outside the window. All of this is an appearance. It is is, quite literally a vision. Yeah produced by your brain. Yes, you are, you are in your brain, in your mind, in each moment, in a stem to stern that he had this, you're you're, seeing you're talking to me. Presumably I exist, you know it's possible that you could be asleep and dreaming, and you would wake up and be surprised, yeah and even in that case the diff between being awake and having a truthful perception of some of someone who actually exists versus being asleep and just dreaming
and being in dialogue with a figment of your imagination, neurologically speaking. Those are. A similar say right and it's like just the state of being awake is just more and, as you say by the inputs, to the nervous system, he has so what you discover with psychedelics and the truth is? You can discover this with meditation as well, without taking any drug that there is a there's, an impressive range of flexibility within that space to play with the software component of your mind, which is which again is basically everything. Apart from the fact that you know, gross inputs from the outside world will have to be accounted for it, but you can change. Our experience of the world moment to moment and perhaps most importantly you can you can change your display? to react to the world to react to the thing
that you see in the things that people say, and so they get that kind of data emotional, off where you're running. You can change that to a remark degree and just feel very differently about about existence moment to moment this difference between? in Marathi ACT in Self absorbed, a narcissistic and endlessly judgmental and or being someone very, very much like Jesus, whoever he was or Buddha, whoever he was someone who's who has worked something out in terms of you know the kind of the software level of human psychology, such that you can well make sense of how they had such a transfiguring influence on the people who came into contact with them and then. And then again this comes back to the origin of religion. Then you say: okay, hear people who are
bowling, people over with their degree of personal freedom and philosophical wisdom, essential You know the wisdom of living, a good life and yet because you know science, isn't even a gleam in the eye of the smartest person I mean like you. Even you know, Archimedes doesn't have it quite at that point. All of this enshrined mathematically in the context of a worldview that is still talking about you know personal God card ruling over things or you know, reincarnation, if you're in the eastern context, and so this ain't, this perennial wisdom which gets you know, nude and refreshed and occasionally rediscovered by someone like I'll, just Huxley who actually gave us the term the perennial philosophy, to name this, it tends to come to us kind of
encumbered it been even vitiated by iron age, a superstition and taboo If you become interested in this rain, experience. If you had taken acid one thousand. Nine hundred and sixty seven with with the rest of your friends and become interested in eastern philosophy. Or you know, western mysticism. You be confronted with all with the religiosity and dogmatism and speciousness of those cultural memetics and where is what is really needed, is having a thoroughly scientific and rational 21st century conversation about the plasticity of human and just that the possibilities of living, a better life skill, how users reconcile. I mean. I know, there's a lot of stick for your for your sort of what appeared to be mystical, lead leanings and yeah it in certain in certain quarters. I rarely
Is it now, but it's absolutely we have to get out of the religion, business. There's no reason to be a boo after a Hindu or a taoist, or what you want to be as a sane human being, who understands are growing scientific worldview and in far as that extends to the human mind, you want to be part of that conversation, but the problem is that. And then this is just a very painful. Inconvenient and underappreciated. Asymmetry There was something that happened in the west that impoverished us. On this specific point of thinking about human well being and Lee in an examined life and and the prospects of using introspective methodologies there. We lost that somewhere. The time of we lost in philosophy, argue
a couple of one thousand years ago, where, if you go back to the Greeks, philosophy really was about wisdom. It was about living a good life without actually changing states of consciousness, and so the stoics and the skeptics, and even the They were essentially, mistakes are in a way I mean they were trying to achieve you know you daimon YA or Ataraxia or some state of of tranquility, where you've sought through the problems of life to a point- where your mind is now imperturbable there's no question my mind reading these guys that many of them were experiencing states of consciousness that You would experience something like MDMA or you know that the right cocktail or having practice various types of meditation. But the methodology of meditation never really got started there. As far as I can tell and then in the west we lost
Well, you know I blame abrahamic mono. Use them for much of this missile. Like that, the the only way to think about spiritual experience, a contemplative life, became very much an expression of what was happening and Judy is, Christianity or Islam, and it was explicitly dualistic and faith based and propitiatory, and you know punishment laden view of these things to which science had to react and divorce itself. And briefly, there was a moment there with people like William James, where there was a quasi contemplative effort to bring introspection into the tool kit of science right, and it is especially with someone like someone I will James, but the problem there was that there was no sophisticated tradition of in the eastern sense practicing meditation so no one had a facility for it right basically said they, when the average western intellectual would be
philosopher or she, a scientist, tries to practice introspection all they do is close their eyes and think about experience and they are unaware that there is. There is an alternative to mirror being lost in thought every moment of their lives close your eyes and you think, okay, what I meant to notice here: ok, well, here sounds and I can My body and I can't even notice that I have a brain, so that's not making much headway in the direction of neurology, right and you're left merely thinking an What meditation is
It's a way of Ayn sufficiently close attention to that process such that you begin to notice thoughts themselves as mere appearances in conscious, yeah, right and, and that's that's a critical moment which, if you can't cross that bridge and here that the car, the unique potency of psychedelics, is that for the average person who is not interested in this or is not gonna spend enough time tryin to notice all, his thoughts would you have, is a drug that basically just in a steam rolls over your habit patterns of thinking and your delivered into the arms of a very different experience and so for better or worse may again. Some of these experiences can be unpleasant, but the thing that you come away with his, and this is how, people in the West became interested meditation in the 60s, because you Richard Alpert and
we're handing out. You know the l estate, all comers and you had a generation of people who discovered that Whoever they thought they were, whatever they thought, the preview, the possibilities of living, a good life were they experienced, this period of four hours or eight hours or ten hours, a complete transfiguration of their minds and that made one thing undeniable made, it is proved beyond adventure that it is possible to a very different experience of having human mind and again, if you have you have, if you had a good trip on LSD. There's no question that many of those changes are normative. The experience of down from a good lsd trip or a good MDMA trip, or a good mushroom trip, or masculine right is very much as as you read,
MIKE I'll Huxley. The thing you are losing your purchase on something that was more true right, not just not just different There are levels of encumbrance that are re around you, your your mind and and separating you. From a clarity of vision that you before that experience, you didn't know was possible for suasive advocate I did. I did try transcendental meditation months absolutely nothing for me at all. That's not the one I would have recommended, I'm showing you I'm sure right. They gave me a mantra right and in at the same time as a lot of gobbledygook in Sanskrit. I think- and I tried this man front side shut my eyes, and I said the match myself all that it was. I heard myself saying the metric to myself and that was it and and ok. So Oh, I didn't know that I was going to do this, but
would you be willing to meditate with me for five minutes just came to explore this because There are many misunderstandings about meditation, and some of them are born of the fact that people, get recommended things like TM and that presents a real impediment, especially to a skeptic like yourself, first you're you're, given a mantra which is a sanskrit phrase, you know as an ad to explosive export from Hinduism and you're told some gobbledygook about the significance of this phrase and the first question for you as a skeptic is what's the significance of the sanskrit, and why adopt this in the first place, and what's the utility of just repeating this thing? Over and over again, and it's not to say that mantra. Meditation can't work for something, but it's there's a starting point that should strike who, I think, will strike you as totally Ical, and require
There's no faith placing in in anything the only faith really is the face of a a scientific hypothesis, which is, if there's something that's interesting, to discover about the nature of your mind in this moment. From the first person side, paying closer attention would be an appropriate method to covering that thing. So now I would just ask you to close your eyes and.
Just listen to the sounds in the room, and you can also feel your body rest in in space. Just feel the weight of your back against the share and of your hands resting on your legs.
And notice that consciousness is simply this condition in which everything is appearing so again sounds and sensations in the body and also thoughts themselves and emotions, and your background mood whether you feel restless. We're tired or happy anything you can notice is an appearance in the same condition of conscious awareness.
And take your sensation of having a body, for instance, see if you can pay close enough attention To the raw sensations themselves, such that you relinquish the shape of your body, so you might notice this with your hand, Do you feel pressure and tingling and temperature, and if you feel these raw sensations closely enough, you can actually relinquish the shape of your hands. You don't feel fingers and palm. You just feel a far more punctate and changing cloud of sensations.
And this is true of your legs and your shoulders. And though your eyes are closed, I would actually remind you that you Have a visual field. You can gaze into the darkness of your closed eyes and notice that it's not quite dark. Right there's an iridescence there. There are even some scintillating lights very likely and, as a field of view. It is actually undefined it is a kind of sky like open this, that you can just gaze into.
And every time you notice that your mind is Lawston thought you might notice thoughts competing for your attention here, just see if you can notice the thought itself unravel and come back to raw sensations in the or changes in your visual field or sounds.
And if you notice anything unpleasant, you might notice aches or pains in your body, see if you can notice just that valence of unpleasantness and just let that be as it is, their pleasant things, they're unpleasant things consciousness itself has not really changed. Consciousness is nearly the space in which all these things repairing so now normally out. I wouldn't be talking quite this much. I wouldn't be giving you so much information I just wanna get
the lay of the land here so no more discursive tour of your mind. I want you to notice that, as you pay attention to sounds and sensations, you very likely feel that you are the one who is attending right. You are a locus of attention very likely in your head. They can pay attention to the objects of consciousness in a strategic way right. So I can say I want you to feel the sensations in your hands now and as you do that, and you pay very close attention to what
Is there pressure tingling? You might feel like? You are up above your hands, your in your head, aiming attention down at the sensations, that's actually a false. Position. That is an illusion, and when you hear that meditate, in culminates in something like self transcendence or you know the the Asian at the ego is an illusion. This is where that discovery is made. There's the sense of subject object, dualism, which you can cut through.
And you can cut through it in one of two ways: you can pay such close attention to the objects of consciousness. So again, like the feeling in your hands or a sound that when you notice the next appearance in consciousness, the next sound the next sensation there can be. For that moment, just the noticing- and there can be just the pressure or just the sound impinging unconsciousness And you'll lose the feeling of there being a one who knows it she is the unity of consciousness and its object, and
experience that you could have if you've just pay close enough attention, two sensations and sounds or even thoughts, but you can also look for this sense of self directly. You can look for the sense of that there's a subject in the head and that Can seem somewhat paradoxical, but you can do it and actually fail to find it in a way that is conclusive, so that then consciousness really seems to be without a a subject in the head. You know there is no homunculus up there aiming attention at things. And so I just kind of point you to wear that discovery would be had.
So you might notice that you feel like you are as a subject as a locus of consciousness in your head right now, and so that means you're behind your face. So it ask you to feel the sensations of your face right now feel Whatever it is in consciousness, that tells you that you even have a face again feelings of pressure or tightness or temperature, and you might also feel that You have the back of your head right. How is it that you know that there's a back to your head, so you can feel that closely.
And you might alternate again to the feeling of her face as you do that I would point out that from the point if you have consciousness, you are not behind your face. And you're not in front of the back of your head right. Both of these things are merely appearing in consciousness, the only evidence of having a face or having ahead our sensations now appearing in consciousness. This doesn't mean that consciousness isn't a product of your brain again, I'm talking purely from the first person side,
Is there not metaphysical claims about consciousness, subsume in the entire universe, but I'm saying from the point of view of consciousness, empirically from the experience side of what it's like to be you? Anything you can notice, including, feeling of having a head is simply appearing in consciousness in this moment, so consciousness is a prior condition. And if you keep dropping back into what that feels like just this open space in which everything is appearing.
You can notice that it doesn't feel like a self. It doesn't feel like I doesn't feel like me- is simply this open and unstructured space in which the next thought the next emotion, the next intention, the next sound will appear on its own and again as you fall back into this more and more.
You can begin to notice that the concept of free will doesn't make any sense, because again, the next thought simply appears from the point of view of consciousness. There is not a direct authorship of any of this. If you have free will it should extend to many things in this space right. So, let's look for it notice. The next sound you hear notice that it just appears, and you can't decide whether or not to hear it right. You have it exactly zero freedom here, you'll either hear it or you won't. You won't be able to account for when you do hear the traffic and when you forget about it, you
hold on to one of these sounds for a moment longer than it, and so it is with the next thought right. You might have noticed. Various thoughts appear right, you might, How long is this going to go on for? Surely this is more than five minutes. Sam is banging on about this. That too just appears in consciousness. There's no place conscious witness was standing to author that thought. Now you can open your eyes what I was showing you. There is a kind of awareness, it's just called mindfulness right, which is just paying very close attention to the flow of experience, and you know- I have done retreats where all you do for eighteen hours a day. Is that pure silence for twenty four hours?
and you're spending every waking moment trying to pay closer and closer attention to the flow of conscious experience and I've met people who have spent twenty years like that in silence on retreat and I've spent. You know in my twenty. It's been close to two years like that and we come in increments of you know, one month in Fremont, I couldn't stand it yeah so now I want to hear about your experience. What were you expecting in here. That suggests that you couldn't stand into words, and I was I was giving myself and I was doing everything you said. I couldn't see the point of it. What is the experience of not seeing the point of it You're thinking right, your Savior in each of those moments were thinking and you're, not noticing that you're thinking so you'll think what's the point of this well
I was thinking. I was aware that I was thinking I think I was aware of my thoughts, so the web is thoughts came into my head. I suppose I felt it yeah man? I wasn't. I wasn't bored I was I wasn't, but I would be for twenty four hours in five minutes about my limit. I think right where you might need a microdose, or even a macro microdosing to give you the again the architecture of your doubts here. The default state for all of us is to be thinking without knowing that we're thinking and, of course we it. When asked, we have a kind of a vague awareness that were thinking a lot, so you can play I was aware of it. I was worried that I was thinking, but I couldn't really see the point of it more fine, grained description of what's happening. Is that so much continually arising and they feel like ourselves. I presume you feel, like you have a self right. You feel like
you're a subject of your experience, you're in the middle of experience. Yes, and that's what it feels like to be identified with thought the thought come up as though from behind you and seem to be you, you know, I say something and you think what does that mean That just that bit of language in the mind, what does that mean and the ad dude behind at the end of the emotional component of it the feeling of doubt say or uncertainty. The default status to see no space around that right consciousness is true come down to mere identity with that, and it is actually somewhat analogous to being uh been dreaming right, except when we're sleeping dreaming. We are totally confused about our circumstance, but we are safely in our beds, but we are
psychotic Lee. I go insane yeah you're you're completely you're psychotic. Yes, the only difference between being psychotic and being asleep and dreaming as that. Happily, your mo star system is suppressed and you can't get up and act out these delusion. But you are talking to people who aren't there who are dead exactly yeah, so in waking life are default. State is impressively like that in the sense that we're talking to ourselves in a way often implies a structure. I a dualistic structure to the conversation that is frankly bizarre and there's a discursive itty that we have internalized, that is is in many respects at a conversation between the eye and the main, and neither of them are there. Let's say: I'm packing up get out of here and I'll look around from my phone, and I made you actually internalize, the voice of my own mind, I might say where's my phone now
I know I'm looking for my phone, who am I talking to so there's a superfluous nahs to much of what we say to. So as not to say, there's no utility thinking, I mean obviously mode. You know almost everything that makes us human requires our ability to think and plan. But if you persist. In the methodology. I was just introducing you to you begin to notice this kind, white noise of the automaticity of thought, and you begin to notice that consciousness, is a larger space in which ultimately thoughts themselves can be. Recognized as they arise as just appearances in consciousness, and then you begin to feel that there's a very different able, the thought I that can actually be no implication. So then, I thought that norm they would lead to anxiety just see it arise and pass away,
It has no more implication for your state of mind. Then, my speaking, the words that would produce anxiety. You know in me out loud to you and you just hear them when you're. Sing to me speak now, you're hearing my thoughts externalized. They don't feel like your thoughts you're, not defining your conscious states and you could. You could create a similar relationship to your own thoughts in a way that first one gives you just at least one more degree of freedom where you can decide. You can literal decide Ok, how long do I want to be angry for my something I'll make angry you'll be thinking. The thoughts that seem to be in urging anger and then you notice this. Kindling of emotion based on this and you're having with yourself, and you can actually just decide to. Let yes you'll. Finally, coming on too I mean I was going to say that but I've. How do you say I found philosophically interesting, but I didn't really see the point: where did it get?
no not talking about. Where does get you and I sort of but imagine that I'm not sure I could imagine spending ten years doing it. Twenty four hours I mean did I thought it was worth it I'd rather get on with thinking about something. So I'm not saying that there's not more to do in life, but when Recognize that your experience of well being. Each moment, and even the well being you might experience in the process of writing a book and, in the you know, yeah knock on effects having written it and now it now then talking to an audience that has read it. What you have in each moment is just consciousness in its contents. The default state for all of us is, to be merely identified with thought and therefore we are the mere hostage of whatever those thoughts happen to be so, if you're thinking the thoughts that would make you anxious, or embarrassed or regretful or judgmental way, they'll be
absolutely no daylight between those and you are a captivity to those states of mind, and it will last as long as it lasts in your case, based on the whims of you know whatever is happening in your environment which arose after what you're saying, maybe totally irrelevant. I was somebody made. It want to be with a horrific suggestion that when you have a certain kind of anesthetics every beagle people operated on it doesn't actually stop you feeling the pain and just makes you forget it now suppose that were true right that that would make me feel horrified the thought of going into an operation, because I thought I did which will be tortured for six hours and even though I forget about it, but then on the uh and if I forget about it completely, then it would. I would no more be suffering then, if I think about somebody else being being.
And it is somebody else's pain, yeah. Well, this on to the fascinating and paradoxical question of personal identity? and and what suffices to make it true that you are the same person exactly who you were yesterday and what just what psychological continuity means and there are genuine paradox- is there I don't know, did you did you ever know Derek Parfit? He was at Oxford. Did you spend time with him Not a lot, I met him a couple of times. I liked him enormously or fascinating Passover. Yes, he did. You know what I consider the most interesting word on this topic, yeah he actually arrived by his own lights. You know, I think, totally uninfluenced by Buddhism at a very buddhist you of upper
my daddy and and the nature of the self which you can our listeners can find in in his book reasons and persons, which I really think it's a masterpiece. But the point of all this get to your. Your main doubt is that consciousness in and of itself in the midst of any experience is Truly free of the usual problems and and sense of suffering and struggle, we go through life with most of the time, even in the mist Classic Lee negative experience once you know how to meditate once actually no we've discovered and again. The language here is confusing, because meditation really isn't a thing you're doing it's a thing, you're ceasing to do your ceasing to be distracted by thought. Each moment and you're then left with whatever is appearing in consciousness. Sound sensations thoughts themselves.
In the end. It's actually not a practice. It's it's! It's just just a recognition of the code, the nature of of mine in each moment, but once you have the capacity to make that record, mission? Then you can be in the midst of a classically negative XP so you can be- xtremely nauseated and about to vomit you've caught a bad case of the flu or food poisoning. So everything about your sensory experience is basically unpleasant in that And you can recognize that consciousness is the condition in which all of these negative appearances are appearing. An at the most basic level. It doesn't take the shape of those experiences. I mean these these then become like images in a mirror, with a mere isn't deformed by the ugliness that his it's reflecting in that moment and, in fact, has on some of the no pref
for beauty or ugliness rise. Just the mirror is just that kinda, the luminous condition in which anything could be reflected. So, paradoxically, you can be totally free of suffering, even in the midst of extreme unpleasant experience that you in in a moment of being identified with it would be desperate to change, Is there somebody else's experience experiencing nausea or not? Not you or it off onto onto another, well, but there there is no one in the first place right. There is just this open space, much which appearance subjectively appearing subjectively. It's like. What's the good of cutting, the illusion of the self in the head, it's that it opens the door to a kind of tranquility and equanimity. You don't have to permanently inhabit an in you're very likely, no matter how much you practice won't permanently and inhabit, but you can find it whenever can remember to find out if you are experiencing an unpleasant knows it or something like that,
Can you immediately get rid of the of the of it or do you have to start meditating mean while you pee? no, you can immediately get rid of the sense that your well being is contingent upon anything. About your experience, changing it so like so I mean the paradox. You can be completely at peace, even in the presence of extreme nausea or extreme pain. The consciousness as aware of Nausha is exactly the same consciousness. That's aware of the most pleasant taste you've ever right. So it's so meditation that as such as as a training is just be coming, more familiar with what consciousness is like before it gets entangled by thought and before you react to the positive or negative valence of experience grasping at woods, positive or pushing what's negative away is just a direct search for tranquilla
and again the ancient Greeks were talking about this in their own way. They just didn't seem to have much of a methodology for training attention they just they were kind of arriving at it by philosophical, I'm tempted and skeptical at the same time right. This is why, many of us, and I I'm included required psychedelics to have our doubts. Cancel because I get so you're left thinking why I won if there's a there there, but the one thing that is, that a good acid trip or MDMA trip would prove to you and again they're they're, very different, but they would prove to you in in a similar degree that there's a pause, live range of experience? I mean their feelings of well being that are not contingent upon. Any Change in the world, apart from a change in your capacity to attend to the world that is really at the left, attention, because of what you're doing with your mind moment to moment that are totally transformative
the value level of what is good about in a live in what is good about, and you know having a mind in the first place, but does okay so to come back to earth here and on a topic dear to your heart. So just tell me and our listeners what you're doing now with respect to the efforts your foundation, an emerging with the center for inquiry, my foundation, most of the central inquiry about two or three years ago, and our director Robert blood and became the director of the whole enterprise, I mean we. We stand for reason and science and secularism. There is practice Things were doing at the moment are well we're. Conducting a lawsuit against homeopathy Who just wants to for well
some shops that sell homoeopathic medicines alongside legitimate test. Medicines as though they wanted no difference between them. So you we would have no objection to having an aisle, labeled, homoeopathic medicines, but In fact, they have an unlabeled coughs or flu or and their mingled among the real man and the only traffic medicines have sort of fancy sounding names, so it's impossible, hell yeah, so the and I'm I think, is where all that all that sound- and I mean him the it is a good one to pick because there may alternative medicines at work, in which case you there seems to be alternative, but who me up with. Not only it doesn't work, it cannot work cause. The dosages are young They say that the more dilute it is, the more the more effective it gets, which means that ultimately mean James, ran calculated that the most effective those of according to homeopaths is one in which there's one molecule in a volume of water,
volume of the solar system right right hence the joke that you took. Nothing at all and died of. Never do it exactly so. That's one thing: another thing is well. There are two things related to the islamic world. One of them is the translation project, where we are providing free of charge fs which can be downloaded in Arabic, Urdu, Farsi, Indonesian, like God, delusion another lusion magical real at forget, which other ones maybe the magic of reality, and maybe like I forget, which ones they are. Do you come knocking on your door and you'll? Actually, so the do you know
save a motor. Yes he's doing the same thing. Yes, ma'am he's done. That was some of my books. Yes, I do yes, the on board, but I think it's and it's very important because I get you know our our project started with the astonishing fact which we were told that a bootleg arabic translation of the God delusion is being downloaded. Thirteen the end times, you're amazing and that's very encouraging, and I do I expect you also get the whisperings of of of encouragement from places like Egypt and the on. Saudi Arabia and IRAN that there is a sort of groundswell of anti religion in those places. So that none of the projects. Another one is secular rescue, which is an attempt to provide a sort underground railway to rescue bloggers, atheistic bloggers in places like Bangladesh and Pakistan
so so the? What is that when, when you say, rescue what it's not exactly Escotet Pimpernel type driving and sees carry them off. It's more is sorting out legal problems visa. And right and that's great, safe, safe houses to go to and that kind of thing and that's I think saved. Actually, it's quite a lot of literally saved lives. So those are the kinds of things that do happen to be doing at the moment, but really anything that involves the fostering of reason and science objective truth, which is really necessary. Just at the moment, is measured in America and Britain, Ann
I sort of feel that more than ever in this country under Trump, we do need to fight for objective truth to fight for science and climate change. Mural Anti Vax is all these sorts of things which are politically highly charged in which in which scientifiques Reason is at the forefront of the battle yeah. It was a it somewhat strange because Trump has totally eclipsed and now speaking personally, my CERN about theocracy in the US right. I, the machinations of christian fundamentalists, are, as far from my mind as possible and in fact eat my hoping for his impeachment. Is it synonymous with my hoping that a proper theocrat MIKE Pence
Then he brought into the oval office right and then I think, hopefully would reactivate the rest of my brain, where I would realize that start with something and narcissistic fool yeah, but it so it's it's. It's like their problems, bigger than religious dogmatism, which is together, oh no yeah the rank madness of a dysregulated mind yes, but we're living in an environment now where people have become so cynical around the nature of facts. Writer, even at that the prospect of having a fact based discussion and some people just seem happy to be fed tribal to lose things that are they view as supportive of their side. So it's just like people, traffic and conspiracy theories that I'm even sure they believe just because they just want to clog the airwaves with yes with these tribalism is very important, and I think so often people believe, something not because they've seen the evidence, because our tribe believes that
near there. Try believe doesn't doesn't believe that sin bill mind had a good thing about the Trump the Trump at only about me motivated by visceral hatred of liberals mean you know the They just lose us and it doesn't help when we do things like when I say, and we have in our side of things like D platform, people for Islamophobia and that kind of stuff that that just feeds into the the hate, the hatred yeah no doubt, and I've spent almost as much time Worn by the left as the right I know so- dysfunctional, it's and dysfunctional, and if for no other reason, that seems guaranteed to give us four more years of trump, and can populism in Europe and yes, yeah I really fear with where our own worst enemies and feeding into there there. He Well, there are many more questions Richard, but now I realize I've kept you for a good long, while
is there anything that we haven't touched? You want, I don't think says, been fascinating and do you want to whinge about Brexit, for minutes or anything. I do too much of that. I'm still from that date. What happened? I think I think, what we might be good. I think quite like here that we're going to have a second referendum, really someone say first referendum, because the because the other one was no problem. Know what is be like people won't be what is brexit after right, so little referendum where people actually? No? No, I don't think we should. I don't believe in referendums at all actually, but I found a com, Craigslist issue like joining the not leaving the European Union is a matter of great economic, sophistication. We should not be left ordinary, ordinary people like me, but, given that we Is it the first time the only way to get out of it to do it? The second time- and I very hopeful that that's good,
and- and that seems like I haven't- kept up with the not a lot like he's putting strongly, but but I think it's when simple, and I mean and and more than just possible I mean, and it do you think the outcome would be different. Yes, I do now that people have seen, or are there other polls now that yes put that role right yes, yet to put postage, Is that remain, would win now right, interesting, alright! Well, listen! It's pleasure to see you, it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen enough. So likewise, yes, yeah. Thank you very much for coming to in right now, they're on yeah yeah, the pleasure is mine, Okay, well as I said, there's a reason why many of us required lever of psychedelics two first pry open our minds,
Honestly, I don't know what I would have thought had some, introduced me to meditation without Having had the experiences I had with psychedelics? If you don't have a reference point for scene how different the mind can be, nature of your attention to the present moment. Changes it's hard. I'd like to say a few things about skepticism with respect the project of meditation because it can be easy to fall into doubt about the practice before. Has had any real insight that seems durable and useful first you notice is that meditation as a concept is Quite obviously contaminated with religious origins, There are good reasons to be skeptical about organized religion, Certainly good reason to be skeptical that any previous gen
rations, especially any generation. That appeared thousand years ago had a perfectly clear picture. Of what's going on in the universe and how should live within it, so skepticism is the right attitude? Surely respect to any ideas. We've inherited in more recent years, meditation has become associated with incense and crystals, and TAROT cards and everything you find in a spiritual bookstore. It's also been more recently, a group of celebrity endorsements and. Its adoption among tech ceos, and indeed Its inclusion in as of the sort that I've reduced with the waking you up And these associations can suggest that it is me trendy or other superficial here's the sexual starting point. I would recommend to you, which I think uh
through any skepticism. If you want to see whether there any interesting discoveries to be made about nature, of your own mind directly from the first person side. It makes sense to pay more attention to it. Whatever we want to know more about pain, more attention is always the method and the mome. Did you try to pay attention to your direct experience, the discover that it's prize in difficult to do and that be interesting to you now grant in the very beginning. You might not notice that that's your condition, you might be under the illusion that you can spend minutes. The time pain on just attention. The provided that you can make this initial discovery and rec. Is that your mind is out of control that should interest you if for no other reason than the character,
that distraction? So much the time is painful. What do you think? you're spending all your time. Thinking about you must a vague sense that this can't be ideal condition to be in so they promise here Is that there's something to discover about nature of your own mind that lead directly to the mitigation of psych. Logical suffering as close to other insights that are actually and ethically interesting the only thing you need concede to get started is that If there were something discover here the way to find out is to pay more careful attention and uh something that you notice that this is not true, fault state. Your default state rather is to be thinking without knowing that you're thinking and then either interest you or not. You can
really proceed very much in this open, explorer or a scientist simply paying attention on the chance that there's something of interest to see, and with that I will leave you until next time. If you fine, spike podcast valuable? There are many ways you can support it, you can review it on Itunes or Stitcher or wherever you happen to listen to it. Share it on social media. With your friends blog about it, is on your own podcast or you can support directly and you can do this by subscribing through my website at SAM, press dot, org and find subscriber only content, like my ask me episodes as well the bonus questions from any of these interviews. You'll also get advance tickets to my live events you'll, find all of these things and more at SAM Dot, Org, and Thank you for supporting the show listener
Transcript generated on 2019-11-06.