Like most mammals, we develop a strong personality exceedingly young for survival reasons. Upon waking we must be able to act as an organism not retarded or driven mad by our sleeping dream; in our evolutionary past, we especially had to be able to act at once if we were attacked while we rested or dozed. In evolutionary terms, fear of predation alone is all the philosophic proof any human needs against solipsism; no hunter-gatherer who survived genuinely believed that their egocentric-subjective mind created the constant danger sleep represented from hungry animals, lecherous fellow tribe-members and other tribes.
Personalities aren’t regenerative, they’re organic/genetic and once broken can seldom be fixed. If severely psychologically damaged, likely, it’s been done by cultural oppression, sexual brutality and/or physical abuse; beyond the hunter-gatherer stage, it is affected by the society, church, and most often by exploitive parents, especially ideological or fundamentalist ones. We come into our personalities from sleep time in a such a fashion as to rule out this dangerous self-absorption that the dream is real or that indeed all of life is in fact but a dream. Solipsism is the belief that ultimate reality is based on us and no adjustment/accommodation to the external world is possible. The claim that there’s a riddle about whether we know we’re dreaming or not is easily answered. Complete subjectivity presents real present danger, so we endeavor to be objective, especially after dreaming. Being so subjective we can’t achieve complete objectivity, but to survive we must try.
Despite what some philosophers claim, this form of nihilistic speculation (solipsism) can be refuted and rejected. In souls, minds, shelves—whatever we want to call agency—there is an instinctual reasoning tool, a sort of commonsense metaphysics so that the tribe wasn’t ever destroyed while philosophizing. The tribe members are in the same standing in regards the mind-brain dichotomy and any member who practiced this kind of destructive self-containment would become anathema to all, be avoided, ostracized and certainly perished; in other words, the belief would be lethal and was weeded out in evolutionary time. It is why when we hear philosophers defend solipsism as impeccable and/or irrefutable, we shake our heads. It is a crazy thing to regular folks. Metaphysical reasoning via Bayesian assumptions have been at work in humans probably before we became self-aware and now science adjusts this process to make it far more accurate; however, in the beginning such a psychopathic view would have been an actual danger to the tribe’s survival: either the view that a person couldn’t be trusted to uphold every tribe member’s humanity or that one person’s belief in egocentricity would lead to cheating and inequality inside a unit which practiced strict unforgiving equalitarianism, the same kind of comraderie we often feel when we are in our peer groups as teenagers.
Behind every self is a mind who seeks the external world. What we can assume of it, we can verify or refute with the tools of reasoning, i.e., logic, deduction, induction, mathematics, science, etc. This applies equally to other personalities. The philosophic view that there are only personalities and that they’re inaccessible to one another isn’t true. Our knowledge of the external world in which we evolved to comprehend and which our science has refined, is valid in the same fashion for all humankind. The study of people isn’t an inference when billions of people are here to analyze, to say nothing of the tens of billions long gone. We can draw conclusions.
Furthermore. We can rule out certain human testimony; we’re exaggerators, constructivists and outright liars. We’ve good reason to be skeptical of claims without verification. If we sincerely believe that unicorns can fly, we might well witness flying unicorns. These are phenomena of non-skeptical minds. People who believe in the supernatural are more likely to believe in UFOs, ghosts, the paranormal and other forms of fantasy; their threshold to belief is low. These events appear to the mind as a huge subjective self-created mystical/conceptual event and not as a direct sober apprehension of the really-real which with some effort we could realize many events as a scientific impossibility. Skeptics don’t see ghosts for the same reason that atheists aren’t easily drawn into cults.
What as spectators we were obliged to check centuries ago, and what we are duty-bound to check now in 2022 is different in kind. Information is almost free. Knowledge requires only the payment of hard work. Unlike yesteryears, you aren’t entitled to believe what you want. If you can’t prove you were visited by aliens, you must refrain from your belief. If they land tomorrow and shake the hand of President Biden, doing a press conference on the steps of the White House, your story becomes more plausible though not necessarily true. Are you so important among 7 billion people that Jesus, Muhammad, the angel Gabriel or ET come to you personally and not to everyone else? If you see ghosts, you’ve a conduit to the other world. If you can read the future, but live in poverty; you’re our savior. If you’re a brilliant avatar, but modest enough to read only the holy books, you’re courageous beyond mere mortals.
The gig is up. Flying saucers can’t make you important, nor banshees or talking snakes, only earnest honest mental labor, learning the facts and relaying the stone-cold sober information so that we may all thrive together. You’re overweight, smoking, under-motivated, over-spent and looking for a addiction to equal your pain that you might find some solace. Get out of your funk; give those bibles to the wastebasket and pick up, The Primal Blueprint, Wheat Belly, Grain Brain, The Paleo Diet, Salt Sugar Fat, Warrior Diet, Why We Get Fat, Fat Chance, Omnivore's Dilemma, The Vitamin D Solution, Fast Food Nation, The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living, Death By Food Pyramid, and Big Fat Surprise. Earn a life in the modern world – there are thousands of brilliant books – none of them guaranteed by divine inspiration or inexorable inevitable economic laws.
As a primate we see the flat earth and the hot yellow ball in the sky (in some sense both illusions); then as a social primitive being, we see Mother Earth and the Sun God. The thinking individual is set aside from the collective. He/she creates things, that is, mostly ideas. Our progress has been on her/his back. It has been paid for in their blood. Behind every collective is a god who roars against them. We look at our mortality, and quake, “This can’t be all there is.”
Recently an archaeological site in in Virginia, United States, was uncovered and it was soon realized that the human buried remains were some where between 18,000 and 20,000 years old: that's some 16,000 swirls around the sun before God thought to send out all these Euroasian prophets like Jesus, Buddha, Confucius, Hindu's many founders, Muhammad, Zoroaster, Mani and all the hundreds of others to save us from ourselves. Evolution made atheism irresistable to modern reason and science, but in a funny and ironical way as well.
The lonely voice of humankind stretches out into the night and his reason creates religion. The collective and the individual are at odds. Our personalities find this conflict hard to reconcile. Unsupportable faith is better than permanent death; better to suppress the voice of reason. They say that a good soul will avoid it at all costs. Wishful thinking gives us comfort, but with a price-tag of having to embrace the irrational. This is our plight: our minds need an arbitrator and will take any instrument except reason as the judge. However, reason, like love is the only real treasure. Trouble is that we’ll create a hell rather than give up the idea of a heaven; perhaps the time has come to cast off illusion, accept reason and learn to live with earthbound mortality. If we did, I think we’d be less likely to spare ourselves our myths and thus we would live a better life.
Note: After hearing one of my many public scoffs about faith, a work acquaintance responded that that couldn't be all there is: "People who commit suicide are without a belief in some form of God." I walked away with an appreciation for Canadian gun laws; just joking (maybe). Oh where did you read that, pray tell, I wondered? You didn't read it to be sure, did you? You don't read books as a matter of habit, do you? Some preacher-buffoon or internet twerp said that. You didn't think it for yourself. Independent thought only develops after much reading and long bouts of conceptual contemplation. People are idiots by their own design (just read the Secret). Faith is piffle, and today, belief in the supernatural is the exact definition of unintelligent design, like Deepak Chopra and Masaru Emoto.
Second Endnote: Sometimes when I reflect on that young boy who was making promises in prayer to become a good person all those years ago, I realize that it was nearly my sole preoccupation of the interior monologue of my childhood: the backyard commitment as I played as a child alone or with my cluster of sisters and brothers, the visits to church with my family, the rigorous exercise with youth hockey, baseball and basketball leagues, and swimming, dancing and so much else. I cannot say with assurance that I can capture that exact self, yet he seems after all these many years to be still there. To become a good person as an atheist is a treacherous path filled with danger and regret; and I will tell you why. If you have a relationship with the supernatural supreme being, usually one of his famous minions will supply you with a code you can unquestioningly follow; however, if you’ve at some point grown up intellectually and rejected your imaginary friend for something more difficult . . . then you have arrived at 'Goodness' through self-education and kindness in your serendipity moral adventure.
© 2022 - E. A. St. Amant