Adonis Diaries

Let’s experiment on: “What do I know about the universe and life?”

Posted on: November 26, 2010

Whether we admit it or not, every person has constructed a mental model of how he views the universe and life.  For example, was the universe created, is it infinite, is it timeless… and what is life, the purpose of life, what happens after death, is there a soul, what happens to the soul, is the soul individual or a collective soul…?

Since antiquity, philosophers have been discussing and reasoning on the following matter:  “Do mankind enjoys an innate general spirit (regardless of ethnicity, culture, gender…) that expresses how he views the construct of the universe, or it is an individual learning process relevant to the manner the various sensory organs observe nature and people and organize the information”?

The hypothesis is:  Do people with sensory handicaps (blind, deaf…) extend the same kind of subjective understanding of the universe and life as “normal” people do, across all ethic cultures with oral and written myths and traditions?

First, we need baseline stories on “What do I know about the universe and life?” from “normal” people with “normally” functioning sensory organs (vision, audition…).  The baseline stories should be captured from varieties of ethnic cultural entities in the five continents, privileging the oral cultures with no recognized written documents and minority cultures with written cultures but not read or disseminated universally.  The baseline stories must discriminate between genders (between group factors) and the ethnic stories within each gender groups. The baseline stories must discriminate among the stage of maturity of the storyteller (young, adult, middle age, and older people).  The baseline stories must discriminate among the literacy levels of the subjects (such as they read and write in one language, read only, and only orally literate subjects).  Thus, the team of experimenters must be trained to adequately record answers and stories in uniform fashion.

The next phase of the experiment is gathering stories of sensory handicapped people in the above ethnic and gender groups (blind, deaf…)

We may extend this experiment by artificially handicapping a normal subject by preventing him to see or to hear while resuming his “normal” live for a period.  Do you think that his mental model of the universe might be altered significantly?

Another extension may be involving normal sensory subjects but with different mental capabilities and limitations (over developed or under developed brain powers).  This experiment would answer the question: “Are reading and listening to stories generate different types of observational data due to further brain processing mechanisms?”

The most essential preparation for the experiment is the designing of an exhaustive questionnaire with exhaustive options to educating the subjects on the varieties of viewpoints and myths.  For that purpose, the questionnaire will be tested on many preliminary samples of ethnic cultures in order to catch and collect the varieties of relevant options, sort of exhaustive compendium on the different myths and mental models.  I would recommend that the design requires every question to be answered; this means that those logical procedures of demanding the subject to skipping several questions, as in filling tax formes, be eliminated:  We should not fall in the bias of enforcing our rational logic on oral culture ethnic groups and the illiterates.

It is advisable that follow-up oral stories accompany answering the questionnaire; then, another follow-up written story be attached to the oral story.  The written story would condense the individual story into a comprehensive and coherent story after the preceding two educational sessions.  The teams of trained experimenters would have to fill the initial questionnaire with the new information generated by the oral and written stories; missing information can be filled by default, using the original questionnaire for each subject.  Thus, data analysis can be conducted on the two questionnaires: the before learning process and the after learning process of the mental models.

I find it interesting that, after the written story, the subject would give his opinion on the current theories of astrophysicists on the universe in order to checking the cohesion and compatibility of the subjects in their perception of the universe.  For example: what they think of the theory that this universe is the product of a collision between two universes; that a universe revolves around each black hole; that what we see is a simulated universe of a matrix universe; that the sky is a wall on which the image of the stars and galaxies are projected onto it (a universe as hologram); that the universe keeps changing every time we observe it…  Do you think that you might change your view if a theory (coming from an astrophysicist) impresses you?

The spontaneous suggestion is “why not ask a subject to telling his story before answering a questionnaire? At least we can have an original version, unbiased by constructed questionnaires.”  This suggestion is pertinent if it is feasible to nudge a subject to start telling a story without a prompt sheet containing the necessary lines of thoughts to guiding the subject in the endeavor; the prompt sheet must be devoid of any biased suggestions.  In any case, I believe that devising such a prompt sheet is necessary, even if not applied in the experiment, in order to get the questionnaire developed and cleaned of idiosyncratic allusions and local imageries.

The experiment is complex and will need to be subdivided in meaningful stages of shorter experiments; it is time intensive and for a long duration; it requires training of large teams of researchers and experimenters.  Preliminary experiments would show the best ways of experimenting piece meal this vast project.

Note 1:  I tend to include materials we read and stories we heard as sensory inputs since they are processed by the brain, at various levels, as sensory observations.

Note 2: Many scholars present the view that what we actually sense are in fact “processed observations”, and not the raw sensed data, since all sensing observations are data processed by the brain at different levels of manipulations. Good enough: We are dealing with what mankind is observing; that is what is available to forming a coherent structure of the universe and the environment we live into.  The follow-up lesson is:  Other reasoning species must be viewing the universe differently since their senses have different capacities and limitations and their brain structures are different from mankind.

Note 3:  The essential question that the previous experiment might offer an answer to is:  “If an individual is handicapped in one or more sensory organs then, by reading or listening stories, can his brain re-establish what normal people comprehend of the universe?”

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adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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