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EB Ver Hoeve's picture


It seems only natural that, when presented with a concept like constructed reality, people are going to have varied reactions.  I mean for example, if I was to tell my grandma that reality does not exist and there is no real way to determine “what is out there” since everything is constructed by our brain, she would probably cry!  If anything, training in neuroscience should ease the transition into accepting the concept of shared subjectivity.  As reflected in the forum postings and discussion, it isn’t an easy thing to just accept and move on from.  The most significant way that I think we were affected by this discussion was in its question of practical implications and usefulness both for us as scientists and as human begins.  It’s an interesting and intriguing discussion, but like Sasha said, when it comes right down to it, does it really matter that we cannot objectively see and objectively interpret our world?  And like Sara said, how do we negotiate our role as scientists?


I don’t know the full answer to those questions and I think it would probably be useful to continue that discussion.  However, the discussion did get me thinking and today when I was thinking about what I wanted to say in the forum, I decided that I wanted to talk about Avatar.  I am guessing most of us have seen the movie, but if you haven’t, well, you should probably just go ahead and do that.  When David posted, “should we accept the validity of the healing properties of dances and rituals?” I immediately thought about the rituals that happened at the Tree of Souls.  No matter how powerful the tree, if we placed someone who was dying beneath it, we would not expect the tree to give off healing powers.  We don’t believe in magic. But I think that IS where the idea of shared subjectivity comes into play because if we had a set of observations that demonstrated it was possible, we would begin to believe.  Further along in the movie we learn that the “tree” does not fit our definition for your average Willow.  The Tree of Souls is connected to the neural network for all living things on Pandora.  The interesting part is, although that concept is outside our shared subjectivity, it isn’t actually that far outside our understanding of a tree with its connection to the earth, soil, animals, air, etc.  I think this relates to bkim’s comment about how culture affects not what we see, but how we see it.    


And I think all I am trying to say with this is just that yes, as humans, the concept of shared subjectivity is useful because it widens our narrow understanding of right versus wrong.  If reality isn’t stagnant it can be changed, it can be altered, and it can be improved. Just because we don’t have a certain set of observations now doesn’t mean it could never be gathered.  Still, I agree with Sasha and others who acknowledged that the reality we have created, especially for us as scientists, has been extremely beneficial in allowing us to learn and expand our understanding.  So how does it all connect?  



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