Saturday, May 17, 2014

Daryl Gregory on Investigating the Numinous

Over at, Daryl Gregory explores the concept of the numinous from a hard-SF viewpoint. He jumps off from Barbara Ehrenreich's essay in the New York Times.

Gregory's core quote:

But that profundity, that quality of realness, is also just a feeling. If one of the symptoms of the numinous was that it felt “fake,” as some visual hallucinations do, neither Ehrenreich nor anyone else would be lobbying for pursuit of external intelligences.

The brain, after all, is lying to us all the time, about things great and small. It edits our sense of time so that neuronal events that reach the brain at separate times seem to occur simultaneously. It makes us see patterns in random noise. And, in its finest deception, it makes us think that there’s a self behind our eyes that’s steering a body around, an illusion so pervasive and natural-feeling that it makes the numinous look like a cheap card trick.

He also links to Ross Douthat's response to Ehrenreich, which leads me to say something I never thought I'd say: Ross Douthat makes more sense than Barbara Ehrenreich (at least on this narrow topic).

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