Mar 10 2011

A Word on Intuition

What is intuition? I won’t resort to a dictionary definition of the word – that’s not what I am interested in. I want to know what it really is – what is the operational definition?

OK – so here’s a dictionary definition:

a. The act or faculty of knowing or sensing without the use of rational processes; immediate cognition. See Synonyms at reason.
b. Knowledge gained by the use of this faculty; a perceptive insight.
2. A sense of something not evident or deducible; an impression.

You see – this definition is vague and nonsensical. There is a big difference between “knowing” and “sensing”. Perhaps “believing or believing that you know something” would be better. The second definition is better because it does not imply knowledge.

Intuition is defined by what we experience – coming to a belief or guess or hunch, without being aware of the specific cognitive processes that got us there. But the definition does not involve any conclusions about the nature of the process itself. This leaves the definition wide open to interpretation.

As a neuroscientist I know that there are available neurological explanations for intuition. We are only aware of a small portion of our brain’s information processing. Much of that processing is subconscious – but the results of that processing are sometimes presented to the conscious part of the brain. We may experience this as an answer leaping to our conscious minds, seemingly out of nowhere. When the information is mundane, like where you placed that latest issue of Skeptical Inquirer while you are on your way to the bathroom, we take such experiences for granted. Sometimes we may consciously try to remember where we placed it – retrace our steps. But at other times the answer pops into our heads while we are thinking about something else.

This happens on a daily basis. What was the name of that actor in that movie? Then, five minutes later, while the conversation has moved on to something else and you are actively engaged in thinking about another topic, the name “Colin Firth” pops into your head and you blurt it out. What was happening in your brain during those five minutes? The massively parallel processing of your brain was still searching for matches, subconsciously, and when the face and the name finally crossed neurons, the match was sent to “the global workspace” – that part of the brain that is your stream of conscious awareness.

To me – that it intuition. It is information processing (mostly pattern recognition) in the subconscious parts of your brain that then gets presented to your conscious self. This can even involve complex problem solving. I have experienced this as well – that “eureka” moment when an answer or perhaps just an idea comes into your mind, seemingly fully formed. The eyes go wide, and you are almost giddy with the nugget you have just been given.

Intuition might also refer to another neurological process – not subconscious information crunching, but emotions. We evolved to make snap judgments and to have immediate gut reactions to people and situations. Here the processing is very much subconscious, but in deeper and more primitive parts of the brain. Emotions evolved to do some of our thinking for us- – to make cold and calculating Darwinian decisions about survival and reproduction. When we find ourselves attracted to mate we are generally not aware of all the biological cues to which our monkey-brains are responding. We are responding to cues that convey health, breeding, and resources. We are not thinking, “this person will maximize my reproductive success,” but our primitive brains are.

So intuition is also a feeling that we get. This type of intuition is closer to instinct – evolved automatic responses. We then rationalize these feeling to minimize cognitive dissonance and make the thinking parts of our brains feel better.

In my opinion – sub-conscious processing and evolved instinct is sufficient to explain everything we experience as intuition. I do not intend to denigrate intuition – it is highly valuable. However, we should not surrender to our intuition – assume that it has some magical property or relationship to the truth. It should be treated as a valuable hypothesis, or as useful biological information. Perhaps you have a bad vibe about that person because you are picking up on subtle social cues that indicate he may be a psychopath. But it should not be viewed as a source of unimpeachable information or ultimate conclusions. You still need to engage your rational brain to check out and verify the information intuition is handing you.

The experience of intuition, however, leads some to believe that we have access to magical sources of information. It may be tempting to think that intuitive information comes from a deity, or the universe, or our psychic sense. It is also tempting to just listen to our intuition, whatever you think the source, and trust it as an excuse to avoid the hard work of rational thought. Doesn’t every Hollywood movie teach us this – don’t think, feel. Just go with your gut.

Intuition has it’s place. But it is not magic, nor should it replace rational thought.

At least that’s what I feel.

49 responses so far

49 Responses to “A Word on Intuition”

  1. Skeptical Atheiston 10 Mar 2011 at 9:23 am

    Great Post, I am glad and humbled that you said Intuition has it’s place, but I don’t know why are you so hostile to the probable existence of Psychic powers. Even if it does exist it does not indicate anything supernatural, if telepathy, precognition and whatever work, by definition if is a natural phenomenon. You also said that emotions evolved to do some of our thinking for us- – to make cold and calculating Darwinian decisions about survival and reproduction, that’s true, but our emotions have also compelled us and our highly evolved animal brothers and sisters to do amazing things, like a leopard that adopted a baboon:—saved-baby-baboon.html
    Darwinian evolution did play an important role is shaping us, but that is not all of who we are, we are also spiritual beings of love.
    Love and Peace 🙂

  2. Marshallon 10 Mar 2011 at 9:43 am

    SA – I still can’t tell if you’re a troll or not. Sure, we all aspire toward being “spiritual beings of love”–whatever that is–but we’re just not quite so damn mushy about it.

    We’re hostile to the probable existence of Psychic powers because they almost certainly don’t exist. It’s an argument from exclusion–humanity has searched far and wide for the existence of psychic powers, and they are nowhere to be found. Not only that, but every claim of psychic powers has turned out to be false.

    You’re also playing with words. Claiming “if supernatural thing X works, then it must be natural”–this is a semantic argument that doesn’t address the issue at all, and only addresses the notion of what it means for something to be natural. It doesn’t actually address the potential existence of that which we currently call supernatural. If you want to know if telepathy is possible, ask a physicist, don’t resort to wordplay.

    Your final argument about doing amazing things makes a false assumption–namely, that a cold calculating subconscious cannot result in “animal brothers and sisters doing amazing things.” Of course it can–the subconscious’s ability to make these snap judgments is amazing. Why do you think the leopard saved the baby baboon? Do you think it suddenly developed a psychic feeling of empathy, or do you think, rather, that its maternal instincts were simply duped–which is a better explanation?

  3. Skeptical Atheiston 10 Mar 2011 at 10:07 am

    Shame on you Marshal, you are saying that I said that the Leopard used Telepathy or whatever to nurse the baboon. Shame on you, shame on you.
    Most Physicists that I have spoke to are open to the possibility of Telepathy. And by the way let me just remind you what Superskeptic Richard Weisman has said about Remote Viewing : I agree that by the standards of any other area of science that remote viewing is proven.
    Now let’s have a look at what another Superskeptic Ray Hyman said : The SAIC experiments are well-designed and the investigators have taken pains to eliminate the known weaknesses in previous parapsychological research. In addition, I cannot provide suitable candidates for what flaws, if any, might be present.
    If you want to get into a debate about Parasychology bring it on, all I am saying is that I have a tremendous amount of respect for evolution and I have an open mind about Parasychology.
    We are spiritual beings of Love.
    Love and Peace to you 🙂

  4. tmac57on 10 Mar 2011 at 10:33 am

    It seems to me that the Theory of mind would account for some of what might be interpreted as having an intuition about another person.We put ourselves into the ‘shoes’ of someone else to understand where they are coming from,and what their intentions and motives might be.Some of this is probably done subconsciously,so that it might seem as though it is being derived through an unknown mechanism,especially if you are primed to view it that way.

  5. hcuevaon 10 Mar 2011 at 10:38 am

    I think people with a lot more experience (or IQ) than their peers can develop “intuition”.

    For example if a 6 year old asks you what is more: 67% of 3,832 or 79% of 825, you will be able to answer immediately.

    And you didn’t really make any calculations in your head, you just got the sense of it.

    If the kid asks how you knew the answer and you reply “well because even 50% of 3,000 is more than 100% of 900” you would be lying, you didn’t even need to make that simplified calculation in order to know the answer.

    You’d have to tell the kid “I just knew it” in order to be truthful.

    By the same token, I figure a person with an IQ much higher than mine (or with 30 years more of experience in my field) could tell me “listen, I just know this” and it’d be valid to some extent.

  6. daedalus2uon 10 Mar 2011 at 11:18 am

    SA, no “area of science” has any kind of standard for something being “proven”. Remove viewing is an extraordinary claim. There is a complete absence of any plausible theoretical explanation. Everything that is well known in physics, biology, neurology, optics, etc. (conservation of mass-energy, momentum, charge, spin) suggests that it is not possible. If anyone can do remote viewing and meet Randi’s standards they can get a $1 million payment. So far, no one has.

    As a freshman at MIT, one of the most common statements was “that is counter-intuitive”. Very often, when a freshman would not understand something immediately, they would externalize the “fault” to be in the idea. The “problem” is that the idea is counter-intuitive, not that the freshman has bad intuition that doesn’t correspond to reality. I never used that term, instead I changed my intuition until it did give me answers that corresponded to reality.

    I understand intuition as being a non-algorithmic way of integrating data and answering questions. I am using non-algorithmic in the sense that Turing Machines run algorithms, that is a defined and mechanistic way of manipulating data. Logical thinking is algorithmic in the sense that all operations are known and all operations can be analyzed. Intuition can’t be analyzed that way, just as feelings can’t be analyzed that way.

    I use my intuition as a tool, to tentatively answer questions where there is too much, or not enough data to analyze logically. When my intuition gives wrong answers, I change it. When my intuition gives me a tentative answer, I check it with facts and logic, and if facts and logic support it to a high enough degree, then (and only then) do I incorporate it into my cornucopia of knowledge.

    The problem that most (virtually all) people have with intuition is that they put too high a priority on their own intuition and then don’t change it when it is wrong. They exhibit what Einstein defined to be madness, doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. They prioritize their own intuition over the intuition of others, but also over facts and logic. Their intuition is not deriving from thinking, but instead is from feeling. It is only from feeling. It is the essence of truthy, the selfish prioritization of one’s own idiosyncratic feelings over all else.

    hceuva, I agree with you, the estimation of relative quantity is a non-algorithmic computation. The counting, or the actual calculation would be an algorithmic computation using the arithmetic algorithm. The algorithm is much more precise, but it has a larger overhead in terms of computation resources needed. I disagree that goodness of intuition correlates with IQ or intelligence. It correlates much better with intellectual honesty, and being honest with yourself is the most important (and hardest) (as Feynman said).

    People who don’t know how to implement the algorithms of logical thinking are stuck with only non-algorithmic thinking processes. I think in many cases that inability is self-generated and self-perpetuated; they don’t want to know how to think logically because then they would have to abandon their faulty intuition, and like the MIT freshmen have too much of their ego tied up in their narcissistic view of their feelings and intuition, so they compartmentalize to keep facts and logic away from their feelings.

  7. mufion 10 Mar 2011 at 11:29 am

    Marshall said: “If you want to know if telepathy is possible, ask a physicist…”

    A physicist can perhaps tell us what forces are known to exist in the universe. But that alone does not qualify him/her to judge whether or not organisms like ourselves can use those forces to achieve telepathy (e.g. communicating with each other without the aid of known senses, like sight or hearing, or advanced technology). To answer that question, it also helps to have expertise in biology and psychology.

    But, that aside, there’s the usual caveat that no individual scientist is immune to quackery, which is why it seems useful (at least for lay people like myself) to acquire a sense of which facts the community of relevant experts: (1) already agrees upon (as in: a virtual positive consensus); (2) which it deems controversial (e.g. based on inconclusive test results) but plausible; and (3) which it rejects as implausible (as in: a virtual negative consensus).

    For telepathy, I would definitely say that (1) is out of the question. But I’ll leave it to others to argue whether (2) or (3) is the better description.

  8. mrwilson41on 10 Mar 2011 at 11:34 am

    Intuition is a great place to start form ideas. However, I believe it takes logic to take those ideas and form them into practical applications.

    I think Novella just hit on the main problem that skeptics have with non-skeptics … “You still need to engage your rational brain to check out and verify the information intuition is handing you.” How do we help people show the need to engage logic when it comes to scientific topics instead of using intuition or instincts?

    “I believe in intuition and inspiration. Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. It is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research.” – Albert Einstein

  9. tmac57on 10 Mar 2011 at 11:35 am


    The problem that most (virtually all) people have with intuition is that they put too high a priority on their own intuition and then don’t change it when it is wrong.

    They also may be fooling themselves by remembering the ‘hits’ and forgetting the ‘misses’.This may especially be true in those who fancy themselves as having unusually powerful intuition.They don’t change it when it’s wrong,because they quickly forget that they WERE wrong.

  10. daedalus2uon 10 Mar 2011 at 12:11 pm

    tmac57, yes exactly. The people with the most powerful intuition know its limits and correct it when it is wrong. That is why their intuition is so powerful.

    The people who feel they have powerful intuition but never check it with facts and logic, and never change it when it is wrong (which they never bother to find out), actually have lousy intuition. Usually they are unable to not let wishful thinking interfere with what their “intuition” tells them.

    Intuition isn’t a source of information, it is a source of hypotheses. You still have to check those hypotheses against reality.

  11. Greenon 10 Mar 2011 at 12:19 pm

    hey, Skeptical Atheist, would it be too much for me to ask for the sources of those quotes, specially the one by Richard Weissman?

  12. Steven Novellaon 10 Mar 2011 at 2:20 pm

    SA – I know Richard Wisemand and Ray Hyman both personally. I have had conversations with them both on this specific topic. Neither of them believes that remote viewing is proven by the existing evidence. Those quotes are being taken out of context.

    Both are aware of the fact that published reports do not tell the whole story. Even when you cannot identify a specific flaw in the written record of an experiment, we know from history that there are many possible flaws and biases that can creep in. That is why we require replication.

    The fact is there is no replicable experiment that demonstrates remote viewing. This is consistent with the null hypothesis – that remove viewing does not exist. Both Hyman and Wiseman believe this. As reference I offer my interviews with them on the SGU -listen for yourself.

  13. Minon 10 Mar 2011 at 2:30 pm

    “SA – I still can’t tell if you’re a troll or not. ”

    Seriously? Go back and read some of his first comments in older posts. He actually started out somewhat reasonable and then as people disagreed with him, he became more and more outrageous to the point he is almost like a caricature. He probably decided that he can’t win so he might as well try his hardest to piss people off without getting banned. It is incredibly obvious that he is now just trolling. I don’t know why you guys continue to respond to him. People say that they enjoy playing his game but it isn’t adding anything to this blog.

  14. sonicon 10 Mar 2011 at 3:08 pm

    I would like to defend the dictionary definition-
    “Knowing” and “sensing” are not that different.
    “I know the cat is on the chair,” is to say, “I am sensing the cat is on the chair.” Well, one would hope that is what is meant- certainly if one were ‘knowing’ the location of the cat without ‘sensing’ where the cat is it would be more problematic that the other way round.
    Further the difference between “I believe that I know,” and “I know,” is illusionary.
    It is true that belief goes all the way from ‘vague hunch’ to ‘no doubt’. One might claim that ‘no doubt’ means true and correct, but this is certainly not the case in any objective way.

    With all that, I would agree that intuition can be discussed in terms of having ideas or beliefs without knowing how one got them.

    It seems that in some parts of my life intuition is better than reason (playing music, for example) and reason better for others.
    Finding the right mix is a challenge (when I’m playing a game, for example).

  15. Karl Withakayon 10 Mar 2011 at 3:11 pm

    # hcueva

    “If the kid asks how you knew the answer and you reply “well because even 50% of 3,000 is more than 100% of 900″ you would be lying, you didn’t even need to make that simplified calculation in order to know the answer.”

    Actually, that’s exactly what I my thought process was for evaluating that statement.

    For me, the pure intuition came after the calculations. “Does that feel right?”

  16. daedalus2uon 10 Mar 2011 at 3:25 pm

    Yes, the Wiseman quote is cherry picked.

    If remote viewing was an ordinary claim, it would only require ordinary evidence. It is an extraordinary claim, it requires extraordinary evidence.

  17. meiguizion 10 Mar 2011 at 3:42 pm

    Ditto the Hyman quote, later in the piece that SA appears to be quoting, he says

    “Although, I cannot point to any obvious flaws in the experiments, the experimental program is too recent and insufficiently evaluated to be sure that flaws and biases have been eliminated. Historically, each new paradigm in parapsychology has appeared to its designers and contemporary critics as relatively flawless. Only subsequently did previously unrecognized drawbacks come to light. Just as new computer programs require a shakedown period before hidden bugs come to light, each new scientific program requires scrutiny over time in the public arena before its defects emerge”

    Which seams to draw the comparison between remote viewing, and Windows Vista, to put thing sin context.

  18. ccbowerson 10 Mar 2011 at 3:48 pm

    I find that the “Monty Hall problem” often demonstrates how people are reluctant to change their positions even after being shown how their thinking is flawed.

    Perhaps this is not strictly a problem of intuition… some people actually do make some simple (and incorrect) assessments of probability. Often, however, the initial answer is obtained without actually calculating anything, and when told the correct answer and rationale there is a period of disbelief. This period of disbelief occurs even when the person agrees with the logic involved in the rationale given for the correct answer. Since the correct answer seems intuitively wrong, the person assumes there must be something missing or being overlooked (instead of their intuition about the answer being wrong).

  19. nybgruson 10 Mar 2011 at 3:55 pm

    every time I read a blog post here now, I get this “intuition” that the first post will be from SA… and it makes a little pit of anguish in my stomach. Then, when I see, indeed my intuition was right, I roll my eyes and wonder how else this hippie love child of Deepak Chopra and Oprah will troll again.


    Thanks for the posts Dr. Novella – I still do enjoy reading them (and have even used them in some of my class presentations) despite SA.

    Daedalus2u – you are like goliath attacking a fetus. But at least I learn more refined ways of thinking about science reading you. Thanks.

  20. sonicon 10 Mar 2011 at 4:35 pm

    An article that relates– (from Science Daily)

    A-Ha! The Neural Mechanisms of Insight

  21. Skeptical Atheiston 10 Mar 2011 at 5:30 pm

    HAHA I love how everyone is so upset, this was Weismans quote

    “It is a slight misquote, because I was using the term in the more general sense of ESP – that is, I was not talking about remote viewing per se, but rather Ganzfeld, etc as well. I think that they do meet the usual standards for a normal claim, but are not convincing enough for an extraordinary claim.”

    Why is he calling it an extraordinary claim, first he say’s they have met all the standard requirements, after all Parasychologists have improved their methods over the years, they have gone through great lengths to eliminate biases and fraud and whatever, it’s easy for all of you to start yelling fraud but none of you actually care to roll your sleeves up and get down doing the experiements and statistical analysis.
    Now let me annoy everyone with a lovely quote from good old Susan Blackmore :

    The other major challenge to the skeptic’s position is, of course, the fact that opposing positive evidence exists in the parapsychological literature. I couldn’t dismiss it all. Susan Blackmore in “Confessions of a Parapsychologist” (p.74)

    Oh yes and what about this from Artificial Intelligence pioneer A.M Turing: ” These disturbing phenomena seem to deny all our scientific ideas. How we should like to discredit them. Unfortunately the statistical evidence, at least for telepathy, is overwhelming. It is very difficult to rearrange one’s ideas as to fit these new facts in”.

    And what about this lovely quote that exposes all of your relentless hypocrisy :

    Why do we not accept ESP as a psychological fact? Rhine has offered enough evidence to have convinced us on almost any other issue… Personally, I do not accept ESP for a moment, because it does not make sense. My external criteria, both of physics and of physiology, say that ESP is not a fact despite the behavioural evidence that has been reported. I cannot see what other basis my colleagues have for rejecting it… Rhine may still turn out to be right, improbable as I think that is, and my own rejection of his view is – in the literal sense, prejudice. Donald Hebb

  22. SARAon 10 Mar 2011 at 5:42 pm

    Anytime my intuition tells me something about a person or process or idea, I stop myself and try to think it through consciously and logically.

    The problem with our subconscious thinking is that it is based on unknown assumptions. Assumptions you may not even know you hold. Examples include racism. We all absorb racist ideas through media.

    Rationally we recognize these various assumptions as null. But subconsciously we may be operating on them. And if we our intuitive moment came as a result of those null assumptions we have a bad idea.

    Its not always possible to do this. In fact its hard to even recognize the moments when we need to do it. But I think we have placed “intuition” on too high a pedestal. “Gut” reactions are wrong quite as often as they are right.

  23. cwfongon 10 Mar 2011 at 6:03 pm

    We use our so-called conscious thinking apparatus to justify our subconscious racist thinking as much or more than we are inclined to re-examine our biases logically. I’d argue that we need to question our racist tendencies intuitively before we can then examine them with conscious objectivity.

  24. Marshallon 10 Mar 2011 at 6:56 pm

    Sorry Min–I usually don’t follow the conversations that arise from Steve’s posts; the posts themselves usually suffice. I’ve only noticed SA recently, but I’ll keep it in mind to ignore him in the future. Btw, does your name come from the Wheel of Time?

  25. Skeptical Atheiston 10 Mar 2011 at 8:47 pm

    Great everyone ignore me, all I was trying to do was to tell you not to worry, Death is not the end, we will meet all our loved ones again and for that everyone hates me.
    I thought all of you were nicer than PZ Meyers people, maybe I should leave this blog for good.
    Love and Peace 🙂

  26. madsenscon 10 Mar 2011 at 9:54 pm

    It seems that intuition is also closely linked to confirmation bias. We remember the times that our intuition was right, but forget the times when it was wrong. I can see how this could give someone the false impression that it is somehow magical, because you only remember the hits.

  27. daedalus2uon 10 Mar 2011 at 9:57 pm

    cwfong, The problem with intuition is that it only gives you “feelings”. It is hard sometimes to tell where “feelings” come from. Are they from a rational but unconscious thought process? Are they wishful thinking? Are they a repeat of a preconceived notion? Are they a delusion? A hallucination? Are they the effects of last nights dinner? Because the process by which intuitions are arrived at is unconscious, it can’t be analyzed at all, it certainly can’t be analyzed with enough fidelity to tell if it is a valid process or if it is yielding valid results.

    All you have to go on is the argument from authority. It is *my* intuition, so it *must* be correct. No, it might be correct, but until you can *show your work*, no one should accept it as correct, not even you. That is the difference between skeptics using intuition and non-skeptics.

    Discussions of intuition always remind me of the Star Trek movie, the Voyage Home, where Spock doesn’t have sufficient data to do the time warp calculations.

    Kirk: Mr. Spock, have you accounted for the variable mass of whales and water in your time re-entry program?
    Spock: Mr. Scott cannot give me exact figures, Admiral, so… I will make a guess.
    Kirk: A guess? You, Spock? That’s extraordinary.
    Spock: [to Dr. McCoy] I don’t think he understands.
    McCoy: No, Spock. He means that he feels safer about your guesses than most other people’s facts.
    Spock: Then you’re saying,
    Spock: It is a compliment?
    McCoy: It is.
    Spock: Ah. Then, I will try to make the best guess I can.

    There is a difference when someone knowledgeable and steeped in logic and rigor has unknowns and so must make a *guess* (but that *guess* is compatible with everything they do know) and when someone who is much less knowledgeable and not steeped in logic and rigor makes a guess.

  28. cwfongon 10 Mar 2011 at 11:14 pm

    As usual, daedalus2u, you’re making faux scientific deductions based on what you can’t know or assume you know from personal experience, and yet haven’t even looked at the literature on the subject to see what others who are actual scientists have discovered.

    Which is that we draw inference intuitively, and subconsciously, whether deductive or inductive, and the predictive logic that has evolved for that purpose is inductive. Yet by your own admission you are physiologically incapable of using inductive logic.

    Try reading this for starters:

  29. SARAon 10 Mar 2011 at 11:21 pm

    How can you address an assumption intuitively? If we accept the concept that intuitive is based on subconscious processes, we cannot intuitively examine them, can we?
    We must bring conscious process into it, in order to nullify or verify a intuitive thought.
    I also think that consciously thinking out a situation will help to over ride some of the unconscious assumptions we make. Hopefully correcting those assumptions for the future.
    You are right though. We often use our conscious thoughts to rationalize our intuitive decisions. So is any conscious thought ever anything but a rationalization of intuitive choice? Its a weird circle that can really drive you mad if you over think it.

  30. cwfongon 10 Mar 2011 at 11:37 pm

    SARA, you might want to read what Jennifer Nagel at University of Toronto has to say about Epistemic Intuitions, and how we’ve come to rely on their accuracy. Because of course we’ve had to.

  31. Squidoctoon 11 Mar 2011 at 12:59 am

    Here’s my solution to the SA boredom. Every time s/he types “Death is not the end, we will meet all our loved ones again” I will respond “SA,EP.” The EP standing for “Evidence, Please.”

    Until s/he gives us some, I’ll skip to the next comment.

  32. sonicon 11 Mar 2011 at 1:44 am

    Of course I might intuit that my reasoning is based on unexamined premises. 😉

  33. cwfongon 11 Mar 2011 at 2:32 am

    You might but so far that hasn’t stopped you.

  34. eiskrystalon 11 Mar 2011 at 4:02 am

    –Death is not the end, we will meet all our loved ones again and for that everyone hates me.–

    Did you ever stop to wonder what’s so great about living forever? Especially if you’ve lost all human abilities and senses.

    No wonder everyone in your previous narrative can’t wait to rush into human bodies even though there’s pain and disease here. They are all bored out of their tiny minds in your little magical universe!

    Also what’s so great about getting stuck in “insert heavenly sphere here” with your relatives?

  35. Skeptical Atheiston 11 Mar 2011 at 7:46 am

    I might have to leave this great blog soon, my intuition tells me to go to Pharyngula to assure my bitter and angry Atheist Brothers and Sisters over there that Death is not the end, Death is merely the movement from one plane of existence to another where we will meet all our loved ones again.
    I had a wonderful time here, thank you everyone for your hospitality, I am sorry If I was rude to anyone, and I am sorry for saying Happy Camper gives me bad vibes.
    Don’t be afraid, Death won’t separate you from your loved ones, feel free to write to me anytime.
    Open your heart and embrace the love of the light, give up vengeance, modern humans suffer from the disease of importance and that makes us think that someone is responsible to look after them and provide for them look at the evil Welfare State for example. Humility, gratitude, reverence are important for you to connect with the higher beings, be nice to nature, give up your greed and stop slaughtering and killing animals.
    Here is a lovely quote for you:

    Do animals have an afterlife? Yes, of course, and do they serve vital functions, without which humans would perish overwhelmed by the demonic? Definitely. And will you see your pooch in the after life? For sure, it is connected to you, and it evolves through the love you have for it, so the link cannot be broken.

    The closer you get to the souls of animals, the more you evolve, and the safer you are, but you have to be a vegetarian or all is lost on that front, and you are confined in your evolution to stay inside the limits of your disdain to manage on your own. You see, if you eat them, they take it personally, and they abandon you to die in the arms of a boney helplessness, as that is what you offered them.

    It’s very deep—the evolution of animals—way more than humans have ever understood. The mind invented humans as special, and its coldness blinded people to the truth, you see? Sad really but there you go, humans aren’t much to write home about. (

    Love and Peace 🙂

  36. eiskrystalon 11 Mar 2011 at 8:53 am


    We are not afraid of real death. Nor it’s ramifications.

    You are trying to feed imaginary cupcakes to people who are not hungry.

  37. SARAon 11 Mar 2011 at 10:17 am

    With your permission I will be adding the line “You are trying to feed imaginary cupcakes to people who are not hungry.” to my quote collection.
    Its quite marvelous. 😉

    @cwfong – I will read it. Thanks for the info. The link crapped out on me when I tried a minute ago. I will try again.

  38. justin0741on 11 Mar 2011 at 10:20 am

    We should add that intuition is the cause of discrimination and prejudice.

  39. eiskrystalon 11 Mar 2011 at 11:43 am

    My pleasure Sara.

  40. SimonWon 11 Mar 2011 at 1:30 pm

    > “this person will maximize my reproductive success,” but our primitive brains are.

    I was revolted by that sentence, a horrid emotional response (intuitive?).

    I mean I know SN knows that we are using whatever methods happen to have been successful in the past (not necessary just our brain). But whilst genetically derived algorithms may often be good at solving some problems in maximization that isn’t the same thing as “thinking”, and definitely not thinking about maximisation, and there is no guarantee that the particular genetically derived solution is a good solution for the current environment – or in general (only that it is sufficient) – and given the high rates of infertility in couples it seems likely the evolved solution is not a good one. Social and technical pressures to avoid cheating in western societies could be discouraging the usual method of bypassing a chosen partner’s (or couple’s) infertility.

    Those who think human evolution has stopped are so obviously wrong….

  41. ccbowerson 11 Mar 2011 at 7:45 pm

    “Those who think human evolution has stopped are so obviously wrong….”

    The movie “Idiocracy” hilariously tells us where it leads in 500 years

  42. BillyJoe7on 12 Mar 2011 at 1:02 am


    “If the kid asks how you knew the answer and you reply “well because even 50% of 3,000 is more than 100% of 900″ you would be lying, you didn’t even need to make that simplified calculation in order to know the answer.”

    My immediate response was to see that 2/3 rds of the first large number is obviously more than the second number. There is at least a half calculation involved there.

  43. BillyJoe7on 12 Mar 2011 at 1:05 am


    “It is incredibly obvious that he is now just trolling.”

    So incredibly obvious that you have still not worked out that SA is female. 😉

  44. BillyJoe7on 12 Mar 2011 at 1:26 am


    Do you always believe everything you read and that we will all believe it as well if only we read what you have read?

  45. Minon 13 Mar 2011 at 3:56 am


    No, it’s just a shortened form of my usual forum nickname that makes Googling me essentially impossible.

    Though, basing it off of the Jordan character wouldn’t be a bad thing. She is nearly the only likable female in the entire series.

  46. colluvialon 13 Mar 2011 at 10:00 am

    Nice post, Steve. It’s always good to get a handle on one of those words that has an ever-changing swarm of preconceptions surrounding it. Because of the forever-fuzzy nature of words like intuition (or consciousness, morality, spirituality, love, etc.), any discussion about it that does not try to define it first is of limited value.

    @eiskrystal: “You are trying to feed imaginary cupcakes to people who are not hungry.”

    This sentence could go viral.

  47. ChrisHon 13 Mar 2011 at 12:56 pm


    So incredibly obvious that you have still not worked out that SA is female.

    Well, I haven’t because I started to skim over and ignore its posts after a couple of days. It is just not worth it to go through that mire.

  48. Skeptical Atheiston 13 Mar 2011 at 8:13 pm

    @ChrisH: Ouch that’s painful.

  49. NiroZon 18 Mar 2011 at 5:32 am

    Steven Novella:
    Have you pondered an operational definition of insight? Or how we can know somebody else has insight? Been bugging me for ages.

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