Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False

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Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False

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1rrp
syyskuu 14, 2013, 8:22pm

Thomas Nagel summarizes the core of his arguments from his recent book Mind and Cosmos on why the materialist neo-darwinian conception of nature is almost certainly false

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/18/the-core-of-mind-and-cosmos/

"The scientific outlook, if it aspires to a more complete understanding of nature, must expand to include theories capable of explaining the appearance in the universe of mental phenomena and the subjective points of view in which they occur – theories of a different type from any we have seen so far."

He doesn't pick the option "that it has an explanation, but one that belongs not to science but to theology."

2Tid
Muokkaaja: syyskuu 17, 2013, 5:38pm

It's a plausible essay, providing one doesn't subscribe to the extremes of explaining mind, subjectivity and consciousness as a) accidental outcomes of the materialist nature of everything, or b) due to divine causation - neither of which I find satisfactory.

I've been listening to The God Delusion and find much in it that is pretty undeniable, even sensible. But when Dawkins lapses into such phrases as "biologists who have had their consciousness raised by {study of} natural selection...", I find myself bridling indignantly - that is almost religious language in itself, and it appears that Natural Selection (his assumed capitals, not mine) has simply replaced God in the Dawkins canon.

There really does have to be a study of mental phenomena unrestricted to psychologists (or, psychology as a 'science' needs to evolve) so that the mental side of life comes under scientific scrutiny. After all, most of us would probably identify more with the statement "I am my mind" rather than "I am my body", though they are both powerful identifications of course.

3eromsted
syyskuu 17, 2013, 6:44pm

Here's the key bit. He starts out OK but in the second paragraph he lapses into nonsense:

"There can be a purely physical description of the neurophysiological processes that give rise to an experience, and also of the physical behavior that is typically associated with it, but such a description, however complete, will leave out the subjective essence of the experience – how it is from the point of view of its subject — without which it would not be a conscious experience at all.

So the physical sciences, in spite of their extraordinary success in their own domain, necessarily leave an important aspect of nature unexplained. Further, since the mental arises through the development of animal organisms, the nature of those organisms cannot be fully understood through the physical sciences alone. Finally, since the long process of biological evolution is responsible for the existence of conscious organisms, and since a purely physical process cannot explain their existence, it follows that biological evolution must be more than just a physical process, and the theory of evolution, if it is to explain the existence of conscious life, must become more than just a physical theory."

He seems to think that somehow the distinction between a phenomenon and an explanation of that phenomenon is special in the case of subjective experience. But it is not. It is true that an explanation of the character of an experience is not the experience itself. However, it is also true that the explanation of the character of a rock is not the rock itself. In the case of rocks such a distinction does not undermine material explanations, nor does it in the case of subjective experiences.

An experience is, of course, a very different sort of thing than a rock. And observing the characteristics of experiences has many difficulties not found in observing the characteristics of rocks. But again, this does not demonstrate that experiences are any less material than rocks.

4AsYouKnow_Bob
syyskuu 17, 2013, 7:17pm

ALL theories are - to some degree - "false". All theories are provisional, and subject to correction, revision, or even being overthrown.

Theories without a materialist basis, however, are more likely to be MORE false.

5jburlinson
syyskuu 17, 2013, 8:09pm

> 1. This means that the scientific outlook, if it aspires to a more complete understanding of nature, must expand to include theories capable of explaining the appearance in the universe of mental phenomena and the subjective points of view in which they occur.

At the bottom of a statement like this is the sheer incommensurability of what we experience as mental phenomena and what we know of neurophysiology. It just doesn't seem as if electrochemical action within a nervous system can give rise to a thought or a feeling experienced subjectively. And yet we know darned well it does. Anyone who's drunk enough alcohol has experienced a big change in "mental phenomena" and "subjective point of view".

6steve.clason
syyskuu 17, 2013, 8:27pm

5> "the sheer incommensurability of what we experience as mental phenomena and what we know of neurophysiology"

In Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist, the well-credentialed Christof Kock offers a speculative, empirical explanation for the development of consciousness -- one of his points being that consciousness is an fully comprehensible physiological process. I wasn't convinced, but came away with an appreciation for the handful of scientists working to relieve that apparent incomprehensibility, and to explain mental phenomena in scientific (if not materialist) terms.

7Tid
syyskuu 18, 2013, 6:24am

4

"Theories without a materialist basis, however, are more likely to be MORE false."

I'm not sure what your basis for this claim is? Richard Dawkins explains very eloquently how complex life forms evolved step by step up the gentle slopes to the rear of Mount Improbable, rather than up the sheer cliff face at the front. However, even he asserts that there are inexplicable one-offs such as the origin of life, and consciousness, that don't fit with the 'gentle slopes of Mount Improbable' model.

Dawkins is what I would call a 'soft' materialist. I have no idea whether or not he would agree with your assertion, but it certainly sounds like 'hard' materialism.

What Nagel is doing is trying to establish that there should be a new orthodoxy somewhere in between the positions of materialism and theism, which are too often presented by their proponents as absolute "EITHER / OR".

8Tid
Muokkaaja: syyskuu 18, 2013, 6:28am

6

The difficulty I have with consciousness being the result of complex brains, is that consciousness (as distinct from self consciousness) is exhibited by all life forms. I would propose that consciousness - rather than being the accidental result of complexity - is an inherent property of life itself. That needs scientific examination, I agree.

10eromsted
syyskuu 18, 2013, 12:46pm

>9 Jesse_wiedinmyer:
Thanks for that. Seems very similar to what I was getting at above.

11steve.clason
syyskuu 18, 2013, 12:48pm

8> " consciousness (as distinct from self consciousness) is exhibited by all life forms"

That's disputed (to put things mildly) and I think it's false, but you state it with impressive confidence -- can you share your reasons?

I think focusing attention, something many creatures besides humans do, resembles consciousness in its observable behaviors, but lacks the measurable neurological correlates to be called consciousness. Simple organisms exhibit no behaviors that would cause me to consider them conscious -- but I'm a rank amateur here, and only barely convinced by my own arguments.

9> Thanks for the link. If you have a lot of time on your hands, here's a link to a collection of online papers on consciousness, curated by David Chalmers, the guy who formulated "the hard problem of consciousness" explained in the YouTube video.

12rrp
Muokkaaja: syyskuu 18, 2013, 5:23pm

Tid #2 I've been listening to The God Delusion and find much in it that is pretty undeniable, even sensible.

That's strange. I had the complementary response; I found much that is deniable and insensible. But I agree absolutely that his language has a religious tone in many places.

There really does have to be a study of mental phenomena unrestricted to psychologists (or, psychology as a 'science' needs to evolve) so that the mental side of life comes under scientific scrutiny.

Are you implying that psychologists are not doing science, or not doing it properly?

13rrp
syyskuu 18, 2013, 5:45pm

jesse #9, thanks for the 5 minute lesson. It was interesting, but doesn't resolve the question.

eromsted, #3

It is true that an explanation of the character of an experience is not the experience itself.

It is not at all obvious that this is true. In the video Massimo claims that the problem is one of a categorical mistake and claims that explanations are not experiences. I think this is what you were getting at too. And again, this is not at all obvious. In fact, I cannot think of a way for you to explain something to me without me having an experience which is that explanation.

14rrp
Muokkaaja: syyskuu 18, 2013, 5:52pm

#4 AYKB

Marvelous logic!

You have two theories.

Theory 1. All theories are false.
Theory 2. Theories without a materialist basis are more likely to be more false.

Now Theory 1 is clearly false because if it were true there would be at least one theory that is true. It is also more false, whatever that means (have you invented a new logical category there?), because it is without a materialist basis.

15Tid
Muokkaaja: syyskuu 18, 2013, 6:15pm

11

It depends on how you define consciousness. What's clear though, is that all animals exhibit symptoms of consciousness, but precious few exhibit self consciousness . Can we agree on that?

As to its symptoms (qualities?):
- All life forms (well, I am excluding plants provisionally) are aware of their environment
- All life forms are aware of threats, especially to their continued existence
- All life forms - even those which have already passed on their genes - want to continue existing and will fight to stay alive
Those are all elements of consciousness, and even simple-brained life forms have them. That's why I propose that it's an inherent property of life itself, rather than (the materialist view that it's) a product of complexity.

I repeat - this needs scientific examination, so what you call 'impressive confidence' was qualified in such a way that no materialist could object to.

16Tid
syyskuu 18, 2013, 6:13pm

12

"Are you implying that psychologists are not doing science, or not doing it properly?"

Well, it's a difficult one this. I suppose what I'm saying is that psychology as a science is in its infancy, and therefore is not yet in a fit state to compare with the physical sciences. That's what I meant by "needs to evolve".

17rrp
syyskuu 18, 2013, 8:46pm

#16 Tid

I think many psychologists would object to that. Physics and psychology are very different subject areas but in both the experts would admit there is still much more that we could know. Whether we "need" to know it is a separate question.

18rrp
syyskuu 18, 2013, 8:52pm

#15 Tid

I would not characterize the symptoms you list as symptoms of consciousness. Aware is the wrong word. They are certainly sense and react to their environment, but so do elevators.

And describing a life form as "wanting to continue existing" is teleological. If you were a biologist, you would be scolded and made to purge such language from your discourse.

19AsYouKnow_Bob
syyskuu 18, 2013, 10:14pm

Tid at #7: I'm not sure what your basis for this claim is?

Well, you can either have theories about the universe that are evidence-based - that is. theories that are at root based in materialism - or you can have theories that are based on making shit up.

So, yeah: "Theories without a materialist basis, however, are more likely to be MORE false."

20rrp
Muokkaaja: syyskuu 18, 2013, 10:31pm

MORE false? Oh dear. Logic fail. Again. Someone please help him out with some simple lessons in logic. Please.

21rrp
syyskuu 18, 2013, 10:30pm

So there are another couple of interesting articles.

Stephen Pinker in Science Is Not Your Enemy in the New Republic makes some dreadful howlers which Gary Gutting nicely points out in the NYT.

22Tid
syyskuu 19, 2013, 6:38am

18

(I'm not a biologist!) How would YOU define consciousness?

23Tid
syyskuu 19, 2013, 6:44am

19

"Well, you can either have theories about the universe that are evidence-based - that is. theories that are at root based in materialism - or you can have theories that are based on making shit up."

Or...?

So anything that's not materialist is "making shit up"? That's virtually subscribing to the theism/materialism EITHER/OR dichotomy. Some of us, Nagel included, want to widen the terms of the debate. Philosophers, as a group, would not be impressed by your presentation of a soi-disant argument.

24rrp
syyskuu 19, 2013, 8:16am

#22 It is the thing that lets me know about me.

25eromsted
Muokkaaja: syyskuu 19, 2013, 10:40am

>13 rrp:
Even if you wish to deny or ignore the material basis for experience outside human consciousness there is still a category error. Within consciousness there remains a distinction between sensory experience or memory experience and the experience of abstract categorization and modeling which constitutes the explanation of experience. Were there no such distinction there could be no errors in explanation as the explanation would be imminent in and equal to that which it explains.

Your argument is like saying that because triangle and color are both abstract categories there is no category error in asking about the color of triangles (to use the example from the video).

26LolaWalser
syyskuu 19, 2013, 10:30am

Tid and rrp expatiating on things scientific: comedy thread.

27Jesse_wiedinmyer
Muokkaaja: syyskuu 19, 2013, 11:03am


- All life forms - even those which have already passed on their genes - want to continue existing and will fight to stay alive
Those are all elements of consciousness, and even simple-brained life forms have them. That's why I propose that it's an inherent property of life itself, rather than (the materialist view that it's) a product of complexity.


Despite rrp's claims (unfounded? never), biologists actually do impute motivation to animals quite frequently. And there's a growing consensus within the field that many animals display a much greater consciousness than previously thought. Whales have names (that other whales will remember for decades) and can track each other. Octopi have personalities. Parrots have language capabilities and are actually able to make the leap from understanding letters to being able to spell even when the steps have not been taught (that one's sort of an exceptional case).

rrp really doesn't have the first clue what he's talking about here.

28Tid
syyskuu 19, 2013, 1:22pm

27

Actually it was me you quoted! (To the great amusement of L-O-L-A Lola who obviously wants immediate incarceration for all lay people who dare to discuss science).

There are many species of intelligent animal, even more than the examples you quoted. For example David Attenborough (who last time I looked was a scientist, albeit a TV scientist) presented a programme about dolphins which demonstrated that they understood abstract concepts such as 'left' & 'right', and 'synchronise' & 'improvise'. So dolphins MAY be a species that also has self-consciousness?

However, I'm still waiting for rrp to define what consciousness actually is - a mirror, a partner, photographs, and diaries, will all let me know about me. It doesn't sound very precise. *I* know what consciousness is to me, but I'm not sure I could either explain or demonstrate it for anyone else.

29steve.clason
syyskuu 19, 2013, 2:06pm

15>"That's why I propose that it's an inherent property of life itself, rather than (the materialist view that it's) a product of complexity."

A lot does depend on how you define "consciousness", but trying to get rigorous prematurely will just stall the conversation -- I'll accept a vague, common-sense definition like "Consciousness is what we wake up to when we wake up," and agree that some other creatures sure act like their experience resembles ours.

My opinion is that consciousness arose from complexity and continues because creatures possessing it fare better than those who don't, but your position raises more interesting speculations -- if consciousness inheres in life then it can be instantiated in very different forms (the brain of a person, the protoplasm (?) of an amoeba), and the variety seems to require either some teleological explanation for consciousness or a non-material existence, independent of any particular instantiation.

I'm not trying to put words in your mouth (and I'm running out of time right now) but are these sorts of speculations in your universe of discourse?

30rrp
syyskuu 19, 2013, 4:45pm

#25

Within consciousness there remains a distinction between sensory experience or memory experience and the experience of abstract categorization and modeling which constitutes the explanation of experience.

Of this, I remain to be convinced. There is no such thing a pure experience; everything we experience is influenced by existing abstract structures, categories and models. The distinction does not exist.

31rrp
syyskuu 19, 2013, 4:46pm

#26

Lola. I am pleased you are amused and to find you have a sense humor. We aim to please.

32rrp
syyskuu 19, 2013, 4:51pm

#28 Tid

I'm still waiting for rrp to define what consciousness actually is

I'm with Steve. Getting a rigorous definition of what consciousness actually is may stall the conversation. Which is all part of the bigger problem. You know what consciousness is to you; I know what it is to me. It is hard, if not impossible, for either of us to know what is it to the other.

33Tid
Muokkaaja: syyskuu 19, 2013, 5:12pm

29

"My opinion is that consciousness arose from complexity and continues because creatures possessing it fare better than those who don't, but your position raises more interesting speculations -- if consciousness inheres in life then it can be instantiated in very different forms (the brain of a person, the protoplasm (?) of an amoeba), and the variety seems to require either some teleological explanation for consciousness or a non-material existence, independent of any particular instantiation."

This is where a working definition of consciousness is absolutely essential! You see, advanced and complex species such as primates and other mammals like whales and dolphins, all demonstrate awareness, e.g. of their environment, threats to their safety and existence, etc. Yet even the merest insect appears to demonstrate the same aspects of awareness, and has strategies to stay alive that transcend its genetic transmission (in other words, which don't disappear with age).

I'm not sure that I follow your example about putting human consciousness into an amoeba? This is where I'd offer a working definition:
- consciousness and life share this attribute - that each, in itself, is of a quality or essence that stays the same, but differs in degree. Which is where complexity comes in - a human being is simply much MORE conscious than an amoeba; trying to discharge a petrol (gas) tanker into a sports car doesn't alter the nature of the petrol, but of course only a tiny bit of it will go in.

Does that make sense? (Consciousness requires no more teleology than life itself, even if they are yoked).

32

cast yer spyglass upon 33, ye scurvy landlubber!

34Jesse_wiedinmyer
syyskuu 19, 2013, 6:58pm

Actually it was me you quoted!

Yes, I understand that. However, I was also responding to rrp's various claims about your post also.

35rrp
syyskuu 19, 2013, 8:54pm

#33 I am not sure it does make sense. Consciousness is more than something that "is of a quality or essence that stays the same, but differs in degree". The color red meets that criterion. We need more attributes.

36steve.clason
syyskuu 19, 2013, 10:48pm

8> "consciousness (as distinct from self consciousness)"

I think they're the same, the self being just another object for the subject, though a special one.

15> "- All life forms ... are aware of their environment
- All life forms are aware of threats..."


You could use "conscious" in place of "aware" without changing the meaning of those two properties, so your word choice begs the question. More accurately (it's late and I'm tired and may be giving offense where none is intended,and if so I apologize) "All life forms respond to their environment" and then, channeling Jesse in #27, some life forms respond consciously, some unconsciously. Or so it looks. So far.

33> "I'm not sure that I follow your example about putting human consciousness into an amoeba?"

Yeah, I'm not sure I do, either. Let me try a different way: scientists (neuro-physicists? neuro-psychologists?) have mapped what they call Neurological Correlates of Consciousness, areas of the brain with massive numbers of cells, that light up consistently under fMRI when people (and monkeys, as I recall) are subjected to controlled stimuli designed to poke their consciousness. If consciousness is "yoked" to life, then we would expect to be able, at least in theory, to find Physical Correlates of Consciousness in all life, unless consciousness is immaterial and just happens to manifest physically in humans (and monkeys) but not in every creature. Not many of us are going to buy into that.

An amoeba just has the one cell, so any correlate of consciousness will be different in kind from a human's, suggesting that: a) consciousness instantiates differently in different organisms, OR; b) consciousness is immaterial and needn't instantiate at all to exist, OR; c) an amoeba isn't complex enough to be conscious, so consciousness is only yoked to life above a certain complexity.

That may not be any clearer.

37Jesse_wiedinmyer
syyskuu 19, 2013, 11:07pm

and then, channeling Jesse in #27, some life forms respond consciously, some unconsciously.

Given how little of human thought is conscious, I'm not sure we have much grounds to claim a position of privilege.

38MyopicBookworm
syyskuu 20, 2013, 4:45am

Although defining consciousness may be a debate-stopper, there is clearly a confusion between simple reactivity (which characterizes life from the amoeba to the ant), full self-awareness or sapience (apparently found in some higher animals, and in humans after the first few months of life), and a range of forms of consciousness in between. At the "bottom" end, the key factor is probably an ability to make alternative responses to a stimulus, which requires some form of abstract conceptualization or hypothesizing, short of self-awareness.

39Tid
Muokkaaja: syyskuu 20, 2013, 6:04am

36

"You could use "conscious" in place of "aware" without changing the meaning of those two properties, so your word choice begs the question."

Yes, that's what I was trying to imply - that consciousness (or at least, its main property) is "awareness". Now we may argue - and probably will! - whether awareness is a purely physical manifestation, (or at least, of purely physical origin), or whether it is independent in a theistic religious "soul" sense, or - in the mid-ground I'm proposing - that it is a correlate or property of life itself. Which I would maintain, as a proposition, is a lot further away from theism than it is from materialism, but nevertheless is not either.

"consciousness (as distinct from self consciousness)"

I think they're the same, the self being just another object for the subject, though a special one."


No, this is where I think you've failed to understand me. Self consciousness is not simply awareness, as we see in all forms of animals, but a knowledge that *I* exist, *I* am an independent entity and have the capacity to look at myself mentally, or even to recreate myself - my personality - in extreme circumstances. As a result, beings with self consciousness can project from past to future, can use the power of 'imagination', can create, as witness individual achievements in the arts, sports, technology and science, politics, etc, and can manipulate their environment rather than the vice-versa of natural selection.

This definition is not my conception of self consciousness - it's my poor summarisation of what the term means as philosophers (for example) use it.

34

Understood

35

"I am not sure it does make sense. Consciousness is more than something that "is of a quality or essence that stays the same, but differs in degree". The color red meets that criterion. We need more attributes."

No, you've missed my point. Note that little word "of". I wasn't defining what consciousness IS, I was simply stating what I believe one of its defining characteristics to be, as shared with life. But yes, we do need more attributes. Would you build upon 'awareness', for example?

40rahoba
syyskuu 20, 2013, 6:32am

In my opinion, the only way to know about our source, is from the one who created us Himself, God, and if Darwin had believed in God, he wouldn't have said such complicated theory, and he would have found it easier to think. If there is no God, so who makes us recover from illness? we shouldn't say the medicine, cause some sick people take the medicine and they are not recovered at all, so what makes us recover is God's will, and in everything in life also. God didn't want us to take too much time to think and feel lost about our source, because He likes us, and He told us directly and easily that He created everything, In Sura the Heifer in verse 117 the Quran says: “To Him is due the primal origin of the heavens and the earth: when He decrees a matter, He says to it: “Be”, and it is.” Similarly in Sura Yasin in verse no. 82 the Quran announces: “Verily, when He intends a thing, His command is, “Be”; and it is”. The Quran in Sura Al-Imran in verse 190 says; “Behold! In the creation of heavens and the earth, and the alternation of Night and Day – there are indeed signs for men of understanding.” There are many verses in the Quran dealing with the subject of creation. The Quran in Sura The Height in verse 54 announces; “Your Guardian – Lord is Allah, who created the heavens and the earth in six days.” Then in Sura “the cattle” in verse 2 the Quran says; “He it is who created you from clay; and then decreed a stated term) for you).
Also, anything happens to us in life proves that there is a great power that makes everything, not accidentally, and if we just looked for a moment to the sky, and everything in, to the earth, and everything on, to animals, to insects and their way in life, to us...etc, he will find that this must have been made by a great power.
The Darwinism theory cannot scientifically explain how life originated on Earth. No scientific finding shows that the “evolutionary mechanism” proposed by the theory have any evolutionary power at all. The fossil record provided proves the exact opposite of what the theory suggests.
The evolutionists’ claim that the universe started from “first atom” and life started from “first cell”. Who created the atom and cell, the evolutionists cannot answer. Inanimate matter must have produced a living cell as a result of coincidence in the belief of the evolutionists. Modern biologists have rejected this claim. Life comes from life has been proved. The theory of “spontaneous generation”, which asserts that non-living materials came together to form living organism has been rejected. In a lecture at the Sorbonne in 1864, Pasteur said; “Never will the doctrine of spontaneous generation recover from the mortal blow struck by this simple experiment.” The great evolutionists like Russian biologist Alexander Oparin and American chemist Stanley Miller experimented to prove that a living cell could originate by coincidence but failed and they admitted their failure. Oparin in “Origin of Life” and Stanley Miller in “Molecular Evolution of life” discuss it in detail. Jeffery Bada in his book “Earth” admits: “we still face the biggest unsolved problem that we had when we entered the twentieth century: how did life originate on earth.” The conditions required for the formation of cell are too great in quantity to be explained away by coincidences. The DNA molecule is so complex that it cannot be accidental or coincidental. Mechanism of evolution has been also rejected. No deer becomes horse and no ape becomes man. It is a fallacious theory having no historical and scientific evidence.
Praise Be To God, Lord of the Universe

41rrp
syyskuu 20, 2013, 7:57am

Would you build upon 'awareness', for example

No I wouldn't. I agree with jesse that much of what goes on in the nervous systems of humans, including lower levels of cognition, is unconscious but certainly aware. And I like MyopicbookWorm's, "sapience"; that's the direction I would try to go.

The wikipedia article on consciousness has a good discussion on how difficult it is to define.

42Tid
syyskuu 20, 2013, 4:05pm

41

Sorry, I don't believe in the term "unconscious" used for anything other than traumas, comas, and any other condition where consciousness is inaccessible. If by "unconscious" you mean "subconscious", then I'll go along with that. "Aware" and "unconscious" are mutually exclusive in lay terms. (Too many times it seems, consciousness is defined as our ordinary everyday awareness, when neurologists and psychologists know that there are many layers and levels to both mind and the nervous system).

All of which proves only how difficult it is to define consciousness!

43steve.clason
syyskuu 20, 2013, 7:32pm

42> "Sorry, I don't believe in the term "unconscious" used for anything other than traumas, comas, and any other condition where consciousness is inaccessible."

When someone is asleep are they unconscious?

44rrp
syyskuu 20, 2013, 8:26pm

Maybe we should go back to what Nagel meant by consciousness. In edited form ....

Science excludes, as an object of study everything mental: consciousness, meaning, intention or purpose. Science cannot describe subjective experiences. It leaves out the subjective essence of any experience – how it is from the point of view of its subject — without which it would not be a conscious experience at all.

45Jesse_wiedinmyer
Muokkaaja: syyskuu 20, 2013, 9:02pm

Science excludes, as an object of study everything mental: consciousness, meaning, intention or purpose.

And Nagel is incorrect here. It's like saying the Skinner's take on psychology is the whole of the field. Incorrect at best, a straw man (and dishonest argument) at worst.

47rrp
syyskuu 20, 2013, 10:02pm

Jesse,

Thanks for the link to the interesting article. I am still pondering those four thought experiments.

But to go back to Nagel's description of science. What I think he was getting at was that a scientist, when doing science, aims to be purely objective and neutral and excludes all subjectivity in his or her approach to science and that subjectivity includes the scientist's own intention, purpose and interpretation of the meaning of act of doing the science. Nagel adds to the list of meaning, intention and purpose, the concept of consciousness meaning the consciousness of the scientist and hence means the subjective nature of consciousness.

Can a scientists truly understand what it is like for an octopus to feel pain?

48Jesse_wiedinmyer
syyskuu 20, 2013, 10:16pm

Can a human truly understand what it's like to be another human?

I would probably argue yes, though you can take any of the arguments saying that we can't understand octopi consciousness and extend them.

49Jesse_wiedinmyer
syyskuu 20, 2013, 10:20pm

It's like choosing to be amish and decrying the internal combustion engine but still using the wheel or something. Nice arbitrary line that fits just right.

50rrp
Muokkaaja: syyskuu 20, 2013, 10:23pm

Can you truly understand what it's like to be me?

51Jesse_wiedinmyer
syyskuu 20, 2013, 10:23pm

Can you tell me (or understand) what it's like to be rich? Poor? Asian? White? Black? A woman? A man?

52Jesse_wiedinmyer
syyskuu 20, 2013, 10:24pm

Though this does all seem to run towards your tendency towards solipsism, etc.

53Jesse_wiedinmyer
syyskuu 20, 2013, 10:24pm

If one doesn't believe that that understanding is possible (or communicable), one would wonder why you would post so frequently.

54Jesse_wiedinmyer
syyskuu 20, 2013, 10:25pm

Surely you are a distinct world, unique to yourself and not capable of being understood by anyone around you. Yet you do continually try to make yourself understood, it seems.

55rrp
syyskuu 20, 2013, 11:17pm

Does an octopus continually try to make itself understood?

56Jesse_wiedinmyer
syyskuu 20, 2013, 11:32pm

Yes. Or practices deception (a signal of intentioinality.) And as noted in just about any intro to communications class, the vast majority of human communication is non-verbal.

58March-Hare
Muokkaaja: syyskuu 21, 2013, 4:50am

I'm not sure if Nagel is getting at intentionality by speaking of intention, but the concept may be of some use here.

From the Wikipedia article on intentionality:

Intentionality is a philosophical concept defined by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy as “the power of minds to be about, to represent or to stand for, things, properties and states of affairs.” The term refers to the ability of the mind to form representations and has nothing to do with intentions.

This is similar (I think) to what eromsted was getting at in post 25.

59Tid
syyskuu 21, 2013, 6:37am

43

When someone is asleep are they unconscious?

Good question. I'd say not - if someone calls your name, or a baby cries, or there's a loud noise outside, you wake up. So something is aware..

60Tid
syyskuu 21, 2013, 7:09am

46

That's a fascinating and thought-provoking article. Though the premise in the first is rather misleading : one would imagine that an alien that was humanoid with all the points of similarity with us, would NOT have a nervous system "completely different" from our own. But I do get the point of the question. I personally think that if that alien showed a marked avoidance of needles from then on, we could probably judge that it had felt pain and was trying to avoid it. That in turn raises an interesting question : what if that particular alien race thrived on the sensation of pain, and we saw them seek out needles and jab each other repeatedly?

As for the robot, it would not have consciousness in the form we understand it, so could only "feel" a pain if programmed in some way to do so. But what would be doing the "feeling"? If no consciousness is present, then it's just an algorithm producing a read-out. There would be nothing, for example, to inhibit the robot from undergoing the same process an infinite number of times, as it would have no reason to avoid it. Unless, of course, it had been programmed not only with an algorithm for "pain", but an associated sub-routine that went something like -
IF PAIN
GO TO AVOIDANCE_ROUTINE1;
ADD 1 TO COUNTER
END IF
Then later
IF PAIN AND COUNTER > 1
GO TO AVOIDANCE_ROUTINE2
END IF
and so on.
(That does not, of course, rule out a similar process going on in our own brains along certain synaptic paths, as we come to learn about pain.)

The last two examples are interesting insights into human psychology. The second one is simpler to solve : we not only understand what pain means to us, we learn what non-verbal responses it produces in others : gasps, screams, winces, faints, etc. So though Sally may SAY she feels no pain, all the non-verbal cues say the opposite, and we would have to assume that she was lying. Though she may be acting, so we wouldn't know for sure..

As for Wally, we simply couldn't judge. We would tend to think he was lying for some reason, but on the other hand if we knew anything about Stoicism, we might think he was a supreme example of the philosophy of the smiling endurance of whatever life throws our way. Buddhism is similar.

The thought experiments - apart from the first - all depend on a verbal declaration of pain. However, we judge pain experienced by others on a whole mix of responses, of which the verbal is only one. If someone walks into a lamp-post (even though it's something you may never have done yourself), and then screams and falls over and writhes about, you don't stop and ask yourself "I wonder if he's feeling pain?"

It all raises more questions than it answers. Which I guess was the whole point. It does underline how difficult the subjective is to measure scientifically.

61rrp
syyskuu 21, 2013, 8:49am

#56

Sure. But does a traffic light try to make itself understood? What's the different?

62StormRaven
syyskuu 21, 2013, 9:57am

27: rrp really doesn't have the first clue what he's talking about here.

When has this statement ever been untrue?

63Jesse_wiedinmyer
syyskuu 21, 2013, 10:37am

Intentionality is a philosophical concept defined by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy as “the power of minds to be about, to represent or to stand for, things, properties and states of affairs.” The term refers to the ability of the mind to form representations and has nothing to do with intentions.

Ummm. Not always.

http://www.tcd.ie/Biology_Teaching_Centre/assets/pdf/by2207/nmby2207/nmby2207-le...

64Jesse_wiedinmyer
syyskuu 21, 2013, 10:39am

Mind you, I've not opened the preceding link and read it yet, but its seems to be addressing the issues that I'm referring to.

65rrp
Muokkaaja: syyskuu 21, 2013, 3:03pm

#60 My take on the though experiments is to take a step back and ask why are we asking the question? And I would be looking for answers with practical consequences. Should we stop torturing the alien? Should we stop beating the robot? Should we be giving pain killers to the man and stop treating the woman as a patient?

66Jesse_wiedinmyer
syyskuu 21, 2013, 3:04pm

Should we give a flying fuck on whether Zeus exists?

67March-Hare
syyskuu 21, 2013, 6:09pm

>63 Jesse_wiedinmyer: Thanks for posting this. I will look at it again when I have more time.

68Jesse_wiedinmyer
syyskuu 22, 2013, 9:38am

And a glance at some of the issues involved from a different angle.

69JGL53
lokakuu 1, 2013, 12:42pm

"Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False"

Well, that certainly wins the Dumbest Thread Title of the Year award. For several reasons.

70steve.clason
lokakuu 1, 2013, 8:00pm

69> That's the subtitle of the book Mind and Cosmos which you would know if you had read the first sentence in the article referenced in #1, earning you Dumbest Thread Post of the Year award.

71AsYouKnow_Bob
lokakuu 1, 2013, 9:16pm

Eh... just because it was a dumb subtitle before it was a Dumb Thread Title doesn't mean it wasn't dumb.

72StormRaven
lokakuu 1, 2013, 9:54pm

71: It is a dumb subtitle, in part, because Nagel is a clown who doesn't understand the science he is criticizing. After all, he thinks ID is science, when it patently is not.

73Tid
lokakuu 2, 2013, 5:37am

72

"he thinks ID is science"

I didn't see that in the article?

74StormRaven
lokakuu 2, 2013, 7:03am

73: Look him up. Nagel holds a collection of fairly silly views on science.

75Tid
lokakuu 2, 2013, 12:48pm

74

I read a lengthy article about him. I'd say "Interesting", "different", rather than "silly". One sentence did stand out though :"Nagel is an atheist and not a proponent of intelligent design (ID). He writes in Mind and Cosmos that he lacks the sensus divinitatis that would allow him see the world in terms of divine purpose. He disagrees with both ID defenders and their opponents, who argue that the only naturalistic alternative to ID is the current reductionist neo-Darwinian model."

However, he does agree that ID should not be dismissed as unscientific. I presume therefore that he is speaking of ID in a different way than creationists, who simply use the term qua God.

76StormRaven
lokakuu 2, 2013, 1:48pm

75: If you think ID can't be dismissed as unscientific, then your views concerning science can be properly classified as silly.

77JGL53
lokakuu 2, 2013, 2:20pm

> 76

Again, something that SHOULD go without saying, but apparently some people still confuse magic with science.

78MyopicBookworm
lokakuu 2, 2013, 2:22pm

In the abstract, I think ID could be treated as scientific, if it is genuinely framed as a potentially testable hypothesis about the necessity of higher-level or mind-based explanations for natural phenomena such as abiogenesis or the transmutation of species.

However, out of the abstract, I haven't yet seen any such hypothesis that is not ultimately a cloak for a resort to scriptural or revelatory authority (whether Biblical, Quranic, or Vedic), which is indeed inherently unscientific. My own (continually evolving) position has resulted from an unsuccessful attempt to "rescue" traditional theism in the face of 20th century developments in biology and cosmology.

79JGL53
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 2, 2013, 2:42pm

> 78

I am probably as familiar as most people with the notions/arguments of ID, purposeful design and irreducible complexity.

All of that in a nutshell is a non-falsifiable claim. I can't even begin to imagine how one would approach (probable)verification or refutation of ID in science.

ID would be proven if a god showed up, appearing to all at one, making things disappear and reappear at will, etc. That never seems to happen, except as myth in various books generally written long ago.

And how does one offer evidence to the contrary of ID that an ID believer would except? Not possible, IMO.
Does anyone else have any ideas on how to do that?

Like I say: ID = non-falsifiable belief.

Just like invisible elves living in the center of the moon (I.e., how do we demonstrate the probability/non-probability of such elves existing?).

80Tid
lokakuu 2, 2013, 4:51pm

76

If you're talking about ID as used by Christian fundamentalists, then I agree. But as I said, I'm assuming (on the basis of his atheism and disagreement with ID as used in that specific way) that Nagel is using the term in a different way.

If he is, then the term Intelligent Design - which in itself is unremarkable if you take away its theistic debasement and take instead as a starting point that the early evolution of the universe may have enshrined some form of 'universe intelligence' which we now understand as "laws" - should be replaced by another term which makes it clear that there is no theism at its heart.

81StormRaven
lokakuu 2, 2013, 5:55pm

But as I said, I'm assuming (on the basis of his atheism and disagreement with ID as used in that specific way) that Nagel is using the term in a different way.

That seems to be an unwarranted assumption given his glowing praise for Stephen Meyer's Signature in the Cell.

82Tid
lokakuu 2, 2013, 6:05pm

81

I guess I'll have to read more of him then (time permitting!)

83prosfilaes
lokakuu 2, 2013, 8:03pm

ID is a scientific theory, broadly speaking; it falls into the category called failed scientific theories. Contending that life on this planet was created suddenly in largely its modern form is no longer seriously contendable.

He disagrees with both ID defenders and their opponents, who argue that the only naturalistic alternative to ID is the current reductionist neo-Darwinian model.

In theory, of course not. You can come up with many models for how life developed on Earth. However, Darwinian evolution is the only one seriously proposed that matches the evidence we have. You don't get to argue that there's alternatives and not mention what they are and why they might be challengers to our current best theory.

"Reductionist" is also one of the philosophical words that I think gets under scientists' skins; it certainly gets under mine. You want to argue that current theories insufficiently account for the complex behavior, go ahead. But reductionist is a way to dismiss a theory without actually having to grapple with facts. You don't have to actually worry about whether the theory accounts for what it claims for, you just dismiss it as too simple off hand.

84Tid
lokakuu 3, 2013, 6:12am

83

I haven't read a great deal about Nagel, but the article did specifically say that his objections were with "the current reductionist neo-Darwinian model". Not with the theory of evolution by natural selection in itself.

I get the impression that he wishes to grapple with the philosophical questions underlying it, rather than simply saying "We have the physical evidence, it's all objective, we don't need anything more by way of explanation, mind doesn't come into it, and the subjective certainly doesn't". Admittedly that's from a fairly cursory reading of what his stance is.

85jburlinson
lokakuu 3, 2013, 3:34pm

Isn't the project of science pretty much based on the assumption that the universe and its components are intelligible, at least to us?

If so, then wouldn't it be true that an intelligence (namely, our intelligence) is capable of detecting the patterns and laws (in short, the design) in nature? Even if this design is somewhat aleatoric‎, like evolution?

86StormRaven
lokakuu 3, 2013, 4:10pm

I haven't read a great deal about Nagel, but the article did specifically say that his objections were with "the current reductionist neo-Darwinian model". Not with the theory of evolution by natural selection in itself.

To criticize scientific models, including the so-called "reductionist neo-Darwinian model", you have to at least have a basic idea of what is science. By saying that ID is science, Nagel has failed to pass that test, and as a result, everything he claims about science is suspect. He has shown himself to be woefully ignorant of the subject he is trying to opine upon.

87rrp
lokakuu 3, 2013, 4:31pm

#84 Tid

That's a good summary. Nagel is a philosopher, and he is asking questions of science, and particularly the reductionist model of science, from the perspective of a philosopher. Mind and Cosmos is an interesting book, if a little heavy going, and I would recommend it. Thought provoking.

What is interesting here is that those who dismiss his ideas, haven't actually engaged with them in any way. It's an unfortunate trait of scientism to commit the logical error of dismissing philosophy as irrelevant, which is of course, a philosophical position and thus they think their own position is irrelevant, which it is.

88Tid
lokakuu 3, 2013, 5:07pm

86

I haven't yet seen the evidence that Nagel thinks that ID as per the religious fundamentalists is science. Since their use of the term is simply "Creator God, redefined", and since Nagel is an atheist, it would be logically impossible.

89StormRaven
lokakuu 3, 2013, 7:00pm

88: Which makes his claims incoherent from the start. Signature in the Cell is a full on religious ID book, and Nagel thinks it is wonderful and should be taken seriously by scientists. He thinks Michael Behe and Stephen Dembski are worth listening to when they ramble about ID. He's clueless on the subject he is opining upon.

90JGL53
lokakuu 3, 2013, 7:30pm

^

Well, I am familiar with both Behe and Dembski. Anyone who endorses those asshats is ipso facto an asshat whom we can safely ignore.

91prosfilaes
lokakuu 4, 2013, 6:39pm

#84: his objections were with "the current reductionist neo-Darwinian model". Not with the theory of evolution by natural selection in itself.

Not much of a distinction. No one is going to defend every jot and tittle of the current consensus, but the general shape of it is there because it is the only theory supporting what we know.

I get the impression that he wishes to grapple with the philosophical questions underlying it

Then grapple with the philosophical questions and stop lecturing scientists about science.

92rrp
lokakuu 5, 2013, 12:09am

So, where exactly in the article does Nagel lecture scientists about science? Where does he make a scientific statement that you disagree with, or that any scientist would disagree with?

It is self-evident to anyone who as bothered to read the article, let alone the book, that what Nagel is doing is, as you command him to do, grappling with philosophical questions, not scientific questions.

These ad hominem attacks on someone, just because you think you disagree with him, are really tiresome.

93prosfilaes
lokakuu 5, 2013, 1:28pm

#92: So, where exactly in the article does Nagel lecture scientists about science?

We can start with saying that "ID is science" and He disagrees with both ID defenders and their opponents, who argue that the only naturalistic alternative to ID is the current reductionist neo-Darwinian model.

These ad hominem attacks on someone, just because you think you disagree with him, are really tiresome.

I don't think you know what ad hominem attacks are.

94rrp
lokakuu 5, 2013, 4:10pm

I don't think you understand English grammar. For a start, where in the article does it say

"He disagrees with both ID defenders and their opponents, who argue that the only naturalistic alternative to ID is the current reductionist neo-Darwinian model."?

And please could you help us parse that sentence in any way to make it mean,

"ID is science."

95StormRaven
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 6, 2013, 2:04am

94: I don't think you understand English grammar.

Why should anyone take any grammar advice from you? You don't even know what an ad hominem is. Just for the record, this is Nagel lecturing scientists about science:

"Finally, since the long process of biological evolution is responsible for the existence of conscious organisms, and since a purely physical process cannot explain their existence, it follows that biological evolution must be more than just a physical process, and the theory of evolution, if it is to explain the existence of conscious life, must become more than just a physical theory."

Nagel's claim that "a purely physical process cannot explain their existence" is a scientific claim. One that he has zero evidence to back up.

96Tid
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 6, 2013, 6:22am

94

Oh, that quote wasn't in the article of the OP - I found it in an encyclopedia article about Nagel.

95

No-one has any evidence to account for the existence of consciousness, or even life itself. Dawkins argues strongly that the process of natural selection accounts for the existence of all complex life forms and that there is no 'Mount Improbable' that needs to be leapt up, as ID proponents suggest would be required if there wasn't 'design'. But even Dawkins admits that consciousness and the origins of life itself, do not come into the "evolution by natural selection" process; he suggests that they must be accounted for by some other scientific theory, and invokes the Anthropic Principle as one such.

Nagel appears to be going along this track too - to look beyond the 'purely physical' is not to make an immediate leap into the realms of the supernatural, which seems to be the conclusions of the materialist.

97StormRaven
lokakuu 6, 2013, 6:38am

96: No-one has any evidence to account for the existence of consciousness, or even life itself.

That is the observation that thus far, science has not accounted for the existence of consciousness. But that's not Nagel's claim. Nagel's claim is that a purely physical process cannot account for them. That's a different, and completely unsupported, claim.

98rrp
lokakuu 6, 2013, 12:03pm

Stormy

I think we should at least give you some credit. You have stopped attacking the authority of the writer without addressing the substance of his argument (that's ad hominem by the way.) You seem to have actually read the article and are attempting to address the substance of his argument. Unfortunately you have completely misunderstood it.

When Nagel says "a purely physical process cannot explain their existence" he is making a philosophical statement not a scientific statement. By cannot he means that within the current conventions of science, non-physical things such as consciousness, meaning, intention and value are not allowed as part of explanations. It is the same meaning of cannot as saying that a pawn in chess cannot move backwards.

99rrp
lokakuu 6, 2013, 12:04pm

Tid

Oh, that quote wasn't in the article of the OP - I found it in an encyclopedia article about Nagel.

Yes, I know. I wasn't taking issue with what you wrote but with the fact that prosfilaes hadn't bothered to read the article but was instead quoting you quoting someone else who was saying what they thought Nagel wrote. You seemed to have a good understanding what Nagel is about.

100Tid
lokakuu 6, 2013, 1:45pm

97

"Nagel's claim is that a purely physical process cannot account for them. That's a different, and completely unsupported, claim."

Yes, I agree. If Nagel uses the word "cannot" in relation to something for which there is not yet any evidential proof, then I have to part company with him.

98

"When Nagel says "a purely physical process cannot explain their existence" he is making a philosophical statement not a scientific statement."

While I agree that Nagel is as much philosopher (more?) than scientist, surely a true philosopher would never say 'cannot' with such authority without something to back up such a claim?

101StormRaven
lokakuu 6, 2013, 1:56pm

You have stopped attacking the authority of the writer without addressing the substance of his argument (that's ad hominem by the way.)

I never attacked the authority of the writer. I attacked his competence on the subject, which is not an ad hominem. As with so many other subjects you attempt to engage upon, your contributions to this thread demonstrated your incompetence regarding both science and grammar. His claim that ID is science demonstrates that he is simply not credible when he opines on the subject of what is and is not science, and what science can or cannot do. He is, in short, incompetent on this topic.

When Nagel says "a purely physical process cannot explain their existence" he is making a philosophical statement not a scientific statement.

Sorry, that's a dog that's just not going to hunt. He is making claims about the physical universe and claiming that science cannot explain them. That's a scientific claim no matter how much you hold your breath and wish it not to be so.

102rrp
lokakuu 6, 2013, 2:21pm

100 Tid

Would a philosopher be correct if he said "A pawn cannot move backwards in the game of chess?"

103rrp
lokakuu 6, 2013, 2:23pm

Stormy

He is making claims about the physical universe

No he isn't.

104nathanielcampbell
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 6, 2013, 4:23pm

>97 StormRaven:: "That is the observation that thus far, science has not accounted for the existence of consciousness. But that's not Nagel's claim. Nagel's claim is that a purely physical process cannot account for them. That's a different, and completely unsupported, claim."

It occurs to me that we could write something along these same lines concerning the existence of God:

One could make the observation that thus far, science has not found any evidence for the existence of God. But that's not what some* atheists claim. Their claim is that God cannot exist. That's a different, and completely unsupported, claim.

*Edited to add nuance that Jesse rightly pointed out ought to be added.

105Jesse_wiedinmyer
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 6, 2013, 3:13pm

No. That's not what most atheists claim (in fact, I think one of the most recent brouhahas came when Hawking declared God unnecessary.)

106StormRaven
lokakuu 6, 2013, 3:47pm

One could make the observation that thus far, science has not found any evidence for the existence of God. But that's not what atheists claim. Their claim is that God cannot exist.

No, it isn't. Atheists claim that no evidence for god has been found, and as a result there is no good reason for believing that one exists. But then again, I have come to expect this sort of ignorance from you.

107nathanielcampbell
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 6, 2013, 5:07pm

By your own admission, however, "thus far, science has not accounted for the existence of consciousness." By your logic, therefore, "there is no good reason for believing that {consciousness} exists."

ETA: On reflection, I see that I may have made an error in confusing evidence for the existence of something with a theory to account for that existence. In that case, I apologize.

108southernbooklady
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 6, 2013, 4:28pm

>107 nathanielcampbell: Ah, your logic is faulty, Nathan. There is evidence for consciousness. Therefore it is plausible that it exists. What Science does not yet know is how it came to exist, or the details of how it works.

ETA: You posted your elaboration while I was typing, so .... carry on, everyone.

109StormRaven
lokakuu 6, 2013, 4:36pm

By your own admission, however, "thus far, science has not accounted for the existence of consciousness."

Demonstrating the existence of something and providing an accounting for something are two different things. Demonstrating the existence of something is a prerequisite for providing an accounting for it, but they are not the same. Please keep up.

110Tid
lokakuu 6, 2013, 5:43pm

102

ANYONE, not just a philosopher, would be correct ... but then the laws of chess are clearly defined and known.

111eromsted
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 6, 2013, 10:02pm

-On Nagel and Intelligent Design-

Here's a link to his essay on the relationship of ID to science, http://philosophy.fas.nyu.edu/docs/IO/1172/papa_132.pdf

There's a lot wrong in there, but what is perhaps most striking is what is missing: an explicit acknowledgement that ID has no positive evidence to support it. ID has only doubt thrown upon evolution as a sufficient explanation. This lack of positive evidence is implicit in his discussion, but he never comes right out and says it. Without positive evidence ID is a classic "god of the gaps" argument, finding evidence for god in that which is not (yet) explained by science. As there will always be something left unexplained, such arguments are infinitely malleable. It is the lack of positive evidence and impossibility of falsification due to constantly moveable goalposts that make ID not science. Nagel does not address these problems.

He does makes much of science being able to disprove biblical literalism and creation science but not being able to disprove ID. It is true that the claim that the earth appears to be young (as per the bible) is not tenable based on the evidence. However, there is no way to disprove the claim that the earth was created by god 6000 odd years ago. The problem with such an assertion is not scientific but theological, as it would imply that god created the earth to look old despite being young. And it is hard to understand why god would do such a thing.

ID has similar theological problems. If ID's designer is also god, the creator of the whole universe, then this is a strangely limited god. Though god was able to create a universe that would mostly run of itself, some problems (like complex biological organs) were just too hard. So god had to step in and design solutions to those problems directly. Strange theology indeed.

112rrp
lokakuu 6, 2013, 10:30pm

#110 Tid

surely a true philosopher would never say 'cannot' with such authority without something to back up such a claim?

ANYONE, not just a philosopher, would be correct ... but then the laws of chess are clearly defined and known.

So when the situation is clearly defined and known, a philosopher can say 'correct' with authority, as is the case here. Nagel is talking about the clearly defined and known limits of methods of physical sciences; they exclude as explanations consciousness, intention, meaning and value. So when he says "a purely physical process cannot explain their existence", he means by the rules of the physical sciences those things cannot be explained.

113rrp
lokakuu 6, 2013, 10:45pm

Nathan, SBL et al.

Sure there is evidence for the existence of consciousness. By there isn't evidence of a physical explanation of the existence of consciousness, so Nathan's logical analogy works. (You gave up too soon.) No one has yet come up with an explanation of what consciousness is in physical terms, so there cannot be a physical explanation of how it came to exist.

114rrp
lokakuu 6, 2013, 10:51pm

Oh, and I forgot. Would someone please remind Stormy that attacking someone's competence on a subject is precisely an attack on that persons authority to speak on that subject, and so, if not accompanied by an argument addressing the substance of the argument, is indeed an ad hominem. One gets tired of correcting his basic errors.

115rrp
lokakuu 6, 2013, 10:52pm

eromsted

Thanks for posting a link to that article. Interesting reading.

116southernbooklady
lokakuu 6, 2013, 11:42pm

>113 rrp: No one has yet come up with an explanation of what consciousness is in physical terms, so there cannot be a physical explanation of how it came to exist.

That statement makes no sense to me. Perhaps I'm unconscious.

There is a difference, of course, between an "explanation" and a "description."

Did anyone see the article in the NYT about the emotional life of dogs? http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/06/opinion/sunday/dogs-are-people-too.html?smid=f...

It suggests that some of the things we associate with consciousness, including emotional reactions to different situations, are not unique to homo sapiens, but operate in very similar ways in other species at the neurological level. Mind you, this is not news to any dog owner, who is perfectly aware that their dogs have an emotional life, but it is interesting that they experience emotions in a similar way that we do.

117StormRaven
lokakuu 6, 2013, 11:53pm

116: That statement makes no sense to me.

That's because you understand the difference between "has not" and "cannot". This is a distinction that rrp clearly does not understand.

118Jesse_wiedinmyer
lokakuu 7, 2013, 12:18am

By there isn't evidence of a physical explanation of the existence of consciousness, so Nathan's logical analogy works.

Well, but for all of the indications that specific aspects of what we consider consciousness can be roughly mapped (see SBL's link above) or the fact that scientists have been able to induce specific states of consciousness with physical tweaks.

119rrp
lokakuu 7, 2013, 9:47am

#116 There is a difference, of course, between an "explanation" and a "description."

There is a big difference. What we are looking for is a causal explanation for how consciousness is generated, how a first person view of the world is generated, in terms of the fundamental interaction the physical entities of matter and energy.

An observation that dogs react in similar ways in similar situations as humans do is not even heading in the right direction.

120rrp
lokakuu 7, 2013, 9:52am

#118 scientists have been able to induce specific states of consciousness with physical tweaks

See above. And.

The light bulb in this room is part of the electrical supply grid. I am able to induce specific states in the grid with small tweaks of the switch. Those experiments add nothing to an explanation how the electrical grid came to exist. The only thing they can tell me about the grid is that either the power is on, or it's off.

121southernbooklady
lokakuu 7, 2013, 9:59am

The only thing they can tell me about the grid is that either the power is on, or it's off.

You might learn a little more if you remove the light switch panels and look at the wiring. Or perhaps it is the existence of electricity that is a mystery to you?

122Tid
lokakuu 7, 2013, 11:14am

112

"So when the situation is clearly defined and known, a philosopher can say 'correct' with authority, as is the case here. Nagel is talking about the clearly defined and known limits of methods of physical sciences; they exclude as explanations consciousness, intention, meaning and value. So when he says "a purely physical process cannot explain their existence", he means by the rules of the physical sciences those things cannot be explained."

No, it's not the same thing at all. Something that is "clearly defined and known" such as the rules of chess, is a complete thing : you can use those rules to play a game of chess, and everyone knows what is and is not a correct chess move. On the other hand a "clearly defined and known limit of a method.." is almost an oxymoron; it's an admission of a (temporary) haziness about knowledge, which may get resolved in the future. It's only clearly defined in the sense of a horizon - a clear sharp line between earth and sky, but something that recedes the further you get towards it, as the terrain that once was the horizon is suddenly the ground you're walking on, and a new horizon appears.

116

"It suggests that some of the things we associate with consciousness, including emotional reactions to different situations, are not unique to homo sapiens, but operate in very similar ways in other species at the neurological level."

I'm not sure where a link between consciousness and homo sapiens comes from? Human beings are certainly self-conscious and we don't know for sure if any other species are. But self-consciousness is simply an evolved form of basic consciousness which all life forms express to a greater or lesser extent. This is why I've always hypothesised here that consciousness is not a product of complexity, but an attribute of life itself. We're too busy looking at human consciousness in the belief that it's unique, instead of examining the entire continuum.

118

"scientists have been able to induce specific states of consciousness with physical tweaks."

That's certainly true, but it's dangerous to extrapolate any cause and effect from that. For example, a narcotic can induce a state of mental hallucination, but to then say that all hallucinations have a chemical CAUSE, would not be true (they may all RESULT in a change of brain chemistry, but which is cause and which effect?)

123rrp
lokakuu 7, 2013, 11:18am

Or perhaps it is the existence of electricity that is a mystery to you?

Are you saying you completely understand how the electricity is supplied to your house; how is comes to exist at the socket in your room? Do you know how the generation, transmission and distribution network works, how it can to exist, or even where each part is?

Or is the existence of electricity a mystery to you?

124southernbooklady
lokakuu 7, 2013, 11:21am

>123 rrp: Or is the existence of electricity a mystery to you?

You seem to be equating not knowing something with the notion that it is unknowable.

125rrp
lokakuu 7, 2013, 11:36am

No. I am asking if the existence of electricity is a mystery to you? Can you, by studying the wiring in your house, independently come up with an explanation of the electric grid, the generation, transmission and distribution system?

The analogy, if I need to make it explicit, is that tinkering around the edges by tweaking the brain is a very long, long, long way from explaining consciousness.

126rrp
lokakuu 7, 2013, 11:41am

#122 No, it's not the same thing at all.

Are you agreeing with Feyerabend that when it comes to a scientific method "anything goes", that subjective experiences count as evidence, each to his or her own? That objectivity is not a goal of science?

127southernbooklady
lokakuu 7, 2013, 12:31pm

>125 rrp: No. I am asking if the existence of electricity is a mystery to you?

No you aren't. Electricity is not a "mystery" to me because even though I do not know how to wire a house or set up a grid, I know that it is a "knowable" thing.

And as for the notion that you can't extrapolate an electric grid from the existence of wiring or a light switch, I beg to differ. That's intuiting oceans from the existence of a drop of water. One only need to see water running down a hill to start thinking of things like irrigation ditches to divert it, dams to harness it, bridges to step over it. And if the existence of an apple does not suggest to you the probability of a tree, and furthermore the possibility of an orchard, then you are just skating along the superficial surface of life.

Of course, some people are better at this sort of thing than others. Like this guy, for example:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Srinivasa_Ramanujan

128Jesse_wiedinmyer
lokakuu 7, 2013, 12:42pm

And rrp has officially become Bill O'Reilly.

129Tid
lokakuu 7, 2013, 1:58pm

126

"Are you agreeing with Feyerabend that when it comes to a scientific method "anything goes", that subjective experiences count as evidence, each to his or her own? That objectivity is not a goal of science?"

Uh? How do you get that from what I said?

130Jesse_wiedinmyer
lokakuu 7, 2013, 2:38pm

How did he get that from what you said? He took what you said and twisted it to support the argument that he wishes to make. He does it often.

131rrp
lokakuu 7, 2013, 2:43pm

Electricity is not a "mystery" to me.

Mystery: something that is difficult or impossible to understand or explain.

So it is easy for you to explain the details of the electric grid, the generation, transmission and distribution system? I doubt it and you certainly wouldn't be able to learn how to by flipping a switch on and off in your house. And Ramanujan was a mathematician. I doubt very much whether he could do it either.

I think one of the confusions here is that I am talking about "explaining", giving details of how and why it works. You seem to be stuck on deducing that it exists. The electric grid is a very complex, interacting system which covers large parts of the country and there is probably no one person who fully knows and understands it in all it's details. In fact there have been occasions in the past where there have been massive failures in the system because we didn't fully understand the details.

To explain the electric grid you need to take into account science, technology, history, economics, geography and politics and probably other things to. You cannot deduce that by flipping the switch in your house.

132Jesse_wiedinmyer
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 7, 2013, 2:52pm

133southernbooklady
lokakuu 7, 2013, 2:53pm

Mystery: something that is difficult or impossible to understand or explain.

And electricity is not impossible, and for many people not even difficult to explain. Witness, the fairly numerous Wiki articles on the subject. I can't explain how to perform open heart surgery either, but I know it can be done.

So once again I say: just because you don't know something, does not mean that it is unknowable.

And you should be careful about how you throw around the word "cannot" -- I cannot run a 2 minute mile. I have no idea whether you are capable of doing so or not, so I will not presume to know what you can and cannot do.

134rrp
lokakuu 7, 2013, 2:56pm

Uh? How do you get that from what I said?

We were talking about what Nagel meant when he said "a purely physical process cannot explain their existence". I was explaining that when he said "cannot", he meant cannot by the rules of science.

You said in #122

No, it's not the same thing at all. Something that is "clearly defined and known" such as the rules of chess, is a complete thing : you can use those rules to play a game of chess, and everyone knows what is and is not a correct chess move. On the other hand a "clearly defined and known limit of a method.." is almost an oxymoron; it's an admission of a (temporary) haziness about knowledge, which may get resolved in the future.

Now Nagel would probably agree; the rules of science need to be redefined to allow for the subjective, to allow for the existence of non-physical things like minds, intention, meaning and value. To allow teleological explanations for events in physics. Currently, the convention is not to allow those things in scientific explanations. There is a clearly defined and known, if implicit rule to that effect, everyone knows what is and is not a correct science move. Those rules cannot currently be broken hence "a purely physical process cannot explain the existence of consciousness, intention, meaning and value".

I just added in Feyerabend to amuse. But he is right. To make progress in science there cannot be a fixed set of rules about what is and is not The Scientific Method.

135rrp
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 7, 2013, 3:10pm

#133

Again, I cannot move a pawn backwards in chess. Everyone who knows the rules of chess knows that. That's the meaning of cannot Nagel is using.

ETA. I also know you cannot move a pawn backwards in chess.

136rrp
lokakuu 7, 2013, 3:07pm

And electricity is not impossible, and for many people not even difficult to explain.

But it is difficult. You are talking about one level of electricity. I am talking about another. You are talking about electricity at the level of the wiring in your house, which is relatively easy to explain (although I have still to work out an explanation why the sockets in my living room are on four different breakers.)

I am talking about electricity at the level of the vast and complex network which generates power, transmits that power across the country to your local distributor and then distributes it to your house.

It's an analogy. Scientists currently working in neuroscience are poking around at the low level, flipping switches in the house. They cannot leave the house. They are constrained by their methods to never leave the house. By flipping switches they will never be able to explain the working of the electric grid. It's a different sort of thing.

137southernbooklady
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 7, 2013, 3:11pm

>135 rrp:

And as everyone has pointed out to you, we don't yet know all the rules of the universe the way we know the rules of chess.

We sit surrounded by the results of what happens when people try to envision things that "could not be done or known" by the known rules of reality. We have computers and airplanes and rocket ships and atomic bombs and telescopes that can "see" to the edge of space. Guess what happens? We learn there is more to learn, more to know.

There may indeed come a time when we reach the limits of the knowable, but we're nowhere near there yet.

>136 rrp: I am talking about electricity at the level of the vast and complex network which generates power, transmits that power across the country to your local distributor and then distributes it to your house.

Pah. You're hung up on scale.

138Jesse_wiedinmyer
lokakuu 7, 2013, 3:10pm

Yet, your example presumes the electrical grid and (by extension) also presumes that the larger grid can be understood and explained.

You are not making the cogent point you think you are making.

139rrp
lokakuu 7, 2013, 3:13pm

And as everyone has pointed out to you, we don't yet know all the rules of the universe the way we know the rules of chess.

And, as I have repeated many times, we are not talking about the rules of the universe, we are talking about the rules by which science explains the universe. Those rules do not allow certain forms of explanation. Those forms of explanation cannot be used.

140southernbooklady
lokakuu 7, 2013, 3:14pm

>140 southernbooklady: we are not talking about the rules of the universe, we are talking about the rules by which science explains the universe. Those rules do not allow certain forms of explanation. Those forms of explanation cannot be used.

You say that like it is a bad thing. :-)

141Jesse_wiedinmyer
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 7, 2013, 3:15pm

Because they add nothing to understanding... Very simply.

"Because God" says nothing.

142rrp
lokakuu 7, 2013, 3:15pm

Pah. You're hung up on scale.

No. It's not a matter of scale. It's a matter of a different level of abstraction. Of a thing which is completely different in character from its constituent parts at lower levels.

143Jesse_wiedinmyer
lokakuu 7, 2013, 3:16pm

Or, as someone else once famously said (mayhap preceding Hawking), "I have no use for that hypothesis."

144rrp
lokakuu 7, 2013, 3:16pm

You say that like it is a bad thing.

There are only a bad thing if they get in the way of progress.

145southernbooklady
lokakuu 7, 2013, 3:17pm

>142 rrp: Of a thing which is completely different in character from its constituent parts at lower levels.

And we're back to the nature of consciousness, I think. But no one has shown that it is in fact "different in character" from the parts that make it up or the processes that fuel it.

146Jesse_wiedinmyer
lokakuu 7, 2013, 3:19pm

#145 Not even close. And the gaps in which rrp would like to hide is God are diminishing daily.

147rrp
lokakuu 7, 2013, 3:22pm

And we're back to the nature of consciousness, I think. But no one has shown that it is in fact "different in character" from the parts that make it up or the processes that fuel it.

Eh? No one has got event close to making a link between the lower level processes of the brain and an explanation of consciousness. We are back to the "there's no evidence for God, so we should not believe God exists" analogy. "There's no evidence of an explanation of how lower level brain processes produce consciousness, so we should not believe that one exists."

148southernbooklady
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 7, 2013, 3:32pm

>147 rrp: "there's no evidence for God, so we should not believe God exists" analogy. "There's no evidence of an explanation of how lower level brain processes produce consciousness, so we should not believe that one exists."

That analogy doesn't work for me since while we may not know how consciousness is produced, we have plenty of satisfyingly empirical evidence that it does exist--not the least the fact that I've managed to ensnare myself in this conversation. So, like the apple, which we also know exists because we can eat it, we can start positing things like seeds (electrochemical interactions) and trees (neurons) and orchards (brains) and go on to test them to see if we're on the right track.

149rrp
lokakuu 7, 2013, 3:41pm

You missed the point. The analogy is between "existence" (of God) and "existence" (of an explanation of consciousness). Not "existence" (of God) and "existence" (of consciousness).

150StormRaven
lokakuu 7, 2013, 3:45pm

We are back to the "there's no evidence for God, so we should not believe God exists" analogy. "There's no evidence of an explanation of how lower level brain processes produce consciousness, so we should not believe that one exists."

And here you demonstrate that you don't understand basic English.

There is no evidence of any explanation of how lover level brain processes produce consciousness does mean we should not believe that such an explanation exists. Yet. You see, until we have explained something, we haven't explained it.

But that is qualitatively different from saying that no explanation could exist. There is no good reason to believe that an explanation exist now, which is completely natural because no such explanation has been found. But to say that such an explanation cannot exist is an entirely different statement.

The problem is that you didn't understand the original analogy, and have attempted to claim it means something that it did not. No one in this thread (other than nathanielcampbell, who did so erroneously) has claimed that an atheist asserts that because there is no evidence that God cannot exist. The assertion is that because there is no evidence that God exists, there is no good reason to believe God exists.

As usual, you are in way over your head, and are making a fool out of yourself.

151Tid
lokakuu 7, 2013, 5:35pm

139

"And, as I have repeated many times, we are not talking about the rules of the universe, we are talking about the rules by which science explains the universe. Those rules do not allow certain forms of explanation. Those forms of explanation cannot be used."

Yes, but there's a paradox here which you aren't acknowledging. The paradox is exemplified by particle physics which includes Heisenberg's famous "Uncertainty Principle". Yet that principle was uncovered mathematically and subsequently confirmed by experiment. Those experiments prove that the subjective IS a factor in some forms of measurements in physics. But this is not some haphazard "any rule you like" thing - it's subjected to the very Scientific Method of which you complain.

152jburlinson
lokakuu 7, 2013, 6:18pm

> 145. And we're back to the nature of consciousness, I think. But no one has shown that it is in fact "different in character" from the parts that make it up or the processes that fuel it.

Are you suggesting that consciousness is a product of electrochemical processes within a particular type of nervous system?

153southernbooklady
lokakuu 7, 2013, 6:22pm

>152 jburlinson: Are you suggesting that consciousness is a product of electrochemical processes within a particular type of nervous system?

As opposed to what? a free-floating consciousness not tied to any biochemical processes?

154Jesse_wiedinmyer
lokakuu 7, 2013, 6:24pm

Tethered to a particular biochemical process for a very finite span of time.

155Jesse_wiedinmyer
lokakuu 7, 2013, 6:24pm

Like a balloon, it just floats away when the string go loose.

156jburlinson
lokakuu 7, 2013, 6:54pm

> 153. As opposed to what? a free-floating consciousness not tied to any biochemical processes?

I only ask because when I tried to make the same point in another thread, I got a world of grief from all and sundry. Now it seems that you've got no problem with it, which is totally OK by me; I agree with you 100%.

157southernbooklady
lokakuu 7, 2013, 7:03pm

>156 jburlinson: are you talking about this conversation? http://www.librarything.com/topic/157609#4247517

I don't think I implied that consciousness was not biologically based--I certainly didn't mean to imply that.

158Tid
lokakuu 8, 2013, 5:32am

153

">152 jburlinson: Are you suggesting that consciousness is a product of electrochemical processes within a particular type of nervous system?

As opposed to what? a free-floating consciousness not tied to any biochemical processes? "


As opposed to being an attribute of life?

159StormRaven
lokakuu 8, 2013, 5:47am

158: As opposed to being an attribute of life?

What is life other than a biochemical process?

160MyopicBookworm
lokakuu 8, 2013, 7:34am

What is life other than a biochemical process?

A biological process. There's more to biology than molecules.

161southernbooklady
lokakuu 8, 2013, 9:07am

>158 Tid: As opposed to being an attribute of life?

As SR points out "life" seems to be a stew of biochemical processes. So in that sense, sure. Consciousness is an attribute of life.

A biological process. There's more to biology than molecules.

What kind of biological process would not involve molecules?

162Jesse_wiedinmyer
lokakuu 8, 2013, 9:29am

Wrong formulation, SBL.

What is involved in a biological process in addition to molecules?

163southernbooklady
lokakuu 8, 2013, 9:37am

Energy.

164StormRaven
lokakuu 8, 2013, 10:58am

160: Describe a biological process that doesn't involve molecules.

165rrp
lokakuu 8, 2013, 11:22am

#151 Tid

Now I like that answer.

Sure, there is one, but one of many, interpretations of quantum mechanics, proposed by John von Neumann and Eugene Wigner, who argued that consciousness was critical for the collapse of the wave function. There are other interpretations that do not held by physics who don't like the idea that subjectivity is necessary for physics (and, admittedly, for other reasons too).

the very Scientific Method of which you complain

There's no such thing as The Scientific Method.

#152,153

Are you suggesting that consciousness is a product of electrochemical processes within a particular type of nervous system?

This is an interesting theory, but cannot be a scientific theory. How would you propose to experimentally verify it?

166Tid
lokakuu 8, 2013, 12:00pm

159

"What is life other than a biochemical process?"

That's the $64,000 question that no-one has yet been able to answer.

167StormRaven
lokakuu 8, 2013, 12:14pm

166: The problem is that there's no evidence that there is another answer. All life that we have found requires biochemistry. All efforts to find some extra "vital essence" or other form of "special sauce" have been complete failures.

168MyopicBookworm
lokakuu 8, 2013, 1:57pm

What is piano music other than some hammers banging some wires? Materially, that's all it requires. The difference between Beethoven and Chopin is not analysable in terms of the mechanical process.

162 What is involved in a biological process in addition to molecules?

163 Energy

And information. Information is completely dependent on instantiation in material form, but to describe simply the material form is incomplete.

169StormRaven
lokakuu 8, 2013, 2:08pm

168: And information.

The information is biochemistry.

170JGL53
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 8, 2013, 2:14pm

> 168

But is information existentially anything more than color or taste or cold vs. hot?

I feel/experience love or hate or disappointment or bliss or nostalgia or hope or fear or have an itch on my big toe. Or I experience reality as me vs. non-me. Does any of that prove a transcendent realm separate, distinct and independently existing utterly or ultimately apart from the material - molecules? Pre-existing all molecules or space/time?

I.e., is the argument for ontological duality anything more than a feeling or intuition or conviction? So far it seems not.

171southernbooklady
lokakuu 8, 2013, 2:13pm

>168 MyopicBookworm: What is piano music other than some hammers banging some wires? Materially, that's all it requires.

It also requires air, or some other medium through which sound waves can move.

And an analysis of the difference between Bach and Chopin would surely include a description of the variations in the mechanical processes required to produce their music.

And information. Information is completely dependent on instantiation in material form, but to describe simply the material form is incomplete.

Information theory is a little beyond my expertise, but it is fundamentally about pattern recognition, I think. But whether such patterns as we find or create exist eternally and a priori and therefore are objectively real in themselves is something we've been arguing about since Plato first stumbled out of his cave.

Are you saying that consciousness is one such a priori entity? A cloud of distinct information in a particular pattern that exists objectively in itself?

172Tid
lokakuu 8, 2013, 4:51pm

167 - 171

If you were able to wire Mozart's brain to an encephalograph while he was composing his 40th Symphony, you'd have a nice set of squiggles to point to and say "Look, THAT's Mozart's 40th. That's what caused it. Electro-chemical activity in the brain."

Sorry, I don't buy into that at all.

173StormRaven
lokakuu 8, 2013, 5:01pm

172: So you think that undetectable magic caused it? What evidence do you have that life is more than biochemistry?

174prosfilaes
lokakuu 8, 2013, 5:21pm

#172: That's sort of like pointing a camera to the blinking lights on a computer when it's simulating weather and saying "Look, that's the weather prediction. That's what made it. Electrical activity in the box."

175rrp
lokakuu 8, 2013, 8:48pm

My question still stands. What possible experiment could anyone devise that could show that consciousness is caused by biochemical activity in the brain? Correlated, maybe. But, as everyone should know, correlation is not causation. To have an experiment that shows causation you have to have a working hypothesis, which can be tested, which explains how consciousness is caused by biochemical activity. There ain't one.

176southernbooklady
lokakuu 8, 2013, 9:08pm

There is a difference between "there ain't one" and "there can never be one." The former does not predict the latter.

177rrp
lokakuu 8, 2013, 9:19pm

Ah. A statement of faith.

178prosfilaes
lokakuu 8, 2013, 9:25pm

#177: No, #176 is a statement of fact. Those two sentences have different denotations and the first does not imply the second. No matter how much snark you want to put into it.

179rrp
lokakuu 8, 2013, 10:06pm

I know. I know. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, as I always say.

180jburlinson
lokakuu 9, 2013, 12:07am

> 175. To have an experiment that shows causation you have to have a working hypothesis, which can be tested...

You mean you have to adhere to the scientific method?

181jburlinson
lokakuu 9, 2013, 12:20am

> 172. If you were able to wire Mozart's brain to an encephalograph while he was composing his 40th Symphony, you'd have a nice set of squiggles to point to and say "Look, THAT's Mozart's 40th. That's what caused it. Electro-chemical activity in the brain."

Sorry, I don't buy into that at all.


It does seem somewhat incommensurate doesn't it? On the other hand, once the electro-chemical activity stopped in Mozart's brain, we never got a 42nd Symphony. Coincidence?

182Tid
lokakuu 9, 2013, 6:29am

173

"So you think that undetectable magic caused it? What evidence do you have that life is more than biochemistry?"

Who said anything about magic??? Do you think it's a straight choice between theism (or other mumbo-jumbo) and materialism? Well, I don't. Mozart's music has a beauty that causes a like response in the listener. I refuse to accept any theistic explanation for that, but I also refuse to accept a materialist explanation that regards 'effect' as 'cause'.

181

"It does seem somewhat incommensurate doesn't it? On the other hand, once the electro-chemical activity stopped in Mozart's brain, we never got a 42nd Symphony. Coincidence?"

Nothing to do with coincidence! Mozart died. On his death, two things happened. One, electro-chemical activity ceased in his brain. Two, there were no more Mozart compositions.

To confuse cause with effect is to produce this kind of dilemma:

A. Brian's brain spontaneously starts to generate excessive Beta-wave states. As a result, he experiences stress at work, his relationships suffer, and he starts feeling angry about everything.

B. Brian experiences stress at work. As a result, his brain generates more Beta-wave states than is normal. His relationships start to suffer and he starts feeling angry about everything.

Which seems the more likely scenario to you?

183rrp
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 9, 2013, 9:44am

#180

You mean you have to adhere to the scientific method?

That raised a smile and brightened my morning. Thanks. ;)

No, because there is no such thing as the scientific method. There are some conventional methods used by scientists and not all scientists use the same set. And there are other ways than science at getting at what is true.

At issue here is the claim "biochemical activity in the brain causes consciousness." That claim can be evaluated in several ways, but the dominant one seems to be to treat is as a scientific claim. As a scientific claim, we should ask does it follow the conventions of biology, i.e. is it experimentally verifiable. It is not. Therefore it has no right to be treated as a scientific claim. It could be a philosophical claim, or more likely as quasi-religious claim. It's a statement of faith. Those that hold a materialist world trust that one day, despite the absence of evidence after many years of effort, that a physical mechanism which explains consciousness will some day be found. This creed goes by various names including Neuromania and, when mixed with that other well known related faith position, Darwinitis. (See Aping Mankind: Neuromania, Darwinitis and the Misrepresentation of Humanity for example.)

It does seem somewhat incommensurate doesn't it? On the other hand, once the electro-chemical activity stopped in Mozart's brain, we never got a 42nd Symphony. Coincidence?

Incommensurate? Did you mean that?

There is no doubt that the particular activity of composing a symphony is correlated with having a beating heart. But no one, as far a I know, has suggested that Mozart's heart caused any of his symphonies to be written. When one circuit breaker trips, my microwave and one of the lights in my living room stops working. The light in my living room does not cause my microwave in the kitchen to stop working.

184Jesse_wiedinmyer
lokakuu 9, 2013, 10:10am

There is no doubt that the particular activity of composing a symphony is correlated with having a beating heart

By your own arguments this is a false statement. Not that anyone accepts your arguments, mind you, but...

185rrp
lokakuu 9, 2013, 10:14am

That's a puzzle. How did you get there?

186Jesse_wiedinmyer
lokakuu 9, 2013, 10:23am

Scratch your head and think it over for a while...

187southernbooklady
lokakuu 9, 2013, 10:25am

>183 rrp: When one circuit breaker trips, my microwave and one of the lights in my living room stops working. The light in my living room does not cause my microwave in the kitchen to stop working.

Well that would depend, wouldn't it? On whether it was a power surge from a faulty wire in the light in the living room or faulty wiring in the microwave that caused the circuit breaker to trip.

I think you are presuming that "cause" is singular and absolute, rather than relative and a question of position and perspective.

188StormRaven
lokakuu 9, 2013, 10:29am

Do you think it's a straight choice between theism (or other mumbo-jumbo) and materialism?

Who said anything about theism? I asked if you thought there was magic that caused the music. You seem to think there is more to life than biochemistry - some sort of non-biochemical "special sauce" or vital essence. What do you think that is?

I also refuse to accept a materialist explanation that regards 'effect' as 'cause'.

So what do you think there is, besides biochemistry? You seem to think there is something else. What is it?

189nathanielcampbell
lokakuu 9, 2013, 10:59am

Heard about this on the radio this morning: Kuwait to Conduct Gay Tests to 'Detect and Ban' Homosexuals from Entering Gulf Kingdom (IB Times)

Setting aside that, with the current state of medical science, such a "test" is ludicrous to the point of absurdity, I wonder if we mightn't press the contention that all that exists is the interaction of energy with matter (molecules etc.): at least in theory, such a scientific test to detect homosexuality should be possible, right?

(Again, setting aside the fact that the factors involved are so complex and numerous that our current technology is utterly incapable of such a feat: but that limitation is not absolute, right? I.e. in theory, such testing would be possible, given sufficient data and data-crunching capabilities?)

190Jesse_wiedinmyer
lokakuu 9, 2013, 11:01am

Quite possibly so...

191southernbooklady
lokakuu 9, 2013, 11:26am

Theoretically, if consciousness is a biological process, then you could "test" for anything, including whether or not someone is a Christian. Does that put a different spin on it for you?

Of course, that goes back to the notion that if you know the speed and position of every particle in the universe, you can predict the whole course of the future. But since, to date, we can't know both the speed and position of any given particle, it eludes us.

Still, there must be something to the idea that the electrochemical activity in our brains is a kind of snapshot of consciousness in action--it's at the foundation of research into MRI lie detectors, for example.

192southernbooklady
lokakuu 9, 2013, 11:31am

>182 Tid: Do you think it's a straight choice between theism (or other mumbo-jumbo) and materialism? Well, I don't. Mozart's music has a beauty that causes a like response in the listener. I refuse to accept any theistic explanation for that, but I also refuse to accept a materialist explanation that regards 'effect' as 'cause'.

I'm also curious about what you think is the "third option," for lack of a better phrase. And also curious about the implicit suggestion that a materialist explanation is somehow "not enough" -- not enough what? Not beautiful enough? Spiritual enough? Mystical enough? Satisfying enough?

193reading_fox
lokakuu 9, 2013, 11:53am

#168 "The difference between Beethoven and Chopin is not analysable in terms of the mechanical process. "

Of course it is. Study the hammers and wire well enough and you'll be able to measure difference in frequency and amplitude that will easily be analysable into two distinct groups signature quirks of phrasing.

194rrp
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 9, 2013, 12:10pm

#187

Well that would depend, wouldn't it? On whether it was a power surge from a faulty wire in the light in the living room or faulty wiring in the microwave that caused the circuit breaker to trip.

Or something else. What we have here is a theory, an explanation of how one thing could possibly cause another thing to happen and that could form a basis of an experimental investigation.

Which is exactly what is missing when someone claims "biochemical activity in the brain causes consciousness." Still waiting for one ... waiting ... waiting ...

How long should we wait before giving up?

195rrp
lokakuu 9, 2013, 12:11pm

#186 Scratch your head and think it over for a while...

No. If you want to make an argument, you do the work, for a change.

196rrp
lokakuu 9, 2013, 12:13pm

#191

Still, there must be something to the idea that the electrochemical activity in our brains is a kind of snapshot of consciousness in action--it's at the foundation of research into MRI lie detectors, for example.

Again, that's correlation, not causation.

197southernbooklady
lokakuu 9, 2013, 2:20pm

Again, that's correlation, not causation.

Riiiiiight. So for that matter is that fact that whenever I click "Post message" at the bottom of the LT message box, whatever I typed in the box then appears in the topic stream. It's all correlation without cause. Uh huh.

...and yet, we all still keep posting messages to the topic in this way.

198steve.clason
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 9, 2013, 3:02pm

182>" Mozart's music has a beauty that causes a like response in the listener. I refuse to accept any theistic explanation for that, but I also refuse to accept a materialist explanation that regards 'effect' as 'cause'."

You don't need a 'third thing' to justify that refusal, a refusal I share with Tid.

If consciousness is an emergent phenomenon that means it's a new thing whose characteristics are not predictable, in principle, from the context in which it arose. (My terminology may be wrong, it's been a while since I studied complexity theory.) That's not to say that consciousness isn't subject to the "laws" of biology, only that those laws have little explanatory or predictive value with respect to consciousness.

A piece of piano music IS hammers smacking strings, but it's not JUST hammers smacking strings because consciousness is involved -- multiple instances, even, in the pianist, the composer, the members of a culture that collectively define what constitutes "music" rather than noise.

In the same way, life emerged from matter (you can posit whatever you want for the mechanism of the emergence) and is subject to the mechanics of matter, but it's not explained by those mechanics. That's why we have biology and not just physics.

Saying something like "Consciousness is just biochemical activity in the brain" is true, but trivial, and more the expression of a creed than an attempt at explanation.

Edited to correct a typo: "mechanics OF matter", not "mechanics OR matter" in the next-to-last paragraph.

199southernbooklady
lokakuu 9, 2013, 2:38pm

>198 steve.clason: If consciousness is an emergent phenomenon that means it's a new thing whose characteristics are not predictable, in principle, from the context in which it arose.

Meaning it is what...a process in itself? Like offspring are a result of a process initiated by sex? There is still nothing nonmaterial about that.

200rrp
lokakuu 9, 2013, 2:50pm

#197 No. That is indeed causation. If we had the time, we could come up with a physical explanation of how the mechanical action of your fingers on the keyboard causes characters to appear on my screen. We could come up with experiments to test the causal model we make, at each step along the way from your keyboard to my screen.

What you cannot do is come up with a physical explanation of how biochemical action in your brain cause consciousness. There are no experiments we can perform to confirm a causal explanation that does not exist.

201JGL53
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 9, 2013, 2:53pm

> 198

Well here's some relevant questions for you and yours to mull over:

Is consciousness/mind/life force self-existing without any attachment to the material? Can it even in theory be so?

Or does it - consciousness/mind/life force - preexist the material?

Is it immortal or outside of time? Or is some part of it immortal or outside of time?

Is it causative of the existence of the material?

Is it more "real" in some important way than the material? Or is it perhaps the only reality?

If the only reply to all of the above questions is an expression of strong agnosticism then why should we be wasting our time discussing the issue? Isn't it like discussing how many angels will fit on the head of a pin?

202steve.clason
lokakuu 9, 2013, 3:24pm

199>"Meaning it is what...a process in itself?"

Life emerging from matter doesn't cease to be material, consciousness emerging from biology doesn't cease to be biological. But to understand them you need a universe of discourse different from the one you use to understand the context from which they emerged.

203southernbooklady
lokakuu 9, 2013, 3:40pm

>202 steve.clason: and once again, I ask--why? What is it about the "universe of discourse" we use to describe our (material) reality that is insufficient to the purpose?

204steve.clason
lokakuu 9, 2013, 4:15pm

203>"What is it about the "universe of discourse" we use to describe our (material) reality that is insufficient to the purpose?"

One of the characteristics of emergent phenomena is that their behavior is not predictable from the context in which they arose. You CAN talk about life using the vocabulary of matter but what you say will have little explanatory or predictive value. You CAN talk about consciousness using the vocabulary of biology but what you say has similarly little value.

And we don't describe our material "reality", though that's a nice try at begging the question. We describe matter, or we describe life, or we describe contents of our consciousness. Cognitive scientists mostly say we can only describe what is available to awareness, a domain much smaller than what is available to our brain.

205Tid
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 9, 2013, 4:28pm

188

"So what do you think there is, besides biochemistry? You seem to think there is something else. What is it?"

For one thing, there is clearly more than just biochemistry. 99.99999999999999999% of all matter is non-biochemical. If you mean "You seem to think there is more than matter, what is it?" (which is what I take materialists to mean), then the answer is "I don't know!" That's why I'm interested in philosophy. Also why I cite all the creative arts (music, painting, sculpture, literature, etc); scientific discoveries; abstract concepts like justice, peace, love, altruism; human curiosity; and much else, as 'evidence' that there is more to the universe than matter/material.

On the other hand, if you can demonstrate how matter accounts for and explains all those non-material things, why then, I'm a convert to your cause.

206Tid
lokakuu 9, 2013, 4:18pm

192

"also curious about the implicit suggestion that a materialist explanation is somehow "not enough" -- not enough what? Not beautiful enough? Spiritual enough? Mystical enough? Satisfying enough?"

Right. (See my reply to SR immediately above).

207Tid
lokakuu 9, 2013, 4:20pm

193

"#168 "The difference between Beethoven and Chopin is not analysable in terms of the mechanical process. "

Of course it is. Study the hammers and wire well enough and you'll be able to measure difference in frequency and amplitude that will easily be analysable into two distinct groups signature quirks of phrasing."


The end results can certainly be analysed that way (though who would want to? isn't listening to the music enough?). But that tells us nothing about the origins of the music.

208Tid
lokakuu 9, 2013, 4:21pm

198

Interesting response. More lucidly expressed than my blind gropings.

209StormRaven
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 9, 2013, 4:25pm

For one thing, there is clearly more than just biochemistry.

No, there isn't "clearly" more than biochemistry.

99.99999999999999999% of all matter is non-biochemical.

That's almost entirely irrelevant. A lot of matter can't support biochemistry because biochemistry requires particular elements in particular proportions under particular conditions.

Also why I cite all the creative arts (music, painting, sculpture, literature); scientific discoveries; abstract concepts like justice, peace, love, altruism; human curiosity; and much else, as 'evidence' that there is more to the universe than matter/material.

All of which are perfectly adequately explained without resorting to "magic" as an answer which you seem to want to do. All of those things can be explained as the result of biochemistry - the only problem seems to be that you don't think that explanation is impressive enough.

Your responses all amount to nothing more than "I don't like the idea that a material explanation is all there is, so based upon exactly zero evidence, I will insist there must be more".

210Tid
lokakuu 9, 2013, 4:27pm

201

"Is consciousness/mind/life force self-existing without any attachment to the material? Can it even in theory be so?

Or does it - consciousness/mind/life force - preexist the material?

Is it immortal or outside of time? Or is some part of it immortal or outside of time?

Is it causative of the existence of the material?

Is it more "real" in some important way than the material? Or is it perhaps the only reality?"


Indeed, those are some of the questions at the very heart of philosophy, as I'm sure you're aware.

For a scientific answer, then it's clear that matter predates consciousness, as life didn't emerge during the Big Bang. (Or did it...? Perhaps there were brief manifestations of sentient beings right at the start, which became extinct as the universe inflated and the Higgs Boson caused more matter than anti-matter to survive.) It's all open to speculation, but your comment about angels dancing on the head of a pin may be pertinent. Perhaps an obsession regarding life and consciousness has replaced angels and pins..

211Tid
lokakuu 9, 2013, 4:32pm

209

You will keep trotting out the word 'magic', which I've never used.

And there isn't 'zero evidence' : the evidence is all those non-material concepts and achievements I cited, without which life would certainly be poorer. On the other hand, if by 'materialism' you simply mean 'no supernatural entity', then I share your POV.

212StormRaven
lokakuu 9, 2013, 4:50pm

You will keep trotting out the word 'magic', which I've never used.

Then call it special sauce. You want there to be something extra beyond the material, without any evidence for it.

And there isn't 'zero evidence' : the evidence is all those non-material concepts and achievements I cited, without which life would certainly be poorer.

That's not evidence that there is something more than biochemistry to life. Those concepts are all material - created by material minds, and contained in material memories. Get rid of the material, and the concepts cease to exist.

You're saying there is "something more" with zero evidence.

213Tid
lokakuu 9, 2013, 5:08pm

212

"Those concepts are all material - created by material minds, and contained in material memories. Get rid of the material, and the concepts cease to exist."

No. A memory certainly has a material ASPECT, like the storage address on your hard drive of where the 1s and 0s of an application live. But that's just the material aspect of a memory. You're disregarding its 'software'.

Anyhoo, I'll have to continue this in the morning. It's late here.

214StormRaven
lokakuu 9, 2013, 5:20pm

A memory certainly has a material ASPECT, like the storage address on your hard drive of where the 1s and 0s of an application live. But that's just the material aspect of a memory. You're disregarding its 'software'.

The software is the biochemistry. I think you have a very muddled idea of how brains work. Even your computer analogy fails - the 1s and 0s are the memory, and they are material phenomenon.

215March-Hare
lokakuu 9, 2013, 11:19pm

>209 StormRaven:

Is there a biochemical description of the U.S constitution?

I think this is what Steve was getting at when he was speaking of needing a different universe of discourse. "Legality" is not reducible to matter in the appropriate sense.

216StormRaven
lokakuu 9, 2013, 11:52pm

215: Sure there is.

217MyopicBookworm
lokakuu 10, 2013, 4:19am

the 1s and 0s are the memory, and they are material phenomenon

I've just reproduced a string of text from your post. But you haven't actually sent me anything material. How did I do that?

(It's "phenomena", by the way: you must have an unexpected biochemical process in the spelling area. But don't let it move any electrons in your frontal lobes.)

218Tid
lokakuu 10, 2013, 5:56am

214

"Even your computer analogy fails - the 1s and 0s are the memory, and they are material phenomenon."

You're somehow failing to understand me, or I'm failing to understand you. In my case, it's not wilful.

The analogy DOES work. What do the 1's and 0's of an application do or mean? Yes, they are the material phenomenon, but they aren't the application itself.

To go back to your original question : between the extremes (yes, extremes) of materialism and theism, you ask "what else is there?" The 'what else' is something we take for granted, even if we don't express it very well. It's the fact that there is a non-material aspect to life. Supernatural? No. Outside what the universe is? No. Requiring logical or conceptual somersaults? No. Linked in any way to spaghetti monsters, tooth fairies, teapots or unicorns? No.

I'm talking about that which - at least so far, to the best of our knowledge and ability to measure - is both part of the universe, and also non-material. And yet so bound up with the material (as cause and effect), that it's sometimes difficult - especially for materialists, it seems - to separate the two.

To take a single example : water is material. Hydrogen and oxygen atoms are material. A water molecule comprising two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom is material. A lump of ice is material. Steam is material. So far, so material. But ask yourself - why is water H2O? Why isn't it H2O today and C2O or C3OH tomorrow? Because there is a rule, a law of chemistry, that is part of how the universe functions. THIS universe has the property that it is composed of material elements, starting as hydrogen and ending up as helium, and transmuting chemically within stars into all the other elements that make up the periodic table. Why? That's the way it works. Why does it work that way? Because of what we call "the laws of chemistry", which is part of nature, the way the universe operates.

Now, if you wish to redefine materialism to include all those non-material relationships / laws / rules / constants (whatever you want to call them), then fine : I'm a materialist too.

I prefer to ask philosophical (perhaps metaphysical?) questions such as "HOW did the universe come to function the way it does? HOW and WHEN did the laws and constants emerge?" Theists find the answers to such questions in the concept of a designer, a supernatural being. Non-theists like ourselves have to search for an alternative. Or at least, I do. You, perhaps, aren't remotely interested?

217

Phenomenon (singular), phenomena (plural) ! Sorry to be a pedant.

219StormRaven
lokakuu 10, 2013, 9:51am

Yes, they are the material phenomenon, but they aren't the application itself.

Yes, they are. I'm not sure how else to put this, but the 1s and 0s are the application.

220StormRaven
lokakuu 10, 2013, 9:55am

But you haven't actually sent me anything material.

Actually, I did. Electrons from my computer went to your computer. Electrons in your computer agitated light to move into your eyes and cause biochemical reactions that caused the information to be stored as biochemical memory in your brain. This biochemistry then caused you to type things into your computer. Every step of the path from me to you the information is in material form.

221Jesse_wiedinmyer
lokakuu 10, 2013, 10:34am

And words are drugs. Why do you think you think talk therapy is effective? Why do you think if I were to call Stormraven an asshole, he'd blow his top and little red flags would appear?

222JGL53
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 10, 2013, 10:41am

> 220, et al.

And Checkmate!

Again.

Anyone else surprised? Really?

Maybe you inferior minds should go play in some other sandbox. A non-material sandbox. lol.

Notice that I never challenge SR on anything. I've even begun to use "phenomenon" as the plural. Because, hey...........

223StormRaven
lokakuu 10, 2013, 11:05am

221: Well, Jesse, if you were to call me an asshole here, I'd wonder why you did it in the forums rather than sending me a message on my profile.

224rrp
lokakuu 10, 2013, 11:49am

Actually, Stormy missed a step. The material casual chain stops at MyopicBookworm's mind where he became conscious of it. It became thought and caused the reproduction of the information in another physical medium. How physically does the biochemical action in the brain cause the mind to be consciousness of the information?

And maybe someone can explain what exactly it is, in physical terms, that makes what Stormy sent identical to what is stored in the text reproduced by MyopicBookworm? The text sent and reproduced are not physically identical, so how can it be said that Stormy sent MyopicBookworm a physical thing which is now in front of him?

225Tid
lokakuu 10, 2013, 12:02pm

219

"Yes, they are. I'm not sure how else to put this, but the 1s and 0s are the application."

No, they're not. Not ONLY. Sure, the 1s and 0s make up the digital code which causes the application to function, and which the computer can 'read' as an application. But the 1s and 0s didn't spontaneously arrange themselves into a word processor. There's a concept and a coding and a build behind it. (I'd say 'design', but I don't want to be accused of supporting ID).

In other words, behind every computer application is an IDEA. Within that idea is what the application is intended to do, how it is to function, how it is to interact with its users. Sure, every stage of that can be instanced materially, like a flow chart, systems analysis, signed off authorisations, budget considerations, but none of those would exist without the abstract notion (the idea) behind it.

I can't see how you can't see this.

226southernbooklady
lokakuu 10, 2013, 12:06pm

>218 Tid: Now, if you wish to redefine materialism to include all those non-material relationships / laws / rules / constants (whatever you want to call them), then fine : I'm a materialist too.

Honestly, Tid, I am having a real problem understanding how "relationships" are not "material" --how "materialism" is somehow being redefined when it includes interactions. It seems to me that you are the one doing the redefining when you call such interactions "nonmaterial." If you hold a rock over a cliff and drop it, thus transforming it from an object with great potential energy to one with great kinetic energy, you are still entirely within the physical universe. There's nothing "non-material" about momentum, unless you are saying that "material" only applies to matter, not energy.

227southernbooklady
lokakuu 10, 2013, 12:09pm

>225 Tid: none of those would exist without the abstract notion (the idea) behind it.

But that idea is itself a collection of biochemical processes in the brain, unless you think, like Plato, that ideas have some kind of independent and objective existence. (a thought that also exists as a burst of electrochemical static in the brains of every person who just read what I posted).

228StormRaven
lokakuu 10, 2013, 12:17pm

No, they're not. Not ONLY.

Yes, they are. There's nothing else to the application.

Sure, the 1s and 0s make up the digital code which causes the application to function, and which the computer can 'read' as an application. But the 1s and 0s didn't spontaneously arrange themselves into a word processor. There's a concept and a coding and a build behind it.

Which is an entirely material process.

In other words, behind every computer application is an IDEA.

And? Ideas are material phenomena. I'm not sure how you can't see this.

229rrp
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 10, 2013, 12:21pm

unless you think, like Plato

If you think, like anyone including Plato, you are having a first person experience. Many believe that experience is not material. Many do not have your faith that it is caused by that "burst of electrochemical static in the brain". You make that assumption. Why are you having a problem understanding that others do not?

ETA. bold to think.

230southernbooklady
lokakuu 10, 2013, 1:47pm

>229 rrp: Many believe that experience is not material. Many do not have your faith that it is caused by that "burst of electrochemical static in the brain".

Ah, rrp. Many do not equate your "faith" with their "plausible theory based upon observable evidence" but I already know that you have a real problem understanding that.

231rrp
lokakuu 10, 2013, 2:31pm

But belief that thought is not material is also a "plausible theory based upon observable evidence". Your choice is no more rational than that choice. Your choice is an assumption. You trust that it is true; you cannot know it is true. A belief you trust is true is faith.

232MyopicBookworm
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 10, 2013, 2:43pm

220 Every step of the path from me to you the information is in material form.

But at each stage, it is in a different material form. So what is the "it" that is instantiated in such completely different material forms, and that you recognize as having some form of identity at both ends of the process.

(It seems extremely unlikely, by the way, that any single electron passes from your computer to mine. Even if an electric current consisted of an actual stream of electrons, rather than an averaged directional motion of numerous electrons in a conducting material, at least one stage in the process is likely to consist of a radio wave, which is not strictly a "material thing", but a motion of material things.)

218 Phenomenon (singular), phenomena (plural) ! Sorry to be a pedant.

That's OK, I was already being one (the cited context required the plural).

233jburlinson
lokakuu 10, 2013, 3:00pm

> 229. Many do not have your faith that it is caused by that "burst of electrochemical static in the brain".

I think the point is that first person experience is not caused by "electrochemical static", but it is electrochemical static. To say that it's "caused by" is to say that it's something particular and unique and nonmaterial that comes into existence as a result of something else, something material.

It's like saying that tomato sauce is "caused by" pureed tomatoes, savory vegetables and certain spices. Isn't it more accurate to say that tomato sauce "is" pureed tomatoes, savory vegetables and certain spices?

234jburlinson
lokakuu 10, 2013, 3:08pm

> 227. But that idea is itself a collection of biochemical processes in the brain, ...

So would you agree with me, then, that God is a collection of biochemical processes in the brain? At least as far as we humans are concerned?

235rrp
lokakuu 10, 2013, 3:13pm

Again, you are assuming the identity of two things, A: "a first person experience" and B: "electrochemical static in the brain". You have no reason, scientific or otherwise, for thinking they are identical. You cannot do an experiment to demonstrate that they are identical. If you choose to believe they are identical, then it's your choice. Others make an, at least, equally rational choice to believe otherwise.

236jburlinson
lokakuu 10, 2013, 3:36pm

> 235. Whom are you talking to? It's hard to tell which post you're responding to.

At any rate, you're assuming that "a first person experience" is a thing, when it's probably more correctly considered a description of a thing, specifically a description of a particular kind of "electrochemical static in the brain". It's like saying that a Buick and a car are two different things.

237StormRaven
lokakuu 10, 2013, 3:41pm

But at each stage, it is in a different material form.

And? When the sun undergoes fusion that results in photons being emitted, there are different material forms involved. Are you claiming that this is not a material process as a result?

238jburlinson
lokakuu 10, 2013, 3:51pm

> 232. what is the "it" that is instantiated in such completely different material forms, and that you recognize as having some form of identity at both ends of the process.

Clearly, "it" is not identical at both ends. The electrochemical processes at the front end are not identical to those at the back end. How could they be, since the two, or more, nervous systems involved, are not identical? Any similarity is a leap of faith, often unjustified.

239MyopicBookworm
lokakuu 10, 2013, 4:35pm

238 Clearly, "it" is not identical at both ends.

If the words "the 1s and 0s are the memory, and they are material phenomenon" are not substantially the same in some respect when StormRaven types them and when I type them again (or cut-and-paste them) eleven hours later, then is there such a thing as language or communication at all?

(I know that both Heraclitus and post-modernism require me to acknowledge that even the same words mean something slightly different in a different context, but they are still the same words, if you can accept the concept of "same" and "word".)

240prosfilaes
lokakuu 10, 2013, 4:41pm

#217: I've just reproduced a string of text from your post. But you haven't actually sent me anything material. How did I do that?

That's no different, if more complex, then a soundwave transmitting words from one person to another. Or even a soundwave from a tree falling triggering an avalanche; nothing material moves from the tree to the snow besides a pressure differential.

241rrp
lokakuu 10, 2013, 6:43pm

#236

At any rate, you're assuming that "a first person experience" is a thing, when it's probably more correctly considered a description of a thing, specifically a description of a particular kind of "electrochemical static in the brain".

Sure, I assume things. We all do.

The statement being disputed is "consciousness is a product of electrochemical processes within a particular type of nervous system." Some believe this statement is true, some believe that it is false. Our current state of knowledge does not seem to allow us to definitively choose between them. Whichever option you choose, you are making a leap of faith.

That said, most people think that consciousness exists and is not a material thing. Most people would say that the message transmitted and the message received, even though they are in different physical media, are the same message. You seem to be torturing language into a state at odds with most others to fit it to your worldview.

BTW. Isn't the description of a thing itself a thing, according to your view?

242Jesse_wiedinmyer
lokakuu 10, 2013, 7:10pm

Does anyone else notice that rrp's argument often boils down to nothing more than "you can't prove anything to my satisfaction, so any beliefs are plausible, which is precisely why you are wrong..."?

243JGL53
lokakuu 10, 2013, 8:25pm

> 242

It was apparent to me a year or two ago that he was a dedicated solipsist and radical subjectivist - which is how long I've had him on ignore.

244Tid
lokakuu 11, 2013, 8:06am

226, 227

"unless you are saying that "material" only applies to matter, not energy"

Well, everything is energy, properly understood. But I was talking about ideas...

"that idea is itself a collection of biochemical processes in the brain, unless you think, like Plato, that ideas have some kind of independent and objective existence"

No, that's the RESULT. The EFFECT, if you like. The idea that lies behind that, that caused it, is an abstract (like the notion of justice, for example). There's room in the universe for material and non-material. After all, we haven't yet sorted out whether 'dark energy' is material, though we calculate it exists. And what about anti-matter?

What I'm saying is - your brain exhibits bio-electric energy each time you have a thought. But synapses don't spontaneously fire on their own : something has to precipitate that activity. Now you may wish to say that that cause is 'material' : well, if you do, then I have no problem with materialism. Providing it accounts for abstracts.

245Tid
lokakuu 11, 2013, 8:11am

228

"Ideas are material phenomena. I'm not sure how you can't see this."

Then if materialism includes all abstracts : ideas; concepts (e.g. justice); artistic creativity; love; beauty; curiosity; laws and universal constants; etc; then I'm a materialist too. If materialism just means "there's no supernatural", then I'm a materialist too. Is that what materialism means?

246JayaJagannath
lokakuu 11, 2013, 10:55am

Tämä käyttäjä on poistettu roskaamisen vuoksi.
Useat käyttäjät ovat merkinneet tämän viestin asiattomaksi eikä sitä enää näytetä. (näytä)

247StormRaven
lokakuu 11, 2013, 11:12am

245: The idea only exists in our minds, as a memory, and memories are material.

248southernbooklady
lokakuu 11, 2013, 11:52am

>245 Tid: Is that what materialism means?

I suppose I am asking you, Tid, if that's what you are getting at. Abstract concepts, like any concept are just pattern recognition and ways to organize data. They exist as artifacts in our heads--a constellation of firing neurons--but you seem to be saying that they exist beyond that.

I suppose I'm still stuck on why people think it is necessary that they exist "beyond" what's in our heads.

>246 JayaJagannath: if you are not able to tell me about this life then what proof do you have that you didn't forget your past ? and that you will not forget this present life in the future ?

An empirical interpretation of reality is not based on proof, it is based on evidence and plausibility. For example: I have no proof that aliens have never been to earth. I just have no good reason to think they have ever been to Earth.

249prosfilaes
lokakuu 11, 2013, 12:12pm

#244: And what about anti-matter?

Made from basically the same stuff that ordinary matter is, just negated forms. It's every bit as material as ordinary matter is.

your brain exhibits bio-electric energy each time you have a thought. But synapses don't spontaneously fire on their own : something has to precipitate that activity.

And there's no evidence, no reason to believe, it's not physical. You may abstract what's causing a synapse to fire as an idea, but at that level it's the behavior of the cells around it that it's responding it.

250StormRaven
lokakuu 11, 2013, 1:13pm

After all, we haven't yet sorted out whether 'dark energy' is material, though we calculate it exists. And what about anti-matter?

Dark energy is, by definition, material, because it has material effects. That's how we know it is there.

Anti-matter is material as well. If you don't know this, well, I'm just going to say there is some basic physics you need to brush up on.

251Tid
lokakuu 11, 2013, 2:13pm

247, 248

You still don't see what I'm saying. You're repeating over and over that all these things are "just electrical firings in our brains". What I keep on saying is that those are EFFECTS. All thoughts result in these material effects, that's proven - bioelectrical and biochemical activity. What I'm saying is that the ideas and concepts that precede them are not necessarily material (some are of course - the act of perception, the laid-down path that is the physical manifestation of a memory though not the meaning behind it that caused it to become a memory in the first place, etc).

Example: most of the things we find beautiful are material (people, objects, art, landscapes, etc), but some are not : there are mathematicians who find mathematical concepts beautiful, those who find beauty in justice and loyalty and friendship and peace. Now this means that there is something abstract called "beauty". We may not all agree on the objects of beauty, but it arouses a similar experience in all. This is where I agree with Plato.

If you don't agree with me on this, then there is probably no point continuing this discussion as we obviously have opposite philosophies.

252StormRaven
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 11, 2013, 3:09pm

Example: most of the things we find beautiful are material (people, objects, art, landscapes, etc), but some are not : there are mathematicians who find mathematical concepts beautiful, those who find beauty in justice and loyalty and friendship and peace. Now this means that there is something abstract called "beauty".

The problem is that you seem to think that beauty exists external to the material brain. It doesn't. Those electrical impulses are the concept of beauty.

But why am I wasting my time with you? You don't even know enough physics to understand that anti-matter is material. You aren't even equipped to have this conversation.

253Tid
lokakuu 11, 2013, 3:56pm

252

"But why am I wasting my time with you?"

Then don't.

254StormRaven
lokakuu 11, 2013, 4:36pm

253: You should go an educate yourself on the basics of physics before you try to have a conversation about what is and is not material.

255Tid
lokakuu 11, 2013, 4:56pm

254

You're still wasting your time. Stop it.

256StormRaven
lokakuu 11, 2013, 4:59pm

255: So you figure you're going to sort out what is and isn't material without even understanding basic physics? Good plan.

257JGL53
lokakuu 11, 2013, 5:09pm

^

I understand basic physics. I will be glad to bring Tid up to speed.

In the meantime Tid and SR should not waste each other's time.

Problem solved.

258Jesse_wiedinmyer
lokakuu 11, 2013, 5:34pm

Yes. It seems we have now jumped the rails.

259steve.clason
lokakuu 11, 2013, 5:48pm

231>"But belief that thought is not material is also a "plausible theory based upon observable evidence". Your choice is no more rational than that choice. Your choice is an assumption. You trust that it is true; you cannot know it is true. A belief you trust is true is faith."

Backtracking some ... rrp, I think I've seen you making this point (trying to make this point to an unreceptive audience, mostly) elsewhere and I'd like to make sure I understand your argument. Is your argument something like (avoiding the loaded word "faith") "The materialist hypothesis and the theist hypothesis {or some other} have an equal truth status -- provable but not proven -- so acceptance of one over the other engages human faculties separate from logic."

Is that close? If not, would you mind clarifying?

260rrp
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 12, 2013, 11:27am

259 steve.clason

The materialist hypothesis and the theist hypothesis {or some other} have an equal truth status -- provable but not proven -- so acceptance of one over the other engages human faculties separate from logic.

That's close, but there are many nuances. I don't mind clarifying.

First, "the materialist hypothesis" can mean many different things depending on context. There are several varieties of materialism and it's always better to be specific. The particular hypothesis considered so far here is something like "the physical sciences can in principle provide the basis for an explanation of the mental aspects of reality".

Second, there are many different alternatives to materialism, including idealism, dualism, neutral monism and many sub-categories. There are many non-theists including Thomas Nagel (of the OP) and our own Tid here, who do not believe in materialism.

Third, I believe the most contentiously loaded word here is not "faith" but "proven". I prefer to reserve the word "proof" for tightly defined domains where its meaning is more controlled, for example mathematics or law. Proof in a scientific or philosophical context is more problematic. None of the worldviews, materialism, idealism, dualism, neutral monism etc. can be proven. But you may have good reasons to prefer one to another, to assume one rather than another as a basic belief.

Fourth, I would substitute reason for logic. Like proof, the meaning of logic is best left to more tightly defined domains. And decision you make regarding what to believe, at the ultimate step, comes down to a question of value not logic, to what you prefer, like or think best.

So, in conclusion, I would rewrite your statement:

"There are good reasons why worldviews other than materialism are to be preferred as a basic belief."

261steve.clason
lokakuu 13, 2013, 11:44am

260> A few (longish) comments:

First, "the materialist hypothesis" can mean many different things depending on context.

Yes. I was assuming a reductive materialism because many of the posts in this thread come from that direction. Specificity, though, is important. I fall on the materialist spectrum myself, but near the opposite end from reductionism and believe the assertion you formulated is false: "the physical sciences can in principle provide the basis for an explanation of the mental aspects of reality".

Revise the assertion, though, to: “Science, broadly understood, can in principle …”, where “broadly understood” means we can include disciplines so far only pointed at, like experimental epistemology, and I believe it’s true. That is, I don’t think you need more stuff besides matter — matter in the complicated understanding of contemporary physics — for consciousness (or any mental state) to arise, but you do need another language besides that of the physical sciences to make any sense of it. That may be Nagel’s argument; it certainly is Jerry Fodor’s.

I think we’re witnessing philosophy handing off another part of its domain to science and the philosophers are cranky about it. It also seems to me that the study of Mind is, now, best approached empirically rather than speculatively, remembering that empirical investigation entails a lot of speculation.

There are many non-theists including Thomas Nagel (of the OP) and our own Tid here, who do not believe in materialism.

I make camp with that crowd occasionally. We’ll have to adapt “materialism” to account for the future empirical discoveries of cognitive science, but I’m convinced it will be an adaptation rather than a replacement.

Third, I believe the most contentiously loaded word here is not "faith" but "proven".

Good call, but they’re both pretty loaded, rhetorically, and the load is roughly equivalent. “True” and “False” only apply to propositions, right, so theories or hypotheses are adequate or not, complete or not, persuasive or not, useful or not. If we want to talk about this stuff we ought to use either word carefully, even though I agree (if this isn’t your position I’m happy to wind it back in) that the relationship of a supporter to either the Reductive Materialist hypothesis (for example) or the Theist hypothesis (for another example) is accurately but maybe venomously described as “faith”. Myself, I’d use “belief”, but I’m sure we have different agendas and so different reasons for our choice of words.

Fourth, I would substitute reason for logic. Like proof, the meaning of logic is best left to more tightly defined domains.

Point taken and I agree, but there’s a kind of fetishism of logic that I was mildly attacking. We do recognize informal logic which can be freely applied to less structured domains than formal logic, but it also can be classified as rhetoric without losing much meaning.

So, in conclusion, I would rewrite your statement:

"There are good reasons why worldviews other than materialism are to be preferred as a basic belief."


Without listing those “good reasons” you’re describing mere preference and you’re usually more argumentative than that, but since it’s your position, not mine, I’ll just go with it.

Thanks for explaining.

Not that you asked, but in the interests of fair trade, my own view is that while a loose materialism provides the most useful working hypothesis for figuring out how all this hangs together, a reductionist materialism, and reductionism generally, creates a stultifying intellectual environment and should be discouraged.

262rrp
lokakuu 13, 2013, 4:20pm

#261 Thanks for your interesting reply. There is not much I would disagree with (apart from sharing the conclusion about materialism). I'll try to find time for a longer reply.

263StormRaven
lokakuu 13, 2013, 7:33pm

Backtracking some ... rrp, I think I've seen you making this point (trying to make this point to an unreceptive audience, mostly) elsewhere and I'd like to make sure I understand your argument. Is your argument something like (avoiding the loaded word "faith") "The materialist hypothesis and the theist hypothesis {or some other} have an equal truth status -- provable but not proven -- so acceptance of one over the other engages human faculties separate from logic."

The problem is that rrp is trying to make a false equivalence. The materialist and non-materialist hypotheses don't sit in equal relation. We have lots of evidence for the materialist hypothesis about, for example, the mind. We know that your feelings can be changed by inducing physical changes. We know that memories can be altered or destroyed by physical changes to the brain, such as trauma. We have never found a mind that isn't attached to a physical brain. And so on. We have lots of reasons to believe that your mind is a material effect of your brain.

On the other side, we have a lot of hand waving that the mind is immaterial. For reasons. Undefined, unexplained reasons.

264steve.clason
lokakuu 15, 2013, 3:52pm

263>”On the other side, we have a lot of hand waving...”

You must be drawing on some history with rrp that I don’t know about, or you’re making things up, but you’re the only one waving their arms around on this thread.

My intent was to understand rrp’s position, not evaluate it, and the formulation you quoted was mine, not his, so it’s a little hard to figure out what you’re getting at. That said, your tacit(?) assumption that all valid evidence is physical skews your sense of a false equivalence, because, obviously, a collection of evidence selected out of all possible evidence by filtering through the assumptions of the materialist hypothesis will support — guess what? -- the materialist hypothesis.

265StormRaven
lokakuu 15, 2013, 4:08pm

That said, your tacit(?) assumption that all valid evidence is physical skews your sense of a false equivalence

I'd like to see your argument in favor of spectral evidence.

266JGL53
lokakuu 15, 2013, 4:40pm

> 264, 265

And in case the word "spectral" is confusing to steve, I would ask for ANY evidence he knows of that would be rightly classifiable as "non-material".

267jburlinson
lokakuu 15, 2013, 6:59pm

> 263. The problem is that rrp is trying to make a false equivalence. The materialist and non-materialist hypotheses don't sit in equal relation.

This problem is particularly acute in that we (human beings) are material beings. As you point out, "We have lots of reasons to believe that your mind is a material effect of your brain", a brain that is obviously something material. As material beings, we perceive and experience a material world. I think you've made that point many times before.

Given this to be true, how can we:
1. Say with assurance that there are not material aspects of the material universe that we do not and cannot experience?
2. Say with assurance that there are not non-material aspects of the universe?

268prosfilaes
lokakuu 15, 2013, 8:51pm

#267: 1. Say with assurance that there are not material aspects of the material universe that we do not and cannot experience?

It seems most consistent that there are, that there are planets circling stars we can't and won't ever be able to see.

2. Say with assurance that there are not non-material aspects of the universe?

There's an element of definition here; it's hard to draw a clear line between material and non-material when you don't believe in the latter. Material is what our universe is.

On the other hand, it's back to Occam's razor; why should we postulate aspects to the universe that we can't detect? We would certainly have no way of detecting which postulated aspects are real or not.

269StormRaven
lokakuu 15, 2013, 9:14pm

1. Say with assurance that there are not material aspects of the material universe that we do not and cannot experience?

Sure. There's lots of parts of the universe that we will never see and which will never affect us. Beyond the edge of the universe things are apparently receding away from us at greater than the speed of light, so we will never know what is there. I don't see how this has any bearing on the discussion though.

2. Say with assurance that there are not non-material aspects of the universe?

Until you come up with some way of showing that such non-material aspects exist, there is no good reason to believe that they do exist. We know material things exist - we are surrounded by them. We don't have any evidence that has been advanced thus far other than hand-waving that spectral things exist. If you want to claim that spectral things exist, the onus is on you to provide the evidence for them.

270jburlinson
lokakuu 15, 2013, 9:28pm

> 268. Material is what our universe is.

To us. Our universe is material to us, because we, ourselves, are material.

why should we postulate aspects to the universe that we can't detect?

Because to do otherwise would be to say, in effect, that there is absolutely nothing to the universe that we can't detect -- that the universe in its totality is completely accessible to us as we are presently constituted. It'd be like a Geiger Counter saying that because it has no taste buds, there is no such thing as flavor.

271jburlinson
lokakuu 15, 2013, 9:36pm

> 269. Until you come up with some way of showing that such non-material aspects exist, there is no good reason to believe that they do exist.

There's an excellent reason to believe such a thing, and that is that we human beings are limited in what we can perceive and apprehend. We know that we're limited and we know what our limitations are. Just because we're able to extend our limited sensibilities through the use of technology and calculation, doesn't mean that we're omniscient. Or do you think we are omniscient?

272prosfilaes
lokakuu 15, 2013, 11:51pm

#270: To us. Our universe is material to us, because we, ourselves, are material.

No; our universe is material because anything not material is not part of our universe. As I said, it's a bit of a definitional game.

Because to do otherwise would be to say, in effect, that there is absolutely nothing to the universe that we can't detect

What did I say in #268? "It seems most consistent that there are {parts of the universe that we can't detect}, that there are planets circling stars we can't and won't ever be able to see."

It'd be like a Geiger Counter saying that because it has no taste buds, there is no such thing as flavor.

Saying to whom? Where did a Geiger counter get the concept of flavor? In the absence of creatures with taste buds that could explain the concept to them, they wouldn't be talking about flavor; they would be talking about gflarorblurgs, and if we joined in the discussion, we would agree with the rationalist Geiger counters that the whole concept of gflarorblurgs is nonsense and rationalist Geiger counters would accept that we have specialized chemical detectors on our tongues and in our noses.

273prosfilaes
lokakuu 15, 2013, 11:57pm

#271: There's an excellent reason to believe such a thing, and that is that we human beings are limited in what we can perceive and apprehend.

But that's not Geiger counters and taste; that's a sterile philosophical demand. By the same lines I could prove that God does not exist; to claim that no Gods besides Him could exist is apparently tantamount to claiming that we're omniscient.

274StormRaven
lokakuu 15, 2013, 11:59pm

There's an excellent reason to believe such a thing, and that is that we human beings are limited in what we can perceive and apprehend.

No, that's not a good reason to believe such a thing. That's actually a very bad reason to believe such a thing. By that reasoning, we have "an excellent reason" to believe that the sky is painted blue by invisible fairies every morning. Using that reasoning, we have an "excellent reason" to believe anything.

275prosfilaes
lokakuu 16, 2013, 12:07am

As I said, it's a bit of a definitional game . . . but it's a bit more then that. We've spent the last few centuries investigating our world and finding that things we look at real closely tend to sit clearly in the material camp. The fairies no longer live over the hill or in the tree for most of us. Few of us actually believe in angels and demons actively meddling in the world any more; people talking to voices do so because of neurological problems, not actual spirits. At the current point in history, we can draw a line around our (material) universe and say it's material. Maybe there's something out there, but it's out there, outside our universe.

276jburlinson
lokakuu 16, 2013, 12:30am

> 272. Where did a Geiger counter get the concept of flavor? In the absence of creatures with taste buds that could explain the concept to them, they wouldn't be talking about flavor; they would be talking about gflarorblurgs...

Precisely. The Geiger counter would never come up with the concept (let alone the experience) of flavor on its own. (Even if told about it, I doubt whether the GC could come up with an adequate notion.) Just as we can't formulate a concept of the inconceivable or form an image of the unimaginable.

they would be talking about gflarorblurgs...

It's the same as us talking about non-material aspects of the universe. The problem is that, in the most literal sense possible, we don't know what we're talking about.

277jburlinson
lokakuu 16, 2013, 12:44am

> 275. At the current point in history, we can draw a line around our (material) universe and say it's material. Maybe there's something out there, but it's out there, outside our universe.

Would this line be a material line?

278prosfilaes
lokakuu 16, 2013, 12:50am

#276: Just as we can't formulate a concept of the inconceivable or form an image of the unimaginable.

And as I said, a sterile philosophical demand.

279Jesse_wiedinmyer
lokakuu 16, 2013, 9:49am

Again, why would we care if there's shit in the world (or universe) or whatever that we can't see or interact with?

280JGL53
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 16, 2013, 7:49pm

I think we are all harshing jb's buzz.

He's sort of jacked-up on the idea there may be a world of magic somewhere, just not known to humans at present but maybe, hopefully, in the future....

It just makes it worse when we tell him to calm the eff down and just go with what we know and put the unknown aside and quit wasting time speculating on it.

But that ain't his style. Somewhere, somehow, there is a Geiger counter that WILL develop the ability to taste and when it is discovered he will have the last laugh.

Right now it is the rest of us who are laughing.

281jburlinson
lokakuu 16, 2013, 6:55pm

> 278, 279. So are you saying that there are, or very well may be, non-material aspects to the universe, but they're just not important because they're not productive of anything material?

282quicksiva
lokakuu 16, 2013, 7:10pm

Where is the brain? When Dr. Oz stretched out the human and pig intestines on his television show, there seemed to be a great deal of grey matter. If the brain is the hardware for the mind, how does this "second brain" in our guts affect the equation?

283quicksiva
lokakuu 16, 2013, 7:18pm

Are chitterlings and haggis "brain foods"?

284prosfilaes
lokakuu 16, 2013, 9:05pm

If something has no impact on anything in our universe, how is it an aspect of our universe? Those hypothetical planets above are connected to things around them which ultimately are connected to us; you're talking about something that has no impact on anything. That's simply not part of our universe.

285Jesse_wiedinmyer
lokakuu 16, 2013, 9:55pm

So are you saying that there are, or very well may be, non-material aspects to the universe, but they're just not important because they're not productive of anything material?

I'm saying that the question is asinine to begin.

286JGL53
lokakuu 17, 2013, 1:41pm

> 285

And that's being kind.

287rrp
lokakuu 17, 2013, 6:29pm

There are, of course, many examples of sensible people who do not subscribe to materialism, including many scientists. I recommend the book The Matter Myth as one place to start but would also mention Roger Penrose as someone with an interesting perspective. As a practical matter most scientists practice methodological materialism, but that's no surprise because it's such a strong part of their culture.

Philosopher's are divided on the issue. Although a recent survey found that 73% claimed to be atheists, only 50% claimed to subscribe to either naturalism or physicalism (which would seem to be a good approximation to what is meant by materialism here.)

BTW. Where is all this evidence for materialism? All the evidence I have seen ... well I have seen it, or felt it, or smelled it, or heard it, or tasted it. All of those are sensations which occur in the mind, they are mental not physical.

288rrp
lokakuu 17, 2013, 6:39pm

#261

Finally got back to this.

I think Nagel might agree with your "We’ll have to adapt “materialism” to account for the future empirical discoveries of cognitive science, but I’m convinced it will be an adaptation rather than a replacement" but he would argue that the science itself will have to adapt to accommodate the necessary non-physical causes needed to explain consciousness.

One part I did nod at was this.

“True” and “False” only apply to propositions, right, so theories or hypotheses are adequate or not, complete or not, persuasive or not, useful or not. If we want to talk about this stuff we ought to use either word (proof and faith) carefully.

Adequate, complete, persuasive, useful. All nice word choices. They are value words.

289steve.clason
lokakuu 19, 2013, 5:40pm

265>"I'd like to see your argument in favor of spectral evidence."

Either you're not burdened with any knowledge of informal logic or you'd rather strike poses for the reducto-materialist True Believers than engage in any discourse, or maybe there's some unfinished childhood business involved, but whatever the reason it's clear that trying to communicate with you just wastes time.

290JGL53
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 19, 2013, 6:06pm

> 289

IOW you have nothing - but you enjoy continuing to blow smoke up our collective skirts.

Well - isn't that special.

(BTW, did you yourself invent the humorous phrase "reducto-materialist True Believers" or did you rip off some astrologer or something? lol.)

291quicksiva
lokakuu 19, 2013, 7:02pm

Do "reducto-materialist True Believers" think the universe is more matter than energy?

292StormRaven
lokakuu 19, 2013, 9:24pm

Either you're not burdened with any knowledge of informal logic

So, your answer is to shriek and run away rather than actually answer the question.

293StormRaven
lokakuu 19, 2013, 9:28pm

All of those are sensations which occur in the mind, they are mental not physical.

And all of the available evidence is that mental processes are material phenomena. Saying things are mental and not physical doesn't help your case one whit.

294rrp
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 19, 2013, 9:59pm

And all of the available evidence about material phenomena is mental. Saying things are physical and not mental doesn't help your case one whit.

295JGL53
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 19, 2013, 11:38pm

I create the universe in my mind. Do it all day long. From each moment to each moment. If I don't think it then it ain't there.

Yeah - that's the ticket.

That sort of makes me god, doesn't it?

But then all 7 billion + of us are therefore - each and every one of us - god.

Except for solipsism saving the day, that is.

Well, to paraphrase Hardy, this is a fine mess you got us into, Laurel.

296rrp
lokakuu 20, 2013, 12:09am

You know when Stormy writes something inane, at least it has sufficient structure to parody. When JGL53 writes something inane, it's so incoherent all one can do is shake one's head in bemusement. Oh well, back to the real world.

297JGL53
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 20, 2013, 12:59am

When I go to the zoo and laugh at and mock the monkeys' antics they have absolutely no comprehension of my reaction to them.

Stupid monkeys.

298southernbooklady
lokakuu 20, 2013, 7:17am

>296 rrp: Oh well, back to the real world.

You mean, the world you assume is real.

299StormRaven
lokakuu 20, 2013, 9:06am

And all of the available evidence about material phenomena is mental.

Solipsism really isn't very convincing, no matter how many times you try.

300StormRaven
lokakuu 20, 2013, 9:08am

You know when Stormy writes something inane, at least it has sufficient structure to parody.

The next day that you're clever enough to parody anything will be the first.

301rrp
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 20, 2013, 12:01pm

Well that was fun. I do so enjoy a bit of good banter (you chaps must have been taking lessons, no?). Although I thought JGL53 referring to himself to a monkey was a little near the mark. Can you violate the TOS by commenting on yourself?

But back to the central question. What evidence is there that mental events are identical to, or are caused by physical events? Can you cite the relevant scientific research? (Be careful now. Remember, remember, correlation is not causation.) Can you even put together a good reasoned argument why? Or is it, as Nagel correctly says, "an assumption governing the scientific project rather than a well-confirmed scientific hypothesis."

302StormRaven
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 20, 2013, 12:18pm

What evidence is there that mental events are identical to, or are caused by physical events?

Given that this was dealt with earlier in this very thread, this line is evidence that you haven't actually read the thread, and aren't actually trying to discuss anything, but are just engaged in masturbatory self-congratulation.

Which is just what I'd expect from a solipsist. Given that you have made it very clear that you hold to a solipsistic view, why should anyone care what you think on any subject? Does it bother you that everyone knows you are an ignorant fraud?

303rrp
lokakuu 20, 2013, 12:30pm

Given that this was dealt with earlier in this very thread

No it wasn't. Cite the scientific research please.

304StormRaven
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 20, 2013, 1:24pm

303: So, are you disputing that physical changes to the brain (both intentional and unintentional) cause changes to memories, personality, and thought processes? Are you disputing that we can alter human thoughts by changing brain chemistry? Are you disputing that we have never encountered a mind or mental process that was not contained within and caused by a physical brain? Are you entirely unaware of the field of neurochemistry?

Are you really that uninformed? Are you really that ignorant?

I also notice that you attempted some dishonest sleight of hand, morphing my original claim (that we have evidence pointing towards the conclusion that thoughts are a material phenomenon) into one you'd prefer I had made (that "mental events are identical to, or are caused by physical events"). Then again, that's the sort of dishonesty I'd expect from an intellectual fraud who has no argument of his own and is terrified people will notice. Did you mean to paint yourself as an intellectual fraud like that? Did you mean to reveal your inner fears in that way?

305rrp
lokakuu 20, 2013, 1:33pm

So, are you disputing that physical changes to the brain (both intentional and unintentional) cause changes to memories, personality, and thought processes?

Are you disputing that we can alter human thoughts by changing brain chemistry?

Yes. Physical changes to the brain are certainly correlated with mental processes. You forgot, again, that correlation is not causation. Please provide the scientific evidence that one causes the other.

Are you disputing that we have never encountered a mind or mental process that was not contained within and caused by a physical brain?

Yes.I do not dispute that minds, as far a we know, seem to need a physical brain to operate, just as the brain seems to need a blood supply to operate. But the brain is not the blood supply. The mind is not the brain. Unless, of course, you have some scientific evidence that that demonstrates it is, you are making the assumption.

306StormRaven
lokakuu 20, 2013, 2:59pm

305: You're so cute when you try to run away from revelations of your dishonesty and intellectual bankruptcy.

307rrp
lokakuu 20, 2013, 3:15pm

Yup. As we thought. You have no answers, so resort to silly banter. Address the issues at hand in a serious manner, or don't bother. Show us the evidence.

308StormRaven
lokakuu 20, 2013, 4:22pm

307: Aww, look at you run. You're so cute when you are terrified.

309Jesse_wiedinmyer
lokakuu 20, 2013, 5:09pm

<Yawn>

310rrp
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 20, 2013, 5:15pm

I agree with Jesse. Yawn... Show us the evidence.

311Jesse_wiedinmyer
lokakuu 20, 2013, 6:05pm

If anyone actually wants to read up on such shit, LT member Yapete (sadly, no longer a much active poster) has recently published Life's Ratchet: How Molecular Machines Extract Order from Chaos. You might find it interesting.

And really, rrp, given that 99% of your "arguments" seem to consist of saying "well, you can't actually prove anything to my satisfaction, I'm not sure where you get off trying to claim any sort of moral, ethical or epistemological high ground in this discussion... Discussing this with you is like talking to a 5 year old that covers his ears and stomps his foot any time he hears something he doesn't like.

312rrp
lokakuu 20, 2013, 6:28pm

Now that's quite a good description of the reaction to Nagel's book. Here is a renowned and respected philosopher who dares to question the orthodoxy and all we get is a lot of covering of ears and stomping by those whose only response to his arguments boils down to "I don't like it."

Nagel has many good arguments which convince many people. I have yet to see any convincing arguments against them.

I will read yapete's book though. It looks interesting. I am sure we will find some foundational philosophical worldview to take issue with. I am guessing reductive materialism. If you start from that foundation, everything else is questionable.

313Jesse_wiedinmyer
lokakuu 20, 2013, 6:39pm

Probably because you aren't looking for them, nor would you be willing to see them if they were presented...

Just sayin' is all...

314Jesse_wiedinmyer
lokakuu 20, 2013, 6:40pm

I am sure we will find some foundational philosophical worldview to take issue with

We?

No. YOU. And that's because you wish to take issue with it. No more reason, nor any less.

315rrp
lokakuu 20, 2013, 8:07pm

#313

Probably because you aren't looking for them, nor would you be willing to see them if they were presented...

I am looking. I am actively asking for them. No one has stepped up. All we get is restatements of the dogma. No evidence, no reasoning, nada, nothing.

316rrp
lokakuu 20, 2013, 8:09pm

#314 We?

Sure. We. Nagel for one other.

Oh, and how about this review on Amazon.

317rrp
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 20, 2013, 9:07pm

BTW. The paper cited by the review is a very interesting read. It's :

The algorithmic origins of life
Sara Imari Walker and Paul C. W. Davies
J. R. Soc. Interface 2013 10, 20120869, published 12 December 2012

http://rsif.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/10/79/20120869.full.pdf

Here are some quotes

However, this very generality (of the Darwinian paradigm) is also the greatest weakness of the paradigm as applied to the origin of life: it provides no means for distinguishing complex from simple, let alone life from non-life. This may explain Darwin’s own reluctance to speculate on the subject, ‘One might as well speculate about the origin of matter’, he quipped.

One is therefore left to conclude that the most important features of biological information (i.e. functionality) are decisively non-local, subject to informational control and feedback, so that the dynamical rules will generally change with time in a manner that is both a function of the current state and the history of the organism ... (suggesting perhaps that even the concept of evolution itself may be in need of revision, ...).

While we have stressed that Darwinian evolution lacks a capacity to elucidate the physical mechanisms underlying the transition from non-life to life or to distinguish non-living from living, evolution of some sort must still drive this transition (even if it does not define it).


I think Nagel might agree. I'd be interested to know.

ETA. The author also has a website

https://sites.google.com/site/saraimariwalker/science/algorithmic-origins-of-lif...

with some other links.

318Jesse_wiedinmyer
lokakuu 20, 2013, 9:21pm

You and Nagel, taking on the world. And yet, you've offered nothing substantive in return.

At all.

319Jesse_wiedinmyer
lokakuu 20, 2013, 9:26pm

In fact, what you do offer is almost the exact opposite of substantive. It's immaterial.

320rrp
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 20, 2013, 9:43pm

And yet, you've offered nothing substantive in return.

Sure. We don't know. We have doubt. Doubt is a good thing. Ignorance. It drive's science. Ignorance: How It Drives Science.

To trot out my favorite Russell quote.

The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.

Doubting reductive materialism seems to bring out the zealots of orthodoxy in force. But some must keep the light of doubt burning.

321Jesse_wiedinmyer
lokakuu 20, 2013, 9:44pm

It's definitely brought you out. Though I'll admit you've not argued anything with much force (nor finesse), so...

At best, you seem to be a gadfly with a weak understanding of that which you argue against.

322Jesse_wiedinmyer
lokakuu 20, 2013, 9:45pm

And as noted repeatedly, the claim that your arguments aren't ideologically motivated is spurious enough to be laughable.

323rrp
lokakuu 20, 2013, 9:47pm

And I'll let you into a secret. Questioning the beliefs of the faithful, applying reason, being skeptical; these are all tactics borrowed from the soft atheists, who by the way also "offer nothing substantive in return". Be fair, apply that charge to them too.

324rrp
lokakuu 20, 2013, 9:49pm

To return to the topic. Let me restate what I said, way, way back in #175.

My question still stands. What possible experiment could anyone devise that could show that consciousness is caused by biochemical activity in the brain? Correlated, maybe. But, as everyone should know, correlation is not causation. To have an experiment that shows causation you have to have a working hypothesis, which can be tested, which explains how consciousness is caused by biochemical activity. There ain't one.

There still ain't one. Not even an inkling. Not a sniff.

325Jesse_wiedinmyer
lokakuu 20, 2013, 9:50pm

Well, we don't need to offer anything substantive. Because we make no claims. My atheism is so soft as to be an apathetic agnosticism. Regardless, sir, I'm sorry that science hurts your feelings. But, as most religions will let you know, it's not really all about you.

326rrp
lokakuu 20, 2013, 10:00pm

we make no claims = we offer nothing in return

327Jesse_wiedinmyer
lokakuu 20, 2013, 10:08pm

And rrp is reduced to the LT equivalent of "I'm rubber and you're glue..."

Which is my cue to go throw a workout in.

328quicksiva
lokakuu 20, 2013, 11:32pm

So, are you disputing that physical changes to the brain (both intentional and unintentional) cause changes to memories, personality, and thought processes? Are you disputing that we can alter human thoughts by changing brain chemistry? Are you disputing that we have never encountered a mind or mental process that was not contained within and caused by a physical brain? Are you entirely unaware of the field of neurochemistry?
==============
So do you think it’s all in your head?

“The enteric nervous system has been described as a "second brain" for several reasons. The enteric nervous system can operate autonomously. It normally communicates with the central nervous system (CNS) through the parasympathetic (e.g., via the vagus nerve) and sympathetic (e.g., via the prevertebral ganglia) nervous systems. However, vertebrate studies show that when the vagus nerve is severed, the enteric nervous system continues to function.”- wiki

329jburlinson
lokakuu 20, 2013, 11:38pm

> 304. are you disputing that physical changes to the brain (both intentional and unintentional) cause changes to memories, personality, and thought processes?

But how do we measure things like memories, personality and thought processes other than registering them as conscious subjective experiences? Is a self-reported subjective experience reliable scientific evidence?

330MyopicBookworm
lokakuu 21, 2013, 4:44am

What possible experiment could anyone devise that could show that consciousness is caused by biochemical activity in the brain? Correlated, maybe.

But not correlated that closely? One of the observations which a theory might have to address is that (for example) the initiation of motion by the brain apparently precedes the formation of a conscious intention to move (M Matsuhashi & ME Hallett (2008) European Journal of Neuroscience 28(11):2344-51 "The timing of the conscious intention to move"). This suggests that whatever theory is proposed, it may have to assume that action precedes thought, not vice versa.

331rrp
lokakuu 21, 2013, 10:06am

it may have to assume that action precedes thought

It may. Or it may not.

But it doesn't change or answer my question. What is missing is an explanation of how the instruction to move causes the physical effect of movement. And obviously consciousness is involved at some point in the experiment (no one, as far as I know, has been able to replicate these results on an unconscious subject.)

332JGL53
lokakuu 21, 2013, 1:42pm

If someone, anyone, could demonstrate an example of a mind without a brain, then the immaterialists would have something. Until that happens they have nothing but useless yammering that wastes the time of anyone who tries to reason with them.

If there is a ghost in the machine, then immaterialists should prove it by showing us the ghost, otherwise they should STFU and quit BORING us all.

333rrp
lokakuu 21, 2013, 2:40pm

Repeat after me.

Correlation is not causation.
Correlation is not causation.
Correlation is not causation.
Correlation is not causation.
Correlation is not causation.

Now, can you demonstrate to us an example of a brain without a mind; that is, if you don't have a mind and we don't have minds, can you demonstrate to us anything? Are not minds necessary for a demonstration?

334Jesse_wiedinmyer
lokakuu 21, 2013, 2:40pm

Didn't we have a whole discussion about machines without ghosts upthread? With rrp arguing that animals aren't truly conscious?

335jburlinson
lokakuu 21, 2013, 3:12pm

> 333. Are not minds necessary for a demonstration?

Not if you're the Westboro Baptist Church.

336StormRaven
lokakuu 21, 2013, 3:19pm

Correlation is not causation.

An irrelevant issue. The question is which way does the evidence point. But then again, shifting the argument dishonestly is kind of your thing, isn't it?

337jburlinson
lokakuu 21, 2013, 3:57pm

> 330. the initiation of motion by the brain apparently precedes the formation of a conscious intention to move

That's assuming that the motion and the conscious intention are two separate things.

I haven't read the study you cite, but how would the researchers pinpoint the moment of "conscious intention" in the subject? Are they relying on the subject to self-report? If so, such a behavior is pretty complex, involving a number of discrete activities, each of which takes some time.

338rrp
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 21, 2013, 5:50pm

#336 An irrelevant issue.

So, it's irrelevant whether biochemical activity in the brain is the cause of consciousness? Interesting position you are taking there.

339JGL53
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 21, 2013, 6:58pm

The fact of knowing something or arguing over something presupposes consciousness. I think we can all agree on that. It is sort of like a person must be alive before he can throw a football or write a poem. Uh, Duh.

But what does either tell us about the nature of consciousness - or life? That consciousness must thus preexist all the material universe, not just the knowing or the arguing? So life preexisting explaining ball-throwing or poetry-writing thus life must likewise preexist all the material universe? Why - to both?

No, none of that follows logically. Thus we have another crap argument for the non-material independent existence of consciousness or mind.

It remains put up or shut up time for immaterialists.

340jburlinson
lokakuu 21, 2013, 7:07pm

> 338. it's irrelevant whether biochemical activity in the brain is the cause of consciousness?

The way you put it makes it sound as if "biochemical activity in the brain" and "consciousness" are two different things, and one is "caused" by the other.

That's like saying that a chemical reaction that produces heat via a reaction between and oxidant and some other substance causes burning. Whereas, actually, "burning" is "a chemical reaction that produces heat via a reaction between an oxidant, like oxygen, and some other substance."

341prosfilaes
lokakuu 21, 2013, 8:02pm

#339 The fact of knowing something or arguing over something presupposes consciousness. I think we can all agree on that. It is sort of like a person must be alive before he can throw a football or write a poem. Uh, Duh.

I could whip up a computer program that could argue along the lines of Eliza in a few minutes.* Poetry wouldn't be much harder. And we've had ball throwing machines for over a century now. The line between us and the machines is pretty thin and hard to find some times.

* Human> The Republicans are definitely the best major political party.
Computer> Yeah, that doesn't even begin to make sense.

Human> The Democrats are all human, which makes them inferior.
Computer> And if it were true that The Democrats are all human, that might follow.

Human> Whatever. Your mama.
Computer> Oh, and now the insults come out.

Yeah, that wouldn't be hard at all.

342JGL53
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 21, 2013, 8:26pm

> 341

Who creates the ball-throwing machine or the poetry-writing machine? god?

lol.

Minds - human minds, e.g. - can create machines that are the verisimilitude of brains. But they are not brains. Thus what they produce are not minds. They are "minds" of a sort. But not minds.

Even if one day humans produce the technology of an actual artificial brain - how would that be an argument for immaterialism? It wouldn't.

Back up, try again prosfilaes.

343prosfilaes
lokakuu 21, 2013, 8:31pm

#342: They are "minds" of a sort. But not minds.

The point was, the distinction there is hardly as simple as you were putting it. Poetry writing or arguing are hardly evidence of minds, and what is is hard to define.

Even if one day humans produce the technology of an actual artificial brain - how would that be an argument for immaterialism? It wouldn't.

I wasn't arguing for immaterialism. I was arguing that you were simplifying the concepts of "conscious" and "alive" when they're actually quite subtle and hard to define.

344JGL53
lokakuu 21, 2013, 8:37pm

> 343

Oh.

Well, my point was that the writing of poetry and/or arguing ARE evidences of mind. They may be once removed, as with a machine. I wasn't arguing that only a human can do X and cannot program a machine to do X.

But back to materialism vs. immaterialism. Anyone have a thought he or she wishes to share on that subject?

346rrp
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 22, 2013, 9:23am

#340

That's like saying that a chemical reaction that produces heat via a reaction between and oxidant and some other substance causes burning. Whereas, actually, "burning" is "a chemical reaction that produces heat via a reaction between an oxidant, like oxygen, and some other substance."

No, it's not like that.

We have known fire for a long time. We have been able to recognize fire from not fire by its characteristics, heat, light, sound, ash etc. Recently science has given us an understanding of the causes of those characteristics in terms of specific chemical reactions involving fuel, oxygen and heat. There are many chemical reactions that occur that are not fire. Fire occurs when specific chemical reactions occur. It is reasonable to say fire is identical to those specific chemical reactions.

We have know about consciousness for a long time. We are able to recognize consciousness from unconsciousness by its characteristics, a first person perspective, feeling things like burning, responding to them in an intentional way. Science has for a long while strived to provide us with an explanation of the causes of those characteristics of consciousness. Science has failed to produced one. It does seems that consciousness is connected in some way to biochemical activity in the brain. There are many sorts of biochemical activity that are not consciousness. We have no idea what it is about the sorts of biochemical activity that occur in the brain that makes them the cause of consciousness, that explains the characteristics of consciousness, that explains the first person perspective, that explains why a burning sensation feels the way it does. Without those explanations, in no way is it reasonable to say consciousness is identical to biochemical activity.

347Jesse_wiedinmyer
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 22, 2013, 9:36am

We are able to recognize consciousness from unconsciousness by its characteristics, a first person perspective, feeling things like burning, responding to them in an intentional way.

Ummm, no. As evidenced by the first part of this thread. Hell, the idea of a subconscious took us a few millenia to work out. We're nowhere close to having that one pinned down.

There are many sorts of biochemical activity that are not consciousness.

Also known as begging the question. Unless, of course, again, we are talking about consciousness that is not consciousness.

348Jesse_wiedinmyer
lokakuu 22, 2013, 9:45am

You'll note that this is almost the same argument that rrp uses repeatedly wrt evolution. It applies better here than it does to evolution, but it's still essentially the same...

When he says "no one has offered a plausible explanation" all he means is "the scientific consensus doesn't agree with my worldview so I reject all evidence."

349rrp
lokakuu 22, 2013, 10:29am

#348

When he says "no one has offered a plausible explanation" all he means is "the scientific consensus doesn't agree with my worldview so I reject all evidence."

You know Jesse, that last remark is not so far from the truth. Except that it applies to all of us. We all have a worldview. That worldview is constructed from sets of basic beliefs we accept as a matter of faith. We have a hard time accommodating things that conflict with our worldview. Materialists have a hard time accepting that not everyone sees the world as consisting of just material things and don't accept the argument that consciousness is reducible to the material.

And when I say "no one has offered a plausible explanation" I am by no means alone in the world, as you very well know. There is no "scientific consensus". Some, but by no means all, scientists have a worldview in which materialism is a basic faith.

350quicksiva
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 22, 2013, 8:06pm

Abstract-

"The neurological experiments conducted by Benjamin Libet (1985) and Grey, Walter (1993, in Dennett) provide evidence that our actions are caused by non-conscious brain events beyond our conscious awareness. Normally, we assume that our conscious choices lead us to do things. If these researchers have interpreted their evidence correctly, it may be that we lack free-will, for we could not control a non-conscious brain state. Libet however provides evidence that agents can “change their minds” just before performing some action. He felt that this was the elbow-room for free-will. But it may be inconsistent for him to suggest this, since his evidence indicates that there is no room for conscious choice. In this paper we discuss these results and various objections to the interpretation of the work.
Section 1 – Introduction
Most persons, when asked about their choices and will, would refer to mental or conscious states as subjectively experienced, and would make no reference to underlying brain processes. Yet many people today also accept the scientific view that our mental processes, such as the processes of choice, are phenomena inextricably related to or caused by our underlying brain processes.

Benjamin Libet and Walter Grey performed experiments to establish the timing of conscious volition. They both found that certain non-conscious brain events significantly preceded conscious intention. The apparent implication of their findings is that antecedent non-conscious brain events cause our actions, rather than conscious “choices”. We generally believe that free choices are made consciously. If our conscious choices were not the cause of our actions, we would not be free, since being free presumably at least means that we consciously choose what we wish to do.

This evidence in itself does not pose a threat to the possibility of free-will without further interpretation, however. Some researchers who argue for the existence of free-will nonetheless take it for granted that some form of neurological determinism is true. But what makes the work we shall examine here interesting, is that the evidence we have seems to indicate that brain processes substantially precede and cause conscious mental activity.

In other words, if free choice is necessarily conscious, then we could not be choosing our actions (in the traditional sense) if our brain processes preceded our mental processes; our mental processes would turn out to be merely epiphenomenal; they would lack a causal role."

John M Ostrowick
School of Computer Science, University of the WitwatersrandWits 2050, JohannesburgSouth AfricaE-mail: jon@cs.wits.ac.za

351rrp
lokakuu 24, 2013, 3:29pm

Those who place their faith in neuroscience may find the cover article in last week's Economist interesting. (Remember, this was the week after the US Government almost defaulted on its debt. The Economist thought this more interesting.)



Last year researchers at one biotech firm, Amgen, found they could reproduce just six of 53 “landmark” studies in cancer research. Earlier, a group at Bayer, a drug company, managed to repeat just a quarter of 67 similarly important papers. A leading computer scientist frets that three-quarters of papers in his subfield are bunk. In 2000-10 roughly 80,000 patients took part in clinical trials based on research that was later retracted because of mistakes or improprieties.

And the article claims neuroscience is in an even worse state. Oh. And on the Libet experiment, that's one of those that other's could not replicate.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn22144-brain-might-not-stand-in-the-way-of-...

352Jesse_wiedinmyer
lokakuu 24, 2013, 7:41pm

And oddly enough, that lack of confirmation is "science."

353Jesse_wiedinmyer
lokakuu 24, 2013, 7:44pm

So neat... Science proceeds apace.

354rrp
lokakuu 24, 2013, 10:02pm

If you had read the article, the conclusion is science is proceeding apace, apace at publishing results that are wrong. Science is broken. It needs to be fixed.

It is only those who hold science as a religion who can't recognize that it is broken and needs to be fixed.

355Jesse_wiedinmyer
lokakuu 24, 2013, 11:37pm

apace at publishing results that are wrong

And this is what you and your ilk don't particularly get, having never made it into peer reviewed journals. Review and disqualification is part of the scientific process.

356MyopicBookworm
lokakuu 25, 2013, 5:27am

Professor Brian Cox made some good points in his latest TV series, "Science Britannica", about the way in which commercial and government interest in applied research distorts the scientific process by steering it towards particular lines of research, and by skewing it away from negative results.

357rrp
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 25, 2013, 8:18am

I should point out that there is another thread on the topic of the Economist article.

http://www.librarything.com/topic/158964

#355

Jesse, what is it "my ilk" don't get? It's clear you didn't read the article. It's point is that the majority of articles are reviewed and published and never replicated and are wrong, not that they are reviewed and disqualified before publication. And exactly how do you know I have "never made it into peer reviewed journals"? How many peer reviewed articles do you have?

#356

What! It's all the Government's fault! But there is some truth there. Those who pay for research are not interested in paying for the boring work of replication and checking the work of others. They want novelty and glitz. The exeception might be those commercial interests, like engineering companies, who have a reputation to maintain and have obligations to make safe products. They check and check again before applying research results to their products (and unfortunately mistakes still slip through.)

358southernbooklady
lokakuu 25, 2013, 9:09am

I notice that the point of the Economist article is that the goal of review and replication is often not met to satisfaction, not that the goal of review and replication is wrong.

People make mistakes. The laws of physics don't.

359LolaWalser
lokakuu 25, 2013, 9:42am

As long as rrp's hyperventilating over nothing he understands, we're free, safe and vigilant... or something.

360alco261
lokakuu 25, 2013, 10:44am

> 354 No, that’s not what the Economist article nor the cited Ioannidis paper is about. The article did mention and discuss the key issue but somehow failed to deliver its message. The issue is that of significance (alpha) and power (1-beta) and how these things play out in scientific research. Alpha is the odds of rejecting something when it is true (convicting an innocent man) and beta is the odds of accepting something when it is false (letting a guilty person walk). (1-beta) is power and it is best viewed as the odds of being able to get the same result when you re-run an experiment. These two quantities (alpha and power) are connected and are driven by things like population means, standard deviations, and sample sizes.

The point of most initial studies in any field of science is a hunt for some kind of significant trend so the focus is on finding one which meets some criteria concerning alpha (the traditional choice being alpha less than .05) and letting beta and power fend for themselves. The reason for doing this is simple – time/money/effort. A research effort focused on a search for possible but unknown trends in the data could be constructed to guarantee a low alpha and a high power but the result would be a large number of very expensive efforts whose final outcome could be summed up in a single sentence – “We are quite certain that there is nothing in that direction of inquiry that matters.”

The idea of paying for a large number of expensive well powered negative result research efforts is, for whatever reason, unacceptable. Thus the political/philosophical driver behind most research now and in the past is that of low cost efforts with a focus on finding a result with a significant alpha. The “Deal” as The Transporter would say, is that we as a society are willing to support this kind of search BUT should you as a researcher find a significant trend in this manner and should you decide to act on your findings it is incumbent on you or those who have paid you to do the work to go out and CONFIRM your initial finding with an adequately powered study before doing anything else.

What has been happening in recent years is that a percentage of researchers and their employers have forgotten/ignored the second half of the deal and the result is what was reported in the Economist article. I agree with this concern and I think ignoring the second half of the deal is completely unacceptable.

As an aside it should be noted that most initial studies in the past and in the present were/are very under powered (power values between 10 and 20 percent are very common). With such low probabilities of results confirmation statements such as “Last year researchers at one biotech firm, Amgen, found they could reproduce just six of 53 “landmark” studies (11 percent) in cancer research. Earlier, a group at Bayer, a drug company, managed to repeat just a quarter of 67 (25 percent) similarly important papers. A leading computer scientist frets that three-quarters of papers in his subfield are bunk (25 percent).” amount to nothing more than a confirmation of the agreed upon criteria for initial research efforts. Indeed the last two citations with a 25 percent confirmation/suspected confirmation rate are better than what one usually expects in these situations.

361LolaWalser
lokakuu 25, 2013, 12:32pm

alco261, thanks for taking the trouble.

362prosfilaes
lokakuu 25, 2013, 12:55pm

I don't think "A leading computer scientist frets that three-quarters of papers in his subfield are bunk (25 percent)" is particularly relevant; computer science is a cross between math and engineering, not really science. On the engineering side, the test should be 100% repeatable, even if it doesn't mean what the researcher claims it does. On the math side, repeatability doesn't really make sense.

(I'm curious how these results compare to ones in mathematics. There was a discussion on math.stackexchange about people building on previous incorrect results, and the only example seems to be some work was done on a result that Gödel tossed out as a "trivial" extension to stuff he actually proved, that turned out not to be true 40 years later.)

363rrp
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 25, 2013, 5:30pm

#360 Well that's odd. First you said "that's not what it was about" when I said "Science needs fixing". Then you said "I agree with this concern and I think ignoring the second half of the deal is completely unacceptable" (where the deal is checking that what is published is correct.) You don't think that something that is "completely unacceptable" needs fixing?

364alco261
lokakuu 25, 2013, 7:50pm

>363 rrp: No, what you stated was "Science is broken. It needs to be fixed." That is not the same thing. Just as "where the deal is checking that what is published is correct" is not the same thing as saying one must follow up the findings of an underpowered study with one that is adequately powered before attempting to act on the findings of the initial study. What needs to be addressed is exactly what I stated - the practice of bypassing the step of confirmation.

365rrp
lokakuu 25, 2013, 9:35pm

#364 You are still not making sense. Let's break it down into smaller steps for you. One at a time.

Are the people "bypassing the step of confirmation" scientists working within science or not?

Is the fact that so many papers are published "bypassing the step of confirmation" a problem or not?

If it is a problem, is it a problem with process of science as it is currently practiced?

If it is a problem, should it be fixed?

366quicksiva
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 25, 2013, 11:20pm

>351 rrp:
Oh. And on the Libet experiment, that's one of those that other's could not replicate.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn22144-brain-might-not-stand-in-the-way-of-....
======

Basically your New Scientist article says that Aaron Schurger doesn’t believe the readiness potential is that important a factor in mind body interactions.
“This conclusion assumes that the readiness potential is the signature of the brain planning and preparing to move. "Even people who have been critical of Libet's work, by and large, haven't challenged that assumption," says Aaron Schurger of the National Institute of Health and Medical Research in Saclay, France.

"Libet argued that our brain has already decided to move well before we have a conscious intention to move," says Schurger. "We argue that what looks like a pre-conscious decision process may not in fact reflect a decision at all. It only looks that way because of the nature of spontaneous brain activity."

Schurger relies on a report from 2009 by “Judy Trevena and Jeff Miller of the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, who asked volunteers to decide, after hearing a tone, whether or not to tap on a keyboard. Trevenda and Miller found that “The readiness potential was present regardless of their decision, suggesting that it did not represent the brain preparing to move.” Exactly what it did mean, though, still wasn't clear.” New Scientist

"In the 1960s William Grey Walter discovered the contingent negative variation (CNV) effect (or readiness potential) whereby a negative spike of electrical activity appears in the brain half a second prior to a person being consciously aware of movements that he is about to make. Intriguingly, this effect brings into question the very notion of consciousness or free will, and should be considered as part of a person's overall reaction time to events." wiki

"In neurology, the Bereitschaftspotential or BP (from German, "readiness potential"), also called the pre-motor potential or readiness potential (RP), is a measure of activity in the motor cortex and supplementary motor area of the brain leading up to voluntary muscle movement. The BP is a manifestation of cortical contribution to the pre-motor planning of volitional movement. It was first recorded and reported in 1964 by Hans Helmut Kornhuber and Lüder Deecke at the University of Freiburg in Germany. In 1965 the full publication appeared after many control experiments. Wiki
The Bereitschaftspotential (BP) is ten to hundred times smaller than the α-rhythm of the EEG; only by averaging, relating the electrical potentials to the onset of the movement does it become apparent."

"Some researchers have literally gone deeper into the brain than Schurger. One of those is Itzhak Fried, a neuroscientist and surgeon at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the Tel Aviv Medical Center in Israel. Fried studied individuals with electrodes implanted in their brains as part of a surgical procedure to treat epilepsy. Recording from single neurons in this way gives scientists a much more precise picture of brain activity than fMRI or EEG. Fried's experiments showed that there was activity in individual neurons of particular brain areas about a second and a half before the subject made a conscious decision to press a button. With about 700 milliseconds to go, the researchers could predict the timing of that decision with more than 80% accuracy. "At some point, things that are predetermined are admitted into consciousness," says Fried. The conscious will might be added on to a decision at a later stage, he suggests." Wiki

John-Dylan Haynes, a Max Planck Institute neuroscientist also disagrees with Schurger:
"Your decisions are strongly prepared by brain activity. By the time consciousness kicks in, most of the work has already been done," In a study published in Nature Neuroscience, researchers using brain scanners found that they could predict people's decisions seven seconds before the test subjects were even aware of making them.
The decision studied -- whether to hit a button with one's left or right hand -- may not be representative of complicated choices that are more integrally tied to our sense of self-direction. Regardless, the findings raise profound questions about the nature of self and autonomy: How free is our will? Is conscious choice just an illusion?

Haynes updated Benjamin Libet’s study , which showed that a brain region involved in coordinating motor activity fired a fraction of a second before test subjects chose to push a button. Later studies supported Libet's theory that subconscious activity preceded and determined conscious choice -- but none found such a vast gap between a decision and the experience of making it as Haynes' study has.
In the seven seconds before Haynes' test subjects chose to push a button, activity shifted in their frontopolar cortex, a brain region associated with high-level planning. Soon afterwards, activity moved to the parietal cortex, a region of sensory integration. Haynes' team monitored these shifting neural patterns using a functional MRI machine.
Taken together, the patterns consistently predicted whether test subjects eventually pushed a button with their left or right hand -- a choice that, to them, felt like the outcome of conscious deliberation. For those accustomed to thinking of themselves as having free will, the implications are far more unsettling than learning about the physiological basis of other brain functions.

Schurger’s opinions would seem like bad news for the people working in the areas of Intention Concepts and Brain-Machine Interfacing.

An online article tells us that:
“Owing to the advancements in neural-recording methodology over the last 50 years, various topographic, temporal, and semantic (content) manifestations of intentions in the human brain have been researched (Libet et al., 1983; Lau et al., 2004; Brass and Haggard, 2007, 2008; Haynes et al., 2007; Krieghoff et al., 2009; Bara et al., 2011) and are receiving further attention in cognitive neuroscience. The phenomenology and neurobiology of intentions are important to study for several reasons. A better understanding of causes and prerequisites for volitional behavior may aid objective evaluation of a person’s actions in ethical and legal contexts (Haggard, 2008; Schleim, 2008). Furthermore, such knowledge may help to treat patients with intention-related disorders, such as anarchic hand and Tourette’s syndromes (Haggard and Clark, 2003; Pacherie, 2007; Eddy et al., 2010; Edwards et al., 2011).”

“Interest in intention-related brain signals has grown in neuroscience over the last several decades. In their early electroencephalography (EEG) readiness-potential study, Libet et al. (1983) reported that cerebral activity before initiation of self-paced movements precedes the conscious intention to move over several 100 ms. The observed temporal differences led these authors to conclude that initiation of voluntary actions can begin unconsciously, and it is only some time later that we become aware of an intention to move. Although the reported findings and their interpretation were highly controversial (e.g., Keller and Heckhausen, 1990; Snyder et al., 1997; Haggard and Eimer, 1999), the article by Libet et al. (1983) contributed to the development of a vivid discussion about the nature of human free will, agency and voluntary movement, and was followed by a large amount of experimental studies and opinion articles concerning the neural correlates of intentional action. Consecutive research identified a widespread distribution of neural locations in the frontal, parietal, and even temporal lobes, arranged in extended cortical networks for intention-related processing (Haggard, 2008).”

367JGL53
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 26, 2013, 2:25pm

Intention - free will - comes out of thin air and is spiritual magic.

Pretty much everyone knows that.

And by pretty much everyone I mean your average douche.

And science is for pussies.

So there's your irony.

368alco261
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 26, 2013, 9:02pm

>365 rrp: In post #351 you referenced the Economist article concerning the issue of test reproducibility in scientific publications. In post #354 you provided what I assumed to be your take away from that article – “Science is broken. It needs to be fixed.” My response to your understanding of the article content was, and is, that that is not what the article is about.

Broken, as I understand the meaning as it applies to a process, implies the process has failed and either has ground to a complete halt or is producing 100% scrap. The primary focus of the article is the low power of initial studies and a description of the consequences. I took the time to point out that this is nothing new and I also described “The Deal”. I pointed out that the main concern of the second Ioannidis paper was the fact that some unspecified percentage of practitioners are forgetting/ignoring the second half of "The Deal". This practice is wrong and it needs to be corrected (in other words, the actions of that group need to be “fixed”), however, the actions of that percentage does not warrant the claim that science is broken – at least not in any sense of my understanding or interpretation of the meaning of the word.

When Ioannidis published his paper my view and that of my peers was that his work was last year’s news. The fact of low power in initial studies was/is known and understood throughout the statistics profession (and a large part of the general science community as well). What I have found interesting is that in the years since 2005 Ioannidis hasn’t bothered to confirm his unstated claim which is at the heart of the Economist piece. The unstated claim is that the issue of low initial study power is somehow a recent phenomenon and that in some unspecified golden age of scientific publishing the vast majority of scientific papers had power levels of 80% or more.

The article does note ( lower left pp.27) that “A study in April by Dr. Ioannidis and his colleagues found that in neuroscience the typical statistical power is a dismal .21” However, in the intervening 8 years, he does not appear to have bothered to run the all-important retrospective study to test his unstated claim. It is a very easy check to make. All he has to do is take a stratified random sample by decade of published scientific papers, compute their post-hoc power and, as a first cut, run adjusted pairwise comparison of decade means and look at the trending over time. Post-hoc power calculations are trivial – any first semester statistics major can do it. The tedious part of the research would be the need to search those articles for numbers that would indicate sample size, give some measure of central tendency (means, medians, etc), and some measure of spread (standard deviation, standard error, range, IQR,etc.) or alternatively percentages and percentage differences. This would be slow, boring work but, given that he is at Stanford, he should have a ready supply of graduate students to do the work. While he is at it he might want to talk to Victoria Stodden (top right pp. 27) a statistician at Stanford to make sure he was conducting his sampling and his analysis in an acceptable manner.

369rrp
Muokkaaja: lokakuu 27, 2013, 2:52pm

#368 You didn't answer the questions. But here's another one.

What percentage of "scrap" does a process have to produce before it is declared broken? In my book, 75% means it is broken.

I let it go before, because you did say "ignoring the second half of the deal is completely unacceptable", which I took as an indication you did think the process is broken. But apparently "completely unacceptable" is the same as "does not warrant the claim that science is broken". So I also have to point out that the article is not about the low power of the published experiments. It's about "Scientists like to think of science as self-correcting. To an alarming degree, it is not." Poor experimental design is just one part of the explanation why.

Various factors contribute to the problem. Statistical mistakes are widespread. The peer reviewers who evaluate papers before journals commit to publishing them are much worse at spotting mistakes than they or others appreciate. Professional pressure, competition and ambition push scientists to publish more quickly than would be wise. A career structure which lays great stress on publishing copious papers exacerbates all these problems.

Also, the system does not encourage the publication of negative results.

That most scientists don't understand statistics is only part of the problem.

370LolaWalser
lokakuu 28, 2013, 11:18am

No, the pertinent question is how well statisticians understand science, and going by the drivel in The Economist's article, I'd say not at all.

371rrp
lokakuu 28, 2013, 8:52pm

No, the pertinent question is how well statisticians understand science

That's as about as stupid as saying "the pertinent question is how well pencil makers understand science. Statistics is a tool, like pencils are a tool. You either use them well or use them badly. If The Economist, known for it's intelligent, well considered, in-depth coverage of all issues, including science, by the way, thinks many scientists don't understand statistics, I'd be inclined to believe them if I were you.

372quicksiva
marraskuu 6, 2013, 1:49pm

Let's do our own neuroscience:
Imagine a large South American cockroach wearing an electronic backpack which sends an electrical current directly into the cockroach’s antenna nerves. Using the same technology that’s used to treat Parkinson’s disease and make cochlear implants for deaf people a cockroach can be directed to turn left or right upon receiving commands from a smart phone. The kit costs $99, and can be purchased online from RoboRoach, roaches included. Do cockroaches have free will? They probably think so. This is an idea with real potential.

373quicksiva
marraskuu 6, 2013, 3:06pm

A Fast Company article by Anya Kamenetz tells us that the RoboRoach has already led to one scientific discovery. High school students at Cooper Union High School in New York City reportedly “found out during beta testing that a randomized electrical signal took longer to habituate than a steady pulse. This could have implications for the future design of "brain pacemakers" that are being tested for problems ranging from Parkinson's to OCD to eating disorders.”

374quicksiva
Muokkaaja: marraskuu 15, 2013, 8:26pm

In the Chinese novel, Journey to the West, Sun Wukong, or Monkey finds himself wearing a magic gold ring that Guanyin has placed around his head, which causes him unbearable headaches whenever he even thinks of causing trouble. What a "brave new world" we face.