Intelligent Design

The Meat of the Matter

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I invite our readers to review my last post and the exchanges between me and eigenstate (hereafter “E”) in the combox.  I could go through a point-by-point rebuttal of eigenstate’s comments, but it would be pointless, because far from rebutting the central thrust of the post, he did not lay a finger on it.   Here is the central argument of that post:  The immaterial mind exists.  Everyone knows the immaterial mind exists.  Its existence is, indeed, the primordial datum that one simply cannot not know.  Therefore, any denial of the existence of the immaterial mind is not only false; it is incoherent.  Hence, the immaterial mind is not an “explanation” of any sort; it is a datum one must take into account in any robust (indeed, any coherent) ontology.  And if your metaphysics requires you to deny this undeniable fact, that is a problem with your metaphysics, not the fact.

In response E screams over and over and over (one can just imagine his wild eyes rolling back in his head as spittle spews from his lips) “I’m a meat robot; I’m a meat robot; I’m a meat robot.  And so are you.”  One wonders why a meat robot is so passionate about evangelizing all of the other meat robots to ensure they know (can meat “know”?) the true nature of their meatiness.

But E, you might object, it is absurd to say that the physical components of brain meat (oxygen atoms, hydrogen atoms, carbon atoms, etc.) can exhibit the attributes of an immaterial mind such as subjective self-awareness, qualia, intentionality, and the perception of subject-object duality.  Isn’t it just as absurd to say that amalgamations of the physical components of brain meat can exhibit those attributes?  Stupid! E responds.  You have committed the fallacy of composition.  What is the fallacy of composition?  That is indeed a real logical fallacy.  It means that it is fallacious to infer that a whole can exhibit only the attributes of its individual parts.  Here’s an example of the fallacy:  An individual brick cannot provide shelter; therefore a house made of bricks cannot provide shelter.   How does this apply to brain meat?  According to E, brain meat as a whole has properties far different from its meaty components, and one of those properties is the capacity to delude itself into believing it has the attributes of an immaterial mind.

Now, to his credit, I am sure E will be the first to admit that not all kinds of meat have this capacity.  Indeed, brain meat is the only kind of meat that we know of that does.  And what is the difference between brain meat and other kinds of meat that accounts for this difference?  It is all a matter of how the meat is arranged.  “Structure matters,” E observes pedantically.  Wait just a minute.  Is E saying that if a rib eye steak were structured just a little differently it would be conscious?  Well, yes, that is kind of the gist of it.  But where is the dividing line between non-conscious rib eye steak kinds of meat and conscious brain meat, you might ask.  Well, here is where things get a little murky.  But according to E, if we arrange the same stuff that rib eye steaks are made of (oxygen atoms, hydrogen atoms, carbon atoms, etc.) into a particularly complex configuration, at some point . . . wait for it . . . poof! you get meat that (has the illusion of) self-awareness, qualia, intentionality, and the perception of subject-object duality.

That’s right.  It turns out that invoking the fallacy of composition is actually just a backhanded way of invoking Poof! It emerged.  And like all emergentist accounts of consciousness, the pesky details about how consciousness (or the illusion thereof) emerges from simpler kinds of meat are never explained.  It really is just that simple.  E’s reasoning goes something like this:  You commit the fallacy of composition if you deny that houses emerge from bricks arranged in a particular way; and in just the same way you commit the fallacy of composition if you deny that consciousness emerges from meaty components arranged in a certain way.

“But,” you might object, “meaty components – no matter how complex the arrangement – are still, well, you know, meat, which is a physical thing.  How can an immaterial mental phenomenon like consciousness emerge from meat?  Isn’t that a category error?”  Now here is where E’s evangelism takes on a fundamentalist zeal reminiscent of an Appalachian snake handler.  In response to such a question he would stand to his feet, stretch out his arm, point his boney finger at you, and scream “Infidel!”  You see, E is committed to materialism with an intense quasi-religious fervor, and he holds his faith commitments with a dogmatic, brassbound and rigid fideism that would make a medieval churchman blush.  After he caught his breath and got his heart rate under control, he would reply breathlessly, “There can be no category error, because there is only one category and that category is physical; thus sayeth the prophets of materialism.”

Here is where the story gets very sad.  You see, materialism is a stunted, narrow-minded and provincial way of looking at the world.  A more robust ontology allows one to take the world as he finds it and revel in the full panoply of its grandeur, beauty and mystery.  But materialism says if self-evident facts conflict with its precepts, to hell with the facts; the precepts come first.  The god of materialism is a harsh taskmaster, and he forces all of his servants to wear blinders lest they be tempted to behold the forbidden facts.  And E, having heeded his god and donned his blinders, literally cannot see the beauty, vastness and glory of his immaterial mind.  Instead, he stamps his foot, gets red in the face, and chants, “I’m a meat robot; I’m a meat robot.”  Madness; sheer madness.

 

126 Replies to “The Meat of the Matter

  1. 1
    Andre says:

    Again I ask how does Eigenstate fit an entire horse in his brain when he thinks about a horse? Eigenstate any thoughts on this?

  2. 2
  3. 3
    Box says:

    Eigenstate,

    If reason is first and foremost dictated by matter—blind, unintelligent, without overview and uninterested in matters of truth, logic and coherence—then what is reason?
    How can it possibly work? How can it be trusted?

    IOW how does one get from chemistry to reason?

    Reppert: . . let us suppose that brain state A, which is token identical to the thought that all men are mortal, and brain state B, which is token identical to the thought that Socrates is a man, together cause the belief that Socrates is mortal. It isn’t enough for rational inference that these events be those beliefs, it is also necessary that the causal transaction be in virtue of the content of those thoughts . . . [But] if naturalism is true, then the propositional content is irrelevant to the causal transaction that produces the conclusion, and [so] we do not have a case of rational inference. In rational inference, as [C S] Lewis puts it, one thought causes another thought not by being, but by being seen to be, the ground for it. But causal transactions in the brain occur in virtue of the brain’s being in a particular type of state that is relevant to physical causal transactions.

    – –
    Note: I’ve put this question to Eigenstate several times before, but to this date he studiously ignored it.

  4. 4
    Zachriel says:

    Well, in a thread about meat, we could hardly forget Terry Bisson.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tScAyNaRdQ

  5. 5

    Box,

    The mere possibility that matter arranged by chance and natural could by happenstance fall upon a true thought is enough for the materialist. Their beliefs are built on any bare possibility that supports their preferred worldview – the bare possibility that a self-replicating 3D printer could spontaneously arise from a pool of chemicals,; the bare possibility that the universe could be so finely tuned by chance; the bare possibility that matter can produce intention, qualia, symbols and oughts.

  6. 6
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Nice post Barry – some great insights to consider …

    Is E saying that if a rib eye steak were structured just a little differently it would be conscious? Well, yes, that is kind of the gist of it.

    That’s really the materialist fairy tale in essence. It explains the origin of life and the origin of consciousness – among many other things – through a “poof event” that emerges from “a little different structure”. So, there’s one physical structure with no consciousness. Then, later, through the scientific process of “poof”, there is subjective self-awareness, qualia, intentionality, the perception of subject-object duality, moral awareness, conscious knowledge, spiritual aspirations.

    “Wait a minute. Poof doesn’t just happen!” Yes, that’s true. It requires not only “a little different structure”, but “a few good mutations”. So, with gradualism, we have non-consciousness, then with a few good mutations and a little different structure, only then will the required poof-event occur. Thus we have conscious minds (or so it is said).

    But according to E, if we arrange the same stuff that rib eye steaks are made of (oxygen atoms, hydrogen atoms, carbon atoms, etc.) into a particularly complex configuration, at some point . . . wait for it . . . poof! you get meat that (has the illusion of) self-awareness, qualia, intentionality, and the perception of subject-object duality.

    That’s a perfect summary-abstract of the entire catalogue of academic work on “emergence”. 🙂 Change the vocabulary a bit and it should certainly pass peer-review.

    The very same concept works for origin of life also — thus the great efficiency of this single explanation. Occam’s Razor in action! At one moment, we have inanimate chemical compounds. Then, when they’re arranged in a little different structure “poof!” life emerges. That’s just the way the science works. 🙂

    “There can be no category error, because there is only one category and that category is physical; thus sayeth the prophets of materialism.”

    That’s fascinating and true. Materialism is monistic – there’s only one category so there can’t be a category error. In fact, there can’t be any error. There is only the physical. So, the physical is “true”. There is no “non-physical”, so there can’t be any category of “false”.

  7. 7
    bornagain77 says:

    A few notes as to consciousness and brain.
    Penrose/Hameroff’s infamous Orch-Or model for quantum consciousness,

    Stuart Hameroff defends Orch-OR theory at TSC 2010 – Pt 1 of 2
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAVQjMf2fEQ
    Part 2 of 2
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ed9nZXrOaMk

    Quantum Cognition and Brain Microtubules – Hameroff – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mm6Mt9BoZ_M

    a model which was was harshly criticized, especially by atheists, from its inception, has preliminary confirmation from the first direct test for it.

    In a fascinating new study, the chemical anesthetic 1-azidoanthracine was administered to tadpoles and found to work by disrupting microtubules in the nervous system. A second chemical which repaired the microtubules was found to restore consciousness.

    Direct modulation of microtubule stability contributes to anthracene general anesthesia. – 2013
    Excerpt: Recently, we identified 1-aminoanthracene as a fluorescent general anesthetic. To investigate the mechanism of action, a photoactive analogue, 1-azidoanthracene, was synthesized. Administration of 1-azidoanthracene to albino stage 40-47 tadpoles was found to immobilize animals upon near-UV irradiation of the forebrain region. The immobilization was often reversible, but it was characterized by a longer duration consistent with covalent attachment of the ligand to functionally important targets.,,,
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23484901

    And further empirical confirmation was found here:

    New Study Favors Quantum Mind – Quantum coherence in brain protein resembles plant photosynthesis – 18-Sep-2014
    Excerpt: Photosynthesis, the ubiquitous and essential mechanism by which plants produce food from sunlight, has been shown since 2006 to routinely utilize quantum coherence (quantum coherent superposition) at warm temperatures.,,,
    Back in the brain, microtubules are components of the cytoskeleton inside neurons, cylindrical lattice polymers of the protein ‘tubulin’.,,, now it appears quantum mechanisms eerily similar to those in photosynthesis may operate in tubulins within microtubules.
    In an article published September 17,, a team of scientists,, used computer simulation and theoretical quantum biophysics to analyze quantum coherence among tryptophan pi resonance rings in tubulin, the component protein in microtubules.,,,
    (They) mapped locations of the tryptophan pi electron resonance clouds in tubulin, and found them analogous to (the quantum coherent superposition of) chromophores in photosynthesis proteins.,,,
    Along with recent evidence for coherent megahertz vibrations in microtubules, and that anesthetics act to erase consciousness via microtubules, quantum brain biology will become increasingly important.,,
    http://www.newswise.com/articl.....sone_share

    I was very happy to see Hameroff’s model to be empirically vindicated. Especially since he has steadfastly resisted materialistic dogmatism. Even going into to lion’s den, as it were, to defend his, and Penrose’s, model:

    Being the skunk at an atheist convention – Hameroff – 2006
    Excerpt: In November 2006 I was invited to a meeting at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California called “Beyond Belief”. Other speakers and attendees were predominantly atheists, and harshly critical of the notion of spirituality. They included Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Patricia Churchland, Steven Weinberg (the least venal), Neil deGrasse Tyson and others who collectively vilified creationists and religious warriors. But the speakers also ragged on the notion of any purpose or meaning to existence, heaped ridicule on the very possibility of a God-like entity (and those who believed in such an entity), declared that scientists and philosophers should set society’s moral and ethical standards, and called for a billion dollar public relations campaign to convince the public God does not exist.
    Near the end of the first day came my turn to speak. I began by saying that the conference to that point had been like the Spanish Inquisition in reverse – the scientists were burning the believers. And while I had no particular interest in organized religion, I did believe there could be a scientific account for spirituality. After pointing out faulty assumptions in conventional brain models for consciousness and summarizing the Penrose-Hameroff theory, I laid out my plausibility argument for scientific, secular spirituality, suggesting cosmic connections and influence in our conscious thoughts occurred via quantum interactions in microtubules. I closed with a slide of the DNA molecule which emphasized it’s internal core where quantum effects rule, suggesting a Penrose non-computable influence in genetic mutations and evolution (aimed at Dawkins in the form of a quantum-based intelligent design). At the end a few people clapped loudly, but most sat in steely silence.,,,
    http://quantum.webhost.uits.ar.....convention

    In this following video, Stuart Hameroff speaks of the two hemispheres of the brain being ‘quantumly’, i.e. instantaneously, connected:

    Quantum Entangled Consciousness (Permanence of Quantum Information) – Life After Death – Stuart Hameroff – video
    https://vimeo.com/39982578

  8. 8
    bornagain77 says:

    Here is empirical support for the contention that the two hemispheres of the brian are quantumly, instantaneously, connected:

    ,,, zero time lag neuronal synchrony despite long conduction delays – 2008
    Excerpt: Multielectrode recordings have revealed zero time lag synchronization among remote cerebral cortical areas. However, the axonal conduction delays among such distant regions can amount to several tens of milliseconds. It is still unclear which mechanism is giving rise to isochronous discharge of widely distributed neurons, despite such latencies,,,
    Remarkably, synchrony of neuronal activity is not limited to short-range interactions within a cortical patch. Interareal synchronization across cortical regions including interhemispheric areas has been observed in several tasks (7, 9, 11–14).,,,
    Beyond its functional relevance, the zero time lag synchrony among such distant neuronal ensembles must be established by mechanisms that are able to compensate for the delays involved in the neuronal communication.
    Latencies in conducting nerve impulses down axonal processes can amount to delays of several tens of milliseconds between the generation of a spike in a presynaptic cell and the elicitation of a postsynaptic potential (16). The question is how, despite such temporal delays, the reciprocal interactions between two brain regions can lead to the associated neural populations to fire in unison (i.e. zero time lag).,,,
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pm.....MC2575223/

    The following paper appeals to a ‘non-local’, (i.e. beyond space and time), cause to try to explain the zero lag synchronization in remote neural circuits,,,

    Nonlocal mechanism for cluster synchronization in neural circuits – 2011
    Excerpt: The findings,,, call for reexamining sources of correlated activity in cortex,,,
    http://arxiv.org/abs/1103.3634

    Of related interest, people born without a link between the two halves of the brain still show remarkably normal communication between the two halves of their brains

    Bridging the Gap – October 2011
    Excerpt: Like a bridge that spans a river to connect two major metropolises, the corpus callosum is the main conduit for information flowing between the left and right hemispheres of our brains. Now, neuroscientists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have found that people who are born without that link—a condition called agenesis of the corpus callosum, or AgCC—still show remarkably normal communication across the gap between the two halves of their brains.
    http://media.caltech.edu/press_releases/13465

    The Case for the Soul: Refuting Physicalist Objections – video
    Computers vs. Qualia, Libet and ‘Free won’t’, Split Brain (unified attention of brain despite split hemispheres, visual and motion information is shared between the two hemispheres despite the hemispheres being split),
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GB5TNrtu9Pk

    Of philosophical note: Although I very much enjoyed the feisty, “Galileo”, way in which Stuart Hameroff defended his model against the “atheists’ inquisition”, I hold that Hameroff’s model falls short of finding complete agreement with quantum mechanics, and thus I find his model falls short of truly explaining consciousness.
    The primary reason why I think Hameroff’s model falls short of finding complete agreement with quantum theory is primarily because of his pantheistic metaphysical view of reality. A metaphysical view of reality in which consciousness, for him, is somehow, if I read him right, co-terminus with the space-time of material reality at the Planck scale. Something he calls ‘proto-consciousness’ at the fine (Planck) scale.

    Discovery of quantum vibrations in ‘microtubules’ corroborates theory of consciousness – Thursday, January 16, 2014
    Excerpt: Did consciousness evolve from complex computations among brain neurons, as most scientists assert? Or has consciousness, in some sense, been here all along, as spiritual approaches maintain?” ask Hameroff and Penrose in the current review. “This opens a potential Pandora’s Box, but our theory accommodates both these views, suggesting consciousness derives from quantum vibrations in microtubules, protein polymers inside brain neurons, which both govern neuronal and synaptic function, and connect brain processes to self-organizing processes in the fine scale, ‘proto-conscious’ quantum structure of reality.”
    http://esciencenews.com/articl.....sciousness

    But contrary to Hameroff’s Pantheistic metaphysics in which consciousness is, if I read him right, a part of material reality at the Planck scale, the fact of the matter is that several lines of evidence from quantum mechanics now confirm what we have intuitively known all along.
    Mainly, empirical evidence now confirms the ‘intuitive’ fact that consciousness demands a perspective that stands completely outside the material order, even outside Hameroff’s fine (Planck) structure of the universe.
    Specifically, advances in quantum mechanics have now allowed us to formulate the argument for God from consciousness like this:

    A Short Survey Of Quantum Mechanics and Consciousness
    Excerpt: 1. Consciousness either preceded all of material reality or is a ‘epi-phenomena’ of material reality.
    2. If consciousness is a ‘epi-phenomena’ of material reality then consciousness will be found to have no special position within material reality. Whereas conversely, if consciousness precedes material reality then consciousness will be found to have a special position within material reality.
    3. Consciousness is found to have a special, even central, position within material reality.
    4. Therefore, consciousness is found to precede material reality.
    Four intersecting lines of experimental evidence from quantum mechanics that shows that consciousness precedes material reality (Wigner’s Quantum Symmetries, Wheeler’s Delayed Choice, Leggett’s Inequalities, Quantum Zeno effect)
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1uLcJUgLm1vwFyjwcbwuYP0bK6k8mXy-of990HudzduI/edit

    Verse and Music:

    Colossians 1:17
    He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

    Radioactive – Lindsey Stirling – music
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aE2GCa-_nyU

  9. 9
    Axel says:

    Sorry to intrude, but could you tell me how I can find your latest miscellaneous thread? Thank you.

  10. 10
    Box says:

    William J Murray #5,

    and we go along with it! This results in a weird dynamics during any debate. Like you said : the materialist only has to uphold the mere possibility of his position in order to win. Consequently our side can only win by proving that materialism cannot be right in every possible world.
    Somehow we have moved far beyond the point when it was sufficient to argue that certain things are highly unlikely and unreasonable.

  11. 11
    kairosfocus says:

    WJM, 5: I think matter can indeed be in a configuration that computes a given result on an input. That that o/p makes sense, or that there is actual rational contemplation involved, is another matter. And don’t even traipse on responsible freedom. Evolutionary materialism is trying to get North by insistently heading due west. Spock’s “that does not COMPUTE” was wrong-headed. KF

  12. 12
    bFast says:

    Zachriel (4) excellent link! Made my day.

  13. 13
    Mung says:

    Is E saying that if a rib eye steak were structured just a little differently it would be conscious?

    Eat more brain.

  14. 14
    Axel says:

    Sorry, again, my #6 is meant to be addressed to you, BA77. Somehow I seem to have deleted your name.

    I want to link an article concerning the manufacture of a very much more effective means of solar heating, base on an 18th century invention by a Scot called Stirling – currently only used on submarines, I believe.

    And guess what, Mr Sterling was a clergyman. Now what would he be doing in the sphere of science?

    Anyway, I might as well give the link her, in case anyone is interested:

    http://www.theguardian.com/env.....ity-system

  15. 15
    eigenstate says:

    If reason is first and foremost dictated by matter—blind, unintelligent, without overview and uninterested in matters of truth, logic and coherence—then what is reason?

    I don’t know what “dictated by matter” means as you use it here. Matter, in the form of a brain, would be doing the dictating, where dictating was happening. But that doesn’t connect with your following question (what is reason?). If you just mean that if mental processes — human thought and cognition — is a wholly natural process, then I can see a connection. In any case, “reason”, on a materialist view, is a description of activities of the brain that draws conclusions from other available information in the brain.

    How can it possibly work? How can it be trusted?

    The brain is not a computer, at least in the conventional sense, but as a matter of pedagogy, we can look at developed models and implementations of reasoning in computing contexts to understand how natural, (more) mechanical processes can work on such tasks.

    IOW how does one get from chemistry to reason?

    At length! The brain is the most complicated structure we know of in nature, and by far. Like the other examples of complex and structured behavior we observe in nature, the processes we identify as available and capable of producing them are slow, undirected, and step-wise incremental. That means you have something much more primitive long ago — hundreds of millions of years, perhaps — that is a precursor, but maybe not much more than a brain stem. I’ll pass on recapitulating 500 million years of evolutionary development in a comment on a post at UD, but the “how” you are asking about is the “how” I’m sure you’d expect — unthinkably large number of iterations over a process that has feedback loops that accumulate and preserve increased capabilities. Preserved because those capabilities tend to enable the animals the brains belong to survive and reproduce in greater numbers than those that don’t. Brain power as an index to fecundity, one might say.

    But there’s no “sublimation” contemplated, here, no “finger of God” endowing man with “reason” or the imago dei. This is the hum-drum grind of a billion year march through a natural processes and feedback loops that drive evolution of all biological development, including brains and brain function.

    Maybe a better way to answer your question (you’re certainly familiar with how evolutionary theory answers your question) is to just say that the intuition you have about an ontological incompatibility between “chemistry” and “reason” is not grounded, does not have any underlying warrant for that conclusion beyond being a “brute intuition”. If you consider that possibility, then as soon as you’ve done that, the question remains a long and complicated path to recount, due to the enormous complexity of the brain, and the vast time periods involved in iterating over prototypes needed to get to where we are today, but it’s not a conceptual non-starter, as you might think it is if you are considering such a “brute intuition” as authoritative.

  16. 16
    Axel says:

    It’s only a hunch. I can’t yet substantiate it, but I have a suspicion that blind chance might have been co-opted by the examination boards of the respective universities of our materialist friends to set their examination papers, and perhaps even mark their answers.

  17. 17
    Axel says:

    I’ve just read Eigenstate’s #15, and I’m sorry lads, but there’s no way you’re going to beat him into docility (in its original sense of ‘teachability’).

    Who could ever have imagined bind chance would have produced such an endless production line of Lizas and Marks in a single century, never mind a few years. On the other hand… blind chance…?

  18. 18
    eigenstate says:

    @Barry,

    Now, to his credit, I am sure E will be the first to admit that not all kinds of meat have this capacity.

    I understand your choice of “meat” for its rhetorical value in the title, etc, but here you are taking your metaphor too seriously. “Meat” is flesh — mucscle and fat of an animal. Brain matter is “animal stuff” so close enough for your rhetorical needs, but the structure of the brain is not all like that of the structure of flesh — muscle or fat. There is no kind of meat –as meat — that has cognitive capabilities. Mental activity in humans obtains in a neural network — this is the difference that makes all the difference: structure matters.

    Indeed, brain meat is the only kind of meat that we know of that does. And what is the difference between brain meat and other kinds of meat that accounts for this difference? It is all a matter of how the meat is arranged. “Structure matters,” E observes pedantically.

    Unfortunately, it’s not a pedantic exercise to point this out. This is a fundamental conceptual problem that runs through your posts. The Composition Fallacy gets used over and over to reach erroneous conclusions that you maintain as key pillars of your argument (such as it is). Any fair reading of your recent posts on this would conclude that you really do think there is some necessary limitation to what atoms and molecules can do in terms of reifying consciousness, reasoning and abstract thinking (to name just three examples) based on the nature and characteristics of those constituent atoms/molecules. That is, you hold that structure cannot be sufficient, even in principle for diverse and profound phenomena we observe in particular configurations of atoms that are not manifest in the atoms themselves.

    This was the point of my Formaldehyde/Acetic Acid/Glucose example. I’ve not seen any indication form you at this point that you understand or appreciate the import of that example. Formaldehyde and Glucose are “structured just a little differently”, and only structured differently — they are made from the same elements in the same ratios, and yet, profound and easily demonstrable differences obtain between the three compounds (again, imagine Glucose in your body being “structured just a little differently” as formaldehyde in your body — what’s a little reconfiguration in structure going to matter? they’re all just molecules made of C, H, and O, right?).

    You’ve got a steady drum beat going here with your Composition Fallacies, and those errors are central to your claims. That’s not a pedantic picking of nits, but rather a simple realization of this blatant and prominent error that underwrites your basic thesis.

    Wait just a minute. Is E saying that if a rib eye steak were structured just a little differently it would be conscious?

    No. Look, as above, I get the rhetorical schtick you’re going for with “meat”, and that’s fine as far as it goes. But you’re now confusing your schtick for the underlying reality of physiology. Cow’s flesh is not just radically different in its structure — and that would be enough to establish my point here — the raw materials are different. The brain is a mesh of synapses and neurons — a very complicated electro-chemical machine with something like 100 billion neurons, discrete endpoints for activation of interconnections, producing a potential number of different interconnections that is finite, but practically uncountable. Moreover, due to the neuroplasticity of the brain, these connections are dynamic, meaning that the brain is not only structured with a level of granularity against which an equivalent mass of muscle (or fat) would not even show up in the scale, the brain continuously restructures itself in terms of those interconnections.

    So “structured a little differently” can only be used as an exercise in sarcasm or comical understatement. It’s all just bosons and fermions at the most fundamental level, like all the other “stuff” we might examine, but the structural differences are enormous, and the capacities afforded by the brain’s structure as opposed to those afforded by an equivalent mass of fat/muscle could not be more different.

    Well, yes, that is kind of the gist of it. But where is the dividing line between non-conscious rib eye steak kinds of meat and conscious brain meat, you might ask. Well, here is where things get a little murky. But according to E, if we arrange the same stuff that rib eye steaks are made of (oxygen atoms, hydrogen atoms, carbon atoms, etc.) into a particularly complex configuration, at some point . . . wait for it . . . poof! you get meat that (has the illusion of) self-awareness, qualia, intentionality, and the perception of subject-object duality.

    See my reply to Box. It’s a long, slow, incremental, natural/mechanical process: everything that “poof” is not (that would be a magical term, part of the supernatural lexicon, yeah?) If you want to understand a billion years in development, billions of generations and uncountably many variations and different phenotypes all pushed through real world filters for survival and reproduction along the way, be my guest. One can only wonder what a “non-poof” process would look like, then. Perhaps the non-poof hypothesis would be God saying “Let there be light”, and — non-poof! — there be light, or shaping man from the dust like so much clay on a potter’s wheel…
    Words mean what we can agree that they mean, but that seems a pretty mixed up way to use the terms. The scientific theory on human development, including the development of human brains is anti-magical – natural, mechanistic, slow, incremental, and impersonal. It’s peculiar that the very things many theists abhor about the evolutionary thesis are the aspects that are anti-magical. They avail of no agents, incantations, or supernatural forces, elements in the ontology of the worldview they embrace.

    But then, the same people turn around and accuse the ideas they abhor for their anti-magical properties of “magic”. This is probably not so hard to to figure out — Christians and other theists often bristle when their belief in magic is identified as such, and so “magic” becomes just a handy perjorative to use, and they do, whether it fits the situation or not.

  19. 19
    velikovskys says:

    Is E saying that if a rib eye steak were structured just a little differently it would be conscious? Well, yes, that is kind of the gist of it.

    Since we have no knowledge how a designer might/ did design consciousness in an immaterial entity ,what theoretically would stop an unknown designer from doing the same in a material entity?

  20. 20
    Barry Arrington says:

    E,

    This is the hum-drum grind of a billion year march through a natural processes and feedback loops that drive evolution of all biological development, including brains and brain function.

    “feedback loops” = intentionality, subjective self-awareness, perception of subject-object duality, qualia, and unity of consciousness. Sigh. And I bet you sneer at what you call the credulous blind leap-in-the dark faith of religious fundies.

    Computers have feedback loops. No computer has any of these qualities, or ever will. Computation is not consciousness; they are not even the same sort of things, much less the same thing.

    Maybe a better way to answer your question (you’re certainly familiar with how evolutionary theory answers your question) is to just say that the intuition you have about an ontological incompatibility between “chemistry” and “reason” is not grounded, does not have any underlying warrant for that conclusion beyond being a “brute intuition”.

    Sure we have a “brute intuition” if the phrase “brute intuition” means “absolutely certain knowledge of a self-evident fact that cannot be denied on pain of self-referential incoherence.”

    So, yes, we have no underlying warrant whatsoever for the conclusion that there is an ontological incompatibility between “chemistry” and “reason” unless one count’s our absolute certain knowledge.

    the question remains a long and complicated path to recount, due to the enormous complexity of the brain, and the vast time periods involved in iterating over prototypes

    Yeah, yeah. Deep time, chance and selection are omnipotent. Keep the faith.

  21. 21
    Zachriel says:

    Axel: And guess what, Mr Sterling was a clergyman. Now what would he be doing in the sphere of science?

    Higher education in Scotland was limited in the early 18th century, primarily to medicine, law, and clerical studies; however, any graduate would be educated in a wide range of studies.

    As for engineering, Stirling was an engineer because he engineered, just as Darwin was a biologist because he did biological research.

  22. 22
    Barry Arrington says:

    E,

    I understand your choice of “meat” for its rhetorical value in the title, etc, but here you are taking your metaphor too seriously.

    It is not a metaphor for your position; it is your position — i.e, the brain is smart meat. But I understand why you need to think it is a metaphor.

    Mental activity in humans obtains in a neural network — this is the difference that makes all the difference: structure matters.

    Yes, yes. That is exactly what I predicted you would say – using those very words. I don’t know why you think you’ve made some kind of point.

    The Composition Fallacy gets used over and over . . .

    Translation: When Barry asks for a systematic explanation instead of invoking emergantism (the materialist equivalent of magic), I can deflect merely by saying that his refusal to accept materialists magic as an explanation is “the composition fallacy.”

    Any fair reading of your recent posts on this would conclude that you really do think there is some necessary limitation to what atoms and molecules can do in terms of reifying consciousness, reasoning and abstract thinking . . .

    Only a quasi-religious fundamentalist like you could write that sentence. You seem to be suggestion that you believe there is no necessary limitation to what atoms and molecules can do if only you arrange them in the right combination. Sigh.

    That is, you hold that structure cannot be sufficient, even in principle for diverse and profound phenomena we observe in particular configurations of atoms that are not manifest in the atoms themselves.

    I never said nor implied that. I can’t imagine why you think I did. Yes, houses come from bricks. But if you told me that the “Pythagorean theorem” came from bricks I would say you are nuts unless you can show me in a systematic way how you can get from bricks to “Pythagorean theorem.” It is not the concept of emergent phenomena generally that I deny. Who could? It is your misuse of that concept as a means of pounding the square peg of immaterial consciousness into the round hole of brain meat for no other reason than that you quasi-religious faith commitments demand it.

    E, I understand. Believe me I do. Your god bids you to pound those square pegs and you feverishly pound away. I just don’t understand why believe those of us who do not worship your god should feel compelled to pound away with you.

    I’ve not seen any indication form you at this point that you understand or appreciate the import of that example.

    And I have not seen any indication from you that you understand that a false analogy does not demonstrate anything.

    You’ve got a steady drum beat going here with your Composition Fallacies,

    Translation: You just won’t accept “poof!” as an explanation.

    Yes, that is true. I won’t.

  23. 23
    Barry Arrington says:

    E,

    Cow’s flesh is not just radically different in its structure — and that would be enough to establish my point here — the raw materials are different.

    Now you are not being serious. The raw materials are exactly the same – oxygen atoms, hydrogen atoms, carbon atoms, etc. The only physical difference is how those atoms are arranged.

    I understand your need to deny that point. Because it is utterly devastating to your project. But them’s the facts.

    So “structured a little differently” can only be used as an exercise in sarcasm or comical understatement.

    No, it can also be used as a devastating reductio ad absurdum counter to your argument. Your deflection means you either not understand your own argument or that you cannot bear where the logic of your own argument leads.

    It’s a long, slow, incremental, natural/mechanical process: everything that “poof” is not (that would be a magical term, part of the supernatural lexicon, yeah?) If you want to understand a billion years in development, billions of generations

    As I said earlier, we understand. Your faith requires you to believe (or at least assert) that deep time, chance and selection are omnipotent. Keep the faith.

  24. 24
    eigenstate says:

    That’s right. It turns out that invoking the fallacy of composition is actually just a backhanded way of invoking Poof! It emerged. And like all emergentist accounts of consciousness, the pesky details about how consciousness (or the illusion thereof) emerges from simpler kinds of meat are never explained. It really is just that simple. E’s reasoning goes something like this: You commit the fallacy of composition if you deny that houses emerge from bricks arranged in a particular way; and in just the same way you commit the fallacy of composition if you deny that consciousness emerges from meaty components arranged in a certain way.

    That was neither my intention nor is it useful in pointing to you errors as a way of supporting a scientific view of consciousness and brain development. Your commitment to the errors you are making regarding composition don’t make evolution any more credible or true. It’s just what it appears on its face — you keep making basic blunders that defeat your basic thesis. I’d be happy to know that somehow helped the ideas I subscribe to, but only defeats the claims you are making.

    On identifying the error you’re making, it’s crucial to qualify the “aspects of the whole” as being necessarily necessarily negated.

    For example, if I claim that I necessarily cannot live in a “configuration of bricks” — it’s not possible even in principle — because I can’t “live in a brick”, or even live in a “pile of bricks”, I will have engaged in the error you’ve made of your posts on this subject. I’ve committed to the Fallacy of Composition. But the “necessarily” is essential in that claim (it’s often unstated, and implicit). Consider this alternative:

    “I necessarily cannot make a glider plane out of bricks because a brick can’t glide or fly”

    This commits to the same fallacy. It is fallacious to assert that necessarily things that are true of the proper parts are true of the whole. But as a practical matter, without the “necessarily”, without ruling the prospect out in principle, it may be true and sound claim:

    “I cannot make a glider plane out of bricks because a brick can’t fly”.

    The “because” is still formally fallacious, but only insofar as I assert it as a necessary implication. It may well be the case that I indeed cannot make a glider plane out of bricks, and ostensibly for the claimed reason. The awful flight characteristics of a single brick are likely to be just as much a problem in any possible configuration of bricks I come up with in efforts to build a glider plane that works like a glider plane.

    So, in that case, what is true of the parts is true of the whole, in the practical sense. The Composition Fallacy does not deny that truths about the proper parts cannot be true about the whole. Instead it identifies the error in asserting that this is necessarily true, or necessarily false, aspects of the part are not, a priori aspects of the whole.

    The application of this to your claims, here, Barry, is this: you claim that atoms (or bits of meat, if you prefer), in any configuration are necessarily insufficient to effect human consciousness or thought, due to the properties of atoms (or bits of meat). You might have said, thinking this through a bit more, that such a claim cannot obtain by necessity, but, like the realization that glider planes can’t be made out of bricks, obtains as a practical matter.

    Avoiding the fallacy then:

    “Consciousness subsisting in physical matter may not be impossible in principle, but it can’t happen in practice. Just too complex, wonderful, numinous etc.,

    That avoids the fallacy, but then, uh, “let’s a materialist foot in the door”, to paraphrase a popular UD shibboleth. You are still maintaining your position that consciousness does not work as a natural process, but now the playing field is a problem. It was nice and neat when your fallacy left you with a necessary negation of the materialist hypothesis. Now, if you don’t “win by necessity”, and have to fight this out on the evidence and the facts on the ground, you’re in trouble. That’s not your game.

    Which suggests to me that UD’s general responses will continue to rely heavily on the Composition Fallacy. I bought Dr. Dembski’s Being in Communion from Amazon yesterday, and was not surprised to find this same error in several places just in the first few chapters of the book. It “can’t be so”, in principle, rather than, “it just isn’t so”. There’s something endemic about that error in the views that form the “tent” of the ID movement, it seems.

  25. 25
    rhampton7 says:

    This is a much tougher question than Barry is willing to concede. For example, we can demonstrate that Weaver birds are intelligent designers because of their irreducibly complex nests. However, according to Catholic theology, these Weaver birds lack immaterial souls capable of contemplative thought. That means that there is a category of intelligence, found amongst living forms, that can be described as a “meat computer.” The empathy of dogs, the language of whales, the creativity of apes, all of it can be chalked up to a purely material, mechanical explanation. No poofs required.

  26. 26
    eigenstate says:

    “feedback loops” = intentionality, subjective self-awareness, perception of subject-object duality, qualia, and unity of consciousness. Sigh. And I bet you sneer at what you call the credulous blind leap-in-the dark faith of religious fundies.

    What I was referring to by “feedback loops” was the cumulative processes of evolution: deleterious variations tend to be removed from the population at higher rates than neutral or beneficial variations. This “loop” runs over and over and over, and over time preserves, develops and extend some features, and removes others. The key being that he process begins on successive cycles where it left off on previous cycles, rather than starting from the same point each time.

    Computers have feedback loops. No computer has any of these qualities, or ever will. Computation is not consciousness; they are not even the same sort of things, much less the same thing.

    You misunderstood my reference to “feedback loops”, which I clarified for you, above. A thermometer, a machine far simpler than the computer you are reading this on, is an example of a device with intentionality (something pointed out by Daniel Dennett long ago). It has “about-ness”, an “directed-ness” towar, with respect to sensing and triggering control processes toward a target temperature.

    On the “sort of things” question, all that can be said for the immaterialist side is that the intuition is supreme, and the terms and concepts are either undefined or so ambiguously defined as to be indistinguishable-from-defined. Just to test this yourself, consider what you would answer to the question “what is a a ‘sort of thing'”? in your metaphysics? There is no “type” to define for an immaterial mind to compare “sorts” against with, say “computation”. You don’t have an ontology or a lexicon that allow for any such comparisons. It only obtains as a claim as a kind of visceral expression from the intuition.

    What can be asserted without any facts or evidence (or in this case, without any operational semantics even) can be dismissed just as easily, right? If you suppose you’re doing more than that, here, I’ll be interested to here how one classifies the type for a immaterial mind or “immaterial consciousness”
    such that we can see how or why computation would be ontological incompatible, or functionally incompatible. My claim is that “immaterial mind” is an “anti-concept”, in the sense of an “ant-pattern” in software engineering. It is not a concept at all, and lacks the semantics and applicability we would find in any actual concept. It’s a placeholder for “I-don’t-know-anything-about-this-subject”.

    Not holding my breath — I know the drill. But if you were to have to start substantiating your concepts in the way materialists should and do — never mind substantiating evidential claims for now — you’d find it very difficult going, indeed.

  27. 27
    Mung says:

    eigenstate:

    That means you have something much more primitive long ago — hundreds of millions of years, perhaps — that is a precursor, but maybe not much more than a brain stem.

    Did you mean brain STEM?

  28. 28
    JimFit says:

    rhampton7

    This is a much tougher question than Barry is willing to concede. For example, we can demonstrate that Weaver birds are intelligent designers because of their irreducibly complex nests. However, according to Catholic theology, these Weaver birds lack immaterial souls capable of contemplative thought. That means that there is a category of intelligence, found amongst living forms, that can be described as a “meat computer.” The empathy of dogs, the language of whales, the creativity of apes, all of it can be chalked up to a purely material, mechanical explanation. No poofs required.

    As a Christian Orthodox i believe that life = Consciousness even if we are talking about single organisms or dogs or whales and so on..we humans differ from the rest of the kingdoms ONLY because we obtained knowledge. Birds and other creatures build but the difference from our “intelligent” builders is that our builders know why they build, birds do it instinctive, birds lack the knowledge of design, that’s why you don’t see birds building something different or create mechanical structures to have etc water near their nests so they won’t be in danger from predators.

  29. 29
    eigenstate says:

    It is not a metaphor for your position; it is your position — i.e, the brain is smart meat. But I understand why you need to think it is a metaphor.

    Uh, the brain is not muscle or fat tissue — that’s what meat is. You’re stickler for definitions, so practice what your preach here; look it and you will see you again mistaken. As I said, I was fine with the artistic license you indulged in the use of “meat”, but apparently, you really do think the brain is a kind of meat, like all seriously ‘n stuff. That’s the case.

    Yes, yes. That is exactly what I predicted you would say – using those very words. I don’t know why you think you’ve made some kind of point.

    Whether you predict its arrival or not has not bearing on its “pointedness”. it’s an insight into a basic error you repeatedly make in your posts, an error that underwrites your thesis. So it may be predictable, but it’s relevant and important.

    Translation: When Barry asks for a systematic explanation instead of invoking emergantism (the materialist equivalent of magic), I can deflect merely by saying that his refusal to accept materialists magic as an explanation is “the composition fallacy.”

    No, not at all. Your commitment to the composition fallacy stands on its own, and neither needs nor relates to anything I say or hold about ermegentism or evolution. I think you don’t understand that the Composition Fallacy is a logical error, yeah? It’s entirely self-inflicted and not contingent on anything I say or do.

    We do not have a demonstrable recipe for the original self-replicating cell(s). We don’t know how it happened, and on this question we may never know beyond a very humble level of speculation and a basket of very plausible but unverified-as-historical paths to that point. A detailed, verifiable model of the development path for consciousness and other activities of the brain is a long way off by all accounts, although the prospects are very good for continued and substantial progress against the problem based on headway we have already made and are making right now.

    There are many, many gaps in our knowledge, and this won’t change any time soon. As scientists like to quip: if we fill in some of that knowledge, we seem to have just created more gaps!

    At any rate, if one endorse the idea of models, models that cohere and have entailments and make novel, testable predictions, the scientific view of the development of the brain just doesn’t have any competition. We can catalog all the myriad things we don’t know about consciousness or evolutionary pathways to meta-representational cognition, and lament our lack of knowledge on all of those questions. But for all those deficiencies, it’s the only serious game in town. That is, if you used the measuring rod you’d like to apply to the scientific view to you own views, which you ostensibly find superior (by virtue of the fact that you hold them over the scientific view), you can’t measure or assess what you endorse. It’s not a tractable subject.

    That’s a form of tu quoque, I guess. If you suppose that a materialist is somehow at fault for the gaps in materialist knowledge, for the holes in between what can be tested, verified, falsified, observed, then it seems your own views are in for a much much more severe assault by your own standards.

    A couple centuries ago, one might have understood that a water molecule is made up of an H and 2 O atoms. But one would have had to say, on being asked, “what makes water wet” when H atoms and O atoms aren’t wet” – “I don’t know, it’s some sort of emergent property that obtains in the combination of the atoms and the structure of the molecule”. As it turns out, that is a kind of emergence that we can explain in detail and understand as characteristic of (liquid) water that obtains from the particular way the molecule is structured. It’s been “de-magified” if we want to be overly gracious to our supernaturalist critics.

    Is that a guarantee that we will soon or ever have a similar level of understanding of how the brain developed from more increasingly more rudimentary forms as we go back on the timeline?

    No.

    But we do have a long and well-documented history of science making progress on problems like this, and ones just as difficult, and more in some ways. This is a reason-based gorund on which to place our understanding that while there are no guarantees, past as prologue, and all the evidence we has points to a material answer as the most likely actual answer, given the available options. If we never find out, it’s still not magic, it just remains an unknown.

  30. 30
    Barry Arrington says:

    E,

    The Composition Fallacy does not deny that truths about the proper parts cannot be true about the whole. Instead it identifies the error in asserting that this is necessarily true, or necessarily false, aspects of the part are not, a priori aspects of the whole.

    And yet we can know a priori that certain parts – no matter how they are arranged – necessarily cannot be joined together to achieve certain wholes. For example, we can know a priori that bricks cannot be arranged in such a way as to create the law of noncontradiction. Why? Because bricks are physical things and the law of noncontradiction is an immaterial abstract concept. No arrangement of any physical parts can, in principle, result in any immaterial whole. It is simple as this: parts in one ontological category cannot be arranged to create wholes in a separate ontological category.

    Atoms and minds are in separate ontological categories. Therefore, atoms cannot be arranged to create minds.

    Avoiding the fallacy then:
    “Consciousness subsisting in physical matter may not be impossible in principle, but it can’t happen in practice. Just too complex, wonderful, numinous etc.,

    Why would I admit that consciousness subsisting in physical matter may not be impossible in principle? I don’t admit that. I emphatically deny it.

    Don’t you see that you’ve smuggled in your metaphysics by posing the issue this way? When I say the immaterial mind exists I am not making an empirical claim that is somehow corrigible or dubitable. I am making a metaphysical claim that is incorrigible and indubitable. Indeed, I have made an extremely risky metaphysical claim. You can crush my worldview at a stroke. All you have to do is demonstrate (I said demonstrate E. An assertion – no matter how red in the face you get when you make it – is not a demonstration) that meat can be conscious. If you do, I will hop on the materialist bandwagon and curse the non-existent God of the monotheistic faiths to his non-existent face.

    E, you need to get over yourself. You don’t get to rule out the immaterial mind by fiat. Your metaphysical commitments are not infallible. You don’t sit ex cathedra over matters of philosophical inquiry. We do not commit the fallacy of composition when we assert that even if certain wholes exceed the properties of their individual parts, it is nevertheless the case that certain parts can never be arranged to create certain wholes.

    Here’s your problem in a nutshell: You seem to think that scientism is equivalent to rationality itself. Here’s a clue; far from being equivalent to rationality, scientism is deeply irrational.

  31. 31
    Barry Arrington says:

    A thermometer, a machine far simpler than the computer you are reading this on, is an example of a device with intentionality (something pointed out by Daniel Dennett long ago).

    If Daniel Dennett pointed this out, then Daniel Dennett is insane.

  32. 32
    Barry Arrington says:

    But for all those deficiencies, it’s the only serious game in town.

    If you rule out all of the other games by fiat. You really do need to get over yourself. Here’s another clue: “My quasi-religious faith commitments prohibit me from considering other solutions” is not equivalent to “other solutions are false.” You should write that down 50 times, and maybe it will sink in.

  33. 33
    Barry Arrington says:

    That is, if you used the measuring rod you’d like to apply to the scientific view to you own views, which you ostensibly find superior (by virtue of the fact that you hold them over the scientific view), you can’t measure or assess what you endorse.

    My God man! It really is the case that you can’t see around your metaphysical blinders. You poor pitiful man. How very sad.

  34. 34
    rhampton7 says:

    JimFit,

    A couple of comments. One, Catholic theology teaches that immaterial souls are incapable of perishing, thus they are eternal. The souls that animals and plants may posses, however, can not be immaterial for that would make them eternal beings. Two, regarding animal intelligence, the question relevant to Barry’s idea concerns the capability of conceiving an idea. That is, do Weaver birds have an image or idea of the nest they are building before building it? I don’t believe there is a way to test for that, so we can’t exclude either possibility (though my intuition suggests that they are indeed capable).

  35. 35
    eigenstate says:

    @Barry,

    Only a quasi-religious fundamentalist like you could write that sentence. You seem to be suggestion that you believe there is no necessary limitation to what atoms and molecules can do if only you arrange them in the right combination. Sigh.

    No, that would be again, to commit the same error! I’m at a loss as to how to get this concept through to you, at this point. We don’t have access, a priori to what is necessarily true either way. We don’t know, and have not claimed and do not claim, that there are no necessary limits on a given whole, based on its proper parts. But we also do not know, of necessity, and a priori, what characteristics obtain from the whole, just by examining the features of the parts.

    The error you’re grooving on here lately lays claims to conclusions by necessity that don’t actually obtain by necessity. That’s why it’s called a “fallacy”. Perhaps conscious can obtain as the active of a wholly natural, evolved brain. Perhaps not. But what we can say with logical certainty is that you cannot adjudicate this question just by examining the properties of atoms, or bosons, or chunks of flesh.

    My “suggestion” is that the answer lies in the examination of the evidence, the building and testing of models, etc. Science. you don’t get to answers that have higher levels of confidence and likelihood until you demonstrate the efficacy of those models in real world, empirical tests.

    That is, you hold that structure cannot be sufficient, even in principle for diverse and profound phenomena we observe in particular configurations of atoms that are not manifest in the atoms themselves.

    I never said nor implied that. I can’t imagine why you think I did. Yes, houses come from bricks. But if you told me that the “Pythagorean theorem” came from bricks I would say you are nuts unless you can show me in a systematic way how you can get from bricks to “Pythagorean theorem.” It is not the concept of emergent phenomena generally that I deny. Who could? It is your misuse of that concept as a means of pounding the square peg of immaterial consciousness into the round hole of brain meat for no other reason than that you quasi-religious faith commitments demand it.

    My faith, when I had such, demanded fealty to my dualist intuitions of the immaterial mind (was raised as a Christian in a very devout Christian Bible-believing family, etc.) The materialist model is something I come to over and against any such intuitions or inclinations toward faith or superstitious impulses. If we were to get a visit from alien “designers” who showed us how and when they “seeded” our ancestors with “brains with meta-representational cognitive abilities and the capacity for introspection and nth-level abstraction”, that would be a sufficient basis to endorse a “an alien designer” model over an evolutionary model, based on such demonstrations. So my materialist views don’t preclude or disallow such cases. There just aren’t any competitors like that out there to supercede the current scientific view. The “superstitious model” doesn’t bring any of the kinds of empirical or model-based content that qualifies it for consideration. It doesn’t have what it takes to play on that field. But other non-evolutionary models are readily conceivable that would.

  36. 36
    Barry Arrington says:

    A couple centuries ago, one might have understood that a water molecule is made up of an H and 2 O atoms. But one would have had to say, on being asked, “what makes water wet” when H atoms and O atoms aren’t wet” – “I don’t know, it’s some sort of emergent property that obtains in the combination of the atoms and the structure of the molecule”. As it turns out, that is a kind of emergence that we can explain in detail and understand as characteristic of (liquid) water that obtains from the particular way the molecule is structured. It’s been “de-magified” if we want to be overly gracious to our supernaturalist critics.

    Is that a guarantee that we will soon or ever have a similar level of understanding of how the brain developed from more increasingly more rudimentary forms as we go back on the timeline?

    No.

    Now that’s a new one. Issuing yet another materialist promissory note with one hand, and telling me you probably won’t be able to pay it with the other. I don’t see why you think this helps your position. It does not.

  37. 37
    Barry Arrington says:

    No, that would be again, to commit the same error! I’m at a loss as to how to get this concept through to you, at this point. We don’t have access, a priori to what is necessarily true either way.

    And I don’t see how to get this through to you: Just because you say that does not make it true. We can, as a matter of logic, assert a priori that physical things cannot be joined together to create immaterial things.

  38. 38
    Barry Arrington says:

    But we also do not know, of necessity, and a priori, what characteristics obtain from the whole, just by examining the features of the parts.

    Maybe it will help you understand if I put it this way. You and I are talking about different “wholes.” I am talking about the “whole” immaterial mind. You are talking about the “whole” brain. There is no part of the immaterial mind that consists of any physical thing. Therefore, to say that physical parts can be combined to create an immaterial mind that has properties different from those parts is literally meaningless.

    You may counter that the only way that argument works is if I assume the immaterial mind exists in the first place. And you would be almost right. I don’t assume the immaterial mind exists. I know that it does.

  39. 39
    Barry Arrington says:

    The “superstitious model” doesn’t bring any of the kinds of empirical or model-based content that qualifies it for consideration.

    I assume your term “superstitious model” is your derisive term for “conclusion that the immaterial mind exists.” Allow me to substitute the neutral for the derisive:

    The “conclusion that the immaterial mind exists” doesn’t bring any of the kinds of empirical or model-based content that qualifies it for consideration.

    Do you mean to say that even the fact that it is self-evidently true does not qualify it for consideration in your book? As I said, your god bids you pound at the square pegs, and you pound away. I am so sorry.

    It doesn’t have what it takes to play on that field.

    Which must mean — since it is true — that we should play in another field.

  40. 40
    eigenstate says:

    @Barry

    Now that’s a new one. Issuing yet another materialist promissory note with one hand, and telling me you probably won’t be able to pay it with the other. I don’t see why you think this helps your position. It does not.

    It’s not offered as way to help my position, nor is it needed for such. It’s the fact of the matter. It’s offered as a prophylactic against some expectation that science must be omniscient and exhaustively complete to be considered. It’s not complete and cannot be. But for all its promissory notes, which it should have no qualms about acknowledging, it’s so far ahead of, say, “Christian theism”, and its supernaturalist brethren as an epistemology as a heuristic for gaining and coalescing knowledge that it’s always a surprise when I hear a scientist get defensive because they can’t provide a stepwise chemical pathway to RNA on demand in atomic detail.

    On Christian theism, there’s nothing to promise, there’s now way to cash out a promissory note, even if it wanted to do so. It’s not able to fill in any gaps, because it cannot distinguish a gap from a non-gap, cannot differentiate non-knowledge from knowledge. So I point out the promissory or expectant nature (and freely allow that we may never get satisfactorily detailed or performative models on many questions) as a fact, but a fact that for all its frustrations, itself elevates the paradigm over the older, supernaturalist paradigms.

    I guess noting that does help my position vis-a-vis Christianity by comparison, but my comments on the limitations of our knowledge as given above do not establish the actuality of mind-as-natural-phenomenon, nor were they intended to. The point of that was simply to head off the demand of complete and exhaustive knowledge from science as the minimum qualifications for being considered as candidate for subscription.

  41. 41
    Barry Arrington says:

    The point of that was simply to head off the demand of complete and exhaustive knowledge from science as the minimum qualifications for being considered as candidate for subscription.

    I have never asked for complete and exhaustive knowledge of any scientific claim. I have asked for something very different. I have asked you for the very first step (never mind step 587) in bridging the gulf between ontological categories. I realize you will never give me that first step, because your faith commitments do not allow you to believe more than one ontological category exists. You seem to think that asserting conclusions based on your faith (and not the evidence) will somehow make conclusions true if you assert them with enough fervor. Sorry. Does not work that way.

  42. 42
    eigenstate says:

    If you rule out all of the other games by fiat. You really do need to get over yourself. Here’s another clue: “My quasi-religious faith commitments prohibit me from considering other solutions” is not equivalent to “other solutions are false.” You should write that down 50 times, and maybe it will sink in.

    I don’t rule out competing claims. I was raised as a Christian, and spent a good many years of my adult life trying to acquire some model that worked with my “Christian worldview” that performed as knowledge, as an explanation for questions like our consciousness, freewill, instincts. Perhaps you are much more well-researched Christian than I was, because my only grounds for thinking my “self” was an immaterial aspect of my physical self was a) religious faith qua faith, and my own natural intuitions.

    That doesn’t go very far, your trust in your intuitions as infallible oracle notwithstanding.

    And I don’t have to just relate that anecdotally. I can just ask you to compete — show us your model, review the evidence, show us the predictions that are entailed by that model and how you identify those entailments. Then show us how your test your model, how it would be falsified, and by passing at least some substantial liability to falsification, be distinguished from “non-knowledge”.

    You won’t because you can’t. That’s not how your worldview rolls. So it’s not a matter of me ruling anything out. You’ve just embraced a paradigm that doesn’t admit of knowledge, testing, examination or liability to falsification. It doesn’t even aim to compete, and in that sense, rules itself out.

    I’f I’m wrong, this can be a very interesting thread. Let’s learn about the mechanics of creation of the immaterial mind! Show us your model Barry, let’s see where the knowledge is tested and demonstrated and where the gaps in the knowledge are!

  43. 43
    Carpathian says:

    eigenstate:

    I’f I’m wrong, this can be a very interesting thread. Let’s learn about the mechanics of creation of the immaterial mind! Show us your model Barry, let’s see where the knowledge is tested and demonstrated and where the gaps in the knowledge are!

    This would be a great topic.

    Include just how the interface between the mind and brain works.

    Is there an operating range requiring the mind to be a minimum distance from the brain?

  44. 44
    Barry Arrington says:

    And I don’t have to just relate that anecdotally. I can just ask you to compete — show us your model, review the evidence, show us the predictions that are entailed by that model and how you identify those entailments. Then show us how your test your model, how it would be falsified, and by passing at least some substantial liability to falsification, be distinguished from “non-knowledge”.

    Pound pound pound pound pound pound. Do you ever tire of pounding on those square pegs? You must sort of know how Sisyphus felt.

    E, it is one thing to pound on square pegs. Please don’t act like there is no such thing as round pegs.

    You literally do seem to think that knowledge that is not gained through a scientific experiment is “non-knowledge.” As I said earlier, your metaphysics is a sad, stunted, parochial little thing.

  45. 45
    Barry Arrington says:

    C @ 43:

    I answered that in my last post.
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ciousness/

    I bet you cannot find the answer in that post even after I’ve told you where it is. Prove me wrong.

  46. 46
    eigenstate says:

    Do you mean to say that even the fact that it is self-evidently true does not qualify it for consideration in your book? As I said, your god bids you pound at the square pegs, and you pound away. I am so sorry.

    The “immaterial mind” is not self-evidently true, Barry, or even evidently true, but never mind that for now. What would be self-contradictory in negating this statement:

    “I have/am an immaterial mind”.

    There’s nothing logically self-contradictory about a negation like:

    “I have/am a wholly natural mind”.

    There is no self-contradiction in that statement.

    Just to show how self-evidence does work, the old standby:

    “I believe I am conscious”.

    Negations like:

    “I do not believe I am conscious”

    or

    “I believe I am not conscious

    Are self-contradictory, internally inconsistent consistent. To believe anything one must necessarily be consciousness. Consciousness is transcendental to forming or articulating any beliefs.

    There is no self-contradiction or internal inconsistency in:

    “I have/am a wholly natural mind”.

    If you think I’m wrong, send this along to Dr. Dembski. He’s a professional philosopher, or some other trained philosopher you know and trust, and share with us your response.

    You either suppose your readers and critics are not even novices in logic and philosophy, or you lack entry level knowledge on the subject yourself.

    Maybe it’s easier if you just suppose you can find some support on the web from other philosophers or logicians who endorse this goofy claim.

  47. 47
    Carpathian says:

    Barry,
    Nowhere in that article do I see you describe the interface and range.

    The only thing that comes close is:

    While a human is alive his mind and his brain are connected.

    It’s not enough to simply say connected if one is claimed to be immaterial and another material.

    Just how do you connect something that is composed of matter with something that isn’t?

    If I “connect” a cell phone to a network there is a range requirement.

  48. 48
    eigenstate says:

    You literally do seem to think that knowledge that is not gained through a scientific experiment is “non-knowledge.” As I said earlier, your metaphysics is a sad, stunted, parochial little thing.

    Ok, well let’s put it to the test, then! I’m all for demonstrating rather than just asserting.

    On your supernaturalist views, what is your method for distinguishing knowledge from non-knowledge? What test do you apply to discriminate knowledge from non-knowledge?

    If the scientific heuristics I’m pointing here entail a sad, stunted, parochial metaphysics, lets see how your… what was the word…. “more robust” (*cough*) metaphysics provide as the basis for your epistemology. This should be a slam dunk for you, Barry, if this isn’t just more “all hat no cattle” bravado from you.

    What is the test for distinguishing knowledge from non-knowledge that you want to put up in contrast to the scientific model?

  49. 49
    Box says:

    Eigenstate,

    Box: If reason is first and foremost dictated by matter—blind, unintelligent, without overview and uninterested in matters of truth, logic and coherence—then what is reason?

    Eigenstate [translated]: I do not understand your question and I simply state that the brain thinks.

    Reppert makes the distinction between chemistry and reason very clear. Kindly respond to the Reppert quote in post #3.

    Box: How can it possibly work? How can it be trusted?

    Eigenstate [translated]: The brain thinks (kind of) like a computer thinks.

    Does the brain have understanding—unlike the computer (see the Chinese Room by Searle)?

    Box: IOW how does one get from chemistry to reason?

    Eigenstate [translated]: Darwinian evolution and BTW you should not ask that question.

    Unresponsive. I’m talking about the here and now. How does a chemical composition have overview, understanding, have a sense of logic and truth WHILE being exclusively obedient to the laws of nature? Again, do see Reppert (post #3) who presents an irreconcilable difference between being subservient to the laws of nature and the laws of logic and meaning (the laws of reason).

    – –
    The “translation” is necessary for the sake of debate.

  50. 50
    Carpathian says:

    Box:

    The “translation” is necessary for the sake of debate.

    No, the translation is necessary because the immaterial mind side does not have a good argument.

    Everything I read from the immaterial side is on par with the ID discussion in which the evo side is discredited but no actual model is presented by the ID side.

    This same thing is happening in this discussion but instead of “there’s no way life could happen without a designer’s help”, there’s “there’s no way that people can be conscious without immaterial help”.

    It is the same argument and has just as little meat.

  51. 51
    JimFit says:

    eigenstate

    Let’s learn about the mechanics of creation of the immaterial mind!

    You are asking wrong questions. For me the Mind is fundamental for matter to exist, science will figure out everything about the brain but it wont find a Mind inside the brain since even Science needs a fundamental Mind to observe the brain. It is like asking the explanation of the explanation, it doesn’t follow.

    The Case for the Soul(Mind)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBsI_ay8K70

    The Case for the Soul(Mind): Refuting Physicalist Objections

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GB5TNrtu9Pk

  52. 52
    NetResearchGuy says:

    E: there is no evidence of science making progress on consciousness or cognition. There is hand waving, where easy parts of the problem are discussed, and all the crucial hard parts of the problem treated as black boxes, with a promissory note that science will come up with a mechanism to fill that box in the future. This is true without exception in these fields.

    A great example of lack of progress is in the field of strong AI, which I consider a subset of the complexity of understanding human cognition. There is no progress in this field, none whatsoever. Research is right where it was 65 years ago when the Turing test was invented. All cases where machines appear intelligent are due to cleverly regurgitating information provided by a human — they are incapable of generating their own information.

    Another example is natural language translation. This is a further subset of the strong AI problem, and there is little progress on it. Try entering anything in Google Translate and tell me we are close to solving the problem. Again, brute force entering of massive human specified rule sets can fake progress, but there’s no real progress on making machines understand the idea of context, which is necessary for language. My 1 year old son clearly understood context when he first began speaking — how did he do this? Give me a mechanism or algorithm (then claim your Nobel prize), not “evolution programmed him to do it.”

    You (and EL) keep mentioning the Composition Fallacy, and so I looked it up, and realized you actually don’t know what it is, and I can’t believe no one has corrected you! The Composition Fallacy involves inferring that if a part possesses a property, then the whole must also possess that property. Not that if a part doesn’t have a property, the whole can’t have a property.

    The key difference is that there are clearly a lot of properties that a whole CANNOT possess given a known set of parts. It’s not a fallacy in any way to say you can’t understand how a given set of parts could make a certain whole, and to ask for a mechanism to explain the operation of the whole. For example, if I gave you a box of car parts, without the wheels, you couldn’t make a functional car. If you did claim to make a functional car from those parts, you would need to explain a mechanism (for example, I reconstructed the car such that the wheel hubs touch the ground, and it rolls on those). Without that explanation of mechanism, I have to assume that it won’t work.

    Given that your entire argument is based on repeated strenuous appeals to an inapplicable fallacy, I can’t wait to see what you will come up with next…

  53. 53
    Barry Arrington says:

    C @ 47:

    Nowhere in that article do I see you describe the interface and range.

    Poor man. You literally cannot see. It is astounding. My answer is there. Until you open your eyes at least to the extent that you can see what is staring you in the face, it makes no sense to engage with you.

  54. 54
    Carpathian says:

    Barry,
    Point me there.

  55. 55
    Barry Arrington says:

    NetGuy @ 52.

    Your comment made me think of this that a friend put on Facebook yesterday:

    The limits of language translation technology. My Colombian step-mom Mari commented on my profile pic: “As handsome as your father.” But she commented in Spanish. “Tan guapo como el papa!”
    Now, in Spanish, the father is “El Papa” and also the Pope is “El Papa” Actually, we have a similar ambiguity in English with “Father.” But anyway, if you click Facebook’s “Translate” offering on Mari’s comment, you’ll learn she thinks I’m as handsome as the Pope.
    Er…thanks, Mari.

  56. 56
    Box says:

    Box: The “translation” is necessary for the sake of debate.

    Carpathian: No, the translation is necessary because the immaterial mind side does not have a good argument.

    Not at all, but feel free to point out which important part(s) I left out. I did my best to present what Eigenstate said as fair as possible. There is simply nothing there.

  57. 57
    StephenB says:

    Eigenstate:

    But if you were to have to start substantiating your concepts in the way materialists should and do — never mind substantiating evidential claims for now — you’d find it very difficult going, indeed.

    On the contrary, the lack of clarity and the absence of explanation is coming from your quarters. Logically, the act of knowing cannot be a physical process because a mere process cannot account for the two realms in question. Something more than a physical process is needed.

    To be more specific, you cannot account for [a] the concepts by which the knower knows physical reality, the map and [b] the physical reality that is known, the territory. While you throw words like “map” and “territory” around for rhetorical effect, you clearly do not understand what the words signify. I know that to be the case because I asked you to define each term three times and you could not do it.

    More radically, you disavow the very existence of a conceptual map by refusing to accept the ontological difference between the knowing self and the thing which is known. Because you deny the existence of a real map as a complement to the territory, you also deny the possibility of a relationship between the two. Yet we know that both realms exist because we experience them every day. Thus, materialism, which eliminates the possibility of their mutual existence, must be false.

    For you, everything is territory and nothing is map, except when you are doing damage control, at which time you reverse your field and claim, incredibly, that something like a map emerged from the territory—except that it isn’t really a map. As a result of all this patent nonsense, you live in an intellectual madhouse. Everything about your position crumbles under scrutiny.

  58. 58
    Barry Arrington says:

    C @ 54.

    “Point me there.”

    I already did. I will give you another hint. My entire answer to your question is in a quotation of David Hart.

  59. 59
    Barry Arrington says:

    SB @ 57:

    On the contrary, the lack of clarity and the absence of explanation is coming from your quarters. Logically, the act of knowing cannot be a physical process because a mere process cannot account for the two realms in question. Something more than a physical process is needed.

    Thank you for jumping in here. But if you have the same experience that I’ve had, you are bound to be disappointed. You see, I am persuaded that E’s faith commitments are so overwhelmingly strong that he literally cannot see that which materialist metaphysics denies.

    It is like he is in the grip of a Cartesian demon who will not allow him to see anything that contradicts the claims of materialism. Thus, he is literally incapable of understanding what a metaphysical demonstration such as the one you present is. Far less is such a demonstration likely to persuade him.

  60. 60
    Carpathian says:

    Box:

    Again, do see Reppert (post #3) who presents an irreconcilable difference between being subservient to the laws of nature and the laws of logic and meaning (the laws of reason).

    Firstly, we are the architects of logic so we are not in any way subservient to them.

    What does your position say about the interface between mind and brain?

    How is it done?

    How is the mind joined to the body in the first place?

  61. 61
    Carpathian says:

    Barry,
    In here?

    [The] intuitions of folk psychology are in fact perfectly accurate; they are not merely some theory about the mind that is either corrigible or dispensable. They constitute nothing less than a full and coherent phenomenological description of the life of the mind, and they are absolutely “primordial data,” which cannot be abandoned in favor of some alternative description without producing logical nonsense. Simply said, consciousness as we commonly conceive of it is quite real (as all of us, apart from a few cognitive scientists and philosophers, already know— and they know it too, really). And this presents a problem for materialism, because consciousness as we commonly conceive of it is also almost certainly irreconcilable with a materialist view of reality.

  62. 62
    Barry Arrington says:

    C @ 61.

    No.

  63. 63
    Box says:

    Box: Again, do see Reppert (post #3) who presents an irreconcilable difference between being subservient to the laws of nature and the laws of logic and meaning (the laws of reason).

    Eigenstate: What does your position say about the interface between mind and brain?
    [ Translation: I have got nothing.]

  64. 64
    Carpathian says:

    Box:

    Eigenstate: What does your position say about the interface between mind and brain?
    [ Translation: I have got nothing.]

    I think you may be quoting me.

  65. 65
    Box says:

    Carpathian #64, Eigenstate

    My bad.

  66. 66
    Mung says:

    I have a wholly irrational mind, naturally!

  67. 67
    Box says:

    Eigenstate: The “immaterial mind” is not self-evidently true, Barry, or even evidently true, but never mind that for now.

    The mind presents itself directly to us as purely immaterial. And the mind is undeniably self-evidently true—Descartes showed us the way to find out.

    There is “internal perception” and “external perception”. All things perceived by internal perception present themselves as immaterial—a brick has no place in internal perception. Generally “external perception” presents us with material things.
    We can doubt the objects of external perception, but we cannot doubt the object of internal perception, which means that the immaterial is principal.

    If the immaterial is principal the following quote makes very little sense:

    Eigenstate:

    “I have/am a wholly natural mind”.

  68. 68
    Mung says:

    Cartesian substance dualism is a form of interactionist dualism: that is, it maintains that mental states of a subject or person may and often do interact causally with physical states of that person’s body, both causing such states and being caused by them. And in this respect the theory is fully in agreement with common sense. … But for many critics of Cartesian dualism, its interactionism is it’s Achilles’ heel. These critics hold that, because Cartesian dualism regards mental states as states of a wholly non-physical substance, it faces grave difficulties in maintaining that such states are causes and effects of physical states. What, exactly, are these supposed difficulties? They are of two types, one conceptual and the other empirical.

    – E.J. Lowe, An introduction to the philosophy of mind.

  69. 69
    Mung says:

    Include just how the interface between the mind and brain works.

    Meanwhile, some people are just too incredibly stupid to be taken seriously.

    In the view being argued here by Barry and others, there is no interface! Asking how it works is just a display of utter ignorance.

    Just how do you connect something that is composed of matter with something that isn’t?

    I know! I know! Through an INTERFACE!

    Can we get back to more interesting matters please?

  70. 70
    Mung says:

    Box: The mind presents itself directly to us as purely immaterial.

    How so, and at what age? If this has already been answered up-thread I apologize.

  71. 71
    Axel says:

    Eigenstate, your thraldom to scientism means that for you, knowledge has to be measurable to be valid, indeed, to have been measured. The fact that a claim of knowledge of a certain thing cannot be proved, to your mind, limited as it is, by a leggo/meccano mentality, means that it must be non-knowledge. Just speculation.

    Do you think that, before Einstein’s theories had been checked and proven to be true, his claims amounted to non-knowledge? Grow up, for goodness sake.

    I wonder if you have the same incomprehension concerning the binding nature of mathematical proof, I’ve seen even atheist Nobel laureates suffer from.

    You can watch one Nobelist laughing with delight that, when he told Einstein some people had disproved part of one of his theories of relativity, his response was that ‘it would go away’.
    He had done the math. How could that Nobelist be so tickled at Einstein’s doubtless incredulous response?

    Well, perhaps it wouldn’t have been incredulous, because he was under no illusions as to the limitations of atheist scientists. Of course the math could have been wrong, but surely Einstein would have had it thoroughly checked.

  72. 72
    Mung says:

    Questions for eigenstate:

    You obviously believe the mind is an object, as the brain is an object. Have you any thoughts on how subject arises from object?

    You believe mind arises from brain, but why must it be limited to brain and not whole body? Is it because amputees haven’t lost their minds? How would you Know? How would they know?

  73. 73
    StephenB says:

    Barry

    I am persuaded that E’s faith commitments are so overwhelmingly strong that he literally cannot see that which materialist metaphysics denies.

    Barry, I have always wondered about the psychology of denial. Yes, at the level of philosophical materialism, it stems from an apriori, religious-like commitment. But from whence comes the commitment?

    No doubt, the role of education looms large. Indeed, there are three classes of people–the well educated, the uneducated, and the badly educated. It is the zealots that hail from that last camp that are responsible for most of the cultural decay we find everywhere around us. They are so sure of what just ain’t so.

    Equally important, I think materialism is often the product of failed morality. Everyone has a philosophy of life even if it hasn’t been explicitly acknowledged or understood. If a man doesn’t behave as he believes, he will soon believe as he behaves.

  74. 74
    Axel says:

    ‘But from whence comes the commitment?’

    ‘No doubt, the role of education looms large. Indeed, there are three classes of people–the well educated, the uneducated, and the badly educated. It is the zealots that hail from that last camp that are responsible for most of the cultural decay we find everywhere around us. They are so sure of what just ain’t so.

    I have to disagree, Stephen. I believe it comes from the soul, and specifically, the Will.

    We know world-views are unwieldly as to change, though, in the matter of Christianity, when a person’s morale reaches a particularly low ebb, he may be granted the grace of a more sudden conversion.

    So, your last paragraph holds the key, I think – morality. Aldous Huxley who in his younger days had scorned chastity, when he grew older understood and acknowledged that it was the threat of constraint on is sexual activity that had given rise to his animus against admonitions against licence, and towards chastity.

    It may not be what makes Eigenstate dig his heels in, or it may; or it may be some other moral demand he feels guilty about resenting. But it surely is emotional/religious in origin and a matter of the will. Voluntarism.

    The Bible teachings are predicated on it. What we know because of what we choose to know. Otherwise judgment of our souls would be unjustified. The unforgivable sin against the Holy Spirit is to set oneself against Jesus’ teachings, in full knowledge that he had to be the Son of God to have been able to do what he did, acts which those Pharisees and other religious leaders had witnessed with their own eyes. Even after he had been resurrected, they were intent on making up stories to protect the status quo.

  75. 75
    Box says:

    Mung,

    Box: The mind presents itself directly to us as purely immaterial.

    Mung: How so

    Have you ever closed your eyes and found a brick or another piece of matter in your mind?

    Mung: and at what age?

    What a curious question. Assuming that you experience self-awareness, can you not answer that question yourself?

    Mung: If this has already been answered up-thread I apologize.

    Your humor is beyond me sometimes…

  76. 76
    Mung says:

    Box:

    Have you ever closed your eyes and found a brick or another piece of matter in your mind?

    I would first need to find my mind. Can I find my mind by closing my eyes? If I were to say that anything is “in” my mind it would be thoughts. I will grant that thoughts are not bricks (though that’s debatable in a number of ways).

    If I grant that I experience thoughts, how does it follow that said thoughts are not pieces of matter? But all of this is sort of missing the point, I think.

    The logic seems to be s follows:

    There is nothing composed of matter in your mind.
    Therefore, your mind must be immaterial.

    That’s obviously fallacious reasoning. So perhaps that’s not what you’re saying.

    Box:

    What a curious question. Assuming that you experience self-awareness, can you not answer that question yourself?

    I have to profess ignorance. I have no idea at what age I was when I first experienced self-awareness. Perhaps when I was still in the womb? At what stage does the brain first begin to develop?

  77. 77
    Mung says:

    Is there anyone here who can offer something from an Aristotelian or Thomistic view of mind, rather than Cartesian?

    That could be interesting.

  78. 78
    bornagain77 says:

    of related note:

    Dr.Robert C. Koons — “The Waning of Materialism” – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZLHKlwue20

    The Waning of Materialism Edited by Robert C. Koons and George Bealer
    Description: Twenty-three philosophers examine the doctrine of materialism and find it wanting. The case against materialism comprises arguments from conscious experience, from the unity and identity of the person, from intentionality, mental causation, and knowledge. The contributors include leaders in the fields of philosophy of mind, metaphysics, ontology, and epistemology, who respond ably to the most recent versions and defenses of materialism. The modal arguments of Kripke and Chalmers, Jackson’s knowledge argument, Kim’s exclusion problem, and Burge’s anti-individualism all play a part in the building of a powerful cumulative case against the materialist research program. Several papers address the implications of contemporary brain and cognitive research (the psychophysics of color perception, blindsight, and the effects of commissurotomies), adding a posteriori arguments to the classical a priori critique of reductionism. All of the current versions of materialism–reductive and non-reductive, functionalist, eliminativist, and new wave materialism–come under sustained and trenchant attack.
    http://www.oup.com/us/catalog/.....0199556199

    Science and Theism: Concord, not Conflict* – Robert C. Koons
    IV. The Dependency of Science Upon Theism (Page 21)
    Excerpt: Far from undermining the credibility of theism, the remarkable success of science in modern times is a remarkable confirmation of the truth of theism. It was from the perspective of Judeo-Christian theism—and from the perspective alone—that it was predictable that science would have succeeded as it has. Without the faith in the rational intelligibility of the world and the divine vocation of human beings to master it, modern science would never have been possible, and, even today, the continued rationality of the enterprise of science depends on convictions that can be reasonably grounded only in theistic metaphysics.
    http://www.robkoons.net/media/.....ffd524.pdf

  79. 79
    Querius says:

    Hmmm. I’m not sure I understand the difference is between material and immaterial.

    Is Time material or immaterial? How do we know that the passage of time is not an illusion? How can we be certain that everything is not an illusion, either of our mind or God’s mind?

    Is half of Planck length material or immaterial?

    How about arithmetic? Is 1 + 2 = 3 material or immaterial?

    How about the Fibonacci series? How about an 83% probability? How about Santa Claus? How about history?

    Is the Quantum Zeno Effect material or immaterial, and how about prayer?

    See, I admit that I just don’t know the difference.

    -Q

  80. 80
    Box says:

    Mung,

    Box: Have you ever closed your eyes and found a brick or another piece of matter in your mind?

    Mung: I would first need to find my mind.

    Okay, what is your definition of ‘mind’ here? Given my understanding of mind, an “I” who needs to find his “mind” is incoherent.

    Mung: Can I find my mind by closing my eyes?

    IMO you cannot ‘not find your mind’, but reducing external perception—why not turn the music down also?— does help focusing.

    Mung: If I were to say that anything is “in” my mind it would be thoughts. I will grant that thoughts are not bricks (though that’s debatable in a number of ways).

    Thoughts don’t present themselves as material to us. For one thing they don’t have mass, weight, color, odor, structure and so forth the way matter has.

    Mung: If I grant that I experience thoughts, how does it follow that said thoughts are not pieces of matter?

    Because thoughts don’t present themselves as material to us. Of course one can always doubt the correctness of perception—although one cannot doubt the correctness of the perception of one’s own existence—,similarly one can ask: “these bricks present themselves to me as material, but how does it follow that said bricks are not pieces of mind?”

    Mung: The logic seems to be s follows:
    There is nothing composed of matter in your mind.
    Therefore, your mind must be immaterial.
    That’s obviously fallacious reasoning. So perhaps that’s not what you’re saying.

    What I said was:

    The mind presents itself directly to us as purely immaterial.
    [emphasis added]

    You seem to agree. Now, if you wish to argue that we can be deceived by our (internal) perception, then fine.
    To me, the way our mind presents itself to us is an argument in favor of mind being immaterial. Similarly the way that bricks present themselves to us is an argument in favor of bricks being material.

  81. 81
    Box says:

    Querius,

    Given a differentiation between internal and external perception, do you agree that without exception internal phenomena present themselves as immaterial?
    With that settled, we can focus on phenomena that come to us by means of external perception. I suppose we could agree on the (material) way a brick presents itself to us, but as you have pointed out it gets tricky real quick.

    Q: Is Time material or immaterial?

    Good question. It seems to me that, together with space and natural laws, time is part of the context, which is necessary for material events to take place. I go for ‘immaterial’.

    Q: How do we know that the passage of time is not an illusion? How can we be certain that everything is not an illusion, either of our mind or God’s mind?

    We don’t. All “I” can be sure of is that “I” exist. BTW if everything is an illusion,—if such a thing is even logically possible—then I suppose everything must be immaterial 🙂

    Q: Is half of Planck length material or immaterial?

    ‘Concept’, I go for ‘immaterial’.

    Q: How about arithmetic? Is 1 + 2 = 3 material or immaterial? How about the Fibonacci series? How about an 83% probability?

    It can be about the material world, but it is itself immaterial nonetheless.

    Q: How about Santa Claus?

    Fantasy(?), so immaterial.

    Q: How about history?

    All I can say is: good question. What is the ontological status of events 1 second ago? Do they “not exist”?

    Q: Is the Quantum Zeno Effect material or immaterial,

    Both?

    Q: and how about prayer?

    Immaterial!

  82. 82
    Popperian says:

    The immaterial mind exists. Everyone knows the immaterial mind exists. Its existence is, indeed, the primordial datum that one simply cannot not know. Therefore, any denial of the existence of the immaterial mind is not only false; it is incoherent.

    First, if I understand you correctly, the immaterial mind is a kind of barrier that reason and problem solving cannot pass. Is that what you’re suggesting?

    Second, in what sense does saying the mind is immaterial (what ever that means) allow us to solve problems that we couldn’t otherwise?

    Third, if you’re not committing the composition fallacy, then there must be some kind of implicit objection in your argument that you have not explicitly presented. This is because we cannot extrapolate observations without first putting them into some kind of explanatory framework, regardless of how poor.

    For example, theism is a special case of the epistemological view known as Justificationism. God is the ultimate authoritative justifier of reason, knowledge in specific spheres, etc. However, there are well known criticisms of Justificationism. Namely that it requires one to eventually make the irrational claim “here I stand” without any justification. IOW, it requires one to make the irrational claim that this ultimate justification represents a boundary that reason and problem solving cannot pass. (See above)

    So, I’d suggest that your the implicit objection to “meat” as a source of conciseness is because “meat” is not an authoritative, justificationist source. In fact, calling the brain “meat” isn’t just rhetoric, but designed to implicitly reinforce this to the theistic choir here at UD.

    Of course, If I’m mistaken, then please indicate what your epistemological view actually is and how it materially differers from the above.

  83. 83

    If materialism is true, then one’s identity – who they are – is baked into the cake of how incoming data of any sort is represented in the brain. How data is perceived, represented and processed is that the individual’s “mentality”. Therefore, under materialism, an individual is, for all intents and purposes, their cognitive bias, since there is no means of sensing, representing, and processing information neutrally or objectively.

    A material mind would in fact “be” the physical state of belief representations in the brain, and those physical states would be directly involved in how all incoming information was necessarily processed physically.

    Under materialism, once the set of physical structures in the brain that make the “mind” take root, one wonders what it would take to re-wire the whole thing in terms of changing fundamental views. There’s no way out of the loop – the state of the brain = worldview and how incoming information is represented and processed = one’s personal cognitive bias = state of the brain. In effect, an individual would be their particular set of physically brain-encoded cognitive biases. There is no way to “escape” them.

  84. 84
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Mung

    In the Thomistic view, mind/soul is the eternal (with a beginning in time) form of the body. That’s a start … I’ll leave the rest to experts if we have any here on that.

    If I grant that I experience thoughts, how does it follow that said thoughts are not pieces of matter?

    Since you can produce an infinite number of thoughts, you would need infinite pieces of matter for each one. Since we can communicate the identical thought through different media, the thought is immaterial. Cells in the brain die and are replaced – but the same thought (memory of childhood) can be retained perfectly. The thought, therefore, is immaterial – otherwise, the thought would change as the brain-matter changed.

    There is nothing composed of matter in your mind.
    Therefore, your mind must be immaterial.

    That’s obviously fallacious reasoning.

    Why? If the first premise is correct, then the conclusion is just restating the premise.

    If you’re trying to prove the first premise, it would be more like:

    Immaterial things exist (thoughts).
    Thoughts emerge from the mind.
    The mind produces that which is immaterial.
    We have no evidence that the mind is composed of matter.
    Since the mind produces immaterial essences, and there’s no evidence that the mind is composed of matter – it is reasonable to conclude that the mind is immaterial.

  85. 85
    Silver Asiatic says:

    WJM

    Under materialism, once the set of physical structures in the brain that make the “mind” take root, one wonders what it would take to re-wire the whole thing in terms of changing fundamental views. There’s no way out of the loop – the state of the brain = worldview and how incoming information is represented and processed = one’s personal cognitive bias = state of the brain. In effect, an individual would be their particular set of physically brain-encoded cognitive biases. There is no way to “escape” them.

    Great insight – once again.

    Everything in a chemical/material process is ‘hard-coded’ in a molecular process. Each thought (each component, letter, word of a thought) is an individual brain-state.

    Each human brain in the 7 billion people on earth today, is composed of the same organic and chemical matter.

    Each of those 7 billion brains is configured in a unique physical state which has produced 7 billion ‘human persons’, each with an individual self. There are never any partial selves, or shared selves.

    So, the self is locked in. It persists through an entire lifetime. With all the cellular and neurological changes over 90 years of biological life, the unique self persists. Memories are retained exactly as happened from childhood.

    However, the very same matter, the very same chemical processes create an infinite number and variety of changeable thought patterns – including changes in thought that redefine significant aspects of the person (without creating ‘a new self’).

    As said – what does it take to re-wire a person’s philosophical views and yet retain the sense of self through an entire lifetime?

  86. 86
    Box says:

    WJM #83,

    An interesting observation. It resonates strongly with my ‘there is no overview’ argument and the materialist’ struggle to account for top-down causality.
    Reason is not reason as we know it without a certain distance to what is thought, without the “means of sensing, representing, and processing information neutrally or objectively” you speak of.

  87. 87
    Popperian says:

    @WJM

    Knowlege, as I’ve been using it here, is information that causes itself to remain when embedded in a storage medium. In addition, this knowledge is independent of anyone’s beliefs, because it’s causal role is what results in it being retained.

    We escape because we face problems to solve. As Popper put it, all life is problem solving.

    From another thread…

    I would suggest that moral knowledge genuinely grows via conjecture and criticism and that knowledge is independent of anyone’s belief. IOW, we’re not merely limited to personal preferences, but we arrive at moral conclusions by rational persuasion, criticism and argument, which detects errors in our ideas about what we want.

    Imagine the following hypothetical scenario. Suppose a group of voters of a small civilization firmly believed that stealing was a great virtue, one from which many benefits were derived, and decided to repeal all laws prohibiting it. What would happen?

    Everyone would start stealing. Soon, the best thieves would be the wealthiest. However, most people could not retain their own property, including most thieves. Companies and individuals who produced goods and services would be unable to continue producing anything worth by anyone stealing. Their economy would collapse, food would become scarce, etc. Since their initial conviction that stealing was beneficial was strong, this may lead them to think there simply wasn’t enough stealing going on. So, the voters would actually enact laws to promote it. However, no matter how convinced they were initially, those setbacks would be problems in their lives they would want solve.

    A few voters would begin to suspect that stealing wasn’t such a good solution after all and direct their attention to the problem yet again. Since some explanation would be behind their belief that stealing was beneficial, they would try to explain why it wasn’t actually working, in practice. Eventually, they would settle on a different explanation that seemed better. And, gradually, they would persuade others of it, and so on, until the majority of voters opposed stealing.

    This is not to say it is not we who choose, but our choices are not merely preferences. We can rationally criticize our moral ideas. Knowledge is objective in that it independent of what we believe. This includes moral knowledge about how we think we can obtain what we want. And it’s independent of knowing subjects.

    Regardless of what the voters believed, they had a problem in their lives which they wanted to solve, which suggested that one of their beliefs were inadequate. This is how they escape.

    Again, Popper’s simple argument for the objective existence of knowledge, independent of anyone’s belief, is as follows.

    “Let me repeat one of my standard arguments for the (more or less) independent existence of [knowledge]. I consider two thought experiments:
    Experiment (1). All our machines and tools are destroyed, and all our subjective learning, including our subjective knowledge of machines and tools, and how to use them. But libraries and our capacity to learn from them survive. Clearly, after much suffering, our world may get going again.
    Experiment (2). As before, machines and tools are destroyed, and our subjective learning, including our subjective knowledge of machines and tools, and how to use them. But this time, all libraries are destroyed also, so that our capacity to learn from books becomes useless.”

    Karl Popper, Knowledge: Subjective Versus Objective, page 59

    Sure, if we just sat around trying to justify or define things, then we would be stuck. But that’s not how knowledge grows.

    First, we start with a problem to solve. Next we conjecture an explanatory theory about how the world works designed to solve that particular problem. Then, we criticize our theory and discard errors we find. In the case of science, this includes empirical tests and observations. Then the process starts all over again, and again, and again. When we solve one problem, we end up with a better problem to solve, which results in even a better problem to solve, etc.

    iOW, the fact that you think we would be “stuck” suggests you’re mainly concerned with justifying or defining things, rather than actually solving problems.

  88. 88
    Popperian says:

    How well do you think a set of instructions that claim to build a car, but actually builds a boat instead, will sell? Do you think the seller will keep making copies of those instructions if no one wants to buy them? What will likely happen is that the error about what the instructions actually builds will be corrected, it will be reclassified and sold under that new classification. They will make copies of the instructions because it actually solves the problem which it clams to solve – how to make boats.

  89. 89
    Popperian says:

    [Reposting, as the edit modal dialog doesn’t work very well. It scrolls off screen when trying to select text]

    Another example that knowledge is independent of anyone’s belief?

    Imagine you ordered step by step set of instructions for how to build a car. However, when the order was fulfilled, what actually shipped was step by step instructions for how to build a boat. When you finish following the instructions, what will you end up with: a car or a boat?

    Regardless of what you believed the instructions would result in, you would end up with a boat, right? So, now you have a problem in that, you needed/wanted a car, but got a boat instead. Again, all life is problem solving.

    How well do you think a set of instructions that claim to build a car, but actually builds a boat instead, will sell? Do you think the seller will keep making copies of those instructions if no one wants to buy them? What will likely happen is that the error about what the instructions actually builds will be corrected and it will be reclassified and sold under that new classification. They will make copies of the instructions because it actually solves the problem which it clams to solve – how to make boats.

  90. 90

    Popperian said:

    Imagine you ordered step by step set of instructions for how to build a car. However, when the order was fulfilled, what actually shipped was step by step instructions for how to build a boat. When you finish following the instructions, what will you end up with: a car or a boat?

    You are conflating actuality with belief. You are assuming that at some point, in some way, there is a way for the individual to “be” something other than whatever their brainstate says they are, or for them to see the world some way other than their brains state dictates.

    Depending on how your brain is wired, you might believe you ordered step by step building instructions for a car; you might believe you followed those instructions; you might believe, when you are done, that you have a car; however, all that might have been actually going on is you barking and panting like a dog the whole time. There would be no means by which to penetrate the delusion and access any “actuality”, because from the experiential inside, you are your delusion. There is no other “you” available to intervene from somewhere outside of the delusion.

    BTW, your argument assumes the very foundationalism you protest against.

  91. 91
    Carpathian says:

    Mung:

    Meanwhile, some people are just too incredibly stupid to be taken seriously.

    I know how you feel.

    In the view being argued here by Barry and others, there is no interface! Asking how it works is just a display of utter ignorance.

    Whenever a child asks me how something works, this the reply I’ll give them from now on.

  92. 92
    Box says:

    Eigenstate,

    Eigenstate: (…) you really do think there is some necessary limitation to what atoms and molecules can do in terms of reifying consciousness, reasoning and abstract thinking (to name just three examples) based on the nature and characteristics of those constituent atoms/molecules.

    My belief in those limits is not only based on the inadequacy of the parts, but also based on an understanding of what kind of causality is mandatory for accommodating rationality.
    Rationality presupposes ‘control’ and ‘overview’. I suppose that one can dismiss these notions as “brute intuition”, but I put to you that, in that case, you would be arguing for a radical redefinition of rationality.
    This brings us to the question:
    * how can you have control over and overview of what constitutes you? *

    Eigenstate: (…) “reason”, on a materialist view, is a description of activities of the brain that draws conclusions from other available information in the brain.
    (…)
    I have/am a wholly natural mind.

    According to materialism, you and your brain are one and the same, but how can you have overview of what constitutes you? How can you have control over what constitutes you?
    Bottom line: control and overview require distance and hierarchy.

  93. 93
    Carpathian says:

    WJM:

    In effect, an individual would be their particular set of physically brain-encoded cognitive biases. There is no way to “escape” them.

    The process of thinking rewires the brain constantly.

    Patients with brain damage, when MRI’ed just after the accident and then again at later times, show evidence of brain function moving from one part of the brain to another.

    MRI’s show evidence that the brain rewires itself.

  94. 94
    Carpathian says:

    Box:

    According to materialism, you and your brain are one and the same, but how can you have overview of what constitutes you? How can you have control over what constitutes you?

    In the simplest of terms, you are you and until someone can come up with a good logical argument that that is not the case, there’s no reason to add an extra level of complexity to life such as immaterial entities.

    Bottom line: control and overview require distance and hierarchy.

    This is the question I ask every time I am prompted to by a statement like this.

    What hierarchy and what distance?

    Who inserts the immaterial mind?

    How does the immaterial mind find the body it’s supposed to occupy?

    Why would anyone who can’t handle directly answering questions like this believe in an immaterial mind?

  95. 95
    Box says:

    Carpathian: What hierarchy and what distance?

    When you write your posts on this forum, you have control over words. You select the words (overview). IOW words are subordinate to your reason (hierarchy). All this can only take place if there is a certain distance between you and thoughts.
    So, we have ‘overview’, ‘hierarchy’ and ‘distance’ which are all necessary prerequisites for rationality.

    Are you in agreement so far?

    Now this poses a problem for materialism:
    if brain and consciousness are the same thing, how can consciousness have ‘overview of’, ‘control over’, ‘a hierarchically superior position to’ and ‘distance to’ what it is constituted by?

  96. 96
    Carpathian says:

    Box:

    Now this poses a problem for materialism:
    if the brain and consciousness is one thing how can consciousness have ‘overview of’, ‘control over’, ‘a hierarchically superior position to’ and ‘distance to’ what it is constituted by?

    A brain and consciousness is not “one thing”.

    What you are describing is the relationship between something that exists and what it does.

    For instance, materiel legs exist and what they do is called walking.

    Material brains exist and what they do is called thinking.

    It is a category error to equate the two in the way I have seen here.

  97. 97
    EugeneS says:

    Carpathian #94,

    “there’s no reason to add an extra level of complexity to life such as immaterial entities.”

    Until such time as you have personal experience of spiritual reality. Once you have it, nothing else matters and you realize that all this ‘logical thinking’ is really rubbish 😉

  98. 98
    Box says:

    Carpathian: Material legs exist and what they do is called walking.

    I have argued that things like ‘control’, ‘overview’ and ‘hierarchy’ need to be accommodated by materialistic theory.
    How does your example help in this regard?
    Does ‘walking’ control ‘material legs’? Is ‘walking’ something that has a hierarchical relationship to ‘material legs’?
    Do you see what I mean? The analogy ‘legs & walking’ illustrates what is meant by ’emergent property’ (walking), but it does not illustrate the things I have argued for.

  99. 99
    Carpathian says:

    EugeneS:

    Until such time as you have personal experience of spiritual reality. Once you have it, nothing else matters and you realize that all this ‘logical thinking’ is really rubbish ????

    I understand and have no problem with the idea of some hidden spirituality.

    The problem I have is when some theists try to use logic to make a case for spirituality.

  100. 100
    Carpathian says:

    Box:
    You seem to be making the case that that there is a hierarchy involved in thinking with the mind at the top.

    Am I right?

    If I have understood correctly, I have to disagree.

    There is no hierarchy required if the brain is the source of thought and thus what people call the mind.

    A hierarchy is only required for the separate mind/brain concept.

    I still have not seen a logical argument that is strong enough to suggest the brain is not the source of “consciousness”.

  101. 101
    Mung says:

    Carpathian: Who inserts the immaterial mind?

    LOL!

    How big is the immaterial mind?

    How much does the immaterial mind weigh?

    What is the chemical composition of the immaterial mind?

    How long does it take the immaterial mind to travel from New York to Los Angeles?

  102. 102

    Carpathian said:

    The process of thinking rewires the brain constantly.

    Patients with brain damage, when MRI’ed just after the accident and then again at later times, show evidence of brain function moving from one part of the brain to another.

    MRI’s show evidence that the brain rewires itself.

    Is that supposed to somehow rebut what I said? Whether the brain states and physical architecture are static or dynamic, “you” are still whatever that structure makes you, in terms of beliefs and how beliefs are generated. There is no escaping that, under materialism. If you change from one bias to another, from one belief to another, it’s just the result of the happenstance interactions of matter guided by lawful and stochastic forces/processes.

  103. 103
    Box says:

    Carpathian,

    Carpathian: You seem to be making the case that that there is a hierarchy involved in thinking with the mind at the top.
    Am I right?

    Yes you certainly are. Hierarchy is abundant in life. When we observe an organism we see that all parts are functionally subservient to the organism as a whole. We see layers of organization. Cells, fibers, organs are all hierarchically organized top-down. There is no democracy (or anarchy) in an animal body, and if there is the end is near. Everything is in full functional accord—harmony—with the organism as a whole.
    As I have argued, we see the same hierarchal structure in rationality. Without hierarchy thinking is impossible. As in the body, when ideas, words and sentences are not under (strict) control rationality has ended.

    Carpathian: If I have understood correctly, I have to disagree.

    I’m sorry to hear that.

    Carpathian: There is no hierarchy required if the brain is the source of thought and thus what people call the mind. A hierarchy is only required for the separate mind/brain concept.

    I have argued that reason requires hierarchy (amongst other things), why do you hold that this is no longer a requirement when the brain is the source of thought? How does that fact remove a logical requirement?
    Can thoughts run amok—without control—simply because the brain does the thinking? Why is that?

  104. 104
    Box says:

    (1) rationality implies a thinker in control of thoughts.
    (2) under materialism a thinker is an effect caused by processes in the brain.
    (3) in order for materialism to ground rationality a thinker (an effect) must control processes in the brain (a cause). (1)&(2)
    (4) no effect can control its cause.
    – – –
    Therefore materialism cannot ground rationality.

  105. 105
    bornagain77 says:

    Box, that’s a keeper! 🙂

  106. 106
    Querius says:

    Box @ 81,

    Thank you for your response.

    Given a differentiation between internal and external perception, do you agree that without exception internal phenomena present themselves as immaterial?

    I honestly can’t find a principle to divide internal from external. If my simply observing a radioactive particle prevents it from decaying (the Quantum Zeno Effect), where is the boundary between my mental activity and the presence or absence of various radioisotopes and ionizing radiation?

    I’d also speculate then that the distinction is artificial, and that the internal controls the external at the most basic levels. Thus, the conclusion might be that the so-called immaterial is Reality while the so-called material is an illusion.

    “In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God.”
    – The Apostle John

    And maybe it’s like smoke arguing with steam which of them are more tangible just before a powerful gust of wind.

    -Q

  107. 107
    Box says:

    Querius #106,
    Thank you for your response.

    Querius: I honestly can’t find a principle to divide internal from external.

    I didn’t make myself clear. Unfortunately I’m still struggling with the English language. Allow me to try again:
    I was talking solely about perception. Looking with one’s physical eyes (external perception) versus looking inward with one’s ‘mental eyes’ and perceiving one’s fantasies, thoughts (internal perception).

    Querius: If my simply observing a radioactive particle prevents it from decaying (the Quantum Zeno Effect), where is the boundary between my mental activity and the presence or absence of various radioisotopes and ionizing radiation?

    I fully agree that mental activity does not restrict itself to one’s inner world. Every post on this forum testifies to that fact.

  108. 108
    Querius says:

    Box @ 107,

    Thank you, the additional explanation makes it clearer to me.

    Looking with one’s physical eyes (external perception) versus looking inward with one’s ‘mental eyes’ and perceiving one’s fantasies, thoughts (internal perception).

    What occurred to me when I read this was a quote from Jesus Christ:

    “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
    – Matthew 5:27-28 NASB

    So, what Jesus taught here involved three elements:

    a. The act of illicit sexual intercourse.

    b. The perception of a woman leading to internal desire or fantasy.

    c. The equivalence of a. and b. at least in moral principle.

    -Q

  109. 109
    eigenstate says:

    @Box

    (1) rationality implies a thinker in control of thoughts.

    This is highly problematic start. It reifies “thinker” as something separate from the thinking. It’s also ostensibly equivocal on “control”. In a computing environment, for example, “control” just points at causality in execution, not a “metaphysically superior” place on some abstract hierarchy, or anything like that.

    If I have two routines like this:


    void funcA(float curValue)
    {
    curValue += getDelta();
    curValue = funcB(curValue();
    }

    void funcB(float curValue)
    {
    curValue += getGamma();
    curValue = funcB(curValue();
    }

    int main()
    {
    float result = funcA(1.0);
    }

    Setting aside the race condition between funcA() and funcB() that would need interrupt signal to terminate the program, where is “control” at any given point in the program’s execution? Well, it’s wherever the current execution point in the code is. main() is the starting point, the “top” function, but as soon as we are in funcA(), that function has “control”. It is “logically” downstream from main() — main() is up the stack frame — but funcA() has full control. That is, if it never decided to return, or to call out to a funcB() or something else, nothing else would be called.

    This should show why “control” is a problematic term here. In brain activity, there is no “current opcode” which represents the program counter for execution. But neither is there a “meta-brain” that governs the brain (or a meta-meta-brain which would be need to govern that meta-brain, and so on, and so on…). Different areas of the brain “light up” and activate, producing effects that have cascading ramifications for other parts of the brain. But it’s not a hierarchy, but rather a set of interacting subsystems and networks that interact with each other.

    Which points to “loops”, loops that look like funcA() -> funcB()-> funcA()->….. only with many more components interacting.

    “Control”, then is just “whatever is firing”, and in a human brain, these can be truly parallelized operations, unlike the “virtual multiprocessing” of a CPU that just switches execution contexts so fast it appears to humans to be mult-tasking.

    (2) under materialism a thinker is an effect caused by processes in the brain.

    Better to say “under materialism, thinking is the activity of the brain”. “Thinker” doesn’t map to anything I’m aware of in the materialist model, apart from the activity of the brain itself. It’s an important distinction: brain activity doesn’t produce a ‘thinker’, whatever that might be. Brain activity is thinking, or to use the same cognate as you have, the brain is the thinker, no “other thinker” needed or useful, on materialism.

    (3) in order for materialism to ground rationality a thinker (an effect) must control processes in the brain (a cause). (1)&(2)

    (4) no effect can control its cause.

    In funcB() above, funcA() is the cause of its execution. But it also is the caller/cause of execution of funcB(). Whoa.

    Your statement doesn’t account for self-reference, recursion, loops and network rings. It’s not hard, as shown with the simple lines of code above, to implement effects that control their causes, and get “re-effected” in turn, and once again, control that original cause….. When you have to map your concepts to the real world, and the way thing actual work, and can be demonstrated to work, your abstractions don’t work as concretes.

    Effects and causes are ordered temporally — the cause precedes the effect in time. But this does not isolate any causal dynamic from being itself the “effectee” of the effects it caused. This is a feedback loop, a very simple flow and one that you can implement trivially in software or observe easily in nature.

  110. 110
    Box says:

    Eigenstate,

    Box:
    (1) Rationality implies a thinker in control of thoughts.

    Eigenstate: It reifies “thinker” as something separate from the thinking.

    I object to the use of the verb “reify”. “Thinker” is used here as largely synonymous with “consciousness”, which, as we all know since Descartes, is quite the opposite of abstractness. Otherwise you are correct. In order for rationality to exist, there has to be a ‘thinker’ and ‘thoughts’ and distance between them. Thoughts have to be under strict hierarchical top-down control by a thinker with overview. Obviously, thoughts running amok is the end of rationality.
    Without these conditions being met, there can be no rationality.
    It’s up to materialism to come up with materialistic concepts which ground these necessary conditions for rationality. A venue for materialism to explore may be computer programming?

    Eigenstate: In a computing environment, for example, “control” just points at causality in execution, (…)

    Aha, so this is not the kind of control which is needed for grounding rationality. Materialism needs to look elsewhere.

    Eigenstate: not a “metaphysically superior” place on some abstract hierarchy, or anything like that.

    Further indication that AI is not the way to go, because what we need is the strictest of hierarchical relationships in order to ground rationality. Something like “metaphysically superior” is exactly what is needed in order for rationality to exist.

    And you see, where you are utterly hopelessly wrong, is when you speak of “some abstract hierarchy”. This incredibly poor choice of the word ‘abstract’ shows that you haven’t even begun thinking about rationality.

    And this is where discussion breaks down.

  111. 111
    Popperian says:

    @WJM

    You are conflating actuality with belief. You are assuming that at some point, in some way, there is a way for the individual to “be” something other than whatever their brainstate says they are, or for them to see the world some way other than their brains state dictates.

    No, I’m not conflating the two. I’m contrasting the two. Knowledge is objective in that it is independent of anyone’s beliefs. The instructions indicate what transformations of matter should occur, which represents knowledge, that solves a problem of how to build a boat. This occurs regardless if one believes it will result in a car or intended to build a car, instead. That idea that the instructions is a solution to the problem of building a car is a brain state. When it is criticized by empirical observations and tests – by taking that theory seriously, along with the rest of our current best theories – we find an error in it which we correct.

    This changes the way we see the world. The idea that we create knowledge though conjecture and criticism is itself an idea that changed the way I see the world.

    Again, you’re completely ignoring one key point: problems are inevitable. And the very fact that error is possible, they are potentially solvable.

    Depending on how your brain is wired, you might believe you ordered step by step building instructions for a car; you might believe you followed those instructions; you might believe, when you are done, that you have a car; however, all that might have been actually going on is you barking and panting like a dog the whole time. There would be no means by which to penetrate the delusion and access any “actuality”, because from the experiential inside, you are your delusion. There is no other “you” available to intervene from somewhere outside of the delusion.

    First, “Idea X could be wrong” is a bad criticism because it’s applicable to all ideas. As such, it’s not possible to use it in a critical way.

    Second, my brain isn’t wired in any old random fashion. My brain is a storage medium for knowledge, as defined above. The origin of that knowledge doesn’t determine if it is retained. Rather, the content of that knowledge itself plays a casual role in being retained in my brain. Some of that low level knowledge is simply useful rules of thumb, which is non-explanatory in nature. But it’s still useful enough to cause it to be retained. Some of it contained errors, such as the idea that knowledge come from authoritative sources. But we’ve made progress since then. We can devise criticism specifically designed to expose errors in our knowledge.

    Furthermore, it’s unclear how the mind state being immaterial actually improves your situation. For example, why should we think anyone could see the world in a way other than what their immaterial mind state allows? Couldn’t demons be making you believe you’re building a car, but are actually barking and panting like a dog? Or, being immaterial, what’s to prevent you from seeing the world as a blur through every possible immaterial mind state at the same time, etc. IOW, you just seem to have defined immaterial in context of what it is not, yet failed to present an alternative explanation for the growth of knowledge in an immaterial sense. Why does knowledge grow?

    Let me guess, immaterial minds work because “that’s just what some authoritative ultimate designer wanted it to work”? But that tells us nothing and represents bad philosophy.

    BTW, your argument assumes the very foundationalism you protest against.

    You’ll have to expand on that. I’m not a foundationalist. I’m a critical rationalist.

  112. 112

    That idea that the instructions is a solution to the problem of building a car is a brain state. When it is criticized by empirical observations and tests – by taking that theory seriously, along with the rest of our current best theories – we find an error in it which we correct.

    Empirical observations = brain states. Tests = brain states. If “brain states” is all you have to test other brain states with, then you are checking the potential error of your brain states with other brain states that are derived from the same overall individual-generating program that is producing the original, potentially erroneous brain state in question.

    You’re asking the hens to guard the henhouse. You need something other than a hen to guard a henhouse.

  113. 113

    Popperian said:

    First, “Idea X could be wrong” is a bad criticism because it’s applicable to all ideas. As such, it’s not possible to use it in a critical way.

    My criticism is not that “idea X could be wrong”, but rather “idea X could be wrong, and you have nothing in your toolbox to correct it besides what created it in the first place.

  114. 114
    eigenstate says:

    I object to the use of the verb “reify”. “Thinker” is used here as largely synonymous with “consciousness”, which, as we all know since Descartes, is quite the opposite of abstractness.

    Maybe it’s best to use “consciousness”, then, as that fits with “an activity of the brain”, while “thinker” suggests a new entity.

    Otherwise you are correct. In order for rationality to exist, there has to be a ‘thinker’ and ‘thoughts’ and distance between them. Thoughts have to be under strict hierarchical top-down control by a thinker with overview. Obviously, thoughts running amok is the end of rationality.
    Without these conditions being met, there can be no rationality.

    This is just argument by definition, Box. If some system is presented and you look at it and find distributed components that interact as peers, with no central executive, no homunculus with a baton “sitting on top”, as it were, and you watch this system reason from alternatives, consider counterfactuals, simulate other minds, and possible future states based on one action versus another, interpret and speak human languages fluently, etc. Well, that system is just “irrational by definition”, from what I’m getting from you. If so, ho hum, it goes on and *does* what rational agents do. A rose by another name, etc.

    Eigenstate: In a computing environment, for example, “control” just points at causality in execution, (…)

    Aha, so this is not the kind of control which is needed for grounding rationality. Materialism needs to look elsewhere.

    Well, this pretty much confirms your commitment to argument-by-definition then. If the system “rationalizes”, that is, if it does what we identify as essential for the behaviors and capabilities for human rational agents, calling it “irrational” is just an exercise in bickering over metaphysical terms.

    Eigenstate: not a “metaphysically superior” place on some abstract hierarchy, or anything like that.

    Further indication that AI is not the way to go, because what we need is the strictest of hierarchical relationships in order to ground rationality. Something like “metaphysically superior” is exactly what is needed in order for rationality to exist.

    That’s too bad. I suspected there was something more substantive here than argument by defintion.

    And you see, where you are utterly hopelessly wrong, is when you speak of “some abstract hierarchy”. This incredibly poor choice of the word ‘abstract’ shows that you haven’t even begun thinking about rationality.

    And this is where discussion breaks down.

    It can’t really get off the ground if it’s nothing more than insistence on parochial metaphysical terms and doesn’t even take (or need) notice of how things work in the world.

    You might as well insist that Aristotle’s (or John Philoponus’) theory of impetus is a metaphysical truth of the world. I can point you at all sorts of models and experiments and tests that not only have no use for the concept of impetus, but which would fail to be working models insofar as they *did* incorporate it, but it won’t matter if you consider “continued motion only maintains due to continued action of a force” axiomatic, that the world must conform to your metaphysical axioms and terms, rather than the other way around.

    If you want to include an argument that is corrigible by the way the world works, that is cognizant of different models that succeed and fail based on the dynamics of world around us. But there’s nothing to begin with, let alone break down, if “rationality” must obtain, ipse dixit like the impetus

    (And to be fair to old Aristotle, the impetus idea was at least grounded in empiricism).

  115. 115
    Box says:

    Eigenstate #114:

    Box: In order for rationality to exist, there has to be a ‘thinker’ and ‘thoughts’ and distance between them. Thoughts have to be under strict hierarchical top-down control by a thinker with overview. Obviously, thoughts running amok is the end of rationality.
    Without these conditions being met, there can be no rationality.

    Eigenstate: This is just argument by definition, Box. If some system is presented and you look at it and find distributed components that interact as peers, with no central executive, no homunculus with a baton “sitting on top” (…) and you watch this system reason (…)

    I simply cannot grasp a concept of rationality without ‘central executive’. And I put it to you that no one can. Thoughts have to be subjugable by a thinker with overview. If they are not or if (God forbid) it is the other way around, rationality, as we understand the term, cannot exist.

    What I’m interested in is if you feel the need to argue for ‘rationality without central executive’ because your position—materialism—cannot ground a central executive or is there some ulterior motive?

  116. 116
    eigenstate says:

    I simply cannot grasp a concept of rationality without ‘central executive’. And I put it to you that no one can. Thoughts have to be subjugable by a thinker with overview. If they are not or if (God forbid) it is the other way around, rationality, as we understand the term, cannot exist.

    OK. I’d say that’s a pretty simple resolution, then; rationality doesn’t and can’t exist as you understand the term.

    But that’s really not such a big deal I guess. The world kept turning when the misconceived ideas about impetus gave way to terms that connected with better models of the world. Motion kept on being motion, and all that, just a lot of ideas about the nature of that dynamic got replaced, definitions replaced, etc.

    I suggest that “choosing from available options based on priorities and assessments of effects and ramifications” will keep on happening if you were to adopt a notion of rationality that connected (in my view) with the world in similar ways to Ari’s impetus.

    What I’m interested in is if you feel the need to argue for ‘rationality without central executive’ because your position—materialism—cannot ground a central executive or is there some ulterior motive?

    There’s no problem with a rigid, top-down hierarchy in a materialist metaphysic. It’s completely compatible with materialism (just remind yourself quickly what philosophical materialism entails). The problem is that that topology of control and “existential hierarchy” just breaks down on initial contact with the real world. Ostensibly, it can’t accommodate feedback loops. Or recursion, or self-reference. Etc.

    And that has nothing to do with materialism, so far as I can see. The metaphysic that underwrites your notion of “rationality”, so far as I can understand it, has just as much a glass jaw in coming into contact with the real world under the rubric of “immaterialist metaphysics”, whether that be mystical property dualism, Christian theism, or what have you. I’d have to learn more to make the case, but your concept of “control” and “hierarchy” as concepts we might apply to the real world appear quite problematic.

  117. 117
    Box says:

    Eigenstate: There’s no problem with a rigid, top-down hierarchy in a materialist metaphysic. It’s completely compatible with materialism.

    Can you refer to a concept of relevant top-down hierarchy which is compatible with materialism?

  118. 118
    Box says:

    Eigenstate:

    There’s no problem with a rigid, top-down hierarchy in a materialist metaphysic. It’s completely compatible with materialism (just remind yourself quickly what philosophical materialism entails).

    [emphasis in the original]

    Requoted in its entirety. This is by far the most outrageous nonsense ever spouted on this forum.

  119. 119
    Box says:

    Hell freezes over before anything material reaches a state of self-awareness, so the thoughtful materialist has no choice but to deny the very existence of consciousness. This denial takes on various shapes and forms. Rosenberg’s version is just one of many:

    FOR SOLID EVOLUTIONARY REASONS, WE’VE BEEN tricked into looking at life from the inside.
    Scientism shows that the first-person POV is an illusion. (…) at least we’ll know that it’s another illusion of introspection and we’ll stop taking it seriously. We’ll give up all the answers to the persistent questions about free will, the self, the soul, and the meaning of life that the illusion generates.
    (…)
    The fact that the mind is the brain guarantees that there is no free will. It rules out any purposes or designs organizing our actions or our lives. (…)
    [A.Rosenberg, ‘The Atheist’s Guide To Reality’, ch.9]

    Obviously the whole project of the denial of consciousness is self-referentially incoherent—“I“ cannot doubt that “I” exist—, but on top of that it tears down RATIONALITY, as I have argued:

    In order for rationality to exist, there has to be a ‘thinker’ and ‘thoughts’ and distance between them. Thoughts have to be under strict hierarchical top-down control by a thinker with overview. Obviously, thoughts running amok is the end of rationality.
    Without these conditions being met, there can be no rationality. (…)
    I simply cannot grasp a concept of rationality without ‘central executive’. And I put it to you that no one can. Thoughts have to be subjugable by a thinker with overview. If they are not or if (God forbid) it is the other way around, rationality, as we understand the term, cannot exist.

    Decades ago, attending a course ‘eastern philosophy’, I was likewise appalled by the denial of consciousness, which is omnipresent in ‘eastern’ reflections. I asked my professor a very simple question: “What’s in it for me?” He looked at me in silence, without any indication that he understood my question. I remember thinking: “anybody home?”

    I just found out that googling “thoughts without a thinker”, results in finding a book by M.Epstein m.d. with the exact same title.

    Excerpt from a review by Dr. Arthur Deikman:

    Epstein suggests that Western psychotherapy has a significant contribution to make to Buddhism, but that Buddhism goes beyond Western psychotherapy in its ability to assist the individual in recognizing the non-existent nature of “I”, the self. Epstein regards the Buddhist negation of the “I”–achieved via mindfulness meditation — to be the crowning contribution of Buddhism to psychotherapy because when the self is seen to be nonexistent, the human being is freed from narcissistic concerns — the source of suffering. This latter step, the core of Buddha’s teaching, is seen as an opportunity for final freedom.

    [emphasis added]

    We are talking sheer utter madness here! If there is no one who is free, there can be no freedom. If there is no thinker there is no top-down control. Without top-down control thoughts are running amok. When thoughts are running amok there can only be chaos and NO RATIONALITY.

  120. 120
    Mung says:

    substance dualism (alternate version)

    a person or subject of experience is, indeed, not to be identified with his or her body or any part of it, but nor is a person to be thought of as being an immaterial spirit or soul, nor even a combination of body and soul.

    a person is not identical with his or her body nor with any part of it

    a person is not composed by his or her body nor by any part of it

    Consequently, a person can have no parts at all of which he or she is composed: a person must be a simple substance.

    – E.J. Lowe, An introduction to the philosophy of mind.

  121. 121
    Popperian says:

    @WJM

    Empirical observations = brain states. Tests = brain states. If “brain states” is all you have to test other brain states with, then you are checking the potential error of your brain states with other brain states that are derived from the same overall individual-generating program that is producing the original, potentially erroneous brain state in question.

    Again, all you’ve done is defined “immaterial” in a negative sense. As such, you haven’t explained how knowledge grows in an immaterial model. Apparently, it’s just magic.

    First, I’d again point out that “Idea X could be wrong” (including any material brain state) isn’t a good criticism because it’s equally applicable to all ideas. As such it cannot be use in a critical way pair our ideas down to just one or two theories that survive that criticism. Everything could be wrong. For example, is source Z infallible? To know, you would need to be able to infallibly identity an infallible source. What does source Z say? To know, you would need the ability to infallible interpret any such infallible source. How does that work?

    Second, even if our brains/minds worked as perfect as a computer, the content of theories do not actually come from observations. This is because theories are not out there for us to observe. They are conjectures, intuitions, guesses, etc., which we then criticize. We cannot extrapolate observations to create theories in a mechanical way. Rather, observations are always first put into an explanatory context. IOW, the claim that our minds are immaterial doesn’t actually improve things as our theories are not guaranteed to be correct. Again, what you would need is an infallible way to interpret an infallible source, such as observations. But that simply doesn’t survive criticism. IOW, having immaterial minds, whatever that means, doesn’t address your own objection, even if it were valid.

    Third, rather than being the source of theories, observations help us choose between theories we have already guessed. That’s how we escape. Knowledge is information that plays a causal role in being retained when embodied in a storage medium. It solves a problem, even in cases where there is no knowing subject that can conceive of that problem. This includes non-explanatory knowledge that represents our instinctual ability to see objects, etc. That’s the thing about Popper’s theory. It unifies theories across multiple fields, including Darwin’s theory of variation and selection. ID has no such explanation for the origin of the knowledge in organisms, let alone a unifying explanation for its growth.

    Taking theories seriously for the purpose of criticism means assuming they are true, along with all of the rest of our current best theories. We expect them to be wrong from the start. So, they will clash and reveal inconsistencies and problems. They will fail to solve the problems they supposedly to solve. That’s how knowledge grows. That’s how we escape.

  122. 122
    Popperian says:

    Box:

    Hell freezes over before anything material reaches a state of self-awareness…

    Wouldn’t doesn’t that imply some kind of contradictory theory about why anything reaches a state of awareness as a form of criticism? However, no such theory is known.

    For example, if there is nothing material about consciousness then what prevents rocks from becoming self-aware? What about stars? What prevents a person’s consciousness from accidentally being transferred to a rock? Perhaps all rocks are conscious, but that consciousness is lost when we break them up to make concrete? Why do people experience one immaterial mind state, rather than an infinite blur of every possible immaterial mind state for the present, simultaneously, or distinct immaterial mind states from the past or from the future?

    IOW, the immaterial is defined in what is supposedly is not, rather than what it is or why. it doesn’t add to the explanation. At best, apparently, some things become consciousness and can reason, but not others, because “that’s just what some ultimate source of justification wanted”. All that does is appeal to some ultimate source of justification, which is bad philosophy.

    so the thoughtful materialist has no choice but to deny the very existence of consciousness. This denial takes on various shapes and forms. Rosenberg’s version is just one of many:

    I’ve read one of M.Epstein’s books. As such, you seem to be confused about Buddhism. For example, to quote Sam Harris from this NYT article

    Consciousness exists (whatever its relationship to the physical world happens to be), and it is the experiential basis of both the examined and the unexamined life. If you turn consciousness upon itself in this moment, you will discover that your mind tends to wander into thought. If you look closely at thoughts themselves, you will notice that they continually arise and pass away. If you look for the thinker of these thoughts, you will not find one. And the sense that you have — “What the hell is Harris talking about? I’m the thinker!”— is just another thought, arising in consciousness.

    If you repeatedly turn consciousness upon itself in this way, you will discover that the feeling of being a self disappears. There is nothing Buddhist about such inquiry, and nothing need be believed on insufficient evidence to pursue it. One need only accept the following premise: If you want to know what your mind is really like, it makes sense to pay close attention to it.

    Harris is not denying that consciousness exists as a first person experience. Rather he’s saying we’re confused about there being an “I” that thinks our thoughts. The freedom that we gain through introspection is freedom from the suffering that confusion brings.

    Note how this reflects the same process that I’ve been advocating. Ideas begin as arising thoughts in consciousness – conjectured guesses. We constantly criticize and weed out those ideas that do not withstand criticism. This includes criticism that occurs at an instinctual level, which we don’t intentionally bring to bare. Mindful meditation is a form or rational criticism that reveals the error of a thinking “I” to us.

  123. 123
    Popperian says:

    Box,

    For further clarification, see the video: The Self is an Illusion by Sam Harris.

  124. 124
    Box says:

    Popperian: you seem to be confused about Buddhism

    Are you saying that “I” am thinking confused thoughts about Buddhism?

    Popperian: we’re confused about there being an “I” that thinks our thoughts.

    Aha, so not “I”, but “something else” is thinking confused thoughts about Buddhism”. Well, whatever “it” is that is thinking “my” confused thoughts about Buddhism, “it” is well beyond my control, is it not? So if “my” thoughts about Buddhism are confused, there is little point in telling me about it, because there is no way for me to correct them, is there?

    If my thoughts are not under my control—are not my full and complete responsibility—then “I” am no longer a rational being. And I put it to you that rationality goes out the window.

  125. 125
    Mung says:

    …the intuitive and commonsense feel of materialism seems to last only as long as one keeps one’s statement of it vague.

    – Edward Feser

  126. 126
    Popperian says:

    Box,

    When faced with a problem, do you not find yourself with a number of possible solutions? And out of that set, do you have no choice but to actually attempt to implement all of them? Or can you criticize them as they come to you?

    To quote Popper, “We can let our theories die in our place”

    If you look closely, you’ll may even notice this happens a level you might not normally be aware of. So, again, there is a way for correction to occur. Criticism, in one form or another.

    So, yes. The contents of thoughts are not “in your control” thats because they are not something we can mechanically extrapolate from observations. The contents of those thoughts are conjectured guesses that you don’t “choose”. We always get out more than we put in, so you can’t choose something that you didn’t know before hand. Rather the choice and criticism comes afterwards.

    Popper’s contribution is not only prescriptive but descriptive. It explains how knowledge grows.

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