Intelligent Design

Horrid doubt file: Reasons to think your mind is real

Spread the love

Was Darwin’s horrid doubt just horrid – or a reasonable fear?:

… the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?

I’d say that if his theory was true, horrid was a slam dunk (yes, you are an evolved monkey, no, your thoughts do not mean anything).

But very little in science turned out to be what Darwin or his contemporaries thought.

Non-materialist neuroscientists think that your mind is real and that it helps shape your brain. It is not a mere illusion created by the workings of the brain.

Here are some excerpts from the afternoon panel of the Beyond the Mind-Body Problem symposium (September 11, 2008), sponsored by the Nour Foundation, UN-DESA, and the Université de Montréal. The excerpts feature some interesting exchanges between a number of non-materialist neuroscientists.

Excerpts from the morning panel are here.

Both the morning and afternoon panels were televised and can be viewed here.

56 Replies to “Horrid doubt file: Reasons to think your mind is real

  1. 1
    LeeBowman says:

    Interesting links. I always enjoy hearing the subject of consciousness debated. It generally progresses to (from the morning session) “… how do thoughts arise?” [~27:00]

    The speaker mentions brain area activations and asks, ” … how do they generate thoughts?”
    No scientific explanations have been validated, although consensus opinions are that it is based on synaptic activity alone. But at this point [32:26], he cites Prof. Henry Stapp, who has a quantum physics view of consciousness, and I assume a dualist viewpoint as well.

    My view is that the brain colors thoughts, adds human subjectivism, and subjectivism based on prior temporal experiences, but is not the end point (producer) of consciousness itself.
    OOB experiences are common, and I’ve had a few myself (early 20’s).

    I’m looking forward to hearing Prof. Stapp on the podium as a speaker, but later for that. It’s 4 am, yawn.

  2. 2
    Domoman says:

    O’Leary,

    Have you ever heard of Pim van Lommel? There is an article of his about the survival of consciousness after death, that I found extremely interesting. It seems more likely, from what I gather, that the brain is more like a steering-wheel of sorts for the body, and the mind/consciousness drives.

    Here’s the article if you haven’t read it already:

    http://www.iands.org/research/.....sness.html

  3. 3
    ribczynski says:

    Domoman,

    For a skeptical look at near-death experiences, including Pim van Lommel’s study, see this article.

    Regarding your second point, the idea that the immaterial mind “drives” the brain is not supported by clinical and experimental evidence (Jeffrey Schwartz’s claims notwithstanding).

    For example, there are disorders of the brain that leave victims without the desire to do things as simple as getting out of bed or brushing their teeth (technical term abulia). It’s not that they’re depressed; they simply can’t form the desire to do these things.

    If there were an immaterial mind “driving” the brain according to its will, then the will itself should be unaffected by damage to the brain. There might be cases where the brain failed to respond to the demands of the will, but the will itself should be unimpaired.

    We do see impairment of the will, however, which shows that the will is not independent of the brain.

  4. 4
    gpuccio says:

    ribczynski:

    “If there were an immaterial mind “driving” the brain according to its will, then the will itself should be unaffected by damage to the brain.”

    Let’s try it this way:

    There is an immaterial consciousness, a transcendantal subject, interecting with the phenomenal world through the interface of mind and brain. Mind and brain are strongly interrelated, and perception and will are functions depending on that interaction, which, when everything works fine, goes both senses. The mind is probably more than the physical brain, in the sense that we cannot at present understand it completely. But it is amways the transcendental consciousness which “perceives” everything and “interacts” through the instruments of body, brain and mind.

    If something in the body-mind complex does not work fine, the representations of the mind, perceived by consciousness, are consequently influenced. Where is the problem in that?

    Just try to explain what consciousness is, and how it can explained by a physical model. In case you don’t know, that is usually called, even by many materialist neuroscientists, the “hard problem of consciousness”, the easy problem being how the mind works. If you really have a good solution for that hard problem, please let us know.

    The last time I checked, the newest fairy tale was that consciousness arises from informational loops (Hofstadter, I think). That’s even worse than the previous silliness about parallel computing…

  5. 5
    ribczynski says:

    Hi gpuccio,

    If I understand your comment, you’re suggesting that while the will may not be completely independent of the physical brain, contra Domoman, there is still room for an immaterial component of the will.

    I see a problem with that approach which I will try to illustrate via an analogy.

    Imagine that you and I are physiologists trying to figure out exactly how the liver works. We both acknowledge that the liver carries out certain essential metabolic functions. Where we differ is that you believe (correctly, in the opinion of most scientists) that the liver is a purely physical organ, and that its functions can ultimately be explained in purely physical terms. I, on the other hand, insist that a physical liver alone is incapable of fulfilling these functions, and that an immaterial “liver-spirit” must also be present for the liver to work properly.

    You point out that all the liver functions we’ve studied to date have had physical explanations. I concede the truth of your statement, but I counter by insisting that the liver-spirit is responsible for some of the so-far unexplained functions of the liver.

    In terms of sheer logic, my position is unassailable. It truly is logically possible that there is an immaterial liver-spirit, responsible for some of the more esoteric liver functions that have not yet been explained.

    Yet I suspect you would be unhappy with my position. Why? Because it is essentially a “liver-spirit of the gaps” argument. An immaterial liver-spirit is being invoked not because of any positive evidence for its existence, but merely to fill in the gaps in our understanding of physical liver function.

    I believe that by invoking an immaterial component of the will, you make the same mistake vis-à-vis the brain as I, in our fictitious scenario, am making about the liver.

    Where is the positive evidence that the will is not purely a function of the physical brain?

    You also point out that materialists have not solved the “hard problem” of consciousness — the problem of how a purely physical system can give rise to subjective experience.

    True enough, but I would point out that as a dualist, you are in an even worse position.

    The materialist has the problem of explaining how a physical brain can give rise to consciousness. The dualist has the problem of explaining how an immaterial spirit (or whatever term you wish to use) can give rise to consciousness. The only explanation of this I’ve ever heard from a dualist is “It just does. That’s the nature of spirits.” Not very persuasive.

    Beyond that, the dualist faces some additional problems that leave the materialist unscathed:

    a) how does an immaterial soul/spirit/consciousness interact with the physical world? If the physical and the transcendental are really two separate realms, how can an immaterial mind direct or influence the physical body?

    b) many dualists, because of their religious convictions, want to see the soul as something that is responsible for our ethical decisions. If the will is even partly dependent on the physical brain, and can be disrupted by damage to the brain, then in what sense can we continue to attribute moral responsibility to the soul?

    c) The near-death experiences that Domoman alluded to are claimed to happen in the absence of brain activity. If so, then the soul/spirit/consciousness is capable of seeing, hearing, thinking, remembering, deciding, and feeling without help from the brain. Yet all of the neuroscientific evidence to date suggests that this is not the case, and that all of these functions depend, at least to some extent, on the brain.

    None of these objections apply to the materialist viewpoint.

    The evidence really is overwhelmingly against the existence of a soul as most people envision it.

  6. 6

    ribczynski wrote:

    c) The near-death experiences that Domoman alluded to are claimed to happen in the absence of brain activity. If so, then the soul/spirit/consciousness is capable of seeing, hearing, thinking, remembering, deciding, and feeling without help from the brain. Yet all of the neuroscientific evidence to date suggests that this is not the case, and that all of these functions depend, at least to some extent, on the brain.

    Not all.

  7. 7
    nullasalus says:

    B is a lark, and conflates two distinct issues – consciousness and free will. Yes, many people whose views tend towards dualism also typically believe in the moral/ethical culpability of persons. But arguments that amount to ‘we can be held responsible for our actions because we have souls!’ are few and far between. Further, dualists are exactly that – dualists. They see human agents as a mix of two distinct substances, material and immaterial. Arguing that dualists must attribute any and all senses to only one half of this duality (the non-material) is a common error, but exactly that: An error.

    A is an issue worth investigating, and various dualists have their own responses. Some, like Henry Stapp, favor quantum mechanical interactions as a place for a kind of irreducible mind to ‘interact’. I’ve seen one philosopher argue (Jeremy Pierce, I believe) that just as it was discovered that matter has an equivalency with energy, it may be the case that psychological properties, while distinct in the way matter is from energy, necessarily has a similar equivalency. Other replies are around, but in this case the dualists are no worse off than the materialists. Add in quantum-level interactions and the materialist may seem to be in a worse case than the dualist and both may be in an inferior case compared to an idealist. It depends on who you ask.

    C has some of B’s confusion in play. Dualists are not in the business of denying that there is a dependency on the brain to some, or even to a great extent, when it comes to mind/consciousness. Even full-blown theologians like Aquinas viewed the physical self as downright essential for a tremendous number of mental experiences. And arguing that there’s no scientific evidence to support the claims of NDE experiences, when NDE experiences themselves are being cited as evidence, is an interesting way to handle things.

    Finally – where’s the data on how ‘most people view the soul’? Most people in my experience have only vague ideas about such things – and at the same time are well aware of the importance of the brain and physical body both. Most people, amateur materialist or not, seem to have only a vague grasp on how we know the brain certainly seems to work – it could therefore follow that ‘the brain, as most people envision it, does not exist’. But putting it that way exaggerates the situation as it is.

  8. 8
    Vladimir Krondan says:

    William Jennings Bryan wrote about Darwin’s horrid doubt. This is from Bryan’s essay “The Origin of Man”…

    The Logical Result of a Belief in Evolution

    The objection to evolution, however, as an explanation of life is not, primarily, that it is not true–many things that are false are scarcely deserving of attention. Neither is the ridiculousness of the explanations of evolutionists the chief reason for rejecting it, although there is more unintentional humour in these explanations than in any intended fun. The principal objection to evolution is that it is highly harmful to those who accept it and attempt to conform their thought to it. Evolution does not ruin all who accept it, neither does smallpox kill all who take it In fact, only five per cent. of those who take smallpox die of it. The spiritual mortality among evolutionists is greater than that. Bishop Candler says that a man can be both an evolutionist and a Christian, if he is not much of either.

    Darwin furnishes a convincing illustration of the logical result of evolution upon man’s thought and life. He began life a Christian, but in order to hold to his hypothesis he found it necessary to discard every vital truth of the Christian religion. In a letter written in his old age and published in his Life and Letters he tells the whole story.

    He declares that, at the time he wrote this letter, he did not believe there had ever been any revelation, thus rejecting the Bible as the inspired Word of God and Christ as Son and Saviour. But he says in the letter that when (as a young man) he went south on the Beagle he was laughed at and called orthodox because he quoted the Bible as “an unanswerable authority on a question of morality.’ Note the change. In the same letter he also declared himself an Agnostic, adding that “the beginning of all things is a mystery insoluble by us,” but he explains that about the time he wrote the Origin of Species he believed in a First Great Cause. In this letter he asks a question which throws some light upon the pathway that he followed in his journey from Christianity to Agnosticism. He inquires:

    “Can the mind of man, which has, as I fully believe, been developed from a mind as low as that possessed by the lowest animals, be trusted when it draws such grand conclusions [in regard to God and Immortality]?”

    He drags man down to a brute level; then he judges man by brute standards and shuts the door of heaven against him. When he first announced his hypothesis he gave God credit for placing the first germs of life upon our planet; later, when he became an Agnostic, he apologized for yielding too much to public sentiment, omitted the word “God” and changed the word “placed” to the word “appeared,”–a word which suits the atheistic evolutionist as well as the theistic evolutionist.

  9. 9
    Patrick says:

    Personally I don’t see why many Christians insist that the “soul” or whatever must be the sole seat of the will. Why cannot it be a hybrid system where interlocking functionality is dispersed between the physical and the immaterial? After all the Christian God is a hybrid system: a trinity.

    In any case I personally don’t have a solid conviction on how our mind is generated. I’m just interested in any research on the matter.

  10. 10
    ribczynski says:

    Patrick,

    For many Christians, the existence of genuine free will is of paramount importance because:

    a) they use it to justify the presence of evil in a world created by a perfect, benevolent God (the so-called ‘free will defense’), and

    b) absent free will, it seems unjust for God to punish us for our sins.

    It becomes harder to argue that the will is free, in a morally meaningful sense, if it is dependent (even partially) on a physical mechanism.

    Furthermore, many Christians — judging by the number who accept near-death experiences as veridical — think that the soul continues to perceive, think, feel, decide, will and remember after the body has died. For them, it is important that the will continue to function correctly without physical assistance.

  11. 11
    gpuccio says:

    ribczynski:

    You raise very interesting points. I will try to answer according to my personal views and beliefs, but I admit immediately that others may (and will) have different models. Obviously, the model I am suggesting is partly scientific and partly philosophical, given the nature of many of your points, nwhich go definitely beyion what can be approached in a purely scientific way. I will try as much as possible to distinguish between what is empirical and what is only a personal assumption.

    First of all, I am probably less of a dualist than you assume. I have tried to focus the discussion on consciousness, because I do believe that is the best way to stay empirical. Indeed, many (including in part you) seem to forget the empirical nature of consciousness.

    So, let’s start from the basics. Consciousness is neither a function nor a concept. It is an experienced fact. I will not use the word “observable”, because it could generate confusion, but let’s say that it is a “perceivable”.

    Obviously, I am speaking here of one’s personal consciousness, which is perceived, and not of other’s consciousness, which is inferred.

    More than that: our personal consciousness is the basic experience, the supreme fact where all others observables or perceivables happen. So, in a logical ladder of priorities, our consciousness is more “real” than the external world, including our bodies (which, being perceived and cognized in our consciousness, are in some way “external” to it).

    That’s where your liver example is inappropriate for consciousness, as it is inappropriate for consciousness’ functions, like will (more on that later). Indeed, the liver is defined as an object: we perceive it bu the senses, we analyze it by senses and inference. The same word “liver” has been made to define an object, an observable. So. to assume the existence of a “liver spirit” is possible but, as you correctly state, not necessary.

    Not the same with consciousness. It is perceived from the beginning, and its name was created exactly to define that experience. Here exactly the contrary is true: the assumption that consciousness “has a strict relationship with the brain” is a later inference, certainly correct, but extremely indirect. And the assumption that consciousness “is produced by the brain”, which is all another thing, is a much more imaginative and bold hypothesis, and definitely a wrong one.

    So, when I say that my consciousness is certainly existing, while the external world is probably existing, I am not at all exaggerating.

    But what of the functions of consciousness? The problem is the same. The functions of consciousness are defined in terms of the consciousness itself, that is in a “subjective” way, and please notice that here I am using “subjective” in a very objective way, in other words as a primary modality of what exists.

    Let’s take the example of will. How can you define will objectively? You can’t. Will is the faculty by which a consciousness initiates an output towards the external world. A computer produces outputs, but it has not a will, because it is not conscious. You can’t apply the term “will” to non conscious objects. The same is true for other functions of consciousness, like “feeling”, “pain”, “pleasure”, and so on.

    That said, let’s go to some of your more specific affirmations.

    You say:

    “The materialist has the problem of explaining how a physical brain can give rise to consciousness. The dualist has the problem of explaining how an immaterial spirit (or whatever term you wish to use) can give rise to consciousness.”

    I certainly agree with the first part, not with the second. Let’s say that for me consciousness “is” spirit. It is a transcendental subject. It is. An immaterial spirit is a concept, a very indirect and sophisticated inference. But our consciousness is there, perceivable and near, more real than anything else. And it has at least two fundamental properties, that nobody can deny: it exists, and it perceives.

    You ask:

    “how does an immaterial soul/spirit/consciousness interact with the physical world? If the physical and the transcendental are really two separate realms, how can an immaterial mind direct or influence the physical body?”

    I never said that the physical and the transcendental are two “separate” realms. I just say that they are two “different” realms. Two different things can well communicate. Moreover, IMO, they are two “partially different” things, so they can communicate even more easily. There is no doubt that consciousness recieves inputs from the physical world, and sends outputs to the physical world. That’s called perception and action. We did not need modern neurophysiologists to understand that.

    You ask:

    “many dualists, because of their religious convictions, want to see the soul as something that is responsible for our ethical decisions. If the will is even partly dependent on the physical brain, and can be disrupted by damage to the brain, then in what sense can we continue to attribute moral responsibility to the soul?”

    Wow, that’s a very big issue! But a brief answer is due.
    For me, “will” and “free will” are two different concepts. Will is the general faculty of consciousness to initiate outputs. But those outputs are not necessarily “free”. They are often influenced by many external conditions, and by many internal conditions (including conditions of the brain and mind). The concept of “free will” is that, even if our consciousness is always influenced by many things, it is never completely “conditioned” by them (in a totally determinist way). There is always some space for freedom, even if, in many contexts, it may appear really small. So, the outputs of consciousness (will) are never totally deterministic, even if they are heavily influenced by other conditions. We are not totally free (we cannot do things in a completely free context, independent of our environment, of our body, of our brain, of our mind), but we are never totally slave. Because our consciousness is transcendental, and is endowed with free will. That’s also the origin of responsibility.

    You say:

    “The near-death experiences that Domoman alluded to are claimed to happen in the absence of brain activity. If so, then the soul/spirit/consciousness is capable of seeing, hearing, thinking, remembering, deciding, and feeling without help from the brain.”

    And that’s correct. But then you add:

    “Yet all of the neuroscientific evidence to date suggests that this is not the case, and that all of these functions depend, at least to some extent, on the brain.”

    That’s not correct. All you can say is that all of these functions are expressed, in the normal condition where life is expressed through the body, and consciousness is tied to the brain and body, through the brain itself, and certainly “only to some extent”. we have no proof that they “depend” on the brain. Again, the example of videogames will be useful. If I am playing a very realistic videogame, and that’s all I am doing at the moment, than my conscousness is expressing itself through that videogame, but it does not depend” on it. As soon as I stop playing, my consciousness is always there, and is free to do other things.

    Well, NDEs are exactly that. The consciousness is no more expressing itself mainly through the body, due to specific organic conditions which never happen in normal life (cardiac arrest, brain arrest). And NDEs happen, demonstrating that consciousness (and mind) do not “depend” on body and brain.

    You say:

    “None of these objections apply to the materialist viewpoint.”

    The materialist viewpoint is so full of contradictions and objections that I will not even start enumerating them here.

    “The evidence really is overwhelmingly against the existence of a soul as most people envision it.”

    You are obviously entitled to your viewpoint, which I respect, but that’s exactly the kind of unsupported and irrational statement which make me very happy of not being a materialist. I should not be surprised, given that materialists not only do not believe in God or the soul (which I still can understand), but in many cases do not believe even in the existence of their own consciousness and free will (which they clearly perceive in themselves). And still they go on being conscious, and making very free (and often arrogant) decisions in their lives (this is not directed to you, obviously: you seem a very reasonable and fine person: let’s say it refers to some extreme materialists who are very “active” in denigrating others who don’t believe in what they want others to believe).

  12. 12
    ribczynski says:

    gpuccio,

    There’s much to respond to in your comment, and I hope to do so tonight when I have more time.

    For now, let me point out an odd aspect of near-death experiences and out-of-body experiences that dualists typically ignore.

    Human perception depends on an elaborate and expensive sensory apparatus. Our visual system, for example, encompasses a number of complicated structures from the eye at one end to the visual cortex at the other. These structures are costly (in terms of energy intake) to build and maintain, but they are worth the expenditure because they help us to navigate our world successfully.

    Those who have experienced NDEs and OBEs report that their visual and auditory perception continues during the experience. Yet dualists claim that the brain is no longer functioning (at least in some of these cases) during NDEs. And in the case of OBEs, the subject often “travels” to a different location or vantage point and allegedly perceives things that could not be perceived from the place where the body is located.

    In both of these cases, perception continues even though our physical sensory apparatus is inoperative.

    My point is this: If the spirit (or soul, or whatever you want to call it) is capable of perceiving the physical world without the assistance of the body; and if each of us has such a spirit inhabiting his or her body; then we should be able to see and hear without the need for eyes, ears, and sensory processing areas in the brain.

    Dualists who accept the reality of NDEs and OBEs need to explain why our bodies include such expensive sensory systems if they are redundant, serving no purpose that is not already served by the soul itself.

    In a nutshell: why have eyes if your soul can see without them?

  13. 13
    gpuccio says:

    ribczynski:

    I will wait for your complete answer, and then comment on all.

  14. 14
    Domoman says:

    Ribczynski,

    On your statement about “abulia”: I do not find it a problem for dualism that certain people, due to brain injuries, cannot formulate the will to do something.

    I look at the “will” of a person as something that is formed by either internal or external forces. For instance, if I see ice cream on my kitchen table I may wish, or “will” to eat it. Generally in such a instance I will process information, and think about whether or not I should eat it. Perhaps I also will not to eat it. Thus I formulate two options in my mind, and therefore have two feelings. I have a part of me that wants to eat the ice cream, and I a part of me that doesn’t want to eat the ice cream. Where my free will comes into play is when I choose which of my “wills” to follow.

    I believe that consciousness, while in the body, perceives information via the brain. Thus it seems to me, perfectly reasonable that if somebody were to receive a brain injury they may no longer be able to process data and therefore have no reason, or “will” to do something. Because for instance, say that I saw the ice cream on my table and really wanted to eat it. But perhaps I could not process anything else and no other feelings arose, other than my want to eat that ice cream, then I would be limited to only being able to will myself to eating the ice cream. If the feeling of not wanting to eat the ice cream does not even pop into my thought process, then of course I won’t have any other “will” or “desire”. It seems then, that those with “abulia” really lack the ability to process information, or form feelings or desires. They might not even realize they cannot do this, and so it seems like they simply do not have the “will” to do something. Essentially then these people have completely, or at least partly, lost their free will. They cannot choose between certain “feelings” or “wills” because these people have received brain damage and cannot formulate or process thoughts and feelings.

    That is what seems to be the case to me anyway. In a normal situation, a person does have a brain that works properly, and it can form thoughts and feelings, thus giving the person the ability to choose (aka this person has free will).

    Think of it like a broken car. If the car has a broken gas pedal it cannot formulate the insistence within the motor to turn the wheels. If a brain cannot process information then it cannot formulate information or feelings to be relayed to the consciousness so that it may choose to do something.

    Therefore “abulia” doesn’t really form any hindrance against the concept of dualism and a consciousness that is at least partly different from the brain.

    As to why the question on why have eyes if the consciousness can see just as well, I cannot give any clear cut answer. I imagine though, that without the consciousness, nobody could even see through their eyes. I look at it similar to a man driving a car. He can see through the windows of the car, but there are certain parts that are blocked off to his view. For instance, he cannot see through the floor. Yet if you were to take the man out of the car, the car itself could not see. The man in this example is like our consciousness, able to see through a certain “body” or “design” given to it. It is limited though because of this body, as it can only see through the eyes. (Unless it’s out of its body.)

    Why though? I see reasoning behind this as really up to the designer of mankind. If mankind really does each have a consciousness that works apart from the body, yet controls a specific body, then it does. Why it does, I cannot answer for sure. Based off of my believes I could see it being that the Designer simply wanted us to live this way. Even perhaps knowing full well we would perish. But knowing that because we lived a limited life in our bodies, after our bodies die our conscious-self would now fully relish in a life that is not constrained by physical bodies.

    One person that had an NDE was in surgery with the blood drained from her head, her eyes were taped shut, she had clickers within her ears, and she was completely brain-dead. But while having this surgery she felt herself come out of her head, and see and hear things that could be later verified by doctors and witnesses of the surgery. For instance, she saw tools that the doctors had used, as well as heard things they had said while she was physically brain-dead.

    Another example of a NDE experiencer was somebody who was blind from birth (she said she cannot even see black, she simply sees nothing). Yet while having an NDE she could see for the first time.

    Another thing to consider is this: all of these NDE experiences generally have very common similarities. Such as a dark tunnel leading to a light, seeing dead relatives, having a life review, and the meeting with a being of light. Unless a materialist is to say that all of these similarities are a result of the brain functioning abnormally, then they have a serious problem. I could understand a few things happening, such as the dark tunnel (that could arise due to lack of oxygen), as well as a buzzing noise that some NDEers experience. Yet to suggest that they also have dead-relatives, a life review, and a being of light, all in common because of a brain disfunction, seems extremely far fetched. Especially when the idea of a Creator is much more in-line with the evidence, as apposed to all these people having uncanny similarities due to brain abnormalities.

    There’s my thoughts then, for what their worth. Keep it cool!

    One further note: seeing as I believe, or at least find most likely, that our consciousness controls our body via our brain, I would also like to mention what I think about people who lack bodily control. Think of a person driving a car. If this car is damaged, say the gas peddle gets stuck, then this person has lost control of his car. He may want to stop his car, but because he cannot fix the gas peddle he cannot stop the car. Similarly I see a person that has a damaged brain, as somebody who has got their “gas peddle” stuck, or their “brakes” broken. Therefore I see no problem with people that while having a consciousness to control their body, have lost that control because their brain has been damaged.

    As always I may change my views, but this is essentially my theory I have formulated. It could change, but it is what I currently hold to.

  15. 15
    kairosfocus says:

    GP:

    A word of encouragement: Some very good work here and in other threads!

    I underscore that we are here dealing with not just scientific but also philosophical questions, and so it would be wise to use comparative difficulties across live options.

    In short, that approach points out:

    1 –> ALL live option alternatives trace to core presuppositions and face difficluties with evidence. [here: [a] hard core mechanistic plus chance process evolutionary materialism, [b] emergentist materialism/ naturalism(s), [c] dualism[s], [d] idealism(s)]

    2 –> It is therefore generally inadequate to point out perceived difficulties in positions one objects to and then dismiss them; for one’s own position may face even worse difficulties. (Though of course balancing remarks as you made are very well taken.)

    3 –> Your highlighting of the problem of materialists having to use their own consciousness as fact no 1 is an apt instance of a balancing remark too often overlooked by eager materialistic reductionists. (I recall here Charles Finney’s notes on theology, which highlight that proofs by appeal to consciousness [as an ultimate fact] are the very strongest. Summed up: if your world model and mind model lead you to doubt that you are conscious and are able to think and decide for yourself, you are in a mare’s nest of fatal self referential inconsistencies. Starting with: is your argument a real argument or just a product of lucky noise acting on an arbitrary cluster of material entities shaped by forces utterly irrelevant to truth and logic.)

    3 –> In so seeking the best explanation across competing models of reality — as opposed to “proof” in any final sense — one needs to address comparative factual adequacy, coherence and explanatory power and elegance [as opposed to being ad hoc or simplistic].

    4 –> Further to this, we may tie back into the key theme of the blog. For, minds design, and we reliably discern — per a multitude of instances — that such designs have characteristic features: high contingency, with functionality that specifies the particular outcome towards a purpose: directed contingency. This is the root of the idea of functionally specified complex information [FSCI], which is an empirically observed, tested, and proved reliable marker of design; a subset of Dembski’s CSI that was first highlighted by Orgel et al in their carrying out of OOl research dating to the turn of the 1970s. (It is NOT a product of the ID movement; in fact it helped to spark it a decade later . . . cf Thaxton et al in the 1984 work, The Mystery of Life’s Origin. This is now accessible on line in toto.)

    5 –> The alternative for generating high contingency outcomes is “chance” however interpreted; i.e. arbitrarily “free” outcomes that — up to some level of bias that may obtain (think bell shaped curve, not loaded dice, as the latter is design) — may as well be one as another.

    6 –> Thence, the issue soon becomes that islands of functionality may very well be so isolated in a sea of contingencies that no plausible search on the scope of our observed cosmos is credibly able to arrive at the functionality by chance conditions acting on the necessary laws/forces and materials we observe. (This brings us back to the issue over chance, necessity and agency as alternative, and partly interacting causal factors. the last link discusses that in the context of origin of life.)

    7 –> However, OOL and OO body-plan level biodiversity are not the only contexts in which that obtains. For, part of the hard problem of materialistic thought on consciousness is that they have to account for origin of mind out of genetic code [70% or less on Chimp code per Denyse’s last summary . . .] plus selective environmental forces.

    8 –> That brings us right back to Denyse’s telling quote on self referential incoherence of materialistic theories of the origin of our own minds, from Darwin: … the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?

    9 –> I also suggest that the Derek Smith cybernetic model that thinks in terms of a two tier processor network with the brain as a front-end I/O processor has a lot of potential in it,including it allows us to see that brain damage or interface damage can warp processing of information, leading to warped personality and distorted dysfunctional expressions of will.

    Okay, back to lurking.

    Enjoy the weekend . . .

    GEM of TKI

    PS: the links above will give updates on my thinking; for those who want such.

  16. 16
    ribczynski says:

    gpuccio,

    In a previous comment I drew an analogy between the liver and the brain, arguing that the idea of an immaterial soul is as superfluous as the idea of a “liver-spirit”.

    You agreed that the liver-spirit is unnecessary but argued that the immaterial soul/spirit/mind is not. Yet I could not understand your argument in favor of this position.

    As far as I can tell, your argument consists of pointing out that consciousness is primary and is the lens through which we perceive the rest of reality, including livers and brains. True enough, but I don’t see how that demonstrates that consciousness cannot be a function of the physical brain. Could you elaborate?

    I went on to point out that both materialists and dualists have a problem explaining consciousness. The materialist has to explain how physical matter arranged in a certain way (the brain, that is) can give rise to conscious experience. The dualist has the problem of explaining how the soul gives rise to conscious experience. To simply assume that souls are conscious is no more permissible than assuming that brains are.

    You argued that this is not a problem for the dualist, stating:

    Let’s say that for me consciousness “is” spirit. It is a transcendental subject. It is. An immaterial spirit is a concept, a very indirect and sophisticated inference. But our consciousness is there, perceivable and near, more real than anything else. And it has at least two fundamental properties, that nobody can deny: it exists, and it perceives.

    I agree that consciousness exists, but how does that solve the dualist’s problem of explaining how a soul can give rise to conscious experience?

    My next point was that while the materialist can easily explain the interaction between mind and matter as an interaction between the brain and matter, the dualist has to come up with an entirely new mechanism to explain how the immaterial mind influences the physical world.

    Again, your response does not appear to answer the challenge:

    There is no doubt that consciousness recieves inputs from the physical world, and sends outputs to the physical world. That’s called perception and action. We did not need modern neurophysiologists to understand that.

    I agree that the mind does perceive the physical world and act on it, but you’ve left unanswered the question of how.

    On the issue of whether the dualist can regard the soul as being morally responsible, given that the will is known to be (at the very least) largely a function of the brain, you wrote:

    We are not totally free (we cannot do things in a completely free context, independent of our environment, of our body, of our brain, of our mind), but we are never totally slave. Because our consciousness is transcendental, and is endowed with free will. That’s also the origin of responsibility.

    One of the hallmarks of advanced Alzheimer’s disease is a tendency toward inappropriate sexual behavior. Suppose that an Alzheimer’s victim molests a fellow patient. How can you hold the soul responsible for behavior that was caused by the deterioration of the brain?

    Lastly, I would direct your attention back to the point I raised in my previous comment regarding NDEs and OBEs, which I summarized thus:

    In a nutshell: why have eyes if your soul can see without them?

  17. 17

    “In a nutshell: why have eyes if your soul can see without them?”

    Why have hammers when you can drive nails into wood with your bare hands?

    Perhaps the body is a tool for the soul to complete a certain task that would otherwise be much more difficult.

    By the way, that’s the most insightful question I’ve seen any atheist post here.

  18. 18
    Designed Jacob says:

    The speculation on the immaterial soul is science fiction until we start measuring it. I think about how it could be done every day. I have some thoughts about how “time” may in some situation be a variable with a known limit, but I don’t know where to go from there.

    If the existence of an immaterial soul could be reliably proved and/or its material interface partially described, the balance would shift subtly and perhaps greatly from Darwinism. Although Darwinism would be even creepier as religion if it were adapted to immaterial traits.

  19. 19
    magnan says:

    “The speculation on the immaterial soul is science fiction until we start measuring it. ….. If the existence of an immaterial soul could be reliably proved and/or its material interface partially described, the balance would shift subtly and perhaps greatly from Darwinism. …..”

    Indeed. The usual materialist’s blithe assertion that there is no credible evidence for anything like a “soul” as it is usually conceived – a mobile center of consciousness separate from the brain but interacting with it (interactive dualism). They obstinately refuse to examine the validity of the mountain of evidence for psychical or paranormal phenomena, much of which clearly points in that direction. They blithely assert that thousands of witnesses, experiencers and research investigators over the last century and more have been deluded or lying. They must have been – it simply can’t exist. Unfortunately many proponents of ID also are kneejerk skeptics of the paranormal, even though it really does pull the rug out from under Darwinist reductionist materialism.

    Usually the participants in these debates ignore the issue of the paranormal, even though the evidence for it is a fundamental weak spot in Scientistic Darwinism.

    A large subset of psychical phenomena demonstrate the action of discrete discarnate self-aware personalities, clearly trying to communicate. Other psychical phenomena like NDEs usually involve reporting a self of some sort leaving the body and experiencing the apparent initial stages of physical death. Other data like reincarnation birthmark evidence clearly makes a link between the deceased and the present person. All of these phenomena and more involve a lot of “veridical information”, information that is found to be correct. Survival of the personality is the simplest and most reasonable explanation for that data, and that would imply the existence of some sort of “soul”.

    The only apparent alternative to survival of some sort to explain this data seems to be the so-called “super-psi” hypothesis. This is not very satisfactory because all of these phenomena and more have to be accounted for by an almost unlimited psi and data integration capacity, invented or imagined ad hoc with every type of case to explain the particular phenomenon. The Occam’s Razor principle of parsimony would seem to point to survival as being the more likely model.

    We still can’t take the survival hypothesis as being close to certainty, because we can’t totally rule out the “super psi” hypothesis and because there is large array of other psychical phenomena that don’t point unequivocally in that direction. Like the odd past life remembrances (different individuals remembering being the same past personality), and a large array of other parapsychological phenomena (mostly termed “automatisms”) that don’t seem to fit into that mold. These appear to demonstrate that waking consciousness is just the tip of the iceberg. If the evidence for survival is only apparent, then whatever the true cause may be it seems to be perpetrating a vast deception.

    No one to my knowledge has come up with a plausible overall model from the standpoint of either psychology, parapsychology or metaphysics that can encompass the large body of evidence implying interactive dualism and survival along with the vast body of other psychical phenomena, while at the same time accommodating the fact that practically during life we are indeed the function of our brains. We need well operating brains to exist. Ultimately I think we have to accept living in ambiguity and uncertainty, forced to live with a very large cognitive dissonance.

    What is really indefensible is taking the attitude of the dominant intellectual elite of our society and closed-mindedly dismissing the evidence for some form of interactive dualism entirely because it doesn’t fit a materialist world view.

  20. 20
    gpuccio says:

    ribczynski:

    Thank you for your comments, whic allow me to better elaborate and clarify.

    I think that most of your considerations about what I say derive from a single point: you do not accept my first and most important issue: that consciousnees certainly exists, and that in no way it can be a function of the brain. That simple consideration allows us to give consciousness at least the same “status” of “substance” which we usually give to matter, enrgy, laws of nature, and so on.

    Indeed, you say:

    “True enough, but I don’t see how that demonstrates that consciousness cannot be a function of the physical brain.”

    Now, I am sure I will not convince you, but I will try just the same, because thus discussion is very statisying and pertinent.

    I am completely convinced that consciousness can never be a function of the physical brain, and that all the efforts developed by neuriscientists and other people to show the opposite are irremediably flawed at the beginning. In other words, I am completely convinced that the AI theory, in all its forms, is false at the beginning, and philosophically flawed (I will not say that it is scientifically flawed because, as I will try to debate, it has no scientific status at all).

    To be clear in what I will say, I have to state again that consciousness (our personal consciousness) is an “empirical” fact: it is perceived directly by each of us, although not by the senses, but in another way, which we can call from now on, for simplicity, “intuition” (just a name like another, with no special implication).

    So the facts, in their epistemological order, are as follows:

    1) We have one primary empirical certainty, that we exist as consciousness. We perceive that by intuition, each one his own existence and consciousness. All further cognitons are based on that, and happen in that consciousness.

    2) Then we have a lot of secondary cognitions. All of them are finally èperceived as modifications in our consciousness. There are at least two major classes of them:

    a) sensations, perceived through the sensory channels, and referred to an external world. That is usually called “objective” experience”.

    b) various states of the consciousness, which are perceived through intuition: thoughts, feelings, pleasure and pain, emotions, reasonings, judgements. That is usually called “subjective” experience, but is has the same status of objactive existence we usually attribute to the external world, because, like the consciousness which perceives it, it is an observable, that is a “fact”.

    Please notice that there is one external object, which we call our body, whic is part of bot a and b: it is certainly perceived through the senses (I can touch my arm), and is at the same time perceived by intuition (I have feelings about my body, like pain, pleasure, inner sensations, which, while having a specific connection with parts of the body, have not the formal property of the senses of “projecting” an outer reality.

    3) Using “all” the cognitions available to us, we build maps of reality. We call them philosophies, religions, sciences, arts, and so on. All of these maps have some cognitive aspect, some of them more than others, and an experential aspect, some of them more than others.

    4) Sciences are kinds of maps which utilize in a peculiar way some peculiar cognitions. They are limited but strong maps, if used correctly. But, as I have debated in these hours on another thread, sciences, like all other cognitions, have a primary purpose: to understand reality, or at least part of it. Science, in its modern form, uses many intuitional cognitive powers: logical deductive reasoning, mental inference, and so on, and applies them to empirical reality. Science makes great use of a very specific and powerful mental tool which is mathemathics, and that’s one reason of its many strengths and successes. One interesting point is that mathematics is, among sciences, the least (or not at all) derived from sensory experiences of the external world, and has all the chracteristics of an innate, intuitive cognition of the mind: notwithstanding that, it has an extraordinary power to explain the external world.

    5) It is perfectly natural to ask that science give its attention to “all” our cognitions: all of them exist and bear informations on reality, so all of them deserve to be explained as far as it is possible, or at least included in our maps.

    6) The first, and most important, of all our cognitions, consciousness itself, requires explanation and/or inclusion. One problem for science is that “subjective” facts apparently have not the quantitative and measurable aspects so dear to the science of the external world, or at least they are not quantitative and measurable in the same way.

    7) In front of that challenge, what has material scientistic philosophy (deterministic materialism), which is the prevailing philosophy today, done? It has made a few assumprions, and made them truth without demonstrating them:

    a) We know much of the laws of the external world. Therefore, they must be the laws of all reality.

    b) The laws we know are quantitative and wholly deterministic. Therefore all reality must have the same form.

    c) We understand almost nothing of consciousness and of the subjective world. Indeed, we understand much, but all that we understand is based on uncomfortable prinicples and forms, for which we have no explanations: individuality, will, feeedom, purpose, meaning. Therefore, to avoid confusion, we have to realize one of two things:

    c1: deny that consciousness and its implicit manifestations exist

    or

    c2: explain them away in terms of what we know about the external world.

    Those are the fundamental assumptions of materialistic philosophy, and of its ancillary servant, materialistic science. It is easy to see, in the light of what I have said until now, that they are not cognitively warranted. In particular:

    a) is an unwarranted inference.

    b) the same as for a

    c1) is an explicit lie, aginst all the empirical evidence

    c2), which is any form of AI theory, is at best a theoretical approach, acceptable as such, and not as the universal dogma which it has become. Moreover, it brings the important difficulty of a fundamental dualism, because it has to explain how the body, in its objective aspect of perceived sensory object, gives rise to conscious experiences, and we have seen that the two things are in origin in very different epistemological categories.

    In other words, if a true dualism exists in reality, it is the dualism of subjevtive and objective experience. AI theories are really trying to explain the second in the terms of the first, which is certainly the same kind of problem which you mentioned about the soul-body dualism. It is not impossible in principle, but it is a very serious task.

    Well, has AI succedeed? and what are the routes it has followed, or is following?

    To answer, we have to understand the inherent difficulties. Given the strong formal differences of the two realities which AI is trying to conflate, some reference model is badly needed. And the model for AI comes, as we all know, from computers, from the experiences in manipulating information.

    I have to specify, too, that for our purposes here we just have to consider strong AI, and in its complete form, including the property of consciousness. In other words, as our purpose here is to explain the fundamental empirical fact of the existence of consciousness, we are not so much interested in the fact that a machine may “behave” like a human (weak AI), or in the fact that it may behave intelligently (partial strong AI). What we need is that a machine becomes conscious, otherwise we have not reconnected our two fields of empirical experience.

    Just to start from the end: has strong AI been in some way proven? Certainly not. As far as I know, no machine has become comscious in the decades since strong AI became the leading theory in the scientific world.

    Obviously, that’s not enough, but it’s a start: there is still no empirical evidence, iether direct or indirect, of the occurring of consciousness in an artificial machine. At present, consciousness is still confined to living beings.

    But then, where do all the bold statements of strong AI supporters come from? It would be easy, and very true, to simply answer: from intellectual arrogance. But that’s not my purpose here.

    So I will argue that AI arguments are of two kinds:

    1) Evidence that there is a connection between the objective body (the body as perceived by the senses) and the sphere of consciousness. Said that way, it sounds trivial, doesn’t it? And the truth is that it “is” trivial.
    We have always known that there is that connection. It is in both senses, and it has always been called “sensation” (inputs from the outer world to consciousness) and “willing action” (outputs from consciousness to the outer world). We have similarly always known the place of the body in that: it stays in the middle. I cannot see (the outer world) without my eye, I cannot grasp anything without my hand. Period.

    Has AI or neuroscience added anything to that knowledge. Essentially not. It has only added levels of sophistication. Today we know that, in order to see an external object, I don’t need only my eye, but also the optical nerve, a buch of cerebral connection, and the occipital cortex. And so? Where is the difference?

    There is no difference. We still have physical structures of the body which are necessary for specific input or output functions. Period.

    But what about modern neuroscience, with its triumphs: neurotransmitters which can alter ous state of mind, electrical stimulations of the cortex which can evoke inner experiences, and so on? Impressing? No. Interesting certainly, but not impressing. There is nothing essentially new: we already know that the body is in the middle.

    Take neurotransmitters, or neuro drugs, for instance. They are certainly very powerful. And then? We have known for millennia that the simple assumption of alcohol can completely change our state of consciousness. A physical sensation can give plaisure or pain very effectively. We happen to know that, through personal experience. A brain insult can affect our cognitive functions. We know that. Where is the novelty?

    The body is in the middle. It has always been. Philosophers have always known that. Scientists have always known that. Religion founders have always known that. Where is the new evidence for AI?

    2) The second “field” of arguments for AI comes form considerations about information theory and technology, starting from Turing on, and stronly influenced by the simulation power of modern computers.

    Here I have a very strong conviciton about the cognitive aspect of AI (simulating human intelligence), which comes essentially from my experience in ID: conscious beings are the only ones who can really produce CSI; machines can only transform it. That means that all AI is flawed, in other words no machine can be able or real intelligence.

    This is a very strong, and certainly controversial, approach to intelligence which I believe in, but luckily I have not to debate it here, because it is not pertinent here. Here, in fact, we are not interested in “intelligence”, but in “consciousness”, and the discussion is therefore much easier.

    It easy very easy, indeed, to realize that there is no reason to hypothesize, even without any evidence, that consciousness can come from the complexity of software, which is more or less the assumption of strong AI.

    Let’s remember for a moment that we have no empirical evidence of that. That’s simply the truth.

    But let’s consider just the same the possible theoretical reasons. There are amny ways to show the utter impossibilities in that kind of theory. I will just illustrate some of them.

    We have to understand that, in AI, the results of operating a software are hardware independent. If I make a computation on an abacus or on a modern computer using the same algoritm, the same computational steps take place. The times are different, the modalities are different, but the “software” works in the same way. The software is, by definition, immaterial information.

    Moreover, acomputation is a linear sequence of simple computational steps. Each single step is not essentially different form the others. It the structure of the sequence which bears the computation and the result. The time employed, too, does not change the result or the computational procedure.

    Just a quick note here to remind that parallel computing, so boldly used by many AIers to support their theories, is in essence just a linear computing with different form. There is no essential difference. The computing has to be divided in separate tasks for seprate elaboration, and then reconnected. Nothing is essentially different.

    So I would like to understand what the essential hypothesis of AI is. It sounds like that:

    I have a simple computational step A. There is no consciousness in that event.

    I repeat it 10^10 times in various forms, and nothing happens (in the sense of: no consciousness arises).

    I repeat it 10^20 times, in similar but longer forms, and nothing happens.

    But in some way I believe that if I repeat it 10^100 times or more, in similar but even longer forms, at some moment consciousness arises.

    Is that it?

    But why should that be reasonable? Each computational step is not conscious. Why should 10^100 of them become conscious? By the sheer strngth of great numbers?

    But you may say: it is the computational structure which counts. Why? If I repeat 10^100 times the same addition it seems unlikely that the process becomes conscious. Ah, but if I do something more rephined… But something what? Do you know what computing is? Essentially a series of very simple operations, like addition. And the general form?

    But who is aware of the general form? The single computational events? I can see addition A which proudly “awakens” to the staqte where it finally “knows” that it is now part of a very sophisticated loop, a la Hofstadter, and not simply of some monetary report!

    “What” becomes conscious? The computational steps? The hardware which performs them? The “system”?

    Let’s see. We can probably dismiss the case that the single computational step becomes conscious, although I had started to feel some affection for my addition A and its hopes of social improvement.

    Does teh hardwrae become conscious? Does that mean that, if I perform my Hofstadter loop on an abacus (it may take time, I know!) the abacus becomes a conscious being?

    Well, although the conscious abacus is again a fascinating model, I feel that such a solution is very unsatisfying. Maybe there are privileged hardawres? But why? Living cells could be a candidate, but then why are they different from an abacus? Some kind of vital force? That would be bad news for the materialists…

    Or what if only Macs could become conscious, and not PCs?

    Well, no more jokes. The fact is that there is no reason why the nature of the hardware, or the computing time, should be cause of creating the consciousness. After all, the software is independent from the hardware.

    And what about the complexity? But complexity is only a quantitative factor here. In a simple sense, 10^100 random additions are much more complex than 10^10, but always additions they are.

    And what about the specified complexity? What about the “meaning”? You see, I am even using ID concepts to help our poor AIers!

    But “who” perceives the meaning? Who is aware of the specification? Only consciousness. Specification is the way conscious intelligent beings recognize the mark of other conscious intelligent beings. Blind nature does not “recognize” specification and meaning, just like many darwinists 🙂

    Moreover, if it were the “sophistication” of the structure to generate consciousness, it could well be that a very long, but not brilliant, software could never be conscious, while a short but very brilliant one could. After all, who says that a softwrae has to be 10^100 bits to be conscious? But again, who perceives the brillaint nature of the software? And I would not suggest to look for consciousness in your newest Microsoft program, by the way…

    Well, but what if it is the system which becomes conscious? But what is “the system”? I suppose the sum of hardware plus software. While that reminds me much of religious and mystical concepts, I would like to understand why, is the hardware is not conscious, and if the software is not conscious, the “system” should be conscious. An emerging property? But who perceives emerging properties, if not conscious beings? Blind nature knows nothing of emerging properties. And is the property “emerges” only for some specific properties of the software, then again it is a property of the software.

    And finally. a very important point. If we forget for a moment materialistic fantasies about consciousness, and do what any serious scientist or philosopher should do, that is “observe” it (it is an observable after all), and try to correctly describe its formal properties, we will see that the best way to describe conscious experiences is something like that:

    Conscious experiences are events where various modifications (perceptions, feelings, judgments etc.) are apparently referred to a single perceiver, which we call the subject of the experience.

    The important point is that the “subject”, which we will call here the “perceiving I”, or more simply the I, is always felt as simple. But the things it perceives can be extremely complex.

    I will try to explain better. The I perceives bothe modifications related to external objects and modifications related to internal functions. But evrything it perceives becomes an object for it, and the subject, the I, is always “abobe” the things perceived, in a meta position. The I is capable of infinite regress: it can observe anything inside its sphere of perception, including its own functions (reasoning, imagination, feeling, etc.). The I can observe its resoning process, but in that case the I is in meta position repsect to that process.

    That’s why the I is essentially simple: because it can observe any complexity in itself, and make it an object, external to itself. In other words, the best empirical description of how we intuit our own I is: as a transcendental, single point of perception which refers to itself a continuosly fluctuating bundle of modifications (its objects of perception).

    Now you can perhaps see another reasons why the theories of AI are flawed: consciousness requires a single, constant subject of perception. No complex structure of objective events can create that. Objective events are objective. Strucutres are complex, and are a sum of parts. The I is not a sum of parts, although its perceptions, including its functions, can certainly be that way.

    To sum up:

    1) Consciousness is an empirical fact, the most important of all, the first of all, both cronologically and epistemologically.

    2) As such, it deserves a privileged place in our maps of reality. That’s not what happens in current science.

    3) Denying it is foolish: it means denying one of the most universal facts we know.

    4) Explaining it away as a function of the brain is impossible. And even if you want to believe that ir is possible, you have to admit that it has not been done.

    5) AI theories have no empirical support (no form of consciousness, even primijtive, has ever been generated that way) and no convincing logical or cognitive background. They are only an ineffective tool to justify a materialist map of reality, and try to cover up the immense holes in it.

    Well, I realize that I have only answered your first point (but it was the most important). Now I am tired. More on the other points later.

  21. 21
    ribczynski says:

    gpuccio,

    Four of your five points fail to even address the question of whether the physical brain can produce consciousness, and the fifth point (#4 above) simply declares it “impossible” without explaining why.

    Can you tell us specifically why it is impossible, in your opinion?

    You state:

    And even if you want to believe that it is possible, you have to admit that it has not been done.

    Resurrecting my liver/brain analogy from earlier in the thread:

    Suppose the liver performs a certain function, but that we don’t know how it accomplishes this. I claim that the function in question cannot happen without the assistance of an immaterial “liver-spirit”. You think that even though we do not understand it now, it will eventually turn out to have a purely physical explanation.

    I challenge you, saying that it is impossible for a physical liver to perform the function, and I add that even if you believe that it is possible, you have to admit that it has not been demonstrated.

    Would you find that argument persuasive? Would it cause you to change your mind and embrace the idea of the liver-spirit?

    If not, why should your equivalent argument persuade someone that consciousness cannot be produced by the brain alone, and that an immaterial soul is also required?

  22. 22
    gpuccio says:

    ribczynski:

    I am afraid that you really missed my points, but I cannot say it all again. If you like, please read again my post #20, which is detailed enough. Otherwise, we can stop it here. I am happy for the fruitful discussion with you.

    I just suggest that you consider that my five points are just the summary of a very long reasoning. My points 1 and 2 set the correct espistemological basis for the problem of consciousness. My point 3, for completeness, reminds that denying consciousness is not a possible escape, because it is an empirical fact (I know you don’t deny consciousness, but many do, and so I felt I had to address that).

    My point 4 is just the summary of all the things I have said in my post. How can you say that it “simply declares it “impossible” without explaining why”? I have spent two hours writing my post, and you don’t even address any of it, and still you affirm that I have not explained? I have explained. You are entitled to believe that my explanations are not good, and to state that, but for courtesy you could at least explain why you think that. Not necessarily spend two hours, but at least try.

    Finally, my point 5 sums up, for further clarity, the two levels of argumentation for point 4: AI theories are not empirically supported, and they are not theoretically satisfying. What else do you want? The details are in the post.

    And again with your liver: liver is not consciousness, the first 2 points don’t apply to liver. Liver does not need an Artificial Liver theory to be explained: it is an object like the others, and its functions are, as far as we know, objective functions. If you cannot grasp this distinction, I don’t know what else to say.

    Consciousness is completely different. It needs explanation, or it must be acknowledged as a distinctive substance or principle. That’s why AI theories exist.

    My sentence:

    “And even if you want to believe that it is possible, you have to admit that it has not been done.”

    referred to the generation of consciousness in a machine, which is what strong ID theory assumes as possible. It just stated that it has not been empirically done. Is that difficult to understand? Is that false?

    So, I am not just declaring that it is “impossible” that the brain is the cause for consciousness. I am stating that such a, affirmation is just a theory, that the only structured formulation of that theory in a scientific form is strong AI theory, and that strong AI theory is a bad scientific theory for at least two different levels of motives.

    Is that “just declaring”? I think it is arguing. Again, the details of the arguments are in the post.

  23. 23
    gpuccio says:

    ribczynski::

    And, I forgot: in my posts I think I have never used the concept of “an immaterial soul”, which is a philosophical, and not empirical concept. Why are you constantly referring to that?

  24. 24
    ribczynski says:

    gpuccio,

    True, you haven’t used the phrase “immaterial soul”, but you have written this:

    Let’s say that for me consciousness “is” spirit. It is a transcendental subject.

    Perhaps you are drawing a distinction between “soul” and “spirit” that I am not. If so, then feel free to substitute “spirit” for “soul”.

    In any case, the question remains the same: Is the physical brain capable of producing consciousness on its own, or does consciousness require the presence of an immaterial/transcendental component?

  25. 25
    ribczynski says:

    gpuccio,

    I’m doing my best to understand your arguments, but they’re not always clear.

    You write:

    So, I am not just declaring that it is “impossible” that the brain is the cause for consciousness. I am stating that such a, affirmation is just a theory, that the only structured formulation of that theory in a scientific form is strong AI theory, and that strong AI theory is a bad scientific theory for at least two different levels of motives.

    You seem to be saying that because we have no successful theory of strong AI, it is therefore impossible for the physical brain to be the seat of consciousness.

    If so, you’re making the same mistake as someone saying in 1700 that “The aurora borealis cannot have a physical cause because we have no theory to explain it.”

    It simply doesn’t follow.

    Take a look at consciousness. It goes away when our brains enter a state called sleep. A blow to the head can cause it to vanish, and particular brain injuries can cause it to vanish permanently, even though the rest of the brain and body continue to function correctly. Alcohol changes consciousness, and too much alcohol eliminates it entirely. Drugs affect it.

    The evidence is overwhelming that consciousness depends on the brain. Where is the evidence that it depends on some immaterial or transcendent component?

    Let me reiterate the points I made in an earlier comment, and add a couple:

    1. While it’s true that materialists haven’t explained how the physical brain gives rise to the subjective experience of consciousness, it’s also true that dualists haven’t explained how souls or spirits give rise to consciousness. If it disqualifies one, it disqualifies the other.

    2. The dualist must explain how the immaterial soul or spirit interacts with and controls the physical body. Materialists have no such problem. We already know how matter (the brain) interacts with matter (the body).

    3. If the will is even partly dependent on the physical brain, and can be disrupted by damage to the brain, then in what sense can we continue to attribute moral responsibility to the soul?

    4. Why have eyes and ears if NDEs and OBEs show that your soul can see and hear without them?

    5. Why, in lab experiments, have OBE “experts” never been able to demonstrate the ability to travel to a remote location and read a message that has been left there?

    6. In response to the question of why we have eyes and ears if the soul is capable of seeing and hearing, angryoldfatman writes:

    Perhaps the body is a tool for the soul to complete a certain task that would otherwise be much more difficult.

    Why, then, don’t people who have experienced NDEs and OBEs report that their vision and hearing were impaired?

    To the contrary, they typically report that their senses were enhanced during the experience.

    7. If cognition, emotions, memory, perception, and will all depend on the brain, and can be completely disrupted by changes or damage to the brain, then why do so many people believe in a separable soul that can go on experiencing all of those things when the body is dead?

  26. 26
  27. 27
    kairosfocus says:

    ribczynski (and so also GP):

    Four main points:

    1] CONSCIOUSNESS AS THE BASIC FACT OF ALL FACTS:

    I think we need to come back to a basic point GP made, in no 11 (and note he is there explicitly not the dualist you seem to be making out; per Crow Thrall’s link).

    The point GP made in 11 is crucially central, but it is is a point that is all too easily forgotten or distracted from:

    . . . let’s start from the basics. Consciousness is neither a function nor a concept. It is an experienced fact. I will not use the word “observable”, because it could generate confusion, but let’s say that it is a “perceivable”.

    Obviously, I am speaking here of one’s personal consciousness, which is perceived, and not of other’s consciousness, which is inferred.

    More than that: our personal consciousness is the basic experience, the supreme fact where all others observables or perceivables happen. So, in a logical ladder of priorities, our consciousness is more “real” than the external world, including our bodies (which, being perceived and cognized in our consciousness, are in some way “external” to it).

    That’s where your liver example is inappropriate for consciousness, as it is inappropriate for consciousness’ functions, like will (more on that later). Indeed, the liver is defined as an object: we perceive it b[y] the senses, we analyze it by senses and inference. The same word “liver” has been made to define an object, an observable. So. to assume the existence of a “liver spirit” is possible but, as you correctly state, not necessary.

    Not the same with consciousness. It is perceived from the beginning, and its name was created exactly to define that experience. Here exactly the contrary is true: the assumption that consciousness “has a strict relationship with the brain” is a later inference, certainly correct, but extremely indirect. And the assumption that consciousness “is produced by the brain”, which is all another thing, is a much more imaginative and bold hypothesis, and definitely a wrong one.

    So, when I say that my consciousness is certainly existing, while the external world is probably existing, I am not at all exaggerating.

    He elaborates these in 20.

    2] PHYSICS IS NOT COGNITION, THOUGH THEY MAY AND PLAINLY DO INTERACT:

    Further to all this, some related thoughts on the divergence between physical interactions and cognition, a key and highly relevant function of consciousness, may be helpful [Link here]:

    . . . cause-effect chains tracing to mechanical necessity and chance circumstances acting on matter and energy are utterly unconnected to the issue of making logically and empirically well-warranted assertions about states of affairs in the world. For a crude but illuminating further instance, neuronal impulses are in volts and are in specific locations in the body; but meaningfulness, codes, algorithms, truth and falsehood, propositions and their entailments simply are not like that. That is, mental concepts and constructs are radically different from physical entities, interactions and signals. So, it is highly questionable (thus needs to be shown not merely assumed or asserted) that such radical differences could or do credibly arise from mere interaction of physical components under only the forces of chance and blind mechanical necessity. For this demonstration, however, we seek in vain: the matter is routinely assumed or asserted away, often by claiming (contrary to the relevant history and philosophical considerations) that science can only properly explain by reference in the end to such ultimately physical-material forces. Anything less is “science-stopping.” But in fact, in say a typical real-world cybernetic system, the physical cause-effect chains around a control loop are set up by intelligent, highly skilled designers who take advantage of and manipulate a wide range of natural regularities. As a result, the sensors, feedback, comparator, and forward path signals, codes and linkages between elements in the system are intelligently organised to cause the desired interactions and outcomes of moving observed plant behaviour closer to the targetted path in the teeth of disturbances, drift in component parameters, and noise. And, that intelligent input is not simply reducible to the happenstance of accidental collocations and interactions of physical forces, bodies and materials.

    3] QUANTUM ROOM:

    Beyond that, it is worth the while to excerpt Harald Atmanspacher from an article in the Stanford Enc of Phil on consciousness:

    It is widely accepted that consciousness or, more generally, mental activity is in some way correlated to the behavior of the material brain. Since quantum theory is the most fundamental theory of matter that is currently available, it is a legitimate question to ask whether quantum theory can help us to understand consciousness . . . .

    The original motivation in the early 20th century for relating quantum theory to consciousness was essentially philosophical. It is fairly plausible that conscious free decisions (“free will”) are problematic in a perfectly deterministic world,[1] so quantum randomness might indeed open up novel possibilities for free will. (On the other hand, randomness is problematic for volition!)

    Quantum theory introduced an element of randomness standing out against the previous deterministic worldview, in which randomness, if it occurred at all, simply indicated our ignorance of a more detailed description (as in statistical physics). In sharp contrast to such epistemic randomness, quantum randomness in processes such as spontaneous emission of light, radioactive decay, or other examples of state reduction was considered a fundamental feature of nature, independent of our ignorance or knowledge. To be precise, this feature refers to individual quantum events, whereas the behavior of ensembles of such events is statistically determined. The indeterminism of individual quantum events is constrained by statistical laws.

    To that, Scott Calef in the Internet Enc of Phil adds as key subtlety:

    Keith Campbell writes, “The [Heisenberg-Einstein energy-time] indeterminacy of quantum laws means that any one of a range of outcomes of atomic events in the brain is equally compatible with known physical laws. And differences on the quantum scale can accumulate into very great differences in overall brain condition. So there is some room for spiritual activity even within the limits set by physical law. There could be, without violation of physical law, a general spiritual constraint upon what occurs inside the head.” (p.54). Mind could act upon physical processes by “affecting their course but not breaking in upon them.” (p.54). If this is true, the dualist could maintain the conservation principle but deny a fluctuation in energy because the mind serves to “guide” or control neural events by choosing one set of quantum outcomes rather than another. Further, it should be remembered that the conservation of energy is designed around material interaction; it is mute on how mind might interact with matter. After all, a Cartesian rationalist might insist, if God exists we surely wouldn’t say that He couldn’t do miracles just because that would violate the first law of thermodynamics, would we? [Article, “Dualism and Mind,” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.]

    In short, while blows to the head, sleep [and BTW, is not a dream state in some relevant respects a conscious one . . . ?], drugs and alcohol may indeed have various effects on consciousness, we still have not thereby reduced mind to matter or an emanation thereof driven by mechanical forces of chance and necessity.

    Indeed, we may now look at . . .

    4] MATERIAL BODIES AND MECHANICAL FORCES VS MIND AT WORK:

    We are facing an issue that that which strictly originates in forces of chance plus necessity loses credibility as rational inference or message.

    A thought experiment following Taylor is helpful:

    1 –> Suppose you were standing by a hillside, and saw a pile of rocks suffer an avalanche. Then, before your astonished eyes — with apologies to Richard Taylor and others as far back as Cicero — the falling rocks settle into a pattern of shapes, the following alphanumeric, Roman alphabet glyphs, as sequenced thusly:

    “Welcome to Wales.”

    2 –> Now, this is not at all forbidden by either physics or logic: per the principles that underly statistical thermodynamics, any particular configuration that is possible could in principle be produced by the agitation and interactions of the falling rocks. (However, it is so obviously vastly improbable that we suffer astonishment; for we know by abundant experience, that non-functional configurations are vastly more probable per chance + necessity, rare functional ones being far more probably induced by intelligent action. This is the point of Hoyle’s 747 by a tornado in a junkyard thought exercise.)

    3 –> Let us further excerpt, from my second linked above: “. . . the shape taken on by the cluster of rocks as they fall and settle is arbitrary, but [e] the meaning assigned to the apparent message is as a result of the imposition of symbolic meaning on certain glyphs that take up particular alphanumerical shapes under certain conventions. That is, it is a mental (and even social) act. One pregnant with the points that [f] language at its best refers accurately to reality, so that [g] we often trust its deliverances once we hold the source credible.”

    4 –> Continuing: “But, this brings up the key issue of credibility: should we believe the substantial contents of such an apparent message sourced in lucky noise rather than a purposeful arrangement? That is, would it be well-warranted to accept it as — here, echoing Aristotle in Metaphysics, 1011b — “saying of what is, that it is, and of what is not, that it is not”? (That is, is such an apparent message credibly a true message?) . . . ”

    5 –> Thus: “The answer is obvious: no. For . . . cause-effect chains tracing to mechanical necessity and chance circumstances acting on matter and energy are utterly unconnected to the issue of making logically and empirically well-warranted assertions about states of affairs in the world.”

    6 –> So, unless there is something crucially more than and distinct from physical interactions and effects thereof at work in our mind, rationality itself collapses. For, law is generally speaking deterministic or at least stochastic, and chance is arbitrary. For us to have rational, directed contingency, we need more than chance conditions + forces of mechanical necessity acting on material bodies.

    7 –> In short, the dominant evolutionary materialism paradigm inherently undermines and discredits the very rationality that strong AI adherents must use to formulate their theories.

    8 –> In short, GP’s doubts on strong AI are not merely a question of future progress of science, but of reductio ad absurdum, per self referential incoherence resting on the fact that we are conscious, reasoning, mental beings. Unless our thoughts are at once logical and factual not just blind results of arbitrary conditions and mechanical forces, we cannot trust the deliverances of reason to be any more credible than the “lucky noise” that in our thought experiment produced an apparent message.

    So, we must not lose sight of what is the truly central issue at stake.

    Trust that helps . . .

    GEM of TKI

  28. 28
    ribczynski says:

    crow thrall,

    Thank you for the link to Adler’s essay.

    Alas, Adler’s argument will not console those who believe in a soul or spirit that continues to think, feel, remember, etc., after death. Adler concedes that those things are impossible apart from the brain, which means that they cease at the time of death.

    Further, Adler’s claim that there must be an immaterial component to the intellect, above and beyond the brain itself, is easily refuted.

    To see why, look at Adler’s argument. In his own words:

    The argument hinges on two propositions. The first asserts that the concepts whereby we understand what different kinds or classes of things are like consist of meanings that are universal. The second proposition asserts that nothing that exists physically is ever actually universal. Anything that is embodied in matter exists as an individual, a singular thing that may also be a particular instance of this class or that.

    From these two propositions, the conclusion follows that our concepts, having universality, cannot be embodied in matter. If they were acts of a bodily organ such as the brain, they would exist in matter, and so could not have the requisite universality to function as concepts that enable us to think of universal objects, such as kinds or classes, quite different from the individual things that are objects of sense perception, imagination, and memory. The power of conceptual thought, by which we form and use concepts, must, therefore, be an immaterial power, one the acts of which are not acts of a bodily organ.

    Flaws in Adler’s argument:

    1. Not all classes are infinite. A finite class can be represented by an exhaustive enumeration of its members without any loss of universality. The argument fails here; Adler has overreached.

    2. Even infinite classes don’t necessarily require infinite representations. The class of all circles is infinite, but it can be represented very compactly in terms of words or equations.

    3a. A computer, despite being purely physical, can be programmed to enumerate the members of an infinite class. For example, it is trivial to program a computer to generate all possible finite strings composed of the letters a, b, and c.

    3b. A computer can also be programmed to decide whether a given string belongs to such an infinite class.

    4. Humans themselves don’t use infinite representations. For example, they don’t represent infinite classes by enumerating their members. If they did, then a human could recognize instantly whether an instance was a member of the class. They cannot do this.

    For a concrete example, think of the class of all chairs. We might recognize a particular wooden object as a chair, but what if the legs are all broken off and half the seat is missing? What about a rock with an indentation in its side? Does it only become a chair after someone sits in it? What about a series of bean bags, from juggler-size up to room size? Which ones are chairs, and which aren’t?

    The fact that humans have to stop, think, and argue about these questions shows that the class “chair” is neither exhaustively nor universally represented in the mind.

    Adler’s argument fails again.

  29. 29
    ribczynski says:

    kairosfocus,

    Your lengthy comment boils down to the following three points:

    1. Consciousness is primary.

    2. Blind physical processes cannot be trusted to yield reliable truths.

    3. Quantum indeterminacy provides a way for an immaterial mind to interact with the physical brain without violating the laws of physics.

    As I explained to gpuccio already, item #1 is true, but irrelevant. Yes, we perceive the world via our consciousness, but that in no way settles the question of whether the physical brain, on its own, can produce consciousness.

    Item #2 is an argument advanced by C.S. Lewis, Alvin Plantinga and others.

    It fails because:

    a. It claims that a physically-based intellect is untrustworthy, while ignoring the fact that an immaterial intellect fares no better. Suppose that you do have an immaterial intellect. How do you know that it is reliable?

    b. The dualist is even worse off than the materialist in this respect. The materialist can point to natural selection as a mechanism for improving the brain over time. A person who thinks it’s a good idea to play with the hungry lions is less likely to survive and produce offspring than one who keeps a wary distance.

    An immaterial intellect is not shaped by genetics, and therefore cannot benefit from natural selection. The dualist has to assume the basic reliability of the intellect with no justification, while the materialist can point to natural selection.

    c. We know that the human intellect is not perfectly reliable, so whether materialist or dualist, we all have to be careful, double-check ourselves, consult our fellows, solve problems by different methods to see if we get the same answer, etc.

    Item #3 is also a common argument, embraced most famously by Roger Penrose and Stuart Hameroff.

    Problems with it include:

    d. The fact that quantum randomness typically gets washed out and doesn’t manifest at the macroscopic level.

    e. Quantum events are random. There is therefore no reason to think that even if they weren’t washed out, they would give rise to ordered, purposive behavior.

    f. There is no independent evidence supporting the idea that quantum events dominate the brain’s functioning — just the desire on the part of some people to salvage the concept of an immaterial soul.

  30. 30
    kairosfocus says:

    R

    However tempting it may be, I am not interested, for want of time, in a lengthy back-forth.

    I will note on a few key defects in your response, leaving the rest to others:

    1] we perceive the world via our consciousness, but that in no way settles the question of whether the physical brain, on its own, can produce consciousness.

    You have this back ways: the fundamental relevance is that we perceive the physical word through the conscious inner life. Thus, on this topic, we must inevitably address self reference and what it can lead to: self referential absurdity.

    And, as the Welcome to wales example shows, step by step, that is precisely what happens when we try to account for the credibility of information per material objects interacting through forces of chance and necessity, as opposed to the work of intelligent directed contingency.

    We may not understand what mind is in detail, but we know that it is the premise of our rationality, and we know that it cannot be wholly accounted for on the grounds of chance + necessity without falling into self referential absurdity.

    So, we have to be open to a world in which there is something more than matter- energy- space- time and chance + mechanical necessity. That “something more” is per logical necessity im-material, however we may wish to label it.

    Next, we see that conscious, effectively reasoning mind is inherently not accounted for on the platform of physico-chemical interactions in the brain and its neurones and their networks, etc.

    Reppert, building on Lewis [as I noted in my previously linked], aptly summarises why:

    . . . 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. If anything not in space and time makes these thoughts the thoughts that they are, and if naturalism is true, then the propositional content is irrelevant to the causal transaction that produces the conclusion, and we do not have a case of rational inference. In rational inference, as 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.

    2] Suppose that you do have an immaterial intellect. How do you know that it is reliable?

    Of course, this is an invitation to infinite regress; in a context of self reference.

    It is also strawmannish, as we experience ourselves as being subject to “Humbling Truth no 1”: Error exists.

    Now, let us follow Josaih Royce: try to deny the truth claim — you will only instantiate it.

    Therefore we are well warranted to accept that we can discern truth sometimes but sometimes will err, so we need to be critically aware but open minded. That is independent of the constituents and composition of the mind-brain system.

    Strawman no 2: challenging me to show the reliability of <the immaterial mind.

    This works by ignoring experiential fact no 1 and also humbling truth no 1, and then converting what is properly a conclusion [we have minds that work well enough that they can be used to reason with some confidence, and caution; minds that cannot be wholly accounted for on the relevant physical bodies and forces we observe] into an asserted assumption that is then challenged as suspect.

    So, we point again the central, most relevant of all facts: we EXPERIENCE ourselves as rational and moral mental creatures, who though fallible at least sometimes think accurately, will to do the right and infer correctly.

    So, if one denies our provisional, fallible but potentially correctable rationality, one has ended all discussion.

    Through self-referential absurdity.

    3] The materialist can point to natural selection as a mechanism for improving the brain over time . . . . An immaterial intellect is not shaped by genetics, and therefore cannot benefit from natural selection.

    Of course this first neglects that natural selection is a culling filter not an innovator of the functionally specified complex information required for novel body plans. FSCI, per our reliable observation, comes from intelligence, not from forces of chance + necessity. So it does no such thing as “improving the brain over time.”

    And, that is exactly what Plantinga pointed out, at length, here.

    Excerpting:

    . . . evolution is interested (so to speak) only in adaptive behavior, not in true belief. Natural selection doesn’t care what you believe; it is interested only in how you behave. It selects for certain kinds of behavior, those that enhance fitness [e.g. Paul the hominoid runs away from tigeroids based on many different possible belief systems], which is a measure of the chances that one’s genes are widely represented in the next and subsequent generations . . . But then the fact that we have evolved guarantees at most that we behave in certain ways–ways that contribute to our (or our ancestors’) surviving and reproducing in the environment in which we have developed . . . . there are many belief-desire combinations that will lead to the adaptive action; in many of these combinations, the beliefs are false.

    So, we see here a strawman mischaracterisation of Plantinga in your: A person who thinks it’s a good idea to play with the hungry lions is less likely to survive and produce offspring than one who keeps a wary distance.

    But, as Adler exemplifies, a subtler strawman is at work. Who — apart form a caricature — says that “An immaterial intellect is not shaped by genetics”?

    –> You will observe that we accept that mind and brain are a system, and that there are thus influences from brain to mind as well as mind to brain [BOTH of which are empirically/ experientially well warranted]; as my originally linked appendix discusses.

    –> Cf especially my use of Derek Smith’s two-tier controller processor model for AI systems and cybernetics. First an i/o path control processor, then a supervisory processor that interacts with the first and through it with the plant.

    –> Obviously, if the brain is an i/o processor and interface, then its genetics will have an influence on the overall system, and insofar as NS works as a culling filter thereon, it would have some influence on the adapting outcome for populations over time.

    4 ] We know that the human intellect is not perfectly reliable, so whether materialist or dualist, we all have to be careful, double-check ourselves, consult our fellows, solve problems by different methods

    Now, what was shown already is that the physicalist account fails to address the radical divergence between physical properties and processes and symbolic- mental ones.

    Next, this actually acknowledges that we experience mind and must trust it to be sufficiently good and effective to work with it.

    So, if we know that such a mind is not credibly wholly accountable ion physical forces and materials, that leads to the logical inference that there is something more than such at work.

    5] Quantum events are random. There is therefore no reason to think that even if they weren’t washed out, they would give rise to ordered, purposive behavior

    Again, a strawmannish distortion.
    Kindly compare what was already cited at 27 point 3. I reproduce Calef on Campbell here:

    Keith Campbell writes, “The [Heisenberg-Einstein energy-time] indeterminacy of quantum laws means that any one of a range of outcomes of atomic events in the brain is equally compatible with known physical laws. And differences on the quantum scale can accumulate into very great differences in overall brain condition. So there is some room for spiritual activity even within the limits set by physical law. There could be, without violation of physical law, a general spiritual constraint upon what occurs inside the head.” (p.54). Mind could act upon physical processes by “affecting their course but not breaking in upon them.” (p.54). If this is true, the dualist could maintain the conservation principle but deny a fluctuation in energy because the mind serves to “guide” or control neural events by choosing one set of quantum outcomes rather than another. Further, it should be remembered that the conservation of energy is designed around material interaction; it is mute on how mind might interact with matter. After all, a Cartesian rationalist might insist, if God exists we surely wouldn’t say that He couldn’t do miracles just because that would violate the first law of thermodynamics, would we? [Article, “Dualism and Mind,” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.]

    This goes beyond “Quantum events are random.” Not quite: they are, below Einstein’s Energy-time product bound, indeterminate and virtual. Thus, we see that we could nopt only introduce undirected cotningency in that window, but also directed contingency.

    Thus, we have a context in which we may open up room for investigation.

    5] There is no independent evidence supporting the idea that quantum events dominate the brain’s functioning — just the desire on the part of some people to salvage the concept of an immaterial soul.

    Again, a strawman, this time, tied to an ad hominem.

    Observe, again, what was actually observed by Harald Atmanspacher:

    It is widely accepted that consciousness or, more generally, mental activity is in some way correlated to the behavior of the material brain. Since quantum theory is the most fundamental theory of matter that is currently available, it is a legitimate question to ask whether quantum theory can help us to understand consciousness . . . .

    In short there is plainly far more than an attempt to salvage an alleged dubious idea; there is an application of the current best insight on the world of the very small, to the question of our experience of Fact no 1: conscious mind in action.

    I leave the rest to others.

    GEM of TKI

  31. 31

    ribczynski wrote:

    Why, then, don’t people who have experienced NDEs and OBEs report that their vision and hearing were impaired?

    To the contrary, they typically report that their senses were enhanced during the experience.

    If we use the hammer analogy and the link I provided, then we see that there is no impairment of strength in using mere hands; nails can be driven through skillets.

    So I surmise it is with souls, given the evidence.

    So it is not vision nor any other particular sense that is made easier by possessing a body.

  32. 32
    crow thrall says:

    Rib, you clearly don’t understand what a universal concept is. It has nothing to do with infinite sets which Adler never mentioned. A universal concept is the intelligible essence of a thing stripped by the intellect from its accidents and conditions. In language they are represented by general nouns like dog or tree ect. This link was not directed to you but for the general interest, as it represents a different perspective from those being offered. The fact that you feel the need to overreach your ignorance and comment on something that you did not understand speaks volumes.

  33. 33
    ribczynski says:

    anryoldfatman wrote:

    So it is not vision nor any other particular sense that is made easier by possessing a body.

    If so, then why do our bodies have eyes, optic nerves, and a huge and elaborate visual cortex? These are expensive structures to build and maintain. If you are correct, they are an unnecessary and wasteful extravagance. Why are we saddled with them?

    And why do most blind people spend the rest of their lives sightless if the soul is capable of seeing the entire time?

    It makes no sense.

  34. 34
    ribczynski says:

    crow thrall wrote:

    Rib, you clearly don’t understand what a universal concept is. It has nothing to do with infinite sets which Adler never mentioned. A universal concept is the intelligible essence of a thing stripped by the intellect from its accidents and conditions. In language they are represented by general nouns like dog or tree ect.

    crow thrall,

    Look at what Adler wrote:


    The argument hinges on two propositions. The first asserts that the concepts whereby we understand what different kinds or classes of things are like consist of meanings that are universal. The second proposition asserts that nothing that exists physically is ever actually universal. Anything that is embodied in matter exists as an individual, a singular thing that may also be a particular instance of this class or that.

    From these two propositions, the conclusion follows that our concepts, having universality, cannot be embodied in matter. If they were acts of a bodily organ such as the brain, they would exist in matter, and so could not have the requisite universality to function as concepts that enable us to think of universal objects, such as kinds or classes, quite different from the individual things that are objects of sense perception, imagination, and memory.

    Judging from the quote, Adler clearly believes that the only way to represent a class using matter is to represent every instance separately. Otherwise, why would a material representation lack the requisite universality?

    What he’s missing is that our minds don’t represent large or infinite classes by enumeration. Think of the class of all circles. When we think of this class, we aren’t holding all members of this class in our minds simultaneously. Instead, we are thinking of the characteristic that unites them: the fact that for each circle, all of its points are equidistant from a given point, the center.

    Nothing about this characteristic defies material representation.

    Adler is simply wrong.

  35. 35

    If so, then why do our bodies have eyes, optic nerves, and a huge and elaborate visual cortex? These are expensive structures to build and maintain. If you are correct, they are an unnecessary and wasteful extravagance. Why are we saddled with them?

    And why do most blind people spend the rest of their lives sightless if the soul is capable of seeing the entire time?

    Why do hammers have fiberglass handles, claws, rubber grips, a steel head, etc.? These are expensive structures to manufacture. If you can drive nails with your hands, they are an unnecessary and wasteful extravagance. Why are we saddled with hammers?

    And why do most people without hammers spend their lives never driving a nail if their hands are capable of doing so the entire time?

    It makes no sense.

    You’re right, it makes no sense from a materialist standpoint. Just like driving nails with your hands doesn’t make sense.

  36. 36
    ribczynski says:

    angryoldfatman,

    If hammers are so unnecessary, let’s see you frame a house, driving every nail with your bare hands.

    The fact is that hammers work better than bare hands, which is why we use them.

    Yet people experiencing NDEs and OBEs report that they see just fine without the help of their bodies, so those expensive eyes, optic nerves, and visual cortices do nothing for them — unlike hammers, which are useful tools.

    And I noticed that you avoided this question:
    Why do most blind people spend the rest of their lives sightless if the soul is capable of seeing the entire time?

    Good grief. At some point you have to ask yourself this question:
    “Am I so determined to continue believing in a soul that I will deny the obvious?”

  37. 37
    ribczynski says:

    kairosfocus,

    You claim that the idea of an embodied consciousness leads to “self-referential absurdity”, but you don’t demonstrate this.

    The idea of a brain thinking about itself is no more “self-referentially absurd” than the idea of an eye looking at itself in a mirror.

  38. 38
    tribune7 says:

    The idea of a brain thinking about itself is no more “self-referentially absurd” than the idea of an eye looking at itself in a mirror.

    By George! I think he’s starting to get it!!

  39. 39
    crow thrall says:

    “Judging from the quote, Adler clearly believes that the only way to represent a class using matter is to represent every instance separately. Otherwise, why would a material representation lack the requisite universality?”

    You are still attributing things to Adler that he does not say. The argument he is making is that all material things are particulars while our general concepts are universal applicable to all members in the class and therefore not material.
    The distinction is between particular/material and universal/immaterial. Our concepts being acts of our intellect would then be immaterial as well and so our intellect would be immaterial. The major weakness of this argument in my opinion is that while our concepts are universal the acts of our intellect are particular. So I dont think that the argument presented here is completely sound. Adler does expand on this argument in some books if anyone is interested. “The difference of man and the difference it makes” and “intellect”

  40. 40
    ribczynski says:

    crow thrall wrote:

    The argument he is making is that all material things are particulars while our general concepts are universal applicable to all members in the class and therefore not material.

    The concept of a circle is that it consists of all points equidistant from a given point, the center. This is universally applicable to all circles, but nothing about it precludes material representation.

    Anyway, I’m glad to see you concede that Adler’s argument is not sound. I concur.

  41. 41
    gpuccio says:

    ribczynski:

    I had no time to answer earlier, and I see that the discussion has advance in the meantime. I have not the time now to catch up with all that has been said, and especially with Adler’s essay. But for now, I would like to go on from where we had stopped (your post #16).

    First of all, I am happy that you are doing your best to understand my arguments, and even if in the end you don’t agree with them, or find them valuable, at least you are acknowledging that they exist.

    So, let’s proceed this way. I will add just a few comments on the “brain produces consciousness” issue, and then will consider it as “discussed” (unless you want to add new angles). Then I will pass to your other points, and I ask you to consider that obviously some of my views are inevitably related, more or less, to my first argument.

    So, what can I say to make my argument more clear? You say:

    “You seem to be saying that because we have no successful theory of strong AI, it is therefore impossible for the physical brain to be the seat of consciousness”

    First of all, I have to say that I do believe that the brain is the “seat” of consciousness, at least during normal human life, but I don’t believe that it is the “cause” if consciousness. But probably you meant “the cause”, and so I will go on from that assumption.

    Maybe I have not been precise enough on one point: my purpose is not to demonstrate logically (as in a mathematical theorem) that it is “impossible” that the brain is the cause of consciousness. I am not interested in that kind of affirmations, because I think they have no application to the empirical world. So, if your problem is that you want to go on thinking that it is “in principle possible” that the brain is the cause of consciousness, be my guest. I am not interested in that.

    As it should be clear from all that I have said, my main approach is empirical, and tries to stay empirical as far as possible. That’s one reason why I prefer speaking of consciousness and not of a “soul”, and even the word “immaterial” would have to be substituted by “not explained by a material theory”.

    In other words, my reasoning is very simple, and, I believe, very pragmatic. Let’s try to state it again in brief:

    1) Consciousness is an empirical fact, and a fundamental one. Therefore, science should try to explain it as well as possible. You seem to repeatedly understate this point, but I think you miss its epistemological importance. In science, you cannot simply do without a theory of consciousness, because it is one of the main parts of reality, just as a physicist cannot today do without a theory of dark energy, because it is very likely that it is one of the main components of the universe. So, we need some theory of consciousness, otherwise our maps of reality are largely incomplete.

    2) Thee are two ways to build a scientific theory of consciousness: try to explain it as derived by other principles (matter, energy, and their related laws) or considering it a different principle, and trying to understand its properties and its interactions with the rest of reality.
    The first option leads to materialist and reductionist theories of consciousness. Of these, essentially strong AI is the only one which has a minimum of internal structure.
    the second option leads to non reductionists theories of consciousness, where it is described and investigated in order to understand it as an independent principle, and to understand its interactions with matter.

    3) Great part of my post #20 has been dedicated to showing that strong AI is a failure, because it has none of the characteristics of a good scientific theory: it has no empirical support, and its logical structure does not explain any of the properties of the object which it tries to understand, that is consciousness itself. As you have made no specific comment about my arguments against strong AI, I will assume that in some way you are partially accepting them.

    4) On the contrary, non materialistic theories of consciousness can tell us much about its nature, and its interaction with matter. Obviously, many different non materialistic approaches to consciousness exist, but that variety is a sign of richness, not of confusion. The fact is that, when we observe consciousness without a reductionist prejudice, it uncovers many important secrets. Even materialistic, but non completely reductionist, approaches to consciousness, like classical psychoanalysis, which I am not a big fan of, have at least given us interesting concepts, like the existence of a subconscious mind.

    5) So my point is: materialist theories of consciousness (those which try to understand it in terms of the laws of matter) have failed, and explain nothing. Non materialistic theories instead (those which try to understand its internal laws considering it a special empirical principle), while not being perfect, are more appropriate to investigate the subject, and yield some results.
    In that sense, material theories of the brain do not explain consciousness, and the best scientific explanation is to consider it as a different principle in reality. You can argue that, maybe, some time there will be a materialistic theory which explains consciousness: I can concede that only as a pure possibility, without any scientific relevance. In principle, I may think that anything could be explained in a way that I like, but unless and until I can produce valid reasons to believe that, mine will remain a personal fantasy, and not a scientific theory.

    6) Finally, your point about the aurora borealis has the same flaw of your point about liver. Both the aurora borealis and the liver are perceived by the senses. They are part of the objective world. It is perfectly reasonable to look for objective explanations of them, even if at present not yet found.
    It is not the same for consciousness. that is he essence of my first statement about consciousness. Consciousness is objectively subjective. It has properties and internal laws which are completely different from those of the external objects we perceive by the senses. You may not agree (your right), but please, don’t make in your next post a third example saying that what I affirm about consciousness is like saying that as in 1500 they had no theory of chemical reactions, they would think that they cannot have a physical cause. We could go on forever that way, and we both have better things to do.

    Well, I am finished on that. For me, it is “discussed”.

    Let’s go on.

    You say:

    “Take a look at consciousness. It goes away when our brains enter a state called sleep. A blow to the head can cause it to vanish, and particular brain injuries can cause it to vanish permanently, even though the rest of the brain and body continue to function correctly. Alcohol changes consciousness, and too much alcohol eliminates it entirely. Drugs affect it.”

    That’s an interesting point. I have already admitted that it is absolutely trivial that consciousness is strongly influenced by matter. We have always known that, and that has never been a problem for all those who during the centuries have entertained non material theories of consciousness (that is, most philosophers and scientists in the course of human history). In the general opinion, the prevalence of a materialistic theory of consciousness in modern times is due to science: modern scientific discoveries would have brought a lot of evidence in favor of a materialistic theory of consciousness.

    I have tried to show, with much detail, in my post #20, that that is false. there is nothing essentially new today about the problem of consciousness which comes from scientific discoveries. Not empirical facts (the discoveries of neurophysiology give us no essentially new information, in that regard, beyond what we have always known about the connection between consciousness and the physical body); not theoretical arguments (AI theory is a failure). So, what is happening today? Have humans suddenly become more intelligent? Are our scientists or philosopher so much better than, say, Plato or Shankara or St. Augustine, that they draw so different brilliant conclusions from the same data?
    I don’t think so. Non materialistic theories of consciousness remain the best. And I am honored of being on the same part of Plato, Shankara and St. Augustine, and not of Dawkins, Dennet and Hitchens.

    So, we agree that consciousness is heavily influenced by matter. It work both ways. Events in consciousness do influence matter (see the consequences of many human theories on the world).

    But I have to disagree with you on many specific points about consciousness:

    – I don’t believe that “It goes away when our brains enter a state called sleep”

    – I don’t believe that “A blow to the head can cause it to vanish, and particular brain injuries can cause it to vanish permanently, even though the rest of the brain and body continue to function correctly.”

    – I do believe that “Alcohol changes consciousness”, but…

    – I don’t believe that “too much alcohol eliminates it entirely”

    – Finally, it is perfectly true that “Drugs affect it”.

    Perhaps you can see my point, but I will state it explicitly: I think you confound “consciousness” with “waking consciousness”. That’s a serious mistake.

    Consciousness, in its human form (that is, as long as we are alive in a material body) exists in different “states”. A very simple consideration will show that we have at least three fundamental states of consciousness:

    a) waking state

    b) sleep with dreams

    c) sleep without dreams

    We have many others, less universal or common: farmacological anesthesia, hypnosis, mystic experiences, coma of different levels, hallucinations, NDEs, and so on.

    My point is: the various states of consciousness are often very different one from the other, but consciousness is always there. It cannot be annihilated. It just passes from one state to another, and often the following state has no clear understanding or recollection of the previous one.

    Sleep is a good example. You say that “(consciousness) goes away when our brains enter a state called sleep”. That is not true. At least for sleep with dreams, it is easy to verify that consciousness does not go away. Even if we completely forget most of our dreams, we have sufficient evidence from the limited part we remember. For sleep without dreams, evidence is more difficult, but I do believe that consciousness is there, in a less formal and deeply resting state, and i don’t think you can demonstrate the contrary.

    A blow to the head can certainly momentarily (or sometimes permanently) affect normal waking consciousness. But not consciousness itself. And so on.

    “Waking consciousness” is only one form of consciousness. it is the one we most easily recognize and remember. t is the basis of what we usually recognize as our personal ego. But it is not the whole reality. Indeed, it is probably a small part of it. Even materialistic views like psychoanalysis have stressed the great importance of the subconscious mind (please notice that I purposefully don’t call it “unconscious”)in human reality.

    You say:

    “The evidence is overwhelming that consciousness depends on the brain.”

    I will reformulate that:

    “The evidence is overwhelming that consciousness, in normal human life, is strongly influenced by the activity of the brain, and strongly influences it.”

    In that form, and only in that form, I agree.

    Finally, my comments to your 7 points:

    1) “dualists haven’t explained how souls or spirits give rise to consciousness”

    Again, my point is not that “souls” or “spirits”, whatever we mean with that, “give rise” to consciousness. I am not affirming that consciousness is some function or consequence of an immaterial principle. I am stating that consciousness “is” an immaterial principle. The transcendental subject perceives, because it is a subject. There is no other way of saying it. There is no problem of “giving rise” to consciousness. Consciousness exists (empirical fact), perceives (empirical fact) and is immaterial (the most reasonable scientific inference).

    2) “The dualist must explain how the immaterial soul or spirit interacts with and controls the physical body. Materialists have no such problem. ”

    We must explain how consciousness interacts with the physical body. But, once admitted that consciousness is a principle of nature (like matter and energy and law), to “explain” does not mean any more “to explain it away in material terms”, but rather “to understand how the inner laws of consciousness interact with the inner laws of matter, without contradicting what we know about those laws.” Such an “explanation” is not easily attainable, but we can certainly understand much if we research and reflect with an unbiased attitude. On the contrary, we will never understand anything of the laws of consciousness by denying them and by trying to reduce them to a completely different, and inappropriate, set of laws.

    And let’s remember, materialist do have the problem of explaining consciousness in material terms.

    3) “If the will is even partly dependent on the physical brain, and can be disrupted by damage to the brain, then in what sense can we continue to attribute moral responsibility to the soul?”

    I have already answered to that in post #11. For your convenience, I quote here what I wrote:

    “Wow, that’s a very big issue! But a brief answer is due.
    For me, “will” and “free will” are two different concepts. Will is the general faculty of consciousness to initiate outputs. But those outputs are not necessarily “free”. They are often influenced by many external conditions, and by many internal conditions (including conditions of the brain and mind). The concept of “free will” is that, even if our consciousness is always influenced by many things, it is never completely “conditioned” by them (in a totally determinist way). There is always some space for freedom, even if, in many contexts, it may appear really small. So, the outputs of consciousness (will) are never totally deterministic, even if they are heavily influenced by other conditions. We are not totally free (we cannot do things in a completely free context, independent of our environment, of our body, of our brain, of our mind), but we are never totally slave. Because our consciousness is transcendental, and is endowed with free will. That’s also the origin of responsibility.”

    4) “Why have eyes and ears if NDEs and OBEs show that your soul can see and hear without them?”

    I will leave that for the end.

    5) “Why, in lab experiments, have OBE “experts” never been able to demonstrate the ability to travel to a remote location and read a message that has been left there?”

    I don’t know to what experiments you refer here. In natural OBEs, perception of objective events is sometimes documented. Of course, in this kind of things it is easy to be hyperskeptic. But why should the experiencer of an OBE be necessarily able to “travel to a remote location”? I don’t understand your point here.

    6) I think that goes with point 4. In a moment.

    7) “If cognition, emotions, memory, perception, and will all depend on the brain, and can be completely disrupted by changes or damage to the brain, then why do so many people believe in a separable soul that can go on experiencing all of those things when the body is dead?”

    I think I will try to answer here to this, together with points 4 and 6.

    It is not a simple answer, because it implies some more detailed theory of the relationships between consciousness, mind and body. I have no pretense to give an universal answer. In a sense, I will not even give a real answer. I will just try to suggest a possible, and very generic model, to show that “it is possible” to answer. You must understand that you are asking very deep questions, even if your main purpose is to show apparent contradictions in a non materialist approach to consciousness.

    What I suggest is that you consider a model where we can distinguish at least three different levels of experience. Let’s call them consciousness, mind and body (for our purposes, essentially the brain).

    1) Consciousness we define as the principle of which I have spoken so long: a transcendental subjective I, which perceives all the modifications and relates them to itself. It is a purely subjective principle (in a very objective sense). It exists, is not generated by the brain, and in human life it perceives mainly what comes to it through the brain and mind. It exists in various state, essentially determined by what it perceives, but it can never be completely suppressed.

    2) The mind we define as the whole set of subjective procedures and functions “used” by consciousness and “perceived” by consciousness. Let’s say that, in this model, the mind is not generated by the brain, but is strongly linked to it, and is anyway formal. It has laws, procedures, functions, contents, mechanisms. The important point is that the mind, while being separate from the transcendental subject, is not the brain. It can exist without the material brain, although in human life it is strictly connected to it. You can ask what is the nature of this “mind”. Let’s say it is not material, but still “formal”. I am afraid we cannot go deeper than that. Remember, I am offering these considerations not to convince you, but only to show that some of your difficulties are no more difficulties in a different model of reality.

    My anser to your points should now be clear. In NDEs, consciousness is still expressing itself through the mind, but no more (transiently) through the brain. For instance, you ask about sensations. In normal human lives, sensations come through the physical senses, and are elaborated in the cerbral cortex. And then? Then they “pass” to the mind, which transforms them in formal modification appropriate to be perceived by the I. The mind creates a reality from outer impulses, and in the state of waking consciousness it largely employs the brain to do that.

    In dreams, the mind creates a reality without outer impulses (or with a minimum contribution from them), and still employs the brain, but in a much lesser way.

    In NDEs, the connection between brain and mind is severed to a point which is not usually reached in normal states of consciousness: indeed, the brain is as “dead” as it can be, out of the state of final irreversible death. And what happens to consciousness?

    It still perceives through the mind. But the mind is in a different condition, having been momentarily “detached” form the brain. You say that in such a condition the mind should be “less functional”, having lost its physical part. but that’s not what happens. The mind feels greater freedom, greater satisfaction, in that state. And it goes on perceiving, only it perceives different things. Non material things, but things which, like the mind, are “formal”. And, in some conditions, it can even perceive parts of the material world, even without the help of the physical senses, just using the mental senses (OBEs). Remember that OBEs are only a small part of NDEs, and usually happen at the beginning of them.
    But deep NDEs go far beyond. And they are deeply moving, involving, and usually gratifying experiences.
    So, as far as NDEs are involved, again you have only three alternatives:

    a) Denying them (difficult to do, today they are a well established empirical ensemble of facts).

    b) Explaining them away as a product of the brain (even a greater failure than AI theories: materialistic explanation of NDEs are almost ridiculous)

    c) Accept them as true experiences of the consciousness and mind, and try to learn from them. And believe me, there is much to learn.

  42. 42
    ribczynski says:

    gpuccio wrote:

    Maybe I have not been precise enough on one point: my purpose is not to demonstrate logically (as in a mathematical theorem) that it is “impossible” that the brain is the cause of consciousness.

    Then it was probably not a good idea for you to state that it is impossible:

    Explaining it [consciousness] away as a function of the brain is impossible.

    You wrote:

    I think you confound “consciousness” with “waking consciousness”. That’s a serious mistake.

    Consciousness, in its human form (that is, as long as we are alive in a material body) exists in different “states”. A very simple consideration will show that we have at least three fundamental states of consciousness:

    a) waking state

    b) sleep with dreams

    c) sleep without dreams

    We have many others, less universal or common: farmacological anesthesia, hypnosis, mystic experiences, coma of different levels, hallucinations, NDEs, and so on.

    My point is: the various states of consciousness are often very different one from the other, but consciousness is always there.

    You must be joking. You’ve just defined “conscious” as being synonymous with “alive”. If you’re going to abuse the language this way, we have absolutely no basis for a continued discussion.

    From Alice in Wonderland:

    `When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

  43. 43
    kairosfocus says:

    ribczynski (and so GP and onlookers):

    First, on a point of correction re 42: GP — a medical practitioner BTW, who plainly speaks from both training and experience — has not conflated being conscious with being alive. Instead, he has spoken to being alive as a human who exhibits subjective self awareness and cognition. This even comes out explicitly in the cite you made just above.

    In short, it seems that — again — it is your consistent overlooking of our experiential fact no 1 (our first person subjectivity including consciousness and mentality) that leads to a breakdown in your analyses.

    Also, I see I need to add further details on my own remarks (at this stage, perhaps more for the benefits of the onlooker).

    So:

    1] I see, in 37, your: You claim that the idea of an embodied consciousness leads to “self-referential absurdity”, but you don’t demonstrate this.

    Actually, I have, TWICE: in outline at 27 (with supplements at 30) and in the links provided in 27, in more details here.

    Further to this, GP has provided several serious posts which come at essentially the same result from his own angle.

    For instance, re-excerpting Reppert from 30, following Lewis et al:

    . . . 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. If anything not in space and time makes these thoughts the thoughts that they are, and if naturalism is true, then the propositional content is irrelevant to the causal transaction that produces the conclusion, and we do not have a case of rational inference. In rational inference, as 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.

    In short, once we imprison mind within mechanical cause-effect chains tracing to chance + necessity [by locking it up in the brain], we end up in not only self-reference (we are using minds to think about minds), but we end up in implying that lucky noise plus mechanical forces give rise not just to apparent messages [despite all odds] but real, trustworthy ones. And the “Welcome to Wales” example shows why that simply will not do.

    If handing over the mind to the control and determination of chance + necessity acting in the brain, leads to a credible account of rationality, why then did my Marxist interlocutors of old think it adequate to undermine opposed arguments — of course IMO, self referentially absurdly — by tracing them to the determinism of class conditioning? Behaviourists, to operant and classical conditioning [so that it is apt to ask Skinner if he is simply another rat trapped in the cosmic maze]?

    And Crick, to electrical and chemical activity in neural networks in the CNS?

    At the risk of giving too much, I excerpt from the linked on the case of Crick, as it is so tellingly classic:

    k] . . . something is very wrong with Sir Francis Crick’s remark in his 1994 The Astonishing Hypothesis, to the effect that:

    “You,” your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules . . .

    l] Philip Johnson duly corrected him by asking whether he would be willing to preface his own writings thusly:

    “I, Francis Crick, my opinions and my science, and even the thoughts expressed in this book, consist of nothing more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.” [Reason in the Balance, 1995.]

    m] In short, as Prof Johnson then went on to say:

    “[t]he plausibility of materialistic determinism requires that an implicit exception be made for the theorist.”

    n] Thus, unless evident “fact no 1” — that we are conscious, mental creatures who at least some of the time have freedom to think, intend, decide, speak, act and even write based on the logic and evidence of the situation — is true, the project of rationality itself is at an end. That is, self-referential absurdity is the dagger pointing to the heart of any such evolutionary materialistic determinism as seeks to explain “all” — including mind — by “nothing but” natural forces acting on matter and energy, in light of chance boundary conditions . . .

    Thus, your response at 37 comes across as a dismissal by unsupported assertions, instead of an engagement on the merits.

    This comes out further in the next point you made:

    2] The idea of a brain thinking about itself is no more “self-referentially absurd” than the idea of an eye looking at itself in a mirror.

    Of course, eyes do not look at themselves in mirrors, and brains do not think about themselves. WE do: conscious, mentally active, intelligent beings.

    We often use our eyes to look at things, including the eye itself in a mirror.

    Just so, we use our cognitive faculties, which do find a seat in the brain, to reflect on cognition and consciousness. Thus, we exhibit self- awareness and self- transcendence.

    In short, the central fact of our experience — conscious, intelligent, cognitive subjectivity — is again being passed over without recognition.

    Once we correct that, we can then see that:

    1 –> We know, immediately, that chance + necessity, acting on a pile of rocks on a hillside, can make them roll down the hillside and take up an arbitrary conformation. There thus is no in-principle reason to reject them taking up the shape: “WELCOME TO WALES” any more than any other configuration. Especially if, say, by extremely good luck we have seen the rocks fall and take up this shape for ourselves. [If that ever happens to you, though, change your travel plans and head straight for Las Vegas before your “hot streak” runs out!]

    2 –> Now, while you are packing for Vegas, let’s think a bit: [a] the result of the for- the- sake- of- argument stroke of good luck is an apparent message, which was [b] formed by chance + necessity only acting on matter and energy across space and time. That is, [c] it would be lucky noise at work. Let us observe, also: [d] the shape taken on by the cluster of rocks as they fall and settle is arbitrary, but [e] the meaning assigned to the apparent message is as a result of the imposition of symbolic meaning on certain glyphs that take up particular alphanumerical shapes under certain conventions. That is, it is a mental (and even social) act. One pregnant with the points that [f] language at its best refers accurately to reality, so that [g] we often trust its deliverances once we hold the source credible. [Indeed, in the original form of the example, if one believes that s/he is entering Wales on the strength of seeing such a rock arrangement, s/he would be grossly irrational to also believe the intelligible and aptly functional arrangement of rocks to have been accidental.]

    3 –> But, this brings up the key issue of credibility: should we believe the substantial contents of such an apparent message sourced in lucky noise rather than a purposeful arrangement? That is, would it be well-warranted to accept it as — here, echoing Aristotle in Metaphysics, 1011b — “saying of what is, that it is, and of what is not, that it is not”? (That is, is such an apparent message credibly a true message?)

    4 –> The answer is obvious: no. For, the adjusted example aptly illustrates how cause-effect chains tracing to mechanical necessity and chance circumstances acting on matter and energy are utterly unconnected to the issue of making logically and empirically well-warranted assertions about states of affairs in the world. For a crude but illuminating further instance, neuronal impulses are in volts and are in specific locations in the body; but meaningfulness, codes, algorithms, truth and falsehood, propositions and their entailments simply are not like that. That is, mental concepts and constructs are radically different from physical entities, interactions and signals. So, it is highly questionable (thus needs to be shown not merely assumed or asserted) that such radical differences could or do credibly arise from mere interaction of physical components under only the forces of chance and blind mechanical necessity. For this demonstration, however, we seek in vain: the matter is routinely assumed or asserted away, often by claiming (contrary to the relevant history and philosophical considerations) that science can only properly explain by reference in the end to such ultimately physical-material forces. Anything less is “science-stopping.” But in fact, in say a typical real-world cybernetic system, the physical cause-effect chains around a control loop are set up by intelligent, highly skilled designers who take advantage of and manipulate a wide range of natural regularities. As a result, the sensors, feedback, comparator, and forward path signals, codes and linkages between elements in the system are intelligently organised to cause the desired interactions and outcomes of moving observed plant behaviour closer to the targetted path in the teeth of disturbances, drift in component parameters, and noise. And, that intelligent input is not simply reducible to the happenstance of accidental collocations and interactions of physical forces, bodies and materials . . . .

    7 –> Indeed, Richard Taylor speaks to this too:

    Just as it is possible for a collection of stones to present a novel and interesting arrangement on the side of a hill . . . so it is possible for our such things as our own organs of sense [and faculties of cognition etc.] to be the accidental and unintended results, over ages of time, of perfectly impersonal, non-purposeful forces. In fact, ever so many biologists believe that this is precisely what has happened . . . . [But] [w]e suppose, without even thinking about it, that they [our sense organs etc] reveal to us things that have nothing to do with themselves, their structures or their origins . . . . [However] [i]t would be irrational for one to say both that his sensory and cognitive faculties had a natural, non-purposeful origin and also that they reveal some truth with respect to something other than themselves . . . [For, if] we do assume that they are guides to some truths having nothing to do with themselves, then it is difficult to see how we can, consistently with that supposition [and, e.g. by comparison with the case of the stones on a hillside], believe them to have arisen by accident, or by the ordinary workings of purposeless forces, even over ages of time. [Metaphysics, 2nd Edn, (Prentice-Hall, 1974), pp 115 – 119.] . . . .

    12 –> So, as the Wales example and the debates it sparked at UD have brought out, the inference to design highlights the radical difference between [1] what chance + necessity acting on matter + energy on the gamut of our observed universe can credibly do (up to an apparent message by lucky noise) and [2] what mind routinely does (i.e. routinely creating real messages). But [3] it thus also has in it an aspect that points to the nature and origin of mind (and, thence, of morals as a particularly important function of mind). Indeed, [4] in the cosmological form, the inference to design also points to the serious possibility that mind is the source of matter, not the converse. Inter alia, this would make it utterly unsurprising that — as we experience it every time we decide to speak or type on a keyboard, or click a mouse button or the like — mind can interact causally with matter, even though we may not currently know how to explain just how that happens. We know that mind, even though as yet we do not really know how mind . . . .

    . . . [evolutionary] materialism [a worldview that often likes to wear the mantle of “science”] . . . argues that the cosmos is the product of chance interactions of matter and energy, within the constraint of the laws of nature. Therefore, all phenomena in the universe, without residue, are determined by the working of purposeless laws acting on material objects, under the direct or indirect control of chance.

    But human thought, clearly a phenomenon in the universe, must now fit into this picture. Thus, what we subjectively experience as “thoughts” and “conclusions” can only be understood materialistically as unintended by-products of the natural forces which cause and control the electro-chemical events going on in neural networks in our brains. (These forces are viewed as ultimately physical, but are taken to be partly mediated through a complex pattern of genetic inheritance [“nature”] and psycho-social conditioning [“nurture”], within the framework of human culture [i.e. socio-cultural conditioning and resulting/associated relativism].)

    Therefore, if materialism is true, the “thoughts” we have and the “conclusions” we reach, without residue, are produced and controlled by forces that are irrelevant to purpose, truth, or validity. Of course, the conclusions of such arguments may still happen to be true, by lucky coincidence — but we have no rational grounds for relying on the “reasoning” that has led us to feel that we have “proved” them. And, if our materialist friends then say: “But, we can always apply scientific tests, through observation, experiment and measurement,” then we must note that to demonstrate that such tests provide empirical support to their theories requires the use of the very process of reasoning which they have discredited!

    Thus, evolutionary materialism reduces reason itself to the status of illusion. But, immediately, that includes “Materialism.” For instance, Marxists commonly deride opponents for their “bourgeois class conditioning” — but what of the effect of their own class origins? Freudians frequently dismiss qualms about their loosening of moral restraints by alluding to the impact of strict potty training on their “up-tight” critics — but doesn’t this cut both ways? And, should we not simply ask a Behaviourist whether s/he is simply another operantly conditioned rat trapped in the cosmic maze?

    In the end, materialism is based on self-defeating logic . . . . [from the linked discussion]

    In short, once we revert to evolutionary materialistic explanations, slowly but surely, step by step, we end up in self referential absurdity.

    As they say out here in the Caribbean at folk dances: wheel and tun and come again.

    GEM of TKI

  44. 44
    gpuccio says:

    ribczynski:

    Maybe we have “no basis for a continued discussion”: that is becoming my impression too. Anyway, I don’t think that I have abused the language.

    When I said that “Explaining it [consciousness] away as a function of the brain is impossible.” I meant just that, and I state that again. I have only specified, seeing what your objections are, that I am speaking from an empirical and scientific point of view: I am absolutely convinced that there cannot exist a scientific empirical explanation of consciousness on a materialistic basis. As all scientific affirmations, that affirmation remains always falsifiable. Therefore, I wanted to specify that it was not my purpose to “demonstrate logically (as in a mathematical theorem)” such an affirmation. I have tried to demonstrate it empirically, scientifically, not “logically”; in other words, my affirmation that “explaining it [consciousness] away as a function of the brain is impossible” is a scientific inference, and not a mathematical deductive demonstration. Can you understand that? Indeed, my words were: “Maybe I have not been precise enough on one point: my purpose is not to demonstrate logically (as in a mathematical theorem) that it is “impossible” that the brain is the cause of consciousness.” which should have been clear enough, if you had read it with more attention. But I hope now it is clear.

    Regarding the second point, I don’t understand what you mean. I am not joking at all. I am very serious. I have stated that “consciousness” does not mean “waking consciousness”. I state that “consciousness” means that there is a subject who perceives something. That “something” can be different things: reconstructions of the external world, like in waking consciousness, reconstruction of a mental world, like in dreams, a deep sens of rather informal peace, like in deep sleep without dreams, and so on. But, if a subject is there and is perceiving something, that is consciousness anyway. That is perfectly consistent with the definition I gave of consciousness, and with all the reasonings I have made.

    You say that such a definition makes “conscious” synonymous with “alive”. I don’t know why you say so. I have never given any definition of “alive”, and I would not even try. “Life” is much more difficult to define than “consciousness”. I can’t understand why you say that. Please, give your own definitions if you want.

    So, you may not agree with what I say, but why do you say that I “abuse the language”? That is simply not true. When a word can mean different things in common language, I try to carefully define it in my contest, and that’s exactly what I have done in my posts to you. I have always spoken of consciousness simply as the existence of a perceiving subject, of a perceiving “I”. Are you affirming that, when one is dreaming, one is not perceiving anything? I am simply affirming that I believe that our “I” is always perceiving something, in all the states of its existence. And obviously, as should be evident from my points about NDEs, IMO that does not change after death.

    But, if you think that we have “”no basis for a continued discussion”, that’s OK for me. I wish you the best.

  45. 45
    DaveScot says:

    ribczyski

    You asked if the soul can “see” without a brain/eyes during NDE and OBE why blind people can’t see using the same spooky mechanism.

    First, for the sake of argument, let’s say the OBE phenomenon is real and not imagined or fraudulent in some way. Your question is then quite valid and must be explained.

    One answer might be that brain serves an anchor or focal point for a soul. Think of a brain like a radio with tuner fixed at one frequency so that it can only receive one radio station. Turn off the radio (death or near death) and, although the broadcast station is still “on the air” it can no longer be heard but otherwise remains the same. Turn the radio back on and it’s back the same as always.

    Now imagine there are a zillion different broadcast stations and new radios are being made constantly but each is capable of receiving just one station selected at random.

    Physics and our knowledge of the universe at very small and very large scales is incomplete enough so this easily fits into the realm of possibility. When cosmologists think some 70% of the universe is made up of undescribed, unpredicted “dark energy” that permeates everything everywhere, and another 25% some unseen “dark matter” it kind of drives home the point that the visible universe is just the froth on a deep unfathomed ocean. And there’s still a deep divide between quantum and classical mechanics such that each must be treated as separate magisteria.

    The biggest question is of course whether the OBE phenomenon is real or just paranormal jibber jabber in the category of hauntings, witchcraft, and UFOs. I’d argue that it is indeed paranormal with the caveat that it could possibly be real. Given that materialism rests on incomplete information and theories at present then what appears to be immaterial or supernatural or paranormal today might become material, natural, or normal in a future where materialism rests on a better foundation.

  46. 46

    Exactly, DaveScot.

    ribczynski wrote:

    If hammers are so unnecessary, let’s see you frame a house, driving every nail with your bare hands.

    You are beginning to understand.

    The eye’s task is to see. The hammer’s task is to drive a nail.

    The task of the person behind the eye or hammer is much larger.

    The fact is that hammers work better than bare hands, which is why we use them.

    Yes!

    The hammer only works better if you need to drive nails for any decent length of time. Even then, the hammer does not work by itself; it needs a hand to hold it.

    Yet people experiencing NDEs and OBEs report that they see just fine without the help of their bodies, so those expensive eyes, optic nerves, and visual cortices do nothing for them — unlike hammers, which are useful tools.

    You’ve stopped understanding.

    You imply that hammers are useful and hands are not, even though hands can drive nails. It just so happens that hands holding hammers can drive nails for a longer period of time than just bare hands.

    And I noticed that you avoided this question:
    Why do most blind people spend the rest of their lives sightless if the soul is capable of seeing the entire time?

    I didn’t avoid it, I provided an answer you either didn’t like or didn’t understand.

    The hand is not capable of driving a nail “the entire time”. I would not expect a soul to be able see “the entire time”. This is exactly what we observe – that souls can’t see “the entire time”; only during extremely unusual circumstances.

    Good grief. At some point you have to ask yourself this question:
    “Am I so determined to continue believing in a soul that I will deny the obvious?”

    The evidence (not just NDE/OOBE, by the way) fits my hypothesis, not yours. You are the one willing to discard evidence simply because it doesn’t fit into your worldview. You are the one in denial.

  47. 47
    ribczynski says:

    DaveScot wrote:

    Think of a brain like a radio with tuner fixed at one frequency so that it can only receive one radio station. Turn off the radio (death or near death) and, although the broadcast station is still “on the air” it can no longer be heard but otherwise remains the same. Turn the radio back on and it’s back the same as always.

    Dave,

    There are some serious problems with that metaphor.

    The most obvious is that in reality, information flows both ways between body and mind. The broadcast station/radio receiver metaphor represents the information as flowing only one way.

    We can correct the flaw in the metaphor by stipulating that the receiver is really a two-way radio that can transmit as well as receive, and that the broadcast station is really a base station with two-way capability.

    If we adopt the modified metaphor, another question arises: which functions are performed by the base station (soul), and which by the radio (brain and body)?

    The naive view (held by a surprising number of people who are unfamiliar with the findings of modern neuroscience) is that all of the “interesting” stuff — thinking, feeling, remembering, deciding — is carried out by the soul, and that the body (including the brain) has only two main functions: passing information to the soul, and carrying out the commands issued by the soul.

    Naive though it is, many people cling to this idea because it allows them to believe in a soul that survives death while retaining all of a person’s essential characteristics: memories, temperament, cognitive abilities, etc.

    In reality, of course, the brain isn’t nearly as passive as the radio metaphor would suggest. Evidence shows that the brain is intimately involved with (and possibly fully responsible for) all of the characteristics mentioned above.

    For example, the temperament, personality, cognitive abilities and memories of an Alzheimer’s patient may be damaged to the point that the person bears no resemblance to his former self. To a materialist, this makes sense. Alzheimer’s damages the brain, and when the brain is damaged, the person is damaged.

    The naive dualist has a much harder time explaining how these faculties can be so seriously damaged if they are wholly (or even primarily) carried out by the soul and not the brain.

  48. 48
    Clive Hayden says:

    ribczynski,

    This insight from C.S. Lewis may help.

    “The rational and moral element in each human mind is a point of force from the supernatural working its way into Nature, exploiting at each point those conditions which Nature offers, repulsed where the conditions are hopeless and impeded where they are unfavorable. A man’s Rational thinking is just so much of his share in eternal Reason as the state of his brain allows to become operative: it represents, so to speak, the bargain struck or the frontier fixed between Reason and Nature at that particular point. A nation’s moral outlook is just so much of it’s share in eternal Moral Wisdom as it’s history, economics, etc. lets through. In the same way the voice of the Announcer is just so much of a human voice as the receiving set lets through. Of course it varies with the state of the receiving set, and deteriorates as the set wears out, and vanishes all together if I throw a brick at it. It is conditioned by the apparatus but not originated by it. If it were–if we knew that there was no human being at the microphone, we should not attend to the news.”
    ~Miracles

    “In the second place, to understand that logic must be valid is to see at once that this thing we all know, this thought, this mind, cannot in fact be really alien to the nature of the universe. Or, putting it the other way around, the nature of the universe cannot be really alien to Reason.

    We find that matter always obeys the same laws which our logic obeys. When logic says a thing must be so, Nature always agrees. No one can suppose that this can be due to a happy conincidence. A great many people think that it is due to the fact that Nature produced the mind. But on the assumption that Nature is herself mindless this provides no explanation.

    To be the result of a series of mindless events is one thing: to be a kind of plan or true account of the laws according to which those mindless events happened is quite another. Thus the Gulf Stream produces all sorts of results: for instance, the temperature of the Irish Sea. What it does not produce is maps of the Gulf Stream.

    But if logic, as we find it operative in our own minds, is really a result of mindless nature, then it is a result as improbable as that. The laws whereby logic obliges us to think turn out to be the laws according to which every event in space and time must happen.

    The man who thinks this an ordinary or probable result does not really understand. It is as if cabbages, in addition to resulting from the laws of botany also gave lectures in that subject; or as if, when I knocked out my pipe, the ashes arranged themselves into letters which read: ‘We are the ashes of a knocked-out pipe.’

    But if the validity of knowledge cannot be explained in that way, and if perpetual happy coincidence throughout the whole of recorded time is out of the question, then surely we must seek the real explanation elswhere.”
    ~De Futilitate

  49. 49
    StephenB says:

    —–ribczynski: “The naive dualist has a much harder time explaining how these faculties can be so seriously damaged if they are wholly (or even primarily) carried out by the soul and not the brain.”

    The obvious answer is that, while the mind is dependent on the brain to function properly, it is, nevertheless, disctinct from it. That means that each can impact the other, a point that we confirm each time we summon the power of our mind to resist the brain’s impulses. The technical name for this phenomenon is “self control,” one of the many qualities that separates men from animals.

    On matters of science, it is the materialist who is naive, believing that matter can investigate matter, which is another way of saying that, for him, the investigator is of precisely the same substance as the object of the investigation. Rationality, on the other hand, begins with the assumption that [A] we have rational minds, [B] we live in a rational universe, and [C] there is a “correspondence” between the two.

    Materialists deny this correspondence between the investigator’s mind and reality that it investigates because, bound by their atheistic monism, they can’t conceive that there could possibly be any difference between the two. By disavowing the conditions necessary for rationality, they unwittingly declare themselves to be irrational people.

  50. 50
    ribczynski says:

    Clive Hayden quotes C.S. Lewis:

    We find that matter always obeys the same laws which our logic obeys. When logic says a thing must be so, Nature always agrees. No one can suppose that this can be due to a happy conincidence. A great many people think that it is due to the fact that Nature produced the mind. But on the assumption that Nature is herself mindless this provides no explanation.

    Clive,

    Lewis makes the implicit assumption that it takes a mind to design a mind, and so of course he finds Nature inadequate to the task.

    This is not a problem for a materialist who sees the brain (and therefore the mind) as the product of billions of years of natural selection.

  51. 51
    ribczynski says:

    I wrote:

    For example, the temperament, personality, cognitive abilities and memories of an Alzheimer’s patient may be damaged to the point that the person bears no resemblance to his former self. To a materialist, this makes sense. Alzheimer’s damages the brain, and when the brain is damaged, the person is damaged.

    The naive dualist has a much harder time explaining how these faculties can be so seriously damaged if they are wholly (or even primarily) carried out by the soul and not the brain.

    StephenB responded:

    The obvious answer is that, while the mind is dependent on the brain to function properly, it is, nevertheless, disctinct from it.

    No, the obvious answer is that the brain is wholly responsible for these functions. As I said, Alzheimer’s damages the brain, and when the brain is damaged, the person is damaged.

    Introducing an immaterial mind, as you wish to do, is not obvious at all, and it adds nothing to the materialist’s explanation of the Alzheimer’s patient’s sad decline. An immaterial mind is an extraneous element added only to match the preconceptions, often religious, of the person suggesting it. Ever hear of a guy named Occam?

    That means that each [of the mind and the brain] can impact the other…

    Even if an immaterial mind existed, it would mean no such thing. You would still have to show that an immaterial mind containing no mass or energy is capable not only of altering the progression of material brain states, but of doing so without violating the laws of physics. You certainly haven’t done that in your comment.

    …a point that we confirm each time we summon the power of our mind to resist the brain’s impulses. The technical name for this phenomenon is “self control,” one of the many qualities that separates men from animals.

    There is nothing about the phenomenon of self-control that defies materialist explanation. One part of the brain can influence another. Why should this be surprising? They’re connected, after all.

    As for the idea that self-control separates us from the animals, haven’t you ever seen a well-trained dog who, despite being hungry, will refrain from eating a juicy steak thrown in front of him until his master gives the okay? Self-control is not exclusive to humans.

    On matters of science, it is the materialist who is naive, believing that matter can investigate matter, which is another way of saying that, for him, the investigator is of precisely the same substance as the object of the investigation.

    More precisely, the materialist believes that matter in certain extremely complicated configurations is capable of investigating other matter. You’ve offered no reason why it should be problematic for the investigator and the investigated to be of the same substance.

    Rationality, on the other hand, begins with the assumption that [A] we have rational minds, [B] we live in a rational universe, and [C] there is a “correspondence” between the two.

    Why may a dualist assume that we have rational minds? Supposing that the mind is immaterial does nothing to guarantee its rationality.

    Materialists deny this correspondence between the investigator’s mind and reality that it investigates because, bound by their atheistic monism, they can’t conceive that there could possibly be any difference between the two.

    What gave you the idea that materialists deny any correspondence between mind and reality? Materialists are quite comfortable with the idea of representations, which are really correspondences by another name. It’s just that materialists believe that these representations are physical, not ethereal.

    Incidentally, neuroscientists are busy working out the details of representations in our brains, particularly in the visual system. The idea of physical representations in the brain is not a mere hypothesis.

  52. 52
    kairosfocus says:

    Onlookes:

    Re question-begging.

    Kindly cf 11, 15, 19, 20, 27, 30, 41m 43, 44 with the just above at 50.

    I in particular reiterate the challenge to evolutionary materialist thought that natural selection is only a probabilistic culler of the relatively unfit, a destroyer not an innovator. Indeed, as Plantinga pointed out, NS is mind-blind: it culls on adaptive behaviour, not on the truth or falsity of underlying beliefs. (Cf above for links.)

    Something else has to generate the massive biofunctional information, and the alternative mechanisms are chance, intelligence or necessity.

    Lawlike necessity is not a source of high contingency.

    Islands of biofunction, credibly are immensely isolated in the configuration space beyond the probabilistic resources of the observed universe. And we know that agents routinely generate functionally specific, complex information.

    So, the empirically best warranted source of such information is agency, not chance.

    Lucky noise is not a credible source of mind and messages in mind.

    G’day

    GEM of TKI

  53. 53
    ribczynski says:

    kairosfocus wrote:

    I in particular reiterate the challenge to evolutionary materialist thought that natural selection is only a probabilistic culler of the relatively unfit, a destroyer not an innovator.

    Selection by itself is a “probabilistic culler of the relatively unfit”, as you say, but it becomes capable of innovation when coupled with heritable variation. The variation is the source of the innovation, and selection prevents the useful variations from being swamped by the neutral or deleterious ones.

    Indeed, as Plantinga pointed out, NS is mind-blind: it culls on adaptive behaviour, not on the truth or falsity of underlying beliefs.

    True, and this explains, for example, why our minds have such a poor intuitive understanding of quantum mechanics and relativity. We evolved in an environment where quantum mechanical and relativistic effects were negligible, and so there was no selection pressure toward brains capable of intuitively grasping these subject areas. It takes discipline, talent and hard work to become a competent modern physicist, and even then, as physicists readily admit, intuition fails them. What is the dualist’s explanation for this?

    Plantinga’s argument fails because for thoughts to become more adaptive, they must in general become truer. To reuse an earlier example, nobody is going to survive long on the savanna if he thinks that hungry lions are cuddly pets to be played with.

    Most importantly, survival is improved by the ability to think logically — an ability that has applications far beyond the problems of mere survival.

    Lucky noise is not a credible source of mind and messages in mind.

    Luckily, we don’t depend on “lucky noise”. Our brains have been shaped by the highly nonrandom process of natural selection.

  54. 54
    StephenB says:

    —–ribczynski “Even if an immaterial mind existed, it would mean no such thing. You would still have to show that an immaterial mind containing no mass or energy is capable not only of altering the progression of material brain states, but of doing so without violating the laws of physics. You certainly haven’t done that in your comment.”

    All I have to show is that the mind influenced the brain. I need not prove it in materialist terms since I am not a materialist. The “placebo effect” demonstrates the point quite nicely?

    But it doesn’t end there. I also know that the brain cannot be the organ of thought. Matter is the principle of individuation. That means that universals, that is concepts, names etc, cannot be in matter. If I have two balls, each occupies a different space. That is what makes them two. The “concept” of ball cannot be in matter. Indeed, you cannot imagine the concept of “ball”, you can only imagine this red ball or that white ball etc. Only you mind can pick up on universals.

    ——“There is nothing about the phenomenon of self-control that defies materialist explanation. One part of the brain can influence another. Why should this be surprising? They’re connected, after all.”

    Both parts of the brain (whatever parts you are talking about) are tied in to the material world and, are, therefore, subject to its laws.. Matter cannot reverse matters decision. Only a non-material mind can do that.

    —–“More precisely, the materialist believes that matter in certain extremely complicated configurations is capable of investigating other matter. You’ve offered no reason why it should be problematic for the investigator and the investigated to be of the same substance”.

    Yes, I have. I have indicated that only an immaterial mind can resist the brains impulses. Materialism, on the other hand, is incompatible with free will. Also, I have shown that the brain cannot be the organ of thought. Matter cannot investigate matter.

    —–“Why may a dualist assume that we have rational minds? Supposing that the mind is immaterial does nothing to guarantee its rationality.”

    The rationality consists in the mind apprehending something other than itself. For materialists, matter apprehends matter, which makes no sense as I have indicated.

    —–“What gave you the idea that materialists deny any correspondence between mind and reality?”

    Materialists don’t think that the mind is any different than the reality it comprehends. By definition, correspondence refers to the mind and its relationship to truth. Materialists don’t even believe in truth.

    —–“Materialists are quite comfortable with the idea of representations, which are really correspondences by another name. It’s just that materialists believe that these representations are physical, not ethereal.”

    Well, yes, they call everything that exists by another name to avoid acknowledging what it is.

    —–“Incidentally, neuroscientists are busy working out the details of representations in our brains, particularly in the visual system. The idea of physical representations in the brain is not a mere hypothesis.”

    A physical representation in the brain would not be a thought, nor can it be. When the mind apprehends a universal, it apprehends a non-material entity.

  55. 55
    kairosfocus says:

    Onlookers

    A sense of duuty impels me to reluctantly make a further remark this morning.

    Specifically: how, apart from in effect “lucky noise,” does R propose to span the implied genomic search space to get to islands of function which would then allow for the hill-climbing to optimality that he imagines that NS can fulfill?

    That is, he has chosen — sadly, yet again (one hopes inadvertently; perhaps he has never had to seriously and substantially compare alternatives and difficulties on factual adequacy, coherence and explanatory power in the face of serious alternatives) — to duck issues, beg questions, knock over strawmen and generally bluff; this time on the issue that Natural Selection is not a creative force but (as he is forced to acknowledge) a culling one.

    We must look elsewhere than natural selection to find the “variations” that environmental selection pressures may cull from.

    And, since we are dealing with functionally specified, highly complex genomic information among other things, that has to come from causal factors capable of generating high contingency. (In short, mechanical necessity leading to lawlike natural regularities is not a reasonable source of such high contingency.)

    So, when R says . . .

    [NS] becomes capable of innovation when coupled with heritable variation. The variation is the source of the innovation, and selection prevents the useful variations from being swamped by the neutral or deleterious ones . . .

    all he has done is to dodge the key issue by changing a term: WHAT is the source of the required “variation,” starting from the genome length of about 1 mn base pairs [~ 2 megabits of information storing capacity] to get to minimally functional life? Similarly, what is the source of such “variations” capable of getting the 10’s – 100’s or even more of of base pairs credibly required to create fundamentally new body plans?

    As the Dembski-style explanatory filter aptly summarises, there are two such empirically confirmed causal forces or factors for generating highly contingent [though not necessarily functional] information, which is what “variations” is referring to: [1] chance, and [2] agency.

    Materialists object to agency, and “lucky noise” is simply another word for chance production of the required FSCI, once we stipulate that the information must function.

    But, my descriptive term FSCI (which traces back to Orgel, 1973) also highlights what R is plainly overlooking.

    Namely, that we have a serious search space challenge to get to biofunction. For, as the Dembski UPB indicates, it is not credible on the gamut of the observed universe that even as little as 500 – 1,000 bits of functionally specific information should emerge by chance on the gamut of our entire observed cosmos across its lifespan.

    Similarly, if R were to actually seriously engage the Plantinga type challenge, he would see that the problem of arriving at a credible mind per non-foresightful chance variation plus probabilistic culling of relatively unfit BEHAVIOUR extends far beyond problems with understanding Quantum theory, into the basic cognitive functionality of mind.

    Nor is this news: there is a reason why the so-called hard problem of consciousness is hard, and why since at least Darwin himself, evolutionary materialism has had no answer to the credibility of the minds required to think even materialistic thoughts.

    As Denyse cited Darwin in the original post:

    . . . the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?

    Indeed, after dozens of opportunities and days upon days, R has repeatedly failed to substantially address the challenge that, fundamentally, mechanical necessity plus chance conditions and forces simply are incapable of getting us to what we need to have a credible mind.

    So, the fact that, we consistently see little more than strawman dismissals, selective hyperskepticism and question-begging should tell us far more than R is willing to admit about the deficiencies of his basic case.

    So, again, I refer the astute reader to comments 11, 15, 19, 20, 27, 30, 41, 43, and 44 above.

    GEM of TKI

  56. 56
    kairosfocus says:

    Sigh: 10’s – 100’s or more of millions of base pairs

Leave a Reply