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NOVA: Unification of mind and matter next century?

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From Frank Wilczek, How Physics Will Change-and Change the World -in 100 Years:

Unification VI: Mind and Matter

Although many details remain to be elucidated, it seems fair to say that metabolism and reproduction, two of the most characteristic features of life, are now broadly understood at the molecular level as physical processes. Francis Crick, co-discoverer of DNA’s structure, put forward the “astonishing hypothesis” that it will be possible to bring understanding of basic psychology, including biological cognitive processing, memory, motivation, and emotion, to a comparable level.

One might call that “reduction” of mind to matter. But mind is what it is, and what it is will not be diminished for being physically understood. I’d be thrilled to understand how I work—what a trip!

To me, it seems both prettier and more sensible to regard the astonishing hypothesis as anticipating the richness of behavior that matter can exhibit. Given the astonishing thing that physics has taught us matter is, I’m confident it is up to the job.

In 100 years, biological memory, cognitive processing, motivation, and emotion will be understood at the molecular level. And if physics evolves to describe matter in terms of information, as we discussed earlier, a circle of ideas will have closed. Mind will have become more matter-like, and matter will have become more mind-like. More.

I’m not “confident it is up to the job.” See, for example, Neuroscience tried wholly embracing naturalism, but then the brain got away. Information is simply not a form of matter more likely the other way around.

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8 Replies to “NOVA: Unification of mind and matter next century?

  1. 1
    Axel says:

    Indeed, Frank, you do need to czech the piffle you are enthusing about.

    ‘but then the brain got away’. You’ve got a mean way with words, News!

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    Of related interest is the following article I just put together:

    The overturning of the Copernican Principle and the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead as the correct solution for the ‘theory of everything’ – July 2015
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/17u0srH9x3kUiei43aOHoKolLsRERhPpUfI9WNhxyLrE/edit

  3. 3
    harry says:

    Suppose it was explained to diverse group of children, who all spoke different languages, who had never thought of it before, that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. One of the children was blind and this concept was conveyed to him in Braille. Some of the children read this notion from text and others had it expressed to them audibly. Each of them could demonstrate that they “got it.”

    Of what matter did the concept that was conveyed to the children consist? None whatsoever. And how was something with no material existence whatsoever grasped by a purely material mind? How does what is non-material affect that which is strictly material? It can’t. So we know the mind is not strictly material.

  4. 4
    redwave says:

    Reviewing Nova’s article by Frank Wilczek easily brings to mind Wilczek’s book, “The Lightness of Being”. The article and his popular book transmit several layers (form) from meaning (intent) and observational reflections (celebration). Wilczek’s Catholicity is evident throughout his intellectual journey and he has admited to a philosophical agnosticism … that he does not now know what is the Divine and to what extent Deity intervenes and supervenes, if such could be the case for human knowledge of reality. And he does not speak so formally or directly concerning the consequences of agnosticism. One could feel Wilczek’s light-hearted ventures into a metaphysical milieu, from which he grabs bits and pieces of knowledge to fill the crevices in an otherwise exact science.

    Agnosticism does not preclude mystical, metaphysical experiences.

    [Note: Soylent Communications. 2012. “Raised in the Catholic church, Wilczek now considers himself agnostic. On the dichotomy between science and religion, he has said: “When religion talks about our aspirations and our sense of morality, I do not believe that science can contradict it. However, when religion contradicts science on matters of fact, religion must yield.”]

    In Wilczek’s Nova article, his journey appears to hinge upon the following (in my view) five paragraphical set of statements:

    “Since Newton’s time, the ant’s eye view has dominated fundamental physics. We divide the description of the world into dynamical laws that, paradoxically, live outside of time, and initial conditions upon which those laws act. The dynamical laws do not determine which initial conditions describe reality.

    “That division has been enormously useful and successful pragmatically. But on the other hand, it leaves us far short of a full scientific account of the world as we know it. For the answer, “Things are what they are because they were what they were,” begs the question, “Why were things that way and not any other?”

    “In the light of relativity theory, the God’s eye view seems, much more natural. There, we learn to consider space-time as an organic whole, whose different aspects are related by symmetries that are awkward to express when experience is carved into time-slices. Hermann Weyl expressed this memorably:

    “”The objective world simply is, it does not happen. Only to the gaze of my consciousness, crawling along the lifeline of my body, does a section of this world come to life as a fleeting image in space which continuously changes in time.”

    “I predict that, in 100 years, Weyl’s vision—which, in essence, goes back to the Greek philosophers Parmenides and Plato—will be fully vindicated, as the fundamental laws will no longer admit arbitrary initial conditions. “What is” and “what happens” will be understood as inseparable aspects of a single, trans-temporal reality.”

    The ‘hinging’ statements, inclusive with Weyl, Parmenides, and Plato, are metaphysical and strongly suggesting a mystical journey in which scientific inquiry is an effective vehicle for making the journey. Wilczek would not make, and has not made, the mystical journey without the vehicle’s structural materials, which include mathematics, art, religion, philosophy, and experimental science. His mystical journey is not purely ethereal, not endless contemplation, but rather a conjoinment of perceptively disparate experiences. Wilczek’s mystical journey concerns the “initial conditions” of reality and removal of arbitrariness through a fundamental oneness.

    As an agnostic, Wilczek is seeking the Divine.

    [Note: I use the term ‘Divine’ to designate the human experience of the immaterial, transcendent, metaphysical, which term was used in conversation by an agnostic friend. When I asked concerning his usage, he informed that ‘divine’ carries less formal theological baggage than the term ‘god’ and tends to indicate human experiences of beauty, resplendency, and mystery.]

  5. 5
    Mapou says:

    harry:

    How does what is non-material affect that which is strictly material? It can’t. So we know the mind is not strictly material.

    How do you control your body if the non-material cannot affect that which is strictly material? This makes no sense whatsoever. Methinks you need to think deeper. Much deeper.

  6. 6
    harry says:

    Hi, Mapou,

    How do you control your body if the non-material cannot affect that which is strictly material?

    According to materialists there are no non-material realities. It is evident that there are non-material realities. The fact that non-material concepts can be conveyed from one mind to another is proof of that. A strictly material mind could not be altered by a non-material concept.

    It is evident that the mind must have a physical component and a non-material component. The two are integrated in some way we do not yet understand.

  7. 7
    Robert Byers says:

    They will miss the 100.
    I do agree a revolution will likely come with ideas on the mind. Yet i say it will just be seeing the mind as a simple giant memory machine.
    they did include memory but should exclude emotions.
    emotions don’t exist. tHey are just thoughts that linger.
    the bible settled these things. We have a soul only. then its meshed to a material memory.
    Simple.

  8. 8
    Mapou says:

    Harry @6,

    I apologise for misunderstanding your point earlier. I would not say that there is a material and a non-material entity. This is the strawman that materialists love to attack. I would say that everything is material but that there are two complementary opposite material realms, a physical realm and a spiritual realm. If both exists, both are material by virtue of being substantial. But since they are opposite, neither can exist without the other.

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