May 27 2010

Barriers to the Acceptance of Science

For those of us trying to increase scientific literacy – understanding of the methods, philosophical underpinnings, common pitfalls, and current findings of science – it can be a frustrating endeavor. Sometimes it seems we are caught in a Catch-22: some people don’t care about science because they don’t understand it, and they don’t want to learn about science because they don’t care. Even worse, at times (most times) we seem to be coming up against emotions and patterns of thought deeply rooted in evolution that nothing short of transcendence will solve.

Three recent studies reinforce our worst fears about human nature and make it clear how much of an uphill battle we face. The first looks at attitudes toward the MMR vaccine and which sources parents trust the most. The researchers found:

Five key themes emerged. Parents felt they didn’t have enough information, especially in relation to the dangers associated with not vaccinating. Government sources were not trusted. By contrast, other parents were trusted: ‘Parents trust advice from other parents,’ one mother said. ‘[You] take it on board. You listen to them.’ Parents also revealed they were biased towards risk-related information. And they misunderstood balance, believing that pro- and anti-MMR arguments should be given equal weight even though the scientific evidence overwhelming favours MMR vaccination.

Part of this seems solvable, but part is inherent. The solvable parts include parents not having enough information regarding the dangers of not vaccinating. Lack of information is always the easiest problem to solve – make the information more readily available, especially to people when and where they are making decisions that will be informed by that information.

The other two elements are due to evolved human nature, and therefore are tough nuts to crack. Parents rely on information from other parents – more generally, people find stories much more compelling than data. It makes sense that our natural instincts would be inclined toward stories from our peers. It also makes sense that we would tend to believe and remember such stories, that they would be emotionally profound. In our evolutionary milieu, there was probably more to lose from being doubtful or forgetful of cautionary tales told to us by our peers, than from heeding them. In our complex modern society with phishing scams, used car salesmen, and urban legends, being gullible is probably more of a detriment than being skeptical, but even still we find ourselves riveted by a ripping yarn, especially one of harm that could have been avoided.

Therefore, it should be no surprise that there are numerous grassroots parent groups forming that are basically built on parents or patients educating each other. Such groups come in all flavors – some are guided by a strong dedication to the science, others mix science with anecdote and myth without discrimination, and still others wonder off into a fantasy land of pseudoscience and conspiracy. They each develop their own subculture, mainly driven by person to person communication.

Further, the study shows that people are more compelled by fear than reassurance. Medical decisions are best informed by a careful assessment of risk vs benefit – but emotionally we are much more compelled by the prospect of risk than the prospect of benefit. (Actually, this relationship is more complex and depends on context. People will accept great risk if the potential benefit is huge, like a cure for a terminal or serious illness. If the benefit is more abstract, like preventing a problem they do not currently have, then they focus on  risk.) Here again, we are much more likely to be compelled by one story of a side effect, than all the statistics about preventing illness. The difference in our emotional response to statistics vs our emotional response to dramatic stories largely explains why some people are afraid to fly, and why others fear vaccination.

The other two components of this research – lack of trust in government and favoring balance (even when the information is not balanced) may be more cultural than hard-wired. Either way, they are further barriers to educating the public about vaccines.

The second study is, in some ways, even more disturbing than the first, because it strikes right at the heart of skeptical activism. Researchers find that when people are confronted with scientific information that directly challenges  a cherished belief, their typical response is to argue for the impotence of science – science is unable to prove or disprove my belief. That much is predictable, and any skeptic can tell you that this is a common response. However, the study takes it one step further – they found that people also, after being confronted, shift their belief toward thinking that science in general is impotent. This probably is a mechanism to reduce cognitive dissonance, but in any case confronting people with disconfirming scientific evidence tends to reduce their confidence in science in general.

We have seen this in action with the anti-evolutionists. They not only reject the science of evolution, in their defense of their religious beliefs they often reject science as a methodology. The Discovery Institute has certainly done this, arguing that the materialistic paradigm of science (i.e. science) is crumbling (i.e. impotent). Once you distrust science it is easy to reject any scientific position you don’t like, so the DiscoTute has happily also chucked out modern neuroscience and climatology as well – it’s all an atheistic, materialistic, liberal conspiracy. It’s the snowball effect of anti-science. This study just confirms that.

The third study is in line with the previous two, but looks at belief in ESP. Essentially they told several groups that ESP was either supported by 10% of the public vs 90% of the public or that it was either supported by or rejected by the scientific community. Every permutation of these two variables was tested. The results – people were more likely to regard ESP favorably if they were told that the majority of the public believed in it – we are compelled by the beliefs of our peers. We want to fit in. This is not surprise.

Disturbing, however, was the fact that people in this study were more likely to accept ESP if they were told scientists rejected it rather than accepted it. They took the opposite opinion of the scientific community. What process is at work here? Are they reflexively rejecting authority? Do they assume that scientists are closed-minded about the paranormal if they reject it, but if they accept it does that trigger some natural skepticism?

Regardless of the explanation, it seems that the natural instinct is the opposite of what it should be.

Conclusion

It’s easy to become depressed by this trifecta of studies, but they really don’t paint a picture different than what we already knew – people believe stories over science and come to their conclusions mostly for evolved emotional, rather than dry rational, reasons. These studies are helpful because they illuminate the details and hopefully will provide some guidance as we continue to search for strategies to promote science and reason.

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298 responses so far

298 Responses to “Barriers to the Acceptance of Science”

  1. SARAon 27 May 2010 at 9:46 am

    I am a proponent of changing how we present Science to the general public. The issue is that Scientist are trained to think in terms of facts, statistics and careful removal of bias. Its an unappetizing picture to the vast majority of the world that thinks emotionally. That is not the technical way to say that, but it is how I discuss it.

    They build their beliefs around stories at the dinner table with friends, or around the water cooler with associates. Stories are inherently told to be entertaining and therefore tend not be overly fact based.

    We need to start to come at people sideways. Tell stories and let them spread at the dinner tables and water coolers. Once people are willing to accept the story, they can hear the facts. (or those who want to know more can.) But they won’t hear the facts until they accept the story.

    Show people the picture of a baby who died because of anti-vaccers. Tell about the horror of that. Then people want the facts. Then they can look at the next layer of information that is fact based.

    Use story methods like this comic: http://tallguywrites.livejournal.com/148012.html

    As you say, we need to change strategy. And it needs to be a multi layered organized strategy.

  2. Pinkyon 27 May 2010 at 10:38 am

    Anecdote(s) incoming!

    In my role as a volunteer at a football club I deal with youngish kids particularly in the 14-16yo bracket where it’s ‘cool’ to have the view that ‘maths sucks’.

    I started to question where this view has actually come from. Maths does anything but suck! It allows us to describe our physical reality quite elegantly. (Mostly! *cough* Theoretical solution to Navier-Stokes anyone?)

    The only conclusion that I can make about why maths might suck is poor teaching from unenthusiastic teachers bored with repetitive assesment criteria and rigid and enforced course delivery.

    As a sessional lecturer in structual engineering and optimisation I am lucky enough to have great freedom in my own course delivery and I am able to tailor content to a particular audience to make it interesting and relevent.

    I think this ability has been taken away from secondary teachers as their responsibility in educating the next generation is reduced along with their financial reward.

  3. Pinkyon 27 May 2010 at 10:40 am

    Since my comment doesn’t seem to contain any point, please allow me to add one: I think the problem might be in early and middle education.

  4. mufion 27 May 2010 at 10:59 am

    Dr. Novella: The link to the second study is broken (i.e. the target page apparently assumes that one is already logged into the site).

    BTW, I hope you don’t mind that I cited you recently in some comments to another blog re: the physical/material basis of consciousness.

    Sure enough, a dualist reader reacted negatively to it – but without going so far as to attack science in general. I’d say that he mostly just attacked me and (less directly) you (i.e. by just asserting that there is no evidence that the brain causes consciousness, only some correlations that do not prove causation, yada yada—oh, and with some quantum woo thrown in for good measure). However, if I had invested (significantly) more time & effort than I already had in the thread, and managed to refute (despite my layperson status) his fallacious counter-arguments [e.g. by explaining that, as you put it, "all the correlations we would expect to see from the brain-causes-mind hypothesis we do see", and that quantum indeterminacy is practically irrelevant to the topic], then I too predict that he would eventually have resorted to an anti-science stance, as your second study suggests.

  5. mattdickon 27 May 2010 at 11:03 am

    Could it be, referencing the last study on ESP and scientific support, that one important control was not in the mix? I’m thinking that another permutation needed to be added: requesting people answer whether not they believed in something that has scientific plausibility. As them if they accept the theory of the expanding universe.

    Do they then still go the opposite direction of scientists? I’m afraid that without that variable addressed, we don’t know if this tells us more about people’s trust of scientists, or more about how people react to scientists who are debunking a fantastic claim.

  6. TimonTon 27 May 2010 at 11:08 am

    Thanks very much for this.

    I have followed the skeptics “movement” for a long time. It has always done an excellent job of pointing out the fallacies in non-scientific thinking. But it has not generally done a good job of addressing the psychology of belief and, more importantly, of empirically investigating methods for trying to educate poeple.

  7. SpicyCupcakeon 27 May 2010 at 11:56 am

    I can’t help but wonder if the reason that people are not motivated more by science is that it is often reported poorly and unscientifically. Headlines are drawn from inconclusive results; the cure for cancer is always around the corner, jets packs in a decade, cloaking, synthetic life forms and all of these have been misreported in some way. The general public feel like scientist get excited about potential and overstate what they have done, when it is really people and the news that engage in this behavior. Just the other day ABC world news reported an artist rendering as an actual picture. Considering I had seen this story on bad astronomy eventually way before ABC, I knew what it was when they showed it.

    http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/news/3462/hottest-planet-ever-being-gobbled-its-star

    Ill informed people don’t blame the news for the things they get wrong about science; they blame science. ABC’s error was an easy slip. However, a layperson that does not know the difference will feel mislead by science if they find out the difference later.

  8. alfon 27 May 2010 at 12:39 pm

    I wonder if it was easier to convince previous generations of parents to vaccinate their children. You would think that the baby boomer’s parents, having lived with all of these childhood diseases and seen or experienced them first-hand, would have an easier time making the decision to get the jab.

  9. ccbowerson 27 May 2010 at 1:31 pm

    We have to reincorporate a reverence for science into our culture. I’ve been to japan a few times, and they seem to incorporate science learning seamlessly into many programs, including daytime talk shows. I remember watching a show similar to the ‘Today Show’ and they had a diagram up of kidneys/nephrons demonstrating how diuretics work. This would never happen in in the U.S. I know that the Japanese are not completely lacking in the Woo department (e.g. blood types), but the battle is much easier if the people are open to science.

    Part of the problem is that most people learn science through the media, and the media has done a poor job in this area. I think part of the distrust of science has a lot to do with the media’s role of making science seem indecisive. Also, we have to be better at making science entertaining and interesting, and convey why each of us finds it so. Currently there are few mechanisms for conveying science in an entertaining way that is accessible to everyone… the internet has improved this, but it is still mostly available to the people who are looking for it.

  10. chaos4zapon 27 May 2010 at 2:25 pm

    ccbowers,

    I totally agree with your statement. Just as media coverage can breed racism; it too can create an unfair and negative view of the scientific community. We only hear about the drugs that are approved and then later recalled when found to have unforeseen side-effects and interactions. It’s like many things in life, when things are going good, we take for granted the things that are behind the scenes making things good. Little credit and acknowledgment is given to those people and advancements that work so diligently to keep the gears of our lives turning smoothly and to keep us moving forward. At this point, I think it’s too much to hope for that the majority of the general public will be coming around anytime time. That being said, the media needs to take more responsibility. They cannot continue to play the Oprah card and claim that the general public has the means and desire to fact check what’s being said on TV and actually come to a reasonable conclusion. The catch 22 as i see it is that things will probably not change until we have a majority in our government that cares more about logic, evidence and what’s actually best for the country and humanity at large, but even a single Politian would have little too no nope of being elected for anything if they made public their dedication to science, critical thinking, logic and what’s really best. Has politics in our country really become this pathetic? Where being ignorant is considered as a virtue?

  11. locutusbrgon 27 May 2010 at 3:22 pm

    I have often wondered if bringing out a bunch of Polio sufferers to talk to school children about what they suffered in the 40′s and 50′s would be a good method to get in on the ground floor with Anti-Vacc crowd. Since teen are predisposed to think they know more than their parents.
    Speaking to TimonT and Alf suggestions.
    I have always found chronic polio sufferers compelling arguments for vaccines. Even thought the ANTI-V people could roll out a few who got the disease from some oral Vac complications. On an individual basis, local schools, universities.
    Steve are you aware of any programs like this??

  12. Brian Lynchehaunon 27 May 2010 at 4:43 pm

    Merely presenting counterfacts to someone doesn’t address the errors in reasoning that they made to get where they are now. Furthermore, they likely have emotional commitments to their argument, and have successfully argued against their peers on this topic (and by ‘argue’, I mean any kind of discussion that started from a disagreement regardless of how minor).

    As such, presenting (in their eyes) an untested idea against their tested-and-successful idea is a waste of their time. It’s a criticism of them, personally, for believing the ‘wrong’ thing. Given that you both disagree, only one of ye can be correct, and it’s them. Given that you claim science on your side, science must also be wrong.

    I agree with SARA that presentation is part of the problem. I would contend that the fundamental problem is a lack of reasoning skills.

    For the ‘skeptic on the street’, a better strategy is (I think) *not* to present facts unasked for, but to visit the woo-er’s belief system and help them find the contradictions. When the contradictions are dismissed, provide analogies to situations where the contradiction provides a genuine concern for the person (a life-threatening situation for them, or their family).

    Until facts are asked for, when dealing with someone who doesn’t hold facts in a high regard, facts are counter-productive.

  13. jsmusgraveon 27 May 2010 at 4:45 pm

    What’s the best way for a layperson to get access to acadmic articles like these? Seems like a challenge for non-academic skeptics, and perhaps something for the NESS to discuss.

  14. ccbowerson 27 May 2010 at 5:24 pm

    chaos4zap-

    That is a good point about perspective and “news.” It applies to all areas of news and learning about our world… the news rarely gives proper perspective, because the sensational is the story worth reporting for ratings. For example “Drug X is removed from market” is a story, while “Drug X helps another patient” is not (and I’m being generous with the factual wording of those example titles). Therefore people associate drugs (in a general sense) with adverse effects more than the clinical benefits

  15. ccbowerson 27 May 2010 at 5:35 pm

    So for the intellectually lazy (and most people are for at least some topics) where does the proper perspective come from? It appears that many, if not most, get some of the perspective from some broad ideology that they identify with (conservative, liberal, libertarian, conspiracy theorist, various religions, etc). This usually results in improper perspective on various issues, depending upon the ideology. This issue is more complicated than this of course, its just a thought

  16. addisontreeon 28 May 2010 at 12:47 am

    There are a lot of good comments on this excellent post. Two other points to consider:

    (1) Drug advertisements from legitimate pharmaceutical companies: The advertising of prescription drugs directly to the patient through television, magazines, etc. is not doing science any good. The ads (like all ads) are designed to impact the emotions and do no real education at all. And they reinforce the idea that the patient knows better than the doctor what condition they have or what medication they should use. When legitimate science is marketed the same way as pseudo-science why should we expect the uneducated to see a difference?

    (2) Perhaps the skepticism movement shouldn’t have as a goal the conversion of a large number of people to more rational schools of thought. We should continue to strive to point out the flaws and dangers of pseudo-science and make rational thought and scientific thinking as accessible and visible as possible. There will always be a significant fraction of the population ready to embrace science so long as we make sure they have access to it. Rational thinking communities serve as a kind of “safety valve” to help make sure the dangerous irrational ideas don’t get too far out of hand. So we pick the most dangerous pseudo-science issues (like the anti-vaccination movement) and tackle those issues a few at a time. We don’t need 95% of the country thinking scientifically we just need 10% thinking scientifically and 95% *acting* rationally about these issues. Of course it might be nice if 95% of the country actually thought rationally, but I think moving from a belief system towards a more critical mode of thinking is not easy and not quick. We could grow disheartened if we think our goal is a major increase in the number of people who employ critical thinking. A rising percentage of critical thinkers in the population will come, but slowly.

  17. Meghanon 28 May 2010 at 9:21 am

    My browser is having trouble with the link to the second study. Would you please post a bibliographical reference?

  18. chaos4zapon 28 May 2010 at 12:45 pm

    addisontree,

    I think that’s a very valid point about the advertising for drugs. People will often tell me “just look at those longs lists of side effects they quickly go through at the end, it’s all poison” Of course, what they don’t understand is that if there were an advertisement for aspirin, the list would probably be fairly extensive as well. You can’t win..if you don’t disclose the side-effects then big Pharma is hiding them. If you do disclose, then it’s poison. The lay person doesn’t seem to understand the whole, more good than bad for the majority of the population thing. Their ideology glasses only allow them to see what they want to.
    About advertisements in general, I can understand why they might be necessary. Sure, in a general sense, if a drug works, then it works and should be prescribed….end of story. The problem is that there is often not just a single drug for any single ailment. Different drug companies have different solutions and to make up the cost of research, testing, production, etc… They have to play the game and compete somehow. I would also say that they serve the purpose of educating the public about something new for a condition that people didn’t know could be treated, things that people wouldn’t even think to ask their doctors about. The example of erectile dysfunction comes to mind. I’m sure there was a time not too long ago where people just accepted ED as a part of life, as unfortunate as that may be. Once the drugs were developed, in order for people to know they existed…they would almost have to advertise. The drug companies couldn’t expect MD’s to ask each male patient “oh, by the way….do you have ED by chance?” In summary, I guess all I can say is that I don’t like drugs being advertised the same way we advertise cars, but I understand, to a certain degree, that it’s a necessary evil from a practical viewpoint.

  19. ccbowerson 28 May 2010 at 3:43 pm

    “I would also say that they serve the purpose of educating the public about something new for a condition that people didn’t know could be treated, things that people wouldn’t even think to ask their doctors about.”

    I always found this argument a weak one. Education through advertisements and marketing? Please. The last place people should be looking for objective and balanced information is from someone trying to sell you something. Sure there are examples such as ED for which commercials have ‘increased awareness,’ but you ignore the downside: Patients are also prescribed meds that they don’t necessarily need, because marketing works. If the marketing didn’t work, then the companies wouldnt put money into it. Sure it is up to physicians to only prescribe what is necessary, but the bottom line is we are all human and subject to manipulation even when blatant. Also, they don’t advertise cheap drugs (off patent) so it also drives up drug costs. So you have to balance “increased awareness” with increased cost and increased in unnecessary use of medications.

  20. Paisleyon 29 May 2010 at 1:47 am

    Steven Novella: “The Discovery Institute has certainly done this, arguing that the materialistic paradigm of science (i.e. science) is crumbling (i.e. impotent).

    What exactly is the “materialistic paradigm of science?”

  21. Paisleyon 29 May 2010 at 1:57 am

    Steven Novella: “Once you distrust science it is easy to reject any scientific position you don’t like.

    Materialists are also guilty of rejecting scientific evidence that does not accord with their worldview.

  22. BillyJoe7on 29 May 2010 at 3:06 am

    Paisley,

    New post. Same nonsense.

    The materialistic paradigm of science is the assumption that everything has a natural/physical/material explanation *

    The reason that science makes the materialist assumption is a purely practical one: It is possible to prove that, if phenomena do indeed have natural/physical/material explanations, that this is actually the case.

    On the other hand, it is impossible to prove that phenomena have supernatural/non-physical/immaterial explanations**

    In other words, the only way forward is to make the materialist assumption. This is what science has done. This IS science. And just look at the progress that has been achieved over the last few centuries since science evolved from, and largely displaced, religion and philosophy.

    ——-

    *Note the word assumption.
    This does not mean, as your little friend bindle proclaimed in the other thread, that science takes the material paradigm to be absolutely true. Assumption means assumption, not “sacred cow”.

    **It is, however, possible to prove that phenomena that have been assumed to have supernatural explanations actually have natural explanations. In fact, the history of science is laden with examples of material explanations replacing assumed supernatural explanations.

  23. bindleon 29 May 2010 at 5:50 am

    Thanks BillyJoe for prompting me to repeat what I had actually said where you’re concerned:
    “BillyJoe won’t be responding with that open mind he claimed to have because he can’t – not without the house of cards that protects his entire mechanist belief system collapsing.
    His mechanistic determinism, as we’ve said before (and to lift from Wikipedia), assumes that every event has an unbroken chain of prior occurrences – that every event, including human cognition, behavior, decision, and action, is causally determined by the environment – the view that one’s life is predetermined before one is even born – that there’s a predetermined unbroken chain of prior occurrences back to the origin of the universe.
    He and the others here that may share those views require that their science be built within what is essentially that philosophy. Show him some science that threatens the integrity of that philosophical house and to him (and them) it can’t be science.
    The irony is of course that science is all about doubts and threats to prior structures, as is skepticism, while BillyJoe’s mechanistic determinism can only be about certainty.”

    Where’s the assumption that science takes materialism to be absolutely true when I specifically wrote the opposite about science? Do you assume that you, with your admitted absolute determinism, represent science? Science has left philosophy, you say? Unholy Mammon, give us a break.
    Your determinism IS a philosophy, and if anything, has left science and taken you with it. Of course that’s a figure of speech in your case, since determinism, where nothing needs an explanation to be true, is about as supernatural as has yet been got by man.
    Or do you now deny that I’ve described it correctly? And your convictions in the bargain?

  24. BillyJoe7on 29 May 2010 at 8:15 am

    bingle,

    I accept the scientific view, meaning that I assume all phenomena are natural/physical/material. Therefore, when you criticised my view as being a conviction, I thought you were criticising science. My bad. That just means that you misunderstood my view…or assumed what it was…or something. It’s often hard to work out what you’re trying to say. So much overstatement, exaggeration, and hyperbole and all.

  25. ccbowerson 29 May 2010 at 10:30 am

    Man, these philosophy majors get hung up on ideas that don’t imact the science being discussed (in that they don’t affect the final conclusion we should make). Always throwing in their irrelevancies. We don’t have to trace causes back to the beginning of the universe… who is making that claim? With all your writings, what is bottom-line utility of your thoughts?

    Its not that these gusy can’t think their way out of a cardboard box, but they actively think their way into the same cardboard box regardless of the topic discussed.

  26. bindleon 29 May 2010 at 12:23 pm

    Another parrot squawking from its deterministic cage.

  27. Adrienneon 29 May 2010 at 4:24 pm

    Science vs emotional reactions – of course, science should prevail. However, when it comes to health issues, we no longer have a level playing field. The pharmaceutical Mafia has literally taken over. We cannot trust their results of “science” – how many people had to die before they took Vioxx off the market after it had passed all the scrutiny of science. And this is not a solo incident.

  28. BillyJoe7on 29 May 2010 at 5:42 pm

    bindle,

    Show him [BillyJoe] some science that threatens the integrity of that philosophical house….

    What science? What evidence?

    All you ever do is quote scientists who, as far as I can tell, you either misunderstand, or who extrapolate wildly beyond the evidence, or who have a philosophical axe to grind.

    What they, and you, have never been able to do is to supply the evidence that will force us to abandon the materialist philosophy.

    And to be replaced by what?
    You never quite manage to say.

    The irony is of course that science is all about doubts and threats to prior structures, as is skepticism, while BillyJoe’s mechanistic determinism can only be about certainty.

    It’s not irony. It’s just misdirection on your part. I’m talking about the underlying philosophical assumption of science. You misdirect by commenting about the actual practice of science based on that assumption. The underlying philosophical assumption of science is that all phenomena have natural/physical/material explanations, and this assumption has not been threatened in 400 years of scientific investigation.

    Your determinism IS a philosophy, and if anything, has left science and taken you with it.

    Talk about a sqawking parrot.
    Show me the knock down evidence that refutes deterministic cause and effect at the macroscopic level.

    If you think quantum physics is your evidence, think again. Otherwise show me any experiment in quantum physics in which the outcome is not completely predictable. Wave functions, Heisenberg uncertainty, and Coherence exist only at the quantum level. Here, in our macroscopic world, deterministic cause and effect rules. That is a fact that remains unrefuted.

    And, even if quantum effects were observed at the macroscopic level, how is that any support for your alternative philosophical assumption. Of course, at this point I can only guess at what that philosophical assumption might be.

  29. BillyJoe7on 29 May 2010 at 5:47 pm

    Damn! The last quote is my response to bindle…

    Your determinism IS a philosophy, and if anything, has left science and taken you with it.

    Talk about a sqawking parrot.
    Show me the knock down evidence that refutes deterministic cause and effect at the macroscopic level.

    If you think quantum physics is your evidence, think again. Otherwise show me any experiment in quantum physics in which the outcome is not completely predictable. Wave functions, Heisenberg uncertainty, and Coherence exist only at the quantum level. Here, in our macroscopic world, deterministic cause and effect rules. That is a fact that remains unrefuted.

    And, even if quantum effects were observed at the macroscopic level, how is that any support for your alternative philosophical assumption. Of course, at this point I can only guess at what that philosophical assumption might be.

  30. bindleon 29 May 2010 at 6:19 pm

    If uncertainty or the indeterminate exists, as you concede, at any level of a common structure, determinism at some other level could not. If you really knew good science, you’d know that. But all you really “know” is bad philosophy.

    And note how you require the evidential refutation of a faith that required no evidence for those of you who’ve chosen (make that “been chosen”) to believe it.

    And as to the hierarchical structure of scientific understanding, your mechanistic crap leaves off where life begins.

  31. Eric Thomsonon 29 May 2010 at 7:58 pm

    Let’s not downplay the weirdness of quantum mechanics. I’m just not sure what this garden path has to do with the original post. Scientists realize QM is weird and nondeterministic.

    Whether we end up needing quantum, classical, or both types of mechanisms depends on the phenomenon we are discussing. For instance, as a neuroscientist, I would not be surprised if we needed QM to explain single ion channel function or photon transduction in the retina. However, the real work is in the empirical investigation of these concrete cases, not the offering of a generic hunch.

    Generic arguments, without specified targets, about determinism come off as dilettantish and sophomoric in the context of a discussion of how science actually works.

  32. Eric Thomsonon 29 May 2010 at 8:03 pm

    Common fallacy from bindle:
    If uncertainty or the indeterminate exists, as you concede, at any level of a common structure, determinism at some other level could not.

    Fallacy of composition.

    Egads I think I’ll just stick with the main posts. Is the comments section here always so polluted?

  33. bindleon 29 May 2010 at 8:37 pm

    Hey Eric, aren’t you the one who worships that deterministic Koch?

    To label that a fallacy of composition is just plain stupid. Determinism is not the structural material, it’s analogous if anything to the force that gives the structure its integrity. No scientist (except perhaps the scientist you claim to be) has contemplated or lobbied for a universe with one part indeterminate and the other not.
    Unless the indeterminacy was predetermined. Is that the way you see things? The fallacy of bad philosophy.

  34. bindleon 29 May 2010 at 8:56 pm

    Paisley called that cognitive dissonance at play and he was even righter than I realized.

  35. Eric Thomsonon 29 May 2010 at 10:43 pm

    bindle: I suggest starting by reading about the correspondence principle.

    Most of biology is, and can be, done without any knowledge of quantum mechanics. As I said in my comment above, whether the formalism QM is important for a particular phenomenon is an empirical question that is answered on a case by case basis. As I said, retinal phototransduction may require it. But lots of things don’t. E.g., diabetes.

    As for Koch, there you go again ascribing views to me. Have fun playing with that straw man. I said his book on consciousness is a good representative example of the neuroscience of consciousness. You then see an unrelated online interview with him on free will, and somehow think I subscribe to everything he says on that different topic?

    Could this guy be a troll? I’m starting to think I’m being had….

  36. bindleon 29 May 2010 at 11:08 pm

    Eric, You butted in on an exchange of mine and made an ass of yourself, and now you’re being had?
    I know all about the correspondence principal, or at least more about it than you. Calling someone a troll who has your number is intellectual dishonesty at its finest.
    And when you defend the deterministic views of the conceptually challenged, it’s fair to suspect you share them, and from whence they came.
    And I only entered this thread when the biggest troll of all misstated my position on another. What’s your excuse for trolling?

  37. Paisleyon 29 May 2010 at 11:43 pm

    BillyJoe7: “The materialistic paradigm of science is the assumption that everything has a natural/physical/material explanation.”

    Yeah, that’s “methodological naturalism.” But you are overstating the assumption. It does not assume that everything has a natural (or physical) explanation. It only assumes that those things which can be explained scientifically have a natural explanation. IOW, some phenomena might simply be beyond the purview of science

    Also, there are different schools of thought on the methodology of science. For example, critical rationalism (formulated by Karl Popper…arguably the most influential philosopher of science in the 20th century) “holds that unbiased observation is not possible and a demarcation between natural and supernatural explanations is arbitrary; it instead proposes falsifiability as the landmark of empirical theories and falsification as the universal empirical method.” (source: Wikipedia’s article on “science“)

  38. Paisleyon 30 May 2010 at 12:08 am

    BillyJoe7: “I accept the scientific view, meaning that I assume all phenomena are natural/physical/material.

    But this is the problem. There really is no “scientific worldview.” Science is a methodology, not a metaphysical position. Moreover, as I pointed out in my previous post, science does not necessarily preclude the possibility of supernatural explanations. It only requires that the hypothesis be falsifiable.

  39. ccbowerson 30 May 2010 at 12:12 am

    Ignore the trolls and they will go away…
    Don’t waste your time with people who cannot concisely state their points. What have we learned here? What utility do these ideas hold? Can we make a concise point without resorting to name-calling and pigeonholing? Its time to move on. Let them think themselves in circles. There is obviously pure ideology behind these ramblings, so there is no hope in reaching out intellectually

  40. Paisleyon 30 May 2010 at 12:16 am

    ccbowers: “Man, these philosophy majors get hung up on ideas that don’t imact the science being discussed (in that they don’t affect the final conclusion we should make). Always throwing in their irrelevancies. We don’t have to trace causes back to the beginning of the universe… who is making that claim? With all your writings, what is bottom-line utility of your thoughts?

    This article is listed under the category of “logic/philosophy” and “skepticism.” So, our comments here are relevant.

  41. ccbowerson 30 May 2010 at 12:47 am

    “This article is listed under the category of “logic/philosophy” and “skepticism.” So, our comments here are relevant.”

    Really? So all of philosophy is relevant to this post? I was referring to the actual content of the comments. Some of the barriers to the acceptance of science has to do with philosophy, but that doesnt mean everything is relevant to the topic being discussed. Bindle is taking a liking to the ad hominem in these comments, when its not clear what his beef is, and how its relevant to barriers of science.

  42. bindleon 30 May 2010 at 12:49 am

    Eric says, “Most of biology is, and can be, done without any knowledge of quantum mechanics.”
    And so it is, which sounds an awful lot like an excuse for how it’s been done badly rather than a testament to it’s accuracy.
    But the people at the forefront now are not your usual mechanists. They see life, as of course do I, as a purposeful intelligent choice making mechanism. That’s not all it is by any means, but it’s no less than that. And if these mechanistic determinists were right, neither choice nor purpose would exist at all – let alone intelligence..

    And as the BillyJoes and Eric-like defenders say, non-living strategic mechanisms haven’t exhibited individual purposes or choice, at least for study purposes, so why should some related mechanism loosely identified as life? Especially in what has proved to be a deterministic and purposeless world where choice had no need or capacity to evolve.
    But perhaps now that we’ve studied life, and found intelligent choice, we might consider having second thoughts about the mechanistic view itself.

    Present mechanistic babblers excluded.

  43. Eric Thomsonon 30 May 2010 at 1:38 am

    OK, I’m now convinced by Paisley and bindle. I was completely missing their point, and now see the logical force of their arguments. Sorry guys I was wrong about you.

    How silly for biologists to determine, on a case by case basis, the best way to explain something. These biologists expect us to believe that quantum mechanics is needed to explain some things, but not others? Which is worse with this szhizophrenic position: its myopia or its inconsistency?

    Obviously this ideology results from biology’s blithe genuflections at the altar of mechanistic determinism.

    Instead of their dogmatic attention to detail, we need to realize that only nondeterministic quantum principles, applied vaguely, can truly reveal the mechanisms of life. To truly be consistent, such principles must be applied to every single problem in biology: diabetes, HIV, diarrhea, body odor, the gout, and especially kidney stones.

    Oh you dogmatists that have treated kidney stones as mere stones in kidneys, you will rue the day!

    This new science of quantobiology will usurp the dogma that the human body is a machine lacking spontaneity and a vital spark of awareness and will.

    Even more importantly, we will cure your halitosis, your meunstral cramps, your asthma in ways that were unimaginable when your thinking was locked into those narrow pre-quantum automaton-based visions of life.

  44. bindleon 30 May 2010 at 2:00 am

    Yeah, you predeterminately nailed it.

  45. Paisleyon 30 May 2010 at 2:05 am

    BillyJoe7: “If you think quantum physics is your evidence, think again. Otherwise show me any experiment in quantum physics in which the outcome is not completely predictable. Wave functions, Heisenberg uncertainty, and Coherence exist only at the quantum level. Here, in our macroscopic world, deterministic cause and effect rules. That is a fact that remains unrefuted.

    This is not true. There is evidence that electronic quantum coherence plays a pivotal role in photosynthesis (see “Quantum Secrets of Photosynthesis Revealed“)

    BillyJoe7: “And, even if quantum effects were observed at the macroscopic level, how is that any support for your alternative philosophical assumption. Of course, at this point I can only guess at what that philosophical assumption might be.

    Consciousness causes the collapse of the wavefunction.”

  46. bindleon 30 May 2010 at 2:08 am

    Of course in a parallel universe the self determinate will have evolved themselves to live so long and healthily it seems just like forever.

  47. bindleon 30 May 2010 at 2:16 am

    ba da bing ba da boom

  48. Eric Thomsonon 30 May 2010 at 2:18 am

    Quantum effects aren’t only microscopic: superfluidity and lasers all involve coherence that manifests on the large scale. As I mentioned above, we should be careful about generalizing, and this also means overgeneralizing negative conclusions against QM just because some kooky new age types tend to project their quantum visions everyone they look.

    Biology is weird, we can’t be sure how far up or down the organizational heirarchy we will have to go to explain something.

    Even in brains (which are big, noisy, hot, and wet, all poor conditions for creating and maintaining quantum coherence), quantum effects can percolate up into the macroscopic domains, in theory. We don’t need fringe theories of consciousness collapsing the wavefunction cited from Wikipedia to see how this might work. We would just need more vanilla, geiger-counter like quantum randomness affecting some molecule in a synapse, so for instance neurotransmitter release was determined by indeterministic quantum mechanics, this would have effects that could easily be measured in the voltages in the postsynaptic cell.

    Note I’m not advocating such a theory of synaptic function, but the details of synaptic function are not well worked out. IN particular, in cortical synapses why, when there is a presynaptic action potential, is there a failure of neurotransmitter release 90% of the time? Is this “noise” better modeled using more classical models, or could it be a quantum stochastic variable that the brain tweaks via learning?

    We can’t be sure yet.

  49. Paisleyon 30 May 2010 at 2:31 am

    Eric Thomson: “You then see an unrelated online interview with him on free will, and somehow think I subscribe to everything he says on that different topic?

    Just curious. Where exactly do you stand on the subject of free will?

  50. Eric Thomsonon 30 May 2010 at 2:37 am

    It’s complicated.

  51. Paisleyon 30 May 2010 at 2:41 am

    Eric Thomson: “I suggest starting by reading about the correspondence principle.

    Yeah, what’s your point?

    The world of physics only appears determinate on the macro-level because the indeterminism on the micro-level cancels out in the aggregate due to the “law of large numbers.”

  52. Paisleyon 30 May 2010 at 2:47 am

    Eric Thompson: “It’s complicated.

    That’s an evasive response.

  53. Eric Thomsonon 30 May 2010 at 2:51 am

    My point was bindle was committing the fallacy of composition, and indeterminacy at one level doesn’t imply indeterminacy at every level. QM doesn’t bar my car from having a determinate position and momentum. Not everything in biology has to be treated as a quantum indeterminate phenomenon.

    My parody above should be enough to make my point.

  54. Eric Thomsonon 30 May 2010 at 2:53 am

    Paisley: I’m not going to get into the topic of free will here as we have already digressed enough for one thread.

  55. Paisleyon 30 May 2010 at 3:27 am

    Eric Thompson: “We don’t need fringe theories of consciousness collapsing the wavefunction cited from Wikipedia to see how this might work.

    It’s not a theory. It’s an explanation. And that’s what we need. We need an explanation for why the wave function collapses. On the materialist view, there is no role for consciousness to play. On the non-materialist view, there is. That’s the difference.

  56. Paisleyon 30 May 2010 at 3:33 am

    Eric Thomson: “I’m not going to get into the topic of free will here as we have already digressed enough for one thread.

    I think it’s time for you to come out of the closet. You’re really a flaming dualist…aren’t you?

  57. bindleon 30 May 2010 at 3:42 am

    Determinacy at one level implies determinacy at all levels, as indeterminacy anywhere could not be determinatively isolated in a common structure.

    “QM doesn’t bar my car from having a determinate position and momentum.” That’s a parody of logic in and of itself. How long ago was it first determined where your car would be today and what some choice making entity would decide to have it doing? When was it determined that this choice was the one to make? Or does the car spontaneously arise to the occasion without the driver?

    I had started to cite some very good papers written by biologists on the problems of purpose in biology, and specifically of the way we talk around it while tacitly acknowledging its function. But since you’ve said you had enough, I won’t.

  58. sonicon 30 May 2010 at 4:16 am

    Indeterminacy at a microscopic level would include a sound produced by a geiger counter.

  59. BillyJoe7on 30 May 2010 at 6:26 am

    bindle,

    “If uncertainty or the indeterminate exists, as you concede, at any level of a common structure, determinism at some other level could not.”

    Concede?
    I have never said otherwise.
    Indeterminate at the quantum level. Determinate at the macroscopic level.
    But I do concede Sonic’s geiger counter, and Eric’s photosynthesis.
    What I don’t concede is your “indeterminate at one level means indeterminate at all levels”. I think even Paisley won’t be supporting you on that one.

    “your mechanistic crap leaves off where life begins.”

    Come on, bindle, you’re getting so close but still you won’t reveal the subterranean philosophical motivations that drive your science.

    “And I only entered this thread when the biggest troll of all misstated my position on another.”

    Why don’t you acknowledge that I conceded that I made a mistake (as a result of a misunderstanding of something you said). On the other hand, why don’t you admit that your characterisation of my view as being one of certainty instead of assumption was a misunderstanding (or rather a jumping to conclusion) on your part.

    “now that we’ve studied life, and found intelligent choice, we might consider having second thoughts about the mechanistic view itself.”

    How do you distinguish non-deterministic choice from “choice” that is the result of a complex, multilayered network of deterministic processes?
    And can you provide an explanation for your how non-deterministic choice comes about?
    Oh, let me guess: Has it got anything to do with quantum effects on the brain (unproven) and your quaint idea that consciousness collapses th ewave function (wrong)?

    “in a parallel universe…”

    Hey, just a thought:
    If there are parallel universes, even quantum physics becomes determinate with every possibility deterministically occurring in what we might call the multiverse of parallel universes.

    “Determinacy at one level implies determinacy at all levels, as indeterminacy anywhere could not be determinatively isolated in a common structure.”

    Why are you repeating this nonsense.

  60. BillyJoe7on 30 May 2010 at 6:26 am

    oops, left a bit out…

    “purpose in biology”

    How do you distinguish non-deterministic purpose from “purpose” that is the result of a complex, multilayered network of deterministic processes?
    And can you provide an explanation for your how non-deterministic purpose comes about?

  61. BillyJoe7on 30 May 2010 at 7:17 am

    Paisley,

    “[Science] does not assume that everything has a natural (or physical) explanation. It only assumes that those things which can be explained scientifically have a natural explanation.”

    Same difference.
    From a practical point of view, science assumes natural causes because only natural causes are discoverable by science and because there is no conceivable way to discover supernatural causes.

    “IOW, some phenomena might simply be beyond the purview of science.”

    Possibly. But how could you prove that? None have been found to date. Conversely, puzzles that seemed to have no possible solutions have been solved (eg, the precession of Murcury untill realtivity theory; propagation of light through a vacuum)

    “Science is a methodology, not a metaphysical position.”

    I was talking about the philosophical basis of science. And the philosophical basis of science is materialism.

    ““Quantum Secrets of Photosynthesis Revealed”

    Oops, I attributed that to Eric.
    But it’s still a quantum effect acting at the quantum level. Macroscopic objects do not exhibit quantum effects.

    “Consciousness causes the collapse of the wavefunction.”

    That article contains the refutation of that view encompassed in the rhetorical question: “Was the wave function waiting to jump for thousands of millions of years until a single-celled living creature appeared? Or did it have to wait a little longer for some highly qualified measurer – with a PhD?” :D
    Is is also unfalsifiable.
    In fact, any interaction is capable of collapsing the wave function. Detectors placed at slits in double slit quantum experiments do it all the time.

    “The world of physics only appears determinate on the macro-level because the indeterminism on the micro-level cancels out in the aggregate due to the “law of large numbers.””

    Yeah, it’s been estimated that if you jump at a solid wall every second for a trillion trillion trillion years you still have about zero chance of landing on the other side.
    You just don’t see quantum effects with macroscopic objects.

  62. BillyJoe7on 30 May 2010 at 7:20 am

    Sonic,

    “Indeterminacy at a microscopic level would include a sound produced by a geiger counter.”

    Macroscopic objects can certainly record quantum events (otherwise they could never have been detected and we would not know they exist), but macroscopic objects themselves do not exhibit quantum effects.

  63. ccbowerson 30 May 2010 at 9:01 am

    Its clear that ideology is driving the arguments. Why they are hidden behind convoluted references to quantum physics is beyond me.

  64. Eric Thomsonon 30 May 2010 at 9:27 am

    Macrorealism (e.g., the view that Schrodinger’s cat is not in a superposition of dead/alive, but is either dead or alive) has testable consequences that are different from the predictions of QM. They were derived by Nobel Laureate AJ Leggett (for instance this paper). It is very similar to Bell’s derivation of his inequality which assumed local realism.

    It will be cool when the technology progresses enough to do the experiments, but unfortunately we are not there yet.

  65. bindleon 30 May 2010 at 12:54 pm

    The determinism that has been assumed, conceded, and defended here is the only ideology in question or in play. In a very telling way, it’s also been the enabler of the neo-Darwinist views of natural selection, while at the same time holding up the contending bones of the creationists.
    To pass it off as an assumption belies the fact that all your cardboard houses are latched on to what you seem to think of as affirmative material.
    Paisley hit it on the head that you are flaming dualists, closeted in that shaky room where the undetermined buck each other up to live anther predetermined day.
    Because the dirty little secret is that to mix determinism on one level with the indeterminate on another requires the help of some great predeterminer in the sky.
    One side then fleshes out their God and puts it on parade while the other cloisters it behind some oz-like curtain.
    We’ve tried to show you, boys and girls, that your Gods are lifeless but of course that’s only our assumption.

  66. ccbowerson 30 May 2010 at 2:43 pm

    “Because the dirty little secret is that to mix determinism on one level with the indeterminate on another requires the help of some great predeterminer in the sky.”

    No it doesn’t.

  67. bindleon 30 May 2010 at 3:12 pm

    Something has determined that you jerk your knee. Was that or was that not a choice made for you?

  68. mufion 30 May 2010 at 3:27 pm

    ccbowers:

    “Its clear that ideology is driving the arguments. Why they are hidden behind convoluted references to quantum physics is beyond me.”

    Well, if one buys the interpretation that “consciousness causes [the wave function to] collapse”, then it seems to follow that conscious observers (or a Conscious Observer) are necessary in order for nature to unfold. (IOW, it’s a “mind over matter” way of looking at the world.)

    Even if you find that interpretation implausible (as I do, and for the same reasons that BillyJoe does), can you think of no reason why someone (say, coming from a dualistic religious perspective, be it old-time or new-age) might find it attractive?

    But I would agree that it might be nicer if people were more up-front about where they’re coming from. For example, in my case, it’s naturalism, and I don’t mind if someone characterizes that assumption as an “ideology” (as in “a manner or the content of thinking characteristic of an individual, group, or culture”) or finds fault with it, so long as they do so honestly and respectfully. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, even that minimal request often seems like too much to ask.

  69. bindleon 30 May 2010 at 4:04 pm

    mufi, weren’t you complaining earlier that Paisley had mistreated you over at another blog – where your moniker is jcm? That’s putting it mildly as for a matter of little factual doubt it seems he cleaned your clock.

    And that deterministic naturalism, is by your own admissions, a bitch.

    “The direct appreciation of this “no meaning, no reason” aspect of existence can have a profound, and positive psychological impact: we are free of any confining purposes; we are free of the deadening certainty that we have a set role to play and a “correct” goal to achieve; we are liberated to be perpetually amazed at the sheer, startling fact that something exists, not nothing, and that we are part of it. Amazement, wonder and the feeling of connection are arguably central components of the spiritual experience.”

    Self deluded rationalization to the max.

  70. bindleon 30 May 2010 at 4:21 pm

    Enter now Lysander to decry:
    That scorn and derision never come in tears:
     Look, when I vow, I weep; and vows so born,
     In their nativity all truth appears.
     How can these things in me seem scorn to you,
     Bearing the badge of faith to prove them true?

  71. Paisleyon 30 May 2010 at 5:27 pm

    BillyJoe7: “But it’s still a quantum effect acting at the quantum level. Macroscopic objects do not exhibit quantum effects.

    You are changing the terms of your argument. Previously, you implied that quantum events have no effect on the macro-level because subatomic particles do not maintain coherence. This is patently false. Quantum events play a critical role in photosynthesis. Also, quantum events are directly linked to random genetic mutations (the basis for variation in evolutionary theory).

    “Mutation and variation are inherently unpredictable means the course of evolution, is too. Evolutionary history can turn on a very, very small dime – the quantum state of a single, subatomic particle.” (source: pg. 207 “Finding Darwin’s God” by Kenneth R. Miller – noted opponent of “creationism” and “intelligent design”).

    Evolution (a macro-level process) is inherently unpredictable because quantum events are inherently unpredictable. If evolution were a strictly deterministic process, then very fact that you and I presently exists here and now is not a highly improbable event (as some materialists would have us believe), but a deterministic fact that could not have been otherwise. This is yet another example where “cognitive dissonance” rears its ugly head in the mind of the materialist. He simultaneously holds two viewpoints which contradict each other. If we live in a strictly deterministic world, then you cannot say that human life was basically a product of mere chance. Chance plays no role whatsoever in a strictly deterministic world.

    Also, even if quantum events were causally inert on the macro-level (which they are not), they still qualify as evidence which invalidates materialism. Why? Because materialism cannot explain why physical events are happening without physical causes. The argument that they do not happen on the macro-level is irrelevant.

    BillyJoe7: “That article contains the refutation of that view encompassed in the rhetorical question: “Was the wave function waiting to jump for thousands of millions of years until a single-celled living creature appeared? Or did it have to wait a little longer for some highly qualified measurer – with a PhD?”

    The collapse of the wave function represents the spontaneous behavior of a subatomic particle (e.g. the electron). Evidence exists that atoms, molecules, and macromolecules also exhibit spontaneous behavior (see “Wave Particle Duality Seen in Carbon-60 Molecules“). I live in an animated world, not a dead one.

    BillyJoe7: “Is is also unfalsifiable.

    It’s an interpretation of the theory, not the theory itself. All QM interpretations are, including the “many worlds” interpretation which you are promoting. The only difference is that “consciousness collapses the wave function” is the most parsimonious interpretation.

    BillyJoe7: “In fact, any interaction is capable of collapsing the wave function.

    Decoherence does not actually cause the the wave function to collapse.

  72. BillyJoe7on 30 May 2010 at 6:03 pm

    Paisley,

    “You are changing the terms of your argument.”

    I admit my wording was imprecise. I realised that after reading some responses to it yesterday. Hey, I’ll even admit the wording was wrong. Sorry for that. It’s a long thread (continuing on from another thread) and I have so little time to respond.

    I have since indicated how trivially true “quantum events have effects on the macro-level ” is by using the example of the double slit experiment where the macroscopic scatter and interference patterns are obviously the result quantum events at the quantum level. Sonic gave the geiger counter example where radioactiver decay at the quantum level is detectable with a geiger counter. And there is your photosynthesis example. In fact, quantum events have to be detectable at the macroscopic level, otherwise we would not know of their existence.

    So let’s move on.

    My point was that quantum uncertainty/coherence/collapse does not occur at the macroscopic level. Macroscopic object do not become entangled, they do not have wave functions that collapse, they do not exhibit uncertainty in position and momentum. And they certainly do not collapse when someone looks at them.

    Eric says that question has not been settled and requires experimental confirmation. Okay, but for the time being the question is totally preposterous. The existence of the moon did not wait for the evolution of consciousness beings. If you think so it is up to you to provide the evidence.

  73. bindleon 30 May 2010 at 6:06 pm

    Actually it’s up to you to provide the evidence that it didn’t.

  74. bindleon 30 May 2010 at 6:21 pm

    Hint: In a deterministic universe all causes are proximate and time is not a factor.

  75. Paisleyon 30 May 2010 at 9:08 pm

    BillyJoe7: “My point was that quantum uncertainty/coherence/collapse does not occur at the macroscopic level. Macroscopic object do not become entangled, they do not have wave functions that collapse, they do not exhibit uncertainty in position and momentum. And they certainly do not collapse when someone looks at them.

    But even if macroscopic objects do not exhibit these behaviors (and I am in no way conceding that this is indeed the case), the fact still remains that subatomic particles do. Therefore, my argument remains intact. The deterministic and materialistic hypothesis has been undermined by quantum theory. According to contemporary physics, nature is fundamentally indeterminate. (It seems to me that you simply want to sweep this little fact under the rug and just pretend it doesn’t exist. Sorry to disappoint you, but you don’t have that luxury.)

    BillyJoe7: “Eric says that question has not been settled and requires experimental confirmation. Okay, but for the time being the question is totally preposterous. The existence of the moon did not wait for the evolution of consciousness beings. If you think so it is up to you to provide the evidence.

    I have no idea what you or Eric are referring to.

    Previously, I stated that we have evidence to infer that subatomic particles such as electrons exhibit a rudimentary form of mentality based on its random or spontaneous behavior. There is also evidence that this behavior scales up to carbon macro-molecules. We have already provided you with evidence that bacteria (single-cell organisms) exhibit decision-making capacities and therefore we can infer that they are conscious. Speculating that there was a continuum of consciousness between the first self-replicating molecular systems and the first single-cell organisms is logically consistent.

  76. sonicon 30 May 2010 at 9:10 pm

    BillyJoe7–

    The uncertainty principle applies to all objects–

    http://abyss.uoregon.edu/~js/21st_century_science/lectures/lec14.html

    (It’s just too small to be ‘significant’ with larger objects– significant is a subjective adjudication- no?)

    The bigger point is that what Eric says is true– Macrorealism predicts things that are at odds with our best physics- the physics needs to be tested experimentally, obviously, but so far every thing that is predicted by QM has been found true- even the really odd stuff.

    I think it is ‘scientific’ to wait for the experiments before reaching a conclusion- but you seem to have reached the conclusion that is in opposition to the best physics we have without any experimental confirmation.

    I don’t mean to call you (BillyJoe7) out on this personally. Actually I think that this problem relates to the post–

  77. bindleon 30 May 2010 at 11:13 pm

    Sonic, that was for me a valuable contribution to this thread. Rather than philosophical determinism, the sort of determinist theory you’ve pointed to involves the probability determination of the relations between causes and their effects – which is nothing like holding that these determinations can never vary and all choice and purpose is illusory. And what you’ve pointed to is consistent with what some philosophers have called the “loose fit” argument (aka: “loose determinism”) or more formally “a causal indeterminism theory.”
    To lift from another’s paper:
    “Causal indeterminism, as an argument, has the following premises:
    1. I have reason to act in accordance with a set of ranges as options.
    2. My having these relations gives me an objective (probabilistic) tendency to act accordingly.
    3. Whatever the probabilities, each of them is possible.
    4. My having these relations to act in such and such a way, will have been among the causal factors.”
    There’s more to this that I may or may not completely agree with on a strategic level, but you get the idea.

  78. bindleon 30 May 2010 at 11:42 pm

    And people should take special note of this from Paisley:
    “Previously, I stated that we have evidence to infer that subatomic particles such as electrons exhibit a rudimentary form of mentality based on its random or spontaneous behavior. There is also evidence that this behavior scales up to carbon macro-molecules.”

    I’ve referred to this (but not here) as electrons serving their particular strategic purposes. Which had made me think about the predictability function of the things we describe as natural laws, and to suspect that as reliable as they are, they will not guarantee that equal causes will have exactly equal effects if at the same time we accept that there is some level of indeterminacy in the universe. Leaving us with a system that operates with perhaps the highest degree possible of probability, yet to at least the smallest degree possible short of a certainty.

    Allowing perhaps for an hypothesis that the universe over time acquired its laws and strategies – rather than having, or needing to have, these items created for its use. Not ruling out as well that the acquisition process was the genesis of what we conceive of as intelligence, with the universe itself being the “intelligent” entity.

    But again I willfully digress.

  79. Eric Thomsonon 30 May 2010 at 11:54 pm

    Leggett has derived inequalities, analagous to Bell’s inequalities, based on “macrorealism” just as Bell’s inequality assumed local realism. Macrorealism is basically the view that objects above a certain size (e.g., Schrodinger’s cat) don’t exhibit quantum weirdness. Wikipedia has an entry on the inequality here.

    Even physicsts tend to share the intuition that Schrodinger’s cat is either dead or alive, not in a superposition of dead/alive. Indeed, that was sort of Schrodinger’s point, that QM has really strange consequences when it is mindlessly extrapolated beyond its original target. What is even weirder is that whenever QM is experimentally stretched beyond its original target, quantum mechanics has always won (Bell’s inequality violated, Aspect’s experiment, etc).

  80. Eric Thomsonon 31 May 2010 at 12:08 am

    Sonic: technically we still don’t know if HUP applies to cars. This is because cars are so far above the Planck scale, we cannot observe such uncertainty. Within the limits provided by our measuring instruments, things like cars and baseballs have a determinate position and momentum.

    What is nice about Leggett’s work is that he has made predictions that might actually be testable.

  81. sonicon 31 May 2010 at 1:38 am

    Eric-
    I agree with you about Leggett’s work. Perhaps you would be interested in this-

    http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/27640

    HUP cannot be proven. It has held true for numerous tests for decades (and some of the tests are ingenious). At this point I would consider it applies until further notice (this seems to be in agreement with the lecturer that I linked to)

    Of course we might consider that cats (or all living things) are conscious and therefore can collapse a wave-function…
    (And that becomes circular on this thread and I’m out here)

    bindle-
    Thank-you. I will look into ‘causal indeterminism’– sounds interesting.

  82. Eric Thomsonon 31 May 2010 at 2:27 am

    Sonic: yes I remember when that original paper came out, though it is different than Leggett’s macrorealism stuff I’ve been talking about. It’s a different inequality he derived based on nonlocal hidden variables theories still on the microlevel.

    His stuff on macrorealism is independent of that, and gets more at people’s strong intuitions that regardless of weirdness at the level of electrons or whatever, surely things like cats being alive/dead are not subject to the same strange rules (as verified every day at vets’ offices).

    Also, their paper doesn’t apply to Bohm’s nonlocal hidden variable model, it applies to a different class of nonlocal hidden variable models (if you look at the original paper, p 872, they make an exception to Bohm’s model, which is probably the most well-known hidden variable model). This is what Aspect was referring to when he said, of the paper “There are other types of non-local models that are not addressed by either Leggett’s inequalities or the experiment”.

  83. mufion 31 May 2010 at 11:42 am

    As interesting as they are, how do all of these comments about determinism vs. indeterminism, or classical physics vs. quantum physics, relate to the original post? I mean, does anyone mean to suggest that the endeavor of science is invalid, since (at least above the level of single atoms) it rests on deterministic (or probablistic*) assumptions?

    If so, then the argument (insofar as it relies on scientific evidence) seems to undermine itself, or else to be reductionist in the extreme (i.e. by suggesting that all higher-order sciences – e.g. classical physics, chemistry, biology, and cognitive science – can be bypassed for quantum physics).

    Also, from a philosophical (as in aesthetic or perhaps ethical) standpoint, it’s unclear why someone should find randomness any more appealing than predictability. I presume that free will has something to do with it, but then both scenarios (i.e. deterministic and non-deterministic) seem problematic in that regard, and, in any case, wishful thinking can hardly settle the matter in an intellectually satisfying way.

    * as in “For almost all everyday non-microscopic occurrences, however, the probability of such random events is extremely close to zero, and can be approximated to almost certainty with statistics using the correspondence principle.”

    - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deterministic_system_%28philosophy%29

  84. bindleon 31 May 2010 at 1:01 pm

    The argument is not that biology, as mufi puts it, “can be bypassed for quantum physics,” it’s that quantum physics can’t be bypassed for or by biology.
    And the cited article about philosophical determinism doesn’t contradict that.

    Nor does the regurgitated material posted about whether the odd weird cat was actually chosen to be dead.

  85. Paisleyon 31 May 2010 at 6:23 pm

    mufi : “As interesting as they are, how do all of these comments about determinism vs. indeterminism, or classical physics vs. quantum physics, relate to the original post? I mean, does anyone mean to suggest that the endeavor of science is invalid, since (at least above the level of single atoms) it rests on deterministic (or probablistic*) assumptions?

    The problem is that Steven Novella (author of the OP) conflated the “materialistic paradigm of science” with “science” itself.

  86. ccbowerson 31 May 2010 at 8:39 pm

    “As interesting as they are, how do all of these comments about determinism vs. indeterminism, or classical physics vs. quantum physics, relate to the original post?”

    They don’t.

  87. BillyJoe7on 01 Jun 2010 at 12:24 am

    bindle,

    quantum physics can’t be bypassed for or by biology”

    The world’s prime expert in biology can be completely ignorant of quantum physics and be no less the world’s prime expert. IOW, quantum physics is completely irrelevant to an understanding of biology.

    I’ve referred to this as electrons serving their particular strategic purposes.

    Translation please.
    (I’m really hoping you’re not going to say that electrons are conscious. I mean that would solve the moon problem, but that would be the least of your problems. :D )

    Which had made me think about the predictability function of the things we describe as natural laws, and to suspect that as reliable as they are, they will not guarantee that equal causes will have exactly equal effects if at the same time we accept that there is some level of indeterminacy in the universe. Leaving us with a system that operates with perhaps the highest degree possible of probability, yet to at least the smallest degree possible short of a certainty.

    In short: the deterministic natural laws might possibly be upset every now and then by quantum probability.
    And if that happens once every trillion years?

    Allowing perhaps for an hypothesis that the universe over time acquired its laws and strategies – rather than having, or needing to have, these items created for its use.

    Acquired or evolved?

    Not ruling out as well that the acquisition process was the genesis of what we conceive of as intelligence, with the universe itself being the “intelligent” entity.

    From simplicity evolved complexity and from complexity evolved intelligence. But the universe the intelligent entity?

  88. bindleon 01 Jun 2010 at 12:58 am

    BillyJoe7,
    If putatively deterministic laws were upset even once in no matter how many eons, determinism is dead, probability reigns and choice will find its purpose.

    If you understood that you wouldn’t need to ask your usual litany of questions with their out of context implications.

    But at least you’re way ahead of ccbowers in understanding the meaning of relevance.

    And, to echo the words and sentiments of Paisely, “I live in an animated world, not a dead one.”

  89. Paisleyon 01 Jun 2010 at 1:49 am

    BillyJoe7: “The world’s prime expert in biology can be completely ignorant of quantum physics and be no less the world’s prime expert. IOW, quantum physics is completely irrelevant to an understanding of biology.

    This is patently false. I have already provided you with evidence that photosynthesis (that’s a fairly important biological process) relies on quantum computing.

    When It Comes to Photosynthesis, Plants Perform Quantum Computation

  90. BillyJoe7on 01 Jun 2010 at 7:29 am

    bindle.

    If putatively deterministic laws were upset even once in no matter how many eons, determinism is dead…

    If deterministic laws were upset once in many eons, the universe is deterministic apart from those rare events and, it would be almost certainly true that you and me have lived through a phase where the universe has evolved completely deterministically.

    “…probability reigns…”

    …for a vanishingly small period of time in an ocean of determinism.

    “… and choice will find its purpose.”

    The last time I asked for an explanation for a seemingly nonsense phrase like that I got an equally incomprehensible answer. It occurs to me that perhaps the philosophy that drives your science must be protected from ridicule at all costs by not seeing the light of day.

  91. BillyJoe7on 01 Jun 2010 at 7:31 am

    Paisley,

    The problem is that Steven Novella (author of the OP) conflated the “materialistic paradigm of science” with “science” itself.

    If science is powerless to prove that there are supernatural/non-physical/immaterial phenomena and, if science has been busily finding natural/physical/material explanations for putatively supernatural/non-physical/iimmaterial phenomena for over 400 years, what exactly is the difference?

    I have already provided you with evidence that photosynthesis relies on quantum computing.

    I’ve read a few references on quantum photosynthesis, including a couple that suit your point of view better than the one you gave ;) but it seems the last word has not been said on this phenomenon. If it pans out it would be an interesting development.

  92. Eric Thomsonon 01 Jun 2010 at 10:58 am

    It would be as strange to say QM has no relevance in any area of biology as it would be to say that no area of biology can be done without having expertise in QM. Both claims display a profound ignorance of how biology works.

    I don’t need QM to explain bird flight, but we might need it to explain single ion channel function. Much of organic chemistry is rooted in quantum theory, after all, and organic chemistry is extremely important in some branches of biochemistry.

    As I said above in my parody:
    “How silly for biologists to determine, on a case by case basis, the best way to explain something. These biologists expect us to believe that quantum mechanics is needed to explain some things, but not others? Which is worse with this szhizophrenic position: its myopia or its inconsistency?”

    This cuts both ways.

  93. ccbowerson 01 Jun 2010 at 12:09 pm

    Eric and BillyJoe last few posts are on point with a logical and concise assessments of the arguments. Is that the argument here… that if we don’t consider QM in everything then we are wrong in everything? The problem with that argument is that it obviously isn’t true… unless the argument is ‘everything we know is wrong.’ If that is the argument then we have wasted our time here.

    The problem here seems to be a problem of thinking. A type of pigeonholing or a false dichotomy.

  94. ccbowerson 01 Jun 2010 at 12:11 pm

    “If putatively deterministic laws were upset even once in no matter how many eons, determinism is dead, probability reigns and choice will find its purpose.”

    This is a great quote. It’s a complete sentence, but meaningless… almost like a Mad Libs.

  95. Paisleyon 01 Jun 2010 at 12:18 pm

    BillyJoe7: “If science is powerless to prove that there are supernatural/non-physical/immaterial phenomena and, if science has been busily finding natural/physical/material explanations for putatively supernatural/non-physical/iimmaterial phenomena for over 400 years, what exactly is the difference?

    The primary qualification for a scientific hypothesis or theory is that it must be falsifiable. The materialist hypothesis has been falsified by contemporary physics. According to quantum theory, the fundamental nature of nature itself is dualistic (i.e. nature has both physical and nonphysical aspects as depicted by the particle/wave duality).

    BillyJoe7: “I’ve read a few references on quantum photosynthesis, including a couple that suit your point of view better than the one you gave ;) but it seems the last word has not been said on this phenomenon. If it pans out it would be an interesting development.”

    The evidence that quantum processes are playing a pivotal role in living systems is mounting (see “That’s Life” by Stuart Hameroff).

  96. chaos4zapon 01 Jun 2010 at 12:22 pm

    I still stand by my statement (it’s way up there in the comments now). Sure, advertisements can lead to people being prescribed drugs they do not need, but this is an issue with the professional judgment of the doctor, not the patient. Regardless if a consumer is compelled by an advertisement or not, they still should not be able to go into their doctor and demand the product when they don’t truly need it. An example from personal experience (not that this single experience influenced my current view…I’m simply offering it as an demonstration of my point), I had at one point had issues with sleeping and staying asleep. I had no idea that they actually had drugs (other than the over the counter stuff that always made me overly groggy the next day) to treat the condition. In fact, I would still probably not know if I hadn’t seen so many commercials for Lunesta and the others that were on the market. I talked to my doctor about it and he said he didn’t want to prescribe any of those at that point because of the risk of dependence (they often advertise that they will not form chemical dependence, but we all know that anything that works will always carry some risk of becoming somewhat dependant on it). That’s how it should be. Regardless of the advertisements, the MD should know what they are prescribing and do so responsibly. I still stand by my point that I can see how advertisements can serve to make the public aware of new advancements. I certainly agree that it’s not the most ideal method for communication and certainly education of the general public. Saying we shouldn’t advertise because some people will be prescribed the medicine when they truly don’t need it is…..I believe the argument from final consequences? (I may be wrong about that one) However unrealistic it may be, people should view advertisements for what they are, someone that wants to sell you something. Just because they want to sell you something doesn’t, in itself, make the product right or wrong for you and your symptoms/condition and that’s where we must rely heavily on the professional judgment of our medical providers.

  97. Paisleyon 01 Jun 2010 at 12:41 pm

    Eric Thomson: “It would be as strange to say QM has no relevance in any area of biology as it would be to say that no area of biology can be done without having expertise in QM. Both claims display a profound ignorance of how biology works.

    This is a straw man argument. No one here has suggested that all areas of biology require expertise in QM. What has been suggested is that QM has relevance for biology. In fact, I have provided evidence that quantum computing is directly involved in photosynthesis (one of the most vital aspects of biology).

    Eric Thomson: “I don’t need QM to explain bird flight, but we might need it to explain single ion channel function.

    I see that you are seeking to hedge your position. “Quantum mind theories” are the only theories that are addressing the “hard problem of consciousness” by postulating that consciousness is fundamental.

  98. Eric Thomsonon 01 Jun 2010 at 2:18 pm

    Paisley: If you think what I said is a straw man, you haven’t comprehended what bindle and BillyJoe wrote above. At any rate, I’m glad you agree with me.

    Second, in every post in these two comment threads I have said QM is likely important for some things and not others in biology. If you think this is a change in my position (a new hedge), that just shows you haven’t comprehended one thing I’ve written, thereby confirming how much I have wasted my time here.

    The previous two paras suggest reading comprehension skill difficulty.

    On the “hard problem” of consciousness, I wrote about that here and will gladly discuss my position there. We also discussed, in the comments at that post, quantum approaches to consciousness.

    Back as an undergrad I used to be quite sympathetic to quantum approaches to consciousness, drank some of the Hameroff/Penrose tea, but then I realized my thinking was confused at multiple levels, and my sympathy pretty much dissipated.

    However, I look forward to seeing the first experimental results from the quantum consciousness folks, and we will be able to compare research progress in 20 years or so, if they actually have some data by then.

    I don’t claim to be able to kill that research program, even though I think it is generally confused and misguided. Rather than argue about it, I’ll wait for results and continue on with more mainstream neuroscience. I’ll be sure to include a section on quantum approaches in my book on consciousness, in the same chapter where I discuss dualism and behaviorism.

  99. bindleon 01 Jun 2010 at 2:57 pm

    What a hoot. BillyJoe7 and his follower ccbowers (and Eric Thomson bringing up the rear) thinking you can mix in a little random stuff with the determinate and you’ve undetermined nothing in the end. Nothing of course that wasn’t predetermined. The certainty remains, quite tolerant of uncertainty at a lower level.

    What I enjoy most in a perverse sort of way is that they can’t reach the conceptual abstraction level required to visualize these relatively simple propositions. Barriers to the Acceptance of Science indeed.

    Stay, you imperfect speakers,
    Say from whence you owe this strange intelligence?
    Or why upon this blasted heath you stop our way
    With such prophetic greeting? Speak, I charge you.

  100. Eric Thomsonon 01 Jun 2010 at 4:40 pm

    OK must move on with my work, this thread is providing a very low payout to effort ratio. I pretty much nailed down what I wanted to say, indirectly, with my parody, and now we are just walking around in conceptual circles. Thanks for the discussion.

  101. Eric Thomsonon 01 Jun 2010 at 4:41 pm

    Note I now think that parody applies to bindle but not Paisley. Paisley seems to see things a little more clearly than bindle.

  102. bindleon 01 Jun 2010 at 5:32 pm

    I do think Paisley sees much that I can learn from, but unfortunately Eric either can’t or won’t.
    So if I didn’t personally understand that Paisley can view things from another if not better perspective, I’d take that shallow minded insult from Eric as a compliment.

    Eric, the only parody you’re capable of pulling off is travesty.

    And when, pray tell, will you regurgitate that book?

  103. BillyJoe7on 01 Jun 2010 at 5:54 pm

    Eric,

    For what it’s worth, you’re contributions here have helped me see things a little more clearly. I still have reservations about macroscopic objects demonstrating quantum phenomena, but will read more about it when I get the chance. I already have some references saved.

    I agree with you about bindle. He is an annoying distraction on whom you can only waste time and from whom you can learn absolutely nothing. He likes to claim victory whilst refusing to show his cards. He is sounding more and more like artlessDodge (actually, artful D, but you get the picture) who was similarly coy about revealing the philosophy that drives his science. They are probably one and the same as someone suggested some weeks ago.

    Paisley does sound more reasonable, but is obviously caught up in the quantum/mind nonsense for which there is yet to be a shred of evidence. So far it sounds to me like wild speculation with no basis in fact and presumably driven by the underlying philosophical position of its adherents.

    The photosynthesis thing is not new to me but I had not thought of the implications, but it seems to me it needs further supporting evidence. And already I see that the quantum/mind fanatics are wildly extrapolating beyond the evidence in their unbridled enthusiasm.

    I did look at your website but I think you need to change the white text on black background format. It’s unreadable. Sorry.

  104. BillyJoe7on 01 Jun 2010 at 5:57 pm

    …and, since I looked last, I see bindle is spouting forth again. Frankly, if I was Paisley, I’d be embarrassed by this mindless acolyte.

  105. ccbowerson 01 Jun 2010 at 6:15 pm

    “He is sounding more and more like artlessDodge (actually, artful D, but you get the picture) who was similarly coy about revealing the philosophy that drives his science. They are probably one and the same as someone suggested some weeks ago.”

    I said that a while back, and you are right in that his writings have become even more like ArtfulD over time. Particularly the unfounded condescension, pigenoholing of others, and references to a vague choices and purposes. They both seem to be hiding an ideology that they only hint at occasionally.

    “What I enjoy most in a perverse sort of way is that they can’t reach the conceptual abstraction level required to visualize these relatively simple propositions.”

    Don’t get carried away with some illusion that you have a higher level of thinking. The problem is that your abstractions take you away from reality, and others realize that. If there is anything to what you are saying, it is you who are failing to convey this.

  106. bindleon 01 Jun 2010 at 6:49 pm

    BillyJoe7
    If anyone has refused to show their cards it wasn’t me I can assure you. I’ve said from the start that I’m an evolutionist who follows the broad path laid down by the Shapiros, Jablonkas, Margulis, Lambs, Ben Jacobs, Agutters and Wheatleys, Fodors, and so many others, that it’s ridiculous to claim, as you did with Shapiro, that you’ve never considered their theories before, and now that you have, they all must be metaphorically deluded fools. (Accusations in defense perhaps of some incurable form of ignorance such as we see in those with personality disorders?)
    Unfortunately for you, the cards they show are written in a language you can’t seem to read, and undecipherable to a person of your clearly limited mentality. If I’m dismissive of some handicap you may have been born with, I apologize, but even the handicapped should refrain from using such palpably dishonest tactics to hide their disabilities.
    ccbowers, how smart I may be can’t belie the fact that you’re just simply stupid. There’s nothing vague about my clearly stated theories regarding choice and purpose. They are in the mainstream where apparently the depth is over your head.

  107. bindleon 01 Jun 2010 at 7:19 pm

    “If putatively deterministic laws were upset even once in no matter how many eons, determinism is dead, probability reigns and choice will find its purpose.”

    What’s not to understand?

  108. Eric Thomsonon 01 Jun 2010 at 7:44 pm

    On my site:
    “I did look at your website but I think you need to change the white text on black background format. It’s unreadable. Sorry.”

    Ouch. Is it really that hard to take? I’ll try black on white for the next 24 hours to see how I like it.

  109. ccbowerson 01 Jun 2010 at 8:05 pm

    “What’s not to understand?”

    The first half of that statement is pure black and white thinking for someone who claims to think in the abstract. The second half of the sentence is nonsensical. “Choice will find its purpose??” This type of gibberish has never been explained, because it has no meaning.

  110. bindleon 01 Jun 2010 at 8:36 pm

    But all choices exist because they’ve found a purpose. Choice, as I clearly pointed out before is an act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities. In a deterministic world there are by definition no alternate possibilities and thus no mechanisms developed to serve the purpose of choosing between or among them. Upset the law that determines, purposively or not, the direction of events without assistance, and the decision making mechanisms that biologists have undeniably found within is, will be found to add a reasonable purpose to our need to choose directions for ourselves (IOW choice finds purpose).

    So how hard was that to understand, even if to choose to disagree with?

    And whether natural laws in either a determinate or indeterminate world have purposes to serve regardless is another and even bigger question that remains to be addressed. Except by people in Paisley’s world who’ve already begun to shape their answers.

  111. stizashellon 01 Jun 2010 at 10:48 pm

    without looking ahead to know whether this was done, i want to draw more attention to the very first comment posted here (forgive me for needing a breather before i go wading through billyjoe’s ridiculousness :P ). if more has been said, then consider this a re-emphasis.

    as scientists, we have a handicap of trying to always remain fair and straightforward with things. other people just flat out don’t get it. you want to fix this problem (and all the others just like it), learn to play their game, walk their walk, talk their talk.

    this is a simple matter of learning to manipulate people.

    coming at them sideways. sneak attack. it’s just manipulation.

    except the manipulation isn’t for personal gain as it usually is. the gain here lies with the recipient.

    in short, WE need to learn how to fuck with people’s heads from those that are better at it than us, then turn around and use the skills “against” them to start pulling them over the line toward having faith in data and analysis rather than hearsay.

    my argument is still weak, but i’m starting to believe that perfect and absolute selfishness and perfect and absolute selflessness are the same thing. the above concept is step 0.

  112. ccbowerson 01 Jun 2010 at 11:13 pm

    Its hard to understand because I don’t think that it has meaning or utility scientifically. Its hard to understand because these terms have different meanings in different contexts. Choices are acts made by entities. They don’t “do” anything, such as find a purpose. Purpose is a quality that you attribute to an entity or idea by looking at the outcome, and is not something intrinsic to that entity or idea. Your perception of purpose says more about your own perspective than anything else.

  113. bindleon 01 Jun 2010 at 11:42 pm

    ccbowers writes: “Purpose is a quality that you attribute to an entity or idea by looking at the outcome, and is not something intrinsic to that entity or idea.”

    That’s like saying we don’t know why we chose to do something until discovering after the fact what we had done and then deciding that must have been our reason since some would argue (or our teacher told us) that reason is another word for purpose.
    And then the teacher said there are many meanings of the word (see those below) so choose one that suits the level of your cognitive perception.
    And so you chose the one that suits the purpose of determinism – which of course has offered you no other choice.

    That quote above was priceless by the way. Can we call it from now on a bowersism?

    purpose |ˈpərpəs|
    noun
    the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists : the purpose of the meeting is to appoint a trustee | the building is no longer needed for its original purpose.
    • a person’s sense of resolve or determination : there was a new sense of purpose in her step as she set off.
    • (usu. purposes) a particular requirement or consideration, typically one that is temporary or restricted in scope or extent : pensions are considered as earned income for tax purposes.

  114. ccbowerson 02 Jun 2010 at 12:38 am

    chaos4zap-

    I understand and appreciate your perspective on the direct to consumer (DTC) advertising and most of your perspective is only a slight difference of opinion from mine. One correction though: ‘argument from final consequences’ is something different altogether (look it up – I’m a bit lazy to explain)
    Arguing that a law or rule isn’t good because it has negative outcomes not only isn’t a logical fallacy, it is perfectly logical (with a value judgement about the outcome). We have to look at the net effect of the laws and rules we create because they are interventions that we insert in our lives.

    For DTC advertising there are positives (increased awareness, increase treatment of illnesses, allowance of speech) and negatives (increased healthcare cost, polypharmacy, increased inappropriate use of medications). Its not all healthcare providers fault, some things are directly due to DTC advertising and the way our healthcare system is set up. For example for depression people are far more likely to get a prescription for a drug than for therapy (CBT) or both. DTC advertising exacerbates that because people will ask for the drug, unaware that CBT is at least as effective if not more so and that the combo is even better. The increased awareness is biased, and the net effect is skewed. This is a limitation of the increased awareness/education. The same can be said of your sleep problems. There are no increased awareness commercials for ‘sleep hygiene’ to balance the Lunesta ads. I do not want to necessarily ban DTC advertising but things could be improved.

  115. stizashellon 02 Jun 2010 at 1:02 am

    as for all this other ridiculousness, let me just say that you guys are professional at talking past each other. for all your argumentation skills, you have not the tact to figure out why you aren’t saying what you mean to each other. i’m a physics grad student AND someone who thinks about all of this stuff way way too much, and i see two “sides” that are, in fact, positions infinitesimally removed from each other.

    billy joe, i actually think you’ve gotten better at this. unfortunately, you’ll have to find your channel of accurate communication with each new position as they come. here’s another new position. new position + old tactics = the same old song and dance, slowly spiraling in at best.

    additionally, i think everyone is speaking too strongly about things of which they are not experts. you guys are willing to make stronger statements about the implications of quantum mechanical ideas than the physicists who study them.

    for those lined up against billy joe, ultimately his stance here is, it seems like a safe bet that there is no such thing as magic. no matter how far away from it we might be or how long it will take to uncover, if it is even possible, we expect that there will always be a scientific reason for each new thing we study, each new realm we crack open. science does not expect to “finish” it’s explanation of the world as it runs into some supernatural boundary.

    just has there always has been, there will always be a way to discover the rules by which the universe is playing.

    consider this as an afterthought: the stuff consciousness is made of is entirely unknown. all we know now is that it is an emergent property of the brain. something that runs parallel, if you will, to brain activity. yet if it is part of physical reality, there must ultimately be a physical description of it….an interaction of some form of unknown particle, or some unknown interaction within known particles…if this is not the case, then consciousness would be magic, and i don’t think anyone really believes that.

    i would also personally argue that whatever it is consciousness is made up of, it probably, just like always, doesn’t actually have some threshold of complex enough interaction where it just starts happening out of nowhere. or perhaps it’s something more like superconductivity? hard to say, but if it is some unknown interaction of known particles, then it would be the case that not electrons themselves, but interactions between them also contain some quantum of perception.

    i hope this is all clear and gets you thinking, though i’m sure i will know if it is not :P

  116. Paisleyon 02 Jun 2010 at 1:51 am

    Eric Thomson: “If you think what I said is a straw man, you haven’t comprehended what bindle and BillyJoe wrote above. At any rate, I’m glad you agree with me.

    The straw man was the accusation that we (bindle and I) had stated that all areas of biology require expertise in QM.

    Eric Thomson: “Second, in every post in these two comment threads I have said QM is likely important for some things and not others in biology. If you think this is a change in my position (a new hedge), that just shows you haven’t comprehended one thing I’ve written, thereby confirming how much I have wasted my time here.

    It seems to me that you are always playing both sides.

    Eric Thomson: “Back as an undergrad I used to be quite sympathetic to quantum approaches to consciousness, drank some of the Hameroff/Penrose tea, but then I realized my thinking was confused at multiple levels, and my sympathy pretty much dissipated.

    I suspect your enthusiasm dissipated due to lack of opportunities pursuing that line of inquiry.

    Eric Thomson: “On the “hard problem” of consciousness, I wrote about that here and will gladly discuss my position there. We also discussed, in the comments at that post, quantum approaches to consciousness.

    I believe David Chalmers’ analysis is correct – consciousness is fundamental in the same sense that mass/energy, electrical charge, space-time are. There was nothing that you expressed in that article that would lead me to believe otherwise. In fact, you simply dismissed the “hard problem” as being nonexistent. This is basically the tack the eliminativists (e.g. Daniel Dennett) take. It’s not a very good ruse.

  117. Paisleyon 02 Jun 2010 at 2:05 am

    stizashell: “consider this as an afterthought: the stuff consciousness is made of is entirely unknown. all we know now is that it is an emergent property of the brain. something that runs parallel, if you will, to brain activity. yet if it is part of physical reality, there must ultimately be a physical description of it….an interaction of some form of unknown particle, or some unknown interaction within known particles…if this is not the case, then consciousness would be magic, and i don’t think anyone really believes that.

    When it comes to the subject of consciousness, the terms “emergent property” and “complexity” are simply euphemisms for “magic.” These terms certainly don’t have any more explanatory power than magic.

  118. BillyJoe7on 02 Jun 2010 at 6:42 am

    Paisley,

    When it comes to the subject of consciousness, the terms “emergent property” and “complexity” are simply euphemisms for “magic.” These terms certainly don’t have any more explanatory power than magic.

    Except that there are plenty of precedents for emergent properties or for complexity summing to more than its parts, whilst for the magic of dualism the cupboard is completely bare.

  119. BillyJoe7on 02 Jun 2010 at 6:59 am

    stizashell,

    for those lined up against billy joe, ultimately his stance here is, it seems like a safe bet that there is no such thing as magic. no matter how far away from it we might be or how long it will take to uncover, if it is even possible, we expect that there will always be a scientific reason for each new thing we study, each new realm we crack open. science does not expect to “finish” it’s explanation of the world as it runs into some supernatural boundary.

    Yes, good summary of the materialist assumption of science that I’ve been supporting here, thanks.

    i see two “sides” that are, in fact, positions infinitesimally removed from each other.

    I’m not sure I can agree. Paisley is at least coherent but he has an unhealthy lean towards the pseudoscientific quantum consciousness foolishness.

    With bindle, I congratulate you for being able to understand him at all.

  120. BillyJoe7on 02 Jun 2010 at 7:49 am

    bindle,

    “But all choices exist because they’ve found a purpose.”

    People might find a purpose, but how do choices find a purpose?
    But of course, bacteria also make choices, don’t they bindle?
    And apparently even electrons make choices.
    So you give us “choices” and leave us scratching our heads.

    “Choice is an act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities.”

    This sounds at least half reasonable.
    …as long as the subject is not bacteria or electrons of course.

    “In a deterministic world there are by definition no alternate possibilities”

    But that same determinism produces an illusion of choice which is every bit as real as if it were possible for there to be a true choice, the virtue of the illusion of choice being that it requires no inexplicable ghost in the machine

    “and thus no mechanisms developed to serve the purpose of choosing between or among them.”

    Except for the mechanism of the illusion of choice by which we really do seem to making true choices.

    “Upset the law that determines the direction of events , purposively or not, without assistance, and the decision making mechanisms that biologists have undeniably found within is, will be found to add a reasonable purpose to our need to choose directions for ourselves (IOW choice finds purpose).”

    All “decisions” are performed deterministically and subconsciously with the conscious self only becoming aware of the “decision” after the event. The mechanism of this “decision” consists of a complex, multilayered, network of cause and effect relations, which receive information about the world outside the brain via the senses, and information about past information about the world outside our brains via our memory stores.
    That, at least, is the materialist interpretation.
    Against that plausible scenario, we have that wild speculation beyond the evidence that quantum phenomena somehow provide the purpose that drives these decisions. But how probability and chance translates to choosing for ourselves is anyone’s guess.

    “And whether natural laws in either a determinate or indeterminate world have purposes to serve regardless is another and even bigger question that remains to be addressed.”

    The materialist position is that there are no such purposes, just the blind operation of evolutionary processes where all forms of life compete for limited resources.

    “Except by people in Paisley’s world who’ve already begun to shape their answers”.

    Is Paisley your alterego?

  121. chaos4zapon 02 Jun 2010 at 8:49 am

    ccbowers–

    I think we can both agree on the final conclusion in your last post to me. Somewhat a necessary evil, but far less than ideal. Yeah, I was way off on the argument from final consequences. DTC advertising is particularly troublesome when it comes to over the counter supplements, where there is no real professional as a stop-gap for safety. No discussion of possible interactions with other drugs, side effects, quality control and questionable (at best) claims from the start. Just take a look at the recent example of Zicam causing people to lose their sense of smell. HEAD-ON, APPLY DIRECTLY TO THE TRASH CAN!

  122. ccbowerson 02 Jun 2010 at 9:18 am

    chaos4zap- I agree that OTC meds are far worse in this regard, as marketing rules completely. Brand names can change their active ingredients back and forth, and people largely shop by brand names. There have been many problems involving this, and I’m surprised that the FDA hasn’t stopped this problem completely. And even more ridiculous is supplements, which has even more problems …too many to discuss here.

  123. Eric Thomsonon 02 Jun 2010 at 9:28 am

    Paisley once again you didn’t understand if you interepreted it as eliminativist about consciousness, but by now I have learned it is not worth trying to clarify my views here. Enjoy.

  124. bindleon 02 Jun 2010 at 1:49 pm

    BillyJoe7 asks one decent question, yet not seeing that its answer lay in its premise:
    “People might find a purpose, but how do choices find a purpose?”
    I’ll leave it to him to work it out – he needs find a way to penetrate his own defenses. And he seems to want to with that question.
    Here’s a hint: Seek and ye shall acquire.

    Another hint, involving those lively little electrons that for him seem not to know their place:
    The choices they are somewhat free to make are not based on their own assessments.

  125. Paisleyon 02 Jun 2010 at 3:49 pm

    BillyJoe7: “Except that there are plenty of precedents for emergent properties or for complexity summing to more than its parts, whilst for the magic of dualism the cupboard is completely bare.

    Okay. Please provide me with one example where this has been demonstrated by science.

    Also, dualism is the presumed metaphysical position until proven otherwise. Why? Because dualism is based on evidence provided by our first-person experience of the world. Moreover, contemporary science paints a picture of the world that is fundamentally dualistic – namely, the wave/particle duality (probability waves are mathematical abstractions which are clearly nonphysical).

  126. bindleon 02 Jun 2010 at 4:23 pm

    BillyJoe asked earlier, “How does choice find purpose?”

    Answer: Much same way he has “complexity summing to more than its parts.”

  127. Paisleyon 02 Jun 2010 at 4:24 pm

    Eric Thomson: “Paisley once again you didn’t understand if you interepreted it as eliminativist about consciousness, but by now I have learned it is not worth trying to clarify my views here. Enjoy.

    I said that you are taking the same tack as the eliminativists by assuming that the only explanation required for a complete understanding of consciousness is how information is processed in the brain.

    By the way, it would appear that Christof Koch doesn’t actually believe that subjective experiences can be explained by neuroscience.

    Well, let’s first forget about the really difficult aspects, like subjective feelings, for they may not have a scientific solution. The subjective state of play, of pain, of pleasure, of seeing blue, of smelling a rose – there seems to be a huge jump between the materialistic level, of explaining molecules and neurons, and the subjective level. Let’s focus on things that are easier to study.”

    (source: “What Is Consciousness?” Discover, November 1992, pg. 96 as quoted by David Chalmers in “Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness.”)

    “Focusing on things that are easier to study” is why Chalmers calls this the “easy problem” of consciousness – not because they are actually “easy,” but because they are amenable to the scientific method which is based solely on the third-person perspective.

  128. stizashellon 02 Jun 2010 at 4:43 pm

    paisley, if you truly believe that consciousness is effectively magical, and that we won’t ever understand it more than we do currently, then you surely haven’t learned as much about it as you seem to imply.

    i believe the biggest problem in understanding consciousness is people’s lack of studying their own. we wander through life rabbling at each other, thinking hard only about external things, and only when it offers some potential reward, all the while utilizing the very thing we claim is impossible to understand.

    the problem is not that we don’t understand, it’s that we understand too well, and can’t remove ourselves from ourselves enough to pay attention to how it is we pay attention.

    so go shut yourself in a totally dark room for a while and listen to your favorite song. lay on your bed and feel the world accelerating you upward against the gravity-induced flow of spacetime. take a drug that alters your consciousness, and when you get there, instead of playing like a silly schoolgirl in a candy store, stand in this new place and observe your regular self from there, with the same inquisitive and skeptical mind you are using right now. there’s a reason amazon shamans lick poisonous frogs. because it’s much easier to see yourself and the nature of consciousness when you are not so immersed in it.

    learn yourself for a change, the way you learn everything else. the further you get, the less magical consciousness will seem, and the more you will understand its nature.

  129. Eric Thomsonon 02 Jun 2010 at 5:06 pm

    From Koch:
    “I suspect that the hard problem, like other questions that have occupied philosophers in the past – how is it that humans see the world upright, when the retinal image is inverted – will disappear once we understand the easy problem. ”

    From his 2004 book.

    He does often take a methodological approach by avoiding the “hard problem” formulation of things, and just talks about the neuronal ‘correlates’ of consciousness. This is a very intelligent way to judiciously avoid wasting time with philosophers.

    At any rate, I am not wedded to everything Koch says. If he said that he thought the ‘Hard problem’ would never be solved by neuroscience, I would disagree with him. I merely said that his exposition of the neuroscience of consciousness research is excellent, and a good description of a “mainstream” approach. That’s where I have people start that want to see how neuroscience approaches the problem. That’s different from saying that I agree with everything he says.

  130. bindleon 02 Jun 2010 at 5:17 pm

    So take that, Karl Popper! You old time waster you.

  131. BillyJoe7on 02 Jun 2010 at 5:46 pm

    bindle,

    I’ll leave it to him to work it out – he needs find a way to penetrate his own defenses. And he seems to want to with that question.
    Here’s a hint: Seek and ye shall acquire.
    Another hint, involving those lively little electrons that for him seem not to know their place:
    The choices they are somewhat free to make are not based on their own assessments.

    I tried hard to understand your previous post, because for once you expanded a little to allow a little traction.

    But what did I get in return for my efforts? Instead of answers, more incomprehensible questions in reply to my questions and more gibberish nonsense.

    Well, bindle, it seems you would rather take your philosophy to the grave before subjecting it to public scrutiny- and ridicule, because it must surely be an embarrassing thing that will not see the light of day.

  132. Paisleyon 02 Jun 2010 at 6:09 pm

    stizashell: “paisley, if you truly believe that consciousness is effectively magical, and that we won’t ever understand it more than we do currently, then you surely haven’t learned as much about it as you seem to imply.

    I stated previously that the terms “emergence” and “complexity” (which are often employed by materialists to explain consciousness) are euphemisms for “magic.” IOW, you are employing “magic” to explain consciousness.

    stizashell: “so go shut yourself in a totally dark room for a while and listen to your favorite song. lay on your bed and feel the world accelerating you upward against the gravity-induced flow of spacetime. take a drug that alters your consciousness, and when you get there, instead of playing like a silly schoolgirl in a candy store, stand in this new place and observe your regular self from there, with the same inquisitive and skeptical mind you are using right now. there’s a reason amazon shamans lick poisonous frogs. because it’s much easier to see yourself and the nature of consciousness when you are not so immersed in it.

    The reason shamans ingest entheogens is to communicate with the spiritual world. Moreover, the recreational use of psychedelic drugs by the 1960s counter-culture marked the dawning of the “Age of Aquarius,” not “atheistic materialism.”

  133. bindleon 02 Jun 2010 at 7:12 pm

    BillyJoe7 writes, as usual:
    “Well, bindle, it seems you would rather take your philosophy to the grave before subjecting it to public scrutiny- and ridicule, because it must surely be an embarrassing thing that will not see the light of day.”
    The public whose judgement I respect has eyes that have no problem with the light that seems to shine above your head. Have you no powers of inference at all? The best way I know to teach is help the student find the lesson to be learned through his/hers own inductive talents – call it concept learning or whatever. Because if you’re not far enough along in learning to utilize the hints that I provided, you simply aren’t ready to understand the concepts.
    The gurgitation method that you seem attuned to leads mainly to regurgitation.

    Like this soon to be famous bowersism:
    “Purpose is a quality that you attribute to an entity or idea by looking at the outcome, and is not something intrinsic to that entity or idea.”

    Do you buy into that as well? Is that what you also learned in preparation for some multiple choice exam on science?

    I don’t do multiple choice where guess work passes for assessment.

  134. mufion 02 Jun 2010 at 7:29 pm

    Emergence a euphemism for magic, eh? OK, I’ll buy that – if “magic” in this context is a metaphor for the novelty feature in nature. However, by that same definition, the emergence of non-living and non-conscious properties, laws, or phenomena are magical, too.

  135. Paisleyon 02 Jun 2010 at 7:55 pm

    mufi: “Emergence a euphemism for magic, eh? OK, I’ll buy that – if “magic” in this context is a metaphor for the novelty feature in nature.

    In a strictly deterministic world, there is no novelty. True creativity requires some element of spontaneity.

  136. mufion 02 Jun 2010 at 8:09 pm

    From a divine perspective, perhaps. From a human perspective, however, it need only have been “unpredicted.” (I place that in quotes because the case in question may have occurred billions of years before humans existed, and the events may only have been inferred from surviving evidence.)

  137. BillyJoe7on 03 Jun 2010 at 12:18 am

    Admit it, bindle, you’re just an idiot with a high opinion of himself who is afraid to have that opinion shattered. That’s the real reason that you don’t engage, isn’t it?

  138. bindleon 03 Jun 2010 at 1:02 am

    Couldn’t find the inference, I presume?

    So much for summing up complexity.

  139. BillyJoe7on 03 Jun 2010 at 7:32 am

    Paisley,

    Okay. Please provide me with one example where this [emergent properties] has been demonstrated by science.

    - space
    - time
    - mass
    - temperature
    - symmetry breaking
    - phase changes
    - atoms to molecules:
    - viscosity, elasticity, tensile strength, friction, colour
    - geograhical sand patterns, frost heaving
    - hurricanes, cyclones, tornadoes
    - crystals
    - quantum physics to classical mechanics
    - physics to chemistry
    - chemistry to biology

    And stay tuned:
    - biology to consciousness

    “Also, dualism is the presumed metaphysical position until proven otherwise. Why? Because dualism is based on evidence provided by our first-person experience of the world.

    Sounds like question begging to me.
    Or circular reasoning.
    (And I suppose magic is the default asumption for a conjurors trick.)

    Dualism was the aasumption of the old armchair philosophers.
    Science emerged from, and replaced, that assumption about 400 years ago.

    Moreover, contemporary science paints a picture of the world that is fundamentally dualistic – namely, the wave/particle duality (probability waves are mathematical abstractions which are clearly nonphysical).

    That’s why I always refer to the assumption of science being that there are natural/physical/material explanations for phenomena rather than just physical explanations for phenomena. Mathematical abstractions clearly fall into the natural/physical/material category

  140. bindleon 03 Jun 2010 at 12:40 pm

    For those who’ve had problems understanding how brains, and yes even the trial and error systems of the brainless, purposively choose paths according to expected goals, read abut this study from CalTech, Learning Strategies are Associated with Distinct Neural Signatures.
    http://media.caltech.edu/press_releases/13351
    Also found here: http://futurity.org/science-technology/distinct-strategies-help-brain-take-action/

    After checking that out, at least one of you should read this:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duality_(physics)

  141. mufion 03 Jun 2010 at 1:21 pm

    Given the variety of interpretations of QM, is it fair to say that every one of them “paints a picture of the world that is fundamentally dualistic”, as Paisley does? or is that characterization more like advocacy than fact?

    Not that I necessarily mind advocacy (e.g. assuming that one understands the subject matter, and when it comes to QM, that’s always a tall claim). It may very well be that the best (or simplest) interpretation paints such a picture. (I don’t claim to know.) But, if so, it is still by no means clear how this picture bears on higher-order subjects (e.g. cognitive science), or to what extent it does.

    For example, turning back to the mind/body problem, even if we had no evidence that “the brain causes consciousness” (as put by Dr. Novella), it would be illogical to conclude from the premise that “all matter exhibits both wave-like and particle-like properties at the atomic and subatomic scales” that “consciousness exists independently of brains” (i.e. to jump from wave/particle duality to the dualist position in the philosophy of the mind). Even if we choose to describe brain functionality in dualist terms (e.g. mental and physical, conscious and unconscious, or voluntary and automatic), we are not only speaking at a different level (i.e. none of these descriptions sound particularly wave- or particle-like), but we may still reasonably work under the assumptions that brains are composed of atoms and that brains and consciousness are somehow related (i.e. at least if we have some evidence for that relationship, such as any known correlations between first- and third-person accounts of the effects of an anesthetic drug).*

    On the other hand, even though it strikes me as a categorical error to cite wave/particle duality as support for dualism in the philosophy of mind, I must admit that the “consciousness causes the wave to collapse” interpretation at least seems to be germane to the latter topic (if implausible, given the evidence that nature unfolds, regardless of whether or not “observers”, as we commonly think of them, are on hand).

    * Also, on a linguistic note, calling this pair of assumptions the “materialist hypothesis”, as Dr. Novella does, seems justified (if a bit old-fashioned), insofar as the brain is composed of matter, and matter that exhibits dual properties at atomic and subatomic scales is still matter.

  142. Eric Thomsonon 03 Jun 2010 at 1:46 pm

    Bohmian mechanics circumvents a lot of the spookiness (replacing it with a different type of spookiness, the pilot wave). I’ve always been sympathetic to Bohm’s brilliant hidden variable theory.

    Bindle you cited some great traditional neuroscience that makes no mention of QM, good to see you coming around.

  143. bindleon 03 Jun 2010 at 2:25 pm

    @Eric,
    Coming around? The citations are not supportive of determinism, so it’s you that must be shifting your position on the fence. They confirm the sequencing of intelligence, purpose, choice that I’ve, or I should say we’ve, been advocating all along. QM’s role was Paisley’s contribution which I’ve fully supported and learned from.

  144. Steven Novellaon 03 Jun 2010 at 2:46 pm

    The quantum mechanics gambit is completely impotent here. Wave particle duality is not an analogy for brain mind duality. This is just another way of saying, “funny stuff I don’t understand happens at the quantum level, therefore my magic is true.”

    The fact is, neuroscience is happily progressing along a completely non-dualistic understanding of brain and mind. Progress not only continues – it is accelerating.

    When it comes to neuroscience, dualism is worse than wrong, it is completely irrelevant. It is not even wrong. Most neuroscientists I know don’t give it a seconds thought, and those that do see it as an amusing sideline for philosophers having nothing to do with their actual work.

    I am not dissing philosophy – it’s just that the philosophical underpinnings of methodological naturalism have been worked out just fine. Some people just haven’t noticed.

  145. Steven Novellaon 03 Jun 2010 at 2:52 pm

    “The reason shamans ingest entheogens is to communicate with the spiritual world.”

    I love it – let’s use molecules that will bind to receptors in our brains, altering the biological function of our brains so that the manner in which our brains construct our perception of reality is altered. That will put is in touch with a non-physical world.

    Bottom line – drugs alter consciousness by altering brain function, which causes consciousness.

  146. bindleon 03 Jun 2010 at 3:17 pm

    Steven, I don’t speak for Paisley but you’re clearly taking some of his remarks out of context. And being “conscious of” causes brain function, which then, as you say, causes consciousness. Or better, causes the state of being consciously awake.
    Even in a deterministic world.

  147. bindleon 03 Jun 2010 at 3:42 pm

    To clarify, I’m with Paisley all the way, but can’t speak for him simply because he’d speak better for himself. What I describe as strategy, he sees as spontaneity. Either won’t exist without the other.

  148. Steven Novellaon 03 Jun 2010 at 3:43 pm

    I don’t think I took anything out of context – Paisley was quite clear.

    I don’t think it is meaningful to say that “being ‘conscious of’ causes brain function” – this confuses the arrow of causality. It does not “cause” brain function, it is brain function.

    The brain responds to its own activity – their is internal communication. So brain states and function affect brain states and function in an endless loop of activity, which is further affected by external stimuli (external to the brain, including body sensation and sensory information from outside the body), and also by the physiological environment.

  149. bindleon 03 Jun 2010 at 3:55 pm

    Brains developed to take advantage of awareness – that triggers the bow that shoots the arrow.

  150. DistantStaron 03 Jun 2010 at 5:13 pm

    Hi, first time commenting here.

    Do you think you could correct the “second study” url? The link is broken: it assumes I don’t have the cookie, which I also assume I’m already logged in.

    I love all of your articles. Please continue to write them. I also enjoy your SGU podcast. =)

  151. mufion 03 Jun 2010 at 5:25 pm

    OK, I’ll bite: Where is the evidence of “awareness” existing or occurring apart from brains (or perhaps machines, depending on how loosely you define the term)?

  152. bindleon 03 Jun 2010 at 5:46 pm

    Primitive organisms are still around that have no discernible brains or nervous systems yet have sensory apparatus that they respond to. But then you don’t believe that any of these make choices so there’s no point in my showing you how it’s thought they do so.

  153. BillyJoe7on 03 Jun 2010 at 5:53 pm

    mufi,

    “it strikes me as a categorical error to cite wave/particle duality as support for dualism in the philosophy of mind”

    I missed that.

    It’s like saying that placing detectors in quantum physical experiments and calling them “observers” means that therefore consciousness collapses the wave function.

    :D

  154. mufion 03 Jun 2010 at 6:05 pm

    bindle, I was just about to send the following postscript:

    PS: Of course, if one is willing to extend the definition of “awareness” as far as responsive machines, then we certainly shouldn’t leave out all of the responsive organisms that lack brains, but are probably not “conscious” in the human sense of the word.

    So we agree on something.

    But your assumption is correct: I tend to doubt that most organisms “choose” (in any meaningful sense of the word) to behave one way or another.

    Heck, for that matter, some folks (“hard determinists”) say that human choice is illusory. I don’t know about that, but I do know what it’s like to feel like I’ve made a choice. So, what I’m saying is that I tend to doubt that most organisms (let alone rocks or trees) share that feeling.

  155. mufion 03 Jun 2010 at 6:12 pm

    I tend to doubt that most organisms (let alone rocks or trees) share that feeling

    Correction: I tend to doubt that most organisms (let alone rocks or minerals) share that feeling. (Yes, I knew that trees are organisms.)

  156. Paisleyon 03 Jun 2010 at 6:23 pm

    BillyJoe7,

    I asked you for one example, not a list. (I really do not want to discuss cosmology. But I think it is fair to say that science does not have any explanation for how something “emerges” from nothing.)

    Previously you defined an emergent property as “summing to more than its parts.”

    There are two types of emergence – namely, weak and strong. Weak emergence is that which is normally invoked in science and is reducible to its fundamental constituents (i.e. the “whole is the sum of its parts”). Strong emergence is not reducible to its fundamental constituents (i.e. the “whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”) The type of emergence you are referring to is strong emergence. If consciousness (i.e. subjective awareness) is “greater than the sum of its parts” and therefore not reducible to it, then what is your basis for claiming that this emergent property is identical with (or reducible to) brain states?

    BillyJoe7: “Dualism was the aasumption of the old armchair philosophers.
    Science emerged from, and replaced, that assumption about 400 years ago.

    I agree that dualism was actually the assumption from which science emerged. (Science was originally confined to studying the natural or physical.) I disagree that science has invalidated this assumption. There is no physical evidence that consciousness (i.e. subjective awareness) is physical.

    BillyJoe7: “Mathematical abstractions clearly fall into the natural/physical/material category.

    Mathematical abstractions are clearly immaterial. And if you think otherwise, please provide me with the mass of the “square root of two.”

  157. bindleon 03 Jun 2010 at 6:37 pm

    If they, including trees, have sensory apparatus, they have awareness when they feel the input. Rocks as far as anyone knows don’t have sensory apparatus that would be unique to rocks. But bacteria that can inhabit rocks certainly do. The rock analogy is otherwise a non sequitur. So is knowing what it feels like to make a choice, although you seem to have accepted that it might feel like something.
    In any case you’re entitled to your doubts if they are proof enough to you to treat as evidence.

  158. mufion 03 Jun 2010 at 6:56 pm

    bindle, thanks for the clarification. I now know that your definition of “awareness” is broad enough to include all (or virtually all) organisms (although perhaps not broad enough to include machines that also possess sensory apparatuses, a.k.a. input devices).

    I’m still not sure, however, that I understand your claim that “brains developed to take advantage of awareness.” Perhaps you mean to suggest that an organism’s having a brain enhances or expands its awareness, without meaning to suggest that awareness is a “thing” itself that exists independently of organisms (?)

  159. mufion 03 Jun 2010 at 7:28 pm

    PS: You might take it as a compliment, bindle, that I feel from your comments that I am interacting with a conscious entity, whereas I get no such feeling from trees (let alone from microorganisms that are too small for me to perceive, or from this computer, which shows none of the behavioral signs that I associate with conscious entities). I would tend to say that my cats are conscious, too, although in a rather different way than we are (e.g. I cannot interact with them in language, in the way that I can interact with you).

    Yes, these are fuzzy, folksy, non-scientific criteria of consciousness. But, as far as I know, they are not in conflict (or at least not yet) with any of the findings of cognitive science.

  160. bindleon 03 Jun 2010 at 8:00 pm

    Brains developed to better assess awareness of signals, such as not only those re clear and present dangers but those that may be hidden and the immanence of any threats involved, ad infinitum. That should be obvious.
    I’m not going further into a discussion of consciousness and its evolution here as we’ve been there, done that.
    But why do you guys keep bringing up computers? We can all agree that they are determinist and we are the prederminist entities that make them work. They don’t need consciousness to determine anything.

  161. Paisleyon 03 Jun 2010 at 8:05 pm

    mufi: “Given the variety of interpretations of QM, is it fair to say that every one of them “paints a picture of the world that is fundamentally dualistic”, as Paisley does? or is that characterization more like advocacy than fact?

    The “wave-particle duality” is based on the “standard intepretation of QM (a.k.a. the Copenhagen interpretation).” Your insinuation that that I am advocating something that is not in accordance with mainstream physics is patently false.

  162. Paisleyon 03 Jun 2010 at 8:25 pm

    Eric Thomson: “Bohmian mechanics circumvents a lot of the spookiness (replacing it with a different type of spookiness, the pilot wave). I’ve always been sympathetic to Bohm’s brilliant hidden variable theory.

    Bohmian mechanics circumvents a lot of the spookiness (replacing it with a different type of spookiness, the pilot wave). I’ve always been sympathetic to Bohm’s brilliant hidden variable theory.

    David Bohm ascribed some form of mentality to an electron…

    Even an electron has at least a rudimentary mental pole, represented mathematically by the quantum potential.”

    (source: pg. 387 “The Undivided Universe: An Ontological Interpretation of Quantum Theory” by David Bohm and B.J. Hiley)

  163. mufion 03 Jun 2010 at 8:31 pm

    Paisley, either your reading comprehension is as remarkably poor, or you deliberately misrepresent what people write. Possibly both.

    In any case, I have no quibble with your preferred interpretation. But it is plain to see that there is more than one. Just take a look at the comparison table at the bottom of that page that I linked to earlier.

  164. stizashellon 03 Jun 2010 at 10:01 pm

    paisley, saying that “shamans lick frogs to reach the spiritual world” is like saying “people go to church to keep from going to hell.” they are equally nonsensical and non-scientific.

    shamans, whether they think of it this way or not, are in the business of finding new perception from the world through non-deductive means. part of the reason they actually succeed is that frog licking actually gives them a new consciousness to see the world through, and when you are there, and if you are willing to look for it, AND you are actually smart enough and wise enough to find it, you will see something new about the world as often as you choose, which was exactly my point.

    the reason the lsd kids got it all screwed up is because they were smart enough or disciplined enough to not just goof off when they got there. they let their minds wander without paying attention the way they would when there were no drugs. so when they got back, they only had crappy cursory explanations for what they saw.

    such a problem can be fixed in two ways: force the analytic part of yourself to stick around (if possible) when you are in the other state (or be fortunate enough to have one that sticks around anyway), or (the easier one) actually have legitimate, focused conversation or arguments while you are in the other state. obviously it’s harder to do than normal, but it’s not nearly impossible.

    next on your list, and again in billy joe’s stance’s defense, every other time strong emergence has been discovered in a physical phenomenon (nuclear energy, for example), it took the founding of a new realm of physical thought to properly describe it, yet it’s explanation was still ultimately just as natural and scientific as anything else. billy joe doesn’t have to reconcile your apparent duality to maintain his stance that there is no such thing as magic, because ultimately, consciousness will fit into the physical puzzle as well, and the explanation for how they are the same and not, just like the wave particle duality, will come from that new physics.

    also, no one is disagreeing with the wave particle duality, just your interpretation of it. believing or not that quantum mechanics somehow implies truly alternate realities or paradoxes has long since been handed off to the philosophy dept and is not physics.

    lastly, you ask for the mass of the square root of two…this would prove it non-physical, but obviously does NOT prove it unnatural… that’s why bj always sticks those three words together: physical/material/natural. he’s defining a broader category of thing than any of the three does alone. i believe it’s because he has a problem with the word “natural” having too much power or being too easily misinterpreted (or both), or perhaps it’s a problem with the word “real,” which is quite obviously well-founded if not entirely legitimate, given IT’S tendency as well to be softly defined.

  165. Eric Thomsonon 03 Jun 2010 at 10:20 pm

    Paisley: you consistently fail to grasp that if someone endorses one thing that someone says, that doesn’t imply they endorse everything that person says. It’s so disingenuous a strategy you undermine any credibility you may have gained by being less silly than bindle.

  166. bindleon 03 Jun 2010 at 10:42 pm

    Yo, Eric, you’re not exactly Mr. Credibility with your on-again off-again deterministic stances.

  167. mufion 03 Jun 2010 at 10:48 pm

    BillyJoe7 to me:

    It’s like saying that placing detectors in quantum physical experiments and calling them “observers” means that therefore consciousness collapses the wave function.

    Yes, although I suppose that one could argue that the detectors are observers by proxy, in that we only know of their effects because some (human) observer has interpreted its data.

    But what if there are no humans, human proxies, or plausible observers of any kind? What if we roll back the evolutionary timeline four billion years, before there is any surviving evidence of life on this planet? Or what all of the locales that are not being observed (perhaps because they are devoid of life or life is not so abundant as to be observing them all)? Is the entire universe under observation?

    I suppose that advocates of this “consciousness causes collapse” view expect us to believe that conscious observation is prior to life. But there is no scientific evidence to support that claim, and, according to the comparison table that I referred to above, we have other interpretations of QM to choose from, most of which do not assign a special role to any observer in the unfolding of nature.

    BTW, that includes the Copenhagen interpretation, which does not address the observer role, although one of its founders, Werner Heisenberg, is said to have personally endorsed a special role for observers. But, even if that view had been included in the Copenhagen interpretation, consider that:

    a poll mentioned in “The Physics of Immortality” (published in 1994), of 72 “leading cosmologists and other quantum field theorists” found that 58% supported the many-worlds interpretation, including Stephen Hawking and Nobel laureates Murray Gell-Mann and Richard Feynman

    [ibid]

    And the many-worlds interpretation definitely does not assign any special role to observers – although I am not sure what role (if any) wave/particle duality plays in it.

  168. mufion 03 Jun 2010 at 11:26 pm

    bindle, I strongly disagree. I find Erik to be a highly credible writer, and his argument that we should decide on an empirical, case-by-case basis which processes in nature are deterministic and which are indeterministic seems entirely reasonable to me.

    That said, I wouldn’t object if he spoke strictly in terms of probability, although I suspect that the difference between a determined event and a very high probable one (in a case where the evidence leads us there) might still be too small to satisfy you.

  169. Eric Thomsonon 04 Jun 2010 at 12:11 am

    Thanks mufi, and just to be clear, my claim was we need to decide on a case-by-case basis whether the formalism of QM is needed to solve a particular problem. Brains live in uncertain environments, and produce variable responses to identical stimuli. This is helpfully modeled using probability theory, but not QM.

  170. Paisleyon 04 Jun 2010 at 12:42 am

    Steven Novella: “The quantum mechanics gambit is completely impotent here. Wave particle duality is not an analogy for brain mind duality.

    This is not exactly what I said, although I do agree that the wave/particle duality is analogous to the mind/brain duality. Probabililty waves are mathematical abstractions and mathematical abstractions are clearly nonphysical. Moreover, dualism is the presumed metaphysical position because it is based on evidence provided by our first-person experience of the world.

    Steven Novella: “This is just another way of saying, “funny stuff I don’t understand happens at the quantum level, therefore my magic is true.”

    This is just another way of saying that both contemporary physics and our first-person experience of the world undermine the materialistic position. If you disagree, then put forth a compelling counterargument, not some lame “cutism.”

    Steven Novella: “The fact is, neuroscience is happily progressing along a completely non-dualistic understanding of brain and mind. Progress not only continues – it is accelerating.

    When it comes to neuroscience, dualism is worse than wrong, it is completely irrelevant. It is not even wrong. Most neuroscientists I know don’t give it a seconds thought, and those that do see it as an amusing sideline for philosophers having nothing to do with their actual work.

    Christof Koch (prominent neuroscientist involved in mapping out the NCCs) doesn’t actually believe that subjective experiences can be explained by neuroscience.

    Well, let’s first forget about the really difficult aspects, like subjective feelings, for they may not have a scientific solution. The subjective state of play, of pain, of pleasure, of seeing blue, of smelling a rose – there seems to be a huge jump between the materialistic level, of explaining molecules and neurons, and the subjective level. Let’s focus on things that are easier to study.”

    (source: “What Is Consciousness?” Discover, November 1992, pg. 96 as quoted by David Chalmers in “Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness“)

    By the way, John Eccles (Nobel laureate in neurophysiology) and Wilder Penfield (pioneered the neural stimulation of the brain with electrical probes) were dualists.

    Steven Novella: “I am not dissing philosophy – it’s just that the philosophical underpinnings of methodological naturalism have been worked out just fine. Some people just haven’t noticed.

    Some people have noticed that the philosophical underpinnings of methodological naturalism have been undermined by a different school of thought on the scientific method known as critical rationalism.

    Critical rationalism instead holds that unbiased observation is not possible and a demarcation between natural and supernatural explanations is arbitrary; it instead proposes falsifiability as the landmark of empirical theories and falsification as the universal empirical method.

    (source: Wikipedia: Science)

    Incidentally, “critical rationalism” was proposed by Karl Popper – arguably the most influential philosopher of science in the 20th century. Also, he was a noted dualist. In fact, he collaborated with John Eccles on the book “The Self and Its Brain: An Argument for Interactionism.”

  171. bindleon 04 Jun 2010 at 12:42 am

    mufi, are you openly waffling now as well? The difference between a deterministic event and a highly probable one depends on the universe you propose for their occurrence. Because the highly probable doesn’t exist in your admittedly deterministic world, unless there’s also some factor of the predetermined in the mix.
    Those in a deterministic world (again as you have noted) have only the illusion of choice and option, while those of the indeterminate have the luxury of anticipating probabilities concurrent with a vast array of options available for the choosing.

    And you determinists of course seem much less worried about the consequences of choice. You argue that we can’t be responsible for the one if not responsible for the other.

    We in the indeterminate world accept responsibility for our choices, whether or not we’ve determined (IOW predetermined) others’ choices in the bargain. Who’s responsible in a deterministic world? It seems with you it all comes down to gods or nothing.

    So what seems highly reasonable to you and Eric seems the ultimate in equivocation to the more sane among us.

    Eric, assuming he’s the scientist that he claims, fits the category of what some call the ‘fourth stage, where scientists chronicle what’s been learned and apply knowledge for practical purposes, but produce few new discoveries.’ Plus being a master of the disingenuous strategy that he’s tried to foist on others.

    He’s able to nicely balance credibility with intellectually dishonesty, I’ll give him that. Note the latest waffle of his that’s just preceded this post.

  172. bindleon 04 Jun 2010 at 12:49 am

    Oops, Paisley’s comment hit here just as mine did, Looks like he’s hit another home run.

  173. Paisleyon 04 Jun 2010 at 1:00 am

    Steven Novella: “I don’t think I took anything out of context – Paisley was quite clear.”

    I believe you did take something out of context as made evident by your next comment.

    Steven Novella: “I love it – let’s use molecules that will bind to receptors in our brains, altering the biological function of our brains so that the manner in which our brains construct our perception of reality is altered. That will put is in touch with a non-physical world.”

    How does this refute my claim that shamans take sacramental herbs with the purpose of communicating with the spiritual world? Whether you believe they actually communicate with the spiritual world is irrelevant as to whether this is their actual intent.

    Steven Novella: “Bottom line – drugs alter consciousness by altering brain function, which causes consciousness.”

    I don’t think anyone is disputing that drugs alter consciousness by altering brain function. But the claim that brain function “causes consciousness” is not a scientific fact. It is merely an unquestioned assumption.

  174. Paisleyon 04 Jun 2010 at 2:14 am

    mufi: “In any case, I have no quibble with your preferred interpretation. But it is plain to see that there is more than one.

    The standard interpretation is not my “preferred interpretation.” It’s the orthodox interpretation of mainstream science.

  175. ccbowerson 04 Jun 2010 at 2:16 am

    “How does this refute my claim that shamans take sacramental herbs with the purpose of communicating with the spiritual world? Whether you believe they actually communicate with the spiritual world is irrelevant as to whether this is their actual intent.”

    If this is what you meant, you were not taken out of context you just made your point sloppily. The way you wrote it seems like a statement of fact. I notice that you are still not taking a stance one way or the other on if they are communicating with a spiritual world. You are being too careful to not reveal your stance, which indicates that Steve was perhaps correct and you are trying to back-track.

  176. ccbowerson 04 Jun 2010 at 2:18 am

    “But the claim that brain function “causes consciousness” is not a scientific fact. It is merely an unquestioned assumption.”

    It is not unquestioned. There just is no reasonable alternative, unless you believe in magic. It is clear you and Bindle do (since he gushes with every magical thought). So just admit that you believe in magic thinking and we are done with the ongoing nonsense. Next thing you know you’ll be referencing Deepak Chopra with your next comment.

  177. bindleon 04 Jun 2010 at 3:05 am

    Magic like this soon to be notorious bowersism:
    “Purpose is a quality that you attribute to an entity or idea by looking at the outcome, and is not something intrinsic to that entity or idea.”

  178. bindleon 04 Jun 2010 at 3:09 am

    @ccbowers
    http://www.plognark.com/Art/Sketches/Blogsketches/2008/thestupiditburns.jpg

  179. allieon 04 Jun 2010 at 6:33 am

    Dr. novella,

    Did you see this article? Apparently, Andrew Wakefield tried to link MMR vaccine with Crohn’s disease before autism.

    http://www.slate.com/id/2255259

  180. BillyJoe7on 05 Jun 2010 at 4:02 am

    Paisley,

    “mathematical abstractions are clearly nonphysical.”

    How are they clearly nonphysical?

    We say things are natural/physical/material if they have purely natural/physical/material causes. Mathematical abstractions are physical if they are the products of neural activity in physical brains. It seems you deny that.

    To say that they are clearly nonphysical is to put them in the supernatural/nonphysical/immaterial category But we have not seen a supernatural/nonphysical/immaterial explanation for anything in 400 years. Are you saying you have one at last?

    “Moreover, dualism is the presumed metaphysical position because it is based on evidence provided by our first-person experience of the world.”

    You cannot presume something is true by assuming that an assumption is true. That does not work!

    “both contemporary physics and our first-person experience of the world undermine the materialistic position”

    Only if you assume that subjective experience cannot be the result of the physical activity in our brains and must have a supernatural/nonphysical/immaterial explanation.
    Only if you dismiss 400 years of the natural/physical/material explanations displacing countless assumed supernatural/nonphysical/immaterial explanations.
    Only if you assume that this is going to be the one exception in 400 years.

    “the philosophical underpinnings of methodological naturalism have been undermined by a different school of thought on the scientific method known as critical rationalism.”

    So you say.

    “But the claim that brain function “causes consciousness” is not a scientific fact. It is merely an unquestioned assumption.”

    Yes, part of the assumption that all phenomena have natural/physical/material explanations, an assumption that has been removing supernatural/nonphysical/immaterial explanations for 400 years.
    My assumption is that this assumption will continue to hold. That the last gap will be filled. I could be wrong, but I think that is a pretty good bet building upon on 400 years of success.

  181. BillyJoe7on 05 Jun 2010 at 4:31 am

    “And you determinists of course seem much less worried about the consequences of choice. You argue that we can’t be responsible for the one if not responsible for the other.”

    :D

    Sorry, that is just your lack of understanding of the thing you presume to criticise. A moments thought would show you how incoherence that statement is.

    If “choices” are determined, you don’t think that maybe, just maybe, “responsibilities” are determined as well? And how real the illusion of choice/freewill and the illusion of responsibility/self really are.

    Just like the differences in the shades of grey in the checkerboard illusion are very real though illusory:

    http://web.mit.edu/persci/people/adelson/checkershadow_illusion.html

    Section A and section B are clearly different shades of grey aren’t they? Go on, you can agree because I won’t disagree with you. But, in fact, they are the exact same shade of grey. The difference is an illusion.

    Similarly, the illusion of freewill and the illusion of self are very real to us and we act on them. And why not. We are totally unaware of their deterministic nature. The cause and effect relations are far too complex and mutilayered.

    You can even throw in some quantum dice every now and then if you like, but what we still have is materialism or the natural/physical/material assmption of science.

  182. mufion 05 Jun 2010 at 9:48 am

    Paisley, as I pointed out to BillyJoe (based on that Wikipedia entry I cited above), the many-worlds interpretation is now the favored interpretation among “leading cosmologists and other quantum field theorists.” But that’s beside the point.

    The “consciousness causes collapse” idea is not a feature of the Copenhagen interpretation and it is not a feature of most QM interpretations.

    And, just for added emphasis, wave/particle duality is not the same as dualism in the philosophy of mind.

  183. ccbowerson 05 Jun 2010 at 11:41 am

    “Magic like this soon to be notorious bowersism:
    ‘Purpose is a quality that you attribute to an entity or idea by looking at the outcome, and is not something intrinsic to that entity or idea.’ ”

    I stand by that statement when referring to the way you have been using the term ‘pupose.’ The way you have used the term appears to me to be someone connecting dots that aren’t there. You have a sort of pareidolia of science and philosophy

  184. bindleon 05 Jun 2010 at 1:04 pm

    ccbowers, that’s a dodge that adds further emphasis to the almost abject ignorance you possess of either science or philosophy – assuming there’s a way to separate the two as you are wont to do. Really, are end results to be taken as initial purpose? Are ideas simply accidents of ideation? Must be so, the way you and BJ babble on and on. He seems to have no inkling that the responsibility issue has been the core bone of contention in the free will, little or none, conundrum. Even mufi’s people have acknowledged that it is.

    Let’s look at what you, ccbowers, are standing by again:

    “Purpose is a quality that you attribute to an entity or idea by looking at the outcome, and is not something intrinsic to that entity or idea.”

    Purpose not intrinsic to an entity or its ideas? Well, not of course if you are flaming determinists. Much closer than you seem to know to the Chopra magic you’ve decried above.

  185. ccbowerson 05 Jun 2010 at 1:24 pm

    “Really, are end results to be taken as initial purpose?”

    No. I don’t use the term purpose in the way that you do. If you are attributing a purpose to something then you are inferring from its apparent function. It is not intrinsic to the entity almost by definition of purpose, in the way that you have been using it. It depends on the topic of course and I think my point is most relevant when we are discussing evolution. Attributing purpose in this setting is always an assumption.

  186. ccbowerson 05 Jun 2010 at 1:27 pm

    Not that there is always something wrong with making that assumption, as long as its informed and your acknowledge that limitation. You don’t always do that

  187. bindleon 05 Jun 2010 at 3:30 pm

    Yes, I assume that every biological function was there to serve its particular purpose. You now concede that some are, but only some (begging the question of how you split the difference). Which only compounds the problem you have with understanding purpose in biology – not to mention its role in evolution.
    Purpose is inherent to an indeterminate universe. All that we call natural laws have been delineated by the purposes they appear to us to serve.
    Evolution then results from that aggregate of purpose taking advantage of the regularity of otherwise unpredictable accident. None of this would be possible in a deterministic world.

    Some of you might need to take another look at the dictionary definition of determinism:
    determinism |diˈtərməˌnizəm|
    noun Philosophy
    the doctrine that all events, including human action, are ultimately determined by causes external to the will. Some philosophers have taken determinism to imply that individual human beings have no free will and cannot be held morally responsible for their actions.

  188. ccbowerson 05 Jun 2010 at 4:38 pm

    bindle-

    You’ve inserted the determinism label into this I have not. So You are dictating the terms that you label others. I am not bound by a definition you throw out there. Perhaps I should call you an intelligent design proponent and hold you to that definition.

  189. BillyJoe7on 05 Jun 2010 at 5:05 pm

    bindle,

    “BJ…seems to have no inkling that the responsibility issue has been the core bone of contention in the free will, little or none, conundrum.”

    :D

    (I mean, get off your pedestal already!)

    Of course I do.
    In fact, I understand it completely.

    I’m merely pointing out how incredible it is that you have never seen a demolition job done on that supposed conundrum about the illusion of freewill.

    But I’m not surprised, after having now been exposed to a first run through of that demolition job, you ignore it completely and, instead, try to distract us all from the solution by restating your unfounded belief in my complete ignorance of the isssue.

    Bindle, your opponents are not as ignorant as you’ve convinced yourself they are, and you and your heroes are not as smart as you’ve convinced yourself you and they are.

    But nice try.

  190. BillyJoe7on 05 Jun 2010 at 5:09 pm

    bindle,

    “Some of you might need to take another look at the dictionary definition of determinism:

    the doctrine that all events, including human action, are ultimately determined by causes external to the will. Some philosophers have taken determinism to imply that individual human beings have no free will and cannot be held morally responsible for their actions.”

    You may have missed it but the operative word there is “some”
    Again, nice try.

  191. bindleon 05 Jun 2010 at 5:16 pm

    Except that that intelligent design is predeterminate, which may be closer to your philosophy than you know. And you can’t be determinate in one part of the natural world while indeterminate in the adjacent other. Except you are among those that earlier argued that you can. You have also supported the mechanistic views predominant here. So if you are neither a determinist nor a predeterminist, you’re simply an indeterminist bereft of logic.

    Take the labels you dislike away and you’re nevertheless deterministic where purpose and choice in nature are concerned, or shall we take that distinction away from your philosophy as well?

  192. bindleon 05 Jun 2010 at 5:30 pm

    That last was for ccbowers. Part of his problem may be that he often lets some idiot answer for him.

  193. Paisleyon 06 Jun 2010 at 1:08 am

    stizahell: “shamans, whether they think of it this way or not, are in the business of finding new perception from the world through non-deductive means. part of the reason they actually succeed is that frog licking actually gives them a new consciousness to see the world through, and when you are there, and if you are willing to look for it, AND you are actually smart enough and wise enough to find it, you will see something new about the world as often as you choose, which was exactly my point.

    Shamans are in the business of healing and they attempt to achieve this by directly communicating with the spirit world.

    The shaman also enters supernatural realms or dimensions to obtain solutions to problems afflicting the community.”

    (source: Wikipedia: shamanism)

    stizashell: “the reason the lsd kids got it all screwed up is because they were smart enough or disciplined enough to not just goof off when they got there. they let their minds wander without paying attention the way they would when there were no drugs. so when they got back, they only had crappy cursory explanations for what they saw.

    Psychedelic drugs have been legally employed in research and therapy.

    In addition to the release of dozens of books and creation of six international conferences, more than 1000 peer-reviewed clinical papers detailing the use of psychedelic compounds (administered to approximately 40,000 patients) were published by the mid-1960s.[2],

    (source: Wikipedia: Psychedelic therapy)

    Psychedelic therapy engenders religious or spiritual experiences.

    Psychedelic therapy involves the use of very high doses of psychedelic drugs, with the aim of promoting transcendental, ecstatic, religious or mystical peak experiences.

    (source: Wikipedia: Psychedelic therapy)

    Disclaimer: I am not promoting illicit drug use.

    stizashell: “next on your list, and again in billy joe’s stance’s defense, every other time strong emergence has been discovered in a physical phenomenon (nuclear energy, for example), it took the founding of a new realm of physical thought to properly describe it

    Strong emergence is nonreducible by definition. IOW, there is no explanation. If you can explain it, then it is not emergence in the strong sense. Also, what you are calling a emergent property here has a physical property. Consciousness has no physical property.

    stizashell: “believing or not that quantum mechanics somehow implies truly alternate realities or paradoxes has long since been handed off to the philosophy dept and is not physics.

    I know. You’re taught to simply do the math and not think about the implications. But to the extent that you are promoting a materialistic worldview, then you are engaging in philosophy.

    stizashell: “lastly, you ask for the mass of the square root of two…this would prove it non-physical, but obviously does NOT prove it unnatural… that’s why bj always sticks those three words together: physical/material/natural.

    It proves that it is NOT physical. That’s all that is required to dismantle materialism (a.k.a. physicalism). What? Would you really have us believe there are mathematical abstractions floating in the void exerting some kind of causal efficacy? Mathematical abstractions do not exist independently of a mind that abstracts.

  194. Paisleyon 06 Jun 2010 at 1:20 am

    Eric Thomson: “Paisley: you consistently fail to grasp that if someone endorses one thing that someone says, that doesn’t imply they endorse everything that person says. It’s so disingenuous a strategy you undermine any credibility you may have gained by being less silly than bindle.

    If you’re sympathetic to Bohm’s “hidden variable” interpretation of QM, then you should not take umbrage with me simply because I am pointing out what that sympathy implies.

  195. Paisleyon 06 Jun 2010 at 1:38 am

    mufi: “BTW, that includes the Copenhagen interpretation, which does not address the observer role, although one of its founders, Werner Heisenberg, is said to have personally endorsed a special role for observers. But, even if that view had been included in the Copenhagen interpretation, consider that:

    a poll mentioned in “The Physics of Immortality” (published in 1994), of 72 “leading cosmologists and other quantum field theorists” found that 58% supported the many-worlds interpretation, including Stephen Hawking and Nobel laureates Murray Gell-Mann and Richard Feynman

    [ibid]

    And the many-worlds interpretation definitely does not assign any special role to observers – although I am not sure what role (if any) wave/particle duality plays in it.

    The “many-worlds” interpretation entails the “many-minds” interpretation. (IOW, a conscious universe is completely compatible with this interpretation.)

    The many-minds interpretation of quantum mechanics extends the many-worlds interpretation by proposing that the distinction between worlds should be made at the level of the mind of an individual observer.

    (source: Wikipedia: Interpretation of quantum mechanics)

  196. Paisleyon 06 Jun 2010 at 1:51 am

    ccbowers: “If this is what you meant, you were not taken out of context you just made your point sloppily. The way you wrote it seems like a statement of fact. I notice that you are still not taking a stance one way or the other on if they are communicating with a spiritual world. You are being too careful to not reveal your stance, which indicates that Steve was perhaps correct and you are trying to back-track.

    It may seem like a statement of fact if you don’t factor the context in which I stated it. I was responding to an individual who was implying that psychedelic drug use enabled shamans to develop a materialistic worldview.

  197. Paisleyon 06 Jun 2010 at 1:58 am

    ccbowers: “It is not unquestioned.”

    You have no scientific evidence whatsoever that consciousness (i.e. subjective awareness) is physical…none, zilch, NADA!

  198. Paisleyon 06 Jun 2010 at 2:40 am

    BillyJoe7: “We say things are natural/physical/material if they have purely natural/physical/material causes. Mathematical abstractions are physical if they are the products of neural activity in physical brains. It seems you deny that.

    The probability wave (this is what all matter reduces to according to contemporary physics) is the mathematical abstraction in question. The collapse of the wave function has NO physical cause…NONE! Therefore, you are making my point.

    BillyJoe7: “You cannot presume something is true by assuming that an assumption is true. That does not work!

    Knowledge has traditionally been defined as “justified belief.” IOW, everything we know is ultimately based on belief (with the only exception of our subjective awareness).

    BillyJoe7: “Only if you assume that subjective experience cannot be the result of the physical activity in our brains and must have a supernatural/nonphysical/immaterial explanation.

    It’s not an assumption. It’s knowledge based on my first-person experience of my own subjectivity. My subjective awareness is clearly SUBJECTIVE, not OBJECTIVE. The materialist believes that only the objective is real (i.e. only the physical is real); therefore, the materialist must prove that subjective awareness is actually objective.

    BillyJoe7: “Yes, part of the assumption that all phenomena have natural/physical/material explanations, an assumption that has been removing supernatural/nonphysical/immaterial explanations for 400 years.
    My assumption is that this assumption will continue to hold. That the last gap will be filled. I could be wrong, but I think that is a pretty good bet building upon on 400 years of success.

    Only evidence will suffice, not “promissory materialism.”

  199. Paisleyon 06 Jun 2010 at 3:34 am

    mufi: “Paisley, as I pointed out to BillyJoe (based on that Wikipedia entry I cited above), the many-worlds interpretation is now the favored interpretation among “leading cosmologists and other quantum field theorists.” But that’s beside the point.

    No, it is not beside the point. This is exactly the point. Materialism is a metaphysical belief which is ultimately based on faith (i.e. belief without sufficient evidence…or belief even when there is evidence to the contrary.)

    By the way, it would appear that you are conflating the multiverse with parallel universes. They are not the same thing. The multiverse is based on the Darwinian explanation that string theory provides to the fine-tuning of the cosmological constant. Parallel universes is the MWI.

    mufi: “The “consciousness causes collapse” idea is not a feature of the Copenhagen interpretation and it is not a feature of most QM interpretations.

    I know. I never stated that it was. (I did state that indeterminism, wave-particle duality, and nonlocality/entanglement are part and parcel of quantum theory).

    MMI (i.e. “many minds interpretation”) is logically entailed by the MWI (i.e. “many worlds interpretation.”)

    “It was not possible to formulate the laws (of quantum theory) in a fully consistent way without reference to consciousness.” – Eugene Wigner (1963 Nobel laureate in physics)

    mufi: “And, just for added emphasis, wave/particle duality is not the same as dualism in the philosophy of mind.

    Dualism is the view that both the physical and nonphysical are real. Probability waves (which represent a realm of potentiality) are clearly not physical. Your refusal to acknowledge this does not change the fact.

  200. BillyJoe7on 06 Jun 2010 at 7:17 am

    Paisley,

    “The probability wave (this is what all matter reduces to according to contemporary physics) is the mathematical abstraction in question. The collapse of the wave function has NO physical cause…NONE! Therefore, you are making my point.”

    The probability wave, and the collapse of the wave function are models of the world developed by physicists. IOW, they are mental abstractions that exist in the minds of the physicists who conceived them and in the minds of those who understand them. These mental abstractions are produced by physical brains and are therefore physical.

    The quantum particles themselves are not the abstract models of them that exist in brains. And, whatever they are, and whatever attributes they have, there is no evidence at all that they are anything but physical.

    “Knowledge has traditionally been defined as “justified belief.” IOW, everything we know is ultimately based on belief”

    If you think that the existence of physical objects is merely a belief, I invite you to jump off the empire state building. If you accept that physical objects are real, then you have to accept that everythying produced by those physical objects are physical also.

    “My subjective awareness is clearly SUBJECTIVE, not OBJECTIVE. The materialist believes that only the objective is real (i.e. only the physical is real); therefore, the materialist must prove that subjective awareness is actually objective.”

    Again, you are begging the question.

    The materialist account of the self is as follows: Life evolved, Some forms of life evolved brains. Some forms of life that evolved brains also evolved consciousness. Some forms of life that evolved brains and consciousness also evolved a self.
    In other words, consciouness and self are attributes of the brain and, since the brain is physical, consciousness and the self are also physical.

    IOW, there is no need to postulate the nonphysical.
    If you wish to postulate the existence of the nonphysical, you need to demonstrate that this category is actually necessary.

    “with the only exception of our subjective awareness.”

    We have evidence of physical objects but noi evidence of nonphysical objects. Therefore, if you wish to postulate the existence of a nonphysical subject within the brain, you need to follow that with evidence. Otherwise Ockham’s razor suggests we can disgard that postulate.

    OTOH, the 300 msec delay between a decision being made by the subconscious part of the brain before this decision gets relayed to the conscious part of the brain (as demonstrated with fMRI) argues strongly for the view that consciousness and self are physical entities produced by the brain.

  201. Eric Thomsonon 06 Jun 2010 at 9:14 am

    BillyJoe: Have fun trying to prove to Paisley that an external world exists. :)

    Also, if the first person perspective is so important, upon what evidence is your view based that an electron is conscious? Do you have first person evidence of being conscious in the absence of a brain? The only evidence we have correlating conscious states and the world shows correlations with the electrical activity in large populations of neurons (or sometimes, proxies for such activity in the form of regional blood flow measures such as MRI).

    So while you might say the neuroscientists are discovering “mere” correlations, the quantophiles don’t even have that. They have extremely flimsy philosophical arguments, not data.

    Pehaps there are two types of consciousness. One based on evidence and implicating brain activity in obvious ways, based on “mere correlations” (i.e., data) connecting brain states and experiences (e.g., binocular rivalry). The other based on a panpsychist philosophy with zero evidence in which my toenail clippings are conscious but I am not aware of it. Which is based on the evidence again?

  202. bindleon 06 Jun 2010 at 3:13 pm

    “What we’ve got here is failure to extrapolate.”

  203. Paisleyon 06 Jun 2010 at 8:17 pm

    BillyJoe7: “The probability wave, and the collapse of the wave function are models of the world developed by physicists. IOW, they are mental abstractions that exist in the minds of the physicists who conceived them and in the minds of those who understand them. These mental abstractions are produced by physical brains and are therefore physical.”

    The probability wave is a mathematical model that represents a nonphysical realm of possibilities. Your failure to acknowledge (or intellectually grasp) quantum indeterminism does not change the fact that it has been scientifically validated.

    BillyJoe7: “We have evidence of physical objects but noi evidence of nonphysical objects. Therefore, if you wish to postulate the existence of a nonphysical subject within the brain, you need to follow that with evidence. Otherwise Ockham’s razor suggests we can disgard that postulate.

    You have no objectve evidence that consciousness (i.e. subjective awareness) is physical. Your refusal to acknowledge this obvious glitch in your materialist worldview does not remove the glitch. It simply reveals your faith-commitment to materialism.

    BillyJoe7: “OTOH, the 300 msec delay between a decision being made by the subconscious part of the brain before this decision gets relayed to the conscious part of the brain (as demonstrated with fMRI) argues strongly for the view that consciousness and self are physical entities produced by the brain.

    I fail to see how this provides objective evidence that subjective awareness is actually OBJECTIVE, not subjective.

    Having said that, I believe you are attempting to argue that neuroscience has proven that “free will” is illusory based on experiments conducted by Benjamin Libet. However, Libet himself does not interpret the results of his experiments to support this view.

    Despite these findings, Libet himself does not interpret his experiment as evidence of the inefficacy of conscious free will—he points out that although the tendency to press a button may be building up for 500 milliseconds, the conscious will retains a right to veto that action in the last few milliseconds. [14]

    (source: Wikipedia: Neuroscience of free will)

  204. Paisleyon 06 Jun 2010 at 9:11 pm

    Eric Thomson: “Also, if the first person perspective is so important, upon what evidence is your view based that an electron is conscious?

    It’s based on a logical inference. (We can only infer consciousness. There is no scientific evidence that consciousness even exists. That’s a fact.)

    Eric Thomson: “Do you have first person evidence of being conscious in the absence of a brain?

    I have had first-person experiences of pure awareness.

    Also, there is evidence that consciousness functions even after a brain is declared clinically dead (e.g. “near death experiences“.)

    Eric Thomson: “So while you might say the neuroscientists are discovering “mere” correlations.”

    Correct. We both know that correlations do not equate to equivalency.

    Eric Thomson: “the other based on a panpsychist philosophy with zero evidence

    There is evidence to suggest that bacteria have the capacity to make decisions. Also, there is evidence that quantum computing occurs in bacteria. (Also, if you do not accept the view that consciousness is fundamental, then you have to provide an explanation for why consciousness was naturally selected. Hitherto, no materialist has ever been able to produce a compelling argument for this paradox.)

  205. Eric Thomsonon 06 Jun 2010 at 11:15 pm

    Paisley said:
    if you do not accept the view that consciousness is fundamental, then you have to provide an explanation for why consciousness was naturally selected.

    Incorrect. I don’t view the gall bladder as fundamental, but that doesn’t mean I have to explain why it was selected. Physiology studies the mechanism of X, not its origins. They are independent questions.

    That said, I think it would be a good High School psychology question: what good is consciousness? To make it easier, consider the question, what good is it to experience pain? What good is it to be aware of the lion on the plain?

    What good are those things? They both aid in planning future behavior (e.g., my tooth aches, so I plan to go to the dentist; I see a lion, so I will sit very still), facilitate learning (e.g., episodic memory), and they likely acts in concert with attention to highlight certain features of the world over others (there is so much information in the CNS, consciousness narrows down to that which is most likely to be important). Those are sort of the obvious answers.

    A couple of more interesting ideas…One is that they tend to highlight the present (RL Gregory’s term) to distinguish memories from representations of what is happening right now on the sensory receptors (something that breaks down during dreaming). That is, the distinction between seeing a lion right now, based on what is happening in my retinae, versus activating a memory of a lion. That’s an important thing for the brain to keep track of!

    Anyway, those are just a few hypotheses. Ultimately what the function of consciousness is, is an empirical question. What is the function of the gall bladder? 1000 years ago people couldn’t answer that, but that didn’t make them think it didn’t exist, or that it was “fundamental.”

  206. bindleon 06 Jun 2010 at 11:39 pm

    “what good is consciousness?” Isn’t that a euphemistic way to ask, what purpose does it serve? A way to then avoid the inference that attributes of life evolve to serve them?

  207. Eric Thomsonon 06 Jun 2010 at 11:43 pm

    Bindle: Not sure what your point is. What good is a heart? What is its function? What is its purpose? In ordinary language, they are rough synonyms. Doesn’t imply the heart is conscious, obviously (any more than attributing functions to mousetraps imply they are conscious).

  208. BillyJoe7on 07 Jun 2010 at 12:21 am

    Eric,

    I think bindle wants to say that the body needed a pump to push blood around the circulatory system and therefore evolved a heart.
    But your guess is as good as mine.
    He only ever leaves hints as to his underlying philosophy.

  209. Eric Thomsonon 07 Jun 2010 at 12:36 am

    Well, to avoid all that I’d just say by asking what good consciousness is, I’m asking a vanilla question about its function or role in the nervous system. Just as I’d address a vanilla question about the role of the heart in the circulatory system. It pumps blood. Whatever metaphysical crap someone wants to attach to that, fine with me, but keep me out of it. :)

  210. bindleon 07 Jun 2010 at 12:44 am

    Didn’t you notice you were offering analogies to infer there didn’t need to be an evolutionary purpose for a function to exist? Except you then infer there had to be some “good” involved to account for an attribute’s alleged existence. What does ‘good’ represent in this context if not a purposive conception?

    And as to consciousness, if you’d asked what purpose does it serve, you’d have been much more likely to get a fundamental answer. But your stance has been inherently defensive when it comes to purpose.

  211. bindleon 07 Jun 2010 at 12:48 am

    That response was for Eric, who to his credit didn’t need an idiot to intervene on his behalf. Not this time anyway.

  212. Paisleyon 07 Jun 2010 at 12:50 am

    Eric Thomson: “Incorrect. I don’t view the gall bladder as fundamental, but that doesn’t mean I have to explain why it was selected. Physiology studies the mechanism of X, not its origins. They are independent questions.

    What is the relevance of physiology to the issue at hand? The materialist (not the panpsychist) has to explain why consciousness was naturally selected.

    Eric Thomson: “Anyway, those are just a few hypotheses. Ultimately what the function of consciousness is, is an empirical question.

    On the materialist view, consciousness is an epiphenomenon. It has no function whatsoever. Whether an information-processing system is “aware or not” is completely immaterial (no pun intended) to its function. The only possible function that consciousness has (that cannot be reduced to information processing) is “free will.” Unfortunately for you, the materialist worldview precludes this function. Apparently, you (and Christof Koch) have not come to terms with this. I suggest you acknowledge the implications of your worldview and quit talking nonsense.

    Also, on the basis that you did not respond, I will assume that you concede the point that NDEs provide evidence that consciousness can function independently of a brain (at least independently of a non-functioning brain).

  213. bindleon 07 Jun 2010 at 12:52 am

    But then again Paisley didn’t need me to do the same.

  214. Eric Thomsonon 07 Jun 2010 at 1:44 am

    Paisley: You missed my first point, which is that your general claim is just wrong. I can explain how something works without worrying about why it was selected or even if it was selected. I can examine the Krebs Cycle and not study its evolution. Same goes for consciousness, digestion, etc.. This is how most of biology works.

    Second, despite your flatly unsound logic, I decided to provide some ideas anyway, about the functions of consciousness. Nothing epiphenomenalist in my view. You can repeat the epiphenomenalism charge as much as you want, but that is not an argument. Might as well say I’m an epiphenomenalist about digestion or respiration.

    Panpsychism, on the other hand, has serious problems with epiphenomenalism. Chalmers discusses this extensively you ought to read his book: Chapter 5 he goes over this in great detail. Will the billiard balls behave differently if their electrons are not conscious? Will that pile of tonail clippings behave differently if we strip away this “fundamental” feature you think is so important to attribute to subatomic particles? What causal dynamics in the brain of a sea slug will be affected because the protons in its sodium ions are conscious?

    NDEs can be explained by neural activity, or neuronal theories are wrong. There is no good evidence of consciousness in the absence of brain activity. The Pam Reynolds case is so shrouded in questionable details that nobody can use that N=1 to make a real case.

    I won’t get into what would undoubtedly become a protracted discussion of NDEs. Hopefully others here can take up the slack if that’s really interesting to you, it’s a well trodden path. For instance, Augustine has wrtten a long review here.

  215. BillyJoe7on 07 Jun 2010 at 6:41 am

    bindle,

    “That response was for Eric, who to his credit didn’t need an idiot to intervene on his behalf. Not this time anyway.”

    :D

    If you think for a moment that your comments offer me anything other than amusement, let me disavow you of that misconception.

    “But then again Paisley didn’t need me to do the same.”

    Well, I have to tell you, I’m embarrassed for him. ;)

  216. BillyJoe7on 07 Jun 2010 at 7:32 am

    Paisley,

    the probability wave is a mathematical model that represents a nonphysical realm of possibilities.

    So you say.

    Your failure to acknowledge (or intellectually grasp) quantum indeterminism does not change the fact that it has been scientifically validated.

    I acknowledge it and I grasp it. What I don’t see is proof that it is supernatural/nonphysical/immaterial

    You have no objectve evidence that consciousness is physical. Your refusal to acknowledge this obvious glitch in your materialist worldview does not remove the glitch. It simply reveals your faith-commitment to materialism.

    You have simply not paid attention, that’s all.
    Here it is again in point form:

    - We have proof that physical things exist.
    - We do not have proof that nonphysical things exist.
    - Therefore, we *assume* that consciousness is also physical unless and until there is evidence that nonphysical things exist.
    - In other words, the burden of proof is yours.

    And my continued use of the word *assume* in all my posts gives the lie to your characterisation of my view as being a faith commitment.

    I fail to see how this [the 300 msec delay between a decision being made by the subconscious part of the brain before this decision gets relayed to the conscious part of the brain] provides objective evidence that subjective awareness is actually OBJECTIVE, not subjective.

    Its more an argument of physical rather than nonphysical:

    The “decision” is made in the subconscious brain. Once the “decision” is made, it is relayed to the conscious part of the brain. In other words, the subconcious brain rules, and the conscious brain is subordinate to it.

    The point is that the conscious brain is in the service of the subconscious brain. Therefore, if the subconscious brain is natural/physical/material then we can assume that the conscious brain is also natural/physical/material.

    Having said that, I believe you are attempting to argue that neuroscience has proven that “free will” is illusory based on experiments conducted by Benjamin Libet.

    It’s only part of the argument.
    There is also the logical argument that is practially fatal to the view that freewill is acausal.

    However, Libet himself does not interpret the results of his experiments to support this view.

    I don’t know how he interprets his experiment but, speaking generally, an experimenters conclusions about his own experiments are not necessarily correct. Steven Novella has recently written about an experiment on mice legs which quite clearly does not show what the authors think it shows.

    the conscious will retains a right to veto that action in the last few milliseconds.

    Do you have a reference? My memory is that the data shows that the “decision” to veto is, like all other “decisions”, is made by the subconcscious part of the brain with the conscious brain merely providing information on which the decision to veto is made.

  217. bindleon 07 Jun 2010 at 1:43 pm

    From The Materialist’s Creed (as interpreted by Eric Thomson):

    “I can explain how something works without worrying about why it was selected or even if it was selected. I can examine the Krebs Cycle and not study its evolution. Same goes for consciousness, digestion, etc.. This is how most of biology works.”

  218. mufion 07 Jun 2010 at 4:12 pm

    BillyJoe: As I recall (e.g. from reading Dennett’s critique in Freedom Evolves some years ago), the Libet experiment required their subjects to perform some rather unusual (or “unnatural”) tasks, and the conscious self need not be so “punctual” (or centered in space and time) as Libet expected in order for a “decision” to be meaningful.

    For example, if you are anything like me, then you often “edit” your behavior; that is, you carry out some habit or routine without thinking, suddenly become cognizant of it (e.g. “Whoa, look what I’m doing?” if there is time for an inner narrative is be involved), and then inhibit it somehow (e.g. “This is neither the time nor place to be doing that. Stop it!”).

    To be sure, (from a physicalist standpoint) there is at least as much (probably much more) unconscious (or automatic) brain activity beneath the surface of this story as there is conscious (or voluntary) brain activity. And, if we focus in on a very narrow timeframe (measured in milliseconds) and specific area of the brain (the secondary motor cortex), then we may indeed find ourselves asking: “Where’s the volition in that?” But if neuronal correlates to the decision-making process are more distributed in time and space (i.e. spanning multiple, possibly variant, brain areas or nuclei), and if it works recursively (e.g. rerunning the same procedure, only with modified inputs), then it seems that are looking for it in the wrong place. We ought to look for it at a “higher level.”

    If something like this story is true (an empirical question), then it may still fail to satisfy some strict definitions of “free will” (a philosophical question). I could live with that, but perhaps that’s just me.

  219. bindleon 07 Jun 2010 at 4:45 pm

    mufi,
    The odd thing about the decisions that you think you are describing is that they are all provisional and part of a continuum – a never ceasing internal and not external reassessment of available options under ever changing circumstances. There are no narrow time frames that will focus on some fundamentally defining nature of an ever fluid process.

    A process that had no chance of being developed in a deterministic world.

  220. bindleon 07 Jun 2010 at 4:52 pm

    By the way, “if something like this story is true” is not an empirical question.

  221. BillyJoe7on 07 Jun 2010 at 5:41 pm

    bindle,

    “A process that had no chance of being developed in a deterministic world.”

    The reverse is almost certainly true.

    Consider the Solar System. The planets revolve around the Sun because of deterministic physical laws. Imagine what would happen if these physical laws could be interrupted at will. The result would be chaos. In fact the universe as it exists today could never have evolved without deterministic laws and all there would be is chaos.

    Now why do think it would be any different if brains were not subject to deterministc laws?

    And if brains could arbitrarily decide what is true and what is not true, how could we ever hope to make sense of anything? Having brains that are subject to deterministic laws enables brains to follow the deterministic laws operating in the unverse and the environments in which we live.

  222. mufion 07 Jun 2010 at 5:52 pm

    bindle, I agree that the decision I alluded to above is provisional and part of a continuum. I would also agree that it is largely internal, although there may be external inputs involved, as well (e.g. the sight of some object that I am approaching, even though I do not actually want to go there – abort!). I think we can (and, thanks to cognitive scientists, do) learn what’s going on “under the hood” in these situations by monitoring brain activity, but only if there are repeatable patterns to observe (e.g. whenever I move my arm, areas A and B “light up”, but never C or D in that event), thereby allowing medical specialists (e.g. neurologists and psychologists) to infer causal relationships between brain activity and behavior (including subjective reports of well-being) and to thereby develop more effective treatments for mental diseases and disorders. So far, this empirical approach is all very “methodological”, and is shared by people who espouse a variety of (contrary) metaphysical beliefs.

    But I we think we can also agree that a “metaphysical” can of worms has already been opened here. You clearly have some beef with determinism, which I do not share (or at least not to the same degree), but am open to the possibility that nature is (in some sense) in a state of flux; i.e. that new rules emerge in the system in a way that were not even predictable in theory (say, from a “God’s eye” point-of-view). I see no inherit contradiction between that view and my own philosophical pet, naturalism. (Note: This is not true of Paisley’s mind/body dualism, which seems to be as much in denial of methodological naturalism – at least insofar as it challenges his cherished belief in a disembodied soul – as it is contradictory of metaphysical naturalism.)

    Still, I would not bet money on either determinism or indeterminism being ontologically true. On a technical level, that’s because I’m agnostic on the matter. But, on an emotional level, I find the randomness of indeterminism to be at least as unappealing as I find the predictability of determinism. At least the latter assumption has proven its worth in the pragmatic, methodological domain of science, thereby disabusing us of a host of weird superstitions and myths.

  223. mufion 07 Jun 2010 at 5:58 pm

    By the way, “if something like this story is true” is not an empirical question.

    When phrased in those exact terms, no. But, then, this is hardly a scholarly journal. With a little knowledge and creativity, I think someone can (and has) come up with at least one related testable, hypothesis. Follow this blog long enough and you will probably come across a few.

  224. mufion 07 Jun 2010 at 6:11 pm

    At least the latter assumption has proven its worth in the pragmatic, methodological domain of science, thereby disabusing us of a host of weird superstitions and myths.

    I should have said “some of us.” As the original post above suggests, it’s unsafe to assume that many folks will accept scientific conclusions when they challenge their prior, cherished beliefs.

  225. bindleon 07 Jun 2010 at 6:23 pm

    mufi, I’ll grant that empirical means different things to different people but in general it doesn’t leave much room for logical extrapolation. And as Paisley’s also pointed out, all we know of the world is an extrapolation from subjective experience. When we have to re-extrapolate from that, empiricism takes on its philosophical persona – no longer based primarily on experiment and observation.

    A philosophical persona that largely serves those emotional purposes you made reference to. And the worth proven by determinism is felt more by the predeterminate mythology it gave birth to than those theories that owe their lives to probability assessments

  226. Paisleyon 07 Jun 2010 at 6:38 pm

    BillyJoe7: “I acknowledge it and I grasp it. What I don’t see is proof that it is supernatural/nonphysical/immaterial.

    The term “indeterminism” means without cause by definition. So, either you are refusing to acknowledge the fact or incapable of intellectually grasping it.

    BillyJoe7: “You have simply not paid attention, that’s all.
    Here it is again in point form:

    - We have proof that physical things exist.
    - We do not have proof that nonphysical things exist.
    - Therefore, we *assume* that consciousness is also physical unless and until there is evidence that nonphysical things exist.
    - In other words, the burden of proof is yours.

    And my continued use of the word *assume* in all my posts gives the lie to your characterisation of my view as being a faith commitment.

    Your “assumption” (that consciousness is physical) is based on a belief despite evidence to the contrary (i.e. it is based on faith). There is no OBJECTIVE evidence that consciousness is physical…none, zilch, NADA! And there never will be because consciousnesss is inherently SUBJECTIVE by definition. Your refusal to acknowledge this fact doesn’t change it. It simply reveals your intellectual dishonesty.

    BillyJoe7: “Its more an argument of physical rather than nonphysical.

    Physical things have objective physical properties. You have failed to establish one physical property of consciousness. In a very literal sense, there is no scientific evidence that consciousness even exists.

    As there is no clear definition of consciousness and no empirical measure exists to test for its presence, it has been argued that due to the nature of the problem of consciousness, empirical tests are intrinsically impossible.”

    (source: Wikipedia: Consciousness

    BillyJoe7: “Do you have a reference?

    I cited the reference and provided you with a link. I suggest you review my last post.

    If “free will” is purely illusory, then this necessarily implies that consciousness is strictly an epiphenomenon. Therefore, you have to explain why an causally-inert emergent property was naturally selected since it obviously cannot confer any survival benefit. To date, no materialist has put forth an explanation that has been remotely plausible. Besides, there has been new research that undermines the argument that Libet’s experiments proves that free will is an illusion (see “Free Will Is Not an Illusion After All“).

  227. bindleon 07 Jun 2010 at 7:22 pm

    In the determinist’s world the perception that events were regulated by some determinately inflexible laws would have to be illusional – or delusional in that the determinist would have to have concluded that regulation was needed in his world that was already, by his own reckoning, proceeding down the path to its certain destination.

  228. bindleon 07 Jun 2010 at 7:54 pm

    Although there are some who hold a corollary belief that some magical insertion of deterministic laws has brought order to the world’s otherwise chaotic indeterminacy.

  229. Eric Thomsonon 07 Jun 2010 at 11:56 pm

    Paisly claims:
    In a very literal sense, there is no scientific evidence that consciousness even exists.

    Four:
    -Binocular rivalry.
    -Blindsight.
    -Anesthesia.
    -Hallucination and dreaming.

    And then:
    There is no OBJECTIVE evidence that consciousness is physical…none, zilch, NADA!

    The degeneration of people’s mental states during Alzheimers, the alternation of neuronal representational states in predicted ways during binocular rivalry, our ability to drastically influence consciousness by tweaking brain states. Plus, the absence of any evidence for any alternate hypothesis.

    As for your continued claim that biological theories imply epiphenomenalism. Sigh. Again? Is digestion an epiphenomenon?

    There are at least four plausible functions that you have conveniently forgotten:
    -Long-term planning
    -Memory formation
    -Selecting important information similar to attention
    -Tagging the present

    For the biological approach, epiphenomenalism is not a problem. If consciousness is a brain process, then there is no problem of how consciousness could cause things in the world.

    Contrast this with panpsychism. No need to select for consciousness in that worldview, as it was already there to begin with. What does it do? Nothing: that billiard ball with move the same whether its electrons are conscious or not. Consciousness is not needed to explain any behavior of anything, because it is everywhere already. To say that something is conscious becomes explanatorily impotent at that point.

    So, we get to choose between
    1) dualistic panpsychist epiphenomenalism with no evidence, not even the “mere correlations” they desperately try to deride, where even attributing consciousness to something is a mere tautology
    2) the view that consciousness is a feature of brains, a feature with causal bite, in which toothaches cause you to go to the dentist and seeing lions causes you to sit still.

    The choice is clear for me. I look forward to comparing data and ideas in fifty years. My hope is that, by then, the dualist panpsychists will have more than just their intuitions to throw around.

    ================
    Finally, I think we are being idiots, as the evidence is there that Paisley is just an intelligent troll.

    He is merely repeating talking points from Wikipedia. He is completely ignoring counterarguments that demolish his view, repeating himself, citing bumper stickers that anyone can pick up via Google. He is pulling out preposterous lines of argument (e.g., if someone says something about person X on topic Y, he cites person X on topic Z and acts as if that settles topic Y).

    A good troll, I admit, who even has a sympathetic follower in poor bindle (unless bindle is a mult).

    Kudos, Paisley, well played.

  230. Paisleyon 08 Jun 2010 at 2:38 am

    Eric Thomson: “You missed my first point, which is that your general claim is just wrong. I can explain how something works without worrying about why it was selected or even if it was selected. I can examine the Krebs Cycle and not study its evolution. Same goes for consciousness, digestion, etc.. This is how most of biology works.

    I didn’t miss your point; you never had one. A materialist has to be able to explain why consciousness was naturally selected because his deterministic worldview precludes free will and therefore renders consciousness causally-inert.

    Eric Thomson: “.Second, despite your flatly unsound logic, I decided to provide some ideas anyway, about the functions of consciousness. Nothing epiphenomenalist in my view. You can repeat the epiphenomenalism charge as much as you want, but that is not an argument. Might as well say I’m an epiphenomenalist about digestion or respiration.

    No, you didn’t provide any functional roles that did not reduce to deterministic information processing. If free will is purely illusory, then it logically follows that consciousness has no functional role to play (simply being “aware” is not a causal role).

    Both you and Koch are wavering on the subject of free will. You can’t have it both ways. You have to literally make a “choice” here. Either you choose to argue for the reality of free will or you accept the label of epiphenomenalism by default. I will not discuss this issue with you again unless you are willing to honestly state your position on free will.

    Eric Thomson: “Panpsychism, on the other hand, has serious problems with epiphenomenalism.”

    No it doesn’t. My argument has been that materialism actually implies panpsychism by virtue of the fact that materialism implies epiphenomenalism.

    Eric Thomson: “Chalmers discusses this extensively you ought to read his book: Chapter 5 he goes over this in great detail. Will the billiard balls behave differently if their electrons are not conscious? Will that pile of tonail clippings behave differently if we strip away this “fundamental” feature you think is so important to attribute to subatomic particles?

    There’s no problem here. There’s only a problem in your understanding. The billiard ball is not conscious (although the fundamental constituents that comprise it might be…but the random behavior of electrons cancel themselves out in the aggregate due to the law of large numbers).

    Eric Thomson: “What causal dynamics in the brain of a sea slug will be affected because the protons in its sodium ions are conscious?

    Greater flexibility and spontaneous response (based on superposed information as opposed to binary information) to environmental stimuli.

    Eric Thomson: “NDEs can be explained by neural activity, or neuronal theories are wrong.

    Agreed.

    Eric Thomson: “There is no good evidence of consciousness in the absence of brain activity. The Pam Reynolds case is so shrouded in questionable details that nobody can use that N=1 to make a real case.

    Pam Reynolds’ brain was completely drained of blood. There was no brain activity. Her case was well documented. There is no neuronal theory explanation for NDEs.

  231. Paisleyon 08 Jun 2010 at 3:21 am

    Eric Thomson: “There are at least four plausible functions that you have conveniently forgotten:
    -Long-term planning
    -Memory formation
    -Selecting important information similar to attention
    -Tagging the present

    My “chess software” can perform all these functions. No consciousness required.

    Eric Thomson: “For the biological approach, epiphenomenalism is not a problem. If consciousness is a brain process, then there is no problem of how consciousness could cause things in the world.

    Either you argue for the reality of free will or you accept epiphenomenalism by default. (If you profess to be a materialist, then I expect you to have the intellectual honesty to accept what that position implies.)

    Eric Thomson: “Contrast this with panpsychism. No need to select for consciousness in that worldview, as it was already there to begin with. What does it do? Nothing: that billiard ball with move the same whether its electrons are conscious or not. Consciousness is not needed to explain any behavior of anything, because it is everywhere already. To say that something is conscious becomes explanatorily impotent at that point.

    We need to take consciousness as fundamental to explain why physical events are happening without cause. Materialism clearly has no explanation. Quantum indeterminacy (as well as nonlocality/entanglement) sounds the death knell of materialism. And you’re simply upset because you don’t like the sound.

    Eric Thomson: “the view that consciousness is a feature of brains, a feature with causal bite, in which toothaches cause you to go to the dentist and seeing lions causes you to sit still.

    This statement reveals that you are confusing all forms of “epiphenomenalism” with “eliminativism.” Epiphenomenalism holds that our mental life is illusory because it holds that our free will is illusory! Eliminativism (which is completely unintelligible) holds that consciousness is illusory because it does not exist.

    Christof Koch was referring to the pain of a toothache to repudiate the idea that consciousness is illusory in the eliminative sense!

  232. BillyJoe7on 08 Jun 2010 at 8:28 am

    Paisley,

    “I cited the reference and provided you with a link. I suggest you review my last post.”

    Oh yes, here it is:

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

    Interestingly everything in that article supports the view that decisions are made in the subconscious brain before the conscious brain becomes aware of it.
    And none of it supports your view.
    Bindle/artfulD has done exactly the same in the past – provided links that do not support his view or, curiously, support the opposite view.

    Curious indeed.

  233. BillyJoe7on 08 Jun 2010 at 8:41 am

    Paisley,

    Here is another one of your links which I’ve now had time to peruse:

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17835-free-will-is-not-an-illusion-after-all.html

    Guess what? It also doesn’t support your view.
    Here is part of the conclusion:

    “there was an RP before volunteers made their decision to move”

    In other words the subconscious brain makes the decision (the RP) before the conscious brain becomes aware of it.
    They claim some importance for the fact the size of the RP is no different when the action is vetoed. But why would that matter? If the RP represents the subconsious brain’s decision and it occurs before the conscious brain becomes aware of it, that is all that matters.

    Interestingly, your previous link (in my previous post) includes an experiment where the decision to veto also occurs before the conscious brain becomes aware of it.

    Curious.

  234. Eric Thomsonon 08 Jun 2010 at 9:01 am

    Pais:
    1. The topic of epiphenomenalism about consciousness is not the same as the topic of determinism/free will. You continue to conflate them. I will not.

    2. Quantum indeterminism isn’t as determined as you would like, given Bohm’s deterministic, realist, hidden variable theory. I know Bohm has some strange panpsychist tendencies himself, but it is obviously not part of the theory itself, which is what I am focusing on.

    3. While 2 is true, even if there is indeterminism at the quantum levels, that doesn’t imply consciousness is fundamental. It just implies that some things are random at some level, and randomness needs to be taken into account in some of our theories. Until physics actually solves the measurement problem, there is only philosophical speculations about the measurement process, people running about willy-nilly with their “interpretations” of QM.

    In the meantime, the only actual evidence we have is that consciousness is a feature of large popultions of neurons. Consciousness seems as fundamental as respiration or digestion.

    4. I gave four ways in which consciousness could help a brain, reasons it might be selected (e.g., aid in long term planning: having a toothache causes me to go to the dentist). Even if a chess program can engage in long-term planning using some nonconscious mechanism, that doesn’t mean that consciousness isn’t used for long term planning.

    Perhaps you are confused about the functions of consciousness (what is it used for) with the underlying mechanisms that produce consciousness. Not the same thing. I can have a company that produces a widget that is used for many things. Describing its use is different from describing its production.

    5. On NDE’s read Augustine’s article. There is no good evidence for consciousness w/o brain activity. The Aware project will study this more, give some more data.

    6. I’ll commit to come back here in 10 years to the day to compare notes and see which research program has made more progress, has more evidence amassed in favor of it. Deal?

    7. I’m repeating myself, will back out of this discussion and let you have the final volley.

  235. BillyJoe7on 08 Jun 2010 at 9:57 am

    Paisley,

    “If free will is purely illusory, then this necessarily implies that consciousness is strictly an epiphenomenon. Therefore, you have to explain why an causally-inert emergent property was naturally selected since it obviously cannot confer any survival benefit.”

    What evolved are the neural correlates of consciousness. The complex multilayered neronal networks in the brain evolved to survive in complex environments populated by predators with similarly evolved brains. In other words, consciousness, itself, did not need to be selected for if it is, as you say, an emergent property of evolved brains.

    “To date, no materialist has put forth an explanation that has been remotely plausible”

    Well, of course they have (see above).
    But what dualist has ever been able to come up with a mechanism by which anything nonphysical (consciousness in this case) can influence anything physical (the brain in this case). There are no viable scientific solutions to this problem.

  236. Dr Spouseon 08 Jun 2010 at 12:04 pm

    Although I am very happy with the concept that human beings do not act rationally, that there are helpful reasons for the functioning of society/sanity/family why this is, I do think it’s a little lazy to put ALL of these down to “evolution” (“emotions and patterns of thought deeply rooted in evolution”).

    Behaviours can be irrational when they are solely due to learning (our parents decide on a course of action based on stories, so we do) or are an emergentist conspiracy between our genes and our environment. There’s little evidence our genes alone can code for this type of complex behaviour.

    I do have an advantage as a scientist in being a psychologist though – other scientists say “human beings think emotionally/irrationally, let me go and bang my head against a brick wall” (or alternatively they say “I don’t believe it!”). I say “human beings think emotionally/irrationally. Cool, let me write a grant proposal”.

  237. Charles Wolvertonon 08 Jun 2010 at 1:30 pm

    Eric Thomson:

    Despite my making a belated appearance in this thread, I hope you will not “back out of this discussion” just yet.

    The problem I see in essentially all “consciousness” discussions is that even in those that purport to be formal, the word continues to be used primarily in its colloquial sense, thus implicitly suggesting that we know what “consciousness” is in some formal sense. Eg, statements such as:

    “Perhaps you are confused about the functions of consciousness (what is it used for) with the underlying mechanisms that produce consciousness.”

    So, while I champion the sentiment of this statement, I think it would help if the distinction were rephrased something like:

    “When we talk of “consciousness” we have in mind a vaguely defined set of functions, functions which should not be confused with the underlying mechanisms that implement them.”

    Notwithstanding this quibble about presentation, I think you have essentially gone down my suggested path by proposing:

    “four plausible functions … :

    -Long-term planning
    -Memory formation
    -Selecting important information similar to attention
    -Tagging the present”

    This seems an excellent start, and I would be interested in considering what – if any – functions should be added to or deleted from this list and why, accompanied by some speculation about mechanisms. I have some nascent ideas along those lines, ideas motivated by recent readings in epistemology ala Sellars/Rorty, language ala Davidson, and “the mind” ala Alva Noe’s “Out of our heads”. Just to whet the appetite, I am currently thinking about whether or not one of the almost universally assumed functions – phenomenal awareness – belongs on the list and whether “memory formation” shouldn’t be replaced by something like “the ability to acquire knowledge” in the Sellarsian sense.

    All, of course, subject to your (and possibly others’) being interested.

    CAVEAT: Don’t be misled by my name-and-jargon dropping – I am a lay novice in every aspect of this topic and speak with zero authority!!

  238. Paisleyon 08 Jun 2010 at 1:45 pm

    BillyJoe7: “Oh yes, here it is:

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

    Interestingly everything in that article supports the view that decisions are made in the subconscious brain before the conscious brain becomes aware of it.
    And none of it supports your view.
    Bindle/artfulD has done exactly the same in the past – provided links that do not support his view or, curiously, support the opposite view.

    Curious indeed.

    No, everything in that article doesn’t support that view. Previously, I stated that Libet himself does not interpret his experimental results as invalidating free will. Below is a quote from that Wiki article supporting this claim.

    Despite these findings, Libet himself does not interpret his experiment as evidence of the inefficacy of conscious free will—he points out that although the tendency to press a button may be building up for 500 milliseconds, the conscious will retains a right to VETO that action in the last few milliseconds.[14] According to this model, unconscious impulses to perform a volitional act are open to suppression by the conscious efforts of the subject (sometimes referred to as “FREE WON’T”).(emphasis mine)”

    (source: Wikipedia: Neuroscience of free will“)

  239. bindleon 08 Jun 2010 at 2:30 pm

    Paisley,
    First you’ll need to figure out how to convince a determinist that there’s a difference between won’t and can’t.

  240. Eric Thomsonon 08 Jun 2010 at 2:54 pm

    Charles: good to see a fresh perspective in here things were getting incestuous.

    You said:
    “When we talk of “consciousness” we have in mind a vaguely defined set of functions, functions which should not be confused with the underlying mechanisms that implement them.”

    This isn’t quite what I was saying, and I should clarify. There are two questions:
    1. How is consciousness generated in a brain?
    2. What role does consciousness serve in the brain, once it is generated?

    These are two separate questions. By analogy, we can consider how bile is generated by the liver, and seperately consdier what role does bile serve in the organism once it is generated?

    So, I am definitely not assuming that conscious is reducible to the things that is used for, any more than I’m assuming bile is reducible to what it is used for.

  241. mufion 08 Jun 2010 at 3:40 pm

    BillyJoe: I think it’s important to finish the sentence that you quoted above from that New Scientist article:

    While there was an RP before volunteers made their decision to move, the signal was the same whether or not they elected to tap.

    Furthermore:

    Miller concludes that the RP may merely be a sign that the brain is paying attention and does not indicate that a decision has been made.

    But, as I alluded above, I think we should think critically of these types of experiments, in general — not because they rest on materialistic, deterministic, or naturalistic assumptions, or because they might threaten someone’s cherished belief in free will — rather, because they expect too much punctuality, or too much temporal & spatial centrality (as opposed to a distribution along these dimensions), in the process of human decision-making.

    Even under the unusual conditions of the Libet experiment, we should ask ourselves: how long does it take for a volunteer to register (i.e. to process the visual reading of the clock and to announce the reading) his/her decision to flex his/her wrist? Was it enough time (say, a half-second or more) to cause the appearance of a delay in awareness?

    And, in the Miller/Trevena experiment, how were they able to judge when a decision occurred? If I understand the article correctly, they had to wait until the key was actually tapped, since the RP proved not to be a reliable indicator. In that case, who knows when a volunteer’s awareness of his/her decision set in? Maybe it was before; maybe it was after; or maybe it was simultaneous. We just don’t know.

    And, in less artificial settings, we often have sufficient time to deliberate; i.e. to consider multiple options before acting on one, and to inhibit actions that we (“unthinkingly”) already began. How much more “free will” does one really need?

  242. bindleon 08 Jun 2010 at 3:41 pm

    @Charles Wolverton,
    How about the ability to “experience” as a functional necessity and precursor to the evolution of any form of consciousness? Conscious versus unconscious ‘experience’ has a better ring to it than, say, unconscious ‘awareness’. Then we can better ask if an electron, for example, can benefit from experience – rather than ask, with its negative inference, if that electron is somehow consciously aware.

  243. BillyJoe7on 08 Jun 2010 at 5:56 pm

    Paisley,

    What sort fo support for your view is that pray tell.

    Libet performs an experiment that upsets his belief in freewill and then makes an unjustified justifiaction for holding onto his belief.

    First of all what sort of freewill is freewon’t, which is simply a veto power. Secondly, how is this veto power not a decision and therefore subject to the same conditions as the original decision. Thirdly, your reference describes a more recent experiment that demonstrates that the brain handles the decision to veto just like any other decision – it is done subconsciously before the conscious brain becomes aware of it.

  244. BillyJoe7on 08 Jun 2010 at 5:57 pm

    bindle,
    (the little echo in the corner)

    “Paisley. First you’ll need to figure out how to convince a determinist that there’s a difference between won’t and can’t.”

    There isn’t if you would just read the reference.
    Or even my summary of it if that’s not too much trouble.

  245. BillyJoe7on 08 Jun 2010 at 5:59 pm

    mufi,

    I didn’t quote the next part for two reasons.

    Firstly, I know bindle either doesn’t read the references he comments on or doesn’t understand them. I have caught him out before under his alias of artfulD.
    Secondly, I think Paisley does but I think he is counting on the fact that I won’t read it or that I don’t have the time to read three rather large references in the one post. He is right about me not having the time. But I did anyway.

    In any case, I did refer to the continuation of that sentence in my very next paragraph which I will repeat here: They claim some importance for the fact the size of the RP is no different when the action is vetoed. But why would that matter? If the RP represents the subconsious brain’s decision and it occurs before the conscious brain becomes aware of it, that is all that matters.

    Your second point (“Miller concludes…”) is merely the experimenter’s interpretation of his experiment which is not supported by the data he produced.

    “I think we should think critically of these types of experiments, in general…because they expect too much punctuality, or too much temporal & spatial centrality”

    Good point. And it is made in the article (or maybe it was another article I read I don’t have time to check). In any case, there was an experiment where they randomly insert a sound which allows the subject to veto his decision. This seems to take care of that objection, but I will look at it again if you don;t think so when I have the time.

  246. bindleon 08 Jun 2010 at 7:12 pm

    Scientists Point to Brain Region of ‘Free Won’t’
    Research adds to the evidence suggesting that brain dysfunction can compromise free will
    http://www.dana.org/news/features/detail.aspx?id=9534

    And it’s true that I don’t read any references pointed out as confirmation of a clearly senseless argument from the biggest mental defective to post here since I started watching. One who I seriously doubt has ever caught anyone out here under any circumstances at any time that he can document.

    Here’s the stupidest thing he’s written lately:
    “What evolved are the neural correlates of consciousness. The complex multilayered neronal networks in the brain evolved to survive in complex environments populated by predators with similarly evolved brains. In other words, consciousness, itself, did not need to be selected for if it is, as you say, an emergent property of evolved brains.”
    Of course he reckons those predators must have done their job unconsciously to somehow have survived and evolve before their brainy form of consciousness just happened to kick in – but those are minor details to a determinist who knows it could have served no purpose until the brain preceded it – if even then.
    Now here’s the point where, typically, the inference is clear that he’s delusional, but nevertheless he’ll cry that I’ve held something back – because inference is something he’s constitutionally unable to pick up on.
    I think I’ll back out of this discussion now, but of course, like Eric, I can’t guarantee not to return.

  247. Paisleyon 08 Jun 2010 at 7:48 pm

    BillyJoe7: “Here is another one of your links which I’ve now had time to peruse:

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17835-free-will-is-not-an-illusion-after-all.html

    Guess what? It also doesn’t support your view.
    Here is part of the conclusion:

    “there was an RP before volunteers made their decision to move”

    In other words the subconscious brain makes the decision (the RP) before the conscious brain becomes aware of it.

    We both know that you are creating a distortion here by parsing the statement and then taking it out of context. Below the complete statement is provided in its actual context.

    While there was an RP before volunteers made their decision to move, the signal was the same whether or not they elected to tap. Miller concludes that the RP may merely be a sign that the brain is paying attention and does not indicate that a decision has been made.

    (source: “Free will is not an illusion after all” ) by Anil Ananthaswamy Sept 2009 of “New Scientist”)

    BillyJoe7: “They claim some importance for the fact the size of the RP is no different when the action is vetoed. But why would that matter? If the RP represents the subconscious brain’s decision and it occurs before the conscious brain becomes aware of it, that is all that matters.

    It matters because a decision to move should register a stronger RP than a decision not to move(see “Brain preparation before a voluntary action: Evidence against unconscious movement initiation“).

    Moreover, Miller and Trevena performed a second experiment and failed to find any evidence of subconscious processing. You’re conveniently disregarding this vital fact.

    BillyJoe7: “Interestingly, your previous link (in my previous post) includes an experiment where the decision to veto also occurs before the conscious brain becomes aware of it.

    This is the second time that you “called and raised” and I met your call. Next time I suggest you cut your losses by simply folding your cards. You have nothing.

  248. mufion 09 Jun 2010 at 12:29 am

    BillyJoe: I realize that, in quibbling with these scientific tests of free will, I may be providing fodder to dualists or other “anti-materialist” critics. But if a scientist overstates his/her case, then even a naturalist like myself wants to know. (IOW, my objection is strictly methodological. I have no problem with the physicalist assumptions underlying these tests.)

    That said, I can tell you this much right now, that when you say:

    there was an experiment where they randomly insert a sound which allows the subject to veto his decision

    OK, but we still have to assume that we have a reliable way to determine the precise timing of the decision (and its margin of error, relative to the timing of the RP and the related action). I don’t think we can safely rely on the subjects to judge this, as if that task consumes no time in itself (i.e. even when it’s accurate). Maybe the awareness occurred milliseconds before the RP (or simultaneously, for that matter), but a delay in the subjective reporting process created the appearance of a cart pulling a horse (so to speak).

    But I would agree that Miller & Trevena do not raise this objection. Instead, they raise questions about the interpretation of the RP. Does a particular RP reading represent a decision to tap or not to tap? (A “veto”, BTW, suggests to me two decisions: a decision to tap or not to tap, followed by a decision to override the first decision. IOW, more time consumption.) Or does it only represent a spike in attentiveness (possibly a missed cue)? It also raises some doubt about the theory of an inverse relationship between handedness and brain hemisphere, thereby underscoring the notion that cognitive scientists have more to learn about where to look for neuronal correlates of conscious experience.

    That’s not to suggest that this study is the last word. Plus, I don’t know all of its details; I’m only going by the (very brief) New Scientist article that you linked above. I’m sure there is more to the story. But I’m not sure that it proves or disproves anything about free will — unless, of course, we assume that any natural/physical/material explanation of consciousness is incompatible with free will — in which case, we may have to either redefine it (e.g. in relation to coercion from other persons) or else learn to live without it.

  249. Charles Wolvertonon 09 Jun 2010 at 12:41 am

    Eric -

    This exploratory exchange is indicative of why it’s so hard to communicate on this topic. Even establishing a mutually agreeable basic vocabulary isn’t easy.

    I wasn’t trying to paraphrase you but to suggest (I now see now not all that coherently) that we try to avoid saying what the phenomenon we are all familiar with and in casual conversation call “consciousness” is or isn’t, does or doesn’t do, etc, and instead try to identify some functions useful to an organism, speculate on how they might be implemented, and decide for each function whether or not it seems reasonable to include it a set of functions we will label “consciousness”, or “C”.

    For example, consider the function “applying a learned skill”. This might seem an obvious candidate for inclusion in set C, but anyone who is reasonably competent at a sport, playing a musical instrument, or even just driving a car has probably had the experience of “being in the zone”, ie, going into the state which is described in Zen as “letting the bat or racket hit the ball” or “letting the instrument play itself”, or has suddenly realized that the car has gotten to the destination as if under autopilot control while the driver daydreamed, listened attentively to the radio, etc. This suggests that the function “applying a learned skill may not be such an obvious candidate for inclusion in set C.

    Another example is the function “decision making”. Consider the simple choice between two options based on some criterion. Seemingly a shoo-in for belonging in C. But a thermostat does precisely that depending on the ambient temperature of its environment, so there must be something more required than just opting. What might that be?

    Now, suppose we were to go through such an “analysis” for every function anyone could think of and were to ultimately decide that none was suitable for inclusion in set C. Exit the concept of “consciousness”. I am not predicting that extreme result, but my guess is that set C will include a lot fewer functions than one might expect.

    re bindle’s comment re “experience”, I think that’s the kind of term that is too broad and too vague to help at the moment. True, I used it above, but in its colloquial sense. And in my previous comment I used “phenomenal awareness”, but I have in mind a specific idea that think I can explain in some detail if and when we get that far. At the moment, I’m trying to keep each comment relatively short and focused – not least because although I have many vague and disconnected ideas floating in my head, my attempts to express them precisely and coherently is being done pretty much “on the fly”.

  250. Paisleyon 09 Jun 2010 at 1:36 am

    Eric Thomson: “1. The topic of epiphenomenalism about consciousness is not the same as the topic of determinism/free will. You continue to conflate them. I will not.

    Merriam-Webster defines the term “epiphenomenon” as “a secondary mental phenomenon that is caused by and accompanies a physical phenomenon but has no causal influence itself.”

    Determinism implies that free will is purely illusory. If free will is purely illusory, then consciousness is rendered causally inert. Apparently, your “materialist mind” is incapable of grasping this concept. On the materialist worldview, you are merely a passive spectator in the game of life, not an active participant.

    Eric Thomson: “2. Quantum indeterminism isn’t as determined as you would like, given Bohm’s deterministic, realist, hidden variable theory. I know Bohm has some strange panpsychist tendencies himself, but it is obviously not part of the theory itself, which is what I am focusing on.

    Correction. Quantum indeterminism isn’t as DETERMINED as you would like! (I don’t have a problem with the indeterminate nature of Nature.)

    Did you ever hear of “Bell’s Theorem?”

    In theoretical physics, Bell’s theorem is a no-go theorem, loosely stating that:

    No physical theory of local hidden variables can ever reproduce all of the predictions of quantum mechanics.”

    (source: Wikipedia: Bell’s Theorem)

    Bohm’s pilot wave theory is necessarily nonlocal (faster than light response). That’s why it smacks with panpsychism. It’s no accident.

    Pick your poison: “Indeterminism” or “nonlocality.” If you want a deterministic interpretation of QM, then you have to accept nonlocality. Either way, I win and you lose (i.e. materialism is invalidated).

    Eric Thomson: “3. While 2 is true, even if there is indeterminism at the quantum levels, that doesn’t imply consciousness is fundamental. It just implies that some things are random at some level, and randomness needs to be taken into account in some of our theories. Until physics actually solves the measurement problem, there is only philosophical speculations about the measurement process, people running about willy-nilly with their “interpretations” of QM.

    If quantum indeterminism is true (and the present scientific evidence suggests this), then physical events are occurring without physical causation. That invalidates materialism. It’s that simple.

    Eric Thomson: “In the meantime, the only actual evidence we have is that consciousness is a feature of large popultions of neurons. Consciousness seems as fundamental as respiration or digestion.

    The evidence is mounting for quantum processes in the brain. I’m betting my money on the quantum mind theorists.

    Incidentally, speaking of digestion…I believe there are two brains…the second brain is known as the “enteric nervous system.”

    Eric Thomson: “4. I gave four ways in which consciousness could help a brain, reasons it might be selected (e.g., aid in long term planning: having a toothache causes me to go to the dentist). Even if a chess program can engage in long-term planning using some nonconscious mechanism, that doesn’t mean that consciousness isn’t used for long term planning.

    Your follow materialists are arguing that decision-making processes of the brain do not involve consciousness (citing the Libet experimental results to support their case). If consciousness is not required for decision-making processes, then why is it required at all?

    Materialists want to have it both ways. I am sorry to disappoint you, but I will not allow you to have that luxury.

    Eric Thomson: “Perhaps you are confused about the functions of consciousness (what is it used for) with the underlying mechanisms that produce consciousness. Not the same thing. I can have a company that produces a widget that is used for many things. Describing its use is different from describing its production.

    I am not confused. You are. If consciousness is physical, then it necessarily reduces to a physical process – presumably an electrochemical process. Whether an “electrochemical process” is “aware or not” does not change the laws of physics and chemistry. And if it does, then please provide me with an explanation of what exactly is the difference. I am fairly certain that it will prove to be interesting.

    Eric Thomson: “5. On NDE’s read Augustine’s article. There is no good evidence for consciousness w/o brain activity. The Aware project will study this more, give some more data.

    Augustine did not properly account for the Pam Reynold’s case. She was having experiences @ 11:25 when her brain was completely drained of all blood.

    Eric Thomson:6. “I’ll commit to come back here in 10 years to the day to compare notes and see which research program has made more progress, has more evidence amassed in favor of it. Deal?

    No, I will not make a deal. You are simply mapping out the NCC – the easy problem of consciousness (Christof Koch has admitted this much). The quantum mind theorists are working on the hard problem of consciousness.

    Eric Thomson: “7. I’m repeating myself, will back out of this discussion and let you have the final volley.

    This is simply a ploy to avoid stating your position on free will.

  251. Paisleyon 09 Jun 2010 at 1:48 am

    bindle: “First you’ll need to figure out how to convince a determinist that there’s a difference between won’t and can’t.

    Good point.

  252. Paisleyon 09 Jun 2010 at 2:14 am

    bindle: “How about the ability to “experience” as a functional necessity and precursor to the evolution of any form of consciousness? Conscious versus unconscious ‘experience’ has a better ring to it than, say, unconscious ‘awareness’. Then we can better ask if an electron, for example, can benefit from experience – rather than ask, with its negative inference, if that electron is somehow consciously aware.

    Interesting.

    Consciousness presupposes experience, and not experience consciousness.” – A. N. Whitehead

  253. Charles Wolvertonon 09 Jun 2010 at 2:14 am

    stizashell, 2 Jun 2010 at 4:43 pm re consciousness

    “the problem is not that we don’t understand, it’s that we understand too well”

    Since I dropped this thread early (having decided – like I notice eric did way back there – that its ROI was too small), I have unfortunately missed most of the previous comments, some of which seem interesting. I just noticed the above, and heartily agree. That’s the motivation for my suggestion that we try to avoid colloquial use of “consciousness” – we “understand” too much about it, and much of that “understanding” is probably wrong.

  254. bindleon 09 Jun 2010 at 4:05 am

    Paisley,
    Russell and Whitehead. Talk about intelligence taking advantage of the chance those two would meet.
    Here’s some further reference to the staying power of Whitehead’s views:
    IS THERE PURPOSE IN NATURE, Mae-Wan Ho
    http://www.cts.cuni.cz/conf98/ho.htm#Ho

    But it’s my strong guess that you’ve already read it.

  255. BillyJoe7on 09 Jun 2010 at 7:43 am

    Paisley,

    We both know that you are creating a distortion here by parsing the statement and then taking it out of context. Below the complete statement is provided in its actual context.

    “While there was an RP before volunteers made their decision to move, the signal was the same whether or not they elected to tap. Miller concludes that the RP may merely be a sign that the brain is paying attention and does not indicate that a decision has been made.

    First of all, I introduced the quote by saying “here is part of the conclusion”.

    And I suppose you are not distorting my response by not quoting my response. So, in case you missed it, here it is again:

    In other words the subconscious brain makes the decision (the RP) before the conscious brain becomes aware of it.
    They claim some importance for the fact the size of the RP is no different when the action is vetoed. But why would that matter? If the RP represents the subconsious brain’s decision and it occurs before the conscious brain becomes aware of it, that is all that matters.

    The second paragraph is a comment about the rest of the paragraph that I did not quote. And the reason I did not quote it was because I was making a point about the conclusion of the experiment, not the experimenters take on it and his extended musings about it.

    It’s just my habit when reading these things to ignore the experimenters take and concentrate just on the data he obtained. The reason for this is that experimenters often have a bias which they wish to promote and which is not born out by the data produced by their experiment (eg Libet, when his experiment did not show what he expected it to show)

    On the other hand, I accept mufi’s point that a veto is, in effect, two decisions which presumably could make the RP larger. Unfortunately I cannot read the actual write up (because is behind a pay wall that I am not prepared to climb) so I cannot comment further.

  256. BillyJoe7on 09 Jun 2010 at 7:45 am

    …that should have been:

    And I suppose you are not distorting my response by not quoting the rest of response.

  257. BillyJoe7on 09 Jun 2010 at 8:01 am

    To Paisley:

    BillyJoe said: “Interestingly, your previous link (in my previous post) includes an experiment where the decision to veto also occurs before the conscious brain becomes aware of it.”

    Here is the link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroscience_of_free_will

    Paisley replied: “This is the second time that you “called and raised” and I met your call. Next time I suggest you cut your losses by simply folding your cards. You have nothing.”

    Well then I suppose I’ll just have to spell it out.

    In that link above, under the section headed “Is the vetoing of actions also subconsciously initiated?” there are the details of an exepriment by Simone Kühn and Marcel Brass where the results are summarised as follows:

    “The results of the experiment clearly argue against Libet’s assumption that a veto process can be consciously initiated. He used the veto in order to reintroduce the possibility to control the unconsciously initiated actions. But since the subjects are not very accurate in observing when they have not stopped, the act of vetoing cannot be consciously initiated.”

  258. BillyJoe7on 09 Jun 2010 at 8:38 am

    Paisley,

    “On the materialist worldview, you are merely a passive spectator in the game of life, not an active participant.”

    So you’re saying that the materialist view is that the world can affect the brain but the brain cannot affect the world. How on Earth did you come to that obviously incorrect consclusion?

    Consder this scenario. Say we tell people that materialism has been proven to be true and that all their actions are the result of cause and effect relations in their brains and that what they do they could not have done otherwise. Suppose that this causes them to give up trying and to become passive specatators in life. Suppose we then tell them how different they are now compared with the active interested, involved and interesting people they used to be. Suppose they then get the point and resume their previous active participation and begin again living life to the full.

    Do you get the picture?
    It doesn’t change the way things are if materialism is true.

    “If quantum indeterminism is true (and the present scientific evidence suggests this), then physical events are occurring without physical causation. That invalidates materialism. It’s that simple.”

    Despite the fact that the fallacy of this position has been pointed out to you several times, you continue to make that claim without meaningfully addressing the points made against it.

    If quantum indeterminacy does not find expression at the macroscopic level of the brain, then quantum indeterminacy makes no difference to the determinism seen at this level. Likewise if quantum effect are occasionaly seen at the macroscopic level but so rarely that it is unlikely to happen in anyone’s lifetime. And there is no evidence that this is not the case despite you wishing for it to be so.

    Also quantum indeterminism does not invalidate materialism. Quantum indeterminacy does not imply that there must be a supernatural/nonphysical/immaterial explanation and it does not exclude a natural/physical/material explanation however much you would like that to be true.

    Finally, how do you propoise that quantum indeterminacy could give rise to freewill? How could contracausal freewill amount to anything more than the flip of a coin or a throw of the dice? How could contracausal freewill give rise to anythng other than chaos? Imagine the chaos that would ensue if the planets had freewill.

  259. Eric Thomsonon 09 Jun 2010 at 9:25 am

    Charles: it would be interesting to see how far you could get with such an analysis. The way you describe it sounds a bit more philosophical than I tend to travel. There is enough psychological and neuroscientific data about consciousness that we don’t need to engage in purely conceptual analysis. Data is the main engine, in biology and psychology, of conceptual innovation.

    Based on the 15 posts on consciousness at my site, and other stuff not on my site, I take it that neuronal representational states are one necessary component of conscious experience in creatures with nervous systems (necessary, but not sufficient).

    I’ll leave the analysis of most of what Paisley said up to the folks reading (e.g., the claim that nonlocality in physics implies that consciousness is fundamental). Whether Augustine properly dealt with the popular N=1 Pam Reynolds NDE case, folks can also decide for themselves at Augustin’s extensive discussion of this case here. See footnote 22 also.

  260. Charles Wolvertonon 09 Jun 2010 at 7:05 pm

    eric -

    Having now read the posts on your site, I see that we need to start over. Your site introduces you to me in some detail; now I need to introduce myself to you in similar detail.

    My intent was not to wax “philosophical” but to suggest a methodology for getting over some humps I see in in addressing consciousness. (Susan Blackmore’s “Conversations on Consciousness” seems to me a study in intellectual chaos, at least as of roughly 2003 when I believe she conducted the interviews). Although I have read what I see as critically relevant philosophy (eg, the aforementioned Sellars essay on the nature of knowledge “Empiricism and Phil of Mind” and a lot by and about Rorty (eg, “Rorty and his Critics”), my perspective is holistic, not philosophical. I have read Kandel’s “In Search of Memory”, thereby developing some primitive understanding of memory all the way down to the level of intracell chemical activity, Damasio’s books on the biological basis of emotions and feelings, Dennett’s “Consciousness Explained”, et al. I’ve listened to numerous podcasts by neurobiologists at the Brain Science Podcast website and all installments of Charlie Rose’s “Brain Series” (cohosted by Dr. Kandel), a series suffused with neurophysiologists and neuropsychologists. I have read a little about Koch and Crick’s approach to the issue based on information theory, an area in which I have formal training.

    On the other hand, as noted in the “Caveat” to my initial comment, I am neither professionally trained in most of these areas nor have any formal education in them. I am by education an engineer with a strong math background and by profession a communication systems engineer experienced in taking a top-level understanding of fundamental concepts from diverse technical areas and parlaying that into an integrated view of the functioning of a complex system, a skill I’ve found quite useful when entering new intellectual arenas.

    More to the immediate point, I skimmed the 15 posts on your site and found nothing there that I have not already encountered, but several things with which I disagree.

    So if you are interested, me might try a different tack. Although I have a few speculative ideas about some aspects of so called “consciousness”, some of which are (as best I can tell) not mainstream and none of which is fleshed out, for the moment how about telling me in some detail what a couple of your current ideas about some specific aspects of “consciousness” are, and I’ll see if I can understand them. If not, I’ll bow out; otherwise, I’ll explain any reservations I might have.

    To help kick that off, I can highlight some of the disagreements I have with what I understood you to claim in your posts (perhaps mistakenly – I did skim them quickly):

    - that consciousness requires only the brain (explicitly challenged in Noe’s “Out of our Minds” and implicitly by Damasio as I read him)

    - that “representations” are created in the brain, depending of course on precisely what that means; “representations” suggest to me something along the lines of Dennett’s “Cartesian Theater”. If that’s not right, why not, and if so, who’s the viewer? (I’ve struggled with this issue myself.)

    - that philosophy (specifically of mind and language) has no further role; I don’t see how knowledge and language can be understood at the neuronal level, ie, it looks to me like one needs Sellars’ and Davidson’s (respectively) higher level concepts of intersubjectivity.

    -

  261. Eric Thomsonon 09 Jun 2010 at 11:03 pm

    Charles rather than consume bandwidth here I’d rather just discuss such things at the relevant posts at my site.

  262. bindleon 09 Jun 2010 at 11:08 pm

    Eric may not want to be reminded of what he’s written earlier here.

  263. Eric Thomsonon 09 Jun 2010 at 11:38 pm

    For instance, Charles, I discussed Noe’s stuff a bit in the comments here. I am overall not sympathetic to his neobehaviorist views, but am sympathetic to some of the ideas from the embodied cognition folks.

    I think that philosophy (and especially linguistics) is largely useless at this point when it comes to consciousness. I agree with Searle on that. It’s a matter for biologists to tell the philosophers how consciousness works. The real landscaping will come from neuroscience, but maybe the philosophers will trim the hedges periodically.

    This thread has become so sprawling, tangent-laden, and confused I don’t want to keep feeding it.

    My posts are the seed for what will become a manuscript that is likely to be about 10 chapters on different aspects on consciousness. Next up is on the topic of neuronal representations, for instance. Then rivalry, charles bonnet, anton’s syndrom, etc., there’s no shortage of data or ideas, lots of them are in separate minds and labs unfortunately.

    After post number 15 I decided to stop publishing the series at my blog, as these bite-sized thought nuggets are an extremely poor medium for the type of rather lengthy and systematic treatment I prefer to write up. It’s a horribly boring blog because of that, it reads like an academic paper way too much.

  264. bindleon 10 Jun 2010 at 12:26 am

    Will this be in that paper, Eric?

    “I can explain how something works without worrying about why it was selected or even if it was selected. I can examine the Krebs Cycle and not study its evolution. Same goes for consciousness, digestion, etc.. This is how most of biology works.”

    Like trying to “explain” an elephant by describing what seems to be its nose?

  265. BillyJoe7on 10 Jun 2010 at 12:36 am

    bindle,

    When you echo Paisley, you’re just an irritating nuisance.
    When you try to say something yourself, you sound absolutely moronic.

    Give it up. ;)

  266. bindleon 10 Jun 2010 at 1:06 am

    “What evolved are the neural correlates of consciousness. The complex multilayered neronal networks in the brain evolved to survive in complex environments populated by predators with similarly evolved brains. In other words, consciousness, itself, did not need to be selected for if it is, as you say, an emergent property of evolved brains.”

  267. BillyJoe7on 10 Jun 2010 at 7:10 am

    Well, at least you’ve given up responding.
    That’s a big improvement. ;)

  268. Eric Thomsonon 10 Jun 2010 at 9:25 am

    Bindle: Substitute ‘male pattern baldness’ for ‘Kreb’s Cycle’ in the quote you pulled from me. Get it now? If not, then I recommend the book ‘Discovering cell mechanisms’ by Bechtel, to help understand the basic distinction (between explaining how something works and how/if it was selected in evolution). It assumes high school biology background, but once you have that I think it would be a great book for you.

  269. bindleon 10 Jun 2010 at 1:27 pm

    Eric, Instead of being the disciple of an even more doctrinaire mechanist than Koch (who is certainly brighter than Bechtel), you might try something from the newer biological and philosophical perspectivists such as Fodor’s What Darwin Got Wrong.
    And since you’d apparently never heard of Shapiro, et al, until I brought his writings up here, you might want to start with Fodor and work your way up to what the new crowd wants to teach you. Bad High school backgrounds not withstanding.
    And trying to give some meaning to what you wrote (and still stand by apparently) by substituting a simpler mechanism and hopefully changing the context in which you originally wrote it is both laughable and pitiable. You’ve only made things worse.

  270. Charles Wolvertonon 10 Jun 2010 at 2:13 pm

    eric -

    Thanks, the comments on your post 13 are exactly the kind of exchange I’ve been looking for. I’ll read them carefully and make any further comments I have there.

    Over and out.

  271. Eric Thomsonon 10 Jun 2010 at 2:27 pm

    bindle: To those people here that aren’t terminally confused, am I not being clear here?

    Here’s my claim: We can explain and describe how something works without giving an evolutionary account of how it came into existence. This is orthogonal to whether the evolutionary story is selection-based or something else. This claim applies even to those cases where quantum mechanisms are important (e.g., phototransduction in the retina).

    For example, biologists can isolate rod photoreceptors and study how the convert light into electricity, and be none the wiser about how that capacity evolved. For instance, this paper.

    Bindle, before I completely give up on you, what is your argument? I appreciate your confidence, it is enviable, you are the most confident person here. But I need more than confidence and name-dropping. Do you have evidence, arguments, reasons to counter my specific claims and example above?

  272. bindleon 10 Jun 2010 at 4:05 pm

    Eric,
    The evidence is that you don’t believe or even provisionally accept that purpose played a role in evolution, and therefor some initial purpose that the function had been designed to serve will not be found. No point therefor in looking for some thing that’s merely the basis of someone else’s illusion.
    Especially since life could never have designed itself. Not even in the deliberately illusive world of yours where all the mechanisms for doing so seem put in place to fool us.

  273. bindleon 10 Jun 2010 at 5:11 pm

    And Eric you really should try to reign in those too obviously deceptive moves that betray that lack of confidence you mentioned. If my dropping of certain names offends you, can it be because you do the same with no better purpose than to make some self assuring drop?

  274. BillyJoe7on 10 Jun 2010 at 5:35 pm

    bindle,

    The trouble is that dropping names, posting quotes, echoing Paisley, and talking in riddles do not make an argument.

    If your philosophy is so much an embarrassment to you, why don’t you just drop it instead of expending all this effort hiding it behind riddles and rhymes.

  275. bindleon 10 Jun 2010 at 5:44 pm

    As to “explain and describe” how something works without some knowledge of its evolutionary history and the unfolding of its acquired purposes, you can much more easily be wrong in both describing and explaining when you hold that history has no relevance.
    Can there really be an explanation of a function that doesn’t include some reference to its purpose? And can you know with any accuracy the nature of that purpose if you ignore its history?

  276. bindleon 10 Jun 2010 at 6:08 pm

    Eric,
    See this excerpt from the cited material:
    “Nevertheless, the relationship between light intensity and steady-state response amplitude was shallower than that expected from simple response saturation. This is consistent with an adaptation mechanism acting on a rapid time scale.”

    We “expect” things based on prior observations of their purposive behaviors.
    We don’t refer to an “adaptation mechanism” without implying we have prior knowledge of its evolutionary history.

    So your citation makes my point much better than it supposedly made yours.

  277. bindleon 10 Jun 2010 at 6:20 pm

    As to use of rhyme with reason:

    There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
    Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. But come;
    Here, as before, never, so help you mercy,
    How strange or odd soe’er I bear myself,
    As I perchance hereafter shall think meet
    To put an antic disposition on,
    That you, at such times seeing me, never shall

  278. Eric Thomsonon 10 Jun 2010 at 6:26 pm

    That is making more sense. There are three issues, for any given mechanism X. How does X work? What is the evolutionary history of X? What is the function of X?

    I was discussing only the first question (e.g., what are the steps in the Kreb’s cycle; how does the eye turn a photon into voltage signals).

    The second and third are often (though not always) connected. Many times, the function of X is, in practice, identical to what X was selected for. For instance, the function of mimetic coloration on the butterfly is to fool predators. However, note even in this case where function and selection are connected, this leaves open the underlying molecular mechanisms that create such coloration in present-day individuals during ontogeny.

    Note however, that in the case of spandrels, the second and third questions are disconnected to some degree.

  279. Eric Thomsonon 10 Jun 2010 at 6:29 pm

    Bindle you should have quit while you were ahead. You said:
    We don’t refer to an “adaptation mechanism” without implying we have prior knowledge of its evolutionary history.

    LOL!

    The ‘adaptation mechanism’ they refer to is not evolutionary adaptation, but they mean the photoreceptor response adapts to (i.e., depends upon) the stimulus statistics. That is, the rod exhibits a different response to the same stimulus depending on the variability and mean intensity of the overall stimulus.

    OK I’m done you just proved this is not worth my time.

  280. Eric Thomsonon 10 Jun 2010 at 7:03 pm

    Just so as to not leave bindle confused, they mean the common phenomenon we might call ‘dark adaptation’ or ‘light adaptation’. That you read the abstract, saw that word, and thought you had a gotcha quote is really funny. Thanks for the laugh.

    See wikipedia entry on adaptation here. LOL you made my day bindle.

  281. bindleon 10 Jun 2010 at 7:48 pm

    Eric, you snickering little fool, you’re using those deceptive tactics again to see if you can foist off on us some other meaning of adaptation. So go ahead and run, but you can’t hide, or can you? Because maybe its true that you have entirely deceived yourself, as determinists must have to do.
    But here’s what your Wikipedia reference to Adaptation (eye) says:
    “The eye takes approximately 20–30 minutes to fully adapt from bright sunlight to complete darkness and become ten thousand to one million times more sensitive than at full daylight. In this process, the eye’s perception of color changes as well.”
    It’s an adaptation mechanism, and if you knew anything substantive about evolution you’d also know it’s called that because when the mechanism is “adapting” its responses, it’s learning how to modify them when necessary in the bargain. That’s the secret, to you anyway, behind its evolution. It doesn’t happen by some accidental magic in the sky that’s only coincidentally connected with an organism’s functional experiences.
    So while I wasn’t trying at the time to getcha, it seems I’ve gotcha now, hoist on that old materialist petard.

    And while you’re at it, look up Fallacy of Necessity, by which you try consistently to find one thing wrong somewhere so you can justify ignoring all your other glaring errors. But worse, you seem to never know wrong when you think you’ve found it.

  282. Paisleyon 10 Jun 2010 at 8:05 pm

    bindle: “Russell and Whitehead. Talk about intelligence taking advantage of the chance those two would meet.
    Here’s some further reference to the staying power of Whitehead’s views:
    IS THERE PURPOSE IN NATURE, Mae-Wan Ho
    http://www.cts.cuni.cz/conf98/ho.htm#Ho

    I am not familiar with the work of Mae-Wan Ho. But I am familiar with the process thought of A. N. Whitehead.

  283. bindleon 10 Jun 2010 at 8:13 pm

    And I note that even when you conceded earlier that evolutionary history was a factor, you “misspoke” when claiming you were only discussing the one issue of the Krebs cycle.

    “I can examine the Krebs Cycle and not study its evolution. Same goes for consciousness, digestion, etc.. This is how most of biology works.”

    No, its not, and you’ve just conceded that above. And then withdrawn that concession.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intellectual_dishonesty
    Guilty as previously charged.

  284. bindleon 10 Jun 2010 at 8:18 pm

    That last was for Eric. He’d do well to familiarize himself with both Whitehead and Mae-Wan Ho. Assuming he could understand them, given his confessions that philosophy is not his cup of tea.

  285. bindleon 10 Jun 2010 at 8:34 pm

    Paisley, thanks for reminding me about Whitehead and his involvement with Process Philosophy. Should have made more mention of that here, but what the hell, it would have fallen on deaf ears.

  286. Eric Thomsonon 10 Jun 2010 at 8:36 pm

    Bindle lol. I didn’t concede anything but that you misunderstood what I said, so I was forced to spell everything out explicitly and give you a way out. YOu act as if I said evolution wasn’t important. That is a flat-out misreading of what I said, your misreading of that article is absurd, your ability to equivocate and obfuscate is reaching huge proportions. Thanks for the entertainment.

  287. bindleon 10 Jun 2010 at 9:07 pm

    Eric,
    Give me a way out? Not in your character. Tell me again that the mechanism you referred to is not learning anything in the process. Do it. Even though you won’t be able to explain it other than assert it’s not.

    And only when your back was put against the wall did you try to clear up any “misunderstanding.” And even then did so in as round about a course as possible, cattle prodded all the way.

    Glad you’re being entertained. Enjoy your desperation.
    Bet you just can’t wait to see that dreamed up paper peer reviewed.

  288. Eric Thomsonon 10 Jun 2010 at 9:23 pm

    Bindle: you are confusing learning (in an individual development) with evolution. The rod photoreceptors show “learning” like effects, which is not evolution (look up Lamarckianism).

    As I said, we can understand the Krebs cycle, or male pattern baldness, or rod photoreceptor adaptation, without knowing the evolutionary processes that created such mechanisms. The paper I cited did exactly that, and you hilariously found the word “adaptation” and thought you had a counterexample in a deliciously quixotic attempt to appear like you have a clue.

    High School quiz: does this paper discuss the evolution of the rod photoreceptor system, or the mechanism of rod phototransduction? To those insane enough to still be following, here again is a link to the paper. Be sure to remember that Lamarkianism is not an option.

    Bindle, find the place where they are discussiong the evolution of the rod system rather than describing the mechanism by which it translates light into electrical activity, and don’t forget no Lamarkianism allowed.

  289. bindleon 10 Jun 2010 at 10:10 pm

    They don’t have to discuss its evolution – they have to have understood it before moving on to fashion any explanation of the process. Which is what you had clearly said does not need to be understood to explain it.

    And again you have betrayed that error by inferring that that the adaptive process that I’m confident is involved would be Lamarckism, and thus not evolution. But the better biologists, and again I have to drop Shapiro here, now realize that a Lamarckian type of process most certainly occurs, and have produced papers up the gazoo to give their evidence for that assertion.

    I see that where they see it, and the problem you have is that you simply can’t. No Lamarkianism allowed? Well sorry, but you don’t get to make the rules.

  290. edamameon 10 Jun 2010 at 10:10 pm

    Lamarck isn’t dead, but that paper is not about evolution of eyes.

  291. bindleon 10 Jun 2010 at 11:34 pm

    Now before you say I’ve just come up with this Lamarckian dodge as an excuse, I’ve made no secret of these views. My commentary from the recent Altruism in Squirrels post:

    ‘Steven writes: “I understand why it might be disconcerting to think that our own behavior, especially our deepest emotions, were crafted by blind selective forces maximizing genetic transfer into future generations.”
    You would understand it even better if you realized that all such instincts were originally crafted from the experiences of the organisms themselves and not from selective forces that went about it blindly. In other words, there are no first instincts in evolution, but there are first experiences.

    The question remains as to the genesis of the instincts that we have found are heritable.
Selection simply doesn’t go about it blindly. It involves life forms’ use of experience to take advantage of random accident.
There is no magical creation of a first instinct without some prior experience involved.’

    Of course I received no reply from Steven, who’s never seen a problem with the first instinct being blindly crafted. Nor apparently with the second, third, ad infinitum.

  292. bindleon 11 Jun 2010 at 12:15 am

    And again to quote myself on this thread:
    ‘I’ve said from the start that I’m an evolutionist who follows the broad path laid down by the Shapiros, Jablonkas, Margulis, Lambs, Ben Jacobs, Agutters and Wheatleys, Fodors, and so many others’

    And if you still want to say I’m all alone out on a lunatic’s limb here, check out some articles like this:
    Why everything you’ve been told about evolution is wrong,
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/mar/19/evolution-darwin-natural-selection-genes-wrong

  293. BillyJoe7on 11 Jun 2010 at 12:26 am

    bingle,

    I think Steven has wisely removed you off his radar.

    Lamarckism? :D
    Give us a break!

    When I read the following, I tried hard to make sense of it…

    You would understand it even better if you realized that all such instincts were originally crafted from the experiences of the organisms themselves and not from selective forces that went about it blindly. In other words, there are no first instincts in evolution, but there are first experiences.

    I couldn’t.
    You know why?
    I couldn’t imagine that anyone is still a Lamarckian!

    Okay, so now we have the name of your pseudoscience.
    Now, pray tell, what is your motivation?
    What is the crackpot philosophy that underlies your acceptance of the discredited pseudoscience called Lamarckism?

  294. Paisleyon 11 Jun 2010 at 12:55 am

    BillyJoe7: “First of all, I introduced the quote by saying “here is part of the conclusion”.

    And I suppose you are not distorting my response by not quoting my response. So, in case you missed it, here it is again:

    In other words the subconscious brain makes the decision (the RP) before the conscious brain becomes aware of it.
    They claim some importance for the fact the size of the RP is no different when the action is vetoed. But why would that matter? If the RP represents the subconsious brain’s decision and it occurs before the conscious brain becomes aware of it, that is all that matters.

    I have already provided you an explanation why this matters. In fact, the explanation is within the very paragraph you parsed.

    While there was an RP before volunteers made their decision to move, the signal was the same whether or not they elected to tap. Miller concludes that the RP may merely be a sign that the brain is paying attention and does not indicate that a decision has been made.

    (source: “Free will is not an illusion after all” ) by Anil Ananthaswamy Sept 2009 of “New Scientist”)

    To repeat…”the signal was the same whether or not they elected to tap.” IOW, the same signal was being generated when there was NO decision to tap! That’s why Miller concluded “that the RP may merely be a sign that the brain is paying attention and does not indicate that a decision has been made.”

    Also, you are refusing to acknowledge that Miller and Trevena performed a second experiment in which they did not find any subconscious decision-making process whatsoever!

    BillyJoe7: “It’s just my habit when reading these things to ignore the experimenters take and concentrate just on the data he obtained. The reason for this is that experimenters often have a bias which they wish to promote and which is not born out by the data produced by their experiment .”

    It would appear that your habit is to blatantly disregard any experimental results that do not comport with your own bias.

  295. bindleon 11 Jun 2010 at 1:38 am

    To those who still live in a mental cave, the terms Lamarckism or Lamarckianism or Baldwin Effect, or even Neo-Lamarckism, are no longer apt. We now refer to our renovated theory as should have been its moniker all along, Darwinism. You Neo-Darwinist lackeys had better pack your bags. Your services are soon to be dispensable.

  296. bindleon 11 Jun 2010 at 1:45 am

    The Neo-Darwinian epitaph will be written, albeit unintended and void of choice or purpose, by a mechanistic determinist named Eric.

  297. Paisleyon 11 Jun 2010 at 1:49 am

    BillyJoe7: “In that link above, under the section headed “Is the vetoing of actions also subconsciously initiated?” there are the details of an exepriment by Simone Kühn and Marcel Brass where the results are summarised as follows:

    “The results of the experiment clearly argue against Libet’s assumption that a veto process can be consciously initiated. He used the veto in order to reintroduce the possibility to control the unconsciously initiated actions. But since the subjects are not very accurate in observing when they have not stopped, the act of vetoing cannot be consciously initiated.”

    In the same New Scientist” article “Free will is not an illusion after all,” psychologist Frank Durgin (Swathmore College) says that “Brass’s results do “seem to undermine Libet’s preferred interpretation”, though they don’t contradict it outright.” Also, the same article explicitly states that the interpretation that Libet’s experiment proves that free will is an illusion has always been controversial because “there is NO proof the RP represents a decision to move (emphasis mine).”

    But let’s talk about the results of experiments conducted by Brass, Haynes, Soon, and Heinz. They are claiming that decisions are made 7 to 10 seconds before they reach our awareness (see links below for sources). Seven to ten seconds? What does this imply? It implies that every home run Barry Bonds hit was determined before the pitcher threw the baseball. Even with the illicit employment of steroids, that’s freaking amazing. The bottom line is that Brass and company not only have provided evidence that our subconscious processes are actually “conscious,” but also that they are endowed with ESP!

    Machines detect our decisions before we know them.”

    Unconscious determinants of free decisions in the human brain

  298. Paisleyon 11 Jun 2010 at 2:12 am

    bindle: “To those who still live in a mental cave, the terms Lamarckism or Lamarckianism or Baldwin Effect, or even Neo-Lamarckism, are no longer apt. We now refer to our renovated theory as should have been its moniker all along, Darwinism. You Neo-Darwinist lackeys had better pack your bags. Your services are soon to be dispensable.

    This is an excellent point. The inheritance of acquired characteristics was assumed by Darwin.

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