Apr 10 2017

New Study on Long Term Memory

memory-brainThere is something I never fully understood about memory, and now a new study might clarify my confusion.

The current model of how short and long term memory work is this. Short term memory is formed in the hippocampus and related structures. The hippocampus is highly plastic, it can change rapidly in order to form new real-time memories. However, this plasticity also has the necessary effect of causing recent memories to rapidly fade as they are overwritten.

Short term memory is actually limited in two ways, by the amount of information it can store, and duration. Studies vary in terms of how long short term memories last, but they all agree that it is from 15 seconds to 3 minutes. Measuring this is trickier than it may first seem, because people can “refresh” their short term memory by rehearsal, or from their long term memory, so you have to control for these factors.

There is also something called working memories, and there are varying concepts of exactly what this is. In essence working memory is short term memory that you are currently focusing on and manipulating. For example, if you do math in your head, you are using working memory.

Here’s the part I never fully understood. Most descriptions of how short term memory gets into long term memory are like this one:

Important information is gradually transferred from short-term memory into long-term memory. The more the information is repeated or used, the more likely it is to eventually end up in long-term memory, or to be “retained.” (That’s why studying helps people to perform better on tests.) Unlike sensory and short-term memory, which are limited and decay rapidly, long-term memory can store unlimited amounts of information indefinitely.

See the problem? Short term memory at most lasts a few minutes, but it is gradually transferred to long term memory (at least over a few days). So, where is the memory while it is being transferred? I find that most references just ignore or gloss over this point.

I suspect this is just a description of what we know from experiments, while ignoring the fact that our picture is decidedly incomplete. If we measure short term memory it lasts only a minute or so. It takes days to consolidate long term memory. We also know that short term memory does not require protein synthesis while long term memory does, so they use different mechanisms. Short term memory is in the hippocampus while long term memory is in the cortex.

So, somehow, short term memories get from the hippocampus to the cortex. But we clearly don’t have the whole picture.

Our everyday experience also suggests there is more to the story. You might learn or experience something, and you clearly remember it one hour later, after short term memory should have faded but before long term memory was consolidated. Also, if you did “forget” but were then reminded, the information will likely be familiar. Clearly there was a trace left behind even if it was not strong enough for you to spontaneously recall it.

In light of this the new study makes a lot of sense and perhaps adds the missing piece. Researchers shocked mice in order to create a memory of the experience. They also looked at brain activity while this was happening and followed it over a few days.

They found that the shock simultaneously created activity in the hippocampus and the cortex. In other words, it seems like the short and long term memories were created simultaneously. As the mice recalled the memory, at first hippocampus activity was dominant, but this activity faded over a few days. During that same time cortical activity increased until it dominated.

If this study, which seems robust but obviously needs to be replicated and explored further, pans out then we may have a new model of the relationship between short and long term memory. Both form immediately, with short term memory dominating at first but fading over a few days while long term memory strengthens and then completely takes over.

Of course, long term memory may not consolidate and then the memory fades away. However, with repeated exposure (such as with studying) the long term memory has repeated stimulation and is more likely to form and persist.

That is a much more satisfying model, which doesn’t leave any glaring holes that are just glossed over. We may need to reclassify different type of memory. What, for example, is fading after only three minutes? Perhaps that is really working memory. Or perhaps there are two kinds of short term memories, those that form with long term memories and those that don’t.

Obviously we need to conduct similar studies in humans, and with different kinds of memories (episodic and declarative).

It seems to me that our current models of how memories work are based largely upon psychological studies – seeing how memories work in animals and people and then inferring what is happening the brain from that behavior. Now we have the technology to study memories from the perspective of what is actually happening in the brain. It is not surprising that this new approach will give us more and perhaps better information, and change our models.

It is also clear that memory function in the brain is complex – a network of different functions working together. Our current models are almost certainly too simplistic to capture what is really going on, and again it is therefore not surprising that new research methods will show this to be true.

289 responses so far

289 Responses to “New Study on Long Term Memory”

  1. Yehouda Harpazon 10 Apr 2017 at 9:41 am

    > There is something I never fully understood about memory, and now a new study might clarify my confusion.

    All the field didn’t understand it either.

    The idea that any kind of memories are stored in the Hippocampus was always, in mild terms, idiotic.

    Memories are obviously in the cerebral cortex, always. They are some configurations of the connections between some neurons in the cortex.

    Long-term memories are configurations that keep themselves, presumably by causing the neurons to be active in a way that keeps the connections. Short-term fail to do it.

    The Hippocampus in some way helps short-term memories, but does not hold memories. As long as people don’t understand that, they will continue to be confused.

  2. tmac57on 10 Apr 2017 at 10:14 am

    I’ve long been puzzled by different learning styles or strategies that people employ. I worked in the telecommunications field for 39 years, and we had ongoing requirements to attend and pass technical classes for complicated new technology. I was repeatedly struck by the fact that some of the lesser capable technicians in the field, often had an easy time absorbing and regurgitating the course material, but apparently never integrated it into some usable scheme where it became an actual skill.
    They would fumble (on the job) with complex analyzer test equipment, getting the cords and interfacing hookups and switch settings wrong, seemingly not understanding what it was they were actually doing, but rather trying to duplicate a pattern of how they were supposed to be set up, rather than understanding why.
    It seems like somewhere along the way, individuals learn to play to their strengths of how they acquire and store information, but it doesn’t always turn out that those short term advantages for some styles, work out for better.
    Maybe if we finally get a good grip on how memory works (for most people) then it might help in tailoring learning programs for a more efficient and effective outcome.

  3. Lane Simonianon 10 Apr 2017 at 11:16 am

    Memory is complicated. Long term memory seems to depend on the transcription factor Nuclear factor kappa B. The retrieval of short-term memory depends on acetylcholine. The former does not appear to decline in Alzheimer’s disease whereas the later does which may explain why people with Alzheimer’s disease retain long-term memories while at the same time being unable to retrieve short-term memories.

    Various forms of short-term memory such as object recognition and spatial memory can be improved in mice designed to have an Alzheimer’s like disease (and most likely in human beings with Alzheimer’s disease). These types of short-term memory are likely retrieved from the hippocampus. Episodic memory on the other hand involves a relationship between the hippocampus and the cortex. This type of memory may be negatively affected by disturbed sleep, for instance, and may be more difficult to restore.

  4. edamameon 10 Apr 2017 at 12:17 pm

    [Side note: Dr Novella I have a post stuck in moderation in the ‘Is AI going to destroy us’ thread.]

    Yehouda: the view that memories are stored in the hippocampus isn’t idiotic: if you remove hippocampus after early exposure to a task, it drastically impairs performance (e.g., Morris water maze).

    More directly, the present study doesn’t show memories aren’t stored in the hippocampus: indeed, they discuss hippocampal engram cells explicitly in the paper. They take their paper to support the standard model, but with a twist: memories are stored in parallel at first (not hippocampus only), with the hippocampal memory traces slowly decaying over time.

    From the abstract (emphasis added):
    “After their generation, the prefrontal engram cells, with support from hippocampal memory engram cells, became functionally mature with time. Whereas hippocampal engram cells gradually became silent with time, engram cells in the basolateral amygdala, which were necessary for fear memory, were maintained.”

  5. Yehouda Harpazon 10 Apr 2017 at 2:37 pm

    > # edamameon 10 Apr 2017 at 12:17 pm

    > Yehouda: the view that memories are stored in the hippocampus isn’t idiotic: if
    > you remove hippocampus after early exposure to a task, it drastically impairs
    > performance (e.g., Morris water maze).

    Using the same logic, if you pull out the plug and the computer stop
    working, you will deduce that the computation are done by the plug.

    You can deduce form the impairment that the Hippocampus has a role
    in short-term memory, but anything more than that requires more evidence,
    which never existed.

    I didn’t actually read the article itself, I was responsing to what SN written,
    It seems the the article is another one that study fear responses in mice
    and try to generalize it to all cognitive processes, which is another silly and
    common idea.

  6. edamameon 10 Apr 2017 at 2:52 pm

    Yehouda removing the hippocampus produces very specific memory deficits. Pulling out the power cord would only kill you, it wouldn’t produce anterograde amnesia or other deficits that made people think the hippocampus is important in long-term memory consolidation.

    Obviously the star is HM; in case anyone here hasn’t read about this hero of neuroscience, I recommend it:
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2649674/

  7. Yehouda Harpazon 10 Apr 2017 at 3:27 pm

    > # edamameon 10 Apr 2017 at 2:52 pm

    > Yehouda removing the hippocampus produces very specific memory deficits. Pulling
    > out the power cord would only kill you, it wouldn’t produce anterograde amnesia or
    > other deficits that made people think the hippocampus is important in long-term
    > memory consolidation.

    There is no doubt that the Hippocampus is important in long-term memory consolidation,
    and I didn’t argue otherwise. What I call idiotic is the idea that memories are formed
    in the Hippocampus. This is expressed in the second paragraph of the
    main post as the “current model”:

    “The current model of how short and long term memory work is this. Short term memory
    is formed in the hippocampus and related structures. ….”

  8. arnieon 10 Apr 2017 at 5:54 pm

    Yehouda,

    First you state that it is idiotic to say that short term memories are “stored” in the hippocampus.

    Then you state that the hippocampus “has a role in short term memory”.

    Then you state that the hippocampus “is important in long-term memory”.

    Then you state that the idea that short termed memories are “formed” in hippocampus is idiotic.

    So let me try to to summarize your view: The hippocampus has no role in either the formation or storage of short term memories, but it does have a role in short term memory and is important in the consolidation of long term memory.

    Did I get it? So it’s role in long term memory is “consolidation” (in the cortex, I presume) and it “some way helps” in short term memories but neither in formation or storage. All pretty vague it seems to me and not surprising that people will “continue to be confused”. Maybe you can clarify its role in short term memory?

  9. Ian Wardellon 10 Apr 2017 at 6:17 pm

    As I’ve explained before, this notion that the brain stores memories is nonsensical. Memories are not the type of thing that *could* be stored. Neural memory traces merely facilitate the recovery of prior perceptions.

  10. Yehouda Harpazon 10 Apr 2017 at 6:19 pm

    > The hippocampus has no role in either the formation or storage of short term memories,
    > but it does have a role in short term memory and is important in the consolidation of
    > long term memory.

    I don’t say the Hippocampus “has no role in formation or storage”. I say the memories are not formed or stored in it (they are formed/stored in the cortex). The Hippocampus does have a role in the formation of memories.

    As should be clear from what SN wrote, that it different from the “current model”, which states that
    the memories are formed/stored in the Hippocampus.

    What is the role of the Hippoampus I don’t know, so I cannot clarify it. In general, any memory
    is a combination of many old memories, and the Hippocampus seems to help this combination
    be active until there are enough internal connection in the combination to keep it alive
    without help.

    I have more ideas of how it works in this link, but it is a difficult read:

    http://human-brain.org/cognition.html

  11. bachfiendon 10 Apr 2017 at 6:46 pm

    Ian,

    So where do you think memories are stored if not in the brain? How would you go about demonstrating it?

  12. hardnoseon 10 Apr 2017 at 6:48 pm

    “Memories are not the type of thing that *could* be stored.”

    That’s why computers can’t possibly work.

  13. edamameon 10 Apr 2017 at 6:52 pm

    Ian:
    >>>As I’ve explained before, this notion that the brain stores memories is nonsensical. Memories are not the type of thing that *could* be stored. Neural memory traces merely facilitate the recovery of prior perceptions.

    As a universal claim you will need to dial it back. There are motor memories such as the memory of how to ride a bike, and these are stored in the brain (M1, cerebellum, striatum, etc).

    But more generally, you are positing a theory of episodic memory that has been proposed before by multiple authors, for instance Damasio’s convergence zone hypothesis:
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19520438

    I don’t really care to get into semantic quibbles about whether this would count as the brain storing memories.

    But it definitely would count as the brain storing memories.

  14. Fair Persuasionon 10 Apr 2017 at 7:22 pm

    Originally, the memory models of experimental psychology involved an immediate working storage of several seconds which could hold the magic #7 items which humans could recall. These items are transferred to short and long term memory with rehearsal. Strong animal emotional responses can rapidly lay down memories, e.g., conditioned aversion.

  15. tmac57on 10 Apr 2017 at 7:29 pm

    bachfiend- It appears to me that at least some people store their memories/information within their viscera and or rectum. But then IANAD. 😉

  16. michaelegnoron 10 Apr 2017 at 9:57 pm

    Ian said:

    “As I’ve explained before, this notion that the brain stores memories is nonsensical. Memories are not the type of thing that *could* be stored. Neural memory traces merely facilitate the recovery of prior perceptions.”

    Precisely. Memories are psychological things, and have no dimensions, so they can’t be “stored”.

    “Storage” refers to physical things, that have dimensions, mass, etc.

    No doubt that proper functioning of neurons etc in various brain regions is necessary for memory, and it’s good science to investigate the neuronal correlates of memory. It may even be that memories have representations in neural networks, etc, but a representation is not the thing itself (by definition). I have a map of San Francisco in my pocket. It’s a representation of the city. I don’t have the city in my drawer. It wouldn’t fit.

    What is investigated by neuroscience are the correlates of memory, not the memories themselves, which are not physical things and thus are not investigable by neuroscientists, unless they moonlight as psychologists.

    This conceptual limbo would be ok if everyone understood it as metaphor, but everyone doesn’t, and some folks actually think memories are the same thing as the brain states. A rudimentary error, and one that demeans neuroscience and philosophy of the mind at the same time.

  17. bachfiendon 10 Apr 2017 at 11:01 pm

    Michael,

    There’s more than one type of memory. There’s episodic memory, which is of autobiographical details of events in an individual’s life. There’s semantic memory, which is memory of facts, such as the meaning of words, or the fact that Paris is the capital of France. And then there’s procedural memory, such as the ability to ride a bicycle many years after previously learning to do so.

    Episodic memories aren’t recovered. They’re largely created, and are often unreliable. Memories of a specific event are often contaminated with memories from other similar events, and often fictional extraneous details are added to give the illusion of completeness and veracity.

    Some, but not all, details of episodic memories must be stored somewhere, even if only the fact that an event happened sometime, somewhere.

    Semantic memories are stored somewhere. They must be stored and capable of being retrieved because usually, if not always, they’re very reliable.

    Procedural memories are stored in neural networks, with brain ‘territory’ being given over to the new skill. Such as riding a bike. Or playing a violin expertly.

    Defining memories as ‘representations’ that don’t have mass, dimensions etc, and as a result can’t be stored, is nonsensical.

    Hardnose, on one of the very few occasions he’s managed to write something sensible, noted “‘Memories are not the type of thing that *could* be stored’. That’s why computers can’t possibly work”. Memories in a computer also don’t have mass or dimensions, but they’re definitely stored somewhere.

  18. Lightnotheaton 11 Apr 2017 at 12:55 am

    Yet again, semantics clouds the issue. Hardnose et al are using different definitions of the words “memory” and “stored”. Thus Michael Egnor can correctly answer Bachfiend and Hardnose by saying that a computer’s “memory” is a metaphor for a bunch of 0’s and 1’s, much different from the memory we experience as a state of consciousness, and thus it can be stored. While they could also correctly reply their use of the word “stored” when discussing human memory is also metaphorical. While I give the skeptical community a lot of credit for discussing the need to avoid logical errors such as cherry picking and straw men, from what I’ve read not nearly enough attention is paid to the problems created by the ambiguities of language. Time and time again these discussion threads get derailed because people are using the same words but with different meanings.

  19. bachfiendon 11 Apr 2017 at 3:10 am

    Lightnotheat,

    If memories can be retrieved (whether from a human brain or a computer) then they must have been stored somewhere, regardless of how or where they were stored.

    In this almost unique case, hardnose is correct. Michael Egnor, as usual, is wrong.

  20. Ian Wardellon 11 Apr 2017 at 3:23 am

    @hardnose

    Here we have an example where the same word is used for 2 completely different things

    @edamame

    Riding a bike is more like an acquired skill. I’m talking about past events.

  21. Ian Wardellon 11 Apr 2017 at 3:32 am

    bachfiend
    “Hardnose, on one of the very few occasions he’s managed to write something sensible, noted “‘Memories are not the type of thing that *could* be stored’. That’s why computers can’t possibly work””.

    On the contrary, normally what he says is sensible, but emphatically not on this occasion! I’m in agreement with michaelegnor on this.

    Incidentally, what you say about episodic memories is also true of vision. What we seem to see is not reliable, and is a creation to some degree. Yet what we see is nevertheless external to the brain.

  22. Ian Wardellon 11 Apr 2017 at 3:46 am

    The brain can store the equivalent of computer memory, some meaningless string like 1001010111. But how does the conscious mind tag this with a specific event that s/he has experienced in the past?

  23. bachfiendon 11 Apr 2017 at 4:29 am

    Ian,

    Memories of events and visual images are similar in that they’re both produced within brains. There’s also some similarity in that both reflect some event in the outside world, not necessarily reliably.

    Computers don’t store meaningless strings of 0.s and 1.s. They have meaning, according to the operating system and other software. Brains store memories too – it is irrelevant that we don’t know how or where. You’ve still refused to indicate where you think retrieved memories originate if you refuse to accept that they’re stored in brains.

    You don’t know memories are tagged to a specific event in the past? A confession of ignorance and incredulity isn’t much of a justification for doubting that memories are stored in the brain.

    Actually, memories of past events is very poor, and is probably stored piecemeal in many locations. Most of the ‘remembered’ details are just manufactured. And most past events are just forgotten.

  24. Yehouda Harpazon 11 Apr 2017 at 4:32 am

    > # bachfiendon 10 Apr 2017 at 6:46 pm

    > So where do you think memories are stored if not in the brain? How would
    > you go about demonstrating it?

    Memories are not stored at all in the usual sense of the word “store”. “Store” typically
    involves putting something in some place, and implies the possibility of “picking up” the
    “something” and putting it somewhere else.

    In the brain, what actually happens is changes of strength of connections between
    some neurons. This process has very different properties from “Storing”. Most importantly,
    you cannot pick up the changes in strength and move them somewhere else. That is one
    of the reasons why all models that involve moving memories around are trivially false.

    I don’t believe that the “change in strength” is disputed anymore, so it doesn’t
    need demonstration. The real question is whether you can ignore it when you
    build your model of cognition, which is what cognitive psychologists have been doing
    for a long time. I think that the insistence of using “Store” to refer to strength changes
    is helping to hide the falseness of the models, and therefore hinder progress.

  25. Lightnotheaton 11 Apr 2017 at 4:48 am

    Bachfiend,
    Semantics again. How are you defining retrieved and stored. Of course I can “retrieve” a memory from “storage” if by retrieving I mean becoming consciously aware of it and by storage I mean not having it available to what I subjectively perceive to be my conscious thoughts. But if I define storage as being something you only do with things or data, the argument is that my subjective experience that I call memory is not a “thing” and therefore can’t be stored. Not a reasonable definition of storage I think, and in general I agree far more with you than with Ian and company on this subject. But still, this whole area of argument about mind, brain, idealism, materialism, etc. is one where the ambiguities of language tend to especially strongly muddy the waters. I don’t think those who call themselves idealists disagree with those who call themselves materialists nearly as they think they do..

  26. Lightnotheaton 11 Apr 2017 at 4:51 am

    last sentence should end with “nearly as much as they think they do”, left out the “as much”

  27. bachfiendon 11 Apr 2017 at 6:34 am

    Lightnotheat and Yehouda Harpaz,

    Regardless, you’re quibbling about semantics. Memory is still done by the brain. A material physical brain. Retrieving memories is still done by the brain. There isn’t some immaterial or non-material something or another that’s involved in memory. Not an immaterial ‘soul’ or an immaterial mind.

    Anyone who wants to deny that a material physical brain isn’t the sole ‘agent’ involved in memory needs to posit what is involved, and how it could be tested, otherwise they’re just blowing smoke out of their ars*s.

  28. Ian Wardellon 11 Apr 2017 at 6:40 am

    bachfiend said:

    “Memories of events and visual images are similar in that they’re both produced within brains”.

    My Response:
    Visual images are not wholly produced by the brain! The external world actually plyes some role. Memories too aren’t wholly produced by the brain. Perhaps past events directly cause our memories just as an object that we are looking at causes our viusul image of it. In both cases the brain has a huge role, but in both cases an external source is required.
    bachfiend said:
    “You don’t know memories are tagged to a specific event in the past? A confession of ignorance and incredulity isn’t much of a justification for doubting that memories are stored in the brain”.

    My Response:
    Think of a book. Lots of information can be stored in a book. But it is no avail to us unless we understand the language the words are written in. We have to remember what all the words mean.

    So, likewise we might have memories stored in the brain in the form of information. But how do we know what the information is? I mean if a memory is stored, say 1100011, how do we know what this means? Similar to words we could simply remember. But in that case why not simply remember past events directly without them needing to be stored? So there seems to be a difficulty in principle here about the concept of stored memories.

  29. Yehouda Harpazon 11 Apr 2017 at 6:54 am

    > # bachfiendon 11 Apr 2017 at 6:34 am

    > Lightnotheat and Yehouda Harpaz,

    > Regardless, you’re quibbling about semantics. Memory is still done by the brain.
    > A material physical brain.

    That is not arguing with me, because I never claim that memory is not done by
    the brain, or that is not material. What I argue that it is silly to have models in
    which memories are stored in the Hippocampus and then moved to the cortex,
    and that using the term “store” is highly misleading.

    I suggest you (and others) quote the specific text that you are responding like I do,
    to prevent these situations where you are “arguing with me”, but responding to
    things I didn’t say/write. This happens far too often.

  30. Pete Aon 11 Apr 2017 at 7:31 am

    “[Lightnotheat] But if I define storage as being something you only do with things or data, the argument is that my subjective experience that I call memory is not a “thing” and therefore can’t be stored.”

    Most of us have taken pictures with a digital camera. So, where are our pictures stored? Very likely, they are stored in JPEG files on our device(s), and/or we’ve uploaded them to a fileserver for sharing with others. This is how most people think about the terms “stored” and “storage” with computing devices, which contain the digital version of a filing cabinet.

    If we print our pictures then store them in a filing cabinet, we know beyond a shadow a doubt that these physical pictures are indeed stored in the physical filing cabinet.

    Interestedly, however, our JPEG files do not contain our pictures; each file contains only a long string of binary digits, which is completely and utter meaningless to humans and machines. The files contain meaningless data, but they do not contain any information, and they most certainly do not contain our photographs! In order to use the files, their data must be read by a computer algorithm: a JPEG decoder followed by an image render (rendering to a printer or a display screen). IOW: the data is retrieved from its storage in its JPEG file; it is then algorithmically transformed into image information which is tangible to humans — a photograph in this case.

    Computers do not store information, they store only raw data. They run applications to transform the stored data into information (and vice versa), as and when requested to do so.

    When humans store and recall conscious information, there is no reason why the information itself must be stored in the brain. All that’s required is a sufficient level of raw data to be stored which can be decoded on-the-fly by neural algorithms. This, I think, would explain why our episodic memory is unreliable and it gets distorted [reframed] by events that occur after the original event was stored.

    Hopefully, the above clearly demonstrates that computers do indeed store only dimensionless things [meaningless raw data], not real things that have dimensions.

  31. BillyJoe7on 11 Apr 2017 at 8:00 am

    For some reason this picture came to mind while reading this thread:

    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2017/04/09/ten-fun-facts-about-new-zealand-for-americans/800px-baldwin_street_new_zealand/

  32. BillyJoe7on 11 Apr 2017 at 8:01 am

    …hmmm. wrong picture.

  33. chikoppion 11 Apr 2017 at 9:19 am

    The brain is not a blank slate. Input (X) causes cascade of electrochemical activity (Y) among a pathway of cognitive systems. For instance, tripping and falling might cause hands to outstretch protectively, eyes to widen, pulse to quicken, as well as the release of chemicals associated with panic, pain, etc.

    “Tripping and falling” can be understood as a collection of initiating stimuli and subsequent cognitive events. That association between stimuli and neurological activity constitutes a map of sorts.

    The next time a broken sidewalk is encountered (X) the reference the map (Y) of all the electrochemical pathways associated with that stimuli is triggered. The map invokes the stored pattern of cognitive events, activating them in a diminished capacity. The visual stimuli of the broken sidewalk causes the brain to “relive” the previous state recorded in the map, to “remember” all the cognitive events associated with it by experiencing an echo of them in the present.

    Admittedly, the above is purely speculative. However, as we seem to be lowering the bar of evidence to the level of “what seems obvious or makes sense to me,” I’ll simply assert that it is true and that it necessarily disproves any contradicting evidence or hypothesis.

  34. michaelegnoron 11 Apr 2017 at 10:22 am

    The fact that it is nonsensical to say that memories are “stored” in the brain has several implications for neuroscience and for philosophy of the mind.

    For neuroscience, it means that no matter how elegant the discoveries about brain function and memory, there is still a missing piece. Neuroscience can only ever discover the brain correlates of memory, not the actual nature of memory itself. Brain correlates are important and interesting, but they are not memories themselves.

    So what are memories themselves? That is a question for philosophy, and a very important question. No doubt some dualistic explanation is required, given that the brain is physical and memory is not. The kind of dualism is open to discussion–there are many kinds.

    As I’ve noted before, I think that Thomistic (hylemorphic) dualism is the best paradigm on the market.

  35. chikoppion 11 Apr 2017 at 10:57 am

    [Michael Egnor] So what are memories themselves? That is a question for philosophy, and a very important question. No doubt some dualistic explanation is required, given that the brain is physical and memory is not. The kind of dualism is open to discussion–there are many kinds.

    How do you know? What is the difference between “remembering” a state of fear, euphoria, or pain and actually experiencing those biological effects due to external stimuli? If one of those things is physical then why not the other? Why is it a question for philosophy? What question about the functioning of the world or biology has ever been provided a useful answer by philosophy?

    But that’s all beside the point. The answer to “we don’t know” is never “the only thing I can think of must therefore be true.” The fact that we don’t understand everything about brain function or subjective experience is not license to assert, without positive evidence, the existence of metaphysical inventions to explain away our uncertainty. Dualism is simply an argument from incredulity.

  36. Pete Aon 11 Apr 2017 at 11:42 am

    Applying Thomistic (hylemorphic) dualism to my JPEG photography example:

    the body: the JPEG data plus its storage device;
    the soul: the data when it’s decoded and displayed as information (the photograph).

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hylomorphism

  37. asantoroon 11 Apr 2017 at 2:43 pm

    Hi Steve,

    Some clarifications:

    The confusion about transfer from hippocampus to cortex probably arises from the idea that memory information is somehow stored in isolation in the hippocampus, and then gets shuttled somewhere else over time. This is of course incorrect, and memory researchers have known this for a long time. The hippocampus receives amodal, convergent information from nearly all areas of the cortex, and in turn sends efferents back out to the cortex through the entorhinal cortex. Some sub-circuits of the hippocampus are recurrent, and display attractor dynamics. This means that, during memory encoding, the hippocampus receives cortical information and stores it in a compact attractor code. When the hippocampus is cued with partial information, the attractor dynamics clean up the cue, and reactivate the cortical regions associated with the recovered code. The hippocampus is never acting in isolation during memory recall — it always projects back out to activate the cortex. This amounts to the hippocampus acting as a register, or index, to the cortex.

    The older view of memory consolidation is that the transfer of a memory out of the hippocampus and into the cortex means that the hippocampus is no longer needed to retrieve cortical representations, presumably because the cortex has had enough time to strengthen the circuits such that a cue can invoke retrieval in the cortex alone, without having to rely on the hippocampus. This view has been going out of fashion for the past 10-15 years. The newer view of memory consolidation sees this transfer as not one of storage switching, but one of behavioral optimization: memories are indeed stored in the cortex and hippocampus, but they are qualitatively different depending on how they are reactivated (i.e. via hippocampus, or cortex alone). As time passes, the brain relies on the purely cortical circuits more than the hippocampal circuits, presumably because the cortical circuits contain more valuable information (they may represent more “general” or “gist-like” information, which may be useful at longer time scales after encoding when specific details are less likely to be valuable). In this newer view, all information is encoded nearly immediately, and what changes over time is simply the use of one network over another.

    This study was very nice, but I don’t think it was a conceptual breakthrough. The ideas they present about memory consolidation have been around for a number of years (decades), and these authors corroborated them in a very nice way.

  38. edamameon 11 Apr 2017 at 3:32 pm

    asantoro thanks for your excellent summary.

    What you are describing in your post is very Hopfield-network-esque, and I have always been a bit put off by his lack of biological realism (basically he is describing spin glasses, not brains 🙂 ). It sounds like you are much more in the loop than I am on memory research. I’m wondering if you can suggest a couple of experimental papers on the attractor dynamics in hippocampus (i.e., you wrote how some hippocampal subcircuits display attractor dynamics). I’m also curious about the claim that it receives amodal inputs. I find that surprising given the modality-specific response properties we see there. I think of it as a memory system that receives and encodes information from all modalities, not an amodal register. But this seems like your specialty, whereas I focus on sensory processing in my research, so I’m curious to hear your thoughts.

  39. Lightnotheaton 11 Apr 2017 at 3:44 pm

    pete a,
    Your digital camera analogy is great. I’d also point out that it’s a good example to use in reply to the idealist/new age argument that the external physical reality we perceive to be “out there” doesn’t really exist and is just an illusion created by consciousness. My digital video camera is a about as Newtonian as a device can be, whose functioning is wholly dependent upon there being something “out there” to record, and it can produce a 4k video image convincing enough to completely fool people if seen on a large tv through a window that hides the edges of the screen. That image and our subjective experience of perceiving reality are not the external reality itself and vary from device to device and person to person, but the external reality is the raw material used to create the perception/image, not the other way around.

  40. asantoroon 11 Apr 2017 at 4:15 pm

    Hi edamame,

    I think we’re both half right about the amodal vs. all-modal bit, giving us a solid 100% when put together 🙂 There are definitely cellular responses that map nicely to the various modalities, others that are conjunctions of the modalities, and others that can’t be cleanly mapped at all. The sense in which I meant is was that there isn’t much method to the madness of hippocampal codes — any given cell can seemingly be receiving information from just about anywhere in the brain. So, I think the most important part from a memory perspective is that the hippocampus receives convergent input from all across the brain.

    Hopfield’s work was definitely very influential for future hippocampal models, and Hopfield networks were even used as computational backdrops in the first multiple trace theory papers (i.e., one of the first memory consolidation models that tried to usurp the standard consolidation model). Biological realism aside, his point was more about computing with attractors. It’s very appealing to compute with and store activity representations with attractors, and cell ensembles with recurrent connectivity are primed for doing just such. So, the “hippocampus as an attractor” theory is definitely more heavily backed by computational models. At some level it almost has to be true that CA3-recurrent dynamics are doing something interesting, regardless of whether they are explicitly encoding memories as attractor states. I don’t quite remember the correct experimental papers (that’s what changing fields gets you :P), but here is one:

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2680068/

    There’s also evidence coming from the navigation literature. For example, head direction cells are adequately explained as ring attractors.

    In the end, whether one buys the hippocampus-as-attractor theory or not, it’s undeniable that the hippocampus, generally, acts as an index or register to the cortex. The experimental evidence for this is abundant.

  41. Pete Aon 11 Apr 2017 at 4:39 pm

    “[Lightnotheat] My [4k] digital video camera is a about as Newtonian as a device can be…”

    Yes! Although it is a digital [a sampled then quantized] recording device, it is as near as dammit to a Newtonian [analogue] recording recording device — at our macroscopic level of human cognition — in terms of both its video recording and its sound recording.

    Thank you very much for the whole of your succinct and pertinent comment. Your final sentence eloquently summarises that which I’ve been trying my best to convey to people for a very long time.

    Most people are unaware of the scientific fact that the rods and cones in our eyes detect only the magnitude of the optical transfer function of our eyes; they are unable to detected the phase of their optical transfer function (their phase transfer function). Therefore, each eye is unable to properly detect one of the dimensions of reality: spatial distance/depth. Fortunately, this ‘visual defect’ greatly simplifies the task of manufacturing realistic image recording and replay equipment 🙂

  42. edamameon 11 Apr 2017 at 4:56 pm

    asantoro thanks that’s a great example and will be enough to get me started: I really should know this literature better.

  43. bachfiendon 11 Apr 2017 at 5:08 pm

    I still insist that memories are stored in the brain, regardless of how the brain stores them and where they are stored. There’s no Cartesian theatre within the brain which is observing memories or visual images from the outside. Memories are still stored even if the memories have to be processed while being retrieved and before being considered.

    The other point is that there’s more than one type of long term memory; there’s episodic memory, which deals with autobiographical details about the person’s life. There’s semantic memory, which deals with the meanings of words and other facts, such as Paris is the capital of France and the September 11 terrorist attacks included two passenger jets being flown into the Twin Towers. And there’s procedural memory, such as the ability to ride a bicycle or play a violin expertly.

    Episodic memories are notoriously unreliable, and are often largely fictional. Semantic memory with a little practice is much more reliable. Procedural memory is also fairly reliable, with sufficient practice, and is actually unconscious.

    It’s doubtful that the three types of long term memory are formed and stored in the same manner. The famous HM who unfortunately had both hippocampuses resected for intractable epilepsy had extreme difficulty in retrieving episodic memories, both after the operation, and – as was realised many years later – also most episodic memories from before the operation, so the hippocampus appears to be involved in forming episodic memories by sending ‘bits of information’ to various cortical areas such as the vision, sound, smell, feel etc of episodic memories and then getting the bits of information back when the event is recalled, with a lot of the details just being made up, often taking details from similar events at different times.

    HM was still able to acquire new procedural memories. He was able to learn how to trace a star looking in a mirror, which is quite a difficult task. A person with normal memory often finds it difficult, rapidly becoming bored. HM was able to persist with it for days, becoming very good at it, perhaps aided by the fact that he had no episodic memory – he couldn’t remember any of his earlier attempts, so he never became bored.

    HM’s semantic memory was also largely unaffected. He enjoyed doing crossword puzzles. He eventually was able to recognise the President on television.

    As an illustration of the differences between episodic and semantic memories, which are conscious memories, everyone (almost certainly) remembers the events of the September 11 terrorist attacks, and – unless they’re conspiracy theorists – there’s little disagreement concerning the facts (some people might get the order of the events mixed up perhaps). But there’s also episodic memories involved. As an exercise, write down how you heard about the attacks. Where were you? Who was with you? How did you feel? And then investigate your memories, asking people you remembered being with you what they remembered, and seeing if there’s any contradictions.

    I remembered hearing about the terrorist attacks around 2:30 pm. I was walking along a corridor and one of four (I think) men called me asking me if I heard about the terrorist attacks in New York, and for some reason I remembered the truck bombing from ?1993, and said ‘do you mean the Trade Centre?’ And one man said – yes, that’s right, passenger planes were flown into the Twin Towers. I felt physically sick.

    I’m reasonably confident about many, but not all the details. I was on a train from Helsinki to Saint Petersburg, which departed around 2 pm (I think). And I settled myself in my compartment, which would have taken about 30′, and then I decided to explore the train. The four men (there could have been 3, certainly not 2) were in the next compartment. I certainly know I felt physically sick, feeling almost immediately that I wanted to go to the safety of home. I know that when I got to Saint Petersburg I watched film of the attacks many times on the television in my hotel room.

    I’m reasonably confident about the details, because – well, there weren’t many details, in the confined environment of an overnight sleeper train. And it’s not every day that one travels from Helsinki to Saint Petersburg, so already there’s some anchoring of the event.

    The analogy of a digital camera to vision only goes so far. In both cases, the images have to be processed before being viewed. In the first digital camera prototype, with 10,000 pixels, processing took around 30′ (currently, it’s almost instaneous). With human vision, it’s around 0.1 secs.

    In digital cameras, the image is usually perfect right out to the edge of field. There’s no peripheral loss of detail. With human vision, high definition colour vision is only provided by the central foveola, representing the area of the thumb nail with the hand held at arm’s length in the visual field, with the rest being a monochrome blur. And the brain puts the rest of the detail based on memory and expectation. And if there’s no input coming from part of the retina, perfectly capable of making stuff up. Hallucinations, as in the Charles Bonnett syndrome (visual release hallucinations), which generally the afflicted individuals realise aren’t real. That they’re false. That they’re hallucinations.

  44. Pete Aon 11 Apr 2017 at 5:27 pm

    asantoro,

    I hope that you (or someone else) will answer my naive question: does the blood flow increase to areas of the brain in preparation for their activation, or only after their activation? I’m interested to know if there is any freely available [not behind a paywall] replicated and peer-reviewed research results which documents the the delays between the two, across various regions of the brain.

    NB: I assure you that this is not some kind of trick/troll question. I had to use temporal logic, rather than rely on static logic, throughout most of my career so I can’t help being somewhat dubious of low temporal resolution fMRI studies.

  45. Yehouda Harpazon 11 Apr 2017 at 5:36 pm

    > # asantoroon 11 Apr 2017 at 2:43 pm

    > The confusion about transfer from hippocampus to cortex probably arises from
    > the idea that memory information is somehow stored in isolation in the hippocampus,
    > and then gets shuttled somewhere else over time. This is of course incorrect,
    > and memory researchers have known this for a long time.

    The reference that you have in the other post says in the first sentence:

    “Memories are thought to be attractor states of neuronal representations, with
    the hippocampus a likely substrate for context-dependent episodic memories.”

    So they seem to think that at least “context-dependent episodic memories” are in
    the Hippocampus. That doesn’t fit so well with your assertion in the quote above
    about what memory researchers know.

    I don’t think they really think that these memory are in the Hippocampus. More
    accurate to say that they are too confused about it to
    actually explain what they do think.

    It is also interesting to observe that clinical neurologists (at least Steve) still think
    that the “memories first stored/formed in the Hippocampus” model is the
    current one.

    From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memory:
    “The hippocampus is essential (for learning new information) to the consolidation of information from short-term to long-term memory, although it does not seem to store information itself.” (without a reference)

    from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippocampus:
    “There is now universal agreement that the hippocampi play some sort of important role in memory; however, the precise nature of this role remains widely debated.[39][40]”
    The two references are from 1992 and 1993

  46. Pete Aon 11 Apr 2017 at 7:05 pm

    “[bachfiend] Episodic memories are notoriously unreliable, and are often largely fictional.”

    Very likely because we encode events [we set them] and store them in our memory as simple raw data — we do not need to also store alongside this data the highly-complex metadata which accurately describes the whole of our conceptual contexts at that time.

    However, with the passage of time, our conceptual contexts are continually updated, therefore when we recall a stored event we have little or no control over interpreting the memory [filtering the memory] using our current conceptual contexts. E.g., can humans accurately recall then apply the conceptual concepts that they were using when an event occurred, say, aged five? No, certainly not!

    The only reason that the readers can read this comment is because the sender (me) and the readers (you) share similar highly-complex conceptual contexts, just one of which is modern English language. In other words, I can store just the raw data of this communication (ASCII text plus HTML tags) on Dr. Novella’s website server; and you can retrieve it from the server then understand my message — despite the fact that I have not also stored on the server the essential metadata: my current highly-complex conceptual contexts!

    Had I written my communication using very different metadata to encode it into ASCII text, say mediaeval English and conceptual contexts typical of that period, then you would totally misunderstand my ASCII text because you are decoding the text using your completely different set of metadata.

    I hope the above makes sense. I frequently find it very difficult to succinctly convey my thoughts (and to spot my typos!).

  47. edamameon 11 Apr 2017 at 7:56 pm

    PeteA it is the haemodynamic response you are after, I think:
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haemodynamic_response

    Generally it is thought that brain activity causes localized increased in blood flow.

  48. edamameon 11 Apr 2017 at 8:10 pm

    For a more scholarly overview of neurovascular coupling:
    http://www.scholarpedia.org/article/Neurovascular_coupling

  49. Sylakon 11 Apr 2017 at 9:04 pm

    For once, I have to give a “good job” to hardnose. A troll burning another troll with a surprisingly good comment, is always funny (short and straight to the point, which HN also lack often). Credit were credit is due. so now, HN, don’t post again, because you will definitively ruin it.

    Why would the brain not be able, like a computer, to deconstruct events and data ( perception emotion are data to the brain) into unit it understand and store them? It’s easy to claim that Like IAM does, but, why? because, yes, memories in the brain and computers have mass and a dimensions, like everything you perceive. They are physical things: for computers it’s electrons and their weird quantum properties , some nearly atomic scale chunk of magnetize metal. And since levels of energies are involved, their mass varies because of it ( as we know from experiment and relativity). Since the brain store them as protein, other chemicals, and definitively use electron too, you experience become physical things in the brain. I don’t know much on the brain apart from what I learn reading this blog and all the time when Dr novella speak about it ( which are often my favourite things he does, he makes all this so fascinating) and it seem we don’t know that much, but that part seem pretty well demonstrated and known.

    Anyway. this new study is in fact interesting. I guess the memory “buffer” between the 2 was missing in the picture. a intermediate short term “backup” in a sens, before synchronizing into the long-term one that is slower to update. I know, computers analogy are not really good enough, but the to help in understanding the concepts ( like working memory being the cache of the CPU short term the ram etc), because even if some don’t like it, the brain is a network of processor and a information processing biomachine.

    The most freakishly complex thing knowns to us in the universe, and yet, people want to insult it by bringing in man-made metaphysical concept and myths. How this is not fascinating enough?

  50. Pete Aon 11 Apr 2017 at 9:15 pm

    edamame,

    Many thanks for your replies. The long time delay is indeed problematic!

  51. bachfiendon 11 Apr 2017 at 9:27 pm

    Pete,

    What I find perplexing is the way long term memory has been conflated with long term episodic memory in this thread, whereas there are other types.

    I seriously doubt that much episodic memory actually persists. It’s not just that the metadata (the conceptual framework) of events is lacking. The memory of the events is also gone.

    I remember that I went to a certain high school many decades ago, but I don’t remember any events from the 5 years I spent there. I remember some, but not many, of the facts I was taught there, so semantic memory from my high school days seems more robust.

    The hippocampus seems important in laying down and retrieving episodic memories. Whether because it’s a central registry of memories and where they are located or whether because it coordinates bits of the memory of an event in various areas of the cerebral cortex, so that memories have visual, auditory, olfactory, emotional components, etc, besides the added fictional components to provide the illusion of completeness and veracity.

    The hippocampus doesn’t appear to be involved much in semantic memory. It’s not involved in procedural memory, as shown by HM’s ability to learn to trace a star looking in the reflection of a mirror.

    I’d go so far as to claim that most people have very little episodic memory. Not that it’s not accessible and can be recovered with hypnosis or counselling, but rather it’s just not there. There are some very rare people who do appear to have much better episodic memory than the rest of us, but it appears that it’s of no benefit to them. It’s a considerable handicap for them.

    It seems as though humans have evolved to have just enough memory needed for survival, and no more.

  52. bachfiendon 11 Apr 2017 at 9:39 pm

    Sylak,

    You’ve made many good points. The human brain is the most complex structure in the Universe (that we know of). It’s been said that if the human brain was simple enough to be understandable, then we’d be too simple to understand it.

    It may be that we will never understand completely how the brain works. But I regard it as the height of arrogance for Ian Wardell and Michael Egnor to want to take away the credit for an amazing physical structure in order to give it to an immaterial and nonexistent mind (and an ineffable soul). Just because a concept is ‘simple’ (in this case just stupid) doesn’t make it true. Or explanatory.

  53. Pete Aon 11 Apr 2017 at 9:40 pm

    “[Sylak] They are physical things: for computers it’s electrons and their weird quantum properties, some nearly atomic scale chunk of magnetize metal. And since levels of energies are involved, their mass varies because of it ( as we know from experiment and relativity).”

    Which is why computer hard drives have a data checksum appended to the end of each sector. On every sector read, if the checksum of the data retrieved does not match the appended checksum then the drive will reread the sector, and the checksum, until either the two checksums match or a designated timeout occurs. When a timeout occurs, it will be recorded in both the computer system’s error log file and the drive’s S.M.A.R.T. data area. A well-designed drive will copy the successfully read data from a troublesome sector to a reserved sector, then update its logical to physical sector map.

  54. Pete Aon 11 Apr 2017 at 10:28 pm

    bachfiend,

    Many thanks for your interesting reply, with which I agree.

    Memories can be ‘retrieved’ using hypnosis, but it seems that what gets retrieved ranges from confabulation to total utter BS. E.g. past life regression!
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Past_life_regression

    It is the therapists who are in dire need of treatment, not their patients 🙁

    My episodic memory of long-ago events has drastically deteriorated over the years (except for a few traumatic events), yet I can instantly recall the value of π to seven decimal places. I find that annoying because I have no need to remember the value of π and I sincerely wish that my memory the traumatic events would fade away. Such is life 🙂

  55. Sylakon 11 Apr 2017 at 11:11 pm

    Pete A : Yeah I know that, I worked IT and have a degree in electronic. ;-). I kept it simple for the non super nerdy computer persons. What I found crazy it’s how long after you can extract data for the magnetic “momentum” of the hard-drive. You can overwrite it and get the previous information, and the previous etc. you can go back far with specialize hardware.
    If you use some command ( like Shred in linux to write random bits), you have to rewrite like 35 time to secure that erase data. even than I think sensitive equipement could get somethings out.The only way secure it really is to grind it to dust. For a SSD, i guess it’s less of a problem, since the electron is gone ( or in) the transistor gate of the NAND, but I admit I don’t know. Anyway that a little offtopic now lol

    @bachfiend: Yeah, it’s the it’s pure motivated reasoning. I laughed at how categorical Ian was. BANG, what now Skeptics! Destroy my argument! When in reality it was just: ” memory cannot be store.. well because REASONS”. That’s their argument, they can phrase it in a 1000 words, that is still just empty reasoning with no actual evidence.

    I get it, somehow. I mean, I wish too there was proof of Life after death, of a cosmic conscience or whatever, that would be awesome. But there’s no evidence, and there’ evidence of the contrary and I prefer living in reality. Yes, that make me scare of death ( On this, I shares Steve’s Brother Jay feeling about it) but most humans are, it’s natural afterall. At the same time, I accept my physical existence AS IS. Emotions and experiences are not fuzzy abstract things that a so-called “soul” in a other invisible dimension experience, nope, they are actually physicals things. in your mind. I always found it insulting that people who think that making love some kind of unexplainable, un-falsifiable metaphysical phenomenon argue make it more “Real” ( and they get all awkward with the thought of it not being mystical). When in reality, to me, they are the people making is a fantasy and unreal. The love you experience for your significant others is actually real. It’s pathways and chemicals and brain activity. It’s there, live between your hears, not some over-poetical mumbo jumbo that’s completely making it sound fake and cheesy. ( well some of tah poetry does sound good, I’ll admit).

    On that note, I’ll quote another appropriate Neil Peart lyrics (he got a lot of these) from my favourite song ever about love and the randomness of life. Quite fitting with my state of mind after writing this comment :-).

    “I don’t believe in destiny
    Or the guiding hand of fate
    I don’t believe in forever
    Or love as a mystical state
    I don’t believe in the stars or the planets
    Or angels watching from above
    But I believe there’s a ghost of a chance we can find someone to love
    And make it last…”

  56. Pete Aon 12 Apr 2017 at 6:19 am

    Sylak,

    My apologies for misunderstanding your point. It is indeed very difficult to erase all traces of the data on a magnetic hard drive. The shred command doesn’t erase files on SSDs because the drive firmware changes the logical to physical sector mapping for the purposes of wear levelling: repeaded writes to the same sector will actually write to different physical sectors, leaving the original data where it was. The whole drive has to be erased, but even that doesn’t guarantee to remove all of the data.

  57. Ian Wardellon 12 Apr 2017 at 6:52 am

    Sylak
    “[Love is] pathways and chemicals and brain activity. It’s there, live between your hears (sic), not some over-poetical mumbo jumbo that’s completely making it sound fake and cheesy”.

    My Response:
    Here’s what I’ve said about love in my random musings blog.

    What is love? I kind of regard it as being something like a total and complete appreciation of another person’s essence, a total empathetic identification with their being. Often people say love is all in the mind, or it is merely chemicals. But what would it mean to say that such feelings are in one’s mind? How would this differ if they were not in one’s mind? Is mere liking of a person also in one’s mind? Hating a person? Admiring a person?

    I would guess they mean that love is caused by processes occurring in the brain. But how do we know the causal relationship always runs from the brain to the mind? Perhaps feelings of love precipitate processes in the brain?

  58. bachfiendon 12 Apr 2017 at 7:33 am

    Ian,

    Well, the brain is the mind, and the mind is the brain, so by definition processes that are happening in the mind are simultaneously happening in the brain.

    There’s no flow of processes from the brain to the mind, or from the mind to the brain.

    And anyhow, if the mind was immaterial (or non-material), what process could be occurring there that could have any effect in the material (physical) brain? What force or forces acting in an immaterial realm could act in the physical world? What other forces besides gravity, electromagnetic, and strong and weak nuclear forces exist? How would you show that an immaterial mind exists?

    There are certainly processes occurring in the unconscious mind (brain) producing feelings of love, which flow to the conscious mind (brain). Nothing unusual about that.

  59. Ian Wardellon 12 Apr 2017 at 8:39 am

    bachfiend
    “What other forces besides gravity, electromagnetic, and strong and weak nuclear forces exist?”.

    My Response:
    The force of conscious will as exhibited by our flow of thoughts and our voluntary behaviour. Note I don’t think this would contravene conservation of energy. We just need a radically new physics that accommodates consciousness.

    So this would be a fifth force in addition to the other four. I suggest it’s a form of psychokinesis. It need only have an incredibly small effect, but that cascades into bigger and bigger effects until we can move our arms and legs — like a very small domino falling onto a slightly larger one, and that doing the same etc.

  60. Ian Wardellon 12 Apr 2017 at 8:42 am

    I think you might like this poem Sylak. Not mine, but I love it.

    Dust if you must, but wouldn’t it be better

    To paint a picture, or write a letter,

    Bake a cake, or plant a seed;

    Ponder the difference between want and need?

    Dust if you must, but there’s not much time,

    With rivers to swim, and mountains to climb;

    Music to hear, and books to read;

    Friends to cherish and life to lead.

    Dust it you must, but the world’s out there

    With the sun in your eyes, and the wind in your hair;

    A flutter of snow, a shower of rain,

    This day will not come around again.

    Dust if you must, but bear in mind,

    Old age will come and it’s not kind.

    And when you go (and go you must)

    You, yourself, will make more dust.

  61. bachfiendon 12 Apr 2017 at 8:50 am

    Ian,

    ‘The force of conscious will… it need only have an incredibly small effect…’

    Incredibly small, actually so incredibly small, it’s non-existent.

    I have no objection to you inventing, without any evidence whatsoever, as many non-existent forces as you desire.

  62. chikoppion 12 Apr 2017 at 9:46 am

    [Ian Wardell]The force of conscious will as exhibited by our flow of thoughts and our voluntary behaviour. Note I don’t think this would contravene conservation of energy. We just need a radically new physics that accommodates consciousness.

    So this would be a fifth force in addition to the other four. I suggest it’s a form of psychokinesis. It need only have an incredibly small effect, but that cascades into bigger and bigger effects until we can move our arms and legs — like a very small domino falling onto a slightly larger one, and that doing the same etc.

    Scientific theories model actual observations. They aren’t just made up conceptual frameworks.

    If “psychokinesis” impacts the physical brain in any way it would definitly violate conservation of energy. Energy is work. Work is heat. Altering a system requires an input of energy. That’s the thing about forces…if they aren’t measurable they don’t exist. The strong nuclear force is effective at about 1 femtometer distance (the diameter of an electron). We can detect it and measure its field strength.

    A friendly word of caution; you are infringing on excessive woo territory here.

  63. Pete Aon 12 Apr 2017 at 9:54 am

    Ian,

    I don’t know if you have ever suffered from sleep paralysis:
    “Sleep paralysis is a phenomenon in which an individual, either during falling asleep or awakening, briefly experiences an inability to move, speak, or react.”
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleep_paralysis

    Occasionally, this happens when I awake in the morning; it lasts for 5 to 20 minutes. No matter how hard I try to force (will) my hands, arms, or legs to move, there is no response whatsoever, not even the slight movement in a finger or thumb. My mind is laughing “WTF?”, but it causes no laughter response in my body. The first time it happened was terrifying because, until it started to ware off, I was convinced that I’d stay in that state, lying on the bed until I died of dehydration or whatever.

    I think the wilful movement of our limbs is exactly the same as (or very similar to) the way we learn, on a subconscious level, how to ride a bicycle. Our conscious mind is curious and it is able to ‘experiment’ with our body, via subconscious processes connected to our motor cortex, using the simplest of all methods: trial and error!

    The conscious mind relies very heavily on the post hoc ergo propter hoc logical fallacy. I think this is because the processing time that the brain requires to generate consciousness from its inputs (our sensory awareness) means that our stream of consciousness lags reality by 100 to 200 milliseconds. In other words, we have no choice to be anything other than innate post hoc analysers and reasoners.

    Thank you for quoting the poem.

  64. Yehouda Harpazon 12 Apr 2017 at 10:06 am

    > # Sylak on 11 Apr 2017 at 9:04 pm

    > I know, computers analogy are not really good enough, but the to help
    > in understanding the concepts ( like working memory being the cache of
    > the CPU short term the ram etc),

    Computer analogy is not “not really good enough”, it is not good at all.

    Taking your specific example, the cache of the CPU is by design capable of making
    exact copy of the data (i.e. the pattern of bits) of parts of the REM, and the same
    for the REM with respect to the hard drive. In the brain there is no mechanism for
    such copying, so there are no such caches.

    In general, there are no useful concepts from computer that are useful for
    understanding the brain (Some people may say neural networks, but this is a
    concept from the brain that migrated to computing).

    The fact that many people try to use computer concepts to understand the brain
    is part of the reason that the field of cognitive science is so confused. As long as
    you think about caches, indexes, pointers etc. you have no chance to understand
    how the brain works.

  65. Pete Aon 12 Apr 2017 at 10:18 am

    chikoppi said to Ian Wardell: “A friendly word of caution; you are infringing on excessive woo territory here.”

    Yes indeed. I don’t mind at all when commentators express their thoughts, however much woo their thoughts contain. What I find tiresome are those who not only refuse to learn actual 21st-century logic, science, and the scientific methods; they persist in creating straw-man versions then setting fire to them. Most people grow out of playing with matches, but some never will.

  66. Ian Wardellon 12 Apr 2017 at 1:44 pm

    chikoppi
    “If “psychokinesis” impacts the physical brain in any way it would definitly (sic) violate conservation of energy. Energy is work. Work is heat. Altering a system requires an input of energy”.

    Apparently not. When we voluntarily move our limbs, we use up energy. If my consciousness via psychokinesis initiates movement, how on earth could you be in a position to declare there has been no energy used up?

    If one rejects reductive materialism, or any epiphenomenalist position, then our current physics simply fails to explain consciousness. Hence it seems to me that it is an inescapable conclusion that we require a radically new theory.

  67. chikoppion 12 Apr 2017 at 2:33 pm

    [Ian Wardell] Apparently not. When we voluntarily move our limbs, we use up energy. If my consciousness via psychokinesis initiates movement, how on earth could you be in a position to declare there has been no energy used up?

    Energy is not “used up.” This is basic physics and the First Law of thermodynamics.

    [wikipedia] This states that energy can be neither created nor destroyed. However, energy can change forms, and energy can flow from one place to another. A particular consequence of the law of conservation of energy is that the total energy of an isolated system does not change.

    The salient point is that in order for a system to be influenced in any way energy would have to be introduced to that system. That energy would have to be significant enough to be measurable if it has an observable effect on the system. If an external force is acting upon the brain it must be detectable.

    [Ian Wardell] If one rejects reductive materialism, or any epiphenomenalist position, then our current physics simply fails to explain consciousness. Hence it seems to me that it is an inescapable conclusion that we require a radically new theory.

    First off, if one rejects electromagnetism then electrical devices must be powered by fairies.

    Second, SCIENCE is a METHODOLOGICAL PROCESS, not a PHILOSOPHY. Whether or not science can ever explain X has no bearing on whether or not X is compatible with materialism.

    Third, the lack of a scientific theory is not cause to set aside methodology and speculate about the role of invented metaphysical forces in natural processes when there is absolutely no evidence such forces exist. You are equating yourself to the fallacious thinking of the 18th century, which birthed such notions as phlogiston and humours.

  68. Ian Wardellon 12 Apr 2017 at 3:03 pm

    chikoppi
    “Energy is not “used up.””

    Aye, I say this to the energy company that supplies my electricity and gas, but they still insist I pay up 🙁

  69. bachfiendon 12 Apr 2017 at 4:42 pm

    Ian,

    “Energy is not ‘used up'”.

    But it is converted from one form to another. Very valuable and expensive to produce and distribute electrical energy gets converted eventually into a lot of low value heat energy. Regardless of how much electricity you buy, eventually all it’s going to do is warm your neighbourhood by a tiny fraction of a degree.

    Pons’ and Fleischmann’s ‘cold fusion’ could have actually been happening. They claimed to have found a very tiny amount of extra heat in their experimental setup. Even if true it can’t be scaled up. If their experimental setup was enlarged to the size of a city or country, the most they could produce is a lot of low value heat distributed over a very large volume of water, not sufficient to boil it, which is how conventional power is produced, by steam spinning turbines.

    Yehouda Harpaz,

    Agreed. Computer analogies can be misleading in understanding how the brain works. But the fact remains – computers work by storing information. Brains also work by storing information. It’s irrelevant that computers and brains store and retrieve information in different, actually radically different, ways.

    Computers and brains differ in another fundamental way. Brains have to be fed constantly with information, otherwise you get the Charles Bonnett syndrome (visual release hallucinations) for example. Or the highly damaged children in the Roumanian orphanages during the bad old days of the Communist regime, who were neglected mentally. Computers, on the other hand, are ‘happy’ not to be fed with new information (my iPad to the contrary which ‘insists’ it ‘needs’ an update to its OS).

  70. Ian Wardellon 12 Apr 2017 at 4:44 pm

    But anyway chikoppi. You haven’t addressed what I’ve said. Materialism is not possible. I know you disagree, but say for the sake of argument you assume that’s correct. In that case we need a new physics since consciousness is not accommodated by present physics.

    Labelling the causal efficaciousness of consciousness as “metaphysical” doesn’t alter this fact. And what does the word “metaphysical” mean in this context in anycase? That you don’t like it? That you disapprove of such an influence? Whatever . .I think you are clueless at what the word metaphysic means! And of course reality doesn’t care about what you believe.

  71. Paul Parnellon 12 Apr 2017 at 5:34 pm

    I think some people have a stunted view of what computer memory is.

    Anything that produces a physical change in a system can be used as a memory. Marks on paper, magnetic domains on a hard drive, charged capacitors in a memory chip, optical state of dots on a cd, a string tied around your finger…

    Anything that does not create a measurable difference in a system cannot be a memory. If you cannot measure it you cannot do things depending on its presence or absence. It cannot be a memory.

    If you memorize the digits of pi then you can recite them. If you can recite them then some physical change in the brain must have been caused by memorizing them. That’s all you need to say that the brain stores and recalls memories pretty much like a computer. Sure some of the engineering details are vastly different. But so what? There is a universal aspect to computers that transcend irrelevant engineering differences.

    Some have conflated memory with the consciousness problem. I don’t think there is any necessary connection. You can have a supernatural explanation for consciousness or some explanation based on unknown science. Either way the brain must use physical changes to make memories. Your neurons in some extended sense must tie strings around themselves in order to remember.

    As for where in the brain memories are stored — that may be more complex than people imagine. A local change in the brain cannot have meaning by itself. It only has meaning with respect to the vast network of other brain states it is connected to. In that sense memory has a holographic property. It can be partly localized in some brain region but that likely does not tell the whole story.

    And that may help with understanding the difference between short and long term memory. If a stranger shows you a picture of their wife you will quickly forget and couldn’t pick their wife out of a lineup. But if they show you a picture of your wife you will remember your wife, the cloths she was wearing, the time he showed it to you, the face of the man showing the picture and how you felt about a stranger carrying a picture of your wife. The memory of a stranger has no context to give it meaning. The memory of your wife is integrated in many many ways.

    When you study you attempt to take context free information and integrate it into a vast network that gives it meaning and purpose. The change from short to long term memory isn’t so much the change of location of memory as the integration of memory into a vast chain of associations. It is the partial delocalization of memory.

  72. chikoppion 12 Apr 2017 at 6:35 pm

    [Ian Wardell] But anyway chikoppi. You haven’t addressed what I’ve said. Materialism is not possible. I know you disagree, but say for the sake of argument you assume that’s correct. In that case we need a new physics since consciousness is not accommodated by present physics.

    I have addressed this, repeatedly.

    http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/is-ai-going-to-save-or-destroy-us/#comment-293978

    Labelling the causal efficaciousness of consciousness as “metaphysical” doesn’t alter this fact. And what does the word “metaphysical” mean in this context in anycase? That you don’t like it? That you disapprove of such an influence? Whatever . .I think you are clueless at what the word metaphysic means! And of course reality doesn’t care about what you believe.

    You go right ahead and think think that. I’ll tell you how I see it used far too often.

    Wherever there is an unknown the hucksters, apologists, deniers, woo-mongers, and naive armchair philosophers think that any explanation they can invent has claim to legitimacy. That’s garbage. I can dream-up half a dozen substances, forces, processes, particles, you name it, to explain away any phenomena you like. All these explanations would be 100% internally consistent, 100% non-falsifiable, and 100% wrong.

    What all these “metaphysical” propositions amount to is an argument from ignorance. You don’t understand how something works and invent, entirely without evidence, some hitherto unknown force or plane of existence to explain it away. How many times throughout history have we seen these kinds of claims kicked to the dustbin of disproven silliness?

    I referenced Dark Matter in another thread. I think that comment is worth repeating.

    [chikoppi] Galaxies don’t behave according to our understanding of physical laws.

    Astronomers and physicists put a pin in that observation and started looking for an answer. There are many potential hypotheses that could explain the phenomenon, but the pin remains because none have been verified.

    What no one did was to assert that the answer must be an inscrutable force that exists outside of physical reality for the benefit of excusing our limited understanding.

    If you think there’s some undiscovered force out there, go find evidence of it. Your incredulity is not sufficient justification to invent things out of thin air or to demand the exceedingly well-established laws of physics be overturned.

  73. Ian Wardellon 12 Apr 2017 at 7:02 pm

    chikoppi, you say in the link:

    “You are relying on the fact that Science (a process) cannot produce a mechanistic theory for consciousness consistent with Materialism (a philosophical position)”.

    I’m pretty damn sure I’ve said this already as nauseum…

    No, I don’t rely upon it. I exhaustively explain why in a couple of blog entries which I’m sick of linking to…

    You also say in the link:

    “This is a misconception because 1) Science natively addresses emergent properties and 2) the absence of a scientific theory of consciousness is not evidence that consciousness cannot emerge from the laws that govern the interaction of matter and energy”.

    1. I have no idea what this means. Speak English… But consciousness is a *strong* emergent property if brought into being by the brain. In which case the existence of consciousness is simply a brute fact.

    2. Again, read my damn essays!

  74. Ian Wardellon 12 Apr 2017 at 7:05 pm

    I’m seriously sick to death of people understanding *nothing* of what I say. I don’t think people appear to even make any attempt to understand. This is a waste of time.

  75. cozyingon 12 Apr 2017 at 8:27 pm

    Ian Wardell,
    I’m sorry you are frustrated, I can relate. Chikoppi is trying to demonstrate the difference between science and philosophy.

    Science is a collection of techniques, theories and strategies that are used to systematically study the world through careful empirical observation and experiment.

    Materialism is not equal to Science. When you claim that we need a new system to understand consciousness you are making many unstated assumptions which chikoppi tried to outline.

    There are many things currently being being pursued in physics that break all the classic understandings of materialism.
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_unsolved_problems_in_physics
    Many of these problems for example are difficult because they violate a lot of the traditional ideas about physics. This is why m-theory, quantum field theory and other non-materialistic avenues are being pursued and taken so seriously by physicists.

    If everything turns out to be vibrating hyper dimensional membranes, or fields, I would hardly call that materialism. But I would call it science.

    It could explain consciousness perfectly. We just don’t know, we might not even need something like that, currently unexplained doesn’t mean it will always be unexplained and rely some dramatic paradigm shift.

  76. bachfiendon 12 Apr 2017 at 8:34 pm

    Ian Wardell strongly reminds me of one of HL Mencken’s comments. To paraphrase him, for every complex problem, there’s an answer that’s simple, straightforward and wrong. I’d add stupid and simpleminded.

    “I’m seriously sick to death of people understanding ‘nothing’ of what I say. I don’t think people appear to even make any attempt to understand. This is a waste of time”.

    Good. He’s finally decided to p*ss off and not return. We do understand him. He’s stupid and simpleminded. Good riddance.

    Paul Parnell,

    Good points. If you’re not already aware of it, look up the Capgras syndrome, usually due to a psychosis but sometimes due to a brain injury, in which an afflicted person doesn’t develop an emotional response to the sight of a familiar person. There have been cases in which, because a person feels indifference at the sight of a spouse, comes to the conclusion that the spouse has been maliciously replaced with an imposter, and attempts to kill the spouse.

  77. chikoppion 12 Apr 2017 at 8:58 pm

    @Ian Wardell

    Ian, you have stated that “materialism” cannot demonstrate the “causal efficatiousness” of consciousness.

    In other words, that physical laws cannot account for the phenomena of consciousness. Science is the process by which we determine physical laws. Our understanding of physical laws is far from exhaustive, so I don’t know how you think you can determine the limits of “materialism,” but let’s set that aside for now.

    Your words:

    If some object — let’s say a rock — has no causal efficacy whatsoever this means that we wouldn’t be able to see it since no light could be reflected off it to enter our eyes. Nor could we touch it since the electrons near the surface of the rock would lack any causal power to repel the electrons near the surface of the tips of our fingers. Our hand would pass straight through it! Indeed it would seem that a causally inefficacious rock cannot be distinguished from a non-existent rock.

    So “causal efficacy” does not require consciousness, but merely the ability of an entity or property to interact with observable reality. Apparently, “materialism” is sufficient to provide for the “causal efficaciousness” of a rock, but not of consciousness.

    If the brain IS the mind, and the brain IS “causally efficacious,” then no further entity is required. Yes?

    Well, the brain sure seems real enough. You seem to be confident that you can falsify that consciousness could be synonymous with brain function.

    I am not going to mine your essays looking for a proof. If you care to present it here I will entertain it.

    But there’s still the other matter (no pun intended) of observable interaction. If indeed this hypothetical non-physical “consciousness” is “causally efficacious,” then it must interact with the observable world. To interact with or change a physical system, such as the brain, requires energy – because that’s what physical systems are. If energy is being introduced to observably alter a physical system it should, indeed must, be detectable. Where is it? Why aren’t people freaking out that the First Law of thermodynamics has been violated and energy is appearing out of nowhere?

  78. TheTentacleson 12 Apr 2017 at 9:17 pm

    Pete A: If you are still interested in the Haemodynamic response ⬄ Neural Activity — I can also recommend doing a Google Scholar search on “Nikos Logothetis fMRI”, who is one of the most respected Neuroscientists studying this. His research team’s publications are a masterclass in technical ingenuity and hard work addressing these core physiological links, and he has written some of the definitive reviews on this topic.

    Anyway, off the read this Tonegawa paper…

  79. chikoppion 12 Apr 2017 at 11:13 pm

    Just listening to the latest episode of Cara’s Talk Nerdy podcast featuring Marcus Du Sautoy (whose book sounds quite interesting). The conversation encompassed an interesting observation, which is relevant to causality and determinism.

    “Chaos Theory” describes a deterministic system which is highly sensitive to initial conditions.

    [wikipedia] Chaos theory concerns deterministic systems whose behavior can in principle be predicted. Chaotic systems are predictable for a while and then ‘appear’ to become random. The amount of time that the behavior of a chaotic system can be effectively predicted depends on three things: How much uncertainty we tolerate in the forecast, how accurately we can measure its current state, and a time scale depending on the dynamics of the system, called the Lyapunov time.

    This is “classic” determinism. Given two identical systems, with perfectly identical initial conditions, the resulting behaviors will be identical.

    This is distinct from quantum mechanics. Because quantum outcomes are probabilistic even perfectly identical initial conditions do not result in deterministic outcomes.

    They also discuss his chapter on consciousness. The conversation was a bit sparse, but he references the research of Giulio Tononi.

    From Tononi’s UW Madison website:

    Dr. Tononi’s main contribution in the study of consciousness has been the development of the integrated information theory [http://integratedinformationtheory.org]. This is a comprehensive theory of what consciousness is, what determines its quantity and quality, and how it emerges from causal structures such as neural networks. The theory provides a parsimonious account of many neuropsychological observations, among them why certain parts of the brain give rise to experience and others do not, why consciousness vanishes during slow wave sleep and seizures despite continuing neural activity, and how unconscious processes interact with conscious ones. The theory has implications for the unfolding of consciousness across development and phylogeny, and predicts which ingredients are necessary and sufficient to construct sentient machines.

  80. TheTentacleson 13 Apr 2017 at 1:09 am

    As I don’t think it has been mentioned, another approachable and “from-the-trenches” neuroscience based book on consciousness research I would recommend is “Consciousness and the Brain: Deciphering How the Brain Codes Our Thoughts” by Stanislas Dehaene. I recently went to a talk of his, mostly on his work on number and letter representation in animals and humans but chatted to him afterwards about

    Regarding Tononi, this is a fairly nice and recent review of his theory from him and Christof Koch (I think the article is open access); IIT is very top-down in its approach and I certainly don’t really grok how he goes from phenomenology to calculus, but as I study the role neural feedback, his theory positively tickles my confirmation bias! 😉

    http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/370/1668/20140167

    —-
    Going back to the OP article on memory, not really a conceptual breakthrough (as others have mentioned), and it does need to be tested in more than the overstudied fear learning paradigm, but nice experimental work (unsurprising considering it comes from the Tonegawa lab). But jeez, I hate reading papers in Science Magazine — Figure 1 has 26 bleedin’ sub–panels!!!. Nature and Science have just become unreadable even for specialists in the same field, all compressed down close to the limit of indecipherability with disjointed supplementary materials trying to plug the gaps. So much nicer to read a paper in a specialised journal without stupid word/figure restrictions…

  81. TheTentacleson 13 Apr 2017 at 1:11 am

    hm, wish we could edit our comments, end of first paragraph should say “…about visual perception and consciousness.)

  82. Paul Parnellon 13 Apr 2017 at 4:51 am

    Wait… quantum field theory isn’t materialistic?

  83. Ian Wardellon 13 Apr 2017 at 5:34 am

    chikoppi
    “Ian, you have stated that “materialism” cannot demonstrate the “causal efficatiousness” of consciousness”.

    This very nicely illustrates what I’ve said. A complete lack of understanding of everything I’m saying.

  84. bachfiendon 13 Apr 2017 at 5:47 am

    Ian,

    I thought you’d decided to leave?

    We do understand everything you’re saying. You think you can replace perfectly reasonable explanations of reality with evidence free hand waving accounts just because they appear simple and straightforward to you. To us they’re also appear wrong, stupid and simpleminded.

  85. Pete Aon 13 Apr 2017 at 6:13 am

    TheTentacles,

    Many thanks for your search suggestion. Reading through some of his papers has answered questions that have puzzled me for many years. And what a refreshing change from reading studies that were/are designed mainly as ‘mass media fodder’ [sensationalism]!

  86. chikoppion 13 Apr 2017 at 7:58 am

    [chikoppi] “Ian, you have stated that “materialism” cannot demonstrate the “causal efficatiousness” of consciousness”.

    [Ian] This very nicely illustrates what I’ve said. A complete lack of understanding of everything I’m saying.

    Your words…

    [Ian Wardell] Contrary to Markus Schlosser’s position, it seems to me that free will *does* require a non-physical self, or at least non-physical consciousness. If materialism is correct, then everything has the ability to be explained in terms of physical chains of causes and effects. Our conscious decisions would then be causally inert.

    [Ian Wardell] But if someone’s chain of thought is entirely predictable and accountable purely through the physical properties of brains, and the conscious angle of meaning and understanding is not required, then a chain of thought doesn’t develop according to any understanding at all — any such understanding is causally redundant. But then we have no justification whatsoever that any of our thought processes could lead to correct conclusions rather than false conclusions. So even if, contra my Science, the Afterlife, and the Intelligentsia essay, reductive materialism can be squared with the existence of consciousness, we could never have any basis whatsoever for supposing our chains of thoughts when thinking things through will lead to true conclusions rather than false conclusions. I submit that this is staggeringly implausible…

    [Ian Wardell] However, it seems clear to me that our reasoning must have causal powers. It cannot merely be physical processes that have causal powers. Otherwise thinking something through, and reaching an understanding, would be illusory since any conclusion at the end of a chain of reasoning would not be caused by the chain of reasoning itself, but rather by the neural correlates of the chain of reasoning. If this is so then we can have no more reason to think that our reasoning processes will lead to true conclusions, than false conclusions (see my Can consciousness be causally inefficacious? for a more comprehensive defence of this point).

  87. Pete Aon 13 Apr 2017 at 9:34 am

    Ian’s writings are truly amazing word salads — the type of meal which, perhaps, can be relished only while consuming a large quantity of one’s favourite tipple(s).

  88. cozyingon 13 Apr 2017 at 11:05 am

    Paul Parnell,

    Wait… quantum field theory isn’t materialistic?

    Well it depends on what exactly we are talking about. Usually you can tell that the people discussing these things don’t have the relevant expertise because they say materialism and not physicalism. Since people like Ian and hardnose like to say that science is equal to materialism, I usually just use the first term, I try to mirror and speak their language for clarity.

    If you mean materialism, then that means everything ultimately breaks down to matter. A quantum field, kinda like a concept such as spacetime, is non-material.

    If you mean physicalism, sure I guess a quantum field can be physical, depending on which exact physicalism you are using. QFT or m theory, has to be falsifiable theory it can’t just be in the current state it is now with no experimental evidence or even ideas for experiments. As both those theories stand right now, they are not physicalism, only if they turn out to have falsifiable, experimentally viable applications. Even if they do end up being legit, I don’t think a lot of people would say that it’s materialism though. Clearly at that point everything didn’t turn out to be classically materially reductionist, but rather something else.

    Either way, Ian is wrong. He uses very imprecise language, makes numerous unstated propositions and conflates science with materialism. He can’t possibly know that we need a new science to understand consciousness. He’s confusing currently unexplained by our science, with forever unexplainable by our science. Maybe we have all the relevant scientific breakthroughs, we just haven’t put them together in a way that solves for consciousness. You can’t know that’s impossible.

    For example, does anyone really doubt that one day we will have a very advanced AI? Are we missing key scientific breakthroughs? What major breakthrough was needed to create something like Siri? Nothing really, cloud computing, ubiquitous cell phone use, consumer needs, computing power, military research etc. All things that 15 years ago you could predict we would have or at least be possible. Just because Alan Turing didn’t make Siri doesn’t mean the foundation was not set.

    The same thing could be happening right now with research into consciousness. In fact you should assume so, the only way progress isn’t being made into solving the problems of consciousness, is if you really believe that we are all wrong and going about it the wrong way, if you are an idealist or someone who likes David Chalmers etc.

    In order to believe that, you have to neglect all the breakthroughs in neuroscience in the last 50 years, the birth of new fields like cognitive psychology, AI research, simulated models of cognition etc. It’s much more likely that we set the foundation and are walking along a path towards something, then: “yeah it’s all wrong, consciousness is not definable by you and your silly science.”

  89. edamameon 13 Apr 2017 at 12:01 pm

    Greatest Contiguous Comments Ever Award goes to Ian:

    “Again, read my damn essays!”
    […]
    “I’m seriously sick to death of people understanding *nothing* of what I say. I don’t think people appear to even make any attempt to understand. This is a waste of time.”

    Are…are you new to the internet?

  90. Paul Parnellon 13 Apr 2017 at 1:50 pm

    cozying,

    Nah man. You are drawing distinctions that there is no utility, no purpose at all in drawing.

    Think back to when Newton developed a theory of gravity. People were initially skeptical about it because it involved this strange concept of action at a distance. How could two bodies affect each other’s motion without contacting each other? Gravity seemed to be unphysical and non-material. Later as people accepted it Newton’s gravity was not only seen as material but the very triumphant peak of materialistic science and physical law.

    Since then things have gotten weirder but the basics have not changed. Gravity is now seen as being mediated by the exchange of gravitons. But those gravitons are just virtual particles and don’t actually exist. This is a step up in strange from Newton’s action at a distance. Yet I would still class gravity as materialistic and physical. Try ignoring it to see what I mean.

    I take an expansive view of materialism. If in principle it can be measured, used to make predictions or reasoned about then it is materialistic. It has material consequences.

    String theory and mtheory are in principle testable. It just may (or may not) require vastly more energy than we can achieve. That makes them materialistic even if they are inconvenient.

    If consciousness requires something other than currently known physical law that does not mean it is non-materialistic. If it can be measure, used to make predictions and reasoned about then it can join gravity in the materialistic world.

    There is currently no theoretical or empirical reason to believe that something beyond current science is needed to explain consciousness. The only thing driving the search is the ineffable nature of experience itself. That is a conundrum that is hard to even express in scientific terms.

  91. Pete Aon 13 Apr 2017 at 1:58 pm

    Ian Wardell,

    I have read many of your “damn essays”. Your essays that include mentions of the word “colour” serve only to damn yourself.

    During the last few years, I have repeatedly told you not just that you are wrong, I have explained why you are wrong, and I have provided you with science- and evidence-based references that fully explain why you are utterly mistaken.

    Your abject refusal to update your beliefs and your old blog articles, more than adequately demonstrates your modus operandi: wilful ignorance; condescension of science, scientists, and everyone who dares to disagree with your self-referential — see my blog — armchair philosophical d*ck waving.

    Have you ever considered the possibility that you were, and still are, wrong; and that your life is devoted to a folly. [NB: The absence of an appended question mark was not a typo.]

    The reason that you are so hopelessly wrong/lost is very, very simple: You do not begin to know, nor are you willing to learn, what it is that you don’t know that you don’t know.

    It isn’t the things that you know that you know which makes you smart (to anyone other than yourself); it is the very things that you don’t yet know that you don’t know — despite having them repeatedly pointed out to you — that perpetuates your incessant, belligerent, tiresome ignorance.

    The pitiful depth of your ineptitude is very likely the reason why cognitive science will never, ever, be able to properly explain your consciousness!

  92. Ian Wardellon 13 Apr 2017 at 2:09 pm

    cozying said
    “Since people like Ian and hardnose like to say that science is equal to materialism”

    I say no such thing. Materialism is a metaphysical position. Science is about describing the physical world. They have nothing to do with each other. Might as well say science is equal to subjective idealism.

  93. cozyingon 13 Apr 2017 at 2:15 pm

    I guess we have a failure of communication. You sailed right past my points. Materialism is not physicalism. Science is not either of those things.

    You are making the mistake the other posters made, you keep saying materialism when you mean physicalism or something else. Being testable in principle, isn’t the same thing as currently being testable. As it currently stands string theory isn’t falsifiable. It’s still a part of the current scientific process in physics though, it’s in the early stages. They are pursuing the mathematical elegance, maybe one day soon we will have testable hypotheses.

    String theory and something like quantum gravity, do not fall into classical materialism because they are not examples of physicalism yet. What you describe as materialism is the exact reason physicalism was invented, because materialism doesn’t account for forces like gravity or spacetime. Now there is a second point, physicalism usually requires that something be observable and falsifiable. String theory and quantum gravity are not yet experimentally testable or falsifiable, when you have the first few observations you can say it’s physicalism, till then it’s just an idea. Granted it’s a more scientific idea than let’s say Bigfoot, but they are both at the moment unfalsifiable concepts. String theory and quantum gravity are in line with the physicalist perspective sure, but that’s only if they turn out to generate observable and falsifiable hypotheses.

    I agree with the spirit of what you are expressing, just not the details and the specific words you used. Your last paragraph reads like you didn’t read anything I wrote. I never said anything about how consciousness is beyond current science, I argued the opposite.

  94. cozyingon 13 Apr 2017 at 2:24 pm

    Sorry that was to Paul.

    Ian go look at your words. “Materialism is not possible.” “…we need a new physics since consciousness is not accompanied by present physics.”

    That’s conflating physics with materialism. Materialism is dead, it’s called physicalism now. Physicalism is not physics. Physics is a science, physicalism/materialism is a philosophy.

  95. cozyingon 13 Apr 2017 at 2:25 pm

    accommodated*

  96. chikoppion 13 Apr 2017 at 3:00 pm

    @cozying

    Although I generally agree with your definitions, it’s really up to the author/speaker to define their use of “materialism,” as the term is much abused. Most often, I find what they seem to mean is monism.

    [wikipedia] Materialism is closely related to physicalism, the view that all that exists is ultimately physical. Philosophical physicalism has evolved from materialism with the discoveries of the physical sciences to incorporate more sophisticated notions of physicality than mere ordinary matter, such as: spacetime, physical energies and forces, dark matter, and so on. Thus the term “physicalism” is preferred over “materialism” by some, while others use the terms as if they are synonymous.

    Philosophies contradictory to materialism or physicalism include idealism, pluralism, dualism, and other forms of monism.

  97. Paul Parnellon 13 Apr 2017 at 4:16 pm

    Cozying,

    I don’t think I missed your point. take:

    “Materialism is not physicalism”

    You can do that. Words can be defined any way we chose. But what I’m saying is there is no utility in distinguishing between materialism and physicalism. Physicalism originated from materialism as a result of the changing meaning of “material” forced by the development of physical science. The terms are usually interchangeable. I say their is no point in splitting hairs here. Physicalism is just materialism as it was forced to change by science. Physicalism only adapts our view of “material” to the realities of modern science. For example energy is not a material thing. It is just a quantity that is conserved in some mathematical equations. Physicalism is just a way to adapt materialism to the reality of things like energy. Once you accept their reality then we can accept them as a material thing and the difference between materialism and physicalism vanish.

    At this point we are only arguing word usage. There is no fact of the matter in dispute here. Then we have:

    “Science is not either of those things.”

    Well yes but “Science isn’t materialism.” is like “Religion isn’t God”. True but the same way religion must be about (some) God science must be about material things. If you lump material things like balls, rocks and cars together with physical things like energy, charge, momentum and mass then this class of things is what science is about. I call this materialism.

    ” You are making the mistake the other posters made, you keep saying materialism when you mean physicalism or something else. ”

    No what I’ saying is that there is no useful difference between materialism and physicalism. One developed from the other in order to make room for the new ontologies forced on it by science. The old materialism is hopelessly naive in what it accepts as material. That is what the discussion of Newton’s gravity was intended to convey.

    ” Being testable in principle, isn’t the same thing as currently being testable. ”

    Yes. It is for the purposes of science. And that is a very strange thing for you to even say.

    Most new physics theories are not “currently” testable on the day they are proposed. The Higgs boson was proposed like 50 years before they built the LHC that made it testable. Science cares not one wit about currently testable. In fact science most honors those who propose theories that take a long long time to verify. Science draws the line at theories that aren’t testable even in principle. That is the fundamental philosophical cutting point.

    String theory is testable in principle and may even be currently testable. And I would even describe it as a materialistic theory even if it is wrong. It obeys the rules of materialism in principle it just happens to be wrong.

    ” What you describe as materialism is the exact reason physicalism was invented, because materialism doesn’t account for forces like gravity or spacetime. ”

    Yes exactly, this is what I’m saying. But your need for a new word “physicalism” is driven by a perceived difference between the ontology of things like rocks and the ontology of things like gravity. But first, this is an difference that simply isn’t relevant for anything. Who cares if there is a difference in ontologies they can still be lumped together for our purposes. And secondly in a deep sense they are all connected ontologies anyway. All fundamental particles are really just an excitation of an underlying field. Gravity exists and the graviton particle only exists as an excitation of the field. The electromagnetic field exists and the photon is an excitation of that field. A water wave can only exist if there is preexisting water. In that sense the existence of gravity is prior to the existence of gravitons or any other particle.

    As I said there is no utility in distinguishing between physicalism and materialism. Any attempt to do so in a consistent way leads you into a ontological swamp. Don’t sweat the difference between gravity and gravitons, fields and their excited states. There is no meaningful philosophical difference to be made here.

    ” I never said anything about how consciousness is beyond current science, I argued the opposite. ”

    I never said you said anything about consciousness. I simply stated my position as it relates to my take on materialism.

  98. Ian Wardellon 13 Apr 2017 at 4:49 pm

    cozying
    “Materialism is not physicalism. Science is not either of those things”.

    Strictly speaking my arguments are against materialism, not physicalism. As I’ve said, I think that a radically new physical theory can be advanced that will incorporate consciousness. So arguably that would be compatible with physicalism. But in practice the terms are used synonymously.

  99. Pete Aon 13 Apr 2017 at 4:51 pm

    “[Paul Parnell] For example energy is not a material thing. It is just a quantity that is conserved in some mathematical equations.”

    I beg to differ. Energy is a derived quantity from the seven base dimensions of the International System of Units from which all SI quantities and their units are derived. Its dimensions are:
    L²·M·T⁻²

    In my opinion, length, mass, and time are very much material things. Your mileage may vary 🙂

  100. Ian Wardellon 13 Apr 2017 at 4:53 pm

    cozying
    “Materialism is dead, it’s called physicalism now”.

    No, the mechanistic philosophy is dead. Materialism just means reality is exhausted by the quantitative or that which is measurable.

  101. bachfiendon 13 Apr 2017 at 4:57 pm

    The trouble is that people such as Ian Wardell keep on changing their usage of definitions. Whenever he states that materialist theories can’t account for consciousness or the mind, he actually means that there’s an immaterial or mon-material something or another that’s the mind which is carrying consciousness, for which there isn’t the slightest bit of evidence.

    And then he apparently correctly notes that materialism is a philosophical viewpoint, not science.

    Being sort of correct regarding his second use of materialism doesn’t mean he’s right in the first usage.

  102. Pete Aon 13 Apr 2017 at 5:08 pm

    bachfiend,

    Have you considered the possibility that Ian Wardell is, perhaps, not only an instantiation of, but also an exemplar of, artificial intelligence?

  103. bachfiendon 13 Apr 2017 at 5:13 pm

    Ian,

    I see you’ve decided to return still not making much sense. You’ve gone for the argument of future vindication with your ‘a radically new physical theory can be advanced that will incorporate consciousness’.

    There’s no current need for physical theories or forces to account for what the brain does. If the human brain was simple, then there would be a need for an immaterial mind. Or a soul.

    But the human brain is the most complex structure in the Universe (that we know of), capable of achieving fantastic things such as giving the highly convincing illusion that people have high definition colour vision right out to the edge of the visual fields.

    In principle, there’s nothing stopping the human brain producing the illusion of a conscious mind, making all the important decisions with free will.

  104. cozyingon 13 Apr 2017 at 5:21 pm

    chikoppi,
    Well it ‘matters’ to me. Haha.

    Paul Parnell,
    You are advocating against a sophisticated discussion and appealing to the lowest common denominator. Everything you just said is basically wrong or misleading. You clearly don’t know what you are talking about, and more than likely never heard of the word “physicalism” before today. I don’t have the time to sit here and explain the point of using precise language. It should be obvious.

    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/physicalism/

    If you notice the Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy doesn’t even have a entry for “materialism” it is under physicalism.

    https://plato.stanford.edu/search/searcher.py?query=Materialism

    Why do you think that is?
    Do you think it’s because professional philosophers have your casual understanding of these concepts?
    Do you still think you are right, and that there is “no utility in distinguishing between materialism and physicalism”?
    Because experts don’t agree with you, the literal best philosophy dictionary in the world doesn’t even have an entry for it. Materialism is outdated, it’s not just that physicalism is a rebranding or some jargon term. There has been a lot of work done in this field in the last 30 years, and it came into being because of scientific advancements that were incompatible with classic materialism. I brought this up not for people like you, but for Ian, who clearly is still using the old classical understanding of materialism and not the new updated version. If he knew the difference between the two and what physicalism actually was, he wouldn’t be writing those essays.

    I’m not trying to be combative it sounds like we could just be talking past each other and maybe think the same things. We probably have a lot in common and the spirit of what you have to say isn’t that far from what I believe, but I can’t sit here and passively agree with someone advocating for anti intellectualism or against expertise. When you find yourself speaking out against expertise and appealing to the lowest common denominator you should pause and think. You wouldn’t tolerate a non expert using imprecise language when discussing something you know well. Just because you don’t know the current state of the philosophy of something, doesn’t mean there is no utility to using specific words.
    We are talking about specific metaphysical things, that are under philosophy’s purview, so we use their words. Period, end of discussion.

    Most new physics theories are not “currently” testable on the day they are proposed. The Higgs boson was proposed like 50 years before they built the LHC that made it testable. Science cares not one wit about currently testable.

    This is an unfair and highly misleading analogy that ignores significant historical details. The large hadron collider is what eventually led to the discovery but people were making colliders in the early 60’s the Higgs Boson was theorized in 1964. All that they needed was more of something that was already technically possible.

    That is completely different from m theory. There’s 11 dimensions for starters. There is no current way of even getting started on the technical path to investigating that. In the 60’s they theorized that there would be bigger and better colliders that would get to their energies required for their theories to be tested. Right now we don’t even know what the approach is to get started experimentally testing m theory, we don’t even have theoretically testable hypotheses that don’t involve black holes and massive amounts of energy.

    Ian Wardell,

    Strictly speaking my arguments are against materialism, not physicalism. As I’ve said, I think that a radically new physical theory can be advanced that will incorporate consciousness. So arguably that would be compatible with physicalism. But in practice the terms are used synonymously.

    All of this clearly demonstrates you don’t know what role physicalism plays in the discussion. Materialism is gone, what you learned was some old school version of it. Physicalism totally allows for everything you claim is wrong with materialism.

    You attacking materialism but saying physicalism is cool, is part of the problem, there is no more classical materialism in real philosophy of science, you are having an argument with other people online who also don’t know what they are talking about and think science = materialism. When the reality is that philosophy of science has already figured this out like 50 years ago at least. Sorry? I don’t know what to tell you, maybe go have this fight on social media instead, if you are really interested in more than just showing off your essays maybe go read about physicalism and the history of materialism and it’s problems. All of which, professional philosophers fleshed out decades ago.

    Chikoppi already explained the problems with your theory. Somewhere along the line, your non-physical/ immaterial/ magical consciousness is going to have to interact with the very physical brain. Only physical things (energy included under physicalism) can interact with the brain. This would be detectable, we would all freak out at extra energy or some otherworldly influence on brain tissue, turns out it follows regular rules of metabolism and all the energy/matter in your brain is accounted for by normal physical explanations, biology and chemistry.

    Pete A,
    Cool food for thought. Had to stop and read that again. Interesting explanation of the materialness of energy. How about spacetime, gravity or just time, is that physical? Haha, gets more complicated. What does time even really mean? Also just because something is derived from other units does not mean it’s the same, emergent properties do exist and things like fields break all those traditional concepts. And how we go about ‘measuring something’ isn’t the same as actually ‘understanding’ what it is. You can have exactly 10 ounces of dark matter in your hand and still not know the fundamental nature of it.

  105. Pete Aon 13 Apr 2017 at 5:31 pm

    “[cozying] How about spacetime”

    How about you stating your definitions of both “spacetime” and “space-time” prior to asking me questions about them.

  106. BillyJoe7on 13 Apr 2017 at 5:32 pm

    One way to cut through the arguments about definitions is to simply lump them together:
    Naturalism/materialism/physicalism versus supernaturalism/immaterialism/nonphysicalism.
    Science is about the natural/material/physical. The rest is BS.

    To force a distinction between materialism and physicalism that has you saying that QFT is non-material is just bizarre.

    The most fundamental thing in physics is fields.
    Light is fundamentally a wave.
    Particles are the result of interaction of those fields.

  107. Pete Aon 13 Apr 2017 at 5:51 pm

    BillyJoe7,

    I’m pretty sure that you’ve nailed it — at the very least within the contexts of Dr. Novella’s articles “New Study on Long Term Memory” and “Is AI Going to Save or Destroy Us?”, and their ensuing comments.

  108. Paul Parnellon 13 Apr 2017 at 5:52 pm

    @ Ian Wardell,

    ” Strictly speaking my arguments are against materialism, not physicalism. ”

    If you take a sufficiently naive definition of materialism then it was disproved with Newton’s theory of gravity. Physicalism is just a minor extension of the ontological commitments of materialism that allows you to say that gravity exists as a thing.

    @ Pete A.,

    ” I beg to differ. Energy is a derived quantity from the seven base dimensions of the International System of Units from which all SI quantities and their units are derived. ”

    Any conserved quantity can be measured else how do you know it is conserved? The point I’m making is that the ontology of energy is different from the ontology of a baseball. The point I’m also making is that that ontological difference is irrelevant for our purposes and so there is no meaningful difference between materialism and physicalism. I’m happy to agree that energy exists.

    @ Ian Wardell,

    ” No, the mechanistic philosophy is dead. ”

    What do you mean mechanistic? Newton’s theory of gravity violated old ideas of “mechanistic”. So again if you adopt a sufficiently naive definition of mechanistic then it died with Newton’s gravity.

    @ bachfiend,

    ” ……[n]on-material something……. ”

    What do you (or he) mean “non-material”? If it has observable physical consequences in the world then how is it any more non-material than energy, gravity or anything else? If there are no observable consequences in the world then what do we mean when we claim that it exists?

    @ Pete a.,

    Maybe Ian Wardell is failing his Turing test!

  109. Paul Parnellon 13 Apr 2017 at 5:56 pm

    @ BillyJoe7,

    You said all that with so few words. I need to learn that trick.

  110. cozyingon 13 Apr 2017 at 6:08 pm

    Yep let’s all just simply things to absurdity so we don’t have to go and learn something new. That’s not lazy or intellectual dishonest at all.

    There’s all this very serious and rigorous work on the subject. Decades of progress. People dedicate their lives to studying it and you are talking about their specific area of expertise.

    But yeah you guys are right, they don’t know what they are talking about. You all know so much better than the people who dedicate their lives to it.

  111. cozyingon 13 Apr 2017 at 6:16 pm

    Billy,
    Yes according you your naive understanding of the QF theory of everything, as taught to you by a non-philosopher, Sean Carrol. Yes you know everything. Everything is for sure fields and not strings. You know all these things despite none of them having been confirmed.

  112. Ian Wardellon 13 Apr 2017 at 6:24 pm

    cozying
    “All of this clearly demonstrates you don’t know what role physicalism plays in the discussion. Materialism is gone, what you learned was some old school version of it. Physicalism totally allows for everything you claim is wrong with materialism”.

    Physicalism just means physics can potentially describe the whole of reality. It makes no ontological commitments. It is compatible with materialism, but also it’s compatible with idealism!

    Materialism, on the other hand, stipulates that there is a reality that is ontologically self-subsistent (i.e the physical primitives like elerctons, quarks etc exist in and of themselves). It also stipulates that everything can in principle be measured. Oh yes, and most importantly, that consciousness either doesn’t exist, can be reduced to physical processes, or is supervenient on such processes.

    So, as I said, it’s materialism I have issues with, not so much physicalism. However, I think that our present physics merely describes a consciousless reality. We need a radically new theory where consciousness will transpire to be fundamental. I suspect some interpretation of QM.

  113. cozyingon 13 Apr 2017 at 6:32 pm

    Ian,
    Clearly you are a smart person, please do yourself a favor and check out the physicalism page on the Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy. Everything you continue to say about this shows you haven’t read the relevant material.

    Currently unexplained doesn’t mean unexplainable. You have no actual argument that shows consciousness can’t possibly be explained with current theories. You just assume it, unjustifiably.

  114. Pete Aon 13 Apr 2017 at 6:35 pm

    “[Paul Parnell] The point I’m making is that the ontology of energy is different from the ontology of a baseball.

    I damn well hope that your, and everyone else’s, ontology of energy is vastly different — to the extent of being totally incompatible with — your ontology of a baseball!

    “[Paul Parnell] The point I’m also making is that that ontological difference is irrelevant for our purposes and so there is no meaningful difference between materialism and physicalism.”

    I’m deeply saddened to learn that you think the “ontological difference is irrelevant for our purposes”. Those who cannot define the quantities or qualities of which they speak, in terms of well-established fundamental units and dimensions, demonstrate only that they haven’t learnt mathematics and science from first principles; instead, their knowledge and opinions are based only in ever-shifting sand.

    I’m very surprised that you’ve failed to notice, or you have abstained from addressing, the three blindingly-obvious logical fallacies that some of the commentators persist in deploying: the fallacy of division; the fallacy of composition; and the fallacy of faulty generalisation.

  115. BillyJoe7on 13 Apr 2017 at 6:37 pm

    “We need a radically new theory where consciousness will transpire to be fundamental. I suspect some interpretation of QM”

    Sometimes you just have to smile. 🙂

  116. BillyJoe7on 13 Apr 2017 at 6:39 pm

    cozy, what I said is not controversial.

  117. Pete Aon 13 Apr 2017 at 6:47 pm

    “[Ian Wardell] I suspect some interpretation of QM.”

    Then look no further than the highly-lucrative outpourings of Deepak Chopra:
    http://americanloons.blogspot.co.uk/2010/10/72-deepak-chopra.html

  118. cozyingon 13 Apr 2017 at 6:54 pm

    Pete A,

    Those who cannot define the quantities or qualities of which they speak, in terms of well-established fundamental units and dimensions, demonstrate only that they haven’t learnt mathematics and science from first principles; instead, their knowledge and opinions are based only in ever-shifting sand.

    Wrong, wrong, wrong. Math exists independently from reality, and your sacred first principles are mostly arbitrary, the SI base units are just made up. What’s a kilogram derived from? Nothing, it was an arbitrary decision someone made. How about the second? All the other units come from the 7 base units, doesn’t mean that they are all perfectly sound and represented of some ideal thing.

    Dark matter has a theoretical mass, you could even potentially take the mass of some dark matter. That doesn’t mean you know anything about it other than its mass. You could only talk about its mass and say nothing else about its other qualities.

    Just because you can define energy in a specific way doesn’t mean that’s all energy is. Dimensional analysis has its limits. It’s easy to see how a length and a width equal a plane. It’s much harder to understand how an electric field emerges.

    I gave you the example of spacetime you mirrored it back to me and asked what my definition was. I don’t have a personal definition, google it, I mean spacetime as it’s defined in most physics textbooks. Go ahead and define it in standard simple mathematical sacred principles. Good luck. I mean if you can’t that means, by your own logic, that you don’t know the math and your opinions are in the shifting sand. Unless you don’t think spacetime is a thing?

  119. Pete Aon 13 Apr 2017 at 7:02 pm

    “[cozying] I mean if you can’t [define spacetime] that means, by your own logic, that you don’t know the math and your opinions are in the shifting sand.”

    Which is precisely why I offered neither my opinion nor my definition of the word “spacetime”. You mentioned the word therefore the onus is on you to define you usage of it.

  120. Pete Aon 13 Apr 2017 at 7:21 pm

    “[cozying] It’s much harder to understand how an electric field emerges.”

    Especially for those who do not know the difference between an ‘electric field’ and an “electromagnetic field” 🙂

  121. cozyingon 13 Apr 2017 at 7:29 pm

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_field
    No I specifically meant electric field. Not magnetic or electromagnetic.

    My point is that it’s hard to understand emergent properties. An electric field is not so easy to understand in terms of basic SI base units and principles. It’s hard to see emergent properties from the bottom up, that’s why they are called emergent. If consciousness is a completely physically explainable emergent property it would be hard to see from looking at neurons. For example.

  122. cozyingon 13 Apr 2017 at 7:35 pm

    Did you not know that an electric field is a thing? Seems kinda like a weird correction to make. Sad.

  123. Pete Aon 13 Apr 2017 at 7:45 pm

    cozying,

    Please refrain from demonstrating your ignorance of high school physics, the SI base units, and your persistent fallacies of composition and division.

    “The ampere is that constant current which, if maintained in two straight parallel conductors of infinite length, of negligible circular cross-section, and placed 1 metre apart in vacuum, would produce between these conductors a force equal to 2 × 10⁻⁷ newton per metre of length.”
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SI_base_unit

    If you think you know better then succinctly describe yourself in terms of 21st-century theoretical physics.

  124. cozyingon 13 Apr 2017 at 8:19 pm

    Pete A,
    Notice I didn’t talk about amps but seconds and kilograms. But sure we can play. That amp definition is also arbitrary because the meter is not non-arbitrary.

    My points are still valid. Math exists independent of reality. Base units are not sacred mathematical principles that always need to be followed. Emergent properties exist and are hard to predict from base units. It’s easy to see how a line becomes a plane, but hard to see how fields emerge. Just because we can’t exactly define certain things from base mathematical units doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Spacetime is a useful concept, despite not being obviously derived from SI base units. Things are more than their mass, energy is more than just how it’s defined by your SI derivation.

  125. Pete Aon 13 Apr 2017 at 9:04 pm

    cozying,

    I citied the definition of the ampere[1]: the force that it creates under the specified conditions. This force, and other forces are not emergent properties of fundamental physics; they are simply standardized definitions for the purposes of test & measurement and precise replicability across the globe: which consists of many peoples who speak incompatible languages; the only thing that we can shared in common, with sufficient precision, is international standards — most especially the International System of Units (SI).

    The ampere is indeed a fundamental dimension in SI because anyone can lookup the number of electrons [an electron is a fundamental unit of charge] per second that an ampere defines, and can also lookup how it relates to the SI definition of charge [the coulomb]. These are not emergent properties of nature, they are derived properties of nature for convenience [simplification and succinctness] in their appropriate domains/fields of science. Sheesh!

    [1] “named after André-Marie Ampère (1775–1836), French mathematician and physicist, considered the father of electrodynamics” — Wikipedia [my emphasis].

  126. cozyingon 13 Apr 2017 at 9:46 pm

    Tou are having a conversation totally independent from everything I’m saying.

    SI base units are arbitrarily defined. They aren’t sacred. A kilogram is not some sacred thing that someone discovered as being the idea unit of mass.

    This has nothing to do with emergence. The convo on emergence is about how things are sometimes greater than the sum of their parts, it’s hard to imagine an electric field emerging from the basic SI units that define what it is.

  127. Pete Aon 13 Apr 2017 at 10:11 pm

    “it’s hard to imagine an electric field emerging from the basic SI units that define what it is.”

    Then don’t try to imagine it because a field is a fundamental property.

  128. Pete Aon 13 Apr 2017 at 10:22 pm

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kilogram

  129. Paul Parnellon 13 Apr 2017 at 10:26 pm

    @ cozying,

    You seem angry and frustrated. I’m sorry, it was not my intention to annoy you. This is especially troubling to me since as far as I can tell the difference between us is actually very small.

    Again my point is that the difference between materialism and physicallism is just a small shift in our ontological commitments forced on us by science. If you disagree with this then you need to stop being frustrated and explain why physicalism is so different from materialism that it cannot be seen as a minor modification of materialism.

    ” Math exists independently from reality… ”

    Ok so you are you are a mathematical Platonist. I might agree modulo a long discussion of the word “exist”. So while I don’t really call myself a Platonist but I do understand. Many mathematicians are Platonists but it is more rare outside of math. But I am finding this strange considering your insistence on a fundamental difference between materialism and physicalism.

    ” Notice I didn’t talk about amps but seconds and kilograms. But sure we can play. That amp definition is also arbitrary because the meter is not non-arbitrary. ”

    Any unit of measure is arbitrary but the thing being measured is not arbitrary. If you can measure it it is real and arbitrary units don’t change that. I’m not sure what is even being discussed here. It looks like people just sniping at each other.

  130. Pete Aon 13 Apr 2017 at 10:36 pm

    Paul, “sniping” is just an arbitrary definition — it isn’t sacred 🙂

  131. Paul Parnellon 13 Apr 2017 at 11:05 pm

    @ Pete A,

    ” I damn well hope that your, and everyone else’s, ontology of energy is vastly different — to the extent of being totally incompatible with — your ontology of a baseball! ”

    They are different but not vastly different. A baseball is a material thing. Mass, energy, color and shape are properties that a material thing can have and so have measurable consequences for material things and so in a sense can be seen as materialistic. We can extend the materialistic ontology to include these things and bingo! physicalism becomes materialism.

    ” I’m deeply saddened to learn that you think the “ontological difference is irrelevant for our purposes”. ”

    Context man. Context. The ontological difference between energy and baseballs is not important to the problem of consciousness. For our purposes both energy and baseballs can be grouped in the class of real things. Math for example not so much. In other contexts math may be classed as real or the ontological difference between baseballs and energy may be important.

    Philosophy isn’t a discovery of the facts of the world out there. Philosophy is mostly a negotiation on how to deploy language to describe the world as it is observed to be. It is not an empirical science and cannot reveal empirical truth.

    ” I’m very surprised that you’ve failed to notice, or you have abstained from addressing, the three blindingly-obvious logical fallacies that some of the commentators persist in deploying: the fallacy of division; the fallacy of composition; and the fallacy of faulty generalisation. ”

    Yeah… no. The quickest way to increase the frustration level is to directly accuse people of logical fallacies. When they commit obvious logical fallacies it is better that they figure it out for themselves. If they can’t do that then pointing it out likely isn’t going to help. Most likely they will just accuse me of the same. And what do I know? It may even be true. How about you?

  132. cozyingon 13 Apr 2017 at 11:14 pm

    Paul,
    No I’m not a mathematical Platonist. Sorry that it was misleading and rushed. I mean that math is independent of reality, as in it’s not a fundamental part of the universe (reality). Mathematicians don’t discover fundamental sacred truths about the universe. It’s just how we choose to describe and analyze things. Reality is out there unaware of our attempts to mathematically tame it. Math is a human invention, with useful applications. Is more like how I feel.

    That’s why I brought up that the SI base units are arbitrarily defined and I went down that path. It was in reaction to this:

    [Pete A]Those who cannot define the quantities or qualities of which they speak, in terms of well-established fundamental units and dimensions, demonstrate only that they haven’t learnt mathematics and science from first principles; instead, their knowledge and opinions are based only in ever-shifting sand.

    Pete said that in reaction to a philosophical discussion, as if math by itself means something. Math isn’t the only tool we have, we need philosophy. Pete can’t define spacetime using those sacred first principles. I guess spacetime is a joke then?

    Measurement doesn’t tell the whole story. Energy is more than just joules. If all you know about two amounts of energy is the amount of joules you don’t know much. One could be useful energy before a process, the other could be some quantity of waste heat. Yeah they could both equal 100J, but one clearly is more useful.

    The same goes for the dark matter example. Just because you can take the mass of some dark matter and know you have exactly 10 ounces in your hand, doesn’t mean you know anything at all about the fundamental nature of dark matter.

    SI units are for making measurements. Measurements are only part of the story. Many things that cannot be precisely measured are still scientific and legitimate. And many things that can be accurately measured are still mysterious.

    So Pete telling us that we need to define the quantity and quality of things we are talking about, in a discussion about metaphysics, is just wrong. Clearly he just wants to condescend, but when we critically analyze his statements they are actually instructive. Yes there many important reasons why we don’t need to have everything perfectly fleshed out into SI units.

  133. Pete Aon 13 Apr 2017 at 11:17 pm

    I doubt that the commentator “cozying” will be interested to learn the following, but I’ve written it for the readers who are interested in science…

    An electric field cannot be established without the transfer of fundamental electromagnetic energy. Likewise, a magnetic field cannot be established without the transfer of fundamental electromagnetic energy.

    In each case, the part of the electromagnetic force/field that remains in the object, after the transfer of energy, is simply because the object is unable to retain the other field — the other of its two fields is: reflected from; transmitted through; and/or absorbed and converted into heat energy.

    Further reading — the titles of articles on Wikipedia:
    Permittivity
    Permeability (electromagnetism)
    Reflectance
    Transmittance
    Absorption (electromagnetic radiation)

  134. cozyingon 13 Apr 2017 at 11:33 pm

    Pete A,

    No one, other than you, claimed anything specific about electromagnetic fields.

    You corrected my deliberate use of “electric field” with “electromagnetic field.” I didn’t say a single technical thing about how fields work. I was talking about dimensional analysis and emergent properties. I said it’s easy to see how length and width becomes a plane, but much harder to see how electric fields emerge. There is nothing technically incorrect about what I said. An electric field is not something that’s as intuitive to understand as two separate dimensions becoming a plane.

    You are on some high horse overzealously overcorrecting people, mostly just having a conversation all on your own. You are scrambling to cover up all the massive problems with your mathematical critique of philosophy.

  135. Pete Aon 13 Apr 2017 at 11:36 pm

    “[cozying] Measurement doesn’t tell the whole story. Energy is more than just joules.”

    I’ve previously stated the base dimensions of energy: the dimensions do not change whether we express energy in terms of joules or electronvolts, or mass equivalent.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronvolt

  136. Pete Aon 14 Apr 2017 at 12:05 am

    “[cozying] You are on some high horse overzealously overcorrecting people, mostly just having a conversation all on your own. You are scrambling to cover up all the massive problems with your mathematical critique of philosophy.”

    You are on some high horse overzealously overcorrecting people, mostly just having a conversation all on your own. You are scrambling to cover up all the massive problems with your philosophical denial of 21st- century science.

  137. cozyingon 14 Apr 2017 at 12:33 am

    I love science. And philosophy. It’s possible.

  138. cozyingon 14 Apr 2017 at 12:47 am

    Please show me where I denied anything about 21st century science. I see the part where I said how consciousness could possibly be explained by current scientific principles one day. You would think a science denier would jump on the bandwagon and claim consciousness can’t be explained and requires new theories.

  139. cozyingon 14 Apr 2017 at 1:03 am

    Pete A,

    “[cozying] Measurement doesn’t tell the whole story. Energy is more than just joules.”
    [Pete A] I’ve previously stated the base dimensions of energy: the dimensions do not change whether we express energy in terms of joules or electronvolts, or mass equivalent.

    You stripped those two sentences from this tiny paragraph of mine:

    Measurement doesn’t tell the whole story. Energy is more than just joules. If all you know about two amounts of energy is the amount of joules you don’t know much. One could be useful energy before a process, the other could be some quantity of waste heat. Yeah they could both equal 100J, but one clearly is more useful.

    It’s pretty obviously that I’m talking about something other than your variants to joules. I’m talking about how energy is much more than just its SI units and it’s dimensional analysis/derivation.

    You took away the context to make an attack. At this point you have to just be trolling and trying to win some war of attrition right, this can’t be real? If it is real, it’s just dishonest.

  140. Paul Parnellon 14 Apr 2017 at 3:55 am

    @ cozying,

    Ok I went to the Stanford Encylopedia of Philosophy and started reading the entry on physicalism. The very first sentence after the contense:

    ” Physicalism is sometimes known as ‘materialism’ ”

    Now if I were the trollish type I’d just drop the mike and walk away like I just won the internet. But that wouldn’t be fair or entirely accurate and would be rude. So let’s continue.

    ” But the two terms have very different histories. ”

    Ok, that must be true. Materialism is much older than physicalism. Physicalism is simply an attempt to correct the faults of materialism.

    ” It is not clear that Neurath and Carnap understood physicalism in the same way… ”

    Yeah, even the founders didn’t really have it defined well enough to even tell if they agreed. That is a problem with philosophy. It is about endlessly splitting linguistic hairs.

    ” …but one thesis often attributed to them (e.g. in Hempel 1949) is the linguistic thesis that every statement is synonymous with (i.e. is equivalent in meaning with) some physical statement. But materialism as traditionally construed is not a linguistic thesis at all; rather it is a metaphysical thesis in the sense that it tells us about the nature of the world. ”

    I like the idea that physicalism tries to reject metaphysics. It fits my idea that philosophy is about language use rather than about the world out there. Yet it isn’t clear what exactly they are claiming here. Language uses things like metaphor and analogy that aren’t really intended to make physical claims. Also you can construct a valid sentence that makes no sense at all. So they should be careful about making claims about every sentence.

    ” At least for the positivists, therefore, there was a clear reason for distinguishing physicalism (a linguistic thesis) from materialism (a metaphysical thesis). Moreover, this reason was compounded by the fact that, according to official positivist doctrine, metaphysics is nonsense. ”

    Well can’t positivism be seen as a metaphysical claim? Ah, the joys of philosophy.

    ” Since the 1930s, however, the positivist philosophy that under-girded this distinction has for the most part been rejected—for example, physicalism is not a linguistic thesis for contemporary philosophers—and this is one reason why the words ‘materialism’ and ‘physicalism’ are now often interpreted as interchangeable. ”

    Clap, clap, clap…

    ” Some philosophers suggest that ‘physicalism’ is distinct from ‘materialism’ for a reason quite unrelated to the one emphasized by Neurath and Carnap. As the name suggests, materialists historically held that everything was matter — where matter was conceived as “an inert, senseless substance, in which extension, figure, and motion do actually subsist” (Berkeley, Principles of Human Knowledge, par. 9). But physics itself has shown that not everything is matter in this sense; for example, forces such as gravity are physical but it is not clear that they are material in the traditional sense (Lange 1865, Dijksterhuis 1961, Yolton 1983). So it is tempting to use ‘physicalism’ to distance oneself from what seems a historically important but no longer scientifically relevant thesis of materialism, and related to this, to emphasize a connection to physics and the physical sciences. ”

    Look at that! they used the same example to show the difference between physicalism and materialism that I did! Gravity. Materialism has a hard time talking about gravity.

    ” However, while physicalism is certainly unusual among metaphysical doctrines in being associated with a commitment both to the sciences and to a particular branch of science, namely physics, it is not clear that this is a good reason for calling it ‘physicalism’ rather than ‘materialism.’ ”

    exactly what I have been saying.
    Clap, clap, clap…

    ” For one thing, many contemporary physicalists do in fact use the word ‘materialism’ to describe their doctrine (e.g. Smart 1963). Moreover, while ‘physicalism’ is no doubt related to ‘physics’ it is also related to ‘physical object’ and this in turn is very closely connected with ‘material object’, and via that, with ‘matter.’ ”

    Clap, clap, clap…

    ” In this entry, I will adopt the policy of using both terms interchangeably, though I will typically refer to the thesis we will discuss as ‘physicalism’. It is important to note, though, that physicalism (i.e. materialism) is associated with a number of other metaphysical and methodological doctrines. ”

    So even the page you linked to uses physicalism and materialism interchangeable. Reading the first section is almost like reading my own mind. We even chose the same example to describe the difference between materialism and physicalism. I think the first section vindicates everything I have said. Don’t get me wrong, physicalism made some important contributions. But it can be and probably should be viewed as a minor upgrade to materialism. They are attempting to carry the same baggage.

    So did I win the internet yet?

  141. BillyJoe7on 14 Apr 2017 at 4:38 am

    Paul,

    You could have said cozy lost, but you turned it into a positive! 🙂

    But did you notice this:
    “First published Tue Feb 13, 2001; substantive revision Mon Mar 9, 2015”
    Perhaps cosy hasn’t read the substantially revised version.

    (BTW, cosy, I don’t hate you. Perhaps the reverse is true?)

  142. cozyingon 14 Apr 2017 at 8:32 am

    Paul,
    I appreciate the effort. Clearly you put in more time than Ian. Again, I don’t really think you needed to check that out and learn about it in greater detail, it was more for Ian. But good work regardless. I would just caution you, it’s an encyclopedia entry about a very complex topic, there are going to be contradictory details, especially about the history and development. Physicalism is many different things according to many different authors. But the central idea is what you captured in your summary, it’s different from materialism, it’s newer, it’s the updated version that was meant to address the problems with materialism and it is the current way that philosophers talk about what is casually referred to as materialism. If you just check out the basic definitions, or quickly read that entry, you can see that basically everything Ian said is wrong. That’s all I was trying to show.

  143. cozyingon 14 Apr 2017 at 8:37 am

    The page is long, maybe check out part 17 the case for physicalism. A lot of stuff in there that fits in with the skeptic movement perfectly.

  144. cozyingon 14 Apr 2017 at 8:55 am

    For example, Ian has said many times that our modern science isn’t enough to understand consciousness, and that we need a new theory maybe based on quantum mechanics. He also equated science with his version of materialism.

    The problem is that professional philosophers have fleshed all this out decades ago. Materialism is not the relevant thing here, physicalism is, and it allows for a QM based version of consciousness. So there is nothing special here. Scientists certainly have a more materialistic version of reality, but they aren’t permanently bound to it. People like Hawking talk about model-dependent realism, not classic materialism. There’s a big difference between the “scientific materialism” most of science is based on, and the “materialism” Ian is attacking.

  145. edamameon 14 Apr 2017 at 11:13 am

    Regarding ‘physicalism’ versus ‘materialism’ : nothing important rides on this microsemantic dispute. Just develop a detailed concrete theory regarding phenomenon X, something that helps us understand X (e.g., X can be respiration, memory, quantum entanglement, consciousness). Leave semantic quibbles to the Scholastics.

  146. Ian Wardellon 14 Apr 2017 at 3:06 pm

    What edamame says is perfectly correct. I think some future physical laws will be able to incorporate consciousness, and without energy conservation being violated. Also we will see that consciousness is fundamental, and it might or might not survive the deaths of our bodies. Why is it important whether this is labelled “physicalism” or not?

    Nothing whatsoever rides on it and I see no purpose in looking at entries to see how people define the word. This is symptomatic of peoples’ propensity to avoid the substantive points and arguments. Stupid silly petty semantic quibbling.

    I declare these comments closed.

  147. chikoppion 14 Apr 2017 at 4:02 pm

    Crimeny.

  148. arnieon 14 Apr 2017 at 5:09 pm

    IW, “Also we will see that consciousness is fundamental, and it might or might not survive the deaths of our bodies.”

    There isn’t a shred of evidence to support either half of that assertion. It would make just as much sense to say that we will see that magic is fundamental and that Santa Claus might or might not have landed his reindeer on your town’s roofs last December, descended the chimneys and placed Christmas gifts under the Christmas trees.

    I second the motion to have your comments closed.

  149. bachfiendon 14 Apr 2017 at 5:20 pm

    Ian,

    You said previously ‘we need a radically new theory where consciousness will transpire to be fundamental. I suspect some interpretation of QM’.

    No we don’t. The brain is entirely sufficient. The human brain is the most complex structure in the Universe (that we know of) and is perfectly capable of producing the most amazing and convincing illusions.

    Why aren’t you prepared or willing to give the human brain the credit it richly deserves?

    Quantum effects could be important in the functioning of the brain, but that doesn’t negate materialism. You still need ‘material’ to have quantum effects. You need an electron to quantum tunnel along a respiratory chain for example. Quantum effects are a mechanism not an agent, in the same way that gravity is a mechanism not an agent (you still need matter to curve space-time).

    Quantum effects could be involved in some sort of immaterial mind or soul, somehow or another in some unspecified and ineffable manner, but you’d still need to demonstrate that there’s this immaterial something or another in the first place.

    You’re replacing a perfectly good agent (the brain) with an unnecessary nebulous and unverifiable agent – some ineffable immaterial something.

  150. IanIsWrongon 14 Apr 2017 at 5:38 pm

    wardell,
    It’s funny that the guy claiming to have a good philosophical argument, wants to ignore the philosophy.

    You are attacking a cutout of materialism not a modern philosophical position. If you knew the difference between your materialism strawman and modern physicalism you would never say the things you said.

    It’s not “semantic quibbling,” to refer to the experts and use their terminology. You disagree with everyone and give a philosophical tear down of modern science. Someone points out that modern philosophy has now moved towards physicalism and abandoned classic materialism. You claim it doesn’t matter. How is that possible? This means you don’t know the relevant science or philosophy.

    Consciousness is not incompatible with modern science, there is no possible way anyone can know that till the problems are solved and the issue is understood. Until then we can safely assume that it will NOT BE SUPERNATURAL, we can assume it will follow logically from current neurobiological theories and not be magic. Arguing for magic, and a soul existing after death is the whole point of your pseudo-philosophy and appeals to mystery.

  151. BillyJoe7on 14 Apr 2017 at 5:55 pm

    What does it mean to say consciousness is fundamental?
    Seems to me it’s a show stopper.
    You haven’t explained anything and you’ve stopped trying.

    Might as well say “goddidit” and leave it at that.

  152. mumadaddon 15 Apr 2017 at 4:55 am

    “I declare these comments closed.”

    It’s definitely magic and everyone has to stop saying otherwise! La la la, I’ve got my fingers in my ears and I can’t hear you any more so I win! Now back to my armchair to contemplate my victory and shut out this cognitive dissonance; I definitely don’t need to learn anything.

  153. Pete Aon 15 Apr 2017 at 5:20 am

    If we suppose, for the sake of discussion, that consciousness is fundamental then I would like to know which of the following must, therefore, also be fundamental:

    stereoscopic colour vision;
    binaural hearing;
    emotions;
    language;
    feeling hungry;
    feeling ill, therefore illness itself;
    mental illness;
    cognitive biases;
    logical fallacies;
    illusions;
    hallucinations;
    murder.

    We may as well claim that everything is fundamental, which renders redundant the word “fundamental”. Airplanes, computers, factories, houses etc. are all fundamental — perhaps they’re all conscious.

    But all of that is just silly. We know that the entropy of a system can reduce when energy is transferred into, or through, the system; hence the diverse complex forms of life on Earth. Without the energy from the Sun transferring through our planet, such life couldn’t exist and neither could consciousness in the form humans experience it on Earth.

    If consciousness is universal then why do we experience only human consciousness, and unable to experience the consciousness of, say, a millipede? My point is that the lowest common denominator of consciousness — it’s fundamental level — would be barely perceptible. Or if, as some claim, atoms are conscious then what does that imply for claims that our consciousness survives the death of our body?

    This isn’t philosophy, it’s lucrative New Age religion. It includes just enough science-y words and phrases to fool its intended audience.

    As BillyJoe7 said: “Might as well say ‘goddidit’ and leave it at that.”.

  154. Ian Wardellon 15 Apr 2017 at 9:14 am

    Murder is a fundamental existent? Now I’ve heard it all…

  155. Pete Aon 15 Apr 2017 at 9:28 am

    Ian, I asked which of them, I did not claim that they are fundamental. How about answering my question instead of criticising it.

  156. Ian Wardellon 15 Apr 2017 at 10:39 am

    Electrons, quarks, spacetime continuum are good examples of possible fundamental existents. Certain existents cannot be derived from anything else. They simply exist.

  157. BillyJoe7on 15 Apr 2017 at 10:51 am

    And what I meant by my question is, if consciousness is taken to be fundamental, does that mean you don’t have to explain consciousness (what it is, how is arose etc) and, if so, isn’t that just a cop out? And what does it mean to say that the most complex thing in the universe is fundamental, when everything else that is complex is explained in terms of something simpler.

  158. Ian Wardellon 15 Apr 2017 at 11:57 am

    How can consciousness be complex when complex things necessarily have to be composed of parts?

    If consciousness in principle can’t be derived from anything else then it’s scarcely a “cop out” not attempting to show otherwise.

  159. Pete Aon 15 Apr 2017 at 12:57 pm

    Ian, I agree with you that “Certain existents cannot be derived from anything else. They simply exist.”

    It would be pointless to demand to know why electrons, quarks, and the spacetime continuum exist because the answer is: Well, they just do, and the particles cannot be sub-divided!

    It seems to me also that due to the existence of these fundamental particles combined with the laws of the universe that govern their interactions, plus the passage of many billions of years, that a planet like ours — or at least lifeforms with intelligence equal to or greater than ours — occurring somewhere in the universe, is an inevitable result.

    If we wind back the clock to the time when the early universe was too hot for particles to form, perhaps the eventual formation of electrons, quarks, the spacetime continuum, and eventually conscious lifeforms, was the the only possible result out of the seemingly myriad of possibilities at that time.

    As I’ve mentioned before: The game tree complexity of chess is a mind-boggling 10^123, yet the there are only 3 possible outcomes: win; lose; stalemate — which is a fundamental property of the game; as are its defined initial condition and its rules of play.

    If every planet in the universe had lifeforms which play the game of chess, would it mean that the fundamental properties of chess are fundamental properties of the universe, or are they just fundamental to only the game itself?

    The reason I ask is because it’s far too easy to make the mistake of applying to the whole system that which applies only to some, most, even to all of its individual parts — the fallacy of composition:
    “The fallacy of composition arises when one infers that something is true of the whole from the fact that it is true of some part of the whole (or even of every proper part).”
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallacy_of_composition

    Yes, humans consist of fundamental particles and occupy the spacetime continuum, but our attributes, behaviours, and interactions with our environment are completely different from those of our individual parts.

    Likewise, there are currently no identified fundamental particles or fields that exhibit human-like attributes, behaviours, and interactions with our environment.
    “A fallacy of division occurs when one reasons logically that something true for the whole must also be true of all or some of its parts.”
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallacy_of_division

    Claiming that consciousness is a fundamental existent, in the absence of evidence, is, I think, just combining the two fallacies with circular reasoning.

  160. Atlantean Idolon 15 Apr 2017 at 2:12 pm

    Wasn’t able to post my comment in the Science and Politics thread. Just testing to see if this thread works.

  161. Pete Aon 15 Apr 2017 at 3:03 pm

    Atlantean Idol,

    I know that a comment which includes 2 links doesn’t automatically go into moderation, and I think that 4 links will trigger it, but I’m not sure about 3 links.

  162. BillyJoe7on 16 Apr 2017 at 3:01 am

    Ian:

    “Electrons, quarks, spacetime continuum are good examples of possible fundamental existents. Certain existents cannot be derived from anything else. They simply exist”

    This is not quite right, and the way this is not quite right partly explains why I have difficulty with the idea that consciousness is fundamental.

    In fact, the definition of a fundamental particle is a particle that is unknown as to whether it consists of other particles. So, it is not true that the fundamental particles cannot be derived from something else, only that we don’t know – at the present time – whether they do or not.

    The original fundamental particle was the atom. But then subatomic particles were discovered, namely the electron, proton, and neutron. So then these were the fundamental particles. Later, the proton and neutron were discovered to consist of three quarks of two types, the upQuark and the downQuark. So now there are still three fundamental particles, but they now they are the electron, the upQuark, and the downQuark. And there is also string theory or M theory (more hyotheses than theories) that hypothesise that these three fundamental particles all consist of strings of vibrating energy in different configurations. If that turns out to be true, then the fundamental “particle” would be the string of vibrating energy.

    And, in any case, we know that mass and energy are equivalent. Therefore, fundamentally, everything is energy. And, interestingly, it can be mathematically proven that gravity is negative energy. And physicists believe that these two quantities balance out, so that the total energy in the universe is zero. In other words, we already theoretically or hypothetically have something (the universe) from nothing. We know that it could have happened. We just don’t know how this could have happened.

    So where is consciousness in all this? It seems to stand alone as something that is not or can not be derived from anything else. It seems consciousness is, was, and always will be – the way religious people think of their gods. That is part of my problem with the idea that consciousness is fundamental.

    But where is this consciousness? Where was consciousness before life arose in the universe? If you are going to claim that “the universe is conscious”, what can that possibly mean. Do the fundamental particles have a rudimentary form of consciousness? Do those strings of vibrating energy have a rudimentary form of consciousness? Did consciousness appear at the Big Bang together with the fundamental particles? And what IS consciousness. If it turns out to be the case, the fundamental particle is describable as a “string of vibrating energy”, but what about consciousness? It doesn’t seem to be describable in any way. A complete mystery – now and forever – to explain what maybe someday be explained by neuroscience. If we keep looking.

  163. Pete Aon 16 Apr 2017 at 4:53 am

    BillyJoe7,

    I think an elementary particle can arise only from a quantized field. We don’t yet know if gravitation is quantized because we haven’t been able to detect the corresponding gravitons. Also, we don’t yet know if time is quantized because the smallest time interval we’ve been able to measure is 8.5×10^-19 seconds, which is circa 25 orders of magnitude longer than the Planck time 5.4×10^-44 s.

    Is that about right or have I misunderstood something.

  164. Ian Wardellon 16 Apr 2017 at 7:49 am

    BillyJoe
    “So where is consciousness in all this? It seems to stand alone as something that is not or can not be derived from anything else”.

    My Response:
    Consciousness and all qualitative aspects of reality (colour, sounds etc *as perceived*) cannot be derived from the quantitative aspects of reality. Modern science (from 17th Century) only deals with the quantifiable mathematical aspects of reality, as I keep saying.

    This guy at the following link explains all. I like his analogy of an orange. Read it. The important thing is not that you agree with it, but rather simply *understand* it. Then even though you might disagree with me, at least you’ll know where I’m coming from:

    http://www.claremont.org/crb/article/looking-for-meaning-in-all-the-wrong-places/

  165. Pete Aon 16 Apr 2017 at 8:31 am

    “[Ian Wardell] Consciousness and all qualitative aspects of reality (colour, sounds etc *as perceived*) cannot be derived from the quantitative aspects of reality.”

    Which is highly amusing because our conscious qualitative aspects of reality — most especially: “colour, sounds etc *as perceived*” — are derived from (manifested from) only our rudimentary purely-physical materialistic sensors: eyes, ears, taste buds, etc.!

  166. bachfiendon 16 Apr 2017 at 8:38 am

    Ian,

    I don’t need to read it. It’s written by Ed Feser, who is Michael Egnor’s favourite theologian pretend philosopher. In other words – a through and through crackpot.

    It’s not an ad hominem attack. I’ve attempted to read his stuff before – such as ‘the Last Superstition’ – it’s 100% nonsense.

    Giving him as a source is as convincing (not) as giving Deepak Chopra as a source.

  167. Yehouda Harpazon 16 Apr 2017 at 8:49 am

    > # Ian Wardell on 16 Apr 2017 at 7:49 am

    > http://www.claremont.org/crb/article/looking-for-meaning-in-all-the-wrong-places/

    The words “neuron”, “synapse” or “cortex” don’t appear in this text, and the word “brain” appears once inside a double quoted phrase (“The brain did it”).

    That is obviously not a serious discussion of memory, cognition, perception or thinking,
    except to anybody that already decided that these are decoupled from the brain.

  168. Pete Aon 16 Apr 2017 at 9:01 am

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Feser

  169. Ian Wardellon 16 Apr 2017 at 10:08 am

    bachfiend
    “I’ve attempted to read his stuff before – such as ‘the Last Superstition’ – it’s 100% nonsense”.

    I’ve read it, the only book I’ve read of his. I thought it was absolutely *outstanding*. It completely demolished the new atheist arguments and showed how utterly absurd materialism is.

    Having said that I certainly don’t agree with everything he says. Certainly not his politics, for example. And I’m not particularly enamoured with his positive beliefs. But his attack against materialism seems to me to be unassailable. His arguments for God are outstanding.

    Anyway, it’s no good simply labelling him a crackpot. That article is spot on as far as I can see. I genuinely want to know where it goes wrong. If people can’t say — and the responses so far haven’t addressed his points — then I can only conclude that his points are indeed unassailable.

  170. arnieon 16 Apr 2017 at 10:20 am

    In summary, Feser’s fundamenatal belief system (ideology) is 100% supernaturalism for which zero evidence is available. Of course, it can’t be falsified anymore than invisible pink Easter Bunnys flying around my home can be falsified this Easter morning. So we do understand and know where you are coming from, Ian, and that’s why those of us who go where the evidence leads find no attraction in your vacuous (from the standpoint of evidence) arguments. Feser’s arguments, likewise, whatever his motivation for believing them, have no evidence-based foundational support.

    I can accept and respect you for whatever it is that causes you to faithfully (i.e., sans evidence) cling to your ideology, but you are doomed to endless frustration on this blog unless you either present evidence for your position or accept that most others here will have no interest in joining you down the path you’re on.

  171. Pete Aon 16 Apr 2017 at 10:23 am

    “[Ian Wardell] I genuinely want to know where [the article by Edward Feser] goes wrong. If people can’t say — and the responses so far haven’t addressed his points — then I can only conclude that his points are indeed unassailable.”

    Your endless refusal to provided reasoned replies to those of us who have painstakingly addressed your comments on this website, and your articles on your blog, abjectly contradicts your repeated claim that you genuinely want to know/learn where and why you are wrong.

  172. Ian Wardellon 16 Apr 2017 at 10:25 am

    Arnie, he’s using arguments (as I do). You’re confusing philosophical argumentation with science.

  173. arnieon 16 Apr 2017 at 10:37 am

    Ian, I hadn’t read you last post before I wrote mine, but I think offered an answer to your question of where Feser’s article goes wrong. His arguments all stem from his ideological foundation and imagination, not from a foundation of evidence. I would suggest that you may find him convincing because of the confirmation bias support he offers you.

  174. Pete Aon 16 Apr 2017 at 10:39 am

    arnie,

    Ian Wardell continually refuses to answer my repeated question to him “What is the wavelength of magenta?” because he is fully aware of the fact that answering it will require him to also admit that his claims on his blog, regarding the ‘materialistic’ science of colour, are pathetically asinine.

  175. arnieon 16 Apr 2017 at 10:47 am

    Ian, we crossed again. No, i’m not confusing anything with anything. The human brain in its profound capacity for confirmation bias and imagination has the capacity to create philosophical argumentation and belief systems to justify whatever positions it finds comfortable and anxiety (cognitive dissonance) assuaging. This is nothing new, to say the least. It is not an inherent conflict between philosophy and science but can, of course, be easily used to deny the preponderance of actual evidence so as to sustain a motivated belief system.

  176. arnieon 16 Apr 2017 at 10:52 am

    Pete A,

    I agree with you. Refusal to answer questions like yours is a common “technique” of all the science deniers and “trolls” (hn) on this blog. That refusal will continue, no doubt.

  177. Pete Aon 16 Apr 2017 at 11:08 am

    arnie,

    Such refusals will indeed coninue:

    Antiscience is a position that rejects science and the scientific method.[1] People holding antiscientific views do not accept that science is an objective method, or that it generates universal knowledge. They also contend that scientific reductionism in particular is an inherently limited means to reach understanding of the complex world we live in.”
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antiscience

    “The phrase “not even wrong” describes any argument that purports to be scientific but fails at some fundamental level, usually in that it contains a terminal logical fallacy or it cannot be falsified by experiment (i.e., tested with the possibility of being rejected), or cannot be used to make predictions about the natural world.”
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Not_even_wrong

  178. Ian Wardellon 16 Apr 2017 at 11:19 am

    Arnie:
    “The human brain in its profound capacity for confirmation bias and imagination has the capacity to create philosophical argumentation and belief systems to justify whatever positions it finds comfortable and anxiety (cognitive dissonance) assuaging”.

    If our chains of reasoning inevitably result in some (never specified) error. If our thoughts inevitably lead to conclusions that are psychologically appealing rather than the truth. Then we might as well give up trying to think and understand anything. So much for the triumph of human thought in trying to understand the world, what we are, our place in it etc. Let’s all just indulge in our passions and live a hedonistic lifestyle instead then.

  179. Ian Wardellon 16 Apr 2017 at 11:25 am

    Pete A
    “Your endless refusal to provided reasoned replies to those of us who have painstakingly addressed your comments on this website, and your articles on your blog, abjectly contradicts your repeated claim that you genuinely want to know/learn where and why you are wrong”.

    The problem is that my arguments are never actually addressed (just like Feser’s hasn’t been). The discussion goes off on a tangent — inevitably it is asserted (without argumentation to support it) that science tells us about reality, that only evidence is relevant, that philosophical reasoning is of no avail whatsoever.

    Oh yes, and this claim I don’t answer questions. It should be noted by the lurker that such questions I refuse to answer — or rather I choose to ignore — is because they have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the subject under discussion eg what’s the wavelength of magenta.

  180. Pete Aon 16 Apr 2017 at 11:25 am

    “[Ian Wardell] Then we might as well give up trying to think and understand anything.”

    You, Ian, are an exemplar of the persons who have given up trying to think, and who have also given up trying to understand anything and everything.

  181. chikoppion 16 Apr 2017 at 11:57 am

    [Ian Wardell] If our chains of reasoning inevitably result in some (never specified) error. If our thoughts inevitably lead to conclusions that are psychologically appealing rather than the truth. Then we might as well give up trying to think and understand anything. So much for the triumph of human thought in trying to understand the world, what we are, our place in it etc. Let’s all just indulge in our passions

    Inevitably? No. But clearly it is possible for an intelligent person to spend their entire life thinking about an issue, convince themselves that they’re right, and yet be wrong. It is also possible for a person to be so emotionally invested in a premise that they cannot accommodate new evidence that contradicts that premise.

    To discover what is true about existence we have to actually investigate existence, methodologically test assumptions, and objectively confirm hypotheses. We cannot discover what we don’t yet know merely by thinking about it and we can’t be certain our reasoning incorporates all the facts without knowing what we don’t yet know.

  182. Pete Aon 16 Apr 2017 at 12:04 pm

    Ian Wardell,

    My repeated question to you “What is the wavelength of magenta?” has everything to do with your wilful, repeated, nauseous, bastardization of science and its methods.

    You are not even a philosopher — if you were then you would have the dexterity to write comments that were no riddled with logical fallacies and your plethora of cognitive biases.

    See your website!

  183. Pete Aon 16 Apr 2017 at 12:25 pm

    But what of the qualitative features of reality? We think of the external world as being filled with colours, sounds and smells. Due to the fact that these features of reality are not detectable by our measuring instruments and hence are not measurable, it was assumed that they simply weren’t part of the furniture of reality at all. Instead colours, sounds and smells were redefined to stand for those measurable aspects of reality which were deemed to cause these qualitative experiences. Thus a colour was redefined to refer to a certain wavelength of light that objects reflect. Sounds redefined to refer to rarefactions and compressions of the air. Smells redefined to refer to various molecules in motion.

    — Ian Wardell, Science, the Afterlife, and the Intelligentsia. 2015-01-30.
    http://ian-wardell.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/science-afterlife-and-intelligentsia.html

    Thus a colour was redefined to refer to a certain wavelength of light that objects reflect.

    Only in your wilful bastardization of science, Ian.

    Ian, What is the wavelength of magenta?

  184. Ian Wardellon 16 Apr 2017 at 12:35 pm

    Pete A
    “You, Ian, are an exemplar of the persons who have given up trying to think, and who have also given up trying to understand anything and everything.

    You are not even a philosopher — if you were then you would have the dexterity to write comments that were no riddled with logical fallacies and your plethora of cognitive biases”.

    My Response:

    I’m not sure who advised you that the best way to convert people to your views is to insult them. But I assure you it’s bad advice.

    What might convert me are compelling *arguments*. I’ve provided comprehensive arguments on my blog. People here don’t like my blog and refuse to read it even, least of all engage with the actual arguments.

    So I link to an article by someone else whose arguments I’m entirely in accord with and whose clarity even exceeds my own. What happens? Are his arguments addressed?

    No.

    What we get are comments such as he’s a “theologian pretend philosopher” and “he’s a crackpot”, “his book such as ‘the Last Superstition’ – [is] 100% nonsense”, “giving him as a source is as convincing (not) as giving Deepak Chopra as a source” from one person, from another person we get “Feser’s fundamenatal (sic) belief system (ideology) is 100% supernaturalism for which zero evidence is available”, and a third person who merely contents himself with providing a Wikipedia entry on the author.

    And I’m supposed to be convinced that you guys are correct…

  185. Pete Aon 16 Apr 2017 at 12:43 pm

    Ian, What is the wavelength of magenta?

  186. arnieon 16 Apr 2017 at 12:46 pm

    Ian,
    Pete and Chikoppi have given sound answers to your response to me, especially chikoppi’s last paragraph as well as his response to your all-inclusive “inevitability”.

    By addressing the fundamental error in your and Feser’s arguments all being fundamentally built on and infused with faith-based ideological assumptions entirely free of demonstrable evidence, your argument’s are, indeed, being addressed.

    Thinking and evidence can together build strong arguments indeed, but evidence-free thinking is always walking on quick-sand and critical-thinking-free “evidence” (e.g., cherry-picking) is always suspect in its reliability.

    There are many philosophers who are every bit profound and creative in their thinking as you and Feser but who do not contradict the evidence built up through the scientific method and do not base their thinking, ideas, hypotheses and conclusions on totally evidence-free, ideologically-based belief systems. Such thinkers can contribute a great deal to the human endeavor toward a deeper understanding of “what is” (reality). Their “chains of reasoning” do not “inevitably” result in error. Your chains of science-denying and supernaturalistically-committed chains of reasoning will always be walking on the quick-sand of error. And your frustration with this skeptics blog will never find relief.

  187. Pete Aon 16 Apr 2017 at 1:01 pm

    “[Ian Wardell] and a third person who merely contents himself with providing a Wikipedia entry on the author.”

    Whereas Ian Wardell merely contents himself with endlessly repeating: “See my blog.”

  188. Ian Wardellon 16 Apr 2017 at 2:41 pm

    chikoppi
    “We cannot discover what we don’t yet know merely by thinking about it”.

    Aye… so much for mathematics. Waste of time!

    And Galileo’s arguments that objects with different weights cannot possibly fall at different speeds.

    And Berkeley’s argument that absolute space and time are incoherent concepts (and of course the so-called “scholarly community” simply ignored him).

    Etc…

  189. chikoppion 16 Apr 2017 at 3:15 pm

    Mathematics describe conceptual relationships, not actual things. Gravity and wind resistance are testable and measurable (I seem to remember an observational experiment involving a certain tower that was used to demonstrate Aristotle’s original theory was wrong). Even Einstein’s theory of relativity needed to be experimentally tested and not all of his theoretical conclusions panned out when eventually confronted by actual evidence.

    People, even extraordinarily smart and knowledgeable people, get things wrong. The only way to know if an idea correlates with reality is to formulate falsifiable hypotheses and test them against observational experimentation.

    You’re back in your corner again. Current physics doesn’t satisfactorily explain your experience with consciousness, therefore you are inventing solutions without evidence and going out of your way to insist that they are inherently non-testable. What’s the line? That which is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

  190. Ian Wardellon 16 Apr 2017 at 3:54 pm

    chikoppi
    “Mathematics describe conceptual relationships, not actual things”.

    Your original assertion is:

    “We cannot discover what we don’t yet know merely by thinking about it”.

    So you appear to have conceded that we can discover some things by thought after all — namely we can discover that by thought alone that a state of affairs, which is conceptually incoherent, cannot obtain.

  191. bachfiendon 16 Apr 2017 at 3:56 pm

    Ian,

    I’ve asked you this question several times and you persist in refusing to answer it.

    The human brain is the most complex structure in the Universe (that we know of). It’s capable of producing absolutely amazing and convincing illusions such as the one that there’s high definition colour vision right out to the edge of the visual fields.

    The question is; Why aren’t you prepared or willing to give the human brain the credit it richly deserves?

    Instead of conceding that the human brain can produce a conscious mind (whether it’s an illusion or not) you’re forced to propose not only an immaterial ineffable something or another, you’re also proposing that there needs to be some novel physics to make it ‘work’.

    Occam’s razor states that you shouldn’t add elements unnecessarily. You’ve added two – an ineffable immaterial something and an unknown novel physics.

  192. Ian Wardellon 16 Apr 2017 at 4:11 pm

    So,

    1. Objects of different weights falling at different accelerations

    2. An absolute space (so a thing/object can be motionless in an absolute sense)

    3. The emaciated conception of the world denuded of the flesh of the qualitative as believed by modern materialists

    Are conceptions of the world that could at least all *conceivably* be shown to be incoherent?

  193. Ian Wardellon 16 Apr 2017 at 4:13 pm

    I mean by conceptual thought alone rather than experimental confirmation?

  194. Ian Wardellon 16 Apr 2017 at 4:15 pm

    Bachfiend:
    “The human brain is the most complex structure in the Universe (that we know of). It’s capable of producing absolutely amazing and convincing illusions such as the one that there’s high definition colour vision right out to the edge of the visual fields.

    The question is; Why aren’t you prepared or willing to give the human brain the credit it richly deserves?”

    This is already explained in my blog entries and the article by Feser.

  195. chikoppion 16 Apr 2017 at 4:49 pm

    [Ian Wardell]So you appear to have conceded that we can discover some things by thought after all — namely we can discover that by thought alone that a state of affairs, which is conceptually incoherent, cannot obtain.

    Nope. There are limits to what can be conceived. There are also unknowns that confound our premises. We encounter things that seem conceptually incoherent all the time.

    Dark Matter is the very equivalent of “objects of different weights falling at different accelerations,” as it is an observation that contradicts our previous concepts, models, and measurements of mass and gravity. It is incoherent given our current premises and was not predicted by our otherwise consistent and logically coherent theory.

    Now, what’s the solution? Do we assert that there is simply an intangible force that exists outside of the other physical laws that somehow causes this phenomena? Do we then deduce all sorts of properties necessary to justify this supposed force? Because if we do, and that premise is conceptually incorrect, then our reasoning will necessarily be incorrect no matter how logically consistent.

    To borrow from Kierkegaard and Sartre, existence precedes essence. Our attempts to reason about the essence of existence will only ever be as valid as the accuracy of our observations and premises.

  196. bachfiendon 16 Apr 2017 at 4:54 pm

    Ian,

    ‘This is already explained in my blog entries and the article by Feser.

    I’m going to have to add to the list of logical fallacies. After ‘argument from authority’ should be added ‘argument by crackpots’ (Ian Wardell and Ed Feser). Another would have to be ‘see my blog entries’ (or is that included in ‘begging the question?).

  197. edamameon 16 Apr 2017 at 6:36 pm

    Argumentum ad volumen

  198. BillyJoe7on 17 Apr 2017 at 2:48 am

    Ian,

    “Consciousness and all qualitative aspects of reality…cannot be derived from the quantitative aspects of reality”

    You have provided no evidence that there can be no natural/physical/material explanations for consciousness and qualia and no evidence for supernatural/nonphysical/immaterial/supernatural explanations for consciousness and qualia.

    But I was more interested in the answers to the following related questions:
    If consciousness is fundamental…
    – was there consciousness before the appearance of life in the universe?
    – is there a rudimentary form of consciousness in the fundamental particles?
    If not, in what sense can consciousness be said to be fundamental?

  199. Lane Simonianon 17 Apr 2017 at 11:16 am

    In another potentially important mouse study, the indication was that memory is not lost in Alzheimer’s disease but the problem is the ability to retrieve memory. It is akin to a library of books without call numbers, the books are there but you cannot find a specific book without the call number.

    http://www.nature.com/news/memories-retrieved-in-mutant-alzheimer-s-mice-1.19574

    Contextual memory (and likely many other forms of memory) are dependent upon the release of acetylcholine (via various muscarinic acetylcholine receptors) and neurogenesis (via the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/Akt pathway). The latter is also involved in the extinction of certain memories.

    “Contrary to the view that acetylcholine supports learning but is detrimental to memory retrieval, we found that coactivation of multiple mAChR is required for retrieval of both recently and remotely acquired context memories.”

    “PI3 kinase signaling is required for retrieval and extinction of contextual memory”

    Musacrinic acetylcholine receptors are damaged by oxidation in Alzheimer’s disease and the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase is damaged by nitration in Alzheimer’s disease.

    Various plant compounds can partially reverse oxidation and nitration. This explains why eugenol in various essential oils via aromatherapy and ferulic acid, syringic acid, p-coumaric acid, vanillic acid, and maltol in Korean red ginseng and heat processed ginseng have led to improvements in memory in people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.

  200. Ian Wardellon 17 Apr 2017 at 11:55 am

    Lane Simonian
    “In another potentially important mouse study, the indication was that memory is not lost in Alzheimer’s disease but the problem is the ability to retrieve memory”.

    Be curtains for the prospect of an afterlife if memories were deleted! That would imply that memories are somehow stored in the brain. Of course, as I’ve already said, that’s nonsense.

  201. bachfiendon 17 Apr 2017 at 4:05 pm

    Ian,

    ‘That would imply that memories are somehow stored in the brain. Of course, as I’ve already said, that’s nonsense’.

    You, Ed Feser, and other crackpots of similar ilk are wrong. And delusional. The reason why your ‘reasoning’ is wrong, and I’ll phrase it as a statement of truth instead of a question, which you refuse to answer:

    The human brain is the most complex structure in the Universe (that we know of). It is capable of achieving incredible results, including creating the illusion of high definition colour vision right out to the edge of the visual fields, despite the eyes providing at best high definition colour vision over an area in the visual fields corresponding to the area of the thumb nail with the hand held at arm’s length, the rest being a monochromatic blur.

    The qualia of colour are also produced in the brain. There’s no magneta colour receptor in the eyes. Part of the visual cortex ascribes the colours, and there are plenty of illusions where it gets it wrong.

    The human brain is so incredibly complex, it can produce a conscious mind (regardless of whether it’s an illusion or not). And store an enormous amount of information in memory.

    You and Ed Feser to disprove these obvious facts have to show that:

    1. The human brain isn’t complex enough, and why it isn’t complex enough.

    2. That there’s an immaterial ineffable something or another that’s the immaterial mind (or soul, or whatever) which somehow does the job of memory, whether it’s storing memory or somehow having access to past events.

    3. And there’s some ‘new’ physics -undiscovered and unexplained as to its nature – necessary to make it work, for an immaterial something or another to interact with the material brain.

    So you have to disprove an obvious fact and justify two extraordinary claims.

    You’ve got a lot of work ahead.

  202. BillyJoe7on 17 Apr 2017 at 5:28 pm

    Apparently it doesn’t require an incredibly complex brain to produce consciousness, because consciousness is simple, not consisting of any parts.

  203. Lightnotheaton 18 Apr 2017 at 12:38 am

    Wow this thread got long. Ian, you’re losing big time. Neverthless, I do think most skeptics are somewhat vulnerable with regard to this issue of whether consciousness is simply a product of the brain’s functioning. I will try to make a different case than Ian does for what we might call the New Age position, but in a different, fresher and more relevent thread. Partly as a devil’s-advocate exercise, but not entirely. Stay tuned. But come on Ian, your arguments are essentially about definitions, not causality.

  204. TheTentacleson 18 Apr 2017 at 2:53 am

    Hey can you guys quit lumping Edward Feser and Ian Wardell together. As far as I can see although Feser uses the cheap straw man of classical materialism in that article, he at least appears willing to incorporate the logic of non-dualists and appears to at least respect, though not agree with, their position (he uses Alex Rosenberg’s The Atheist’s Guide to Reality and Thomas Nagel in his criticism of Scruton). I don’t care too much if he is a theist as long as he is intellectually honest with his positioning. Note I’ve read nothing but that book review so if you know better then I’m willing to revisit my generosity towards him (he does nevertheless seem philosophical small fry, most famous for criticising “new atheists” in a popularist book rather than for his academic work; give me Galen Strawson any day).

    Ian on the other hand conflates and confabulates in a spectacular manner; actually I had so far given him the benefit of the doubt about his possible theism as a motivation for his absurd statements, but he keeps giving ample evidence that such generosity is wasted on him…

  205. Paul Parnellon 18 Apr 2017 at 2:54 am

    You guys are killin’ me. I think all of your arguments on all sides are bad. Not necessarily wrong in the conclusion. Just bad in that they do not support the conclusion.

    Let’s talk about brain complexity first. What do you mean by complex? Well there are at least two that seem relevant here.

    The first kind is complexity from chaos theory. As an example of the first kind of complexity consider the Mandelbrot set. Like the brain it has been described as being almost infinitely complex. Yet the program that generates it is only a few lines long. Gregory Chaitin referred to this kind of complexity as simplicity. The point is that very simple systems can be very hard to understand. Analytically they are difficult.

    The second kind – Kolmogorov-Chaitin complexity – is really about complexity. Imagine you had a long sequence of numbers. The Kolmogorov-Chaitin complexity of that string of numbers is the length of the shortest program that would generate that sequence of numbers.

    So in which way is the brain complex? Well it turns out that the brain must be surprisingly simple since it must be generated by your genes. That is at most a few gigabytes of information ant that is including all the genes used to produce hearts, lungs, kidneys and toes. While that is not small it also is not astronomically large. The brain is surprisingly simple.

    In any case the complexity of the brain is irrelevant. Computers have bested humans in chess and go. They do well in diagnosing diseases, recognizing faces and seem to be set to drive cars in the near future. It seems empirically and theoretically likely that computers will best humans in any problem solving task that you wish to define. And they will do so in a fairly short time. but that is not what the strong AI problem is about.

    If I hit my thumb with a hammer it will hurt. I can program a robot to register damage. I can program it to jump up and down and cuss like a sailor. I cannot make it hurt. Even if I could why would I? From an engineering point of view it serves no purpose. Even as a nonfeeler of pain it can beat me in chess or any other problem that I can define. Why do we even feel?

    I have a great deal of sympathy for a materialist view on consciousness but hand waving about complexity simply ignores the problem.

    I also have some sympathy toward the mysterian view on consciousness. But while I have some sympathy with their differences I have no sympathy for any particular mysterian argument. They all strike me as stupid and pigheadedly obtuse. John Searle was one of the most famous mysterians (Chinese room argument) and I can barely stand to read anything he wrote. For Searle being obtuse was an art form.

    Everyone is so busy servicing their metaphysical commitments that they aren’t really understanding the problem. While this is particularly true of mysterians the materialists have a lot to answer for as well.

  206. TheTentacleson 18 Apr 2017 at 3:46 am

    So in which way is the brain complex? Well it turns out that the brain must be surprisingly simple since it must be generated by your genes.

    Um, developmental neuroscientists would snort into their coffee reading this. Brains are not “generated” by genes in this way. Neither of your simplified views of complexity are an appropriate OR to the developmental processes that build brains.

  207. Ian Wardellon 18 Apr 2017 at 5:56 am

    bachfiend
    “You and Ed Feser to disprove these obvious facts have to show that:

    1. The human brain isn’t complex enough, and why it isn’t complex enough.

    2. That there’s an immaterial ineffable something or another that’s the immaterial mind (or soul, or whatever) which somehow does the job of memory, whether it’s storing memory or somehow having access to past events.

    3. And there’s some ‘new’ physics -undiscovered and unexplained as to its nature – necessary to make it work, for an immaterial something or another to interact with the material brain”.

    My Response:

    Why must I keep repeating ad nauseam that all this is explained in my blog? If people either can’t be bothered to read it, or read it it but cannot understand it, why do you imagine a quicker more rushed attempt on my part here will pay dividends?

    Lightnotheat
    “Wow this thread got long. Ian, you’re losing big time”.

    No, one doesn’t lose big time when one’s opponents simply ignores their arguments and calls them a crackpot instead.

    lightnotheat
    “I will try to make a different case than Ian does for what we might call the New Age position”.

    If people are unimpressed with the argument I’ve advanced, they’re scarcely going to be impressed with what the new age crowd “argue”. Spare us the gobbledegook.

  208. Ian Wardellon 18 Apr 2017 at 6:15 am

    TheTentacles
    “Hey can you guys quit lumping Edward Feser and Ian Wardell together. As far as I can see although Feser uses the cheap straw man of classical materialism in that article, he at least appears willing to incorporate the logic of non-dualists and appears to at least respect, though not agree with, their position (he uses Alex Rosenberg’s The Atheist’s Guide to Reality and Thomas Nagel in his criticism of Scruton)”.

    On this specific issue I’m in complete agreement with Feser. Nagel and Rosenberg’s positions are unaffected by the argument I have advanced, albeit for *very* different reasons!

    Also we’re talking about the materialism invented with the birth of modern science in the 17th Century. Materialism since that time is the same as it still deals exclusively with the quantifiable, or that which can be measured.

    Paul Parnell
    “For Searle being obtuse was an art form”.

    You guys are just unreal. One thing Searle can’t be accused of and that’s being obtuse! And if only all “materialists” were as sensible as he and Nagel.

  209. Ian Wardellon 18 Apr 2017 at 6:22 am

    TheTentacles
    “Ian on the other hand conflates and confabulates in a spectacular manner”.

    You need to be more specific. As I keep saying, my argument is laid out in my blog which I haven’t and refuse to repeat here. Tell me where I conflate and confabulate.

    http://ian-wardell.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/neither-modern-materialism-nor-science.html

  210. Pete Aon 18 Apr 2017 at 6:36 am

    Paul,

    When the universe was too hot to form particles, its entropy was low therefore its information content — its complexity — was low. It’s entropy has been increasing ever since therefore its information content (its complexity) has been increasing.

    Obviously, everything that currently exists has resulted from only the low-level complexity of the early universe.

    “Well it turns out that the brain must be surprisingly simple since it must be generated by your genes.” Genes in turn are generated by … which in turn was generated by only the low-complexity of the early universe.

    Hopefully, the above has clearly demonstrated one of the the errors in your statement. Next, I shall demonstrate another error…

    We purchase a pair of identical computers: the only differences between them are their serial numbers and their MAC addresses. Other than these differences, their behaviour and their internal states are identical. With usage, their internal states increasingly diverge because we don’t want to (nor can we) type exactly the same things into both machines at the same time. It’s very likely that we’ll use the computers for different purposes — perhaps one is used mainly for our leisure activities and the other is used mainly for our work. Obviously, these computers require separate backups to record and restore their individual internal states.

    Likewise, the two individual adult brains of identical twins — generated by identical genes — do not have identical internal states. Therefore, the complexity of the brain cannot be reduced to (simplified to / encoded by) the lower-level complexity of genes.

    The entropy (the information content/complexity) of an infant’s brain rapidly increases with time via the process of learning. Furthermore, individuals who have different genes are able to learn the same highly-complex items of information, such as language.

    It’s extraordinarily easy to simplify highly-complex things when one deploys inadvertently- or deliberately-obscured category errors 🙂

  211. Pete Aon 18 Apr 2017 at 6:40 am

    Ian,

    Had you bothered to learn colour theory, and a few other aspects of modern science, then you wouldn’t keep making such a fool of yourself. Your endless straw-manning of science is hilarious.

  212. bachfiendon 18 Apr 2017 at 7:15 am

    Ian,

    I’ve read your blog. It’s incoherent. It’s begging the question, assuming that non-materialism is true, so materialism must be false.

    Point out where you’ve shown that the human brain isn’t complex enough to produce useful and very convincing illusions such as high definition colour vision extending to the edge of the visual field, a conscious mind with free will making all the decisions, and qualia such as the colour magneta.

    The brain is in the business of manufacturing illusions, highly convincing illusions, but still illusions, such as the conscious mind. The brain is the mind and the mind is the brain. You’re being fooled by your brain into thinking that there’s something else.

  213. chikoppion 18 Apr 2017 at 8:22 am

    [Ian Wardell] Why must I keep repeating ad nauseam that all this is explained in my blog? If people either can’t be bothered to read it, or read it it but cannot understand it, why do you imagine a quicker more rushed attempt on my part here will pay dividends?

    I read it. I explained why the argument is fallacious. Your premises and presuppositions (and several essential definitions) are not only wrong, but you seem unaware that they are in fact premises and presuppositions.

    I quoted your own words as examples. Your schizophrenic response was, “that’s not my position.”

    There’s no point referencing your blog further Ian. Commit to a position. Lay it out one, two, three or stop pretending that you have a cogent argument.

  214. BillyJoe7on 18 Apr 2017 at 8:25 am

    Paul,

    “it turns out that the brain must be surprisingly simple since it must be generated by your genes”

    As two other commenters have pointed out, you are in serious error here.
    And, if you were familiar with evolutionary theory, you would have spotted your error immediately.
    The genome is not a blueprint but more like a recipe.
    The brain is not the product of the genes but a product of the genes plus the environment, where the environment includes everything outside the genes with which the genes come into contact. In fact, a gene’s environment includes other genes within the genome.
    That’s going to make the brain pretty complex.

    “Computers have bested humans in chess and go. They do well in diagnosing diseases, recognizing faces and seem to be set to drive cars in the near future”

    But computers have yet to discover a single dsease or invent something like chess, go, or the automobile.
    That, so far, has required a complex human brain.

    “If I hit my thumb with a hammer it will hurt. I can program a robot to register damage. I can program it to jump up and down and cuss like a sailor. I cannot make it hurt. Even if I could why would I? From an engineering point of view it serves no purpose. Even as a nonfeeler of pain it can beat me in chess or any other problem that I can define. Why do we even feel?”

    This is a bit of a mess. You are talking about qualia. You are claiming without evidence or good reason that computers will never have qualia. This is more the unsubstantiated claim of those with a philosophical axe to grind. And a computer doesn’t beat us at chess because it is a nonfeeler of pain, it is because it has been cleverly programmed by complicated human brains. And why do we feel pain? For the simple reason that, if we did not feel pain, our skin, joints, and ultimately our whole body would be destroyed. Pain protects us from injury.

  215. BillyJoe7on 18 Apr 2017 at 8:35 am

    chikopppi,

    That seems to be Ian’s modus operandi whether he realises it or not.

    Everyone here has read his blog. In fact, everyone is sick to death of reading his blog, because of the motivated reasoning and logical errors. And his response to us attempting to engage him in discussion about his blog contents is either to not respond at all, or to accuse us of not understanding or being incapable of understanding what he is saying.

    I now refuse to read any links to his blog.
    He is responding on this blog so he can damn well bring his arguments here.

  216. arnieon 18 Apr 2017 at 9:39 am

    His responses here are no better than his blog. The odds of his saying anything more sensible in the future here are virtually zero. Yet every response simply feeds his next, apparently irresistible, response.
    So why continue reading him here? There’s no law requiring us to either read or respond simply because he posted here. There’s really nothing more to say to him, or ask of him, that hasn’t been said or asked ad nauseum.

  217. Ian Wardellon 18 Apr 2017 at 9:54 am

    bachfiend
    “Point out where you’ve shown that the human brain isn’t complex enough to produce useful and very convincing illusions such as high definition colour vision extending to the edge of the visual field, a conscious mind with free will making all the decisions, and qualia such as the colour magneta”.

    My Response:

    Obviously, this presupposes reductionism.

    Now, to quote Thomas Nagel from Mind and Cosmos:

    “The modern mind-body problem arose out of the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century, as a direct result of the concept of objective physical reality that drove that revolution. Galileo and Descartes made the crucial conceptual division by proposing that physical science should provide a mathematically precise quantitative description of an external reality extended in space and time, a description limited to spatiotemporal primary qualities such as shape, size, and motion, and to laws governing the relations among them. Subjective appearances, on the other hand — how this physical world appears to human perception — were assigned to the mind, and the secondary qualities like color, sound, and smell were to be analyzed relationally, in terms of the power of physical things, acting on the senses, to produce those appearances in the minds of observers. It was essential to leave out or subtract subjective appearances and the human mind — as well as human intentions and purposes — from the physical world in order to permit this powerful but austere spatiotemporal conception of objective physical reality to develop”.

    Here in a nutshell is why science, *at least as currently conceived*, cannot in principle account for the existence of consciousness. In order to make this clear let’s flesh out what Nagel is saying here.

    The mechanistic philosophy *stipulated* that physical reality is wholly quantitative. That is to say that the external world that our five senses reveal is wholly composed of things and processes that can in principle be detected by our measuring instruments and thus can be measured. All change in this external world can be accounted for in terms of chains of physical causes and effects which are exclusively cashed out in quantitative terms. So we have each physical event or thing comprising a link in the chain causing another physical event, and each link is comprised of something that can be measured — for example mass, velocity, shape and so on.

    But what of the qualitative features of reality? We think of the external world as being filled with colours, sounds and smells. Due to the fact that these features of reality are not detectable by our measuring instruments and hence are not measurable, *it was assumed that they simply weren’t part of the furniture of reality at all*. Instead colours, sounds and smells were *redefined* to stand for those measurable aspects of reality which were deemed to cause these qualitative experiences. Thus a colour was *redefined* to refer to a certain wavelength of light that objects reflect. Sounds *redefined* to refer to rarefactions and compressions of the air. Smells *redefined* to refer to various molecules in motion.

    Thus a consequence of the mechanistic philosophy is that it *stipulated* — again I stress that this was not a discovery — a very much emaciated conception of the physical external world. A bare skeletal outline denuded of the flesh of the qualitative. But that brings with it a huge problem. If only the quantitative, or that which is detectable, constitutes the external world, how can we suppose that minds or consciousness are part of that reality? Hence the mind-body problem.

    Since almost everyone has so much difficulty in understanding this, it might be a good idea to try and hammer this point home.

    Think of a clockwork clock. By looking at the components of that clock – namely the cogs, the springs, and the wheels – and how they all interrelate together, we can actually understand how the hour, and the minute hands move. Each cause and each effect in the causal chain(s) leading to the movement of the hands are wholly quantitative, something which can be measured.

    The same pertains whenever we reach an understanding of some phenomenon. Consider tornadoes for example. They seem to be entities in their own right; they seem to act as organised wholes. But this cannot be an analogy for consciousness since it remains the case that tornadoes are *nothing more* than the movement and interactions of all the air and water molecules which constitute them. The number of parts constituting a tornado, and hence its complexity, doesn’t allow it the possibility of producing anything beyond what a colossal number of particles are capable of producing, particularly not conscious experiences. So, similar to the clock, the tornado is the result of wholly quantitative processes and can be reductively explained.

    But when we come to the brain and consciousness we have something very different. If the brain does indeed produce consciousness, then we have chains of quantitative causes and effects which at the end of these chains produce purely qualitative phenomena; namely conscious experiences. But then this contradicts the mechanistic philosophy since it stipulates that reality is wholly quantitative. And hence consciousness also eludes any possible physical theory since physics deals exclusively with the quantitative or that which can be measured.

    To try and explicate this fact yet further what we have is a chain of physical causes and effects following physical laws, and at the end a conscious experience such as the experience of pain. Unlike our clock or tornado, where we can always understand, at least in principle, how an effect is brought about by a thorough understanding of the arrangements and properties of their parts, we cannot have a similar understanding with consciousness. All we can note is that when certain physical events occur in the brain, this might be correlated with a certain characteristic experience — an experience moreover which can only be known by the subject. Consciousness is not objectively detectable.

    So the qualitative aspects of reality were subtracted from the external world and placed into the mind. And as Thomas Nagel mentioned human intentions and purposes were subtracted too. Hence the world out there is wholly quantitative and devoid of anything qualitative. And hence unimaginable. The greenness you experience when looking at a green object is entirely a creation of your mind. The perceived object is not actually green at all in the commonsensical use of the word green.

    Thus the only option for the materialist is to suppose consciousness *is literally one and the very same thing* as some physical thing or process (not merely caused by a physical process). I think this is an act of desperation.

    We think of the world as being populated with objects. Sometimes what we think of 2 different objects are in fact one and the same object e.g. the morning star and evening star. However we can trace their paths through space-time and see that they coincide. However we cannot do this with brain processes and conscious experiences. We can trace the formers path in space-time, but not the latter.

    Also if 2 objects are in fact the very same object, they should share very similar properties. It’s true that one and the same object can change its properties over time e.g. a spanking brand new table will not look quite the same 20 years down the line, although they’ll look broadly similar.

    But physical states and the correlated conscious experiences exist at the same time. However they are utterly different in their properties. The former is characterised by the quantitative and is observable from a third person perspective. The latter is characterised by the qualitative and is not observable from the third person perspective — it is only known through the experiencing subject. Since conscious experiences share no commonality with any physical states or processes *whatsoever*, it is gratuitous and vacuous to declare they’re one and the very same thing.

    Now, if anybody has any problem with my arguments, then you need to state what they are. Not BLOODY endlessly repeat points that I’ve already argued have no merit!

    You need to actually ENGAGE with my arguments, not merely ignore them.

  218. Pete Aon 18 Apr 2017 at 10:12 am

    “That is to say that the external world that our five senses…” Oops!

  219. Ian Wardellon 18 Apr 2017 at 12:14 pm

    Thank you for your thoughtful response Pete A that comprehensively addressed my arguments. Yes, indeed, there are more than 5 senses. There is the 6th sense — anomalous acquisition of information regarding the environment.

  220. edamameon 18 Apr 2017 at 2:08 pm

    Ian wrote:
    Since conscious experiences share no commonality with any physical states or processes *whatsoever*, it is gratuitous and vacuous to declare they’re one and the very same thing.

    Here are some commonalities: they both occur in time, are drastically changed with ingestion of different types of drugs and injury to the organism. Also, they are so tightly correlated in space and time that the hypothesis of identity is the most reasonable one on the table, by far. It’s like you are sitting there wondering why you never see Clark Kent and Superman in different places at the same time. It’s because they are the same damn person, ya’ ninny! There is no razor blade thin enough to split apart consciousness and the brain.

    Nobody has declared they are one and the same: this is a hard-fought conclusion based on evidence and the lack of a better alternative. It’s like the correlation between temperature and the kinetic energy of molecules in a gas: there’s a good reason they are correlated: it’s because they are the same.

    As I’ve said before, your claims basically are about as compelling as arguments for vitalism in the 19th century. Intuitions of distinctness, loud feelings of incredulity, and lots of words, with irrelevant history of science that isn’t apropos anymore because…we now have neuroscience and psychology, and you gave us an irrelevant history of physics. Haven’t you read my teachings?!

    What is your alternative theory? Conscious electrons? Consciousness as a basic feature of the universe, a property glued onto fundamental particles? In other words, panpsychist epiphenomenalist jibber jabber? An extra property superadded to the universe that does nothing, has no causal or explanatory role other than to reply to your web page? Just…stop with the high horse routing it is tiresome. If you came at this with any degree of humility I would take you seriously but you are a crackpot.

  221. Pete Aon 18 Apr 2017 at 2:41 pm

    Ian, Thank you for clarifying your most highly-developed sense: absolute nonsense.

    Your premise that we have five (even six) senses is false, thereby invalidating each and every argument which relies on this long-ago outdated premise. This premise is, of course, frequently deployed to create, the set fire to, the straw man of ‘reductionist materialistic science’.

    Humans have far greater than five types of physical sensory mechanisms and none of our sensors are quantitative sensors. They are differential, non-linear, relative, sensors: the brain has complex adaptive algorithms which result in highly-subjective, mostly-if-not-entirely qualitative, interpretations of the raw neurological signals from our sensors.

    Your faulty arguments are not wrong; they are not even wrong.

  222. Ian Wardellon 18 Apr 2017 at 3:26 pm

    @edamame You’re not addressing the substance of what I said about why they cannot be the same. Correlations are wholly irrelevant to my argument. And the fact that both conscious experiences occur in time, and the correlated physical processes occur in time (I don’t accept this, but let it pass), doesn’t make them the same or share any properties, any more than saying they both occur in the Universe entails they are the same (or share any properties). The hypothesis of identity is not reasonable *if such a hypothesis is senseless*. And it appears to me it is. I am thirsty. The correlated physical process is (presumably) not thirsty. Therefore it is simply flat out false that they’re the same. For those who think otherwise, they are simply failing to understand what the word *same* means.

    edamame said:
    “Nobody has declared they are one and the same: this is a hard-fought conclusion based on evidence and the lack of a better alternative”.

    To conclude something that is *literally* without *sense* is foolish. And of course the better alternative is that they are not the same. They both are what they seem!

    edamame:
    “[Y]ou are a crackpot”.

    As people keep assuring me. Everybody is always a “crackpot” who doesn’t subscribe to the prevailing metaphysical beliefs of one’s culture.

    OK, I think I’ll give it one more shot. I’ll use another post for that, more likely people might actually read it.

  223. Pete Aon 18 Apr 2017 at 3:41 pm

    edamame,

    Thank you for your thoughtful, well illustrated, and easy to understand response to Ian Wardell.

    Your final sentence accurately describes my own conclusion: “[Ian,] If you came at this with any degree of humility I would take you seriously but you are a crackpot.”

    Some of the commentators, including myself, have accused Ian of being an armchair philosopher. Ian has more than adequately demonstrated that such an accusation is hopelessly inaccurate. An armchair philosopher would possess, at the very least, the skills to present their arguments in the 21st-century epistemological form of premises and conclusions, and clearly delineate their deductive arguments from their inductive arguments. Whereas Ian produces swathes of meandering rhetoric, heavily laced with a plethora of logical fallacies and wilful obscurantism.

    Yes indeed, “panpsychist epiphenomenalist jibber jabber” much better describes his outpourings than does accusing him of being an armchair philosopher.

  224. Pete Aon 18 Apr 2017 at 3:54 pm

    [Ian Wardell stated on 18 Apr 2017 at 9:54 am] Instead colours, sounds and smells were *redefined* to stand for those measurable aspects of reality which were deemed to cause these qualitative experiences. Thus a colour was *redefined* to refer to a certain wavelength of light that objects reflect.

    If you are correct then you will be able to easily answer my repeated question to you: What is the wavelength of magenta?

    You are not wrong; you are, yet again, not even wrong.
    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Not_even_wrong

  225. Ian Wardellon 18 Apr 2017 at 3:59 pm

    Pete A
    “If you are correct then you will be able to easily answer my repeated question to you: What is the wavelength of magenta?”

    I have absolutely no idea. Somewhere between the wavelengths of red and purple at a guess. Google it rather than relying upon me!

    Pete A
    “Thank you for your thoughtful, well illustrated, and easy to understand response to Ian Wardell”.

    I think you should read my response to him.

  226. chikoppion 18 Apr 2017 at 4:15 pm

    [Ian Wardell] Think of a clockwork clock. By looking at the components of that clock – namely the cogs, the springs, and the wheels – and how they all interrelate together, we can actually understand how the hour, and the minute hands move. Each cause and each effect in the causal chain(s) leading to the movement of the hands are wholly quantitative, something which can be measured.

    Here’s a good example of what you’re missing.

    Given two exactly identical closed systems, no matter how complex, and two exactly identical initial conditions, there are two possible results. Either the two systems will exhibit exactly the same behaviors and outcomes (deterministic or “quantitative”) or they will produce different behaviors and outcomes (non-deterministic). Both quantum mechanical and thermodynamic processes are non-deterministic.

    Macro systems exhibit deterministic behavior because they incorporate an averaging of probabilistic and entropic effects. The clock is adequately deterministic as a system, but it is not ultimately reducible to deterministic causes. When we measure the properties of something we are measuring the system.

    You are also conflating causation and determinism. To say that X was caused by Y is not the same as saying Y necessarily determines (results in) X. Y may also produce A, B, or C.

    Why does it matter?

    The properties that make a system “a clock” do not exist below the level of the system as a whole. A pile of gears or half a clock does not possess those properties. Neither do the properties of those individual components necessarily sum to the result of “a clock.” Those same components also produce other systems with entirely different properties. You are starting with (presuming) the system of “the clock.” The relevance of this will be made more apparent below.

    The number of parts constituting a tornado, and hence its complexity, doesn’t allow it the possibility of producing anything beyond what a colossal number of particles are capable of producing, particularly not conscious experiences. So, similar to the clock, the tornado is the result of wholly quantitative processes and can be reductively explained.

    And yet those same “colossal number of particles” (and incumbent physical laws) are capable of producing a untold number of systems that have an untold number properties a tornado does not. The system itself matters and you don’t know the limit of properties or behaviors that can be produced by “physical” systems.

    [Ian Wardell] But physical states and the correlated conscious experiences exist at the same time. However they are utterly different in their properties. The former is characterised by the quantitative and is observable from a third person perspective. The latter is characterised by the qualitative and is not observable from the third person perspective — it is only known through the experiencing subject. Since conscious experiences share no commonality with any physical states or processes *whatsoever*, it is gratuitous and vacuous to declare they’re one and the very same thing.

    Here’s a presupposition. In order for you to say that the physical state of the brain and the qualitative experiences of consciousness are “different in their properties” presumes two ontological entities. They can just as well be the same entity viewed from two different frames of reference.

    You can’t subjectively perceive (measure) “your consciousness” without “your consciousness.” This is perfectly consistent with consciousness as a property that exists at a system level. It seems irreducible because, from that frame of reference, it is irreducible.

  227. bachfiendon 18 Apr 2017 at 4:30 pm

    Ian,

    You still haven’t answered the argument that the human brain is complex enough to produce the illusions that there’s high definition colour vision right out to the edge of the visual fields, that there’s a conscious mind with free will making all the decisions instead of most decisions being made by the unconscious mind for often subconscious reasons, objects have the qualia of being magneta (depending on illumination and the colour of other surrounding objects) and the brain is perfectly able to physically store an enormous amount of information in memory.

    Instead you’re insisting that there’s an immaterial ineffable something or another, relying an a novel unknown physics to make it somehow work, which does everything meaningful. Whereas, the brain does it all. It’s a perfectly adequate cause. And the simplest one too.

    The brain is the mind (both conscious and unconscious) and the mind is the brain. There’s no dualism. Both are the same thing. The brain is in the business of producing illusions. Very convincing illusions, but still illusions.

    You’ve fallen for one of the biggest illusions – that you’re somehow an unchanging immaterial ghost within your own body. And your ‘ghost’ is desperately trying to convince itself that it exists, that it’s not an illusion.

    Hercules Poirot claimed that he solved his cases using his little grey cells (which is reasonable enough – we know that brains contain little grey cells, billions and billions of them). How would you prove that your unchanging immaterial ghost in your own body actually exists and isn’t an illusion? Thinking about it, and coming up with ad hoc definitions which presuppose the conclusions you want to reach, don’t count. Illusions are very convincing, otherwise they wouldn’t be illusions.

  228. edamameon 18 Apr 2017 at 4:32 pm

    Ian: My experience of pain in my tooth causes me to wince and call the dentist. Brain state X (demonstrably) causes me to wince and call the dentist. Experience of pain and brain state X is correlated such that I experience tooth pain if and only if I am in state X. When we knock out brain state X with anesthesia, the pain goes away. If we cause brain state X, the pain emerges.

    What is the best explanation for this set of facts? That pain and X are different? I don’t see how you would get there. In particular the causal argument seems fairly decisive. Unless you are an epiphenomenalist (and I am not), then if we identify (using science) the neuronal states that instantiate those causal roles, then what reason do you have to say that the experiences are not realized/instantiated by the relevant neuronal states? Just as respiration is an extremely complex biological process that we have to discover via lots of science (even years after identifying what respiration is, in a coarse initial way), so consciousness will a posteriori end up being identified with an extremely complex biological process that evolved to help organisms get about in the world, to realize they need to do things like call dentists. Even though, before doing any science, grandma is happy to talk about her toothache while having zero knowledge of neuroscience.

    In your view of consciousness (which you still refuse to provide, instead just Quixotically trying to poke holes in others’ views), what role is left for consciousness once the neuroscience explain how we wince and call dentists? Because it is already doing it. You will end up mixing together consciousness and free will in an unholy binity that is clear as tar.

  229. Sophieon 18 Apr 2017 at 4:35 pm

    It’s really interesting to read this exchange. It seems that the majority of people just want to insult the offending party, are more interested in repeating themselves and some kind of one-upmanship.

    There is one voice out there that really engages with Ian and tries show him the way through patient discourse. Keep up the good work.

  230. bachfiendon 18 Apr 2017 at 4:46 pm

    Ian,

    “‘What is the wavelength of magneta?’ ‘I have absolutely no idea. Somewhere between the wavelengths of red and purple at a guess. Google it rather than relying upon me!'”.

    That’s an epic fail.

    The qualia of magneta is manufactured by the physical brain within the physical visual cortex by myriad neurons doing their job in physical ways. It’s an illusion manufactured by physical brains based on illumination, the colour of surrounding objects and past experience. It’s an illusion that’s often reliable or at least useful, but can be wrong.

    There are many colour illusions, including the recent ‘black and blue’ dress which appears ‘white and gold’ to other people. And vice versa. There’s a column in my local newspaper called ‘the Burning Question’ in which readers submit questions seeking answers. Someone once asked ‘why are veins blue’ – and the answer was; veins aren’t blue (it’s an illusion).

  231. Ian Wardellon 18 Apr 2017 at 5:19 pm

    @chikoppi

    No idea what relevance your first two paragraph have. Reality is intrinsically random . .so what . .

    You go on to say:

    “You are also conflating causation and determinism. To say that X was caused by Y is not the same as saying Y necessarily determines (results in) X. Y may also produce A, B, or C”.

    I never mention determinism; for a kick off I don’t understand what it means (and I’ve never heard anything to suggest anyone else understands what it means either).

    So if X is caused by Y, X might still not happen? In which case you don’t know what cause means. And what relevance has it that Y has a causal impact on other things?

    chikoppi
    “You are starting with (presuming) the system of “the clock.”

    This is just a meaningless word salad. I’m not starting with any system. I’m explaining what reductionism means…

    chikoppi
    “And yet those same “colossal number of particles” (and incumbent physical laws) are capable of producing a untold number of systems that have an untold number properties a tornado does not. The system itself matters and you don’t know the limit of properties or behaviors that can be produced by “physical” systems”.

    Yes, but this has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with my explanation that reductionism cannot achieve the *miraculous* i.e consciousness.

    chikoppi
    “Here’s a presupposition. In order for you to say that the physical state of the brain and the qualitative experiences of consciousness are “different in their properties” presumes two ontological entities”.

    As a preliminary, you don’t need to address *both* attempted materialist escapes. Either conscious is weakly emergent — so consciousness arises from brain processes in an akin manner to which a house weakly emerges from the brick that comprise it. Or it is literally the very same thing as either physical processes, or the functional role carried out by such processes.

    But anyway, if one discovers that planet A and planet B are different sizes, different appearance etc, one is not presuming the 2 planets are not one and the same. Rather it is a *conclusion* because they don’t share the same properties!

    Sorry, but I’m not going to waste my life with responses that do not actually address the *substance* of my arguments. I’m giving up on you lot. Materialists just seem mysteriously *incapable* of understanding the most elementary reasoning, at least when it comes to philosophy.

  232. Pete Aon 18 Apr 2017 at 5:24 pm

    [Ian Wardell] Pete A
    “If you are correct then you will be able to easily answer my repeated question to you: What is the wavelength of magenta?”

    I have absolutely no idea. Somewhere between the wavelengths of red and purple at a guess. Google it rather than relying upon me!

    The burden of proof (or sufficiency) for the claim “Thus a colour was *redefined* to refer to a certain wavelength of light that objects reflect.” falls entirely upon you, the claimant. I have repeatedly challenged you to provide evidence of this, and similar claims, made by you on this blog and on your blog. You are long overdue for providing evidence of your claims.

    Do you have robust evidence to show that:
    1. colours, such as magenta and brown, have a wavelength;
    2. 20th- and 21st-century science of colour claims that each colour refers to a certain wavelength of light that objects reflect?

    No, you most certainly do not. Everyone other than yourself who bothers to “Google” the answer to my repeated question to you, then looks at your answer “Somewhere between the wavelengths of red and purple at a guess.” will become adequately aware of your anti-science agenda and modus operandi.

  233. Ian Wardellon 18 Apr 2017 at 5:27 pm

    Sophie
    “There is one voice out there that really engages with Ian and tries show him the way through patient discourse. Keep up the good work”.

    I have no idea who you have in mind. But I assure you no one has said anything of the remotest relevance. There’s certainly no “good work” from any of them.

  234. edamameon 18 Apr 2017 at 5:46 pm

    Ian the problem is that the “substance” of your arguments amount to an insistence that people see that brains and experiences are just different, that they clearly have different properties. It is an intuition that you feel should overthrow our best thinking.

    Some other compelling intuitions:
    Clearly light goes faster than c when you turn on a flashlight and you are on a train. Space just has to be Euclidean. The idea of a square root of a negative number is preposterous: such numbers would be useless at best. Ontogeny cannot be explained in physicochemical terms, there must be an elan vital to explain the emergence of complex phenotypes. The sun is clearly moving around the Earth. Energy and mass are clearly fundamentally different properties.

    Oops. Everything in the previous paragraph is false. You seem unwilling or unable to entertain that your intuitions about matters far more complex than any of those issues is also false. When you see a red sunset, maybe that just is a really gorgeous beautiful complicated neuronal process unfolding as evolution has set it up to unfold. Nature experiencing itself. And you cannot bloody understand how it works–it is really mysterious to you right now. That doesn’t mean it’s magic, that doesn’t mean you need to invoke a vital force.

    “Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?” (Douglas Adams)

  235. Ian Wardellon 18 Apr 2017 at 5:46 pm

    OK, very last attempt, and then I’m finished. I’m not going to even look at the silly responses. But even if you guys understand nothing, perhaps some lurkers might.

    Materialists keep saying to me ‘how do you know that the brain won’t be able to explain consciousness?’ They keep saying to me ‘the brain is incredibly complex — the most complex object in the Universe, who knows what such complexity can produce!’ They keep saying to me “give science a chance, look what it has already achieved in the past 500 years!’ . . .blah blah blah…

    When I link to my relevant blog entries, they either don’t read them, or utterly lamentably fail to comprehend them.

    Here’s an analogy. Metal detectors are extraordinarily successful at detecting metal. And they keep getting better and better as they get more complex, detecting ever smaller pieces of metal further and further underground. But no matter how complex they might be, due to their nature and the way they are designed, they cannot detect plastic, or wood, or rubber, or indeed any other substance apart from metal.

    In a similar manner, the way that science is currently conceived, it can only deal with that which is measurable. However, consciousness isn’t measurable. My experience of blueness, hope, cramp, or what have you, cannot be measured (although the neural correlates, wavelength of blue etc *can* be). So science (as currently conceived) cannot in principle explain consciousness.

    Some materialists acknowledge this, and say that consciousness therefore must be *identical* to a physical process, or to the functional role those physical processes carry out. Or, alternatively, that consciousness doesn’t exist at all (is illusory). But that is like someone claiming that from the fact that metal detectors only detect metal, then this must mean that only metal exists. So plastic, rubber, wood objects are either really metal objects in disguise, or alternatively don’t exist at all! But they are simply failing to comprehend that it is *the very nature of metal detectors* that they can only detect metal. Likewise, *it is the very nature of science* (at least as currently conceived) that it can only detect the measurable — thus it cannot detect consciousness. In both scenarios we are using the incorrect tool.

    Clearly there is more to reality than metal. Equally clearly . .nay . . *even more clearly* . . is that there is more to reality than the measurable/quantifiable/material.

    Bye…

  236. Pete Aon 18 Apr 2017 at 5:48 pm

    Ian, Please provide a list of “good work” that you have provided to the world.

  237. bachfiendon 18 Apr 2017 at 6:15 pm

    ‘OK, very last attempt and then I’m finished. And I’m not going to even look at the silly responses (‘read my blog’ Ian Wardell)… Bye’.

    Good. That’s the last of the troll Ian Wardell on this website with his inane unconvincing arguments. We can now return to reality.

  238. Pete Aon 18 Apr 2017 at 6:28 pm

    Ian Wardell,

    OK, very last attempt, and then I’m finished. I’m not going to even look at the silly responses. But even if you guys understand nothing, perhaps some lurkers might.

    Perhaps some of the lurkers might begin to understand the true depth of your absurdity. My repeated question to you over the years was: What is the wavelength of magenta? To which you have, at last, decided to answer with:

    “Somewhere between the wavelengths of red and purple at a guess. Google it rather than relying upon me!”

  239. edamameon 18 Apr 2017 at 6:44 pm

    Ian that’s a question-begging analogy. I would say your anesthesiologist during surgery does measure consciousness, and does so at least as directly as a metal detector measures the presence of metal (my point being, there is inference implicitly involved even in the use of metal detectors it isn’t some direct revelation of metal-ness)!

  240. chikoppion 18 Apr 2017 at 6:52 pm

    [Ian Wardell] In a similar manner, the way that science is currently conceived, it can only deal with that which is measurable. However, consciousness isn’t measurable. My experience of blueness, hope, cramp, or what have you, cannot be measured (although the neural correlates, wavelength of blue etc *can* be). So science (as currently conceived) cannot in principle explain consciousness.

    But Ian, it is measurable. You just referenced your experience of various concepts and perceptions. You are subjectively aware of these things – which at the very least is a binary measurement.

    Your argument ASSUMES a subjective consciousness as a premise and is THEREFORE non-reducible. This is the point of my earlier post. You BEGIN by citing a subjective frame of reference, which presupposes and necessitates a system that possesses the property of consciousness in order to have that frame of reference.

    Of course the subjective frame of reference cannot be observed from any other frame of reference.

    Of course the subjective frame of reference is non-reducible. To reduce it would be to eliminate it.

    Neither of these facts necessitate that consciousness is not the property of a physical system acting in accordance to physical laws. Whether or not “science” can ever explain it is irrelevant.

  241. edamameon 18 Apr 2017 at 7:13 pm

    chikoppi I think you are twisted in a misunderstanding of reduction–reducing something is not to eliminate it. We reduce lightning to electrostatic discharge, but that doesn’t mean lightning is eliminated. It is just explained and understood. Genes are stretches of DNA: that doesn’t mean genes don’t exist. It just means we understand them now.

    Subjectivity itself is a brain process, so can actually be observed and measured and poked and prodded. You cannot have the experience by observing it, but so what? You don’t photosynthesize when you study photosynthesis either. You don’t expect to take on the properties of the thing you are studying: I don’t’ expect to have the experience of the brain I’m studying. That doesn’t’ mean the brain isn’t the thing experiencing. Not sure why this is easy to see with respiration, photosynthesis, etc, but with consciousness people seem to want to have an experience when they study brains. Why would anyone expect this?

    So, subjectivity is real, and a brain process. It’s not eliminated.

  242. edamameon 18 Apr 2017 at 7:15 pm

    Elimination examples would be phlogiston, aether, vital force, etc.. Those things were not reduced, they were eliminated, not useful, jettisoned. Reduced things are kept in our ontology (genes, lightning, tornadoes, whatever).

  243. edamameon 18 Apr 2017 at 7:25 pm

    Every Ian thread:

    “You people ignore what I have written, and continue to just say whatever you want. You suck!”

    [Insert a bunch of responses to specific claims here]

    “I’m going to ignore what you have written, and continue to just say whatever I want.”

    [Some other victim comes and replies, in good faith.]

    “You people ignore what I have written, and continue to just say whatever you want. You suck!”

    [Repeat.]

  244. chikoppion 18 Apr 2017 at 7:37 pm

    @edamame

    [edamame] chikoppi I think you are twisted in a misunderstanding of reduction–reducing something is not to eliminate it. We reduce lightning to electrostatic discharge, but that doesn’t mean lightning is eliminated. It is just explained and understood. Genes are stretches of DNA: that doesn’t mean genes don’t exist. It just means we understand them now.

    Sorry…language.

    I mean that because the subjective frame of reference is presented as a necessary premise of the argument we are a priori barred from discussing the phenomena of consciousness from a perspective that doesn’t include it. It is a presupposed rhetorical condition.

    I agree that the brain can be objectively examined. But the objective frame of reference is qualitatively different than the subjective. Your point and mine are, I think, the same. The fact that different observations are only available from different perspectives doesn’t mean that the observers aren’t experiencing the same object.

  245. chikoppion 18 Apr 2017 at 9:27 pm

    Actually, it occurs to me there is a much easier way to make my point. To paraphrase…

    Step 1: define “consciousness” as that which is observable only from the subjective perspective.
    Step 2: define “physicalism” as only that which is observable from an objective (exterior) perspective.
    Step 3: conclude that “consciousness” does not fall within the set of “physicalism.”

    Since matter and energy ARE within the set of “physicalism” and “consciousness” is not,

    Step 4: conclude that “consciousness” cannot be a property of a physical system.

    Did I get that about right?

  246. edamameon 18 Apr 2017 at 10:31 pm

    chikoppi that sounds like you are rephrasing Ian’s argument for dualism, so I can’t go there with you. I think that subjective consciousness is a property of a physical system (our brains).

  247. BillyJoe7on 19 Apr 2017 at 12:42 am

    edamame, that’s exactly what chikoppi is doing – rephrasing Ian’s argument to make clear that it is just a bit of circular reasoning. He is with you on this, just stating it differently.

  248. Ian Wardellon 19 Apr 2017 at 7:03 am

    I’ll make one last post since I do think progress is being made here. I certainly wouldn’t put it like chikoppi, but I think he’s got it essentially right.

    1. Consciousness is what a conscious being has, and no other conscious being has access to his/her consciousness. So no one can ever directly experience my thoughts, feelings etc. He can only observe my bodily behaviour, brain processes etc and infer my conscious states.

    2. *Materialism* (not physicalism*) deals exclusively with the measurable, quantifiable aspects of reality.

    3. Hence, *by definition*, consciousness so conceived is not material.

    So all this endless banging on about evidence should be seen to be a complete irrelevance.

    The only way to rescue materialism is to either:

    a) Deny that consciousness exists.
    b) Or assert that consciousness is other than what it *seems* to be.

    But I know that I am conscious as I am immediately acquainted with my own consciousness. And it is nonsensical to suppose consciousness could be other than what it seems to be. The seeming just *is* consciousness.

    * Not physicalism since, as I’ve said, I think a radically new physical theory about the world can incorporate consciousness. But it has to acknowledge consciousness as a reality in its own right. That consciousness exists and is what it seems to be.

  249. BillyJoe7on 19 Apr 2017 at 8:12 am

    Ian,

    I’ll rephrase that…

    (a) Deny that consciousness exists; or
    (b) Deny that consciousness is what it intuitively *seems* to be.

    Or, to conflate the two statements:

    (a) plus (b) Deny that consciousness-as-it-intuitively-*seems*-to-be exists.

    Which science (methodological naturalism) has shown to be the case. Although science has not shown exactly what consciousness is, it has definitely shown that consciousness is not what it intuitively seems to be. And, in doing so, science has been chipping away at the mystery of consciousness. The ground is falling away from your feet as you speak.

    We are the siblings of the sun
    Let’s step into this beam
    Every time you give up
    You take away our future

  250. bachfiendon 19 Apr 2017 at 8:45 am

    ‘OK, very last attempt, and then I’m finished. And I’m not going to even look at the silly responses… Bye’ (Ian Wardell announcing he’s not commenting again).

    Eleven hours later ‘I’ll make one last post since I do think progress is being made here’ breaking his promise not to look at ‘the silly responses’ (or perhaps he got his carer to read it to him, so he didn’t actually look at the screen), excited apparently by chikoppi simplifying his ‘argument’ to make it obvious that Ian’s argument is actually based on circular reasoning. Assuming his conclusion in advance.

  251. edamameon 19 Apr 2017 at 8:56 am

    lol I knew we would draw him out.

    Ian we can measure your consciousness that doesn’t mean we will have the experience ourselves, any more than I will photosynthesize when I measure the process of photosynthesis. This is a common dualist confusion among those who haven’t fully thought through the biological point of view. You are systematically conflating methodological pluralism (which I am fine with) with ontological dualism (which doesn’t follow).

    Every measurement is indirect. Metal detectors don’t measure ‘Metalness in itself’. lol And they certainly don’t turn you into a chunk of metal.

    Finally, Ian, conforming to the pattern above (derailing people ignoring your writings, while never dealing with counterarguments yourself), never dealt with my causality argument above and unless you do, it flows. Either consciousness is epiphenomenal, or consciousness is a brain state. Take your pick.

  252. Ian Wardellon 19 Apr 2017 at 8:59 am

    @bachfiend

    You clearly don’t understand what circular reasoning means.

    @BillyJoe7

    The word “intuition” is inappropriate. Consciousness is *immediately* given. If I experience cramp, it is not an intuition, but a simple reality. A reality that materialism *by definition* cannot accommodate.

  253. Ian Wardellon 19 Apr 2017 at 9:10 am

    edamame
    “lol I knew we would draw him out”.

    I responded again purely because of chikoppi’s post as he made a worthy attempt to understand my position. I didn’t respond again to posts calling me a crackpot, troll, and other names.

    Consciousness cannot be measured since in the broadest sense it consists of qualia and intentionality.

    Metal detectors can detect metal. Science (as currently conceived) cannot detect consciousness.

  254. chikoppion 19 Apr 2017 at 9:21 am

    [Ian Wardell] I’ll make one last post since I do think progress is being made here. I certainly wouldn’t put it like chikoppi, but I think he’s got t essentially right.

    You understand that I was demonstrating that it is nothing more than circular argument. The “proof” is merely in the naive definition of terms.

    A is that which is not B
    B is that which is not A

    Ta da!

  255. Ian Wardellon 19 Apr 2017 at 9:49 am

    @chikoppi

    I’ve committed no logical fallacy. I’m simply stating that given the existence of consciousness, then materialism is *necessarily* false. It necessarily follows from what consciousness refers to (not any materialist’s redefinition), and from what materialism means (as defined after the birth of modern science in the 17th century)

    Labelling that a “circular argument” does absolutely nothing to negate this fact.

    The only way for the materialist to escape is to suppose consciousness doesn’t exist i.e that we are all p-zombies (consciousless automatons) like Dennett believes.

    So if you’ve also decided to make asinine posts too, then this really will be my last post.

  256. Ian Wardellon 19 Apr 2017 at 10:22 am

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circular_reasoning

    It’s only circular reasoning if one attempts to demonstrate more than which is implicit in the premises. But I’m not doing that since I’m saying *it follows by definition* that given what consciousness refers to, and what materialism means, that materialism cannot be correct.

    So you have to disagree with either what I understand consciousness to be, or what materialism means.

  257. Pete Aon 19 Apr 2017 at 10:25 am

    My camera has various controls to change its colour rendition of the scene: amber-blue bias [white balance]; green-magenta bias [tint]; colour intensity [saturation]; brightness; contrast; sharpness; and colour noise reduction.

    [Ian Wardell] Consciousness and all qualitative aspects of reality (colour, sounds etc *as perceived*) cannot be derived from the quantitative aspects of reality.

    Amber, blue, green, magenta, et al., hence colour intensity and colour noise, do not exist in the physical world; they exist only in the conscious mind of each observer in the form of qualia.

    Therefore, my camera has a conscious mind that is fully capable of experiencing then manipulating not only its qualia, but also manipulating the qualia of those who view its images.

    If you doubt the above then the undeniable proof is provided by setting each of its manual controls to automatic mode.

  258. edamameon 19 Apr 2017 at 10:41 am

    “Science (as currently conceived) cannot detect consciousness.”

    Tell that to your anesthesiologist next time you are about to go under. Go ahead and roll the dice. “Please turn off the EEG. Yes I realize the risk of death, or of anesthesia awareness is much higher when you don’t monitor my state of consciousness using EEG, but haven’t you read my web site you dolt what you are doing is impossible?

    Also, please research how metal detectors work, and then get back to us. You have inadvertently picked a wonderful analogy that makes the opposite point that you wished to make.

  259. Pete Aon 19 Apr 2017 at 11:11 am

    [Ian Wardell] So you have to disagree with either what I understand consciousness to be, or what materialism means.

    QUOTE [http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/False_dichotomy, retrieved 2017-04-19 15:08 UTC.]
    A false dilemma (also known as a false dichotomy) is a logical fallacy which involves presenting two opposing views, options or outcomes in such a way that they seem to be the only possibilities: that is, if one is true, the other must be false, or, more typically, if you do not accept one then the other must be accepted. The reality in most cases is that there are many in-between or other alternative options, not just two mutually exclusive ones.

    In other words, there are two ways in which one can commit a false dilemma. First, one can assume that there are only two (or three, though in that case it is, strictly speaking, a “false trilemma”) options when there really are many more. Second, one can take the options to be mutually exclusive when they really are not.

    The fallacy is a syllogistic fallacy and a formal fallacy.

  260. chikoppion 19 Apr 2017 at 11:15 am

    [Ian Wardell] I’ve committed no logical fallacy. I’m simply stating that given the existence of consciousness, then materialism is *necessarily* false. It necessarily follows from what consciousness refers to (not any materialist’s redefinition), and from what materialism means (as defined after the birth of modern science in the 17th century)

    First, let’s not return to archaic terminology. The question is whether consciousness must be, as you assert, a fundamental entity that is not the emergent property of a system nor detectable by interaction with any of the known forces (as would be inconsistent with physicalism).

    Two observers. One in distant space and one on the surface of a planet. Both can measure the trajectory of objects in space, the relative density of the stars, the wobble (barycenter) of solar systems as a whole. In other words, both can objectively figure out the relative mass and gravitational fields of the objects they observe.

    Only the observer on the planet can feel the effects of the planet’s gravity (has weight). Only the observer on the planet is subject to the resulting relativistic time dilation of the planet’s gravitational field (the two observers actually experience time at different relativistic rates).

    Are they necessarily observing different objects?

    [Ian Wardell] So if you’ve also decided to make asinine posts too, then this really will be my last post.

    After the amount of time and deference I’ve shown you thus far, is that really the posture you want to strike?

  261. chikoppion 19 Apr 2017 at 11:18 am

    Crap. Blockquote faux-pas. The last paragraph was not a quote.

  262. Sophieon 19 Apr 2017 at 11:24 am

    Ian has repeatedly said he’s done only to come back for more,
    Chikoppi tried to patiently explain it,
    Pete A talks to himself about magenta,
    Ian ‘no, you hang up!’

    A wise philosopher once said:

    It’s time to see what I can do
    To test the limits and break through
    No right, no wrong, no rules for me,
    I’m free!
    Let it go, let it go
    I am one with the wind and sky
    Let it go, let it go
    You’ll never see me cry
    Here I stand
    And here I’ll stay
    Let the storm rage on.

    Chikoppi gets gold. Then silver goes to edamame, bronze to bachfiend. Billyjoe and Pete A do not metal, and were disqualified for spending too much time talking to themselves in the mirror.

  263. Sophieon 19 Apr 2017 at 11:37 am

    Ian has showed himself to be impervious to our logic. He’s clearly very intelligent, and has talked himself into this position.

    Maybe we should ask him how he would devise an experiment that could potentially disprove his argument?

    Ian if you did devise such an experiment and it showed a negative result, would you drop your position on consciousness?

    What type of evidence and arguments would you find convincing?

  264. Ian Wardellon 19 Apr 2017 at 11:40 am

    @Sophie

    I’m the only one who completed the race. So I should get gold.

    @chikoppi, can you get to the point? This is obscure as the wavelength of magenta (which apparently doesn’t exist and therefore somehow mysteriously proves materialism!).

  265. Pete Aon 19 Apr 2017 at 11:42 am

    While Sophie and Ian proudly demonstrate their dire lack of understanding of the electromagnetic spectrum, colour theory, and mirrors 🙂

  266. Sophieon 19 Apr 2017 at 11:42 am

    Ian,
    What would it take to show you that your position on conciousness is incorrect? See my other comment

  267. Ian Wardellon 19 Apr 2017 at 11:47 am

    How do you do the quotes and stuff by the way? I can’t experiment on here as no preview or editing.

  268. Ian Wardellon 19 Apr 2017 at 11:49 am

    @sophie,

    Absolutely nothing would. My position on consciousness cannot possibly be incorrect since materialism *by definition* is incompatible with consciousness.

  269. Sophieon 19 Apr 2017 at 11:52 am

    But they explained to you that modern materialism(physicalism), not 17th century materialism, does allow for consciousness.

    Also please devise an experiment to test your theory. Even a thought experiment with hypothetical technology.

  270. Ian Wardellon 19 Apr 2017 at 11:54 am

    You would need to either change what is understood by consciousness, or change what is understood by materialism. Materialists normally opt for the former. So, for example, they often *equate* consciousness with the functions carried out by physical processes in the brain.

  271. Sophieon 19 Apr 2017 at 11:58 am

    So what I’m hearing is, absolutely nothing can convince you that you are mistaken and that you can’t devise a thought experiment to test your theory. This is problematic.

  272. Ian Wardellon 19 Apr 2017 at 12:02 pm

    What would convince you that 2+2 = 4 is mistaken? What would falsify it? What experiment could show that it is false?

  273. Sophieon 19 Apr 2017 at 12:09 pm

    Numbers are pure mathematical language invented by ppl, they are abstract and a construct. 2+2 = 4 is not the same as a conversation about the fundamental nature of consciousness. One is about mathematical logic and the other is about science and observation.

    Sorry to say, but with all due respect this is yet another false analogy in a long history of 250+ comments where you make quite a few of them.

    Let’s stay on topic.

    Devise an experiment here in these comments. It can be hypothetical with technology that doesn’t exist yet. Show me how your theory about the nature of consciousness could be tested.

  274. chikoppion 19 Apr 2017 at 12:14 pm

    [Ian Wardell] @chikoppi, can you get to the point? This is obscure as the wavelength of magenta (which apparently doesn’t exist and therefore somehow mysteriously proves materialism!).

    1. Consciousness is what a conscious being has, and no other conscious being has access to his/her consciousness. So no one can ever directly experience my thoughts, feelings etc. He can only observe my bodily behaviour, brain processes etc and infer my conscious states.

    2. *Materialism* (not physicalism*) deals exclusively with the measurable, quantifiable aspects of reality.

    You are defining frame of reference.

    My Planet is that which has properties that I experience (from my frame of reference on the planet). Therefore, if you observe a planet and do not experience what I do it we must necessarily be observing different objects.”

    Re: Quotes

    <blockquote> quoted text </blockquote>

  275. Pete Aon 19 Apr 2017 at 12:16 pm

    Ian,

    The very fact that you do not begin to understand, and you wilfully reject, optical physics is your problem — it is not a problem that optical physics needs to address; cognitive science long-ago addressed your problem!

    Your pathetic level of understanding of the branches of science which you decry is utterly disgraceful. You have absolutely no excuse — unless you have been, since your early childhood and still are, totally prohibited from playing with crayons, paints, and inks.

    All of your claims regarding consciousness and materialism that mention the words “colour” and “wavelength” are totally blown out of the water by the huge success of CMYK printing!

    Your ineptitude, combined with your abject refusal to update your opinions and your blog, provides nothing other than an endless source of amusement.

  276. edamameon 19 Apr 2017 at 12:37 pm

    What would convince you that 2+2 = 4 is mistaken?

    If we were on a circular coordinate system (a clock) that went from 1-2-3 back to 1, then 2+2 = 1.

    Imaginary numbers were thought to be nonsense.

    Listen, you are assuming dualism is true by definition. Just admit that, and go ahead and see what you can do based on that. You can build an elaborate construction, a beautiful glass castle on that assumption. See how far it gets you.

    But do you really expect people at this blog to just let it slide? Or to take that project seriously? I encourage you to seriously think about what you are doing. What is your goal here? Is this the first place where people have actually listened to you or responded? You have obviously put a lot of time in at your blog. But if you expect sympathetic readers here, you won’t get it.

    It’s like if I went to a strictly Catholic blog and expect people to just go along with me when I say it is a conceptual truth that Christianity is false because the trinity is a contradiction, but I refuse to argue that point because it is obvious. Everyone who disagrees with that is an idiot. You might as well tell me that 1+1=3. Oh, and here’s this whole cathedral I built based on that assumption, that you are an idiot if you don’t believe.

    Would that be the best use of my time? Would I be reasonable to expect them to go along with me and play nice? Maybe I should go play somewhere else, no? Or maybe a better use of my time there would be to not be such a dogmatic ass about my assumption, and to use it as an opportunity to actually argue what is in fact an extremely complicated point, that the trinity is a logical contradiction. And maybe I could instead be charitable and realize that people there might actually know a little bit about the topic that the blog is devoted to.

    Or I could just be a troll.

  277. Ian Wardellon 19 Apr 2017 at 12:38 pm

    Thank Heavens for the crackpots!

    https://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/apr/19/clockmaker-john-harrison-vindicated-250-years-absurd-claims?CMP=fb_gu

  278. Ian Wardellon 19 Apr 2017 at 12:45 pm

    Pete, I do update my blog. See for example my blog entry on self-driving cars that I originally posted 3 years ago:

    http://ian-wardell.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/self-driving-cars.html

  279. Ian Wardellon 19 Apr 2017 at 12:57 pm

    edamame:

    “Listen, you are assuming dualism is true by definition. Just admit that, and go ahead and see what you can do based on that”.

    No, I’m coming from the position that consciousness is what it seems. That entails the falsity of reductive materialism. That leaves open not just all the varieties of dualism, but also all the varieties of idealism, maybe even non-reductive materialism etc. I am probably mostly sympathetic to some form of idealism . .but I don’t know.

    What is your goal here? Is this the first place where people have actually listened to you or responded?

    I don’t know really. I’m driven by subliminal mental processes.

  280. Pete Aon 19 Apr 2017 at 1:00 pm

    [edamame to Ian Wardell] Listen, you are assuming dualism is true by definition. Just admit that, and go ahead and see what you can do based on that. You can build an elaborate construction, a beautiful glass castle on that assumption. See how far it gets you.

    Yes indeed. How many of Ian’s ramblings have been incorporated into the forthcoming James Webb Space Telescope: a telescope that has been specifically designed to render colour images of the early stages of our universe. [Rhetorical question because Ian writes nothing other than fallacy-based rhetoric.]

  281. Sophieon 19 Apr 2017 at 1:42 pm

    Ian Wardell,

    I’m willing to work with you, let’s design an experiment to test your ideas about consciousness. Give me some hypotheses, and I’ll make a thought experiment.

  282. Pete Aon 19 Apr 2017 at 1:50 pm

    [Ian Wardell] Pete, I do update my blog. See for example my blog entry on self-driving cars that I originally posted 3 years ago:

    Great! Let us know when you have updated your blog such that it clearly demonstrates that you have finally rejected all of your asinine attempts to discredit science via creating straw-man effigies of 21st-century science.

    The title of the article on which you are commenting is: New Study on Long Term Memory. I am interested to learn by which yet-to-be-discovered mechanism(s) you propose that external-to-the-brain long-term memory can communicate with (physically interact with) the brain. Such a mechanism would seem to require that information can travel orders of magnitude beyond the speed of light; it would need to overcome the inverse square law; it would need to overcome the errors that result from all systems which have a less than infinite signal-to-noise ratio; it would need to overcome the problem that updating the state of our memory requires the transfer of energy from our sensors to our brain, and a further transfer of energy from our brain to our memory.

    Please do not attempt to invoke quantum mechanics in your explanation(s) because you will make a mockery of only yourself: not least due to the well established effects of gravitational time dilation; and well established information theory.

  283. Sophieon 19 Apr 2017 at 2:34 pm

    Ian,
    When you get challenged on the details you fall back to a ’17th century definition of materialism’ — your words.

    But you’ve also allowed for the possibility of consciousness to be equivalent to a soul and to exist after death. You’ve also allowed dualism to enter the conversation.

    If we were to devise an experiment to test your theories, how would we define a negative result? Or a positive result? Are there any experiments that you find promising or encouraging to your ideas about conciousness? How about researchers?

  284. bachfiendon 19 Apr 2017 at 4:13 pm

    Golly, 12 comments from Ian Wardell after he’d announced he was finishing and wasn’t even going to look at further responses to his nonsensical metaphysics.

    I hope he never announces that he’s going to comment more frequently. He’d take the title of the most persistent Internet troll on this blog away from hardnose.

    Actually, I wonder what has happened to hardnose? I think his last comment was a perfect and extremely sensible response to Ian Wardell. Did it surprise him so much that he decided to depart on a high?

  285. edamameon 19 Apr 2017 at 4:32 pm

    hardnose dropped the mic

  286. Sophieon 19 Apr 2017 at 4:42 pm

    We imported hardnose into the discussion about Alex Jones. He actually said some suprisingly cogent things.

  287. BillyJoe7on 20 Apr 2017 at 12:48 am

    Ian,

    “The only way for the materialist to escape is to suppose consciousness doesn’t exist i.e that we are all p-zombies (consciousless automatons) like Dennett believes”

    Stop lying.
    You have been informed about your misinformation about Dennett’s views.
    You are now simply lying.

    Sophie,

    Thanks for the award.
    In turn, may I offer you the gold award for naivety
    …for believing Ian will respond to you in good faith!

  288. RickKon 20 Apr 2017 at 5:40 am

    Ian said: “Absolutely nothing would. My position on consciousness cannot possibly be incorrect since materialism *by definition* is incompatible with consciousness.”

    And there it is: the clear confirmation in Ian’s own words that he is a crank. “My theory can’t be tested and can’t be wrong.”

    Ian, you must see that, no? You use television a a simile for consciousness on your blog. A television’s reception can be tested – the receiver isolated, the signal found and tested, etc. How can your similes be testable but your theory untestable? Are they invalid similes?

    If your ideas about consciousness are real and valid, they can be tested. If there’s no test, no possible falsification, then they’re not scientific or meaningful.

    So it’s your choice – engage with Sophie and devise some means of falsification like a proper skeptical scientist, or admit that you are just the John A Davison of consciousness theory.

  289. Nidwinon 16 Jun 2017 at 7:10 am

    @Dr Steven Novella

    “It is also clear that memory function in the brain is complex – a network of different functions working together. Our current models are almost certainly too simplistic to capture what is really going on, and again it is therefore not surprising that new research methods will show this to be true.”

    Or we could be overthinking, leading us to an Occam’s razor situation while the answer(s) are less complex.

    I do have issues reconciliating certain aspects with the current available knowledge of how or brain works from a personal point of view but anway, as an IT dude I’m no expert in the human brain field.

    I did have a short discussion some time ago with a close friend about the question “do we truly remember things or do we partially (r)experience something that has happened in the past”.

    It’s a “feeling” and I’ve no evidence to back up anything. I although, probably only me, can’t just remember something without it being a unique new experience.
    I’ve started to wonder if it’s just tags/pointers/… that are getting stored in our memory and that our brain uses those, not to make us remember, but to make use experience it again.

    Just a though of course and thanks for the good job around here.

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