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« Episode LV: Did you expect me to listen to John Denver on my flight home? | Main | Happy Mothers' Day! »

You must all find this funny under penalty of excommunication

Category: Humor
Posted on: May 9, 2010 11:00 AM, by PZ Myers

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Comments

#1

Posted by: Sven DiMilo Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 12:12 PM

Once again Dawkins falls back on sophomoric parody humo(u)r for the cheap laugh whilest he cynically evades the entire subject of how fuckin magnets work.

#2

Posted by: Sven DiMilo Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 12:15 PM

strikethrough visibility fail

#3

Posted by: Glen Davidson Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 12:18 PM

Oh, it's cute, especially that last part.

The part about geography and religion, well, it ignores how much kings and others shaped religious belief because they knew how important it was to culture and to nationalism as a force.

I suppose to the naively devout it could be shocking--although Dawkins certainly overplayed his hand by acting like "all" in a region believe in a certain way. But from popes, to Machiavelli, to kings, the politics of religion were never far from their minds.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

#4

Posted by: NotStradamus Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 12:19 PM

Sven,
I gain great personal comfort in the knowledge that magnets are the work of Leprechauns.

I defy anyone to prove that Leprechauns are not responsible for the strange and magical workings of magnetic substances.

#5

Posted by: Knockgoats Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 12:19 PM

Phew! I escape excommunication.

#6

Posted by: blf Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 12:19 PM

We all know it was a Fatwa issued by the IRS that killed the dinosaurs! Just ask Dr “Dino” Hovind…

#7

Posted by: NotStradamus Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 12:23 PM

My fundie sister asked me point blank if scientists from different countries were given the same evidence would they reach the same conclusion.

I think she was surprised by my answer. I think she really expected that German scientists would somehow disagree with Russian or American scientists. Projection seems to be a common problem with the religious.

#8

Posted by: Knockgoats Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 12:24 PM

Cue AGW denialists ranting about how the climate science establishment has issued fatwas against them in 3, 2, 1...

#9

Posted by: ursa major Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 12:24 PM

It is a good day - I have avoided excommunication for another 24 hours.

#10

Posted by: Standard Curve Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 12:33 PM

Apparently, owing to a recent relocation, I am no longer a Catholic atheist, and am now a Protestant atheist.

Sigh, if only I was an employed atheist.

#11

Posted by: ERV Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 12:41 PM

If Im ever the President of the National Academy of Sciences, I will be issuing fatwas.

#12

Posted by: Noir The Sable Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 12:47 PM

@#4 - NotStradamus,

I suppose this would be an apt time to point out that has come to me in a personal scientific revelation that magnets are not manipulated by Leprechauns, but rather by invisible faeries waving tiny wands of silver. This was revealed to me through Thales of Miletus (PBUH), whose spirit visits me every Saturday for afternoon tea and gyros.

In all seriousness, great find PZ! It is made of win, hilarity, and bananas.

#13

Posted by: Orac Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 12:49 PM

Guess I'm excommunicated, because, well, it just wasn't that funny.

#14

Posted by: blf Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 12:55 PM

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#15

Posted by: Aratina Cage Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 12:58 PM

B-b-but, dinosaurs are not dead. They live among us!

#16

Posted by: Dr. I. Needtob Athe Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 12:58 PM

It doesn't matter whether it was funny or not. It's a damned good argument.

#17

Posted by: chgo_liz Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 1:08 PM

I sense a holding of breath in the audience in the beginning, until the plot becomes clear.

#18

Posted by: https://me.yahoo.com/a/0M8eMSZqzYnSewcHi3Z1cosY8g--#2c24c Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 1:28 PM

The genius is strong in this one.

I love how Dawkins takes these rather blatant comparisons and makes one think... Why yes, why is that?

#19

Posted by: SaintStephen Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 1:28 PM

Professor Hallux's paper was brilliant.

#20

Posted by: Hairy Doctor Professor Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 1:31 PM

15: B-b-but, dinosaurs are not dead. They live among us!

And, they taste just like chicken!

#21

Posted by: NewEnglandBob Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 1:51 PM

I tried to BBQ dinosaur once but my spit was not strong enough.

#22

Posted by: Owlmirror Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 1:51 PM

B-b-but, dinosaurs are not dead. They live among us!

Well, they do. And they make quite a racket, and some crap all over everything.

Who thought it was a good idea to make flying dinosaurs, anyway? There'll be a fatwa out against whoever it was, mark my words.

#23

Posted by: danlwarren Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 1:57 PM

There are some very strong geographic trends in some particular scientific beliefs, contrary to what Dawkins is implying here. One example is the use of parsimony versus model-based methods in phylogeny reconstruction - while I think a majority of people are comfortable with using models these days, there are clusters of holdouts in some institutions that fundamentally distrust models for philosophical reasons. Each school of thought tends to preferentially hire new faculty that agree with their viewpoint, and train their grad students the same way. Because of that, if you were to map the institution of origin of model-based phylogenetic papers and parsimony papers, I'd bet that you'd see some very strong geographic trends. I'd also bet that that's just one example of many.

#24

Posted by: Draken Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 1:58 PM

evades the entire subject of how fuckin magnets work.

What's a fuckin magnet? The popular girl in high school all boys'd like to hump?

#25

Posted by: Abdul Alhazred Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 2:04 PM

Something about climate change?

#26

Posted by: eeanm Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 2:50 PM

@23: yea, and Krugman is always talking about "Fresh water" economists vs. "salt water" economists.

But Dawnkins' point is "consciousness-raising", so the main idea is that religion is a belief and not something that defines a region or a person.

#27

Posted by: David Marjanović Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 2:57 PM

Comment 8 predicted comment 25! Congratulations, Mad Monk, on not paying attention. Your madness seems to be getting in the way. :-)

The genius is strong in this one.

I love how Dawkins takes these rather blatant comparisons and makes one think... Why yes, why is that?

Repeated for truth.

There are some very strong geographic trends in some particular scientific beliefs, contrary to what Dawkins is implying here.

This has become very rare in the last few decades, simply because of improved communication. The days of a Stockholm School on the origin of limbed vertebrates, for instance, are over.

#28

Posted by: Abdul Alhazred Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 3:03 PM

If the warmerists would only stop acting like Stalinists ...

#29

Posted by: Owlmirror Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 3:08 PM

If the denialists would only stop acting like crazy people ...

#30

Posted by: Abdul Alhazred Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 3:15 PM

Lysenko was a scientist, too.

The problem isn't science, it's totalitarians corrupting science.

Because they want something bad enough.

#31

Posted by: David Marjanović Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 3:19 PM

Yeah. Like the denialists wanting badly enough that all the extra CO2 should miraculously have no effect on the global average temperature.

Come on. Quit this game and put some evidence on the table. (Preferably in the Endless Thread.)

#32

Posted by: Abdul Alhazred Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 3:24 PM

It's not exactly like religion in all respects, but particularly in those respects (other than the fatwa) mentioned in the film clip.

#33

Posted by: raven Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 3:43 PM

Abdul Alhazred the wacko troll is way too obviously trying to derail the thread with his obsessions.

Get a life, moron.

#34

Posted by: Abdul Alhazred Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 3:54 PM

Name calling?

You people are hypocrites.

#35

Posted by: Abdul Alhazred Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 3:57 PM

Why is your "science" different in India and China?

#36

Posted by: blf Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 4:11 PM

Why is your "science" different in India and China?

Huh?

#37

Posted by: Owlmirror Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 4:15 PM

Lysenko was a genetics denialist and a crazy person.

QED

#38

Posted by: Weed Monkey Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 4:26 PM

#35 Abdul Alhazred, you bring shame to a great fictional character's name. Please, specificly give an example of how science would be different in India and China.

#39

Posted by: david.utidjian Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 4:36 PM

ERV @ 11: Ya got my vote! :)

Owlmirror @ 37: That is funny on top of the funny, so I laughed again. I guess that means that I am double-un-excommunicated (or something.)

-DU-

#40

Posted by: Abdul Alhazred Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 4:43 PM

Well of course science isn't different in India and China.

All I mean is the warmerists have subordinated science to political apologetics, and China and India aren't playing.

#41

Posted by: Abdul Alhazred Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 4:48 PM

You call me crazy, but I call you dishonest.

The whole meme about people being "denialist" is dishonest. It's a buzz word to sidestep honest debate.

Like "infidel".

Well I can't hang around here all day.

Enjoy your cult.

#42

Posted by: Owlmirror Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 5:05 PM

All I mean is the warmerists have subordinated science to political apologetics, and China and India aren't playing.

What was that above about totalitarians corrupting science because they want something bad enough?

The whole meme about people being "denialist" is dishonest. It's a buzz word to sidestep honest debate.

Denialists are incapable of honest debate.

Like "infidel".

Disbelieving evidence isn't being an infidel; it's being a denialist.

Well I can't hang around here all day.

And yet, you keep returning...

Enjoy your cult.

No, you enjoy your cult -- of denial.

#43

Posted by: Weed Monkey Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 5:09 PM

#41: Well you call yourself "the Mad Arab", so...

And obviously, anyone who denies overwhelming scientific evidence deserves to be called a denialist.

Enjoy your cult.
Likewise.

#44

Posted by: Rutee, Shrieking Harpy of Dooooom Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 5:11 PM

Alright, Abdul. You want honest debate?

Both of you produce your evidence for your positions.

#45

Posted by: edward.ulrich Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 5:24 PM

It’s an old argument. Rather than concluding that the fact that many different religions exist shows that they all must be wrong, perhaps it shows that they all have aspects that are accurate. For you to be alive and self-aware is a supernatural experience, and we all see evidence of similar supernatural beings being alive around us, so since such consciousness it "scientifically" proven to be able to exist in the Universe, than it is possible that larger "fractals" of it can exist. See http://www.openmindedrealism.com/.

#46

Posted by: Owlmirror Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 5:36 PM

Rather than concluding that the fact that many different religions exist shows that they all must be wrong, perhaps it shows that they all have aspects that are accurate.

Nope.

For you to be alive and self-aware is a supernatural experience

Nope.

and we all see evidence of similar supernatural beings being alive around us

Nope.

so since such consciousness it "scientifically" proven to be able to exist in the Universe, than it is possible that larger "fractals" of it can exist.

Nope.

See [URL]

Nope.

#47

Posted by: Nerd of Redhead, OM Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 5:39 PM

Our minds are open, just not open enough to fall out, which is the way those positing imaginary deities define it. Show us some good and conclusive physical evidence, like an eternally burning bush, not sophistry.

#48

Posted by: Sastra Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 5:41 PM

Dawkins' parody is unfortunately taken seriously by many of those promoting the idea that there is such a thing as Western science vs. Eastern science, and different "ways of knowing" among cultures around the world. Proponents of certain forms of multiculturalism see science as very much like religion: deeply personal, mystical, and embedded in tradition.

Look at alternative medicine. Chi energy is presumably real, because it's accepted by Chinese and Indian "scientists" who do science in their own way. They divide the world of science, the way they divide religion. Everyone chooses what's true to their race, culture, background, or individual needs: there is no right or wrong in science, just "differences" which need to be "respected." Shamans, yogis, and mystics, are doing science.

I wish everyone was laughing at the image of science being like religion. But, in order to give religion and spirituality credence, they do indeed try to draw equivalents.

#49

Posted by: MrFire Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 5:46 PM

Rather than concluding that the fact that many different religions exist shows that they all must be wrong, perhaps it shows that they all have aspects that are accurate.

So why isn't there just one religion with all those 'accurate' bits, and none of the bullshit?

The only respectable, 'accurate' aspects of religion are the ones that aren't really religious at all, such as the golden rule.

For you to be alive and self-aware is a supernatural experience

Why exactly, and how do you support this?

and we all see evidence of similar supernatural beings being alive around us

Do you mean other people? Then see my question above. Or do you mean ghosts and fairies? Then please, see a doctor.

so since such consciousness it "scientifically" proven to be able to exist in the Universe, than it is possible that larger "fractals" of it can exist.

Syntax and grammar fail; I haven't a clue what you mean here.

See

Give me a better reason to than what you've shown thus far.


#50

Posted by: Sastra Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 5:48 PM

edward ulrich #35 wrote:

For you to be alive and self-aware is a supernatural experience, and we all see evidence of similar supernatural beings being alive around us ...

Huh?
How are you defining "supernatural?" Seems a little loose to me. At the very least.

#51

Posted by: 'Tis Himself, OM Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 5:53 PM

I just went to the website edward.ulrich pushed in #45. The woo is strong there:

The Universe may be capable of thinking, seeing and subtle intervention in Shared Reality.

The fact that conscious thought and self-awareness exist within each of us proves that it is theoretically possible for such an abstract notion as thought to exist in the Universe. The Universe tends to organize itself into fractals and subsets, so the possibility exists for the existence of larger fractals of conscious thought. [bolding and italics in original]

#52

Posted by: Sven DiMilo Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 6:02 PM

Larger fractals of conscious thought and self-awareness?

That's, like, blowing my mind it's so meta. Awareness of the awareness of the simultaneous awareness of all self-awareness? Consciousness of the consciousness of consciousness's conscious consciousness?

wow

#53

Posted by: Gregory Greenwood Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 6:24 PM

I must admit that this thread has the highest concentration of 100% proof crazy I have seen in a while.

edward.ulrich and Abdul atheism-is-a-cult Alhazred in one place?

Its the motherlode, I tell you! If we could only extract energy from it then the looming global energy crisis would be a thing of the past and we would all be rich! Rich beyond the dreams of avarice!

#54

Posted by: john.marley Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 7:13 PM

@ edward.ulrich

I really can't be bothered, so I'll let Tim make a rebuttal for me.

#55

Posted by: Arancaytar Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 7:36 PM

Because I saw it before, I only mildly chuckled rather than laugh my ass off like the first time.

Do I get to avoid excommunication from the Atheist Church? :P

#56

Posted by: Crudely Wrott Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 7:48 PM

If my being alive and aware of the fact is supernatural, what then is my natural state, Edward?

#57

Posted by: Nebula99 Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 7:55 PM

24 Comments before the thread got derailed... that was fast.

Because I saw it before, I only mildly chuckled rather than laugh my ass off like the first time.

Do I get to avoid excommunication from the Atheist Church? :P

I'm in the same boat, so the answer is yes. If it wasn't, I'd sentence you to ten "Hail Sagan"s. :p

For you to be alive and self-aware is a supernatural experience,...

Obviously, Edward finds the concept of an intelligent, thinking being unfamiliar and mysterious.

#58

Posted by: rsm_hokkaido#e7c56 Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 8:07 PM

Oddly enough I'd seen that one before, it's funny, but not exactly haha funny. I'll excommunicate myself. Didn't want to be in a church in the first place.

Anyways, #46 Owlmirror wins for making me laugh.

#59

Posted by: MarkL Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 8:47 PM

So all religions are seeing pieces of the same universal truth? Really?
Care to let us in on the secret?
If this is the case, you still have to answer the question why people in Europe usually see one piece, while people in Saudi Arabia see another.
Does God have a giant "truth lens" in space which diffracts his image over the world?

#60

Posted by: Rutee, Shrieking Harpy of Dooooom Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 9:12 PM

Asked to provide evidence, Abdul shirks. And we're the cult.

#61

Posted by: Nebula99 Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 9:16 PM

Oddly enough I'd seen that one before, it's funny, but not exactly haha funny. I'll excommunicate myself. Didn't want to be in a church in the first place.

Anyways, #46 Owlmirror wins for making me laugh.


Owlmirror does indeed win. As for excommunication, I did that long ago. I'm just here for the cookies.
So all religions are seeing pieces of the same universal truth? Really? Care to let us in on the secret? If this is the case, you still have to answer the question why people in Europe usually see one piece, while people in Saudi Arabia see another. Does God have a giant "truth lens" in space which diffracts his image over the world?
Quoted for truth. Also, thread re-won by the image of a stereotypical beardy god fiddling with a giant lens.
#62

Posted by: Haley Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 9:59 PM

I'm supposed to be reading T-Rex and the Crater of Doom to review for my final, so this is totally like studying. (no joke. I seriously am supposed to be reading it.)

#63

Posted by: Aratina Cage Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 10:50 PM

Nos. 20, 21, 22

Thanks for the laughs, but PZ has you all beat.

#64

Posted by: bolasanibk Author Profile Page | May 9, 2010 10:50 PM

Sastra @48

Look at alternative medicine. Chi energy is presumably real, because it's accepted by Chinese and Indian "scientists" who do science in their own way.

Please. No self respecting Indian 'scientist' believes in such nonsensical drivel as the concept of Chi. We know that it is the inner energy focused and directed by your kundalini chakra that does the trick. You can learn more about this in my book (just $9.99).

#65

Posted by: Gore Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 1:59 AM

Boy, Dawkins has been using this analogy for years.

#66

Posted by: DLC Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 2:12 AM

I got a chuckle out of the fatwah part.

#67

Posted by: edward.ulrich Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 3:13 AM

When I say “supernatural” I mean “unexplainable by current science.” Certainly science cannot begin to quantify conscious thought or self-awareness, or course. Often atheists are at least as narrow minded as they purport religious people to be.

#68

Posted by: Sili, The Unknown Virgin Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 3:28 AM

ERV @ 11: Ya got my vote! :)
I wanted to say that.

Didn't we use to have a sane Abdul, or am I imagining that?

#69

Posted by: Owlmirror Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 3:30 AM

When I say “supernatural” I mean “unexplainable by current science.”

Yeah, that makes loads of "sense".

Asteroid belt n-body problem? Supernatural.

True interpretation of quantum mechanics? Supernatural.

Dark matter? Supernatural.

Dark energy? Supernatural.

Cosmic rays? Supernatural.

Fine structure constant? Supernatural.

Fuckin magnets? Fuckin supernatural.


Often atheists are at least as narrow minded as they purport religious people to be.

You're so narrow-minded that you think "nobody knows, yet" means "supernatural".

#70

Posted by: Sili, The Unknown Virgin Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 3:39 AM

For you to be alive and self-aware is a supernatural experience
Well. That at least explains how general anaesthetics work: Magic!
#71

Posted by: edward.ulrich Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 3:54 AM

How would an atheist justify the existence of their own self-awareness?

#72

Posted by: Usagichan Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 3:57 AM

edward #67

Certainly science cannot begin to quantify conscious thought or self-awareness

Try reading this article or this paper or this one - while science may not have a complete model as yet, it has certainly begun to explore the area and begun to define its terms. I tend to think that I am a natural being, and consciousness is (I hope) my natural state. As a participant in the natural world, it is only science that has the tools to explore and explain the nature of consciousness (rather than making some stuff up that sounds "right").

You could always try a bit of research before you make sweeping statements about science (unless you think the scientific community is a vast conspiracy, in which case your pronouncements on it have no grounding in reality, and my only advice would be stick to fairy tales, and try not to make too much noise while the grown-ups are talking).

#73

Posted by: Usagichan Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 4:07 AM

edward, edward # 71

How would an atheist justify the existence of their own self-awareness?

My self-awareness is a phenomenon - it needs no justification. I can try to work backwards, understanding the mechanisms of self-awareness and identity, and investigate the development of those mechanisms, but in themselves they need no 'reason'.

Of course we psychologically there is a desire to be 'special', but I see no evidence for the 'specialness' of consciousness, other than wishful thinking.

If you were to present some evidence that it is otherwise, I am all ears however - I am always open to arguments based on new information :)

#74

Posted by: edward.ulrich Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 4:13 AM

Those papers you supplied only talk about the functioning of the brain rather than defining what self-awareness is. Certainly there is a physical aspect to self awareness which is easily proven by emotional changes brought about by the introduction of drugs in the brain, ect., which is why I think that larger fractals of conscious thought can exist in the Universe. But the foundation of self awareness in the most basic sense cannot be quantified by science. Also we’ve all seen the comparison of the image of the brain cell to the image of the universe, such as at this link..

http://sprott.physics.wisc.edu/pickover/pc/brain-universe.html

Also see this one if you haven't already.. http://www.openmindedrealism.com/.

#75

Posted by: edward.ulrich Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 4:20 AM

Usagichan's posting saying that his self-awareness is a "phenomenon which needs to justification" sounds no different than what religious people get criticized by atheists for saying. ;-)

Self-awareness is unquestionably "supernatural," at least in part.


#76

Posted by: Rorschach Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 4:22 AM

wooist @ 74,

Certainly there is a physical aspect to self awareness which is easily proven by emotional changes brought about by the introduction of drugs in the brain, ect., which is why I think that larger fractals of conscious thought can exist in the Universe

I don't have to justify the fact that I'm self-aware, what nonsense is that ?
And larger fractals of conscious thought?? What does that even mean ?

But the foundation of self awareness in the most basic sense cannot be quantified by science

How do we quantify a foundation ? More word salad...

#77

Posted by: Usagichan Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 4:31 AM

edward,

What evidence do you have that consciousness is other than the result of the functioning of the brain? Why should it be more than that? Provide us with some evidence of conscious thought external to the brain, and I for one would be happy to evaluate it and revise my views.

The pictures you linked to appear superficially similar, but their similarity is the result of artifice - the first is a 2-D cross section, the second a 2-D representation of a 3-D phenomenon. You see the similarity you desire to see, not an actual similarity that can be rationally investigated. They are not actually alike, but simply images selected because of their superficial similarity to support a view of reality that you would like to be true. Not science, just wishful thinking.

#78

Posted by: Kel, OM Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 4:32 AM

Certainly science cannot begin to quantify conscious thought or self-awareness, or course.
So what, it's open game for any crackpot to throw in their two cents? This is the problem I find with the "science can't explain X" crowd, all they are doing is appealing to mystery. Regardless that there's so much to correlate between brain activity and conscious experience, what alternative solutions are there on offer? If there are, how do we quantify them and see whether they are valid?

If science can't explain consciousness, what could? I'm not trying to be facetious, but surely the only epistemology which could tackle the problem is science.

#79

Posted by: Kel, OM Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 4:38 AM

I wish anyone who doesn't think that conscious experience is a result of brain function would get their brain removed. What better to show that consciousness isn't a physical manifestation of brain activity than to have such activity without a brain?

That aside, there are plenty of other problems with a non-physical aspect to consciousness. Namely what Descartes identified some 400 years ago, the problem of an interface. How does the non-physical interact with the physical? Meanwhile there's some 1014 neurons connected by 1015 synapses using 20% of the oxygen we breathe despite only being 2% of our bodyweight.


Also, is this Matthew Segall?

#80

Posted by: Usagichan Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 4:39 AM

edward #75

Usagichan's posting saying that his self-awareness is a "phenomenon which needs to justification" sounds no different than what religious people get criticized by atheists for saying. ;-)

How is this vaguely like religious dogma? That I exist is a phenomenon which can rationally be explained as the result of (admittedly complex) physical process. While I admit that the process is as yet not fully understood, the evidence available to me suggests that it is both understandable and natural.

I am open to other evidence that might be presented, although I will tend to view it with the same critical criteria with which I view scientific evidence. How is this in the least like the dogmatic belief in something contrary to all presented evidence?

#81

Posted by: edward.ulrich Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 4:41 AM

Let me make the argument one step more basic.. how does an atheist justify the existence of the Universe in the first place?

#82

Posted by: Kel, OM Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 4:45 AM

how does an atheist justify the existence of the Universe in the first place?
How does a theist justify the existence of God?
#83

Posted by: edward.ulrich Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 4:46 AM

"While I admit that the process is as yet not fully understood, the evidence available to me suggests that it is both understandable and natural." Sounds precisely like what atheists criticize religious people for saying.. ;-)

#84

Posted by: Rorschach Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 4:46 AM

how does an atheist justify the existence of the Universe in the first place?

It's there.Why should I want to justify it ? If by justify you mean explain, we have some good theories, and science will eventually answer that question.It's what science does.Reducing the size of gaps to shove god into, day by day....

#85

Posted by: edward.ulrich Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 4:48 AM

I bet you people would be fun at a party. ;-)

#86

Posted by: Kel, OM Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 4:50 AM

In terms of justifying the universe - quite clearly the universe exists. Otherwise we wouldn't be here to talk about existence. Though the danger in that statement is the possibility of it being interpreted to mean that the universe exists so that we could be here to ponder about existence, but that's just absurd. The universe is no more for us than for birds or viruses or stars. The simple fact is that something exists, we are all in agreement that something exists.

#87

Posted by: edward.ulrich Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 4:52 AM

J/K about the above comment.. You've got to admit the comparison of the brain cell and the Universe is pretty interesting though, even to the most most staunch non-religious person. Also I doubt science could ever answer "why" the Universe exists..

#88

Posted by: Rorschach Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 4:53 AM

Also I doubt science could ever answer "why" the Universe exists..

True.
But only because the question is utterly pointless.

#89

Posted by: Abdul Alhazred Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 4:54 AM

No, you enjoy your cult -- of denial.

Oooh SNAP!


Yeah sure buddy. India, China, Teabaggers, all part of the same cult. :)

#90

Posted by: Kel, OM Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 4:57 AM

Also I doubt science could ever answer "why" the Universe exists..
The Big Bang theory might explain how our universe came into existence, but why does there have to be a why? Shouldn't one first work to see whether there is a why before asking the question of why?

Unless you're asking it in the same sense as why do birds have wings, in which case I refer you to the Big Bang theory.

#91

Posted by: edward.ulrich Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 4:58 AM

"But only because the question is utterly pointless." Ba! It certainly is not pointless! It is religion.

#92

Posted by: Zetetic Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 5:15 AM

edward.ulrich @ #75:

Self-awareness is unquestionably "supernatural," at least in part.

Unless you can provide credible evidence to that assertion you're just making an argument from ignorance.

Fail.

edward.ulrich @ #83:

Sounds precisely like what atheists criticize religious people for saying

Incorrect you failed notice that little word in the quote... "evidence". That is something which religion invariably lacks and what separates science from religion.

Failed again.

edward.ulrich @ #91:

Ba! It certainly is not pointless! It is religion.
Aside from the obvious observation that "religion" and something being "pointless" are not exclusive. The problem is that you are trying to anthropomorphize a motive onto what is apparently a natural phenomena. It's like asking what is the "motive" or the "goal" for a raindrop to fall.

So yes the question as worded is useless.
Yet another failure.

#93

Posted by: consciousness razor Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 5:28 AM

[blah blah supernatural blah blah] ... so since such consciousness [is] "scientifically" proven to be able to exist in the Universe, [then] it is possible that larger "fractals" of it can exist.
When I say “supernatural” I mean “unexplainable by current science.” Certainly science cannot begin to quantify conscious thought or self-awareness, [of] course.

Someone should inform Mandelbrot that fractals aren't amenable to quantification . . . apparently because edward.ulrich ate too many 'shrooms.

#94

Posted by: Kagato Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 5:34 AM

I wish anyone who doesn't think that conscious experience is a result of brain function would get their brain removed. What better to show that consciousness isn't a physical manifestation of brain activity than to have such activity without a brain?

"Turns out, you don't need one! Totally overrated!"

#95

Posted by: edward.ulrich Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 5:39 AM

Zetetic, one of the definitions of supernatural is “Attributed to a power that seems to violate or go beyond natural forces,” and self-awareness certainly could be considered to be that. I did mention above that the physical of the brain is a factor but it does not explain self-awareness.

When you say “It's like asking what is the ‘motive’ or the ‘goal’ for a raindrop to fall..” Well, what is the motive for it all to exist? It is a valid question, and science most likely won’t ever be able to answer it, and you’re in denial about it.. and saying “who cares” about why it exists is just a cop-out.

No matter how how “atheist” someone is, they either need to accept that there is at least a bottom threshold where “religion” comes into the equation, or they are just in denial.

#96

Posted by: Sven DiMilo Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 5:54 AM

one of the definitions of supernatural is “Attributed to a power that seems to violate or go beyond natural forces,” and self-awareness certainly could be considered to be that

It certainly could be, as you seem to be dedicated to demonstrating, but the point is that it need not be.

Well, what is the motive for it all to exist? It is a valid question

It's only a valid question if you've already decided there must be an answer to it.

#97

Posted by: Rorschach Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 5:54 AM

Zetetic, one of the definitions of supernatural is “Attributed to a power that seems to violate or go beyond natural forces,” and self-awareness certainly could be considered to be that.

Pray tell, what natural forces(whatever those are, you havent defined them)are violated by the existence of self-awareness ?

Well, what is the motive for it all to exist?

The fact that you seem to badly need motives and reasons for things to exist doesnt mean those things need motives and reasons to exist.

No matter how how “atheist” someone is, they either need to accept that there is at least a bottom threshold where “religion” comes into the equation, or they are just in denial.

Garbled English and word salad aside, religion "came into the equation" as a means to explain or make sense of natural phenomena 10000 years ago.It proved useless to explain anything and just made shit up.
Then we invented science.

As AC Grayling said : Science and religion have a common ancestor, ignorance.

#98

Posted by: WowbaggerOM Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 5:58 AM

edward.ulrich wrote:

Zetetic, one of the definitions of supernatural is “Attributed to a power that seems to violate or go beyond natural forces,” and self-awareness certainly could be considered to be that.

Only if the person doing the considering was a shallow-thinking and/or ignorant fool.

Well, what is the motive for it all to exist?

Why do you assume there is one? Because you want there to be one? I want a solid gold toilet; does that mean you'll give me one?

No matter how how “atheist” someone is, they either need to accept that there is at least a bottom threshold where “religion” comes into the equation, or they are just in denial.

Religion 'comes in' where people assume things that make them feel better about certain questions to which we either have answers they don't like or which there currently aren't - and perhaps never will be - answers.

Atheists are those who, for various different reasons, don't need to be made to feel better about those same questions. No denial necessary.

#99

Posted by: Usagichan Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 6:01 AM

edward,

Why should there be a 'motive' for anything to exist? Stuff happens naturally. We don't say "who cares", we say that there is no evidence (there's that word again) for there being a "reason" in the sense of a conscious motivation for it to happen.

Self awareness is simply a complex property of the complex vertebrate nervous system. As has been pointed out by several people including myself, there is no evidence for it to exist external to the physical system. Without evidence all you have is wishful thinking, and that just doesn't cut it here.

No matter how how “atheist” "religious" someone is, they either need to accept that there is at least a bottom threshold where “religion” evidence comes into the equation, or they are just in denial.

There fixed that for you - no charge ;)

#100

Posted by: Kagato Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 6:03 AM

Certainly science cannot begin to quantify conscious thought or self-awareness, or course.
[...]
Certainly there is a physical aspect to self awareness which is easily proven by emotional changes brought about by the introduction of drugs in the brain, ect., which is why I think that larger fractals of conscious thought can exist in the Universe.
[...]
Ba! It certainly is not pointless!
[...]
Zetetic, one of the definitions of supernatural is “Attributed to a power that seems to violate or go beyond natural forces,” and self-awareness certainly could be considered to be that.

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Self-awareness is unquestionably "supernatural," at least in part.

Well darn! I thought I had some serious questions about that proposition, but I guess I must have been mistaken, given that it's unquestionable.

No matter how how “atheist” someone is, they either need to accept that there is at least a bottom threshold where “religion” comes into the equation, or they are just in denial.

And that bottom threshold seems to be "I no longer care whether my answers bear any relation to reality".
Certainly, at that point science has left the equation.

#101

Posted by: edward.ulrich Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 6:07 AM

One of the definitions of religion is “a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith.” Most likely science will not ever be able to answer “why” the Universe exists, so an atheist will need to attribute “why” to religion or else be in denial. Saying “it doesn’t matter why” is unquestionably a cop-out to someone who is supposedly “scientific” thinking.

#102

Posted by: edward.ulrich Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 6:10 AM

I'm going to sleep now.. It's been nice debating with y'all.. put it all in your pipe and smoke it. ;-)

#103

Posted by: consciousness razor Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 6:17 AM

Attributed to a power that seems to violate or go beyond natural forces

Earlier you were saying that consciousness is all fractalized and stuff: present not only in animals, but also the whole universe and everything at all scales has (potential?) consciousness. Aren't you still assuming that nature is brimming with consciousnesses?

If so, and if consciousness did somehow (how?) violate some natural force (which?), then how would anyone be able to tell? There would be no way to distinguish between a supernatural consciousness and a natural force, because they would be identical. Thus, everything we could observe could be explained just as well by real science that we're already studying. You are wasting your time, unless your idea is based on evidence and gives a better explanation of some phenomenon than a naturalistic one.

#104

Posted by: Jadehawk, OM Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 6:19 AM

"But only because the question is utterly pointless." Ba! It certainly is not pointless! It is religion.
right. like he said, pointless.
Well, what is the motive for it all to exist? It is a valid question, and science most likely won’t ever be able to answer it, and you’re in denial about it.. and saying “who cares” about why it exists is just a cop-out.
it's not a valid question, it's an ignorant projection. way back when, villagers asked themselves "why" lightning struck their houses; and then we learned what lightning is and how it works, and it turned out there was no "why"; there was no purpose or motive in burning people's houses down via lightning, it's just that lightning tends to strike objects taller than their surroundings because of its physical attributes.

You're one of those villagers, wondering why the sky "wants" to burn down your house.

#105

Posted by: Rorschach Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 6:19 AM

Most likely science will not ever be able to answer “why” the Universe exists, so an atheist will need to attribute “why” to religion or else be in denial

I dont know what that statement means, but we could always play "count the logical fallacies" I guess...

#106

Posted by: Sven DiMilo Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 6:20 AM

I admit it! I am a "why" denialist!

#107

Posted by: John Morales Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 6:25 AM

Meh. Asking "why" the universe exists is like asking "who" made the universe; both beg the question by assuming agency.

#108

Posted by: consciousness razor Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 6:29 AM

Fractal Wrongness

#109

Posted by: Kel, OM Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 6:31 AM

No matter how how “atheist” someone is, they either need to accept that there is at least a bottom threshold where “religion” comes into the equation, or they are just in denial.
Only if you conflate "religion" with "ignorance". This is the beauty of the scientific method. When it has an unknown, it uses a placeholder until such time as the phenomenon is better understood. Dark Matter is a good example of this, it's a placeholder used to explain certain phenomena which as yet are still unknown to us. The difference between science and religion is that science doesn't end with the mysterious, it begins there. Scientists will seek to find an answer as to what dark matter is rather than just leaving it at the word dark matter.

If you want to use the word "religion" that way, fine. But all that does is serves to make the word an expression of ignorance. Which is just fine...

#110

Posted by: WowbaggerOM Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 6:38 AM

edward.ulrich wrote:

I'm going to sleep now.. It's been nice debating with y'all...

You assume that the assertions and religion-of-the-definition gaps that you presented counted as arguments, and that the resultant back-and-forth was therefore a debate.

It wasn't. You blathered; we mocked, with examples.

...put it all in your pipe and smoke it. ;-)

Cram it. With walnuts.

#111

Posted by: Knockgoats Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 6:39 AM

All I mean is the warmerists have subordinated science to political apologetics, and China and India aren't playing. -Abdul Alhazred

That's the Indian and Chinese politicians. Both countries' national scientific associations, along with those of Brazil and the G8, issued a statement in (IIRC) 2006 affirming that there is clear evidence that AGW is real, and an urgent problem. The only subordination of science to politics is on the denialist side.

#112

Posted by: Kel, OM Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 6:39 AM

Most likely science will not ever be able to answer “why” the Universe exists, so an atheist will need to attribute “why” to religion or else be in denial
The flipside to the epistemic limit of science is that by no means attributes any epistemic value to the musings of religion. In other words, just because science can't say anything on particular topics it doesn't mean that religion can. The fact that many invoke religion to have a say on these "big questions" doesn't mean that anyone has anything meaningful to say on the matter just because they invoke the mystical.

And beyond the epistemic limits of science, there's the discipline of philosophy that serves a similar use to theology but without claiming the "authority" of the divine.

#113

Posted by: David Marjanović Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 7:00 AM

Obviously, Edward finds the concept of an intelligent, thinking being unfamiliar and mysterious.

Now I'm ROTFL!

Didn't we use to have a sane Abdul, or am I imagining that?

He's a single-issue crackpot. He's sane on every other topic he has ever discussed on Pharyngula, IIRC.

How would an atheist justify the existence of their own self-awareness?

What would it even be like to be awake but not self-aware? An out-of-body experience?

Certainly there is a physical aspect to self awareness which is easily proven by emotional changes brought about by the introduction of drugs in the brain, ect., which is why I think that larger fractals of conscious thought can exist in the Universe.

This does not follow. The universe doesn't have brain chemistry, does it.

Also we’ve all seen the comparison of the image of the brain cell to the image of the universe, such as at this link..

For crying out loud!

This is even less convincing than the appearance of Lenin's face on Phil Plait's shower curtain.

Besides, it's not "the universe" that that picture shows. It's just one galaxy cluster.

Let me make the argument one step more basic.. how does an atheist justify the existence of the Universe in the first place?

Victor Stenger has tried: something is more stable than nothing, because nothing is complete symmetry, and breaking symmetry increases entropy...

OK, so where does the 2nd law of thermodynamics come from? No idea, but that only leads us to comment 82.

"While I admit that the process is as yet not fully understood, the evidence available to me suggests that it is both understandable and natural." Sounds precisely like what atheists criticize religious people for saying.. ;-)

Huh? It's an argument from parsimony, something religious people never seem to make.

You've got to admit the comparison of the brain cell and the Universe a simulation of a galaxy cluster is pretty interesting though, even to the most most staunch non-religious person.

No, why? The brain cell is held together by electrostatic attraction, and the galaxy cluster is held together by gravity... and those two forces work in pretty similar ways.

Yeah sure buddy. India, China, Teabaggers, all part of the same cult. :)

Of course not. It just so happens that the economic interests of India and China and the ignorance of the teabaggers happen to align at the moment.

You act as if there were hundreds of papers by Indian, Chinese, and teabagging climatologists presenting evidence against AGW. In the real world most of us live in, that is not the case, and you know it.

one of the definitions of supernatural is “Attributed to a power that seems to violate or go beyond natural forces,” and self-awareness certainly could be considered to be that.

You're saying self-awareness is a miracle? Why?

I did mention above that the physical of the brain is a factor but it does not explain self-awareness.

It's a fact that our current understanding of the brain is nowhere near complete. Why do you act as if we already knew everything about the brain, and knew it couldn't explain how self-awareness works?

Well, what is the motive for it all to exist? It is a valid question

Well, why do colorless green ideas sleep furiously? It is a valid question!

I admit it! I am a "why" denialist!

Welcome to the club.

#114

Posted by: Kel, OM Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 7:14 AM

Well, why do colorless green ideas sleep furiously?
Win!
#115

Posted by: Zetetic Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 7:24 AM

edward.ulrich @ #95:

Zetetic, one of the definitions of supernatural is “Attributed to a power that seems to violate or go beyond natural forces,” and self-awareness certainly could be considered to be that.

Argument from Ignorance.

Especially since there is nothing in the nature of consciousnesses that fits that description. Have any credible evidence of that beyond your baseless assertions and fallacies?

Here's a hint Eddie... just because you don't know how something works (yet) doesn't make it magic.


Well, what is the motive for it all to exist?
Again, you're falsely assuming that there has to be a plan, when there is no reason to make that assumption. What you're really attempting to do (but we all see through it because it's an old worn-out trick) is attempting to conflate "why" in the sense of cause and effect, with "Why" in the sense of an overarching plan. Tell us Eddie...What is the "plan" of an asteroid floating into intergalactic space where it will never run into anyone or thing? What is the "plan" of a new species coming into existence only to be extinct shortly after it got started? What is the "plan" of millions of children dying of smallpox each year until widespread vaccination was possible?

What makes you think that there has to be one in the first place?

Until you can prove that there is a reason for there to be a "Why" in the first place your question is just another failed attempt at making an appeal to emotion/consequence, wrapped up in an argument from ignorance.

Prove to us there is a reason for there to be a plan in the first place...then you'll have a point.

Good luck with that.
;-)

No matter how how “atheist” someone is, they either need to accept that there is at least a bottom threshold where “religion” comes into the equation, or they are just in denial.
Really? Why? Because if we don't you'll start stomping your feet, scream out loud, and threaten to hold your breath until your face turns blue? Sorry, but that doesn't cut it with any person that approaches the subject rationally.


What you're really saying here is that religion gets it's justification from ignorance. You may find that acceptable, but atheists have no need for just throwing up their hands and saying "God Did It!" when they run into something they don't know. Atheists generally prefer to find real answers, not hide from them in self-deception.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

edward.ulrich @ #101

One of the definitions of religion is “a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith
True, but did you notice that there is nothing in that definition about either logic or evidence? Also you'll notice that the same definition can also be applied to the term "delusion".

So what's your point?

Most likely science will not ever be able to answer “why” the Universe exists
[assuming the manner of trying to patiently explain something to a small child...again]

As we've already explained (repeatedly) you're attempting to anthropomorphize a natural phenomena.


so an atheist will need to attribute “why” to religion or else be in denial
Non Sequitur. Atheists have to do no such thing. All atheists have to do is recognize that religion has nothing to offer in support of itself but logical fallacies, assertions, threats, and trying to proclaim a lack of evidence as a virtue. That's all it takes for an atheist to realize how intellectually bankrupt the whole theist position is.

Saying “it doesn’t matter why” is unquestionably a cop-out to someone who is supposedly “scientific” thinking.
No. Trying to anthropomorphize a natural phenomena is just childish and stupid. Our recognizing that you have made several posts and yet still utterly failed to provide any reason for why there should be any planed reason for the universe isn't a "cop-out", it is simply recognizing the shallowness of your arguments. To insist that we must offer a "Why" when you have failed to provide any reason to do so is a cop-out on your part. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

edward.ulrich @ #102

I'm going to sleep now.. It's been nice debating with y'all.. put it all in your pipe and smoke it

What "debate" exactly? All you've managed to do is regurgitate the usual juvenile attempts at logical fallacies, and asserting baseless assumptions. For there to be a debate you'd actually have to make some logical points.

I've literally made better points during a debate in my sleep. Perhaps being asleep might improve your arguments.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Here's something to stick in your own pipe Eddie....

If you really want to argue in favor of your god's existence. Try coming up with some actual logical reasons. Stop just making baseless assertions and resorting to logical fallacies (especially Argument from Ignorance) even a moderately objective teenager (or precocious child) can see through that kind of nonsense. You'll just be wasting your time trying to convince us with such poorly reasoned rationalizations.

Well good night for now.

;-)

#116

Posted by: Zetetic Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 7:43 AM

LOL! David Marjanović's comment is much better that my examples!

Well, why do colorless green ideas sleep furiously? It is a valid question!

Well Eddie, can you answer David's question? If not then you'll have to one day come to accept the foundational basis of the Great Green Arkleseizure!

#117

Posted by: Copyleft Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 7:54 AM

Edward is taking an amusing approach: "You atheists have failed to explain WHY hydrogen has only one proton per atom! That's just DENIAL."

Umm, riiight....

#118

Posted by: Kagato Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 7:58 AM

At #28:

If the warmerists would only stop acting like Stalinists ...

At #34:

Name calling?
You people are hypocrites.


At #40:

All I mean is the warmerists have subordinated science to political apologetics, and China and India aren't playing.

At #41:

The whole meme about people being "denialist" is dishonest. It's a buzz word to sidestep honest debate.
Like "infidel".

"Hey, Pot! Yeah, I'm talking to you!"

#119

Posted by: Kieranfoy Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 9:09 AM

Meh. Excummunicate me.

Dawkins is an cool d00d, but frankly if I want to watch godless people cracking wise I'll listen to George Carlin, or Stephen Fry, or Hugh Laurie.

#120

Posted by: Ewan R Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 9:14 AM

So all religions are seeing pieces of the same universal truth? Really? Care to let us in on the secret? If this is the case, you still have to answer the question why people in Europe usually see one piece, while people in Saudi Arabia see another. Does God have a giant "truth lens" in space which diffracts his image over the world?

It's the teapot that diffracts his image, otherwise your summation is correct.

#121

Posted by: Knockgoats Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 9:25 AM

I think edward.ulrich, as well as being Matthew Segall, may also be the Bellman from Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark. Edward apparently thinks that repeating the same assertion without any attempt at providing evidence or argument for it is adequate proof of its truth. The Bellman used a similar rule of inference:
"What I tell you three times is true."

#122

Posted by: Rev. BigDumbChimp Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 9:28 AM

Most likely science will not ever be able to answer “why” the Universe exists, so an atheist will need to attribute “why” to religion or else be in denial

This assumes there is a why and even then asserting science will not be able to determine the why does not mean that de facto it defaults to religion.

In other words, you fail.

#123

Posted by: Gregory Greenwood Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 9:48 AM

edward.ulrich @ 95;

No matter how how “atheist” someone is, they either need to accept that there is at least a bottom threshold where “religion” comes into the equation, or they are just in denial.

So, atheists refuse to believe in the broad assertions of theists without evidence being presented in support of those claims, and we are the ones in denial?

No amount of cryptic statements about "fractals of consciousness" and claims of body/mind dualism will alter the fact that science deals with the quantifiable, observable Universe where as religion invents unevidenced fairy tales that make its adherents feel better about themselves and their life choices.

Asking about why the Universe and consciousness exists is a presuppositionalist position. It assumes that their must necessarily be an active, conscious agency behind the existence of everyhing. If you follow the usual pattern of such arguments, you doubtless base this assumption on claims of irreducible complexity, but irreducible complexity has been categorically shown to be flawed. Complexity can arise from randomness where enough time and iterations are available. Also, if you claim that complexity cannot arise without a creator, then where did the hypothetical godhead come from? Surely such an entity would have to be the most complex thing ever to exist, so how could it arise without a creator of its own, if irreducible complexity holds? In other words, who is god's god? Who is god's god's god? Who is god's god's god's god ad infinitum? Saying it does not apply to god is to state that irreducible complexity is not an absolute, so if it does not apply to god it need not apply to the Universe either.

There is no evidential basis for the claim that there must be a "why" behind the existence of the Universe or of consciousness. We have a fair idea of the 'how' in the Big Bang Theory and evolutionary biology respectively, but 'how' does not in itself inevitably imply the existence of a 'why'.

The way that this assumption distorts your thinking is clear from your statement @ 87;

You've got to admit the comparison of the brain cell and the Universe is pretty interesting though, even to the most most staunch non-religious person.

You are comparing a 2D image of a cell to a 2D representation of a 3D galaxy cluster that is not the entirety of the universe. The two are superficially similar, and your confirmation bias does the rest. You see a link because you want there to be a link, not because the evidence suggests it. I could equally argue that, since the simulations of the Milky Way Galaxy viewed from above bear a superficial similarity to a fried egg cooked 'sunny side up', that such food is the divinely mandated ambrosia, and that any who would eat eggs 'easy over' or even indulge in the twin depravities of the soft and hard boiled are heretics to be put to death without delay. All hail the Divine Egg!

The above would, of course, be ridiculous unevidenced rubbish, but from a rationalist standpoint no weaker a claim than your position of universal consciousness.

#124

Posted by: Kagato Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 9:50 AM

"Why" implies motive, and motive requires an agency.

By insisting that "Why" is automatically valid, you're assuming the existence of an agency up front. In other words, you're begging the question.

Science shows no evidence of agency in the larger world, and discussing motive in the absence of agency is meaningless. Therefore, asking "Why" about the universe is nonsense.


However: in common usage, "why" is often interchangeable with "how". In that situation, science can give you answers, and religion has no standing at all.

#125

Posted by: Ewan R Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 10:00 AM

No matter how how “atheist” someone is, they either need to accept that there is at least a bottom threshold where “religion” comes into the equation, or they are just in denial.

Here I'd point you to Dawkin's tale about the astrophysicist who when probed deeply about the big bang referred the questioner to the pastor once reaching areas that physics had not yet been able to probe. Dawkin's thining was - why the Pastor? Why not the gardener, or the chef?

The bottom threshold you are proposing is simply the interface between what we know, and what we don't yet know - you're rehashing the god of the gaps - anything we don't know should be attributed to god - unfortunately for religion this means that while god will always have some place (every question answered poses new questions, at least until we achieve absolute knowledge) the boundaries are constantly redrawn - what is 'proof' of god (or divinity, or fractal consciousness, or supreme teapot)today becomes explicable without having to turn to the supernatural tomorrow.

#126

Posted by: Kagato Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 10:03 AM

Aw man, ninja'd by Gregory.

Mine was shorter! :)

#127

Posted by: MrFire Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 10:11 AM

You are comparing a 2D image of a cell to a 2D representation of a 3D galaxy cluster

The first thing I noticed about those images was how closely they resemble cellulite.

edward.ulrich, can the truth of the universe be found in stretch marks?

#128

Posted by: Stephen Wells Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 10:13 AM

If nothing existed, there would not exist any reason why something should not exist.

The question is not "Why does anything exist?" but "Why shouldn't something exist?". Before the theists can invoke a deity to "explain" the universe they need to demonstrate the impossibility of a universe existing without a deity. Such a demonstration has never been forthcoming.

#129

Posted by: Sili, The Unknown Virgin Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 10:15 AM

He's a single-issue crackpot. He's sane on every other topic he has ever discussed on Pharyngula, IIRC.
Ah, that would explain it, yes.
#130

Posted by: Rev. BigDumbChimp Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 10:20 AM

No matter how how “atheist” someone is, they either need to accept that there is at least a bottom threshold where “religion” comes into the equation, or they are just in denial.

More assertions.

How do you define the bottom threshold?

Is it what we can not yet explain via empiricism?

#131

Posted by: Gregory Greenwood Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 10:58 AM

Kagato @ 126;

Aw man, ninja'd by Gregory.

Mine was shorter! :)

I walk the path of verbose shadows...

*dons black face mask, gathers up throwing stars and disappears into the dark corners of teh intertoobs*

#132

Posted by: KOPD, SAOTI Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 11:23 AM

When I say “supernatural” I mean “unexplainable by current science.”
Wow. That means the sun used to be supernatural, but now it's natural. Fortunately, rather than label it "supernatural," scientists decided it was "unexplainable by current science." They went on to discover nuclear fusion. Now it is explainable by current science. In short, I think "unexplainable by current science" is a much more useful term than your usage of "supernatural" as the latter encourages one to stare in slack-jawed awe and go "ooh, a mystery" as they drool on themselves, while the former encourages investigation which leads to furthering human understanding.
#133

Posted by: David Marjanović Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 11:29 AM

What you're really attempting to do (but we all see through it because it's an old worn-out trick) is attempting to conflate "why" in the sense of cause and effect, with "Why" in the sense of an overarching plan.

I'm not sure if he's really trying to do this, consciously, or if the trick worked on himself first and he really hasn't noticed there's a difference between "caused by what" and "intended for which purpose" because he and his sources keep using "why" for both.

#134

Posted by: Zetetic Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 4:23 PM

@ David:
While I'll concede that it is "possible" that edward.ulrich may not be consciously aware of the conflating of the meanings, I'm not getting that impression from edward.ulrich's comments and links so far. Especially after attempting to deflect the discussion away from our explanations of why that line of reasoning doesn't work.

Whether edward.ulrich is intentionally being misleading, or is acting like a broken record player (remember those?) doesn't seem that relevant to the position itself. The fact still remains that intentionally, or not, edward is still conflating the terms as a necessary part of his (presumably from the handle used) position. I fail to see much difference between someone deliberately being misleading, and someone deliberately just parroting a misleading argument, especially when they show no signs of effort to actually think about the subject in a logical and honest manner.

#135

Posted by: God Author Profile Page | May 10, 2010 6:06 PM

It is NOT FUNNY!

#136

Posted by: Zetetic Author Profile Page | May 11, 2010 3:34 AM

@ God:
Well Satan always did say that you had no sense of humor...

;-)

#137

Posted by: IO Author Profile Page | May 11, 2010 6:33 AM

Okay, I've read the whole thread and alternated between laughing and banging my head on the keyboard. I'm now going to recommend again listening to Tim's Storm, especially to Edward.

#138

Posted by: redliterocket4 Author Profile Page | May 20, 2010 6:45 AM

For the record, edward.ulrich is not Matthew Segall (me). I do get the sense, having browsed most of this thread, that he and I agree on a few things, however. To believe self-consciousness can be accounted for in purely neurochemical terms is simply a category mistake. Empirical science presupposes self-consciousness, otherwise scientific reasoning would not be possible. Science cannot explain self-consciousness mechanistically without calling into question its own privileged epistemic status. Natural science attempting to explain consciousness in terms of brain mechanisms is much like trying to explain rainbows in terms of atmospheric water droplets. It reflects a lack of philosophical understanding of the phenomenon in question. The rainbow is not located in the sky, it emerges out of the relationship between light, certain kinds of eyes, and certain kinds of skies. I think consciousness is similar. It's a mistake to try to locate it inside the skull. It is emergent, not just out of neurons, but out of space-time as a whole. If we deny the cosmic context of consciousness, i fail to see how we can avoid a dualism between the human mind and the rest of the natural universe. Contrary to a paper linked above about the challenges for any future science of consciousness, philosophers are growing increasingly aware of the hidden assumptions of dualist and materialist metaphysics that bias genuinely scientific research into its nature. Yes, consciousness is natural, but it is unlike any other natural phenomenon in that it is also noumenal. That is, consciousness can become an object to itself, as when we introspect or correlate mental states to fMRI readings, etc., but it also always remains the subject underlying these experiences. Consciousness is not just phenomenal, it is also transcendental (or noumenal). I think there are many limitations to Kant's philosophical compromise between science and religion, or knowledge and morality, but whenever I participate in discussions on Pharyngula, I find myself having to repeat his arguments. This isn't because I find his conclusions satisfying, but it is because I recognize that he defined the problems and laid out the territory. The problem with this message board (from my perspective) is that most of you are unwilling to give anything but a minor supporting role to philosophy as regards natural science. In other words, you're all positivists. The video of Dawkins above is a great example of what happens when a scientist is blind to their philosophical assumptions, and forgetful of the cultural history of Western science. I might be interested in responding to any responses I get to this post, but I'm well aware it is an exercise in futility for both sides. I'll just do what I usually do, which is recommend a few books (Bruno Latour's "Science in Action" and Donna Haraway's "Modest Witness"). The put science in it's true cultural and historical context. If you're especially brave (and patient enough to consider views that are probably radically different than your own), you might even read my paper on how re-situating science within culture is a necessary step before any solution to our social and ecological crises are possible: http://matthewsegall.wordpress.com/2009/11/21/logos-of-a-living-earth-towards-a-gaian-praxecology/

#139

Posted by: redliterocket4 Author Profile Page | May 20, 2010 4:24 PM

edward.ulrich, with our powers combined, might we sway some pharyngulites to a more nuanced and enchanted worldview?

#140

Posted by: Aratina Cage Author Profile Page | May 20, 2010 5:22 PM

redliterrocket,

To believe self-consciousness can be accounted for in purely neurochemical terms is simply a category mistake.

In no way is it a category mistake. Consciousness has clear limitations and can already be manipulated by the technology we have today.


Natural science attempting to explain consciousness in terms of brain mechanisms is much like trying to explain rainbows in terms of atmospheric water droplets.

If you leave out the entire system and opt to focus narrowly on only one part of it then you will surely feel like something is missing.


If we deny the cosmic context of consciousness, i fail to see how we can avoid a dualism between the human mind and the rest of the natural universe.

So, either everything is conscious so that even rocks and viruses can think and have emotions, or human minds (not other animal minds) fluctuate between a supernatural realm and the natural world? Pure bullshit.


I think consciousness is similar. It's a mistake to try to locate it inside the skull.

And I'm sure you would be willing to have your brain excised from your skull to test this theory, wouldn't you? If not, why not? Why would you not be willing to have your brain pureed if your consciousness has nothing to do with your brain?

#141

Posted by: redliterocket4 Author Profile Page | May 20, 2010 5:38 PM

Aratina Cage,

Manipulation is not understanding.

Viruses do not have thoughts and emotions. My point about the cosmic extent of consciousness is just to say that the brain is necessary but not sufficient for consciousness. Consciousness emerges from the ongoing transaction between brain, body, and world. It took 13.7 billion years of cosmic evolution to make consciousness possible. Every one of our thoughts is related to this history.

#142

Posted by: Kel, OM Author Profile Page | May 20, 2010 5:45 PM

edward.ulrich, with our powers combined, might we sway some pharyngulites to a more nuanced and enchanted worldview?
Why does a worldview need to be enchanted? If reality doesn't enchant you enough as is, you're doing something wrong...
#143

Posted by: Aratina Cage Author Profile Page | May 20, 2010 5:51 PM

redliterocket4,

the brain is necessary but not sufficient for consciousness

Then you concede that consciousness is located inside the skull?

#144

Posted by: CJO Author Profile Page | May 20, 2010 6:01 PM

Consciousness emerges from the ongoing transaction between brain, body, and world.

This is unobjectionable, in a trivially true kind of way, except I don't even see a salient dividing line across which there might be a "transaction" between body and brain. Maybe you mean body (including CNS), mind, and world?

Anyway, so what? You here plumping for your own zany brand of pretentious dualist obscurantism again? Yawn.

#145

Posted by: Owlmirror Author Profile Page | May 20, 2010 6:06 PM

"A blow to the head will confuse a man's thinking, a blow to the foot has no such effect, this cannot be the result of an immaterial soul enchanted reality." -- Heraclitus, 500BC, slightly modified.

#146

Posted by: redliterocket4 Author Profile Page | May 20, 2010 7:24 PM

Aratina Cage,

No, consciousness is not located in the skull; even if what happens in the head is necessary for consciousess, it is not sufficient. Think of a TV: useless by itself, but if it is connected to a signal, it can entertain you. The brain s more like a receiver than a producer of consciousness.

Physical objects have locations in space. Conscious subjects have a different ontological status. They emerge out of complex cultural and linguistic interactions between living beings embedded in ecological networks. Consciousness is non-local. Perhaps rainbows are the best way to understand its ontological status.

#147

Posted by: Sven DiMilo Author Profile Page | May 20, 2010 7:32 PM

Assertion.
Strained analogy.
Assertion of woo.
Trivial fact.
Assertion.
Word-salad that appears to be an assertion.
Woo!
Ass...wait, rainbows?

#148

Posted by: Aratina Cage Author Profile Page | May 20, 2010 7:51 PM

redliterocket4,

No, consciousness is not located in the skull; even if what happens in the head is necessary for consciousess, it is not sufficient.

Hold on. You agree that the brain is necessary for consciousness, right? You agree that without the brain, consciousness is not possible, right? You agree that we can produce changes in consciousness by toying with the brain, right? Then how can consciousness not be located inside the skull?

Your TV analogy is likewise incoherent. The signal is broadcast but the signal is not what makes the image show on the screen. Try this, disconnect the cable from your TV and turn it on. Does you still see an image on the screen? Also, try watching a television broadcast by plugging the cable into a plant or your hand and get back to me on what happens.


Physical objects have locations in space. Conscious subjects have a different ontological status.

I'm wary of going into this because I have not studied it enough, but can you clarify this a little more? What is a "conscious subject"? What is the other ontological status that conscious subjects have in your opinion?


Consciousness is non-local. Perhaps rainbows are the best way to understand its ontological status.

How do rainbows elucidate the ontological status of consciousness and why does the ontological status of consciousness matter at all?

#149

Posted by: redliterocket4 Author Profile Page | May 21, 2010 12:03 AM

aratina cage,

Without a human brain, human consciousness is not possible. Agreed. I've ingested enough tryptamines to know that toying with brain chemistry can effect consciousness. Agreed. But it does not follow that consciousness is located inside the skull. If you mess with a radio antenna, you might distort the music it is playing, but that doesn't mean the band is inside the radio. All the empirical studies of the brain that have ever been done and that could ever be done reveal only a correlation between experience and neural tissue. No causal relationship can be shown empirically. There is no scientific evidence to suggest that treating the brain as a radio antenna is woo. All the evidence fits perfectly within such a paradigm, and philosophically, I believe it is more coherent to understand consciousness as that which emerges out of sensorimotor coupling with environments and linguistic coupling with others. Consciousness is something we depend upon one another for. It is actually more of an intersubjective phenomenon than a purely subjective one (i.e., Descartes was wrong to conceive of it as purely internal and private--minds are more public than we might like to admit). The cognitive scientist Alva Noe just published a book called "Out of Our Heads: Why you are not your brain and other lessons from the biology of consciousness." It explains why the brain=mind paradigm is nothing more than a disguised form of Cartesianism.

As for the TV analogy, my point is precisely that disconnecting the cable from the TV makes it impossible for an image to display on the screen. A television, like a brain, can do nothing unless it is receiving a signal from outside. In the case of a TV, it comes through a wire. In the case of a brain, it comes from a body that is actively engaged with a world via sensorimotor coupling and actively attuned to the interior states of others via empathy and language. If you stuck a brain in a vat, it would not be conscious unless you supplied it with all the necessary stimulus that the body and world provides for it, which would for all intents and purposes amount to putting it back within a body and a world.

YOU are a conscious subject, conscious of objects in the world, including your own body. The you/subject that is conscious of your body is not located in space, but that which, as Kant put it, provides the sensory intuition of space. No matter how hard we try to look for our own subjectivity in the brain, we will find only objects other than ourselves. This is why I said in my first post that consciousness is not just a phenomenon (though it can become an object to itself--thereby becoming self-consciousness), it is also a noumenon, which is also to say that it is transcendental (as Kant put it). You can't see consciousness. You can't feel it. Consciousness is that which sees, that which feels. This is why it is a category mistake to think empirical science could account for it in terms of brain activity alone. There will always be a conscious subject doing the observation of brain processes, a seer behind what is seen.

I bring up rainbows as an analogy for consciousness because neither rainbows or conscious experience are locatable in space. Each emerges because of a complex interaction involving multiple variables distant in time and space.

Why does the ontological status of consciousness matter? Well, that is the same as asking why your own personal existence matters, which I will leave up to you to figure out.

#150

Posted by: Kel, OM Author Profile Page | May 21, 2010 12:28 AM

There will always be a conscious subject doing the observation of brain processes, a seer behind what is seen.
How can you justify such a statement? Consciousness is not an observation of brain process, it IS brain process. Alter the brain process, alter the experience. Damage the process, damage the experience. Consciousness is not an observer but an emergent property of the process itself!

What I don't get about you is why you feel the need for it to be something more. Why does it have to be mysticalenchanted? Surely no matter what is underlying the experience doesn't prevent it from being enchanting. Why can't consciousness be a purely physically emergent phenomenon? The only reason I could see to take this position is to justify using personal experience to wax philosophical about it.

#151

Posted by: Usagichan Author Profile Page | May 21, 2010 1:19 AM

Kel,

I don't think that

Alter the brain process, alter the experience.

quite answers the argument redliterocket is making - after all altering the experience can be explained as a result of disruption of the stimuli rather than a direct alteration of the consciousness itself.

I would rather say, can physical changes in the brain actually change the nature of the consciousness itself - can a change in the brain literally be reflected by a change in the consciousness with which it is associated. Of course Personality Change as a result of brain damage is well documented - this for example.

If the brain is analogous to an antenna, why should damage to it change the nature of the individual - That is like saying that damaging your TV antenna can create an entirely new TV show!

#152

Posted by: Owlmirror Author Profile Page | May 21, 2010 1:27 AM

I've ingested enough tryptamines to know that toying with brain chemistry can effect consciousness.

Ah.

But it does not follow that consciousness is located inside the skull.

Parsimony.

If you mess with a radio antenna, you might distort the music it is playing, but that doesn't mean the band is inside the radio.

False analogy.

All the empirical studies of the brain that have ever been done and that could ever be done reveal only a correlation between experience and neural tissue.

Parsimony!

No causal relationship can be shown empirically.

Parsimony!!

There is no scientific evidence to suggest that treating the brain as a radio antenna is woo.

Woo, by definition, is silly assertions like yours which lack both evidence and logic.

All the evidence fits perfectly within such a paradigm

Except that it does no such thing.

and philosophically, I believe it is more coherent

You mean "incoherent".

to understand consciousness as that which emerges out of sensorimotor coupling with environments and linguistic coupling with others.

"Linguistic coupling"? So babies are unconscious until they learn language? People who have chronic aphasia are unconscious? Animals are unconscious?

Consciousness is something we depend upon one another for.

By magic !!! Woooo!

In the case of a brain, it comes from a body that is actively engaged with a world via sensorimotor coupling and actively attuned to the interior states of others via empathy and language. If you stuck a brain in a vat, it would not be conscious unless you supplied it with all the necessary stimulus that the body and world provides for it, which would for all intents and purposes amount to putting it back within a body and a world.

Because putting people into sense-dep tanks causes them to turn off.

Oh, wait. It does no such thing!

I bring up rainbows as an analogy for consciousness because neither rainbows or conscious experience are locatable in space. Each emerges because of a complex interaction involving multiple variables distant in time and space.

And the entire damn structure of the brain as studied by neurologists doesn't have anything to do with it.

Because you say so.

Gotcha.

#153

Posted by: Aratina Cage Author Profile Page | May 21, 2010 1:28 AM

redliterocket4,

All the empirical studies of the brain that have ever been done and that could ever be done reveal only a correlation between experience and neural tissue. No causal relationship can be shown empirically.

I beg your pardon? How can you say this after admitting taking drugs to change your consciousness experience? We don't have to know how the system works to know that A causes B.


If you mess with a radio antenna, you might distort the music it is playing, but that doesn't mean the band is inside the radio.

The radio signal will not play music without the radio. The radio is what causes the music to play.


There is no scientific evidence to suggest that treating the brain as a radio antenna is woo.

Are you serious? Yes that is woo! We know much about the brain, not enough to model it yet, but enough to know that it is not an antenna.


the brain=mind paradigm is nothing more than a disguised form of Cartesianism.

That does not compute. I don't have access to Alva Noe's book, but I can already imagine that Alva misrepresented the case against Cartesian dualism.


As for the TV analogy, my point is precisely that disconnecting the cable from the TV makes it impossible for an image to display on the screen.

Did you unplug your TV and turn it on to see what happens? Most TVs throw up an image on the screen whether it is snow or a blue screen or something else. It may not show an image that is meaningful to you, but it is still an image. The signal by itself cannot form an image.


A television, like a brain, can do nothing unless it is receiving a signal from outside.

All I can think of is that you made that up without reason solely to bolster your pet theory. Both televisions and brains can do things without receiving signals from outside.


If you stuck a brain in a vat, it would not be conscious unless you supplied it with all the necessary stimulus that the body and world provides for it

Are you talking about an undeveloped brain, or are you suggesting that a fully developed brain would lose its memories if it were to be disconnected from the body undamaged and kept alive?


YOU are a conscious subject, conscious of objects in the world, including your own body.

Confusing, but OK. A conscious subject is a particular consciousness.


No matter how hard we try to look for our own subjectivity in the brain, we will find only objects other than ourselves.

Doubtful. It is more likely that we will learn how the brain stores memories and integrates them into a mind. Subjectivity is only elusive because of the monumental task ahead of us in figuring out how the brain does it.


You can't see consciousness. You can't feel it. Consciousness is that which sees, that which feels.

Again, the only reason you cannot see or feel consciousness is because it is not yet known how the brain does it.


This is why it is a category mistake to think empirical science could account for it in terms of brain activity alone. There will always be a conscious subject doing the observation of brain processes, a seer behind what is seen.

"And a homunculus in every garden." Come off it. It is almost like you don't want us to disentangle and disassemble consciousness. I'm afraid you will be disappointed as it is likely to be broken down into brain activities alone.


I bring up rainbows as an analogy for consciousness because neither rainbows or conscious experience are locatable in space.

Isn't that interesting. How do you suppose they capture photographs of rainbows if rainbows are not locatable in space?


Each emerges because of a complex interaction involving multiple variables distant in time and space.

Doesn't everything?


Why does the ontological status of consciousness matter? Well, that is the same as asking why your own personal existence matters, which I will leave up to you to figure out.

I feel as if the ontological status of consciousness could only be of use in discouraging others from finding out how consciousness happens and from coming up with a way to model it.


#154

Posted by: redliterocket4 Author Profile Page | May 21, 2010 1:31 AM

Kel,

If you agree that words have meanings, and that the particular word consciousness also has a meaning, then you are left having to admit with me--whatever its meaning might turn out to be--that reality always arises as a subject related to an object. There are never just objects. There are things, and there are perspectives on things. Never are there perspectives without things, and never are there things without perspectives. There is never just an object. There is never just a subject, unless there is a God, an Absolute Subject. But in that case there is also a you in relation to God, and not just God, so God's subjectivity has an object and is no longer just a subject.

Or perhaps, if we are so willing, we are each God, as 14th century German mystic Meister Eckhart put it: "The eyes through which I see God are the same eyes through which God sees me." But even then, there is a creator in relation to a creature. There is a seer in relation to a seen, a Word in relation to a meaning; a spirit clothed in flesh.

Consciousness is intimately interwoven with brain processes, but the words "brain" and "process" only make sense because they refer to concepts in your mind ordered by conscious thinking activity. Scientific investigation is only possible, and has only been so successful in penetrating the visible and measurable aspect of the universe, because of the finely tuned and intelligent person living in the physical body and observing the physical world, experiencing the world and other people from the inside out. I'm not trying to invoke a dualism between two kinds of stuff, physical and mental. I'm simply describing experience and reality (which always arise together) in the mirror within which they appear. Science is supposed to remain true to experience. A materialist or physicalist ontology is a metaphysics which conflicts with my experience of reality. My experience is incoherent when framed within a system of thought (materialism) that denies its own existence as thought.

What good is a scientific cosmology that doesn't fully acknowledge the fact that our universe has produced conscious human personalities? If intelligent life is a statistical accident so far as our best naturalistic explanations of the universe are concerned, then we've obviously missed an important aspect of what the universe is all about. If you condense the 4.6 billion year history of earth into an hour, the first living cells emerged within 10 minutes. Nasa seems convinced Mars has or once supported life. It doesn't seem like an accident to me: we live in a universe that has always been about life. It is not physics (or theology), but biology that is truly the foundational science. Call my own style of philosophizing mystical, but a metaphysics which leaves out the possibility of the emergence, not only of life and intelligence, but of conscious, purposive, caring, feeling, imagining souls is--so far as I can tell--inadequate as a guide for actual experience and incoherent with sustained reasoning concerning the facts as they appear.

#155

Posted by: redliterocket4 Author Profile Page | May 21, 2010 1:48 AM

Owlmirror,

One of the downsides (or perks, depending on your intellectual inclination) of philosophizing is that reality becomes increasingly complex the more your knowledge develops. Parsimony soon no longer serves as an adequate gauge of a theory or conceptual system's truth.

As for the consciousness of babies and animals, I'd say they are each in possession, or perhaps possessed by, highly textured and emotionally complex experience. Whether or not we want to call them conscious subjects or persons capable of rational, scientific thought and moral responsiveness is another question.

#156

Posted by: John Scanlon FCD Author Profile Page | May 21, 2010 2:02 AM

Consciousness emerges from the ongoing transaction between brain, body, and world. It took 13.7 billion years of cosmic evolution to make consciousness possible.

First sentence obvious, but 'emerges' does not imply literally 'gets out of your skull and is currently located elsewhere'. Second strained: (a) it may have been possible to some degree after a much shorter stretch of time since the Big Bang, and (b) you did it yourself in nine months.

I've ingested enough tryptamines to know that toying with brain chemistry can effect consciousness.

What time was this? Do you want us to call someone to check on you?

the brain=mind paradigm is nothing more than a disguised form of Cartesianism

Disguised as its opposite? That's deep.

This wooster reminds me of Rupert Sheldrake.

#157

Posted by: John Scanlon FCD Author Profile Page | May 21, 2010 2:08 AM

If you agree that words have meanings, and that the particular word consciousness also has a meaning, then you are left having to admit with me--whatever its meaning might turn out to be--that reality always arises as a subject related to an object. There are never just objects.

What do they call this, the Argument from Syntax?

#158

Posted by: Aratina Cage Author Profile Page | May 21, 2010 2:11 AM

redrocketliter4,

A materialist or physicalist ontology is a metaphysics which conflicts with my experience of reality. My experience is incoherent when framed within a system of thought (materialism) that denies its own existence as thought.

Ah, I see. This is your personal longing.

I was thinking about how to explain the materialistic point of view the other day to demonstrate how our experience of reality could be ultimately physical. Then I started thinking of aliasing (I had just watched this video clip of a helicopter whose blades rotated at the same frequency as the video camera sampled) and movies. We do have maximum sampling rates for different senses. With movies, for instance, after the movie reaches a certain frame rate, you stop being able to distinguish between that frame rate and higher frame rates. They all look the same. We also can't see bullets when they are fired. And so on.

So you have to admit that our experience of reality has limits as to how fast it operates, and that leaves great room for physical processes in the brain to happen at a faster rate than our experience of reality happens. Consciousness, our experience of reality, could really be quick successions of some underlying process(es).

#159

Posted by: Owlmirror Author Profile Page | May 21, 2010 2:15 AM

Or perhaps, if we are so willing, we are each God, as 14th century German mystic Meister Eckhart put it: "The eyes through which I see God are the same eyes through which God sees me." But even then, there is a creator in relation to a creature. There is a seer in relation to a seen, a Word in relation to a meaning; a spirit clothed in flesh.

A salad whose ingredients are words.

Consciousness is intimately interwoven with brain processes, but the words "brain" and "process" only make sense because they refer to concepts in your mind ordered by conscious thinking activity.

Category mistake.


Science is supposed to remain true to experience.

Science requires logic and evidence, not just experience.

Or do you think the sun goes around the Earth because that's what you experience?

A materialist or physicalist ontology is a metaphysics which conflicts with my experience of reality.

Because the universe has to be all about you, right?

My experience is incoherent when framed within a system of thought (materialism) that denies its own existence as thought.

Oh, you're incoherent, all right, especially since materialism does not deny "its own existence".

What good is a scientific cosmology that doesn't fully acknowledge the fact that our universe has produced conscious human personalities?

Since there is no scientific cosmology that doesn't acknowledge that, you argue against a straw man. Hey, glad you're having fun, but don't think you're getting anywhere.

If you condense the 4.6 billion year history of earth into an hour, the first living cells emerged within 10 minutes.

And by your own arguments about what consciousness, those cells have only been capable of consciousness for less than two seconds or so.

And? So?

It doesn't seem like an accident to me:

You would make a very happy paranoid puddle.

we live in a universe that has always been about life.

Because it's always all about you, right? Billions of cubic lightyears of nothingness and flaming hydrogen, but it's all about you.

Call my own style of philosophizing mystical

Or even incoherent.

but a metaphysics which leaves out the possibility of the emergence, not only of life and intelligence, but of conscious, purposive, caring, feeling, imagining souls is--so far as I can tell--inadequate as a guide for actual experience and incoherent with sustained reasoning concerning the facts as they appear.

Because you don't actually understand anything about metaphysics or reasoning, of course.

#160

Posted by: WowbaggerOM Author Profile Page | May 21, 2010 2:19 AM

What do they call this, the Argument from Syntax?

Great, now we've got a god of the syntactic gap.

#161

Posted by: Owlmirror Author Profile Page | May 21, 2010 2:21 AM

One of the downsides (or perks, depending on your intellectual inclination) of philosophizing is that reality becomes increasingly complex the more your knowledge develops. Parsimony soon no longer serves as an adequate gauge of a theory or conceptual system's truth.

Because of course, magical thinking and narcissistic confirmation bias is the perfect substitute for the principle of parsimony.

As for the consciousness of babies and animals, I'd say they are each in possession, or perhaps possessed by, highly textured and emotionally complex experience. Whether or not we want to call them conscious subjects or persons capable of rational, scientific thought and moral responsiveness is another question.

So "consciousness" equals "rational, scientific thought and moral responsiveness"?

Pity you're unconscious, then, and typing at us using nothing more than "highly textured and emotionally complex experience".

#162

Posted by: redliterocket4 Author Profile Page | May 21, 2010 2:38 AM

aratina cage,

Altering consciousness by ingesting psychedelic or entheogenic neurochemicals is evidence that what happens in the brain can have a drastic effect on conscious experience of reality. It is not evidence that the physical activity happening inside the skull is the source of our experience. When I see a rainbow, the rainbow is not inside my eyes or visual cortex. Nor is it floating in space where it appears arched across the valley in the distance. Experience is what emerges out of organism-environment fields of interaction, wherein energy, feeling, information, and meaning is constantly exchanged.

The radio is not the true cause of the music that is heard out of its speaker. Perhaps we could call it a proximate cause of the music's being heard by you in any particular place and time, but the music itself is the result of the musicians who recorded it elsewhere and elsewhen. Similarly, the brain/body may be the site where consciousness is embodied and expressed in any particular space and time, but not necessarily the ultimate source or cause of its expression.

Consciousness is what allows us to understand brain processes using the concept "machine." In this sense, consciousness is less the effect of as the cause of what we know as the physical processes in the brain.

I feel as if the ontological status of consciousness could only be of use in discouraging others from finding out how consciousness happens and from coming up with a way to model it.

I would not want to discourage anyone from coming to self-knowledge. Contemplating the "ontological status of consciousness" means nothing else than trying to account for one's own and other's existence as conscious beings. We just disagree in regards to whether self-knowledge (or knowledge of consciousness) can be won through strictly neurochemical and neurophysiological means. I am very interested in the findings of neuroscience, but my philosophical conscience requires that I reject positivism and recognize that much of experienced reality* cannot be quantitatively measured or physically manipulated. If I desire knowledge of consciousness, knowing the details of serotonin re-uptake and sodium potassium pumps, etc. is certainly helpful, but it does not exhaust the scope of the phenomenon (and noumenon) in question. There are other modes of inquiry besides empirical science that are relevant to the study of consciousness.


*(is there such a thing as reality without experience?--if yes, anything you say next is non-empirical speculation)

#163

Posted by: Feynmaniac, Chimerical Toad Superhero. Author Profile Page | May 21, 2010 2:49 AM

I'm getting a contact high just reading redliterocket4's comments.

#164

Posted by: Owlmirror Author Profile Page | May 21, 2010 2:56 AM

Experience is what emerges out of organism-environment fields of interaction, wherein energy, feeling, information, and meaning is constantly exchanged.

... in a salad of words.

. Similarly, the brain/body may be the site where consciousness is embodied and expressed in any particular space and time, but not necessarily the ultimate source or cause of its expression.

Because magical special pleading is oh-so-very special.

I am very interested in the findings of neuroscience, but my philosophical conscience requires that I reject positivism

You conscience requires that the universe be all about you, in other words.

and recognize that much of experienced reality* cannot be quantitatively measured or physically manipulated.

Except by your own personal wishful thinking.

There are other modes of inquiry besides empirical science that are relevant to the study of consciousness.

Magical thinking and drug experiences are study?

*(is there such a thing as reality without experience?--if yes, anything you say next is non-empirical speculation)

Just like all that you've offered is non-empirical speculation. Pfft.

#165

Posted by: Usagichan Author Profile Page | May 21, 2010 3:01 AM

redliterocket

so, if consciousness is not an emergent property of the brain, how does brain damage lead to personality change? I can see perception being permanently altered, but why should the nature of the underlying consciousness be changed unless the brain is intrinsically part of that consciousness?

#166

Posted by: Aratina Cage Author Profile Page | May 21, 2010 4:05 AM

redliterocket4, (I'll get it right someday)

It is not evidence that the physical activity happening inside the skull is the source of our experience.

Right then, go ahead and cut out your brain and see if the experience stops. Don't you see what you are doing? You are insisting, without any reason to do so, that consciousness is connected to but not contained by the brain.


Nor is it [the rainbow] floating in space where it appears arched across the valley in the distance.

The water droplets that reflect the light and form the rainbow are located where you see it, which is why you can take a picture of it, however the rainbow, being nothing more than an optical effect, moves with you as your location changes relative to the water droplets and sun.


Experience is what emerges out of organism-environment fields of interaction, wherein energy, feeling, information, and meaning is constantly exchanged.

You have to be careful here because a conscious experience does not mean the same thing as an unconscious experience which any object can have. A conscious experience only needs memories. How those memories get into the brain can be from interactions with the environment or internally generated, and once those memories are in the brain for however long or short a time, they can be consciously experienced.


The radio is not the true cause of the music that is heard out of its speaker. Perhaps we could call it a proximate cause of the music's being heard by you in any particular place and time, but the music itself is the result of the musicians who recorded it elsewhere and elsewhen.

Actually, the radio is the true cause of the music heard from the speakers. The radio transforms the signal it receives into sound without bias as to the source of the signal. The musicians would be the cause of the recording, and the radio station would be the cause of the signal transmission. You can trace the music back to the musicians, but they did not cause the music to be playing on your radio.


Similarly, the brain/body may be the site where consciousness is embodied and expressed in any particular space and time, but not necessarily the ultimate source or cause of its expression.

Like the radio, the (unconscious) brain is not biased about the sources for what it receives. Yes, of course life was and is shaped by its environment, but the brain will accept visual stimuli from a beam of sunlight or the beam of a headlight just the same. No matter the source of stimuli to the brain, the brain is the primary source for everything available to one's consciousness under a materialist conception of consciousness.


Consciousness is what allows us to understand brain processes using the concept "machine." In this sense, consciousness is less the effect of as the cause of what we know as the physical processes in the brain.

Assume consciousness is a process ongoing in a brain, then consciousness does appear to be able to alter the brain's memories and create new ones from memories it already has access to, but it has no way of directly changing the physical world external to the brain; it can only directly affect memories, some of which might be instructions for the body to move. Under such a scenario, the causal power of consciousness is very indirect. Regardless, biological "machines" existed before anyone's consciousness was able to ponder them.


We just disagree in regards to whether self-knowledge (or knowledge of consciousness) can be won through strictly neurochemical and neurophysiological means.

Of course knowledge of what consciousness is and how it works can be won by our scientifically minded brains. :) The neurochemicals and neurophysiology have not let us down before, why would they suddenly quit working when we peer into the minds of others?


If I desire knowledge of consciousness, knowing the details of serotonin re-uptake and sodium potassium pumps, etc. is certainly helpful, but it does not exhaust the scope of the phenomenon (and noumenon) in question.

That will not come until the process that gives rise to consciousness can be modeled, and we need to understand the mechanics to make the model.


is there such a thing as reality without experience?--if yes, anything you say next is non-empirical speculation

Yes. Consciousness is a physical phenomenon that is not necessary for reality to unfold, and that is not non-empirical speculation. You can easily verify it by setting up a video camera to record and leave it there for a time recording with no other conscious subject being around.

Your position, that without consciousness there is no reality, makes for quite a doozy of a problem when it comes to explaining how you got here and gained consciousness. The materialist's position defers to biology.

#167

Posted by: Kel, OM Author Profile Page | May 21, 2010 4:29 AM

Science is supposed to remain true to experience.
No, science is meant to follow the evidence wherever it leads. In the simplistic notion of following experience where you say that your experiences are incompatible with materialism / physicalism (which for simplicity I will refer to as naturalism) is no more a valid point than a believer who points to their experiences as proof of God. Are you sure that you're experiences are incompatible with naturalism? Are you saying that physical processes can't explain what you're experiences fullstop? That is to say that your experiences are in violation of physics? Or are you saying that your experiences lead you to feel like there must be something more?

Take the sense of self for example, now it's a strong sense that we all have. Electrically stimulate the brain and you can induce a sense of disconnect between the mind and body. Now to the person experiencing that, they are feeling some sort of dualistic notion. That the mind and body are separate. Yet we can look at the causal processes that led to that experience and see that underneath it is just brain activity. Now which would your experience be? Is the OBE unexplainable by naturalism, or is the experience of one a reason to reject naturalism? I'd argue that it's perfectly explainable by naturalism but that it would incline the person experiencing it to think that naturalism and the experience are incompatible.

#168

Posted by: Kel, OM Author Profile Page | May 21, 2010 8:43 AM

I would rather say, can physical changes in the brain actually change the nature of the consciousness itself - can a change in the brain literally be reflected by a change in the consciousness with which it is associated.
That's a much better way of putting it!
#169

Posted by: Sven DiMilo Author Profile Page | May 21, 2010 9:12 AM

a metaphysics which leaves out the possibility of the emergence, not only of life and intelligence, but of conscious, purposive, caring, feeling, imagining souls is--so far as I can tell--inadequate as a guide for actual experience

The available evidence suggests strongly that intelligence, consciousness, purpose, caring, feeling, and imagination are emergent from a particular number and organization of neurons. Grades of all of these properties can be inferred from observations of organisms with other, different numbers and organizations of essentially identical neurons (and, indeed, from comparisons of individual humans). Human exceptionalism is, increasingly clearly, quantitative and not qualitative. Yes, I include language in that assessment. Adding the word 'soul' serves only to smuggle in your precious narcissistic woo.

#170

Posted by: Kel, OM Author Profile Page | June 6, 2010 6:52 AM

Science is supposed to remain true to experience.
If you're still reading this Matthew Segall, my rebuttal.

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