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yy2bggggs
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Postby yy2bggggs » Sat Mar 17, 2007 5:09 pm UTC

HenryS wrote:
yy2bggggs wrote:Might I ask--is there a physical difference between 2+2 and 5? Both of these are non-physical entities.

If they are non-physical entities, why are you asking if there is a physical difference between them?

Because what was in question was this:
wisnij wrote:This is totally a "dragon in the garage" sort of question. If there is no physical difference, then how is it meaningful to say there is a difference at all?

I alluded to "experience". The term "physical" is an obfuscation--it's using the same base as the word "physics". If he means ontological, he should say so. The primary confusion--dare I even say, the error being made--is the one between what is "actually there"--the ontology, the "physical" if you want to call it that, and what can be addressed with physics--the objectively modelable. In essence, the error is that the objective cannot address the subjective.

The point I was making here is that there are tons of examples of things that are "different" that are not "physical" (in the sense of "belonging to physics").

Given this, look back at what I'm claiming exists. Is it there? Is there something it is like to be you? Do you experience things? Wake up--climb out of the debate for a second and walk around, and actually look at the world. When you do, there's something you are doing that's fundamentally different from a camera looking at the world--it's more than light bumping into things, causing the arrangement of things to change states. There's something there that is actually seeing it in the mix.
The existential status of mathematical objects is a thorny problem, but I don't see how it's comparable to the existential status of qualia, or consciousness, or whatever we are talking about here.

Mathematics isn't the only problem child here. Is there a difference between noun and verb? Poverty and wealth? And since the question was asked if there can be a meaningful difference, what about there being a difference between meaningful concepts and gibberish?

The last part is actually a major problem here. I have a brain. Somehow, nature+my brain results in my mind, and I seriously doubt it requires another type of substance. But this implies that all of my mind is physics. Physics, however, is something that "always works". There's no way things should behave in physics--there's only the way things do behave; if the latter doesn't match the former, your physics is wrong. (Yes, this covers randomness in QM; if an event occurs with 90% probability, there's no physical sense in which it should occur; i.e., if it doesn't occur, it doesn't violate physics. In other words, physics is not an option, it's an inevitability).

As such, if you address my mind from a physics perspective (i.e., the physics of the brain), then it's always "correct" so to speak. It works--it does what brains do (and the mind is somehow just connected to this series, as an action/pattern/whatever you imagine). So if this is the case, and I talk about this aspect that physics doesn't cover, how can I be wrong about it? My brain works. It's not violating laws of physics.

Don't you need something besides what can be addressed with physics, to even consider the possibility of someone saying something that is incorrect? If so, fine. Just patch that tiny little hole up--claim that somehow, we're able to mean things. Claim that some of the things we mean are correct, and some are incorrect.

But now, when you're demanding that something be physically different (again, "physical" being the adjective form of physics here), or effectively not different at all, then who is begging the question?
I think I read you as not positing any spooky supernatural dualism going on, but you're talking about some other kind of existence of something (neither material nor supernatural)?

No, it's not another kind of existence. None of these are new types of things to deal with. None of it is a new creature, another world, another existence. These are all things you deal with in your life. These are the things that are actually there. I'm not trying to come up with some kind, and say "they are of this type"--but rather, I'm trying to illustrate that everything that could be said about the physics of the universe doesn't address these types of things. If there's a kind here, it's simply "the other kind".
I would say: Well yes physical information cannot distinguish these cases, and that's because there is no difference. So?

Then am I right too? I mean, I don't see the physical difference between a brain that is mistaken and a brain that is correct. They should both obey the laws of chemistry. I'm not even sure if you could call a brain that is correct more healthy than a brain that is mistaken.
This is perhaps a little off track, but I guess the point is that I'd like some more detail on this conceiving of other people as having or not having consciousness. It doesn't seem at all obvious to me how to do that,
or if it makes sense. Are we going to start talking about "things that it is like something to be"?

Yes. Follow the link I posted above--Chalmers is the guy to go to to understand the use of philosophical zombies (he's the person who actually coined the term "hard problem"). Daniel Dennett is the major opponent. The wiki article on qualia winds up describing this as well.

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Postby HenryS » Sat Mar 17, 2007 6:39 pm UTC

yy2bggggs wrote:The primary confusion--dare I even say, the error being made--is the one between what is "actually there"--the ontology, the "physical" if you want to call it that, and what can be addressed with physics--the objectively modelable. In essence, the error is that the objective cannot address the subjective.
Ok, so let me see if I can paraphrase you accurately. You're saying that there are things that are actually there but cannot be described solely in terms of the positions of atoms etc.?

yy2bggggs wrote:When you do, there's something you are doing that's fundamentally different from a camera looking at the world--it's more than light bumping into things, causing the arrangement of things to change states. There's something there that is actually seeing it in the mix.
Well it does feel like that, but I would assume that this is exactly what it feels like to be an arrangement of things changing states in response to light bumping into things. I feel like I do, being a process running on some physical substrate (my brain). As I alluded to last post, I'm uneasy with this imagining what it is like to be other things. If I were that other thing, I would be that other thing, and in no way would I be the current me.

yy2bggggs wrote:Mathematics isn't the only problem child here. Is there a difference between noun and verb? Poverty and wealth? And since the question was asked if there can be a meaningful difference, what about there being a difference between meaningful concepts and gibberish?

This is pretty close to (the same as?) the issues of mathematical existence, which I don't have a very good sense on. I can however always retreat to the position of formalism, which would say that all of these objects are various marks on paper, structures in our brains etc.

yy2bggggs wrote:Don't you need something besides what can be addressed with physics, to even consider the possibility of someone saying something that is incorrect? If so, fine. Just patch that tiny little hole up--claim that somehow, we're able to mean things. Claim that some of the things we mean are correct, and some are incorrect.
Or, just that when you claim something that is incorrect, your brain is modelling some other feature of the larger universe, and is doing so in an inaccurate way. We can, I think, talk about predictions that certain systems make about what other systems will do, and see how accurate those predictions are, without invoking meaning anywhere.

yy2bggggs wrote:But now, when you're demanding that something be physically different (again, "physical" being the adjective form of physics here), or effectively not different at all, then who is begging the question?
Well, that wasn't me accusing begging the question, but in any case, it's entirely possible that I have some deeper assumptions that do answer the question before it's asked so to speak, but hopefully we can find out by discussing this if I do.


yy2bggggs wrote:Then am I right too? I mean, I don't see the physical difference between a brain that is mistaken and a brain that is correct.


Let's take a simpler example. Write down a proof of the pythagorean theorem on a sheet of paper. It's either a correct proof or an incorrect one (ok this could be argued, but let's assume it for now), where by "correct" I mean something along the lines of "accurately predicts things about some other parts of this universe".

But you don't get to change it from a correct proof to an incorrect one without changing it physically. Some letter or symbol actually has to physically (atoms etc.) change. And I assume you'd agree that it's the same with a brain. Maybe I'm still missing your point?

yy2bggggs wrote:Yes. Follow the link I posted above--Chalmers is the guy to go to to understand the use of philosophical zombies (he's the person who actually coined the term "hard problem"). Daniel Dennett is the major opponent. The wiki article on qualia winds up describing this as well.
Ah, well I am a Dennett fan. I haven't read that much on this subject, so perhaps I'm repeating some of Dennett's ideas here. If I get a chance I'll read more. Like I say, I don't think I buy this imagining what it is like to be something else at the moment.

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Postby yy2bggggs » Sat Mar 17, 2007 8:03 pm UTC

HenryS wrote:
yy2bggggs wrote:The primary confusion--dare I even say, the error being made--is the one between what is "actually there"--the ontology, the "physical" if you want to call it that, and what can be addressed with physics--the objectively modelable. In essence, the error is that the objective cannot address the subjective.
Ok, so let me see if I can paraphrase you accurately. You're saying that there are things that are actually there but cannot be described solely in terms of the positions of atoms etc.?
yy2bggggs wrote:When you do, there's something you are doing that's fundamentally different from a camera looking at the world--it's more than light bumping into things, causing the arrangement of things to change states. There's something there that is actually seeing it in the mix.
Well it does feel like that, but I would assume that this is exactly what it feels like to be an arrangement of things changing states in response to light bumping into things. I feel like I do, being a process running on some physical substrate (my brain).

Yes, I'm talking about things that are actually there but cannot be described solely in terms of positions of atoms, etc. But I think I mean a lot more by "etc." than you do. Spiritual entities won't work--they just extend your physics (e.g., add ghosts, and you have another type of substance, with its own natures--they have locations, travel continuously through space with particular velocites, have shapes, etc). The problem isn't with physics as it exists--it's with any possible physics.

But all you are saying is that you are "physical" and you have these things. The problem is, in saying you're physical, what you really mean is simply that you're really there, not that you're a result of physics. There's a confusion here between these two distinct uses of the term physics. But I'm pointing to a difference between you and a camera, so it's a bit dodgy to look at yourself and say, "well, I guess it's possible to be physical and experience". The question is more like, does a camera see the world? Can you imagine what it's like to be a camera taking a picture? Is there something that it is like to be a camera taking a picture?
As I alluded to last post, I'm uneasy with this imagining what it is like to be other things. If I were that other thing, I would be that other thing, and in no way would I be the current me.

Well, I can see how you would be uneasy doing this, but that is entirely what the problem's about.
yy2bggggs wrote:Mathematics isn't the only problem child here. Is there a difference between noun and verb? Poverty and wealth? And since the question was asked if there can be a meaningful difference, what about there being a difference between meaningful concepts and gibberish?

This is pretty close to (the same as?) the issues of mathematical existence, which I don't have a very good sense on. I can however always retreat to the position of formalism, which would say that all of these objects are various marks on paper, structures in our brains etc.
...
Or, just that when you claim something that is incorrect, your brain is modelling some other feature of the larger universe, and is doing so in an inaccurate way. We can, I think, talk about predictions that certain systems make about what other systems will do, and see how accurate those predictions are, without invoking meaning anywhere.

The problem with this is that it misses a very key issue of "aboutness". If I write on a sheet of paper: "F=Gmn/r^2", those symbols are about gravity. They exist on a sheet of paper. But what is the physical representation of their being about gravity? It's not on the paper. You need, at least, to hunt down some person who can interpret those symbols, but then you wind up with the same problem trying to figure out what, in their brains, is the physical representation of those neurons being about gravity.

Saying that these things "predict" begs the question--a prediction is about something. You need aboutness to have a prediction. In essence, though a brain may be sufficient to produce a mind, the precise thing you need to address these issues is the mind, not the brain (some brains have no minds--you need one that has a mind). Functionalism fails to address the entire issue of aboutness.

yy2bggggs wrote:Then am I right too? I mean, I don't see the physical difference between a brain that is mistaken and a brain that is correct.
Let's take a simpler example. Write down a proof of the pythagorean theorem on a sheet of paper. It's either a correct proof or an incorrect one (ok this could be argued, but let's assume it for now), where by "correct" I mean something along the lines of "accurately predicts things about some other parts of this universe".

But you don't get to change it from a correct proof to an incorrect one without changing it physically. Some letter or symbol actually has to physically (atoms etc.) change.

But the correctness is still not on the paper. What if I write the following--is it correct?
9+7/3=11
In addition, a letter isn't even represented by particular particles. It's mind too. Paper is the easy route--I'll have you consider letters on your monitor. Photons are being produced in particular configurations, at a particular location on the screen, and that produces a letter. But that isn't that letter. When I post Z on the forum, and you read it, we're using different screens, in different locations. But it's the one that I posted that we're talking about when you talk about that Z. Scroll up now to reread some of my points--then scroll back down. The same letter, even on your screen, went down and then back up. As it did so, it was represented at different locations. When it scrolled off, it wasn't represented at all. Where is the Z, really? It's in both of our minds.

The physical substrate is necessary to implement this letter, but in reality, it's in our minds. Just like the milk in your refrigerator, that's still there when you shut the door, that Z is still there when you shut off your monitor.

When does it change? When I edit it (from any computer), or when the forum goes down, or when a mod changes it. But all of these are abstract things. Sure, they are done concretely. Now you might argue then that the Z is on some machine that Randall has, but that's not the case. If that machine flakes out, Randall can move it to a different machine. He can upgrade the machine, and move those same bits around--maybe even in different configurations. Maybe the machine crashes, and he restores the forums from tape backup. Or maybe that tape backup fails instead, and he creates a new one.

Ah, well I am a Dennett fan. I haven't read that much on this subject, so perhaps I'm repeating some of Dennett's ideas here. If I get a chance I'll read more. Like I say, I don't think I buy this imagining what it is like to be something else at the moment.

Well yeah, it sounds like it. But my opinion is that Dennett is merely sweeping the problem under the rug. I don't see the problem of qualia solved by saying it's not really there. Qualia seems to be there, and, unfortunately, qualia is one of those types of things where you cannot be fooled into thinking it exists without it existing. It's impossible to have an illusion of qualia without being capable of having illusions. This is a tricky point, because usually the situation is different (if you prove something is "only an illusion", then it doesn't really exist), but qualia is the stuff illusions are made of. If it is "but an illusion", that does quite the opposite--it proves that qualia does exist.

The same issue exists with falsifiability. Maybe qualia is not falsifiable, but if there's no qualia, there's no meaning. If there's no meaning, and this is all just physics--and it begs the question--how can physics be wrong? Making qualia out to be a hypothesis is an error in the first place.
Last edited by yy2bggggs on Sun Mar 18, 2007 4:29 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby wisnij » Sat Mar 17, 2007 8:09 pm UTC

yy2bggggs wrote:
wisnij wrote:Regardless of whether this is true or not, I still think you are erring in assuming the question of consciousness is a physics problem rather than simply one of neurobiology.

I don't see the error. Are you proposing that from a scientific perspective, neurobiology transcends physics?

No, I'm saying you're working from the wrong level of analysis. We probably don't need new physics, or a different understanding of physics, to explain consciousness, just better biology.

yy2bggggs wrote:
This is totally a "dragon in the garage" sort of question. If there is no physical difference, then how is it meaningful to say there is a difference at all?

Might I ask--is there a physical difference between 2+2 and 5? Both of these are non-physical entities.

Don't change the subject. We were talking about real, physical (if hypothetical) people, not mathematical abstractions.

yy2bggggs wrote:This is all about what you can possibly describe using the science of physics due to a limitation of the mental tools that underly physics (that is, working with objective "things" that have "behaviors" limits our ability to describe phenomenon in a fundamental way that prevents us from addressing consciousness).

Explain the logic underlying this conclusion, please.

yy2bggggs wrote:This is not about whether or not, from nature, consciousness can arise.

That's exactly what this is about! If consciousness does arise from nature, then it must obey physical law and thus be subject to examination by physical means. In this case, your zombie could not exist without some measurable difference between him and his conscious counterpart. Maybe his neurons are wired up differently, or his neurotransmitters don't work right, or something subtler is wrong. Whether we would know how to detect the difference is another question, but it would have to exist.
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Postby yy2bggggs » Sat Mar 17, 2007 8:43 pm UTC

wisnij wrote:
yy2bggggs wrote:
wisnij wrote:Regardless of whether this is true or not, I still think you are erring in assuming the question of consciousness is a physics problem rather than simply one of neurobiology.

I don't see the error. Are you proposing that from a scientific perspective, neurobiology transcends physics?

No, I'm saying you're working from the wrong level of analysis. We probably don't need new physics, or a different understanding of physics, to explain consciousness, just better biology.

Biology is physics.
yy2bggggs wrote:
This is totally a "dragon in the garage" sort of question. If there is no physical difference, then how is it meaningful to say there is a difference at all?

Might I ask--is there a physical difference between 2+2 and 5? Both of these are non-physical entities.
...We were talking about real, physical (if hypothetical) people, not mathematical abstractions.

This is in its entirety the complete opposite of the case. We are not talking about real, physical people. We are talking about hypothetical people. See below.
yy2bggggs wrote:This is all about what you can possibly describe using the science of physics due to a limitation of the mental tools that underly physics (that is, working with objective "things" that have "behaviors" limits our ability to describe phenomenon in a fundamental way that prevents us from addressing consciousness).
Explain the logic underlying this conclusion, please.

There's an entity, x, for which there is a particular phenomenon P belonging to x. There are rules R, from which a theoretical framework, T, is built. The rules for R are that you are allowed to identify entities, the states of entities, and behaviors of entities. We are setting out to show that T is incapable of addressing P.

We start by positing a hypothetical entity, which we call y. We make this entity identical in every possible way to x, except for the fact that it lacks the phenomenon P. The issue is what is meant by "possible" in this case. I'll address that later--for now, it's variable, and I'll say "relevantly possible".

Now, the framework T, following the rules of R, can at its maximum describe what it is allowed to describe. If no possible T can distinguish x from y, then it follows that T does not address P. If we can make x identical to y in terms of what T can describe, without including phenomenon P, we've demonstrated that T cannot address P.

As you can see, since the issue is what we can address using T, then it follows that what is relevantly possible for this argument should be limited to the things we can address. This is quite distinct from limiting it to things that can be, and thus, it's the conceivability of zombies that's the issue, not the feasibility of building one, nor the physical possibility of having one (it could be that nature does not allow zombies, but that doesn't in any way affect what we can address using theories of nature).
Last edited by yy2bggggs on Sun Mar 18, 2007 4:32 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby wisnij » Sat Mar 17, 2007 10:29 pm UTC

yy2bggggs wrote:
wisnij wrote:
yy2bggggs wrote:
wisnij wrote:Regardless of whether this is true or not, I still think you are erring in assuming the question of consciousness is a physics problem rather than simply one of neurobiology.

I don't see the error. Are you proposing that from a scientific perspective, neurobiology transcends physics?

No, I'm saying you're working from the wrong level of analysis. We probably don't need new physics, or a different understanding of physics, to explain consciousness, just better biology.

Biology is physics.

No, it isn't. It's built on chemistry which in turn is built on physics, in the same way that (say) Lisp is built on top of C, which is built on machine language. You don't have to change the processor in your machine if you want a new Lisp function. Similarly, new advances in neuroscience only require new uses of already-existing physics -- newly-discovered structures in the brain, perhaps, or a better understanding of how the parts we already know about work in concert. That is, unless you can show a good specific reason why physics (the primitive operators, so to speak) is inadequate to the task, but so far you have not done so.

yy2bggggs wrote:
yy2bggggs wrote:Might I ask--is there a physical difference between 2+2 and 5? Both of these are non-physical entities.

Don't change the subject. We were talking about real, physical (if hypothetical) people, not mathematical abstractions.

This is in its entirety the complete opposite of the case. We are not talking about real, physical people. We are talking about hypothetical people. See below.

People who are hypothetically real, i.e. must conform to natural law. This isn't a purely mathematical hypothesis like "consider a set S with properties such-and-so" where you get to pick any self-consistent set of assumptions you like.

yy2bggggs wrote:As you can see, since the issue is what we can address using T, then it follows that what is relevantly possible for this argument should be limited to the things we can address. This is quite distinct from limiting it to things that can be, and thus, it's the conceivability of zombies that's the issue, not the feasibility of building one, nor the physical possibility of having one (it could be that nature do not allow zombies, but that doesn't in any way affect what we can address using theories of nature).

Once you start talking about things or properties that can exist but can't be detected, you've entered the realm of religion.
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Postby yy2bggggs » Sat Mar 17, 2007 11:56 pm UTC

Not too far back:
wisnij wrote:That's exactly what this is about! If consciousness does arise from nature, then it must obey physical law and thus be subject to examination by physical means.

...and in this post:
wisnij wrote:
yy2bggggs wrote:Biology is physics.
No, it isn't. It's built on chemistry which in turn is built on physics, in the same way that (say) Lisp is built on top of C, which is built on machine language.

Two posts ago, you agreed with me. Your confusions are semantic.

As for your analogy, the relationship between biology and physics is fundamentally different than the relationship between LISP and C. In fact, it's an error to even claim that LISP is built on C.
wisnij wrote:People who are hypothetically real, i.e. must conform to natural law.

By natural law, do you mean known laws we refer to as natural law, or ineffable laws? We know there are conscious beings. So nature obviously allows it. But you're ignoring the issue--if there are unknowable natural laws that allow for consciousness, then it cannot be addressed using physics.

Besides, you're just making up this rule. There's no reason to limit hypothetical entities that you dream up, or the conclusions you make based on them, so long as they follow. There's no rule saying the hypothetical entities should even be physically possible. Would your rules on hypothetical beings apply to, say, Maxwell's demon?
wisnij wrote:This isn't a purely mathematical hypothesis like "consider a set S with properties such-and-so" where you get to pick any self-consistent set of assumptions you like.

Why would you need a purely mathematical hypothesis in order to use a proof by contradiction? Is this some new law?

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About self-awareness

Postby EstLladon » Sun Mar 18, 2007 10:58 am UTC

If you have rather well formed feelings and "feelers" and a device that can interpret them you can actually feel yourself. That causes self-awareness. And I think it is not a big deal - I believe it is just a simplest way to organize such a complex system as human being - it have to be self-aware to function.

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Re: About self-awareness

Postby yy2bggggs » Sun Mar 18, 2007 11:56 am UTC

EstLladon wrote:If you have rather well formed feelings and "feelers" and a device that can interpret them you can actually feel yourself. That causes self-awareness. And I think it is not a big deal - I believe it is just a simplest way to organize such a complex system as human being - it have to be self-aware to function.

As human beings, we process an enormous amount of data. But we have limited effective resolution of this data, thus the data is essentially finite. Every behavior that a human being exhibits, then, could in theory be preprogrammed into a robot. You could reduce the programming aspect to a single register and a table based lookup, as follows:

Code: Select all

HumongousIntRegister state;
const HumongousInt BehaviorTable[MAX_HUMONGOUS_INT]={...};
for(;;) state = BehaviorTable[state|getinputs()];

The lower n bits of the state register can drive all outputs. The rest can maintain an essentially random number representing the current state. Every apparent feeling, every reaction, every possible discussion, heated debate, memory, etc is reduced to a single table lookup.

There's your zombie. Would the table be sentient, or the program?

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Re: About self-awareness

Postby OmenPigeon » Sun Mar 18, 2007 4:04 pm UTC

yy2bggggs wrote:There's your zombie. Would the table be sentient, or the program?


Neither. I'd argue that the system is only displaying the intelligence of its programmers, it has no intelligence of its own. I'm with Ned Block on this one; some description of the internal functioning of a system must be known before it can be called intelligent, and lookup tables are not intelligent. (This isn't a terribly great paper, but its the best I could scare up quickly.)
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Postby EstLladon » Mon Mar 19, 2007 12:22 pm UTC

Would the table be sentient, or the program?
Well, we must define what we mean when we say "sentient" and "intelligent" before we are going to argue about what is or not intelligent. For me it is something like "having properties of the brain similar to a sane human being", but I still do not know what kind of properties this should be, so I cannot usefully argue about that.

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Re: About self-awareness

Postby HenryS » Mon Mar 19, 2007 7:32 pm UTC

yy2bggggs wrote:You could reduce the programming aspect to a single register and a table based lookup, as follows:

Code: Select all

HumongousIntRegister state;
const HumongousInt BehaviorTable[MAX_HUMONGOUS_INT]={...};
for(;;) state = BehaviorTable[state|getinputs()];

The lower n bits of the state register can drive all outputs. The rest can maintain an essentially random number representing the current state. Every apparent feeling, every reaction, every possible discussion, heated debate, memory, etc is reduced to a single table lookup.

There's your zombie. Would the table be sentient, or the program?
I think it's instructive to think a little about the size of the thought experiment here. That HumungousInt is really very very large. What you've got there is a record of the life, down to every sensory input, of pretty much everyone who ever lived or ever could live, subject to any conceivable environment. I can't see a neat way to estimate the size of this database in an uncontroversial way, but perhaps we can agree that the number of entries in it is larger than the number of elementary particles in the visible universe?

I don't think our intuitions about lookup tables really apply very well here. And what is conscious? Well, you had to run the processing in a whole lot of human brains to record all of those responses for the lookup table. They were presumably conscious then. Is the lookup table conscious when it plays back the responses? I doubt it, it isn't doing the right kinds processing, but like I say, I don't have a good handle on lookup tables larger than the known universe.

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Postby Crane » Fri Mar 23, 2007 1:22 pm UTC

Gwah.
Ow.
This thread makes my brain hurt.
...that being said: How exactly are we defining a soul here anyway? Doubling back for a moment, and forgetting the question of the hypothetical zombie, the original question was "Is there such a thing as a soul", and we can't answer this without first coming to a consensus definition of a soul is.
My shot:
A soul is a non-physical property of a being that holds attributes of that being, and which survives the death of that being.

How does this sound?

Oh, I'd also say that:
wisnij wrote:Once you start talking about things or properties that can exist but can't be detected, you've entered the realm of religion.

Just because something can't be detected by scientific methods yet doesn't make it religious. We still can't actually detect gluons, (unless my knowledge is outdated), but no-one would say that a gluon is a religious concept.
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Postby wisnij » Fri Mar 23, 2007 1:56 pm UTC

Crane wrote:Oh, I'd also say that:
wisnij wrote:Once you start talking about things or properties that can exist but can't be detected, you've entered the realm of religion.

Just because something can't be detected by scientific methods yet doesn't make it religious. We still can't actually detect gluons, (unless my knowledge is outdated), but no-one would say that a gluon is a religious concept.

I mean even in principle, like Sagan's invisible dragon. (And gluons were detected experimentally as early as 1979.)
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Postby yy2bggggs » Fri Mar 23, 2007 2:36 pm UTC

wisnij wrote:
Crane wrote:Oh, I'd also say that:
wisnij wrote:Once you start talking about things or properties that can exist but can't be detected, you've entered the realm of religion.

Just because something can't be detected by scientific methods yet doesn't make it religious. We still can't actually detect gluons, (unless my knowledge is outdated), but no-one would say that a gluon is a religious concept.

I mean even in principle, like Sagan's invisible dragon. (And gluons were detected experimentally as early as 1979.)

Does it matter? The reason I snipped this out in my first reply is because it doesn't. The admonition here is "you're being religious", but this is easy to counter. Once you start talking about category x and expand it to include y as an argument against y, you have lost your dependence on the actual and are susceptible to random politics.

Who cares if it's the realm of religion? Being religious in itself is not a valid argument against anything. This carries the exact same convincing power as name calling.

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Postby Belial » Fri Mar 23, 2007 2:43 pm UTC

Then put it another way: If something cannot be detected, even in principle, does it matter?

I would say no, since it doesn't change anything in our universe at all.
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Postby yy2bggggs » Fri Mar 23, 2007 2:56 pm UTC

Belial wrote:Then put it another way: If something cannot be detected, even in principle, does it matter?

Matter is a personal preference, not an argument.

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Postby Belial » Fri Mar 23, 2007 2:57 pm UTC

No, it is. If it doesn't affect the universe in any way, whatsoever, then it might as well be said not to exist for all purposes.
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Postby yy2bggggs » Fri Mar 23, 2007 3:02 pm UTC

Belial wrote:No, it is. If it doesn't affect the universe in any way, whatsoever, then it might as well be said not to exist for all purposes.

You're restating your premise as a conclusion.

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Postby Belial » Fri Mar 23, 2007 3:03 pm UTC

Okay, then let me restate it as a question:

If something fails to interact with the perceivable universe in any way, how can it be said to exist?
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Postby yy2bggggs » Fri Mar 23, 2007 3:27 pm UTC

Belial wrote:Okay, then let me restate it as a question:

If something fails to interact with the perceivable universe in any way, how can it be said to exist?

Who says it fails to interact with the perceivable universe? The issue is more whether or not you can possibly distinguish between two models. This is upside down from Occam, however, because the extra entity is in the model we know for sure to exist.

This isn't really an argument for souls--I don't believe in souls. But I think it's relevant, and possibly the strongest argument in support for souls that carries any weight, and I think the explanatory gap we see here is very real. But what I think is really going on here is more like what I alluded to before--there's this soul thing, and we're not supposed to believe in it, therefore any arguments in its favor are supposed to be squashed.

My only reason for bringing this up was that there were too many posts mistaking mind for brain, or the workings of the brain, when it is neither (e.g., dead brains have no minds, and brains of vegetables have no minds). What exactly is required to create a mind from a brain is not an easy thing to identify (it requires leaps necessarily--mere functionalism fails miserably). This might be an issue for someone wanting to squash spiritualism with logic, but that's not my problem.

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Postby Belial » Fri Mar 23, 2007 3:31 pm UTC

Arguably, a dead brain doesn't have a "mind" because the oxygen deprivation that tends to come with death causes the machinery of the brain to break down and become nonfunctional.

The idea that it's *obvious* that this is evidence of some supernatural entity that is our "mind" is somewhat flawed.
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Postby Crane » Fri Mar 23, 2007 3:34 pm UTC

Just because something fails to interact with the perceivable universe in any way doesn't mean it doesn't matter.
If we take christian beliefs for an example: if you were CERTAIN of the existence of heaven (ignoring how this could come about), you'd consider that it mattered, since you'd want to go there. (Presumably, anyway.)
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Postby yy2bggggs » Fri Mar 23, 2007 3:59 pm UTC

Belial wrote:Arguably, a dead brain doesn't have a "mind" because the oxygen deprivation that tends to come with death causes the machinery of the brain to break down and become nonfunctional.

That's a mechanism, not a definition.

The idea that it's *obvious* that this is evidence of some supernatural entity that is our "mind" is somewhat flawed.

I covered this already. Once you start talking about category supernatural and expand it to include mind as an argument against mind, you have lost your dependence on the actual and are susceptible to random politics.

Let me illustrate why this is true. Why shouldn't I believe in the supernatural? Why is it wrong?

If you give a valid argument, then and ONLY then do we get to consider if it applies to mind. Since no argument has been presented except calling it supernatural, it carries the same exact convincing power as name calling.

By the way, I'm not bothered if you suppose that there's no mind, because, pun fully intended, you cannot possibly mean that.

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Postby Belial » Fri Mar 23, 2007 5:15 pm UTC

yy2bggggs wrote:My only reason for bringing this up was that there were too many posts mistaking mind for brain, or the workings of the brain, when it is neither (e.g., dead brains have no minds, and brains of vegetables have no minds).


Belial wrote:Arguably, a dead brain doesn't have a "mind" because the oxygen deprivation that tends to come with death causes the machinery of the brain to break down and become nonfunctional.


yy2bggggs wrote:That's a mechanism, not a definition.


I was making a point. The workings of the brain *can* be construed as the definition of a mind, and the fact that a dead brain does not appear to have a mind can easily be attributed to the lack of functionality.

If "mind" is what "brain" *does*, then a dead brain or a vegetable's brain simply isn't doing it anymore.

I was simply pointing out that you have not ruled that out.

Let me illustrate why this is true. Why shouldn't I believe in the supernatural? Why is it wrong?


I didn't say you shouldn't believe in the supernatural. I said that *this* supernatural thing has no effect on the universe and therefore is irrelevant.
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Postby parkaboy » Fri Mar 23, 2007 5:47 pm UTC

i always feel akward when people take matters of blind faith, shove in science and expect an answer. philosophy majors have no math requirements for a reason. there are some whatifs that just cant be answered, and personally, i've stopped asking them because its more mental anguish than i feel compelled to inflict on myself. the meaning of life? live. do we have a soul? who cares! its what you do with now that matters.


note, i am not religious and barely spiritual, so i'm not getting all huffy in the name of "god" or anything.

i also read this thread topic as "homosexuality and aliens" :?

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Postby wrinkols » Fri Mar 23, 2007 11:12 pm UTC

wisnij wrote:
jestingrabbit wrote:Is your mind part of your body? No. All the bits of your body are left when you die, though perhaps not correctly assembled, but your mind isn't. Does your mind have physical existence? Yes. Its fermions ie energy, specifically electrical and chemical energy. After you die, it dissipates into not much of anything, or at least that's what we can observe.

All the bits of a car remain after a crash except the 50 mph, but you would not argue the speed was not an attribute of the car. Mind is a process. It may not be a concrete substance you can hold on to, but it is definitely caused by physical processes in the brain. Also, congratulations on not knowing what a fermion is but using the word anyway.

jestingrabbit wrote:This is really getting onto my pet gripe that I have with most of the human race. People seem to think that thoughts aren't real. Thoughts are real, you can measure them with a machine whilst you experience/generate them, like an electroencephalograph, functional magnetic resonance imaging or, my favourite, a magnetoencephalograph. Two of these machines prove that your thoughts have an existence outside of your body. Its not big, but it is there.

No, it's not. What "thoughts aren't real" means is merely that those states are internal; the old adage "wishing doesn't make it so". Thought is a physical process, as can be shown by altering or interrupting it with other physical effects -- trauma, drugs, strong magnetic fields, etc.


This is my first post here, but I just had to. Hopefully it hasn't been said in this thread yet, but I wanted to comment on this before I forget (because I will).

jestingrabbit's argument is much more valid in this point. Yes they both have forms of energy that "just go away", but not really.

The car may be going 50mph or whatever, but it doesn't just lose this "property" when it crashes. This property can be expressed in terms of kinetic energy or momentem or related to other things. When the car crashes there has to be something else that causes this state to cease to exist. So what is this state? I'd like to call it transfering the energy. Most likely to heat and intermolecular forces as the care is torn to pieces (which is mainly heat as well).

So my point is:

Car crashes: 50 mph ----> heat

Person dies: mind ---->

So first let us prove what exactly happens to the mind and where all that energy goes. We would also need to figure out where the energy originated from. Oh yeah, we would also need to completely define "life" and figure out why it exists as well as why it eventually ends.

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Postby yy2bggggs » Sat Mar 24, 2007 3:26 am UTC

Belial wrote:I was making a point. The workings of the brain *can* be construed as the definition of a mind,

Yes, but then again, you *can* define terms however you want. Still, there's the age old question:
How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg?

Answer: 4. Calling the tail a leg doesn't make it a leg.
and the fact that a dead brain does not appear to have a mind can easily be attributed to the lack of functionality.

Yes, but it messes up your definition.
If "mind" is what "brain" *does*, then a dead brain or a vegetable's brain simply isn't doing it anymore.

A dead brain does stuff--it decays. So mind isn't what a brain does. It's at the very least what it does when it's alive.

A vegetable's brain is alive. Not only that, but a vegetable's brain actually does stuff. Unless you're positing that vegetable brains have minds, then you can't quite say that a mind is what a brain does when it's alive. A mind must be something more like what a normal brain does when it is alive.

But this begs the question. How do you define normal? Brains normally have a mind--that would be the straightforward way, but then this would be admitting that defining mind in terms of brain is feasible, so you can't quite do this. But this is a no brainer--we can just say that a normal brain is easily distinguished by a person's behavior. They are capable of talking to you, possibly walking, driving, working simple math problems, reporting daily events, or whatever.

Some people's brains, however, work just fine, but they are incapable of providing such reports. They are paralyzed. Consider temporary paralysis if you will. People can have a mind but not be able to move. When paralysis is restored, they can report on what it was like to be paralyzed, what they were thinking, or etc. So it's a bit of a problem going by behavior.

Now consider paralysis that is not temporary. This is a tougher case. How can you distinguish such people from those in persistent vegetative states? Not by external behavior. This becomes a major problem then.

But all is not lost. We have--technology (I'm seriously not dogging technology, I honestly love it). All we have to do is take brain scans. We can identify what normal brain scans look like, and what abnormal ones look like. The normal brain scans would reveal a brain that is working as it should, and we could say that mind is what a brain does when it works like it should work.

Now you're getting more precise, but in terms of approaching your definition of mind as a brain that x, you're getting further off track. To study brain scans of the "normal", you need to define what normal is. It's not that big of a problem to identify people who are normal, and study their brain patterns, but it's the edge cases that will throw you for a loop. What's more, what do you do when you see a new pattern you can't place, in a paralyzed person, and then a person "recovers" from the state, reporting on their behaviors? Well, that's no big deal--you just update your models. You make sure new data is incorporated, and you wind up with a better model anyway. But how do you know the person in this new state actually had a mind? How does even the person know? Reporting that you have a mind isn't sufficient. We do know that our minds are prone to mistakes--even strange mistakes (you love me, I know, so you know how I'm obsessed with optical illusions of all sorts). The fact that this strange pattern appeared and wasn't seen before raises some issues.

Through all of this, there's a consistent, thematic, even more major problem poking its ugly head. The problem is that this is an attempt to refine a definition in terms of what you mean by mind. It is quite often not fully appreciated just how many situations there are to cover (think something like GITS--what happens when you start with brain implants? Would you need to twerk your definition of mind again?); the best way out is to admit that you mean a precisely different thing when you say "mind", and to face the cold, unappealing, but honestly true fact that you mean things by most terms before you bother defining them, and unless you're dealing with an arbitrary situation, the very act of defining is more trying to describe what you mean than it is trying to establish it. Finally, the most important thing is to try to identify what it actually is that you mean.

Trying to match a definition up to a particular viewpoint, even one that is most likely one to be true, is prone to major problems with basic framing and dealing with situations never imagined.

Mind and brain are distinct beasts; as distinct as program and computer. The evidence is very strong that they are intertwined, and though there's an out for something like another realm in which there's a mind, there's no compelling reason to posit such things, but its still erroneous to treat them as the same, because quite plainly they are not.

I didn't say you shouldn't believe in the supernatural. I said that *this* supernatural thing has no effect on the universe and therefore is irrelevant.

Again, this is personal preference, but this time it happens to be phrased in such a way that it is problematic. You may not care about minds--you're entitled to. You may think it's supernatural, fine; personally, I think the term "supernatural" is nearly meaningless. But it's the very thing being discussed, and as such, it's most definitely not irrelevant.

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Postby Belial » Sat Mar 24, 2007 4:22 am UTC

A vegetable's brain is alive. Not only that, but a vegetable's brain actually does stuff. Unless you're positing that vegetable brains have minds, then you can't quite say that a mind is what a brain does when it's alive. A mind must be something more like what a normal brain does when it is alive.


Generally, you're a vegetable because the only thing really doing anything is your brain stem.

So that opens up, easier than any of the examples you put forth:

"Mind is what an *active*, *alive* brain does."

Or at least, "the impression provided by an active, alive brain. "

I'm not terribly trying to argue that the mind does or doesn't exist. I'm really trying to make the following points:

A) The answer is not as clear as you think it is. The "dead brain" and "vegetable brain" examples do not rule out "the functioning of an alive, active brain" or "the firing of neurons in such and such areas of higher cortex" as definitions of the thing commonly construed as "mind".

B) If the mind *is* a separate phenomenon from the brain, it needs to have *some* interaction with the brain, or with the person through other means, to fit the common definition of a mind, and to generally be relevant to our universe. Otherwise, it's just a concept floating out in the ether somewhere. "My mind" doesn't have anything to do with *me*, in that scenario, which makes it a rather pointless phrase.
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Postby yy2bggggs » Sat Mar 24, 2007 6:18 am UTC

Belial wrote:A) The answer is not as clear as you think it is. The "dead brain" and "vegetable brain" examples do not rule out "the functioning of an alive, active brain" or "the firing of neurons in such and such areas of higher cortex" as definitions of the thing commonly construed as "mind".

You're picking up too much on the particulars of what I'm saying, but you're missing the general picture. The thing is, what is meant by mind, is identical to the precise thing that is meant by mind. Precisely, brain isn't required. That the brain is required is merely a matter of fact--it's a theoretical consequence of what we observe, not a definitive aspect of what we mean by mind.

If you define mind as the actions of the brain, you're automatically losing out, because your definition doesn't fit your meaning. It could very well be that brain is required for mind; it could also be otherwise, without even invoking any strange religious, spiritual, or even unknown entities (what's so special about brains? Could silicon be used?)

B) If the mind *is* a separate phenomenon from the brain, it needs to have *some* interaction with the brain, or with the person through other means, to fit the common definition of a mind, and to generally be relevant to our universe. Otherwise, it's just a concept floating out in the ether somewhere.

The argument I'm making isn't that mind is a separate phenomenon, but that it's distinct one. Furthermore, the aspect of mind isn't something that's addressable without special appeal to, of all things, itself. Mind can't ever be established as a consequence of physics--the tools just aren't there. There's no possible path from atomic theory to teleology. No extension of chemistry can address aboutness.

More specifically, there's more going on than structure of the brain, where "brain" refers specifically to the theoretical construct of the brain (which, coincidentally, is the thing we are using). Because of this, a person who posits a soul, who tries to make this same point, actually has a point. His error isn't that everything can be accounted for using physics (i.e., his error is not that the brain is sufficient to explain the mind), because it actually cannot be accounted for, even in principle. So arguing his error is the same is simply wrong.

"My mind" doesn't have anything to do with *me*, in that scenario, which makes it a rather pointless phrase.


That's actually a decent point though, and kind of reflects what I feel. But I still think some people make mistakes here, though I suppose ranting on will wouldn't be on topic in this thread.

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Postby Tchebu » Sat Mar 24, 2007 12:37 pm UTC

The mind and the brain are not the same. The mind is something (not everything, something) the brain does. The brain uses electrochemical reactions to achieve this, but it doesnt matter as they are simply a means to transfer information. Any other chunk of matter that can replicate similar information processes (regardless of what the carrier of that information is) can also be a source of a mind. The mind is an ACTION (a complex set of actions actually), despite the fact that its not a verb.

In this case it can still be a separate concept from the brain, just like "legs" and "running" are different concepts, and not have to interact. "Running" doesn't interact with the legs... its being done by them. The mind IS a different concept, but it doesnt interact with the brain... its being DONE by it.

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Postby yy2bggggs » Sat Mar 24, 2007 4:55 pm UTC

Tchebu wrote:The mind and the brain are not the same. The mind is something (not everything, something) the brain does.

Now that was phrased quite well.
The mind is an ACTION (a complex set of actions actually), despite the fact that its not a verb.

It's difficult to say exactly what the mind is in relation to a brain. The mind requires a brain in action, but I wouldn't exactly call it an action of the brain. There are some very strange aspects of mind related to the potential (e.g., knowledge that 499989991+1=499989992) and the hypothetical (repeat buffalo 499989991 and it's a valid sentence in English), and even interaction with other physical objects (refer earlier to my example of the posted letter "Z" in the forums), which transcend just action.
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Postby Shro » Sat Mar 24, 2007 6:07 pm UTC

Is this going to become a thread about brain chemistry? Let me know, because I took Neurobiology and extensively covered Neurophysiology. I will grab my textbook from home if anyone would like to know more about Neurobiology. I would very much enjoy digging out answers, so give me your questions.
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Postby dan » Sat Mar 24, 2007 8:27 pm UTC

If consciousness is what happens when a brain carries out certain processes, who says that only a brain can be conscious? In other words, the processes don't necessarily have to be carried out by neurons and electrons and so on. One can imagine a gigantic marble run which performs exactly the same calculations as a brain, but with different input and output formats. Would this be conscious? It seems strange, especially as something like this could take many years to have a single 'thought'.

Having said that, I don't believe in a soul or any other non-material explanation. Apart from the fact that I think I am conscious, the evidence seems to point to consciousness not actually existing, which would be a pretty weird conclusion.

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Postby wisnij » Mon Mar 26, 2007 6:06 am UTC

wrinkols wrote:The car may be going 50mph or whatever, but it doesn't just lose this "property" when it crashes. This property can be expressed in terms of kinetic energy or momentem or related to other things. When the car crashes there has to be something else that causes this state to cease to exist. So what is this state? I'd like to call it transfering the energy. Most likely to heat and intermolecular forces as the care is torn to pieces (which is mainly heat as well).

Which was exactly my point. After death, the "energy" (such an inappropriate term) that makes up the mind dissipates into the environment when the body can no longer keep the brain intact. The electrical potential energy of the nerves' sodium ions is converted into randomized heat when the cell membranes collapse. The chemical energy in various molecules in the cell is either released during chemical reactions, or consumed by decay bacteria. And so forth. There's no monolithic mind "thing" that retains its integrity afterwards, or at least nothing of the sort has ever been demonstrated.

dan wrote:If consciousness is what happens when a brain carries out certain processes, who says that only a brain can be conscious? In other words, the processes don't necessarily have to be carried out by neurons and electrons and so on. One can imagine a gigantic marble run which performs exactly the same calculations as a brain, but with different input and output formats. Would this be conscious? It seems strange, especially as something like this could take many years to have a single 'thought'.

Indeed so. Any system which exhibits the right sort of processes could be considered thinking, although the further from human it got the harder a time we might have telling.
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Postby Steve » Mon Mar 26, 2007 9:02 am UTC

Your example of the marble-track has made me consider the importance of the inputs, as there might be a certain level of sophistication required in relation to the conscious part. More specifically we humans (speaking for myself at minimum) define ourselves as self-conscious, so the ability to sense the auxillary parts of our bodies is a very important aspect. The question I cannot seem to answer, and have been going back and forth on for several minutes now is to what degree of importance those inputs hold.
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Postby VannA » Mon Mar 26, 2007 10:23 pm UTC

Just a quick thing;

To those of you that would postulate consciousness is the result of a sufficiently complicated system..

Where does that lead you?

Can you show me a good reason to then believe the universe, AS A WHOLE, is not a conscious entity?

Just wondering about where you draw the line.

If the processes of a vast amount of linked unicellular life can generate a mind, then what happens with 6 billion intercommunicative entities? What do they generate?
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Postby EstLladon » Tue Mar 27, 2007 8:31 am UTC

@VannA: Yes there is a reason that the whole universe is not a conscious thing. You need more then just lot of parts to produce something complex enough to heve mind. The system must be organized in a proper way to be conscious. And speaking about your last question - behavior of a crowd is different from behavior of each individual in it. Crowds sometimes have their own consciousness and logic. Especially angry mobs.

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Postby VannA » Tue Mar 27, 2007 11:08 am UTC

EstLladon wrote:@VannA: Yes there is a reason that the whole universe is not a conscious thing. You need more then just lot of parts to produce something complex enough to heve mind. The system must be organized in a proper way to be conscious. And speaking about your last question - behavior of a crowd is different from behavior of each individual in it. Crowds sometimes have their own consciousness and logic. Especially angry mobs.


And random quantum entanglements do not generate the required levels of 'order'?

Afterall, all you *really* need is paths of communication, and inputs, and outputs.

That's all a brain really has. It has structure, sure.. but what is required to structure pre-structured collections of cells?

You've just said a mob mind exists.. and all that is there is paths of communications between input/output systems.
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Postby smocc » Wed Mar 28, 2007 4:09 pm UTC

Aoeniac wrote:As far as I'm concerned, neither gods nor science gives free will. If you believe in an all powerful entity that created everything, it would have created the best possible world. Otherwise you believe in an entity that is either not omnipotent, not omniscient, or not omnibenevolent... which is basically saying your god is flawed or not perfect... and is an asshole.

That is basically the "god wouldn't do me like that" theory.
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