Mod+ 250. DR. JEFFREY SCHWARTZ, SCIENCE’S INABILITY TO EXPLAIN PERSONHOOD

Discussion in 'Skeptiko Shows' started by alex.tsakiris, Jul 29, 2014.

  1. Alex

    Alex New

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  2. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    Alex's question at the end of the podcast:

    How can one deal with, and what to make of, the "mismatch" (between lived experience and the materialist "biological robot" viewpoint) of which Dr. Schwartz spoke?
     
  3. It's not a problem for me because I don't believe in materialism.
     
  4. Psiclops

    Psiclops Member

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    The transcript on this one is incomplete and all over the place in parts. Hope it can be sorted.
     
  5. Psiclops

    Psiclops Member

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    OK - the 'mismatch'.

    Now I rather gather from Alex's intro about Schwartz's research into neuroplasticity that the mismatch is demonstrated like this:
    The brains of people with OCD are scanned, Schwartz takes them through some form of meditation which cures their OCD and then when the brain is re-scanned it is found to have been rewired.

    And presumably the thinking is, what is it that decided to do the rewiring? - can't be the brain because it was faulty. So the part of the patient which did the rewiring must be something other than the brain - consciousness in fact.
    And that does seem pretty conclusive - you wouldn't normally expect anything malfunctioning to be able to repair itself.

    But trying to see it from a materialist's point of view.....the brain didn't 'get well' on its own. It was plugged into some new input from Schwartz's brain. So isn't this likely to be seen like a faulty computer which is reprogrammed by feeding it info from another computer, which sorts out the glitch?

    So how exactly Alex does it falsify this 'mind is the brain' silliness?

    Just some instant thoughts following a listen to the interview....probably way off beam, so please tell me where I've gone wrong.
     
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  6. The mismatch is that materialism says we are biological robots but our experience shows us we are conscious and not simply machines.
     
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  7. Psiclops

    Psiclops Member

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    Jim, your first post on this was about your 'belief' and now this one is about your 'experience'.

    Hardly convincing.
     
  8. The problem is that materialism doesn't agree with experience. I don't believe in materialism so it isn't a problem for me.
     
  9. Imperial Philosopher

    Imperial Philosopher New

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    Materialism ignores experience because it doesn't understand experience.

    At any rate, re: the question, I've taken to viewing consciousness with the following analogy(which is flawed, but I think you'll get the point). I view it almost like an MMO. With an MMO, you have a character who carts around an inventory(like consciousness carts around memory and personality traits), and who you've probably customized to your liking. Now, if your computer crashes(or your body dies), you can't play(/exist in the physical universe) anymore. But given that it's an MMO, your character is still there on the main server. If you get a new computer, you can pick right back up with it again.

    Flaws in the analogy:
    An MMO character isn't "conscious" when it's not in the game being run by the player, whereas existence of consciousness after death is uncertain. Also, the main server of an MMO can crash, causing everyone's everything to be lost, whereas one can reasonably assume that God/The Source/Divine Oneness/whatever else you want to call it probably wouldn't "crash".
     
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  10. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    Clearly you can devise a gadget that modifies itself on the fly. For example, a spacecraft could shut down a faulty subsystem and use a backup. If the shutdown is in some way permanent - say blowing a fuse - you can argue that self-modification has occurred.

    However, that sort of thing really does presuppose that the system has been setup with a fixed set of options of that sort - not that the system can make an essentially arbitrary modification to itself.

    I do find the fact that the brain can 're-wire' itself pretty remarkable, even if the argument isn't (to me) completely knock-down.

    Although it sounded as if Dr. Schwartz has taken some flak for his views, I think he made a strong case that the problem with physical science is that it made a good job with certain kinds of problems, but doesn't really work with consciousness/mental issues. The difference to me is easy to spot, instead of nice clean useful answers, like copper metal is attacked by nitric acid to make copper nitrate, you get very vague answers about consciousness - such as emergence - that just ring hollow.

    By analogy, think of a kid who is a whiz at maths at school, and starts to think he knows it all. Suddenly someone asks him a really hard problem - like explain the recent proof of the 4-colour theorem - and he flounders - unwilling to admit his ability is finite. Modern science seems like that kid, when it comes to consciousness!

    David
     
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  11. Multi-processor computers routinely assign and reassign processors to work together or separately on different problems.
     
  12. soulatman

    soulatman Member

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    I have not listened to the podcast yet, but will shortly. However, for me, the evidence suggestive of a mind brain separation has nothing to do with the fact that the brain rewires itself, but comes from the fact that the rewiring occurs as a direct result of something as intangible as thought. We see very good evidence that thought alone is causing physical change in the brain (and not physical processes in the brain causing thought, as is claimed by staunch materialist academics).

    The posts above seem largely to miss this very important point, I wonder was it not fleshed out in Alex's discussion?
     
  13. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    Yes they do - because they were designed that way. However, brains haven't (presumably) encountered psychiatrists regularly so as to evolve the ability to rewire processes in the brain to eliminate OCD.

    It is hard enough to imagine an explanation of the brain being conscious, without it being able to re-wire itself as well!

    David
     
  14. Yeah, I personally dislike that neuroplasticity, even when self-directed, is used as an argument for immaterialism.

    Especially when one can form a much better argument from the fact thoughts are directed at anything at all:

    Stoljar on intentionality

    (More at Point 5 here)

    There's also the question of whether rational thought can be explained via materialism:

    Immaterial Aspects of Thought

    (More at Point 6 in the same link above)
     
  15. David,

    To accept self-directed neuroplasticity as evidence that consciousness is non-physical, you have to already believe that consciousness in non-physical. That is why I don't think self-directed neuroplasticity is a good argument that consciousness is non-physical. If you believe in materialism, self-directed neuroplasticity is not going to change your mind.
     
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  16. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    Well I agree it isn't a knock down argument, but even so, the more plastic the brain is, the more implausible it becomes as a physical structure responsible for consciousness. After all, a computer is very differently organised - with software that can be moved from processor to processor and memory location to memory location with incredible ease.

    David
     
  17. JKMac

    JKMac New

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    [/quote]

    This gets to what I think is the whole fallacy of this line of thinking. Alex once again mentions in the intro that this work “falsifies mind equals brain”. I think this is not the case at all.

    The fact that someone meditates and it changes the physical brain is completely unremarkable to me and more importantly is unremarkable to a dyed-in-the wool materialist.

    As I've said in an earlier post- when a weightlifter repeatedly lifts focusing on particular muscle groups, it results in a bodily change. No surprise to anyone.

    It has been clearly demonstrated via imaging that by thinking about certain things, or by feeling certain emotions, specific areas of the physical brain become more active than others. Can't we imagine that if some physical areas of the brain are “activated” in this way that those areas may adapt/transform in some way? And that other areas which receive less “excitation” may change in other ways. Why should this surprise anyone (whether they are materialists or not)?

    Do you want to point to evidence of mind not equalling brain? Just point to the many situations where we find information or capabilities that materialists claim to be located in a physical brain being located elsewhere. The list of examples are as long as my arm.

    By using such a poor example as “proof”, one weakens one's whole argument. If I were a materialist I would immediately see the flaws in the argument and reject it out of hand.

    My suggestion is to use a more air-tight argument if you want to convince anyone that mind does not equal brain.
     
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  18. JKMac

    JKMac New

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    If we define the mis-match as the fact "the experience of living" doesn't seem to match that of a biological robot, I would say this.

    For starters- how do you know what it would or wouldn't feel like to be a "biological robot" (I've gotten to hate that term)?

    Just because one doesn't like the idea of being a robot doesn't mean you aren't one. Now I'm not saying you are one either. I'm just saying that it makes no sense to determine that you aren't one because it doesn't "feel like" you are one,, especially if you don't know what it would be like to be one.

    What exactly are the aspects of a human's experience, rule out being a BR?

    Bottom line- why is it impossible to imagine that pure biology could create the human "experience"?

    For me- my evidence against being a BR have nothing to do with the rather undefined and subjective "experience" of living but rather more concrete (and testable) aspects of our existence that just don't fit with the BR model.

    For me- sense of self is not very good proof that you are more than your body,,, it's more like wishful thinking.
     
  19. Typoz

    Typoz Member

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    I think a parallel can be drawn between a person focussing their attention upon athletics, and eventually producing a corresponding growth the muscles, or likewise focussing upon music, and giving rise to a corresponding change in the brain - as well as perhaps the fingers and muscles of the musician. At this level, the brain is no more or less significant than other parts of the body, which change with use. Perhaps where it does differ is that the brain is to some extent a blank canvas, available to be re-programmed as needed.

    But that's neither here nor there. None of that touches on the idea of intention. Where is that? Is it in the muscles or the brain?
     
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  20. Right, which is why it's better to focus on intentionality as a whole.

    Perhaps there is a physical explanation, but there's at least a real argument about Intentionality whereas the neurosplasticity argument is DOA as far as I can see.
     
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