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

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

  1. Will the panels be online at some point?
     
  2. K9!

    K9! New

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  3. JKMac

    JKMac New

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    I don't mean to speak for Alex but I'm pretty sure his main point isn't that proof is not important but rather-
    - it's already been proven many times over and in many different ways and anyone that has taken reasonable time to look at the data will discover this.
    and
    - proof is illusive because it is subjective, ie: everyone's definition of "scientifically valid" proof is different
    and
    - to many solid enough proof is seemingly impossible. So why bother?

    I disagree with Alex that is is no longer necessary. For me it is still a thrill to see evidence that is irrefutable. Which doesn't mean that it wont be refuted by someone however, no matter how compelling.
     
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  4. Vortex

    Vortex Member

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  5. Thanks for the heads up!

    Here's a (long!) paper by Schwartz, authored with Stapp & Beauregard. It deals with the neuroplasticity argument in more detailed fashion:

     
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  6. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    I do agree that this whole re-wiring of the brain issue isn't conclusive. However, part of the problem is that materialists (believers that only the material world exists) take a hell of a lot for granted! Machines that we make will only change their structure in very pre-planned ways. For example, your computer will bypass any sectors of your hard disk that it finds to be defective. Now consider the OCD issue. A person with untreated OCD presumably simply continues with their problem, so the ability to re-wire this part of the brain surely can't have arisen by natural selection, because it can only be activated using a specific therapy, and therapists haven't been around long enough to influence our evolution! If an alien came along and unscrewed one of the wheels of a Mars rover, it wouldn't deploy another one because its designers didn't expect this to happen!

    So I think the fact that OCD can be cured this way is pretty remarkable.

    There really isn't such a thing as proof in science (only in maths) but I can tell you a number of reasons that make me pretty certain that there has to be some sort of non-material world.

    1) Science seems really stuck at explaining consciousness. Most attempts confuse consciousness with computation, but the difference is obvious - if you are conscious you don't only think things out, you also have experiences. You tell me how physical interactions between bits of matter can generate conscious awareness. It may be useful to imagine actually making a conscious machine, to understand the issues.

    2) I think the NDE phenomenon is remarkable. Not only is it very hard to explain how a brain starved of oxygen can hallucinate a complex experience and remember it, it is also hard to explain how someone lying on a hospital bed (and in a coma!) actually views the whole scene from the ceiling. Next time you go to the dentist, ask yourself how much of the activity in the room is visible to you while you are being treated! Furthermore, some people have NDE's when they didn't know they were in danger (or are kids that don't understand death), so why do they hallucinate a death-related drama.

    3) There are some really weird phenomena associated with consciousness - for example autistic savants. These extraordinary people are severely mentally handicapped except for one talent area, where they seem to access information that they have never been taught (and could never have understood anyway).

    4) I think there is a substantial number of experiments that provide evidence for ψ under controlled conditions. Conventional science doesn't so much explain these phenomena, as shuffle them out of site. Of course, there are people such as Brian Josephson, who got the Nobel Prize for physics, who takes ψ very seriously, but they are the exceptions.

    David
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2014
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  7. Does anyone know a reference that quantifies how much Schwartz's therapy can improve OCD symptoms? Schwartz (below) claims it reduces the need for medication. He doesn't say it cures the disorder, he doesn't say it eliminates the need for medication.

    Self-directed neuroplasticity (and the placebo effect) shows consciousness is not an illusion. If consciousness can alter the brain it, it is a causal agent, it cannot be an illusion.

    But when you read how his therapy is conducted, it doesn't sound much different from rewiring the brain to play a musical instrument through practicing. When you deliberately use your mind in a certain way at the onset of an OCD attack, the brain becomes trained to react that way. I don't see anything mystical in that, that is not in any other type of training.

    http://hope4ocd.com/mindfulness.php
     
  8. Hey Jim, I'm still working my way through the paper I mentioned above.

    Ideally I'll be able to see exactly why Schwartz claims neuroplasticity is suggestive - if not proof - of an immaterial consciousness when it seems to many of us he's wrong to use this argument.
     
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  9. I read that paper and my interpretation is that the authors get the mystical stuff from quantum mechanics not from self-directed neuroplasticity. To my reading it says, roughly, because of the evidence from QM that consciousness can influence wave functions, we have to develop models of mind brain interaction that take that into account. (Everyone else is still thinking like Newton and they have to get with the times.)

    http://www-physics.lbl.gov/~stapp/PTB6.pdf

    It is my opinion that you have to already believe that consciousness is non-physical in order for self-directed neuroplasticity to make sense in terms of non-physical consciousness. Self-directed neuroplasticity by itself is not a good argument that consciousness is non-physical and it is not claimed to be by Schwartz et al.
     
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  10. Ian Gordon

    Ian Gordon Ninshub Member

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    I don't think it's supposed to be "mystical", it's just the idea that a form of talk therapy can effect the brain.

    Unless I've got this wrong, I assume that Schwartz's claim that a certain form of therapy rewires the brain (re: OCD) doesn't rely exclusively on his specific treatment method, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (MBCBT), which is a "recent" subset of CBT. I couldn't find efficacy findings for MBCBT for OCD, but this Schwartz article states the following regarding CBT in general for OCD:

    It's now pretty much recognized that all forms of therapy - like many things in life we experience! - have effects on the brains. See here for example. (It mentions an intriguing study that found that psychodynamic therapy (not CBT) affected the brain more than medication did.) :
    http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/psychotherapy/how-psychotherapy-changes-brain
     
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  12. Formal Dining Room Set

    Formal Dining Room Set New

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    The idea that consciousness is illusion most famously comes from the work of cognitive scientist and "philosopher" Daniel Dennett.
     
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  13. ghost

    ghost New

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    In electronics, there are circuits/circuit boards that are not energized. They can sit in the palm of your hand while you inspect them. Then, when you plug them into the fixture and turn on the power supply, the circuit is energized by digital and analog voltages. There are copper or aluminum lines that become energized. I am suggesting that wave-function solutions to quantum mechanics are describing something that really does exist as an ethereal field that has the speed of light as a characteristic. Such a field exists even when there are no photons going by. But when a photon does go by, it's as if the field is energized.

    In the same way, there are neural pathways in your brain that are firing, they are energized, until they are not being used.
     
  14. Dawkins coined it:

    “We are survival machines – robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes. This is a truth which still fills me with astonishment.”

    ― Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene
     
  15. ghost

    ghost New

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    Sure we feel selfish. But how do you get a cell or an organism to feel anything at all?
     
  16. Typoz

    Typoz Member

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    Is "selfish" a feeling (like guilt for example) or a description of some behaviour (the thing we feel guilt about)?
     
  17. I have seen criticisms of naturalism's tendency to introduce teleological features to cells, genes, natural selection all the while giving assurances that all this is mere metaphor that can be "cashed out" in non-teleological terms.

    It's an interesting question, which is why IMO Nagel is correct to say ID is a worthwhile scientific pursuit. For myself, I lean toward the idea that certain teleological features are inherent to nature. Whether this necessitates a Prime Mover...on the fence about that...but as I've said elsewhere I think There is a God, the story of [ex-]atheist philosopher Anthony Flew's conversion, is worth a look.
     
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  18. I think this paper might help to direct your intuitions into more concrete possibilities:

    Bohm’s Implicate Order, Wheeler’s Participatory Universe, Stapp’s Mindful Universe, Zurek’s Quantum Darwinism and the Buddhist Mind-Only Ground Consciousness

    (board thread here)

    That last part, where space & time are congealed perceptions, suggests Lee Smolin's Principle of Precedence:

     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 14, 2014
  19. ghost

    ghost New

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    Selfishness is one of many things that consciousness can experience by virtue of the fact that consciousness is a transcendent phenomena that can experience molecules. The brain is a chemical machine that both holds or traps consciousness within it's cells, and then presents experiences to the cells with neurochemicals. When the cells talk to each other in coordinated ways, consciousness is amplified.
     
  20. So our conscious experience comes from the combined consciousness of our cells?

    I think that runs into the combination problem panpsychism faces.
     

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