Mod+ 256. DR. DONALD DEGRACIA, WHAT IS SCIENCE?

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Sciborg_S_Patel

Don has an interesting post that I think is worth a read:

The Beginning and the End of Consciousness in the Brain


Again, it needs to be emphasized that Penfield, one of the greatest brain researchers ever, concluded that the brain does not make consciousness. You can read his book and see for yourself. He stated that, when the thalamocortical loops pertaining to what he calls “the mind” ( and what we experience as “consciousness”) get activated, this somehow allows the mind to interact with the brain.
Penfield was a dualist. He believed that whatever “mind” or “consciousness” is, it is outside the brain, it interacts with it somehow, in some fashion that he admitted he was in no position to even speculate about, other than that it uses the brain regions he identified in his research as the “vehicle” or “connection” that allows the mind to permeate the brain and control it as (to use his term) a “personal computer”. (Seriously, 1976…before PCs!)

In the last post we saw Leibniz had all kinds of reasons (of which only one was explained) why he did not think consciousness could “emerge” from matter. Again, Leibniz invented calculus and classical physics (“invented” is perhaps too strong; “made fundamental contribution in” would be a more appropriate way to say it).

Now we are seeing that one of the greatest brain scientists to ever live has come to the same conclusion. Penfield took a much different route than Leibniz. Yet they both came to the same conclusion: the brain cannot create consciousness and somehow they interact and the brain is the vehicle for expressing consciousness.

So, now, we can appreciate that when Alex Tsakiris asks people he interviews, “where does consciousness end, where does it begin??”, that, if they cannot answer him, then they are revealing that they have not read the writings of one of the greatest neuroscientists to ever live (or maybe they read Penfield, but just didn’t understand him). If someone claims to be an expert in neuroscience, and hasn’t read or understood Penfield, you have to just stop and wonder.

Had they read and understood Penfield’s work and conclusions, they wouldn’t be claiming that matter, or the brain, creates consciousness.
 
Yoga can be useful as a discipline through which the mind may learn to control the brain. A problem that arises from the delusion that the mind is the same as the brain is that it hides the fact that the brain is a tool for the mind to use. Too many people allow the brain free reign to control the mind ... which can lead to unfortunate consequences. But the trick is understanding the right way to control the brain because it can be just as dysfunctional to try to control the brain with force as it is to allow the brain complete freedom.
 
Yoga can be useful as a discipline through which the mind may learn to control the brain. A problem that arises from the delusion that the mind is the same as the brain is that it hides the fact that the brain is a tool for the mind to use.

But the trick is understanding the right way to control the brain because it can be just as dysfunctional to try to control the brain with force as it is to allow the brain complete freedom.
I'll play devil's advocate here:
I am not sure why do you assign to the brain these features. It sounds like the mind is held hostage by the moods of the brain? As if the mind embodied superior qualities while the brain the lowest ones?

Isn't it all part of the same "I"?
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

More good stuff from Don Salmon, as we're discussing/debating whether the Hindu-inspired Nondualism accounts for intentionality as it relates to the Whole-Many problem.

Mohrhoff presents a view about Consciousness & QM from what he calls an "Indian Perspective". (Guess I missed those Indian genes that would've let me know this was my perspective. ;))

Our theoretical dealings with the world are conditioned by the manner in which we experience the world — by what it is like to be a 21st-century human. We tend to ignore that the manner in which humans experience the world has changed and will change (Gebser 1985; Barfield 1965). Our present mode of experience has enabled us to discover much that is relevant to understanding the past, but it offers little by way of a clue to its future transformations. We tend to think of the evolution of consciousness as a successive emergence of new ways of experiencing a world that, intrinsically, is independent of how it is experienced. But such a world does not exist. There are only different ways in which Being manifests itself to itself. A transformed consciousness implies a transformed world. Our very concepts of space, time, and matter are bound up with, are creations of our present mode of consciousness. It is not matter that has created consciousness; it is consciousness that has created matter, first by carrying its multiple exclusive concentration to the point of being involved in a multitude of formless particles, and again by evolving to our present mode of experiencing the world, for this has given us the ability to integrate images into three- dimensional objects that appear to exist independently of the experiencing subject. Yet the very logic of this evolving manifestation entails that the next mode of experiencing the world will be one in which the subject rather than the object is the primary reality. Seen by this mode, our theoretical dealings with the world may seem as dated as the mythological explanations of the pre-scientific era seem to us.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

Thanks to George over at Kastrup's forum:

Into nothingness


In the 1940s, Japan’s search for a national philosophy became a battle for existence. Did Zen ideas create the kamikaze?

...As his students piloted their Zeros out towards the sea in 1944, Tanabe sat at home, trying to decide whether the time had at last come to speak out against the conflict, influential figure that he was. Could he help to achieve a surrender? Or would an intervention merely place Japan in even greater peril? The more Tanabe tried to find a rational answer, the more frustrated he became with himself and with the pursuit of philosophy altogether. What was the point of it, if it offered no answers at precisely the moment they were most needed?

In the end, the strain caused something to break inside him, and he found himself flooded with what he later called zange: repentance. It was a shattering encounter with the power of absolute nothingness, not as the ‘place’ talked about by Nishida but as the dynamic ‘Other-power’ in which many Japanese shinshū Buddhists placed their faith. The result was a new and totally foreign sense of self – one that was ‘given’ and raw, rather than owned and honed. Tanabe was moved to adapt the words of St Paul: ‘It seems no longer I who pursue philosophy, but zange that thinks through me’.

Finally now renouncing his old assertions about the Japanese nation, and working behind the scenes to try to end the war, Tanabe felt that nothing less than human reason itself had been ‘shattered’ inside him. Human will, too: his new ‘absolute critique’ of reason implied a total admission of defeat, on all fronts. Everything had to go.

For Tanabe’s critics, these dramatic events came too late, and in Japan’s bitter post-war accounting he was numbered amongst those – lawyers, philosophers, novelists, cultural critics – who could have spoken out against the war but chose not to. Worse, he had actively peddled what one critic called a ‘philosophy of death’.

Were Tanabe’s simply a darkness-into-light conversion story, one would certainly find the convenience of its timing suspect, and its dismissal of reason a little humdrum. But this picture of surrender and insight, reason and rationalisation, was at once less hopeful and more compelling.
For a start, humans don’t turn their backs on reason, Tanabe insisted. It has its obvious merits, and to imagine that we’re not stuck with it as a fundamental part of who we are is to become lost in mystical fantasy. Rather than give up on it, we have to reason at full-throttle – until it gives up on us. Until the plane breaks apart or careers into the sea. Only at that point might we find ourselves so completely humiliated, so bereft of slogans and comforting stories to tell ourselves, that we dissolve into ‘absolute nothingness’, and absolute nothingness works unimpeded through what is left.

Even then, the journey is not over. Tanabe discovered something in himself that sought always to possess any new experience or idea, no matter how profound or engrossing. A desire to manage life from the margins soon reasserted itself, deploying insights rather than sacrificing oneself to them. Tanabe’s was not, then, a philosophy of death, nor even of death and rebirth. The search for a truly ‘Japanese’ philosophy ended instead, for him, with a picture of the human condition as caught between an unsought shattering in zange and an unwanted re-formation of the pieces – back and forth between death and rebirth.

It is hard to fathom Tanabe’s reasons for never apologising clearly over the ultranationalist turn that his wartime thought briefly took. But part of the story might have been this: after August 1945, he saw people all around him making apologies, hurriedly drawing lines under the past – trying to turn darkness into light. And all the while Tanabe’s best guess, hard won, was that such shifts simply don’t last. Sooner or later the darkness will be back.



 
I have no problem with falsifiability.
It just means that it is most useful if the facts behind a theory can be tested to see if they are accurate, nothing more.
Science is both rational and empirical, and the empirical aspect is falsifiable, which is desirable.
The rational aspect tying the facts together into a theory is confirmed logically, for self-consistency in explaining the empirical facts.
Logic and testing are both essential, but if you have no sufficient testing, you have an open slather to theories without sufficient bases.
This is not difficult to understand, its science.
In fact, the more falsifiable facts you can present, the more secure the theory, empirically.
You can have "personal faith" in a particular theory, but we are talking here about objective confirmation and not subjective opinion, and it is essential in science.
http://1drv.ms/1tnKM6f for more on this.
 
I have no problem with falsifiability.
It just means that it is most useful if the facts behind a theory can be tested to see if they are accurate, nothing more.
Science is both rational and empirical, and the empirical aspect is falsifiable, which is desirable.
The rational aspect tying the facts together into a theory is confirmed logically, for self-consistency in explaining the empirical facts.
Logic and testing are both essential, but if you have no sufficient testing, you have an open slather to theories without sufficient bases.
This is not difficult to understand, its science.
In fact, the more falsifiable facts you can present, the more secure the theory, empirically.
You can have "personal faith" in a particular theory, but we are talking here about objective confirmation and not subjective opinion, and it is essential in science.
http://1drv.ms/1tnKM6f for more on this.
I'm reading Hermann Weyl right now and he makes that point that a theory is a self-contained intellectual "package", if you will. There are only very few places a theory makes contact with our experience. Weyl talks about "derived quantities" that allow a theory to make contact with experience. Falsifiability is a reasonable criteria to reject a theory, but it is not so straight forward. Consider Newton's law of gravity. This was falsified by the orbit of Mercury. But people did not just throw Newton into the garbage. In the face of all the other successes, people just put up with this "irritation" in the theory. It was a historical irony really. We now know that radically different concepts of space, time and gravity were required to deal with the Mercury issue (e.g. Relativity theory). So, its cases like this that make Popper's ideas a bit too simple to deal with actual history. That is why people like Kuhn and Feyerabend are advances over Popper.

Best wishes,

Don
 
I have no problem with falsifiability.
It just means that it is most useful if the facts behind a theory can be tested to see if they are accurate, nothing more.
Science is both rational and empirical, and the empirical aspect is falsifiable, which is desirable.
The rational aspect tying the facts together into a theory is confirmed logically, for self-consistency in explaining the empirical facts.
Logic and testing are both essential, but if you have no sufficient testing, you have an open slather to theories without sufficient bases.
This is not difficult to understand, its science.
In fact, the more falsifiable facts you can present, the more secure the theory, empirically.
You can have "personal faith" in a particular theory, but we are talking here about objective confirmation and not subjective opinion, and it is essential in science.
http://1drv.ms/1tnKM6f for more on this.
What you speak of is not science. It is one particular approach to science that has been cultivated based on certain beliefs.
 
Don

I can't say I understand your reference to Weyl.
Logic holds a theory together and falsifiable facts support it.
It really is as simple as that, but I suppose you can "categorize" this and that about what I have said.
Philosophers do that, often to no great use. Its just logic that holds Weyl's "package" together.
The contact with experience exist or not - if not, what have you got? Useless abstracts!

Newton was falsified "to some extent". You are using 20/20 hindsight, a bad error in historical assessments.
If Newton worked "sufficiently" it was retained, that's how "theories" work, not how falsifications work.
You have it the wrong way around.

Falsification are dead simple and hopefully accurate, not like the logic of theories.
This is particularly true when there is nothing as comprehensive to replace it.
Not ironic, slow progress, retention of what is useful, and eventual overturn of the theory itself.
Newton knew action at distance was strange, but he had no idea of fields or curvatures.
He "framed no hypotheses" because he had none - no further progress to make, but not necessarily the end.

You are unkind to Popper, and to history, and to Churchland.
And thus far I don't see the basis for that attitude.
Kuhn & Feyerabend are theory-centric. They like paradigms and they are correct that paradigms hold sway.
For the reasons why Newton held sway despite "one" falsification.
Then they eventually get overturned.
I suspect your objection is with the meandering nature of progress, but humans are gradual.
Inertia.
 
Don

I can't say I understand your reference to Weyl.
Logic holds a theory together and falsifiable facts support it.
It really is as simple as that, but I suppose you can "categorize" this and that about what I have said.
Philosophers do that, often to no great use. Its just logic that holds Weyl's "package" together.
The contact with experience exist or not - if not, what have you got? Useless abstracts!

Newton was falsified "to some extent". You are using 20/20 hindsight, a bad error in historical assessments.
If Newton worked "sufficiently" it was retained, that's how "theories" work, not how falsifications work.
You have it the wrong way around.

Falsification are dead simple and hopefully accurate, not like the logic of theories.
This is particularly true when there is nothing as comprehensive to replace it.
Not ironic, slow progress, retention of what is useful, and eventual overturn of the theory itself.
Newton knew action at distance was strange, but he had no idea of fields or curvatures.
He "framed no hypotheses" because he had none - no further progress to make, but not necessarily the end.

You are unkind to Popper, and to history, and to Churchland.
And thus far I don't see the basis for that attitude.
Kuhn & Feyerabend are theory-centric. They like paradigms and they are correct that paradigms hold sway.
For the reasons why Newton held sway despite "one" falsification.
Then they eventually get overturned.
I suspect your objection is with the meandering nature of progress, but humans are gradual.
Inertia.
Yeah, you would have to read Weyl to really appreciate what he says. It is very good stuff what he says. But it is hard to convey unless on actually uses mathematical physics on a practical level.

It is the idea of "fact" that becomes complicated in Weyl's account. There is no such thing as a "fact" by itself. This is, as you call it, a "theory-centric" view. But it is true. The word one usually hears used in this context is "operational".

The operational concept Weyl focuses on is "mass", By your account, if I have an apple in my hand, you would say that it was a "fact" that the apple had mass. But this is simply not true. The "fact" is, if I throw the apple, it will have a momentum = mass x velocity.

I can measure the velocity, and thereby calculate the mass. But then there is a problem because I see the velocity changes when the apple moves. It gets faster and faster. This means the momentum gets bigger and bigger. It suggests, possibly, that the mass also increases.

the velocity getting faster and faster is called acceleration. I then have to account for the acceleration of the apple. So Newton made up the idea of "gravity" to do so.

So you see, it all unfolds into this complicated structure that started with Galileo defining mass as momentum = velocity times something. That something is mass.

So, it is not an isolated fact that the apple has mass. It only has mass in the theory-context invented by Galileo and elaborated by Newton, and much later, by Einstein. This is what is meant by an "operational" definition.

Mass, in fact, is nothing we can directly observe. It is only something we can calculate from how things move, usually before and after they bounce off of each other.

You must not make the mistake taking your familiarity of these concepts as given. If you use the word "mass" without using the Galileo/Newton/Einstein framework, then you are using the word "mass" incorrectly. In fact, you ended with the word "inertia". This too is an operationally defined concept in the Galileo/Newton/Einstein framework that you have used in a colloquial, technically-incorrect fashion. Einstein showed it is the same as rest mass.

Popper was a positivist and he believed that there was such a thing as a bare fact. Kuhn exploded that view and I don't think anybody today who is well-informed of these issues would disagree that Popper made a mistake. And I am not unkind to Popper. I acknowledge and use his contributions, and respect what he both did and failed to do.

Also, Wely argues, convincingly, that math is greater than logic. In fact, Godel proved it. Math is not held together by logic. That program failed. That was Hilbert's program and Godel proved mathematically that it was impossible to achieve. Math is held together by what Weyl calls "intuition". To me, this is ambiguous. I think a more precise term is the Hindu term "buddhi", which very roughly translates as "meaning".

I am not unkind to history. I learn history. I feel I am accurately reflecting history in all my comments. Are you aware of the history of Hilbert/Russel/Godel? If not, then perhaps it is you who are unkind to history.

Yes, I am unkind to Churchland. She is a second-rate intellectual. She is a product of demographic factors that allowed a couple generation of mediocre people to become professional academics. Those macro-demographic factors have long ended, and such people are washing out of the system. All I can say to all of these people is "don't let the door hit you on the butt on your way out".

I could go on and on, but won't. If you want more about Weyl's ideas, I just did a blog post on it:

http://dondeg.wordpress.com/2014/11...ork-so-good-part-1-according-to-hermann-weyl/

Thank you for the stimulating conversation.

My very best wishes,

Don
 
Hi Everyone!

Happy New Year to all of you! I just wanted to announce here that I recently did another interview about What Is Science? This was on John and Tommy Maguire's Pentamental podcast.

Show link is: http://thesyncbook.com/?pagename=pentamental&ep=4

John also opened up a forum for discussion here on the Skeptiko forum at:

http://www.skeptiko-forum.com/threads/pentamental-ep-4-w-bill-klaus-donald-degracia.1635/

We got more in-depth into the content of What Is Science? including talking quite a bit about the cosmology of Hinduism vs. the cosmology of Western science.

Would love to hear anyone's feedback on the interview via the message board link above.

Take care, Everyone,

Don
 
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