Discussion in 'Skeptiko Shows' started by Alex, May 29, 2017.
Very interesting podcast, Alex. One thing that tickled me was when the guy interviewing you (what's his name, by the way?) Pointed out that it was the physicists who were more open to an immaterialist metaphysic, and the psychologists who clung to a materialist one.
Thinking about it, I'd broaden that idea. The great physicists, the ones who come up with the really big ideas that attempt to explain the empirical reality we perceive -- Newton and the pioneers of quantum theory, etc., for the most part have some place in their philosophy for at least a degree of spirituality. The further away scientists stray from empirical reality and into the nebulous realm of speculation, the more materialistic they become. But it's a very odd form of materialism, which causes them to create insane schemas of "reality" that are more weird and less parsimonious than what they see themselves as trying to defend science against.
The empirical evidence simply doesn't support many "scientific" theories, but people cling on to what Jonathan Wells has termed "zombie science" (in reference to many icons of evolution such as Haeckel's embryos, peppered moths, and so on). I'd say that zombie science applies not only in biology, but also cosmology, medicine, psychology, anthropology, climatology...on and on. This is one way science is strangled, and makes it into a quasi-religious institution that marginalises every last spark of original thought, producing a monolithic and boring environment in which the greatest sin is to think outside the box.
So yes, we still have some physicists, and fewer still scientists in other disciplines who are open minded and can still generate new theories in line with empirical data. IMO, the majority of the remaining scientists suffer from a kind of penis envy. The further away they are from effective theories with lots of empirical support (indeed, such theories often arise from empirical observations) the greater is their inferiority complex, and the more they insist on macho willy-waving.
It's this image that tickled me...
Where does the 'Consciousness can do no work' claim come from?
Dan Dennett (my favorite materialist whipping boy)... consider:
hence, there is no ability to consciously make consciousness do anything... i.e. it can do no work.
Spot on! Just to elaborate slightly, Jonathan Wells pointed out that these iconic stories had been debunked years ago - by conventional science - and yet they appeared in biology textbooks as if they were fact! The response was that all JW had done was point out a few small factual errors in biology textbooks! However, years later, his second book on this subject points out that over about 15 years, nothing has changed - the latest biology textbooks still illustrate evolution with the same debunked examples!
More generally, this was a great interview (that I need to listen to in sections because it is so long).
I was also interested to note that Alex and his interviewer seemed to came together on the idea that much of the control on academia is simply exerted by finding people who already believe whatever idea they want to promote, and funding them, while de-funding those who hold opposite views.
That is almost Darwinian in its simplicity, but almost certainly correct!
Oh, well someone should tell Bill Nye then I guess?
Funnily enough, that's the Big Think youtube channel, but this Big Think article is my go-to link whenever anyone starts talking about Free Will. Well worth reading:
It turns out that if you set aside the argument of free will because we can't know for sure, believing in free will (even if it doesn't exist) has physical effects on the reaction timing of the brain among other things! So once again we find that by inhibiting your imagination to roam freely you are basically lopping off a very important organ that nature put there on purpose, trapping yourself in causality and victim-hood (capitalism/TPTB cheers hooray!), and reducing the potential, autonomy, and novelty of the species.
It's so interesting! Is there anywhere else we can ignore the 'how?' question and instead argue on an "AS IF" basis?
If materialism is true and we are all randomly generated robots in a meaningless universe, we should still behave AS IF:
thought and matter are the same thing! in your computer hard drive the data is saved magnetically in flip-floppers (I made that up) each representing 0 or 1. the RAM memory is stored electrically and gets wiped when you turn off the computer. so we can store thoughts! these are physical states that any alien being looking into our world could see clearly and could see the behavioral repercussions when that data was translated and fed into a human brain. so Shakespeare's sonnets on a hard drive is a non-random configuration which, when translated properly, has a certain direct effect on thought. the brain is also a collection of mechanisms: electrical, chemical, and possibly magnetic/gravitic and that includes all of your thoughts and your ability to self-reflect. according to physicalists they are physical states, so when matter is arranged in some special way they produce the effects of consciousness, meaning consciousness is also a material configuration ~ therefore all of your thoughts, will power, actions, are all PHYSICAL (whatever that means: just between you and me you could just as easily say it's all mental? what's it?), meaning they have just as much bearing on our reality as the physical, thoughts are not the redheaded stepchild of matter. It's all the same!
<-- (cellular automata arranged in a way that creates 'gliders')
is this thing living or dead: virus, cell, whatever? that term is arbitrary because self-replication and danger-avoidance are just physical configurations and given the right configurations you can produce the elements of conscious beings such as replication, influence, competition, collaboration, etc.. Therefore thoughts and matter are both capable of these processes (thoughts can reproduce, spread, preserve themselves, etc.) and neither should be relegated to the back room as they are both describing processes within same system.
that all systems are interconnected, every cell, every particle, even all that supposedly empty space between us and the sun -- they are all DIRECTLY CONNECTED by 'fields' (all fields are supposedly OF something, never forget that... there is supposedly no independent 'field' or aether) be they gravitational, electromagnetic, configurations of dust, the movements of the heliosphere... our brains are DIRECTLY connected via gravitic and electromagnetic micro-reverberations. So why do we discount telepathy again as if a material universe precludes this? The temperature of even our most private thoughts has an absolutely real effect on the mental temperature of the overall consciousness teapot.
we conscious beings are all interconnected: because helping anyone else is ultimately helping ourselves/the species; and with mirror neurons being as they are, we feel other's pain so you can't even enjoy your ivory tower if someone is starving below. you can't have a healthy head with gangrene in the feet. we might as well act as if we are all one because we are!
invisible unicorns and thoughts are REAL THINGS. If I start a cult proclaiming that invisible unicorns sleep at the threshold of every door and have all the members step over each threshold that is a very real-world effect of thought. *waving my arm* Here's another one. Thoughts are real things, not an imaginary mental place devoid of connections to the real world and neither is it a private room where you can do as you please and have it not affect the mental body as a whole.
the universe is brimming with meaning. all of that random causality you go on about is intelligent design, aka NOT ARBITRARY! doctor's make assumptions that the body did something for a specific reason all the time; that things are in there and function for an intelligent reason. they are in awe of intelligent design without even calling it such. (with the minor exceptions of 'junk DNA' // an insulting slur, nature should sue for libel // and the poor outdated appendixes/appendices [sic, admin joke] and pinky toes, RIP.)
Just like Christians, they want to just take the parts of materialism they like (I want to do whatever I want, not have a God looking over my shoulder, I don't want to be held responsible for anyone else, I want to be able to judge and hate freely and abdicate my responsibility for the whole, my thoughts are all private and if I'm mad and bitter that's only affecting me) and not accept what the implications of what they're actually saying about the universe?
interesting... but what about:
Hmmm. I suspect he might say that "consciousness" is just a word we've assigned to a collection of biological/neurological processes. "Work" is done, but not by the word.
He probably would, but would you really agree with that?
I mean, if you were about to have an operation, wouldn't you get a bit serious about consciousness - would they extinguish it properly for the duration - and would they restore it properly afterwards.
Do you take waffle like that seriously?
Here is Well's response from his book:
Many of the other icons were demolished more conclusively.
The introduction to this interview reminded me that you have/had some involvement in AI. Clearly you have sampled this field much more recently than I have, and I wonder if you have anything to add (or subtract!) from my view of this field.
1) AI by artificial neural nets (ANN's) probably has something useful to say about the pattern recognition going on at the pre-conscious levels in the brain - preprocessing of vision etc.
2) Classical AI was an embarrassment in the 1980's because it promised so much and delivered very little. Above all, it didn't seem to have much of a method beyond searching of various flavours.
3) By the 1980' AI was not limited by computer speed or memory, but by the lack of any real idea of how it was supposed to work.
4) Little seems to have changed except that computers have become vastly more powerful!
It's not widely appreciated, but IDers don't reject natural selection. They rather say that it's only responsible for microevolution, e.g. as in peppered moths. The thing about the moths is that it is claimed that the driver of the colour changes in their wings during the industrial revolution was the blackening of tree trunks. The pictures of how moths with dark wings blended in as opposed to those with light wings were staged: dead moths were actually stuck to tree trunks rather than photographed whilst alive on tree trunks. There is little evidence that moths actually rest on tree trunks in nature.
Likewise, IDers don't reject the possibility that natural selection accounts for the differences in Darwin's finches, or many other small variations in lots of organisms. The thing they question is whether or not many microevolutionary changes accumulate over time to generate new organisms with different body plans. Darwinian macroevolution isn't supported by the fossil record, which shows that new organisms appear abruptly without apparent precursors. Many IDers actually support evolution in the sense of change over time: there's no doubt, for example, that over time, organisms have become more complex. However, the evidence that this has happened gradually is virtually non-existent. Darwinism can't explain this, and Darwin himself said:
If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find no such case.
When Darwin was alive, the evidence from the fossil record was pretty thin. It was easy to conjecture that over time, many examples would be found of intermediate forms. But the passage of time has shown that, for whatever reason, evolution doesn't work this way. I suppose the Cambrian explosion is the best known exemplar of this, but there have been other "explosions", such as those for mammals, birds and angiosperm plants. Something relatively quickly happens during which many new types of organism are produced, and no one has much of an idea what it is.
Hmmm. Appealing to a "physical" chemical acting on my "physical" neurones... It may be disrupting the transmission I guess, but is hardly a slam dunk for any particular model is it?
I've found using personal incredulity to dismiss a model of conscious awareness isn't really very helpful. Given what most proponents have to put up with, I'm surprised so many resort to it themselves.
Ah, but a mindless machine can't do anything if nobody knows what it is doing. Actually, mindless machines can only do anything at all if someone, namely the programmer, knows what to encode for it. No mindless machine anywhere does anything at all without a coder of some description who designs into it his own conscious intention.
Those pieces of wood over there aren't accidentally joined into the form of a four-legged chair, but intentionally designed that way, and a computer is in this sense just a more elaborate chair that in and of itself has no intention whatsoever. It's a machine that can be programmed to do a wide range of tasks, but only if the programmer can design programs for it to do them.
Computers, no less than four-legged chairs, aren't accidental; they are assembled by human beings, and according to the plans of human beings. Plans that allow for them to be programmed so that they can do things without having to know what they're doing. But they couldn't possibly do those things if their designers didn't know how, for example, to do arithmetic.
If Dennett is trying to argue that we are like machines, how come we seem to know what we are doing? If we indeed only seem to know, Dennett's argument is incoherent: we can manufacture machines that don't have to know, yet we ourselves are machines that do seem to know, and are able to produce machines in turn that work predictably and reliably. Someone at some level has to know something, otherwise there would be no sense, no predictability or reliability at all: indeed, these two terms would have very little meaning.
Well you said
Now OK it was your imagination, but it sounded awfully close to what they might say! Well what does it mean? I mean, we didn't assign the word 'consciousness' to a set of neurological processes at all - we used it to describe the state when we are awake! They may wish to claim that a particular set of neurological processes generate consciousness, which is not the same as what you said because your formulation contained no scientific claim at all, whereas my version does.
Nobody was suggesting that the actual word did work!
Can't you see how slippery and vague discussions become - and yes, you are right, this is exactly the way they talk. My reference to anaesthesia was meant to remind you that we aren't talking about something vague or metaphysical, we are talking about something utterly concrete. Imagine you were under the knife, but that the anaesthetic had worn off (but you were still paralysed from the muscle relaxant drug they use), would you say, "consciousness is just a word we've assigned to a collection of biological/neurological processes"!
I don't think Alex was quoting Dennett with approval
I do not want to sound know-it-all and offer the following as simple science. I am aware that it is so simple that it is hard to understand. Dennett's arguments are semantic and can be easily recast in the methodology of separating the environments of the physical and the informational.
I have never seen an example of consciousness or mentation (mental activity) do work (science definition)! Work is force times distance. There is no force vector and nothing specifically moves a distance. (I am doubtful about PK)
However, mentation DOES have measurables that are not in physical space!!!!!! There are processes, whereby living things can link information objects into relationships, thereby creating mental work output. These new objects of information are real in infospace and can reduce entropy and increase organization.
A project leader can speak to a group and lay out a plan for achievement. Do we measure her/his work, as the force pushing-out air and how far have the sound waves traveled?????? OR do we measure the work in other ways, such as the % of the instructions that are effectively communicated to each associate? Better coordinated output of synchronized behavior can be measured as productivity increase. The plan expressed can be modeled and its new patterns measured for the correlations of the variables, against a prior standard.
And the the thing about Dennett's view, that really "cheeses me off", is that he tries to tie it to Darwin. The same Charles Darwin who believed and endorsed mental evolution. If something has gained in competency it has not gained an increase in physical prowess - it has gained in knowledge and understanding of relationships, including abstract relationships. These gains in negentropy are measured in information science, and in fact, we have a lot of solid science behind them. What we don't have is a clear message to sort the conflation between physical work W = FD and metal work = better organization derived from structured information.
Someone works out a logic problem and develops an algorithm that will connect the information structures in such a way that personal understanding and specific data can be gained. No W =FD!!!!! But mental work = gain in structured information ( measurable as increased probability for competence is the outcome).
This gain is measured by such models as Cp and CpK used to measure a process's capability. Competence is not free from work. Danny Dennett will tell you how hard he has worked on his ideas. But who thinks his ideas "work".
Yeah, don't worry, I know.
What makes Infospace real?
I think he might be referring to IIT maybe? That''s my guess.
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