Taking emergence really seriously

Discussion in 'Critical Discussions Among Proponents and Skeptics' started by David Bailey, May 12, 2014.

  1. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    Suppose we accept, for the sake of argument, that consciousness and intelligence arose by emergence from a complex system driven by natural selection. Wouldn't we expect consciousness and intelligence to be present in many other systems. Remember that arguments about emergence don't specify any particular substrate for a complex system, and don't specify the time-scale on which they might operate.

    For example, trees are undoubtedly complex, and they need to compete to grab light and achieve several other aims, so wouldn't materialism predict that they might be conscious?

    Likewise, if we take an entire species - say giraffe's and their forebears. The entire species would be competing with other species, and of course it would be complex, so might not it also be conscious? Might it not find a way to modify its DNA and test the result - keeping records and designing the next change in the genome.........

    Now I don't believe in emergence from a materialist base (or at least I think it is looking less and less plausible), but some of you here do believe the idea - so what is wrong with those other proposed uses of the emergence concept?

    Indeed, wouldn't materialism actually predict that many evolutionary changes would be designed:)

    David
     
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  2. Arouet

    Arouet Member

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    I don't see why it couldn't evolve in other ways as well, but I don't know that we should expect it. I don't think its mere complexity that is the key but rather certain information pathways that function in a particular way to produce consciousness.

    Maybe it doesn't even have to be complex per se: just the right system.

    With regard to expectation: I think that's the wrong way to look at evolution. We can only look back and post-dict. From what I understand about evolution, we shouldn't expect any particular evolutionary path going forward. At least not just by thinking about it - maybe one day a sophisticated enough machine could predict some good contenders but I don't think anything has that capacity today! At least not on that level of prediction.
     
  3. I think you have the right of it David - Why can't emergence happen in other ways, if the entirety of the Phenomenal comes down to substrate independent gestures just happening to emulate a computer of some sort?

    Anything and everything might have an inner awareness, and thus Animism is reborn through Materialism.
     
  4. Arouet

    Arouet Member

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    David's contention is not just that it should be possible (I don't see why not) but that it should be expected. I don't think the latter follows.
     
  5. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    Well in science if something works once, it is only natural to look for other places where it might operate. I am arguing that for people who assume (unlike me!) the emergence of consciousness, Intelligent Design would hardly be surprising!

    David
     
  6. Arouet

    Arouet Member

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    I certainly wouldn't object to looking in other places (for example: do plant networks work like neural networks?). Just that we should be happy if we find something but not read too much into not finding others.
     
  7. Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

    Paul C. Anagnostopoulos Nap, interrupted. Member

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    So why aren't there various mammals with long necks like giraffes? Possibly because competition precludes it. Or possibly simply by luck.

    I expect that many other organisms have some level of consciousness.

    ~~ Paul
     
  8. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    For me, it involves an issue of whether any intelligence at a level higher than that of an individual is immanent or not: that is, whether any such intelligence is constantly monitoring and intervening in the process of evolution. My current preference is tending to the view that it is not immanent. This doesn't mean that there is a predefined plan that is unfolding according to a tightly-defined design. It means rather that there are rules or laws in place that create an "arena" in which events can unfold in ways that the lawmaker didn't expect or plan for, though trajectories may tend in certain intended directions.

    For example, I think the tendency in the evolution of organisms is not towards the survival of the fittest, but to the generation of increased complexity, reflected in the increased complexity of neural networks through time. Note the "reflected": I don't believe increase in complexity of neural systems leads to the emergence of consciousness, but that a fundamental tendency of the laws set down by the lawmaker has the aim in mind of increasing degrees of consciousness/intelligence. Since neural networks are, from an Idealist viewpoint, what an aspect of the process of consciousness looks like, it's not that surprising to find that during evolution, the process gets to look more and more complex. Even a cursory examination of the brains of lower animals as compared with higher ones will demonstrate that increase in complexity.

    IMO, it's only because of the tendency to give primacy to material causes that the issue of emergence, understood as if usually is, ever arises. Of course if one allots that primacy, there's no option but to think in terms of consciousness emerging from matter: it's perfectly logical to think that way, but one should realise that if one does, it's based on a metaphysical assumption that may be incorrect and turning reality upside down.

    In a way, consciousness does emerge in time: but not necessarily from matter. Rather, it may emerge as a consequence of the laws of the lawmaker (aka Source Consciousness) which, as I indicated, doesn't know in exact detail how things are going to work out. "Matter" is just the way processes occurring in the mind of SC look to us.

    And the motive of SC? I favour the notion that the intention is that increasingly complexity should lead to increasing awareness of SC by itself: because in the end, SC is all there is and there's nothing else that could possibly be aware.
     
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  9. steve001

    steve001 Member

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    I'm going to be a little pedagogical for a moment. Materialism makes no predictions; it's not a hypothesis and certainly not a theory. It can't be used as a foundation for this position.
    Is your question about consciousness strickly or does it include self awareness or both? Can it pass the mirror yes? If it includes self awareness too then it becomes a more difficult argument. If not then all forms of life are conscious.
     
  10. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    I think only Sciborg_S_Patel got my point! If science has come up with a mechanism - emergence - that enables complex systems to become conscious and intelligent, why do people baulk at the idea of Intelligent Design? Why indeed don't they go searching for other possible intelligent systems right here on earth?

    Of course, I think I know the answer - emergence of consciousness isn't something that scientists really believe in, it is a convenient fiction to 'explain' consciousness to the gullible!

    David
     
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  11. steve001

    steve001 Member

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    David, do you understand the agenda creationists have here in the states?
     
  12. gabriel

    gabriel New

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    To promote mind over chance?
     
  13. steve001

    steve001 Member

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    No. Don't be smart.
     
  14. Arouet

    Arouet Member

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    I don't know the answer to this but are the scientists who are trying to figure this out all that concerned whether it comes through something we'd call emergence or not? Aren't they just trying to figuring out how it all works?

    Also, while I get the hard problem we've got to be careful not to consider take it too far. It may be more accurate to think of consciousness as something we do rather than as something we are.
     
  15. gabriel

    gabriel New

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    Why? Especially when that seems to be precisely the issue in question.
     
  16. steve001

    steve001 Member

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    It's only the question on this forum. Being a citizen of the UK you might not be familiar with the creationists agenda. If you aren't then start reading about the Scopes Monkey trial - The State of Tennessee vs. John Scopes.
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2014
  17. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    Sorry David, but this seems like a non-sequitur to me. How do you go from the mechanism of emergence to why do people balk at ID? Are you just saying that the former is less credible than the latter, or what?
     
  18. malf

    malf Member

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    FWIW, I think the substrate is important as, in the case of a brain, it appears to allow the complex adaptable feedback systems (new connections) that allow learning, forecasting and problem solving in complex animals. (I was having a chat with my wife (a teacher) yesterday about some studies linking the early development of problem solving skills with creativity in later life, which I found interesting, given that creativity appears to be a bit of a mystery to some.)

    AFAIK, there is no artificial substrate that can perform in that manner, so whilst a particular substrate "isn't specified", that should be read as "unimportant".
     
  19. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    What I am saying is that materialism supports the idea of consciousness emerging, and totally rejects ID. However, emergent consciousness opens up the possibility of conscious intelligence in all sorts of systems - not just brains - so the theory of emergence (which I don't believe) actually opens the way to ID!!!!

    David
     
  20. Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

    Paul C. Anagnostopoulos Nap, interrupted. Member

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    They balk at ID because there is, so far, no reason to propose it. They certainly do go searching for other intelligent organisms.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_cognition

    Really? So you think most scientists are stealth panpsychists?

    ~~ Paul
     

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