Upcoming interview with Dr. Donald Hoffman

#21
David, surely reality can't be a state apart. Even 'bare reality' has to be thought of. Can we get away from the proposition that what is 'real' is only real to us? The nature of reality in any absolute sense has to be uncertain until examined. How can you assert that reality is uncertain and still make sense?
Real to whom, and on what basis? We can take the placebo effect and fundamentals of psychology and argue that 'reality' is what we say it is, so long as it generates an effect - because is not real can't generate effect. That may mean that 'reality' is layered, hierarchical - a spectrum rather than an absolute state.

Who is to say what is or is not real? We can argue about what is shared, or agreed upon as a common experience. When I was 16 I was walking near Cradle Mountain in Tasmania solo. It was a clear day, and yet I was struck by something akin to an electrical current. I came to some time later [no idea how long], flat on my back. I remember being zapped, and I remember recovering. There were no witnesses. It wasn't lightening. I don't expect anybody to believe me if I tell them of my experience. Its mine and it happened. It is no less real for the absence of witnesses. If somebody says they do not believe me, I do not give a damn. They weren't there. I was.
Remember that I feel more in tune with Behe than with Don Hoffman. Behe's argument undercuts the main premise of Hoffman's theory - we did not evolve by RM+NS. Nevertheless, I see Donald Hoffman's ideas as interesting because they undercut evolution by natural selection, when you really think about them.

After years of being here on Skeptiko, I have come to realise that some people have all kinds of weird experiences. Some people would call such people crazy, but ultimately that is just a label (and an ad Hominem) - it explains nothing.

I think one example of an underlying reality being utterly different from what we perceive, is a computer game. I rather think that is closer to what Hoffman has in mind, however, if reality is a computer simulation - as some speculate - that still doesn't explain consciousness with its qualia.

David
 
#22
I am starting to think you could make a university course out of your way of analysing bogus arguments, but I still find it hard to think that way. I suppose you need to devise simple examples of each of these bogus strategies for simple people like me.
Yes, The Ethical Skeptic is used as course-material at three universities, and taught as a part of a course (Confidential and not of the same name) at a graduate military intelligence school. The site gets hit for high school level science projects, probably once every two months or so during the academic semester parts of the year. I can tell this by the flurry of hits all from the same school URL all at the same time.

Universities use an online app to help design courses by each class session now and ensure that their material is both standardized and in line with the prospectus. These course design applications link into the reference material and I approve these links; finally providing MLA-style recitation cut and paste text at the bottom of each article.
 
Last edited:
#23
Of course, in discussions here, we don't need to be so concerned by patrol sceptics, so for example, I like to use the term "Intelligent Design", because I think it most accurately describes the alternative point of view, and I like to give credit to the people who have researched this idea - even if I don't like their religion.
That makes sense that design is to where one would gravitate in their heart. But 'design' will always be burdened, fairly or not, with the onus of providing a putative designer as part of its hypothesis structure.

'Design' consists of several components: - Designer, Intent, Mechanism, Function, Structure, Controls, Inputs, Value, Risk and Ergodicity​
That is a LOT to prove in one felled swoop. Even if you lop-off 'Designer' one is left with a TON of things to prove.​

The opposition will always ascribe to this 'Designer' - God or alien identity in order to torpedo the alternative at the Ockham's Razor step. It makes the moniker useful inside a game of Nelsonian Inference, a methodology to circumvent such science, but act like one is doing science in the process of blocking it.

My focus is not only on skeptic patrols who will exploit this schism in logic in order to increase ignorance and compliance, but also on how we deceive ourselves into this process.

This is how we bumbled our way into harming 25 - 30% of the population with various pesticides and vaccines - we lied to ourselves. Very cleverly and through semantics.

Smart people lie in very particular ways. In order to protect those at risk, we must be smarter.
 
Last edited:
#24
Yes, The Ethical Skeptic is used as course-material at three universities, and taught as a part of a course (Confidential and not of the same name) at a graduate military intelligence school. The site gets hit for high school level science projects, probably once every two months or so during the academic semester parts of the year. I can tell this by the flurry of hits all from the same school URL all at the same time.

Universities use an online app to help design courses by each class session now and ensure that their material is both standardized and in line with the prospectus. These course design applications link into the reference material and I approve these links; finally providing MLA-style recitation cut and paste text at the bottom of each article.
I think it would really help if each concept came with a carefully chosen, but simple example.

David
 
#26
That makes sense that design is to where one would gravitate in their heart. But 'design' will always be burdened, fairly or not, with the onus of providing a putative designer as part of its hypothesis structure.
The trouble is, intent might be enough for psychic healing - though the mechanism for even that is obscure - but surely the entities that assembled our DNA had to conceive of what they were making? I tend to conceive of them as plural, and working with some sort of biological test beds - because it is entirely possible that the QM description of all possible conformations of haemoglobin (say) is beyond even them. I see the Cambrian Explosion as a possible test-bed for possible designs - remember, most of them soon vanished.
This is how we bumbled our way into harming 25 - 30% of the population with various toxins and vaccines - we lied to ourselves. Very cleverly and through semantics.
I utterly agree, and please add several 'popular' drugs to that list, such as statins, and also the demonisation of saturated fat when sugar was the main problem. Low fat foods almost inevitably contain more sugar.

David
 
#27
The trouble is, intent might be enough for psychic healing - though the mechanism for even that is obscure - but surely the entities that assembled our DNA had to conceive of what they were making? I tend to conceive of them as plural, and working with some sort of biological test beds - because it is entirely possible that the QM description of all possible conformations of haemoglobin (say) is beyond even them. I see the Cambrian Explosion as a possible test-bed for possible designs - remember, most of them soon vanished.

I utterly agree, and please add several 'popular' drugs to that list, such as statins, and also the demonisation of saturated fat when sugar was the main problem. Low fat foods almost inevitably contain more sugar.

David
Agreed on both points. ;;/? The first one is compelling no doubt, and I hear you. I just do not know how to assemble a testable hypothesis in the here and now for that observation.
 
#28
Each principle has an associated article, which includes an example inside it.

In the case of Intent versus Design - HARs ARE the example. For example, The Dual Burden Model of Inferential Ethics
I once read a science fiction story about a group of scientists trying to cope with an inteligent signal coming from outer space. They got the signal decoded so far, but then discovered that if they put their most intelligent folk listening to the signal it drove them crazy or killed them!

Unfortunately, every time I read your website I feel like one of the less intelligent scientists in that story - I try to read what you write, but it starts to put my brain into a loop, but because my mind is (fortunately!) not of a sufficient calibre, so I can always escape!

Two sentences are enough to leave my mind looping for minutes on end:
The nihilist is a person who claims specific revelation knowledge as to that which is comprised by all conditions of Nothing. The ethical skeptic on the other hand is a student of Nothing before he or she can ever claim to bear expertise at anything.
I think you have a very important message, and I think you could reach a hell of a lot more people with a dummed down summary.

David
 
Last edited:
#29
The nihilist is a person who claims specific revelation knowledge as to that which is comprised by all conditions of Nothing. The ethical skeptic on the other hand is a student of Nothing before he or she can ever claim to bear expertise at anything.

I think you have a very important message, and I think you could reach a hell of a lot more people with a dummed down summary.
This is not a fair example because this statement cannot be posed stand-alone.

This statement is referring to a list, inside the material, which is called 'all conditions of Nothing'. 'Nothing' is used as a logical object, and not by its normal meaning (and is capitalized in order to indicate so) - because it refers to the list of nothing-conditions inside the material. Using this stand-alone is like cherry picking an asterisk comment at the bottom of a set of assembly instructions. Of course such a thing would make no sense by itself.

In my blog, I am often creating new ideas. This is what I do. When you are relating something simple, one is often trying to teach, communicate or sustain existing ideas; ideas which have already been serviced with adequate complexity somewhere else. An idea, in its first inception, must be expressed accurately. Thereafter perhaps, simply.

Let me express this by means of a simple example. I write my material precise - like when one files a patent. A patent will be rejected by the USP&TO if it is written 'simply'. One is not writing for general understanding, because one is servicing faithfully, that item or idea, for the very first time.

Simple gets material rejected in professional circles. Because simple is most often, wrong. We as laymen, just do not perceive it.

A professional axiom: Accurate IS simple.
 
Last edited:
#30
This is not a fair example because this statement cannot be posed stand-alone.

This statement is referring to a list, inside the material, which is called 'all conditions of Nothing'. 'Nothing' is used as a logical object, and not by its normal meaning (and is capitalized in order to indicate so) - because it refers to the list of nothing-conditions inside the material. Using this stand-alone is like cherry picking an asterisk comment at the bottom of a set of assembly instructions. Of course such a thing would make no sense by itself.

In my blog, I am often creating new ideas. This is what I do. When you are relating something simple, one is often trying to teach, communicate or sustain existing ideas; ideas which have already been serviced with adequate complexity somewhere else. An idea, in its first inception, must be expressed accurately. Thereafter perhaps, simply.

Let me express this by means of a simple example. I write my material precise - like when one files a patent. A patent will be rejected by the USP&TO if it is written 'simply'. One is not writing for general understanding, because one is servicing faithfully, that item or idea, for the very first time.

Simple gets material rejected in professional circles. Because simple is most often, wrong. We as laymen, just do not perceive it.

A professional axiom: Accurate IS simple.
Actually that is currently the very first sentence on https://theethicalskeptic.com/ !

I could have picked many other sentences. I certainly find your writings very hard indeed to read, and it might be me losing little grey cells - as we all are - I'd be quite interested to know others opinion.

As I said above, I think you could reach a lot bigger audience if you tried to simplify what you say - because I think people nowadays are bedazzled by junk science pushed in so many way.

They really need what you have to say.

David
 
#33
You made this material into a course, so have you had any feedback on it? Feel free to send me a PM so we could discuss it privately if you wish.

David
I have not made the material into a course, but a graduate program intelligence instructor uses the material in his classes. He wrote me and asked permission. I asked to remain anonymous to the students, and he was OK with that, as long as we exchanged credentials - which we did.

There are 252 articles, with 2 currently in development. I am more focused on a reference text from the material as opposed to any specific course.
 
#34
Remember that I feel more in tune with Behe than with Don Hoffman. Behe's argument undercuts the main premise of Hoffman's theory - we did not evolve by RM+NS. Nevertheless, I see Donald Hoffman's ideas as interesting because they undercut evolution by natural selection, when you really think about them.

After years of being here on Skeptiko, I have come to realise that some people have all kinds of weird experiences. Some people would call such people crazy, but ultimately that is just a label (and an ad Hominem) - it explains nothing.

I think one example of an underlying reality being utterly different from what we perceive, is a computer game. I rather think that is closer to what Hoffman has in mind, however, if reality is a computer simulation - as some speculate - that still doesn't explain consciousness with its qualia.

David
I don't think we 'explain' consciousness so much as describe our take on it - which can never be more than a very personal POV. I don't know if its a scientific hubris - this business of thinking that 'explaining' anything is either useful or meaningful. I suspect neither.

Back in the 60s I came across a cartoon in a tawdry publication called the Australian Post. It depicted a bloke in bed in a motel room with a buxom floozie. The door is burst open and there is a guy in a coat and with a camera. Behind him is a woman with a face like thunder [the wife]. The bloke in the bed exclaims "But honey! I can explain!" Obviously the object of the 'joke' is guilty delight at a guy being sprung for what men imagine the'd like to do. But for me it was the idiocy of imagining that 'explaining' anything had any meaning or value. In this case, as usual, an 'explanation' is entirely self-serving. It has no inherent integrity. Explaining is over rated.

The idea that consciousness is a computer game is less interesting than imagining the nature of the medium of the game. A tiny microchip can contain information to create the illusion of vast space. So if reality is consciousness, how big does it have to be to be what it is? Can the infinitesimally small contain the unimaginably large?

On a microchip neither space nor time can be real, but some processing logic, as analogues, must be to create them.
 
#35
Alex, I really hope Don will agree to spend some time with us on the forum after you publish his interview - I am really looking forward to having a discussion wit this guy.

I have his new book, and from the preface, it would seem that he is flirting with a form of Idealism (I prefer to read books linearly!).

Also, it would be really nice if you posted a note after you have done an interview, so that we don't all think we can make suggestions that you might act on!

David
 
#36
The more I think about Hoffman's argument, the less keen I am on it - except turned on its head as an argument against evolution by RM+NS.

First, I strongly suspect that his Fitness Beats Truth (FBT) theorem will have a parallel FBM theorem that tells you that a brain evolved by natural selection can't handle maths concepts much beyond simple counting.

This fits nicely with Behe's concept. Although RM+NS seems superficially all-powerful (given unlimited amounts of time), it would seem to contain within it subtle limitations. My bet is now, that there are probably more of these limiting theorems relating to RM+NS.

David
 
#37
Alex,

Reading Hoffman's book, he has some excellent passages pointing out that a collection of non-conscious components simply can't be used to explain why something is conscious. We have argued that point for a long time, but there are still some members of the forum who do not get that. I therefore suggest you should devote some portion of your interview to letting him expound on that point. After all, he is a famous neuroscientist, who hasn't had his judgement disturbed (!!) by actually experiencing an NDE, and he is explaining the very point that is at the heart of the Hard Problem.

I hope the interview isn't already in the can.

David
 
#38
eading Hoffman's book, he has some excellent passages pointing out that a collection of non-conscious components simply can't be used to explain why something is conscious.
How do we know that a component is 'non-conscious'? Let's distinguish between consciousness and degrees of awareness. If consciousness is the foundation of reality then all 'things' are conscious - the question is to what degree. We have no measure of consciousness. Rather we measure awareness and assume that's the same thing. It isn't.

So while Hoffman may have a rational argument it does not seem to be sufficiently informed.
 
#39
How do we know that a component is 'non-conscious'? Let's distinguish between consciousness and degrees of awareness. If consciousness is the foundation of reality then all 'things' are conscious - the question is to what degree. We have no measure of consciousness. Rather we measure awareness and assume that's the same thing. It isn't.

So while Hoffman may have a rational argument it does not seem to be sufficiently informed.
I think the point is that Hoffman is pushing back from conventional scientific thinking that consciousness somehow 'emerges' from massive computation. Obviously a few scientists, such as Koch, have sort of peeled off for that position and support panpsychism, but you couldn't say that was standard scientific thinking.

David
 
#40
How do we know that a component is 'non-conscious'? Let's distinguish between consciousness and degrees of awareness. If consciousness is the foundation of reality then all 'things' are conscious - the question is to what degree. We have no measure of consciousness. Rather we measure awareness and assume that's the same thing. It isn't.

So while Hoffman may have a rational argument it does not seem to be sufficiently informed.
Exactly! Using “non-conscious” in front of “matter” or “components” is a rhetorical device, a debating technique to frame the parameters of the argument.

A similar technique of framing the argument is to start a large proportion of posts with the phrase “The point is...” or similar.
 
Top