A Plan to Defend against the War on Science

Oct 14, 2016

By Shawn Otto

Four years ago in Scientific American, I warned readers of a growing problem in American democracy. The article, entitled “Antiscience Beliefs Jeopardize U.S. Democracy,” charted how it had not only become acceptable, but often required, for politicians to embrace antiscience positions, and how those positions flew in the face of the core principles that the U.S. was founded on: That if anyone could discover the truth of something for him or herself using the tools of science, then no king, no pope and no wealthy lord was more entitled to govern the people than they were themselves. It was self-evident.

In the years since, the situation has gotten worse. We’ve seen the emergence of a “post-fact” politics, which has normalized the denial of scientific evidence that conflicts with the political, religious or economic agendas of authority. Much of this denial centers, now somewhat predictably, around climate change—but not all. If there is a single factor to consider as a barometer that evokes all others in this election, it is the candidates’ attitudes toward science.

Consider, for example, what has been occurring in Congress. Rep. Lamar Smith, the Texas Republican who chairs the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, is a climate change denier. Smith has used his post to initiate a series of McCarthy-style witch-hunts, issuing subpoenas and demanding private correspondence and testimony from scientists, civil servants, government science agencies, attorneys general and nonprofit organizations whose work shows that global warming is happening, humans are causing it and that—surprise—energy companies sought to sow doubt about this fact.


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126 comments on “A Plan to Defend against the War on Science

  • Lamar Smith could almost convince me there is such a thing as Evil. In a sentient, independent form…

    But then, upon thinking for a nanosecond, that would place me in his company. His mindset.

    That notwithstanding, no horror film could match him.

    Suffice to say he’s bad karma….Big bad Karma !!



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  • Hello, James,

    Just because Smith believes in evil and is himself evil, doesn’t mean that evil doesn’t exist. I have had this debate with another member (Phil). When I hear creationists and climate change deniers speak, and when I listen to white supremacists and religious bigots speak, and when I think about human atrociousness throughout history, I cannot think of any word (including psychopathology) that describes such sheer obduracy and sheer destructiveness as well.

    When the late Norman Mailer was working on The Castle in the Forest, and researching Hitler, he said that he found many of the works on Hitler to be enormously stimulating; but none of them answered the question he was looking for. He concluded that he was confronted with the problem of evil itself – and no psychological or historical study or analysis was able to adequately address this problem. He then decided to make his narrator (in the novel) a minion of the Devil. It is a compelling work.

    Like you, I am not apt to attribute things to supernatural forces, but neither am I comfortable with calling the Hitlers of the world and all of these sick Republicans and evangelicals mere psychopaths, who would have been good and reasonable had they had better parenting. That is true of many, yes. But it is not true of all. — Such optimism is loathsome to me.

    Go to YouTube and check out someone named Katrina Pierson. (One example among many.) She is a Trump surrogate. I would argue that she is evil, as are many people.



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  • @ “Dan”

    “psychopathology”

    Wow. No time for this today. Tomorrow.

    Old man Freud attempted ( and arguably, failed) to put the final nail on that coffin lid (Re : “Evil”)

    I see through the lens of 10 years licensed Mental Health experience in California.

    Kalipornia. The breeding ground for “Evil”. Some say. Haven’t made up my mind to this day.

    Tomorrow.

    PS.

    Mailer also said that the American juggernaut of commercialism is one of the most destructive, insidious evils ever invented, or something to that effect…Maybe you can dig up the quote.

    …and YouTube is EVIL incarnate !!!… :[ …



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  • I saw Shawn Otto recently talking about his book. I’m hoping to read it soon. I’ve connected with him on LinkedIn. His sciencedebate.org organization I’ve followed for years. I must admit, the answers the politicians have all given are usually disappointing. I would like to one day see a science debate take place with actual scientists asking the questions.



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  • @savroD

    ” I would like to one day see a science debate take place with actual
    scientists asking the questions.”

    Just got to look in the right places. C–Span had a great panel back in June :

    “War Science | Video | C-SPAN.org
    https://www.c-span.org/video/?411578-1/war-science
    C‑SPAN
    Jun 22, 2016 – The War on Science Shawn Otto talked about his book The War on Science: Who’s Waging It, Why It Matters, What We Can Do About It, ..”

    Sagan facilitated much debate, until he died.



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  • @ Dan

    “Just because Smith believes in evil and is himself evil, doesn’t mean
    that evil doesn’t exist.”

    …Nor is that an argument that evil does exist. Science is not in the business of proving the negative.

    “I cannot think of any word (including psychopathology) that describes
    such sheer obduracy and sheer destructiveness as well.”

    Actually there is no shortage of words in explaining either “evil” itself, or the damage done by it. One does not have to resort to superstition.

    What human beings do to other human beings does not play any special role apart from evolutionary origins, or genetic mutations. Of course, this may ring hollow in the wake of family tragedies, or institutional racism, leading to wholesale carnage.

    There is Hell on Earth. There is Hell on Earth, and we make it. Who argues with that ?

    Psychopathology ? No. When you maltreat a child, abuse his/her space, neglect or convince him/her that they have no importance, you will get payback. Axiomatic. Healthy parental nurturing, as a rule, is not a breeding ground for serial killers.

    Attributing all the ills of the human family to “evil” is tantamount to saying that a lioness is “evil” as she pounces upon and devours her prey.

    We have not evolved beyond adolescence. Hopefully an advanced civilization will not have found us and do something rash because we have not grown.

    Gotta log off again.



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  • The exploding human population coupled with expanding technological power is having a profound collective impact on a nonexpanding planet. When Adam Smith first offered the libertarian idea of the self-regulating market’s “invisible hand,” the world was effectively unlimited and relying only on market forces to produce the highest good seemed reasonable because one was never concerned with waste that wouldn’t flow away or resources that wouldn’t replenish.
    But the model becomes a problem when the world is limited, population has grown exponentially, we are swimming in waste and facing dwindling resources, and our cumulative exhaust is warming the planet. These are scientific facts, and facing them implies regulation of the free market.

    “Regulation of the free market” links nicely with tentative curbs on CO2 emissions but misses the obvious opportunity to call for moderately sub-replacement birthrates worldwide. You’re talking about OVERPOPULATION, Mister! -the ongoing over-breeding of the human animal on a finite planet. How about mentioning the forming of a consensus among world leaders to stabilize then reduce global population? “Science” can help the people who are here reduce per capita waste and pollution while conserving and recycling resources only so far. The people who are not born can help much more.



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  • Hi, James,

    Good comments, but I take issue with this one:

    “Attributing all the ills of the human family to “evil” is tantamount to saying that a lioness is “evil” as she pounces upon and devours her prey.”

    Wrong (as Trump would say). See my comments on the Humans Unusually Murderous thread. (Some comments are better than others. Complicated issue.)

    And I am not attributing all the ills of humanity to any one thing!

    Here’s part of a superlative quote that may shed light on my argument that animals are not evil – “I and Thou” is a fundamental ethical relation and is foreign to animals – and my general (and semi-metaphysical) conception of evil, which may be defined, in part, as absolute selfishness or extreme egotism. There are many facets of evil.

    But for him who possesses a self there is a self in his neighbour, and only the man who has lost the logical and ethical centre of his being behaves to a second man as if the latter were not a man and had no personality of his own. “I” and “thou” are complementary terms. […] He who destroys himself destroys at the same time the whole universe, and he who murders another commits the greatest crime because he murders himself in his victim. Absolute selfishness is, in practice, a horror, which should rather be called nihilism; if there is no “thou,” there is certainly no “I”, and that would mean there is nothing. —Otto Weininger (1880-1903)

    Yes, yes. — I know that animals can exhibit altruism and do feel compassion. It’s a question of degree. Quantity changes quality.



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  • @ Dan

    Well we’ve come a long way from Weininger’s conclusions about “evil”.

    “It’s a question of degree. Quantity changes quality.”

    Your conclusion wrought from Weininger begs the question.

    At first I am reminded of the great film adaptation of the Lawrence/Lee play “Inherent the Wind” (’60) where (Spencer Tracy’s “Darrow”) is delivering another brilliant albeit cataclysmic delivery in front of the jury :

    “[One] of the peculiar imbecilities of our time is the grid of
    morality we have placed on human behavior: so that every act of man
    must be measured against an arbitrary latitude of right and longitude
    of wrong-in exact minutes, seconds, and degrees!”

    Weininger, over a century ago, predating Freud, Kahlil Gibran, Carl Jung, Kafka, Ayn Rand, Eric Hoffer, Tennessee Williams, Eugene O’Neil… and any number of great minds from the 20th century who had long wrestled with the problem of “evil”, presupposes that we can put such a grid on morality upon human behavior. We cannot. And we don’t bother to try anymore.

    This is not to say that the ancient fallback of “evil” still does not remain the final refuge of psychobabble noise today, when better words escape the self-anointed “experts” of human behavior. Take pause to consider that the only “modern” groups of pseudo “philosophers” that insist upon “evil” to explain the miserable frailty of the human being are, in fact, fanatical evangelicals who still try to thrust “evil” down everyone’s throat.

    It’s an old false dichotomy : “Good” no longer projects the antithesis to “evil”; “good” cannot explain the absence of “evil”. It never could. And it wasn’t simply a “lie” by which the priests and “teachers” inculcated children; in the 19th century, human behavior was not understood but in the most rudimentary terms, not unlike you still hear today : “Ah ! He must be ‘evil’ !!”… No. That explains nothing. Nothing at all.

    In short, as abhorrent as it may seem, you will never understand the depth of Hitler’s psychosis by passing him off as “evil”; had we understood Hitler as far back as the draconian 20’s, the slaughter of 6,000,000 innocent people in the 40’s could have been easily prevented. Easily. All the signs were there…Hell, you can READ the signs from the old film clips. It’s not rocket science. Fact is, we were simply more ignorant about human behavior.

    Do you recall the psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl, who survived the concentration camps, and wrote that beautiful book “Man’s Search for Meaning“? Often adapting the old language, he nevertheless reflected very cogently upon the ambiguities of “Good” vs. “Evil”:

    “It is apparent that the mere knowledge that a man was either a camp
    guard or a prisoner tells us almost nothing. Human kindness can be
    found in all groups, even those which as a whole it would be easy to
    condemn. The boundaries between (good and evil) overlapped and we must
    not try to simplify matters by saying that these men were angels and
    those were devils…Life in a concentration camp tore open the human
    soul and exposed its depths. Is it surprising that in those depths we
    again found only human qualities which in their very nature were a
    mixture of good and evil? The rift dividing good from evil, which goes
    through all human beings, reaches into the lowest depths and becomes
    apparent even on the bottom of the abyss which is laid open by the
    concentration camp…”

    …And this guy was a concentration camp survivor !!…His book, in so far as I have discovered, appears to be the most distinctive linchpen that opened the door to “relativist” morality. Though he adapts the old language, he never suggests that either is measurable, as Weininger would suggest, and who preceded Frankl by half a century :

    Weininger :

    “But for him who possesses a self there is a self in his neighbour,
    and only the man who has lost the logical and ethical centre of his
    being behaves to a second man as if the latter were not a man and had
    no personality of his own.”

    Here Weininger, with some measure of prescience, is describing what we would define today as a sociopath, with a taste of narcissism thrown in (not all narcissists are sociopaths…we should be clear on that). But unwittingly, he is committing the common error of conflating the proto-psychoanalytical with the philosophical, a very dangerous path to take if, today, if we want to presume that there is “evil”…And we haven’t even touched on 101 cultural/anthropological relativism : The headhunting practices of the old Dayak tribes in Borneo/the grotesque mutilation rituals of South American tribes…Africa…Good or evil ? Don’t think so.

    I will trust to more recent excursions into the problem :

    “In answer to the question, ‘Was the development of the atomic bomb by
    the United States necessary?’ I reply unequivocally, ‘Yes.’ To the
    question, ‘Is atomic energy a force for good or for evil?’ I can only
    say, ‘As mankind wills it.'”

    — Leslie Richard Groves The General overseeing The Manhattan Project
    “And Now It Can Be Told: The Story Of The Manhattan Project” (1962)

    “Past and present religious atrocities have occurred not because we are
    evil, but because it is a fact of nature that the human species is,
    biologically, only partly rational. Evolution has meant that our
    prefrontal lobes are too small, our adrenal glands are too big, and
    our reproductive organs apparently designed by committee; a recipe
    which, alone or in combination, is very certain to lead to some
    unhappiness and disorder.”

    ― Christopher Hitchens “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything”

    But for me, I lean toward Kahlil Gibran :

    “Of the good in you I can speak, but not of the evil. For what is evil
    but good tortured by its own hunger and thirst? Verily when good is
    hungry it seeks food even in dark caves, and when it thirsts it
    drinks even of dead waters.”

    Kahlil Gibran On Good and Evil – KatSandogz.com
    http://www.katsandogz.com/ongood.html
    Kahlil Gibran On Good and Evil. Of the good in you I can speak, but not of the evil. For what is evil but good tortured by its own hunger and thirst?…

    …Read the whole poem. Gibran is always mind-stretching…



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  • Thanks, James, for those thoughtful, honest, and interesting remarks – and for the poem. I sincerely appreciate your point of view.

    I am sure we agree on a great many things, including this: the question “what is the nature of good and evil?”, and “can evil be said to exist at all?”, are very, very large questions, and neither you nor I have come close to answering them on this thread, or on this website.



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  • Dan, I’ve been reading your posts on “Good and evil”.
    I’m not sure we can look at it as a binary score. Genetic diversity and behavioral diversity is, in my opinion linked by evolution. So the spectrum is full all the way across. How we grade behavior is the question?



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  • alf,

    How dare you contradict me, and where is my pill? I lost another one. (I need them now! Debate tomorrow. Election weeks away.)

    Good and evil. I am exploring this issue, have no answers. I have some ideas. This issue, as I said and as you know, is enormously complex, and also raises the issue of language itself, which increases the complexity. What is the relationship between a word (in this case “evil”) and the thing named?

    Binary? I never said that anyone is all evil or all good. If I were to ever become religious, I wouldn’t even say that about God.

    Linked by evolution. Always evolution. Everything is linked to or by evolution. Evolution is evolution. Yes, behavior is graded, and our own intentions are graded. We grade ourselves and others, and others grade themselves and us. What we do must be judged independently of evolution. We are what we are. We have only the present moment, ourselves, our actions, and, finally, a judgment. We are responsible for our acts – although there can be many mitigating factors and circumstances, obviously. (Insanity, for example.) Evolution is not one of them.

    “That which enables man to have a real relation to truth and which removes his temptation to lie, must be something independent of all time, something absolutely unchangeable, which as faithfully reproduces the old as if it were new…”
    —Weininger



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  • @ Dan #11…

    “…and neither you nor I have come close to answering them on this thread, or on this website.”

    Proof is in the pudding…which somebody consumed long ago…No doubt the Devil has an avaricious appetite.

    Did you see the Jeff Goldblum European export film “Mr Frost” (’90)….”Words are my greatest weapon”



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  • @alf # 12

    “So the spectrum is full all the way across. How we grade behavior is
    the question?”

    …Magically invent a new element and force-feed it into the light spectrum…At issue : Where would the Fraunhofer line for “evil” be placed ?

    Nooottt a problem !!



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  • @ Dan #13

    “That which enables man to have a real relation to truth and which
    removes his temptation to lie, must be something independent of all
    time, something absolutely unchangeable, which as faithfully
    reproduces the old as if it were new…”

    …There’s no such thing…”something independent of all time”…There is nothing “independent of all time”…therefore, by Weininger’s dated “logic”, no one will ever access “truth”…”real relation to truth” ??…What exactly does that mean ?

    …Might consider choosing a better apologist in support of any argument for the existence of an “independent” entity for “evil”…Some of my old adversaries would be good candidates, but their own destructive will notwithstanding, even they would be found wanting in the area of proof.



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  • James

    “As a result of certain psycho-analytic discoveries, we are to-day in a position to embark on a discussion of the Kantian theorem that time and space are “necessary forms of thought.” We have learnt that unconscious mental processes are in themselves “timeless.” This means in the first place that they are not ordered temporally, that time does not change them in any way and that the idea of time cannot be applied to them. These are negative characteristics, which can only be clearly understood if a comparison is made with conscious mental processes. On the other than, our abstract idea of time seems to be wholly derived from the method of working of the system Pcpt.-Cs. [Perception-Consciousness] and to correspond to a perception on its own part of that method of working. This mode of functioning may perhaps constitute another way of providing a shield against stimuli.”
    —Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle

    Full quote from Weininger:

    “That which enables man to have a real relation to truth and which removes his temptation to lie, must be something independent of all time, something absolutely unchangeable, which as faithfully reproduces the old as if it were new, because it is permanent itself; it can only be that source in which all discrete experiences unite and which creates from the first a continuous existence. It is what produces the feeling of responsibility which oppresses all men, young and old, as to their actions, which makes them know that they are responsible, which leads to the phenomena of repentance and consciousness of sin [or wrongdoing], which calls to account before an eternal and ever present self things that are long past, its judgment being subtler and more comprehensive than that of any court of law or of the laws of society, and which is exerted by the individual himself quite independently of all social codes (so condemning the moral psychology which would derive morality from the social life of man).”



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  • @ Dan

    Got to log off now.

    …Freud’s “physics” is extremely dated and just plain wrong. And Weininger (like an unfortunate majority of “philosophers”) is just too muddied and convoluted to glean any semblance of “truth” from him…Dan, you have to apply the zeitgeist template upon these erstwhile authors, now collecting dust on library shelves …These folks you’re quoting had enough issues rising above the zeitgeist; they did not have the benefit of our newly polished crystal balls. The majority of Father Saint Freud’s tenets were rejected long ago. Unconscious theory remains tentative for the explicit reason that we cannot even prove consciousness exists, (not to be confused-or conflated-with “conscious”) “Modern” psychoanalysts are often scoffed at within the clinical milieu. mainly because the tools for “therapy” are, more often than not, arbitrary and subject to both subjective projections and confirmation bias.

    You may think I’m “stepping on a lot of toes”, but my 14 years experience working California psych. clinicals exposed me to much more practical, progressive and informed approaches to the approach models. Freud would be utterly helpless in an closed acute level clinic. There are many, arguably a majority, of professional practitioners who shared my sentiments; the psychobabble BS in popular consciousness would never hold muster.



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  • @ Dan…PS :

    …OMG !!…I did not know Weininger off’d himself at the tender age of 23.

    23 !!…??…Poor guy hadn’t taken time to find the bathroom !!…You can’t be serious !

    Many prodigies end up that way. Their “genius” won’t save them because they are too emotionally unstable…for any number of reasons…You’d never convince me that any 23 year can have a grasp on “truth”…Not even close. [ Maybe an Einstein. But it took decades for him to be (even tentatively) convinced of his own “truths” ]

    “Truth”, however, you want to call it, takes long years of growth and experience.



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  • James, Phil, others

    Yes. He took his own life in the room that one of his heroes – Beethoven – had died, seventy-six years earlier.

    His father remarked: “He could find no peace in this world.”

    Truth is wasted on most people. They wouldn’t know it if it hit them in the face. From the Untimely Meditations, (Book IV, Sanctus Januarius):

    Not Predestined for Knowledge.

    There is a stupid humility that is quite common and when a person is afflicted with it, he is once and for all disqualified for being a disciple of knowledge. As soon as a person of this kind perceives anything striking, he turns as it were on his heel and says to himself: “You have deceived yourself – where have your wits been! This cannot be the truth! ” – and then, instead of looking at it and listening to it with more attention, he runs out of the way of the striking object as if intimidated, and seeks to get it out of his head as quickly as possible.
    —Nietzsche

    Some theories, some monstrous ideas, and yes, some truth, in Sex and Character, such as these:

    “In order to understand the condition of timelessness let us reflect on what memory rescues from time. What transcends time is only what is of interest to the individual, what has meaning for him; in fact, all that he assigns value to. We remember only the things that have some value for us even if we are unconscious of that value. It is the value that creates the timelessness. We forget everything that has no value for us even
    if we are unconscious of that absence of value. What has value, then, is timeless; or, to put it the other way, a thing has the more value the less it is a function of time. In all the world value is in proportion to
    independence of time; only things that are timeless have a positive value. Although this is not what I take to be the deepest and fullest meaning of value, it is, at least, the first special law of the theory of values.
    A hasty survey of common facts will suffice to prove this relation between value and duration. We are always inclined to pay little attention to the views of those whom we have known only a short time, and, as a rule, we think little of the hasty judgments of those who easily change their ideas. On the other hand,
    uncompromising fixedness gains respect, even if it assume the form of vindictiveness or obstinacy. The aere perennius of the Roman poets and the Egyptian pyramids lasting for forty centuries are favorite images. The reputation a man leaves behind him would soon be depreciated were it suspected that it would soon disappear instead of being handed down the centuries. A man dislikes to be told that he is always changing; but let it be put that he is simply showing new sides of his character and he will be proud of the permanence through the changes. He who is tired of life, for whom life has ceased to be of interest, is interesting to no one. The fear of the extinction of a name or of a family is well known.”

    “Great men take themselves and the world too seriously to become what is called merely intellectual. Men who are merely intellectual are insincere; they are people who have never really been deeply engrossed by things and who do not feel an overpowering desire for production. All that they care about is that their work should glitter and sparkle like a well-cut stone, not that it should illuminate anything. They are more occupied with what will be said of what they think than by the thoughts themselves.”

    “The great genius does not let his work be determined by the concrete finite conditions that surround him, whilst it is from these that the work of the statesman takes its direction and its termination. … It is the genius in reality and not the other who is the creator of history, for it is only the genius who is outside and unconditioned by history.”



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  • @OP – In the years since, the situation has gotten worse. We’ve seen the emergence of a “post-fact” politics, which has normalized the denial of scientific evidence that conflicts with the political, religious or economic agendas of authority. Much of this denial centers, now somewhat predictably, around climate change—but not all. If there is a single factor to consider as a barometer that evokes all others in this election, it is the candidates’ attitudes toward science.

    It seems Trump is trying to take this to a new level, with “denial of election results” if he loses!

    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-idUSKCN12J0ZM

    Republican candidate Donald Trump on Wednesday would not commit to accepting the outcome of the Nov. 8 U.S. presidential election if he loses, challenging a cornerstone of American democracy and sending shockwaves across the political spectrum.

    Trump’s refusal, which his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton called “horrifying,” was the standout remark of the their third and final debate and ratcheted up claims he has made for weeks that the election was rigged against him.

    There are probably plenty of US conspiracy theorists who will swallow such bullshit!



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  • 24
    Pinball1970 says:

    @#21 Dan

    Time and space (and energy and mass- the whole cosmos in fact) is the realm of physics.

    Philosophy no longer has anything to say on it.

    Describing space time (which is actually space-time) you need nothing but mathematics, specifically Einstein’s equations , Minkowski if you feel inclined or Roger Penrose if you want to blow your mind.

    Physics is not something you can describe with words, imagine describing Dickens with pictures only? Not particularly good ones? How accurate would that be?

    Same with consciousness, this will be described by biology eventually, when they work how the brain processes information retains memory and personality to a high degree of accuracy.

    They don’t know what the cell does yet, not all of it anyway, describing the current knowledge of the cell using philosophy would be a futile process.

    What is the meaning of the inositol pathway in cell signalling?

    Why should philosophy be relevant to larger systems of these cells and biochemical pathways?



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  • savroD,

    Thanks for the steer on Otto.

    By undermining science’s claim of objectivity, these postmodernists have unwittingly laid the philosophical foundation for the new rise of authoritarianism.

    From an SA book review

    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-war-on-science-book-review/

    Those who argue that science should stay out of the political arena are easily dismissed. “The practice of science itself cannot possibly be apolitical because it takes nothing on faith,” Otto writes. Science, by its nature, does not fear or favor any single human being or group. Thus, the knowledge it produces almost invariably upsets the status quo, challenging whomever or whatever depends on that status quo for their staying power.



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  • phil rimmer #25
    Oct 20, 2016 at 9:26 am

    By undermining science’s claim of objectivity, these postmodernists have unwittingly laid the philosophical foundation for the new rise of authoritarianism.

    . . . While scientists at Monash University Department of Computer Science, have exposed postmodernist writings as indistinguishable from verbose, meaningless, pseudo-philosophical, bunkum!

    http://www.elsewhere.org/journal/pomo/



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  • maybe the simplest way is to akwnoldge that everything you do has a consecuense and as such everything that has happend happend for a reason, from then on is you go from simple to complex, so climate change what was the average temperature before compared to now, how long has this been going on?, what happend during this time?., what could it be considering what changed, etc. so the argument follows the logic of the acion.

    Data itself presents an opinion, so what is the constant of all those different points of views, and wich one is closer to a logical progression, this should be good to understand the problem and from then on is the same regardless of its complexity.



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  • Hugo Spinoso #27
    Oct 20, 2016 at 4:56 pm

    so climate change what was the average temperature before compared to now, how long has this been going on?, what happend during this time?., what could it be considering what changed, etc. so the argument follows the logic of the acion.

    This is what thousands of climate scientists have done, with recent detail records going back decades, and astronomical and geological records going back millions of years.

    The IPCC has co-ordinated these efforts and put together a series of composite detailed reports.

    Data itself presents an opinion, so what is the constant of all those different points of views, and wich one is closer to a logical progression, this should be good to understand the problem and from then on is the same regardless of its complexity.

    There are many variables and human decisions which can affect both local and global outcomes, but the key issue is that only properly researched views have any predictive validity.

    Wish thinking, denial, and propagandist deceptions, will only cause governments to make errors, aggravating the problems and causing failures to prepare for changes in the climate.



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  • @alan #23

    Conspiracy theorists make up a large percentage of Trump’s supporters.

    And to make matters worse (or better, depending on your perspective), the “post-fact” processing of this statement and posture regarding concession will continue (it had already begun immediately after the debate in “interpretive statements” by his surrogates) over the next several days as Trump denies that he said what he said or meant what he meant, despite the recorded evidence. As commentator Hugh Hewitt stated in a post-debate discussion, “Trump’s critics take him literally but not seriously. His supporters take him seriously but not literally.”



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  • @Pinball#24

    “…Roger Penrose if you want to blow your mind…Same with
    consciousness, this will be described by biology eventually, when they
    work how the brain processes information retains memory and
    personality to a high degree of accuracy.”

    …It remains an undecided gesticulation that biology will be the final arbiter of “consciousness”…Neuro- reseachers have essentially thrown in the towel, and despite all the push-back he gets from his colleagues, Penrose still intrigues me with his quantum speculations about “consciousness”…Don’t know how far he’s gotten with it at this point…Maybe you could help me on this.



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  • PeacePecan #29
    Oct 20, 2016 at 5:41 pm

    And to make matters worse (or better, depending on your perspective), the “post-fact” processing of this statement and posture regarding concession will continue

    Apparently, Trump has now said he may accept the election result if he wins.

    It seems to me like echoes of his succession of UK court appearances when he tried legal ploys to stop the building of a Scottish off-shore wind farm which would “spoil the view” from his golf course!

    He refused to accept the court rulings and appealed at each stage, until three supreme court judges who did not care whether Trump wanted to accept court rulings or not, unanimously decided to throw out his case and dismissed his claims!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shetland-35106581
    Donald Trump’s legal challenge to a planned offshore wind farm has been rejected by the UK’s Supreme Court.

    Developers hope to site 11 turbines off Aberdeen, close to Mr Trump’s golfing development on the Aberdeenshire coast.

    The US businessman and presidential hopeful was taking on the Scottish government, which approved the plan.

    The Trump Organisation said it was an “extremely unfortunate” ruling and it would “continue to fight” the wind farm proposal.

    Former First Minister Alex Salmond said the latest court verdict left Mr Trump a “three-time loser”.

    The Trump Organisation responded: “Does anyone care what this man thinks? He’s a has-been and totally irrelevant.”

    Mr Trump began his challenge to the decision to grant planning permission more than two years ago.

    He was furious when the Scottish government approved plans for the renewable energy development within sight of his multi-million pound golf development on the Menie estate, north of Aberdeen.

    He said the turbines would spoil the view.

    The Trump Organisation said: “This is an extremely unfortunate verdict for the residents of Aberdeen and anyone who cares about Scotland’s economic future.

    “The EOWDC (European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre) will completely destroy the bucolic Aberdeen Bay and cast a terrible shadow upon the future of tourism for the area.

    SNP MP and MSP Mr Salmond, who led the Scottish government until a year ago, said: “As first minister, I was cited in Trump’s legal action. Now that it is concluded, I am free to speak my mind on the damaging impact of his interventions on the Scottish economy.

    “These proceedings have been dragged out for years through three successive court judgements by Donald Trump as he tried to stop an offshore Aberdeen wind turbine demonstrator by means of legal action.

    “In doing so he has at best postponed, and at worst jeopardised, a vital £200m boost for the economy of the north east of Scotland.

    Even when Trump has had his butt well and truly kicked, he is still defiantly and egotistically full of himself!



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  • Alan#28

    “Wish(ful) thinking, denial, and propagandist deceptions, will only cause
    governments to make errors, aggravating the problems and causing
    failures to prepare for changes in the climate.”

    Ditto…As we march in lockstep, headlong over the Precipice, into the New Dark Ages…



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  • @ Dan #21

    “It is the genius in reality and not the other who is the creator of
    history, for it is only the genius who is outside and unconditioned by
    history.”

    Sorry Dan. This is utter nonsense. Not “true” by a long shot. Weininger’s “conclusion” speaks clearly to, not only a lack of experience, but a severely short-changed assessment of history, which is far more complex than his implications.

    You seriously need to unhinge yourself from Weininger. He ain’t healthy !



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  • James 34

    O.W. was obsessed with genius.

    And that may not be one of his better quotes. Anyone who creates history creates history, including the obscure losers, the criminals, who assassinate great men.

    Yes, he is dangerous. Ideas that are not dangerous are hardly worthy of being called ideas. But I take what I can and leave the rest. Many of his views are vile.

    Well we agree about Beethoven! And climate change.

    Take care.



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  • James Ballard #33
    Oct 20, 2016 at 7:02 pm

    Alan#28
    >

    Ditto…As we march in lockstep, headlong over the Precipice, into the New Dark Ages…

    Sometimes – particularly in the UK, the anti-science opinionated ignorant, throw down challenges to people who are well placed, and well capable, of defending the science and mocking the pompous stupid!

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2016/09/nasa-we-didnt-change-your-zodiac-sign-astrology-isnt-real/#li-comment-212930



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  • @ Alan#36

    “…the anti-science opinionated ignorant”

    And here across the Atlantic, stateside, they are legion.

    If America is now setting the new “gold standard” for ignorance, the global scientific community better damn well be prepared and distinguish themselves from their insular, “protective” academic cocoon !!



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  • James Ballard #37
    Oct 21, 2016 at 6:58 pm

    And here across the Atlantic, stateside, they are legion.

    They could learn from importing high quality, high budget, BBC documentary TV from David Attenborough, Brian Cox, etc, but then the ignorant would probably watch some “reality show”, celebrity chat show, soap opera, or singing competition, on another channel!



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  • 39
    Pinball1970 says:

    @james_ballard

    @phil

    @Alan

    Hi James.
    What I was getting at is that philosophy will no more be able to reason what the nature consciousness than it would the nature of dark matter.
    It will be biochemical path ways, compartmentalized brain activity, the nature of brain disease such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s or severe head trauma. What can go wrong and why?
    Consciousness is as biological as reproduction, its just cells so they will come up with meaningful data as the technology (not the reasoning necessarily) improves.
    Re quantum consciousness- Yes Roger Penrose tends to ask questions no one else does.
    I cannot help you there, “The Road to Reality” by Penrose was the book that made me realise I did not know anything and I have been trying to correct that ever since.
    Above my head then and slightly lower now.
    Jim Al Kalili has been researching quantum biology which is a little more planet earth (just) but other than I do not know any details.
    Alan and Phil are encyclopaedic on all things science so maybe they could forward you a reference?



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  • Penrose’s The Emperors New Mind (and earlier Shadows of the Mind) was a grave disappointment for me the first and only science book from a scientist as august as he to be relagated to a doorstop. Penrose was greatly hampered by a failure to understand the state of knowledge of neuro-science and the potential ease with which we feel we could explain behaviours and cognitions from the sorts of things we are learning. Red and sweet tasting, soft and squelchy and fruity are just differentiating dials on our dash board, keeping sensory data tagged by clever differentiating qualities. It is the single otherwise informationless attribute of vividness overlaid these and signalling their potential salience, suitability for memorisation….oh, and consciousness, that needs an account of some sort. There was absolutely no need or virtue to imagine another neural process to account for the content of thought, and any mechanism mooted still cannot close the gap between neural process and vividness. These remain orthogonal categories even when the process is as strange as a non local Quantum Reality.

    Penrose didn’t do it for me on this topic. He is something of a Mysterian, despite the proposed process of quantum entaglement in tubules. He is trying to cross a bridge before properly getting to it. Since ENM we have already got a lot closer without needing to call on QM. Otherwise, I love him to bits. His new work in cosmogony could be awesome.

    I skipped the Road to Reality when it came out. I was still in a monogamous relationship with Feynman’s three volume lectures on Physics. Having read the reviews of RtR, I have now cheated on Feynman and my phone has just bleeped receipt of the Kindle edition. (Thanks, Pin.)

    1100 pages. Don’t hold your breath for feedback.



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  • A widespread trend in our times and I did not find in the article any solution as to how to defend ourselves from the war on science, and the larger problem of how to encourage an informed and thinking society. I don’t have a solution either I’m simply posting in dismay, in frustration.

    According to the Bureau of labor Statistics, in 2000 there were 65,900 reporters and 128,600 PR people in the USA. In 2015, those numbers were 45,800 reporters, and 218,000 PR people, and all around us as the amount of information increases the quality is decreasing and perhaps more importantly our ability to determine what is true, what is useful, what is important amid the tsunami of information also appears to be decreasing.

    Can anyone suggest possible solutions?

    Carl Kruse



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  • 42
    Pinball1970 says:

    @Phil

    “1100 pages. Don’t hold your breath for feedback”

    I did not like the introduction at all but it gets better, then it gets hard harder then you may end up in the library.
    I am not ready to read all of it – well you don’t really read it you try and understand it.
    I can almost back track through my books of the last few years to the “Road.”
    I had to intersperse the books with lighter reading like “Smashing Physics” Jon Butterworth!
    No seriously that was a great book, tells the story of the LHC and the search for the Higgs and a history of physics of the last 100 years or so.
    I was lucky enough to attend one of his lectures a couple of years ago at the University of Manchester.
    Similar to this one I found on the net
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQ95WcCCI9w



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  • @Pinball #39

    “Consciousness is as biological as reproduction, its just cells so
    they will come up with meaningful data as the technology (not the
    reasoning necessarily) improves.”

    No. We simply do not know what “consciousness” is, or if we or any other “sentient” being has it. That’s why Penrose is serious about this. Neither biology nor neurology can explain it, or enable us to demonstrate it as a tangible, neurological phenomenon that any amount of scientific methodology can explicate from the current realm of “WOO” or the metaphysical.

    I suspect, like many, you may be conflating “consciousness” with “conscious”…” Virtually all English dictionar(ies) ambiguously conflate the two, so why not everybody else ? The concept of “consciousness” was never meant to be defined as a product of the five senses. The chief problem is the language; for whatever the great facility English has to offer, we are flummoxed when it comes to pinpointing our nebulous ideas about consciousness as an “entity”, if you will, not dependent on either of our senses.

    Helen Keller was deaf/mute and blind…Can we say that, quantitatively, she had only 2/5’s consciousness ??…Of course not. With your argument, you insist that “consciousness” will eventually be compartmentalized and quantified, like “data”, as you say, in a computer. If your argument is sound, all the more reason the proponents of possible runaway A.I. are the very futurists in whom we better play the closest attention.

    Sensory “awareness” and computer digitized “awareness” does not, nor cannot, account for human “consciousness”.



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  • “Penrose was greatly hampered by a failure to understand the state of
    knowledge of neuro-science and the potential ease with which we feel
    we could explain behaviours and cognitions from the sorts of things we
    are learning….oh, and consciousness, that needs an account of some
    sort. There was absolutely no need or virtue to imagine another neural
    process to account for the content of thought…”

    No. He was not “hampered”. Neuroscientists do not have any answers; they have given up the ghost when it comes to research involving vague concepts like “mind”, or “consciousness”…there is not one scintilla of evidence that either exists, and “consciousness”, if it exists, will not be “discovered” by either the neurosciences, nor the biologists.

    Long before Penrose, I have believed “consciousness”, assuming it does exist, can only exist in a quantum state. But unlike my physicist father, I do not have enough academic exposure in quantum physics to expound upon what I have long suspected…Penrose is simply in the initial stage (one or two books won’t do it) of one path of speculation.

    “…and any mechanism mooted still cannot close the gap between neural process and vividness”

    Word salad. What is that supposed to mean ?

    “oh, and consciousness, that needs an account of some
    sort.”…

    That could well be the understatement of the 21st century !!



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  • Consciousness does exist, and it is a function of the brain and of the animal organism. It will be explained, if it hasn’t been already. The real mystery is not consciousness, but what which lies beyond the realm of perception and experience.

    To say that consciousness does not exist is as absurd as saying that we do not exist; the act of negating both presupposes both.



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  • JB

    you may be conflating “consciousness” with “conscious”…” Virtually all English dictionar(ies) ambiguously conflate the two, so why not everybody else ?

    Ones a noun the others an adjective, so……???

    These days we understand that what we are conscious of is only a fraction of what our senses may take in and using internal heuristics judge to be potentially salient. This salient, sensed data is also comingled with material that we ourselves generated to plug the gaps in our sensing or indifference to what was sensed, thus our modelling of expectations of what we will sense is often taken as the sensed data and used to smooth out the experience, taking out eye saccades and boring material, turning the brain over to more interesting cogitations. In a sensory deprivation tank we are conscious of a rich array of memories and visceral body feels.

    The unique quality of consciousness appears to signal this potentiak salience. The parade before us is all the stuff residing in short term memory that was quickly and subconsciously judged most likely to be useful to us and is elected to the position of being taken into longer term memories if introspected upon and fitted with a sufficient number of memorable tags.

    P-zombies (which see) are what we may be and what neuro-scientists effectively presume of us. This holds that this particular set of brain states that marks a set of perceptions, recollections and introspections as potentially salient, create the illusion of a particular quality, this vividness. This “vivid”, “potentially salient” illusion resides in brainstates, also, along with the potentially salient facts and so can be talked about, but it is never attached to the perceptual and intellectual dross destined to be (mostly) binned.

    I suggest you check out Antonio Damasio and Dan Dennett, then maybe the Churchlands to discover what neurologists and neuro-philosophers actually believe.

    Have you followed what I intend by the term “vividness”?

    It is only the “Hard” problem of consciousness that defeats neuroscientists. The residuum though daunting is being sorted quite rapidly now with fMRI and connectome insights.



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  • Dan And Phil

    You are BOTH conflating !!

    “The unique quality of consciousness appears to signal this potentiak
    salience. The parade before us is all the stuff residing in short term
    memory that was quickly and subconsciously judged most likely to be
    useful to us and is elected to the position of being taken into longer
    term memories if introspected upon and fitted with a sufficient number
    of memorable tags.”

    Gobbledygook !!…More word salad. Neither of you come close to sustaining an argument for the existence of “consciousness”.

    “Memory” models do NOT explain “consciousness”…”Memory” has NOTHING to do with it, unless, of course, memory can or does work on a quantum level, which is a long way from being proven.

    “Ones a noun the others an adjective, so……???”

    Like I’ve already said, if you have to rely on “Google”, or any dictionary, you will never get it. You insist on conflating, and over “intellectualizing” various permutations of “conscious” and “awareness”, both the sole product of sensory perceptions, and have absolutely nothing to do with the “consciousness” Penrose is pursuing, or attempting to pursue…Penrose is not expounding on the facility of our senses, in any of his books. That has already long been established.

    I have to log off now.



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  • Dan

    “Consciousness does exist, and it is a function of the brain… ”

    Prove it. Where in the brain ? What does it look like when you dissect a human brain ? What does it look like on the CAT scan ?

    No. Neurologists will tell you, flat out, that they CANNOT explain either “mind” or “consciousness”. Period !

    We are (quite literally) stuck with it simply because the Prophet/Saint/ Father Freud told us so. We ASSUME it exists, but there is absolutely no proof that consciousness exists.

    Yet.

    I’ll defer my trust to Penrose, et al…They are working on it.



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  • JB, others—

    I will say this: the word “consciousness” is almost impossible to define without resorting to tautology. (Consciousness is awareness, knowledge, etc.) But keep this is mind: consciousness is always consciousness of something – an object, a feeling. There is no pure consciousness, that is, there is no consciousness that is not consciousness of something. Wherever there is something – an existing entity in the form of an object, or a sensation – there is consciousness. To argue that the former can be present without the latter would constitute a reductio ad absurdum.

    I agree with you that consciousness in not exactly IN the brain. But neither is digestion IN the stomach. Dissect a stomach and try to find digestion.

    But to affirm or deny the existence of consciousness, and to be able to see (something), think (about something), hear (something) and feel (something), presupposes an element of consciousness… Do you deny that we do all these things?

    (I am not trying to lay down the law, James; this subject is exceedingly complex; I am just presenting my point of view.)



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  • James Ballard #44
    Oct 23, 2016 at 8:29 pm

    There was absolutely no need or virtue to imagine another neural process to account for the content of thought…”

    Neuroscientists do not have any answers; they have given up the ghost when it comes to research involving vague concepts like “mind”, or “consciousness”

    Quantum woo, is just the latest form of theist gapology!
    As with most earlier gapology, ethereal assertions cloaked in vagueness and lack of definition, are par for the course.

    Sub atomic “particles”, are just as “material”, as all the other atoms, molecules, fields, and forces, of the Universe!

    However, research is being done on the religious shut-down of critical reasoning!

    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/03/160323151838.htm

    The new study is published in the online journal PLOS ONE. The other authors are Jared Friedman, a research assistant and recent graduate in Philosophy and Cognitive Science who will begin his PhD in organizational behavior at Case Western Reserve in the fall, and Scott Taylor, assistant professor of organizational behavior at Babson College.

    Brain structure

    The research is based on the hypothesis that the human brain has two opposing domains in constant tension. In earlier research, Jack ‘s Brain, Mind & Consciousness lab used functional magnetic resonance imaging to show the brain has an analytical network of neurons that enables us to think critically and a social network that enables us to empathize. When presented with a physics problem or ethical dilemma, a healthy brain fires up the appropriate network while suppressing the other.

    “Because of the tension between networks, pushing aside a naturalistic world view enables you to delve deeper into the social/emotional side,” Jack explained. “And that may be the key to why beliefs in the supernatural exist throughout the history of cultures. It appeals to an essentially nonmaterial way of understanding the world and our place in it.”

    Friedman said, “Having empathy doesn’t mean you necessarily have anti-scientific beliefs. Instead, our results suggest that if we only emphasize analytic reasoning and scientific beliefs, as the New Atheist movement suggests, then we are compromising our ability to cultivate a different type of thinking, namely social/moral insight.”

    “These findings,” Friedman continued, “are consistent with the philosophical view, espoused by (Immanuel) Kant, according to which there are two distinct types of truth: empirical and moral.”

    Without empirical thinking, “delusional ‘true’ morality” and all the empathy in the world, is not going to deliver predictable outcomes, so are likely to take the form of the road to Hell being paved with good intentions!



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  • JB #47

    “Memory” models do NOT explain “consciousness”

    Nor did mine.

    Consciousness, the objects and actions of which we are conscious, are those which our subconcious neural heuristics has identified as potentially salient. Its a first pass filter to identify as suitable for higher level (more energy intensive) deliberations. It is only these neural tokens of objects and actions that could become longer term memories and only a subset that do. Those that do need to be “rescued” from expiration in short term memory achieve this by (concious!) processes of introspection and analysis to confirm their salience worthy of longer term storage.

    Memory doesn’t explain whatever you mean by consciousness, but the potential salience of a perception (say) is marked by its appearance into the conscious frame and marks the start of a process of further retention or rejection. Conscious neural processes of parsing (say) perceptions seem to be ones essentially of rejection, judging non-salient.

    I can go over this in much greater detail if you still think it gobledegook. It really is quite straight forward.

    If you have to rely on Google…

    Don’t understand this comment. Neuropsychologists/philosophers working in this area have rather specific ideas of these terms.

    Do you know what is meant by The “Hard Problem” of consciousness, P-zombies, qualia, Mary the colour scientist? Perhaps explaining yourself from the starting point of others who tackled this problem could help in getting your ideas across.

    FWIW this was a favourite topic here on this site eight to ten years ago. Sadly all the posts from the mega-fauna back then have now been lost. Great pity. God had been dismissed in the first couple of posts and the only two remaining philosophical questions we could see the desperate Deist could pose were, why is there something rather than nothing, and why is my waking experience so extrordinary??



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  • Alan

    It is the processes of culture, logic, language and mathematics that manufacture a capacity for empiricism and rationality. Brains that are trained in such software are cultural products. Genetic evolution mostly can be said to deliver brains that “give a fuck”. There isn’t a single bit of rigorous logic amongst our 100 billion neurons. Its all a little or a lot fuzzy.

    This is why we can colour maps in of folk who are rational and those who are not. Religion hasn’t suppressed an innate rationality it has occupied the slot where it may have been cultivated.



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  • JB

    Question fr you. How does a QM explanation of the extraordinariness of waking experience work? How doe it close the gap before any other process of physics. Because we think them both in some sense weird?



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  • phil rimmer #52
    Oct 24, 2016 at 6:13 am

    It is the processes of culture, logic, language and mathematics that manufacture a capacity for empiricism and rationality. Brains that are trained in such software are cultural products.

    I had to dash off across town, so did not elaborate on my previous comment.

    Judging by my various debates with theists, I do not think there is a simple dichotomy between reasoned empiricism and “moral” empathy.

    This is just a projection on to atheists of theists whose rationality has been shut down by indoctrination, combined with the simplistic “one issue thinking”, which cannot cope with the concept of multi-tasking empathy and empirical reasoning. This simultaneously expresses empathy in the practicalities of seeking empirically predictable desirable outcomes.

    An example of this, is the abortion issue linked discussion on an earlier discussion.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-37713211

    where believers, indoctrinated single-minded empathy for an imaginary soul (while pretending a dying lump of tissue is a human being), overrides empathy for the human material interests of real living human women and families, and operates with the critical rational functions of the believer’s brain shut down.
    Empathy directed down the tunnel vision of faith-thinking irrational dogma, is simple obsession, rather than empathy for the living!



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  • In some of my earlier posts and in my writings I have referred to consciousness as a “mere” function of the brain. By “mere I meant physiological in nature; I wanted to make it clear that the association of the mind (or brain) with the soul (or God) is anachronistic and thoroughly inadmissible. Reason itself, throughout the history of ideas, was seen as a spiritual attribute – until Kant and others set about to “clip the wings of Reason.” But the phrase “mere consciousness” is oxymoronic; consciousness is a kind of miracle; and I don’t wish to give the impression that it is anything less than that. In the future, however, what we may call a miracle now (in a non-literal; sense, of course) will be revealed as something entirely non-miraculous and perfectly in accord with other natural phenomena.

    This is not anything that hasn’t already been thought of, I am sure; but shouldn’t the problem of consciousness be approached by studying the most rudimentary brains? Ours is the most complex; but brains are brains; perhaps by studying the most “simple” brains in nature, we can more easily gain an understanding of what the nature of consciousness is from that perspective, that is, why it exists, what it is and what it does, etc. Then scientists can move up within the chain and determine what qualities are present in all brains that produce or make consciousness possible. I am sure that evolutionary biology can shed light on this as well. The key to a solution of what consciousness is can be found by first analyzing the properties of the most primitive brain(s) imaginable, as opposed to ours. (I am sure that this suggestion is an obvious, elementary point – obvious to the point of ludicrous – but I felt like making it.)

    Another point which may not be so obvious is that language itself will always remain as an aid and an obstacle to understanding. Whenever you ask what something is, you must always ask what it means to define something. In other words, what is the nature between the thing named and the named thing? “Consciousness is this” or “Consciousness is that.” But the copula IS is problematic. What does it mean to define something? And can we agree on what constitutes a definition, on what the nature of a definition is?



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  • @ Alan#50

    “There was absolutely no need or virtue to imagine another neural
    process to account for the content of thought…”

    Never said there was such a “need”.

    “Thought” is a very specific, compartmentalized (to some degree) brain function, albeit still not fully understood. “Thought” is not “consciousness”. Penrose’s ongoing quest suggests that “consciousness” is NOT explained by any biological template, but is somehow, far beyond what we currently understand or know, a quantum phenomenon, which turn’s Father Freudians, et al, upside down and renders them archaic and dated, which they are. Why do you think the shrinks are hysterically opposed to any suggestion Penrose suggests ? I’ll tell you : It is because the subject is much too far over their heads, it’s that simple !

    Penrose is a self-proclaimed atheist and humanist who, nevertheless, “believes the universe has purpose”. This does not make him a “theist”.

    “Quantum woo, is just the latest form of theist gapology!…As with
    most earlier gapology, ethereal assertions cloaked in vagueness and
    lack of definition, are par for the course.”

    OMG ! You think Penrose is WOO ???…He’s one of your most brilliant, frequently awarded, universally recognized scientists in the physics field…and you want to insist he only relies on “gapology”…??…Confirmation bias ?… He’s one of yours, you know, very revered over here. With whom do you flock ?? I’d like to fly over to Mother Country and meet some of your…uh… more elevated crowd !

    “As with most earlier gapology, ethereal assertions cloaked in
    vagueness and lack of definition, are par for the course.”

    That pretty much defines the entire state of psychobabble in the 20th century, but I wouldn’t put Pzenrose in that crowd.

    “Sub atomic “particles”, are just as “material”, as all the other
    atoms, molecules, fields, and forces, of the Universe!”

    Try explaining that one to particle physicists who rack their brains trying to pictorially fathom an elusive electron, a gluon, a neutrino, or any other sub particle. They cannot. Closest they come to “material” visualizing are elementary school pictographs …Are you kidding me ? They only know these particles exist, by inference, experiment, and decades old solid theory. You can’t explain the vagaries of quantum mechanics with terms like “material” :

    “No one understands quantum mechanics”
    ~ Feynman, 1967

    Still holds true today, for the most part.

    “Without empirical thinking, “delusional ‘true’ morality” and all the
    empathy in the world, is not going to deliver predictable outcomes, so
    are likely to take the form of the road to Hell being paved with good
    intentions!”

    Yes, and we will remain on the “Road to Hell” so long as religio-proselytizers, who now come in every “PhD academic” form imaginable, continue to distract and sabotage all human progress. (Just reviewed that idiot-boy D’Souza vs Hitchen’s debate back in ’07…That D’Souza’s a real deceptive piece of work…The “newly educated” religious chameleons are cloning themselves now, and saturating (POISONING, as Hitchen’s would say) everything.

    EVERYTHING !!

    Have to log off & get to my busy-work.

    Later.



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  • James, others

    I haven’t read Penrose and I don’t want to say anything about him, except this: to say that the universe has purpose strikes me as a proposition very difficult to defend, as dogmatic. The universe, as we know, is expanding. That is not a purpose. If you blow up a balloon, its expansion is not its purpose. Purpose is a word that must be used with the utmost care, caution, and precision.

    I think I agree with you about sub atomic particles. They may exist; but if they are not perceived, they cannot be said to constitute matter. (You are, I believe, relatively new to this site, James. I am, as everyone else knows, a Schopenhauerian idealist. Have you read him?)

    Unperceived yet existing matter is analogous to a purposeful universe. Both are oxymoronic.

    Why can’t you leave Freud alone? He was a modest man, and never claimed (as far as I can recall) to have a perfect understanding of what consciousness is.

    Thought is biological to the core. What else can it be? It is analogous to digestion, although far more abstruse as a problem.



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  • Phil:

    Hi. Some constructive criticism. Look at what you wrote here. I don’t know how this discussion got started but my impression is that someone is asking the question: does consciousness exist?

    “Consciousness, the objects and actions of which we are conscious, are those which our subconcious neural heuristics has identified as potentially salient. Its a first pass filter to identify as suitable for higher level (more energy intensive) deliberations. It is only these neural tokens of objects and actions that could become longer term memories and only a subset that do. Those that do need to be “rescued” from expiration in short term memory achieve this by (concious!) processes of introspection and analysis to confirm their salience worthy of longer term storage.

    “Memory doesn’t explain whatever you [not me, Paul.] mean by consciousness, but the potential salience of a perception (say) is marked by its appearance into the conscious frame and marks the start of a process of further retention or rejection. Conscious neural processes of parsing (say) perceptions seem to be ones essentially of rejection, judging non-salient.”

    You start with the two basic constituents of realness: consciousness and objects; and you present them as two givens. You are starting with the subject in question (consciousness); that is as fruitless and as much as a first false start as starting with the object, as a given. Yet consciousness and object-representation are mutually dependent upon each other and are real only in so far as this reciprocal relationship exists; reality is the synthesis of the two, you might say. One mustn’t assume that things (like consciousness or subconsciousness, objects and memories) simply exist, and then proceed to shed light on their nature. I, as a student of philosophy, presuppose nothing, or try not to. I have correctly remarked that there is no consciousness without an object. That is more substantive than anything that has yet been written on this thread, as far as this issue is concerned. My not-so-humble opinion. If I have, again, made a mistake, or set up Mr. Straw-man, let me know.



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  • Note. Sorry for the phrase in brackets. I sent the comment to a friend of my father’s, a doctor who studied neurology for two years. I asked him to explain it to me. Haven’t heard back from him. The cat’s out of the bag. I didn’t grasp a word of it.



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  • James Ballard #56
    Oct 24, 2016 at 9:05 pm

    Penrose is a self-proclaimed atheist and humanist who, nevertheless, “believes the universe has purpose”. This does not make him a “theist”.

    “Quantum woo, is just the latest form of theist gapology!…As with
    most earlier gapology, ethereal assertions cloaked in vagueness and
    lack of definition, are par for the course.”

    OMG ! You think Penrose is WOO ???…He’s one of your most brilliant, frequently awarded, universally recognized scientists in the physics field

    There are plenty of notable scientists indoctrinated in “purposes of the Universe” who compartmentalise their woo so as to do valid science! There are also plenty of famous laudable scientists (Newton Darwin etc) who in addition to their valuable breakthroughs, followed since refuted hypotheses at the time.

    Try explaining that one to particle physicists who rack their brains trying to pictorially fathom an elusive electron, a gluon, a neutrino, or any other sub particle. They cannot.

    Isn’t that the very definition of “mystical purposes” and god-of gaps , as invented pseudo-answer cover patches hiding ignorance in the absence of evidence?

    …and you want to insist he only relies on “gapology”…??…

    If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck the conclusion looks good!

    Closest they come to “material” visualizing are elementary school pictographs …Are you kidding me ? They only know these particles exist, by inference, experiment, and decades old solid theory. You can’t explain the vagaries of quantum mechanics with terms like “material” :

    Matter does not become “immaterial” simply because quantum physics has been discovered.
    It is the same matter and energy it has always been.
    It is only our models and understanding of it which have changed.
    The known and observed mechanical and chemical properties on the macro-scale are unchanged.

    He’s one of yours, you know, very revered over here.

    Science does not do tribal following of authority figures!
    It looks critically at presented evidence – or the lack of it!



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  • Dan #58

    Nope, Dan. We’re going to do science for a bit before we pander to your philosophical needs.

    Neuroscientists are forming hypotheses around their carefully and contingently defined (but possibly wrong) metaphysical terms, conscious, subconscious etc. They mean just what they say, because that is what they seek to observe and test for as best they can. If the hypotheses don’t pan out THEN its time to go back and refine definitions. Observations are looking useful so far.

    I’m not interested in someone else’s eccentric definition of consciousness which I believe is a misapprehension of what the “Hard Problem” is. I believe on this matter Penrose and the Churchlands are, in fact, on the same page and Chalmers would understand what they mean. I too believe that in some sense the vividness of the conscious experience is a form of illusion because… something. (I have hinted at what I think the something might be. I discussed it with Dennett. My challenge to Penrose and JB is that QM simply defers matters by interpolating a further physics process) BUT the contents of the “illusion”, all the information in it are entirely explicable, and quite un-mysterious, with not the least need for QM. This substantial part of consciousness (what is daily studied by neuro-scientists), is real, not least BECAUSE it is functional, marking potential salience, and we need it. It is clearly not epiphenominal.

    My complaint with James is not about addressing his misunderstanding of this finessed, and I claim mainstream, position but his misrepresentation of what I said.

    I think “gobbledegook” pressed a button.

    Sorry, James.



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  • @ Alan #60

    …I’m just flummoxed over your cavalier dismissal of Penrose. Have you actually read him ? He is NOT WOO by any definition. (Well, it is the “Urban Dictionary” that has virtually the only definition of “WOO”…Did OED ever adopt it ?) He and Hawking are a “tribe” in which I’d be proud to be a member. I eagerly wait by my cellphone !

    There seems to be so much scrambled, nearly schizophrenic resistance to any suggestion that QM behaves RADICALLY differently than the commonly accepted “laws” of the universe.

    Guess we’ll have to wait another 100 years.



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  • @ Phil #61

    “This substantial part of consciousness (what is daily studied by
    neuro-scientists)”

    Now you’ve done it. Tipped your hand.

    What “neuro-scientists” would that be ? Name the neuroscientist who makes ANY claim to have clearly and unequivocally defined ANY “part of consciousness”, and furthermore declared that “consciousness” is now a tangible and observable object for “study”…Ridiculous.

    Name them !



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  • @61, 64

    Okay. No philosophy now (whatever that means; I am asking similar questions, but with an element of naivete). I see that it is something that is being studied. But what precisely is being studied? In other words, what precisely is the object of study; and what, finally, is consciousness? Has any headway been made there? Is it one thing? Is it many things? (And vividness hardly describes it at all times. —Is the vivid impression illusory? Or is it our judgment that errs when we assume that that vividness must be in some way proportionate to the degree that some element of matter really and truly exists. The more vivid, the more real. Nonsense. Dream perceptions and false memories, which are bonafide illusions, are sometimes more real than actual impressions – especially with those enfeebled by dementia or age.)

    Isn’t it like “life”, almost impossible to define without using tautology? (Self-replicating. That’s no definition; it’s a working definition.) My definition? I haven’t given one; I have asserted that consciousness as we have come to vaguely know it, as a concept and a problem, is nothing without something to be conscious of. The rest of my remarks to you are probably irrelevant. Sorry.

    Perception and thought are parts of consciousness, James. You can’t perceive a perception. You can’t think a thought, or breathe a breath (in a literal sense). But to affirm or deny the existence of thought presupposes thought and existence, as I said before. Read Descartes. What consciousness is in itself is the question being asked, is it not? Perhaps it can be defined, but all definitions, like all analogies, are imprecise.



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  • James

    When I said that affirming or denying consciousness “presupposes” consciousness I was making a fair point, worthy of consideration. It is true. And arguing that consciousness doesn’t exist because we might not know exactly how to define it or explain it is like arguing that one doesn’t exist; the act of arguing (or doubting) itself implies (or presupposes) the very existence that is being questioned!



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  • James

    Antonio Damasio. I’ve talked of him before. Vilayanur Ramachandran.

    I think, even now you are missing the point or have confused the issue. There is an easy aspect to consciousness and a Hard aspect to it. Every neuro-scientist sets aside “the Hard Problem” with little or no effect on their studies.

    This is why Dennett sets aside Qualia claiming they don’t exist. He rightly infers that all the mental states that arise to cause every one of our behaviours (including our questioning of vivid experience) are brainstates. P-zombies who have all the same brainstates but somehow are denied the vividness (they are just these soft machines) would still report the experience of vividness because they have all the same brainstates and processing machinery as us.

    Qualia were claimed to be the redness of red, an attribute of red itself that people apprehended vividly. Clearly red is a cultural concept carried in brainstates that can be used and manipulated by the brain that in a certain context or contexts “displays” vividly, it manifests redness. Red exists as an informational token in brainstates that manifests redness only in the specific context of other brainstates and processes. Neuro-scientists even study the distinctness of redness from blueness say, side-stepping the Hard Problem as a non-issue.

    Paul Churchland has a particularly nice paper on the nature of the waking experience of colour, on the qualities of the experience. Using the latest ideas of how the antagonistic tristimulus development of colour experience works, he predicts new colour experiences (by an experimental process that invokes of rhodopsin depletion creating novel optical inputs). I’ve tried it myself and it works. Richard Gregory or Oliver Sacks might have claimed it as an illusion, but it is no more illusory than Red.

    The content of waking experience is daily studied by neuro-scientists, why is this content now available to the hippocampus, and this other material not, why and in what way are dreamstates diminutions of the waking experience, etc. etc.???

    It is only the Hard Problem that remains and as neuroscientists are discovering this doesn’t stop us teasing out every informational aspect of conscious behaviours and even experiences.

    Honestly, James. If you examine this you may find I am saying something closer to you than you appear to imagine. The field is not in the least as Penrose described it.



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  • Dan

    Behaviours and experiences when conscious and when not are easily distinguished. We even understand in great detail now the non-conscious working of our brain, the modular assessors of our visual processes, say, that we have no conscious access to yet cause such strange experiences when they are broken.

    Life is easily defined by its unique thermodynamic signature. It defies entropy within its bounds, reducing it from the average around it but manufactures the stuff, adding to the net total around it faster than a dead version of it.

    “Vividness” is my code term for the Hard Problem to be explained. It is important to note it contains no extra information. It is a quality of qualities if you like…. Outside there are clouds obscuring the tops of the forrest on the hill. All is grey or black with very little light. I use the term vivid here also to contrast it with my dreamless sleep just before.

    Dreams are indeed half conscious states but for all their primitive emotional engagement on occasions, they are often depleted of much detail and quite a range of qualities. This is entirely consciousness as experienced by a lesser set of functioning modules. Its a useful subject to study in the exploration of the transition into and out of consciousness.



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  • Dan

    When I said that affirming or denying consciousness “presupposes” consciousness I was making a fair point, worthy of consideration. It is true.

    No. P-zombies have all the mental apparatus and brain states to deliberate the issue. They have brain states that tell them they have vivid consciousness. They listen to me and nod their head and add in some more thoughts.

    The mega-fauna poster some years ago here, using the name “Quine”, asserted he was a p-zombie. I think I am too.

    Do we need the illusion? To discuss the specifics? Yes. Are other conversations possible without even the illusion? Yep, but they would be different.



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  • Phil,

    P zombies? Hypothetical beings? Qualia? I looked it up in my encyclopedia and still have no clear idea what that is, and since I have a prodigious aptitude for philosophy, I suspect that qualia may not be a valid concept. I am done – for now. I’ll talk to you in a few weeks or whenever; need a break. Take care.



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  • Dan

    I suspect that qualia may not be a valid concept.

    I agree. My point.

    P-zombies? No also. BUT p-zombies with an illusion of consciousness I suspect is what we are.

    Meh. There is a ton of literature about this.

    My point is the philosophy on this is mostly fatuous and the non-(philosophically)-hard aspect yields most of the information we could possibly want about conscious experience.



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  • You actually agree with him on most he says, Dan. No to qualia, no to p-zombies.

    The issue is the illusion. As with optical illusions, as Richard Gregory has shown us, they signal something real and interesting going on, just not what we imagine it (see it) to be.

    I have my own theories about what lies behind the illusion, which is practical like Penrose’s idea but it fits more smoothly without detracting anything from current neurological accounts which, so far, have not the least need for a super added QM process.



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  • Phil

    I am getting confused with the use of illusion here. We see what we see!?

    I am having doubts about this colour red. Is it evolutionarily viable to have a stable model in which first red has to be produced and then viewed if we all see a different colour and only reference by what we are told by others?



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  • 73
    Pinball1970 says:

    @phil @ Dan @olgun and all
    I feel like a student that has left a boring party to make a phone call (this pre mobiles and the student house had no phone) and come back and every one is either having sex fighting or smoking pot.
    I am clearly missing something
    Consciousness cannot exist without biology ie the brain, its organic scientific explainable or will be.
    Thats it yes?
    I don’t get the hard problem and I am not sure if there is one.
    Book ref please- not woo woo something scientific studies journal refs



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  • Olgun

    We see what we see!?

    A truism, but

    What are the realities of optical illusions? What is my tinnitus?

    Pin,

    It is the problem of explaining why there is “something it is like” for a subject in conscious experience

    This is the background.

    http://www.iep.utm.edu/hard-con/

    You will see from the bibliography it goes back a ways. Don’t feel obliged to wade through it all, because I think the problem is now greatly simplified.

    Because the problem was framed fairly long ago now, when much of the neural story of consciousness was unknown I think the net to capture the problem was cast too wide. Neurological accounts have much more caught up with the content and processes and system significance of consciousness.

    Later I will link to Damasio, a neurologist’s theory of consciousness which removes much need for help to account for the informational capacity of consciousness and more recently the work of AI researchers at Imperial which promises again a more recent neurological account.

    My confidence that these accounts are getting more detailed and more evidenced leads me to suggest that the Hard Problem has effectively lost even its “functionally, why are some things conscious in our heads and some things not?”. It remains, simply, the question about how brainstates can cause the astonishing vivid experience at every waking moment of the day.



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  • Phil

    What are the realities of optical illusions?

    Since last we spoke about illusions I read this:

    Cinema projectors shutter the aperture between frames, temporarily leaving the screen blank. ‘Persistence of Vision’ is a property of our eyes where an image can persist in our senses for ~ 1/16th of a second, meaning that we don’t actually perceive the Shutter effect because our eyes still see what was projected.
    Because of this, they can have the projectors display the same frame twice with a shutter between, and our eyes will see that as a new image. The result of this is that they can double the perceived FPS of the film without having to record it at higher speeds.

    That helped me understand what you were saying better. Is it that we reassess objects every 1/16 of a second intervals so a moving illusion gets assessed by what we see each time. We forget the inside out face that was and say what see, we just don’t believe our eyes?

    Tinnitus? Not sure where you are going with that but……I discovered when a teenager that if you have your ears below the water in the bath and put your fist near your ear and clench your fist, you can hear your muscles as, what sounds to me, an electrical pulse. When I clenched my jaw it was the same. Is tinnitus just that?

    Just trying to make sense of it all..



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  • Phil, Olgun, Pinball, others—

    Illusion is not an error. Only the judgment errs! Olgun, if you are out on the desert and you see a mirage, and say: “there IS water!” then that perception is an illusion. If you say “”that appears to be water there”, the perception is not an illusion; it is a simple mirage or may in fact be water.

    Phil, when you say that consciousness is an illusion are you saying that the objects of consciousness are thought to be absolutely real but are not? There is no consciousness that isn’t consciousness of something, is there? And is it still an illusion if we say that what call reality is appearance only as I and others do? Do you see the difference? Does Dennett? Wittgenstein never got that basic distinction, in my opinion. I would say that conscious perception is an illusion in so far as we regard real objects as things capable of existing AS OBJECTS – and independently of consciousness.

    I have refined this a bit. I am not doubting your science anymore; what I am doubting is independent object-existence.



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  • Pinball

    Agree entirely.

    Consciousness is biological. There is no more mind-body duality. There is duality, but mind and body is no longer a duality. Can’t anyone get that through their head? No one reads philosophy anymore. And philosophy has been, at its best, an invaluable aid to scientific inquiry. Modern philosophers, starting with Descartes, have made it clear that the mind exists in the body and is not separate from it. Moreover, the mind is just an expression. We have a brain and a brain only.

    The 20th Century and 21 Century philosophers have engaged in what I call regressive philosophy.



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  • Olgun the double display of the frame is not to cause an illusion but to help eliminate one. The smoothness of movement of the image, a hand waving, say, is not enhanced by this “trick” but the sensation of flicker even when the hand is still is reduced.

    The retinal cones at the periphery of our vision are evolved to respond to rapid changes. This alerts us to rapid movement coming into our field of view, a useful defensive capacity. Even though we are able to mentally integrate 25 successive frames per second of a hand wave into a mooth enough motion (thanks to the internal model we make of the process, this model devloped when we developed swivelly eyes and had to deal with eye saccades) there is still this problem of very fast responding peripheral cone receptors. These (on some people more than others) will signal an alert due to being able to discern events only 40milliseconds apart. This flicker will annoy some. Moving the events to 20milliseconds apart greatly reduces the number annoyed.

    (The centre cones are smaller for higher resolution, but consequently capture fewer photons per second reducing their speed of response.)

    You are hearing the actualy muscle sounds underwater. This is very much not an illusion. The mechanical (acoustic) impedance of water is very much higher than air and it is superb at efficiently coupling soumd pressure waves from tiny mechanical movements, like rippling muscles.



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  • Dan

    There is no consciousness that isn’t consciousness of something, is there?

    Exactly, but illusions are personal even when they appear to be shared. The rainbow I see over here is not your rainbow you see from over there. If we both point to the centre of the arc of our respective rainbows (somewhere below the horizon) the line of our pointing doesn’t converge somewhere in front of us where some single rainbow arc centre might be, but they converge 93 million miles behind us.

    More later but work beckons.



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  • Interesting comment, Phil. Illusion is a rich and fascinating topic, isn’t it?

    I actually like Dennett. And I have very strong feelings about consciousness. I think illusion must be seen as an error in judgment and not an error of the senses. This is my hand, Wittgenstein famously said. “Is my hand” is problematic; “appears” to be my hand is also problematic, but more philosophically and – dare I say it – scientifically precise. An all-important distinction (for those that care deeply about such things).



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  • Dan

    Illusion is a rich and fascinating topic, isn’t it?

    Oh, yes.

    Three things fascinated me as a teen, Lorna Wing’s book(s) on autism, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and Richard Gregory’s accounts of illusions and neural processing. Its been increasingly fascinating ever since.



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  • Phil ( I hope you still realise that I am only here as a student and any assertions I make is because that is where I am at any given point and always at the edge of change. I thank you and anyone who takes time to answer my questions and nudge me in the right direction. It is taking me ages to read the Selfish Gene as I wonder off in my head most of the time moving and replacing cogs on many subjects related, however slightly, to the subject )

    I understand the example you give above on vision but don’t understand why the word illusion comes into it? A series of real events that might be misinterpreted is still a mechanical event isn’t it?

    To me, the muscle sounds more electrical than mechanical but can see the pulse as an alternating current creating the sound pressure waves. The harder I clenched my fist the higher the frequency went. I wasted a lot of time in the bath trying to play the American national anthem through this method but could never get the really high notes 🙂 . To me, this is how Reiki works (the detection not the ‘cure’). A sensitive person can detect tense muscles through the hands but after that???? My set of cogs on this subject lead me to the conclusion that tinnitus is the high frequency hum of a muscle in the ear, or very close to, that is misfiring but, as I said, that is where I am at the moment!!

    ps. Not sure if there is any work going on that is looking into picking up these muscle noises and whether they can even detect tight muscles that cause back pain or a stiff neck but I do know that the problem is never at the spot where we feel the pain most but, as in a stiff neck, somewhere else. Mine, and all my family (we massage each other knowing just the spot to manipulate from own experience) is usually a tight ball just under the shoulder blade. Iron that out and the stiff neck goes with it. I usually lay on a tennis ball and find the right spot.



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  • Olgun, a post to you disappeared in the gaps in my internet service. (The internet weather has been terrible this last week. I do hope its not Internet Climate Change.)

    It just clarified the illusion you were avoiding at the cinema. The reduction of peripheral cone triggering will reduce the illusion that there is some possible threat (a quickly moving sabre tooth coming in from the side.)

    This is typical of our illusions, revealing the quick and dirty detection mechanisms evolution stumbled upon to lift our reproductive chances.

    Quick peripheral visual changes, (quite without any required form that may slow the sounding of an alarm) lifts adrenaline levels, heart rate, stress and arousal. Strobe lighting in clubs does this.

    This otherwise unrelieved chemical arousal causes a range of problems from mild irritation to triggered local feedback loops that characterise migraines and epileptic fits.

    To someone more threatened by sabre tooth tigers this nuisance of an illusion would translate more clearly into a possible threat. Flickering lights at chickens can drive them berserk.



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  • 85
    Pinball1970 says:

    @77 Dan

    “Moreover, the mind is just an expression. We have a brain and a brain only.”

    !!!!

    You agree with me on this Dan?

    Why do I picture you smashing room up whilst trying to write this?

    I will state again – I do NOT understand philosophy, its complicated and was put together over 100s of years by some very smart people.

    BUT – consciousness to me is like the soul- a word we have made up to encompass a bunch of human qualities.

    I think we agree….. (next stop Dirac and Feynman Dan!!!)

    @Phil

    Re- Qualia

    Red is a colour to me (700nm – although my brain does not tell me that precisely) and deeper red has a lower L possible a higher C value if it’s a bright red.

    I don’t feel anything when I look at it, perhaps some association with football blood red meat??? Either way there is nothing mysterious to me.

    Middle C sounds like the middle of the piano, you get less sustain and harmonics the higher octaves you go (or you can’t hear them) and longer sustain and more the lower you go.

    I think why some tunes are great some are good and some are bad is a much more difficult question but I still bet it can be fully answered using the mathematics of scales and harmonics.
    Nick Lane dedicated a chapter in Life ascending to the hard problem so I am happy to accept this is currently beyond me.

    Dawkins has mentioned it also – I will get round to reading that chapter but I have a few things in the queue first.



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  • Pin

    As an aside, what is pink? (Its not relevant to the Hard Problem, but it shows how much the readout dials that are on our conscious dashboard distinguish the varieties of experience from combinations of analog sensors to create apprehensions that are both compressed and potentially more useful. No set of dials with a line of monotonic numbers, but graduations across a perceptual plane.)

    I cannot believe you have an emotionally flat response to images of any sort.

    Remind yourself you are a meat machine, to a first approximation running with a genetically evolved operating system and a culturally evolved set of software to get you through each day. Is there no astonishing scene that stands at odds with these truths?

    For Damasio it was the feeling of feelings, for me I noted the quality of qualities. How does the machine get to experience something so vivid?

    A person with bad strabismus if it is corrected too late will never experience stereoscopic vision. Explaining the experience of 3D to someone without the apparatus is stunningly difficult.

    Pin do you think you might be a p-zombie without the illusion?



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  • @Dan#65

    “And arguing that consciousness doesn’t exist because we might not
    know exactly how to define it or explain it is like arguing that one
    doesn’t exist; the act of arguing (or doubting) itself implies (or
    presupposes) the very existence that is being questioned!”

    Now !! You’re getting closer…The truth will out.

    Eventually.



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  • Pinball

    You said this:

    Consciousness cannot exist without biology ie the brain.

    I agreed with you that consciousness is biological.

    Consciousness is biological. Agreed. I like agreeing with people. Why did you have to ruin it? (Kidding.) You then said this:

    BUT – consciousness to me is like the soul- a word we have made up to encompass a bunch of human qualities.

    No, that I do not agree with. (All words are made up, by the way.) Consciousness is a biological process, analogous to digestion – but more abstruse as a subject. Why did you contradict yourself? How can something be both biological in nature and “like the soul”?

    I hope we can go back to being in agreement.



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  • Phil

    Remember: it is a sublime privilege to be ridiculed – and it is painful. For what it is worth you have my empathy, and my profound respect for (most of) your ideas, and for your acumen and knowledge.

    I do agree with James, however, that consciousness cannot be found in the brain. (It sounds odd to say that.)

    Question: are illusions real or is reality an illusion? Answer: illusions are really illusions, and are real. The objects of reality are real, and not illusory; they are an illusion (and life is like a dream) only in so far as we confuse empirical reality with absolute reality. Do you agree?

    Feel free to disagree. Don’t feel constrained. 😉



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  • Dan,

    Why should I feel constrained?

    Ilusions are deceptive perceptions. That simple. The semantic issue sits around how deceptive.

    I do agree with James, however, that consciousness cannot be found in the brain.

    I’m sorry. I’m the woomeister here. No muscling in you two!

    Then again I still suspect a semantic misunderstanding is going on. I’m trying to use the terminology like the all the other neuro-scientists and neuro-philosophers who tackle this issue, whether directly, or indirectly via anaesthesia. I think another stab at the semantic puzzle of conscious and consciousness as James intends them is the key.

    I read his comments and see a struggle to have the condition of being conscious to be separate from “sensing”. In the “mainstream” view of Damasio, Dennet and Churchland, it is rather that being conscious is being conscious of an overarching quality of the sensed. The hypothesis this throws up Is entirely your suggested metaphor, Dan. In effect, there can be no digestion without food.

    Damasio has an excellent account of our inability to stop sensing. He reminds us in a picture of us lying on a beach perfectly relaxed and happy of our interoception, our sense of our internal state. Yet we can “zone out” to varying degrees from coma to not noticing the passage of time. It really does appear that interrupting “sensing” (the twenty something plus channels interoception, proprioception, time etc.) the memories of these and the inferential product of our various corteces, equates to the condition of zero awareness. Without the “delta us” the way we have slightly changed or apprehended ourselves we lose track of ourselves.

    Yet still this “vivid” property isn’t about any specifics of sensing. It is about the quality wrought by the act of sensing via any and every channel (and only under certain circumstances) and most particularly by the delta, the change, of sensing.



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  • 93
    Pinball1970 says:

    @88
    Hi Dan
    No contradiction just just poor writing /posting from me

    I agree Consciousness IS biological otherwise it will get lumped in with other human constructs like love and passion.

    When I said a “Made up” word I meant as in “love” as opposed to “fish” one is a real the other is not.



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  • 94
    Pinball1970 says:

    @86 phil

    Ok This worth drilling down a little bit

    As an aside, what is pink?

    (Its not relevant to the Hard Problem, but it shows how much the readout dials that are on our conscious dashboard distinguish the varieties of experience from combinations of analog sensors to create apprehensions that are both compressed and potentially more useful. No set of dials with a line of monotonic numbers, but graduations across a perceptual plane.)

    Colour for is a difficult one as I worked as a colour technologist for 11 years.
    Colours to me are combinations of dyes inks or pigments and can be described mathematically using a spetro.
    Pink is lighter than red and you can have blue or yellow pinks, they tend to have poor fastness if pale and bright.
    In terms of emotions I see pink in association with young children, females kids toys clothes etc

    I cannot believe you have an emotionally flat response to images of any sort.

    Are you getting at mood enhancers? Stimulators?
    Van Gough like lemon yellow I think it calmed him
    Studies have been performed on prisoners using different coloured cells to gauge their moods is this what you mean?
    Red cells yielded the most aggressive results- I am not sure this is in line with your qualia as you can similar reaction from bulls and yellow black mean danger poison stings to part of the animal kingdom
    This is genetic surely? Like smelling food or seeing blood?

    Remind yourself you are a meat machine, to a first approximation running with a genetically evolved operating system and a culturally evolved set of software to get you through each day. Is there no astonishing scene that stands at odds with these truths?

    Can you give me an example of something that you think is outside the realms of learned behavior or genetically aquired responses?

    For Damasio it was the feeling of feelings, for me I noted the quality of qualities. How does the machine get to experience something so vivid?
    A person with bad strabismus if it is corrected too late will never experience stereoscopic vision. Explaining the experience of 3D to someone without the apparatus is stunningly difficult.
    Pin do you think you might be a p-zombie without the illusion?

    I hope not! I am very much moved by music and art



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  • Pinball1970 #94
    Oct 28, 2016 at 7:54 am

    As an aside, what is pink?

    (Its not relevant to the Hard Problem, but it shows how much the readout dials that are on our conscious dashboard distinguish the varieties of experience from combinations of analog sensors to create apprehensions that are both compressed and potentially more useful. No set of dials with a line of monotonic numbers, but graduations across a perceptual plane.)

    Colour for is a difficult one as I worked as a colour technologist for 11 years.

    Colours to me are combinations of dyes inks or pigments and can be described mathematically using a spetro.

    I think in terms of colour we first need to differentiate between mixing coloured lights, where colours are additive, and mixing pigments, where colours are subtractive.

    Pink is lighter than red and you can have blue or yellow pinks, they tend to have poor fastness if pale and bright.

    In human eyes, pink is a combination of red light with a full spectrum of white light (ie all colours).

    Human eyes detect intensity, at colour sensing cone receptors, but in mental processing also includes absence of triggering of sensors and patching effects to cover gaps and give continuity. I think this is what Phil refers to.

    No set of dials with a line of monotonic numbers, but graduations across a perceptual plane.)

    Human vision is not a continuous spectrum like output from a physical spectrographic instrument.

    It is a mix of three colour sensors, black and white rod sensors, movement triggering and smoothing of “video”, processed by the brain.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_vision#Physiology_of_color_perception



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  • Phil

    Constrained: I was joking.

    Consciousness not in the brain: I was half joking. And half serious. We feel pain in, say, our leg or toe, and not in the brain, don’t we? Is that an illusion? Surely the pain is not felt in the brain. (Perhaps you can clear that one up.) In like manner, I would argue that conscious perceptions of, say, a rose (perceptions of its color, smell, shape, etc.) are experienced as external. So if these conscious perceptions are “over there”, we can say, perhaps, that consciousness (of the rose or, whatever it is) is wherever the object is. No?



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  • Chaps,

    Much briefer post than intended.

    First a collection of important essays by Paul Churchland.

    http://uberty.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Paul_Churchland_Neurophilosophy_at_WorkBookZZ.org_.pdf

    Dan, you may enjoy seeing Dennett disagreed with here by Churchland (correctly I think, too). Neurologist Damasio has evidenced precisely what Churchland proposes. Dennett restricts consciousness to a cultural phenomenon and therefore for the highest animals only. (Parental Advisory. Full frontal Hegel.)

    I propose both are right, making animals p-zombies with all the brainstates and behaviours of consciousness, bar one. Dennett is right that a cultural switch brings a final vivid quality to the potentially salient material as a stimulus for self modeling, having a cortex and the broadband spindle cells wired in to the ACC error detector to use it. (More details later.)

    Alan and Pin, in the section on chimerical colors we can see the virtues of the new (scientifically informed) 20th century philosophy ushered in by the like of Karl Popper, (the last great architect of the scientific method, negatable hypotheses and the certainty of disproofs; the re-definer of a workable metaphysics, valueless until tested and observed.) This is a great piece of work, the results easily tested.

    I was going to lead in with an extended piece on color vision but that will have to wait.



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  • Chaps,

    Note: My comment about conscious perception being “outside” of us was rather dumb. Yes, pain is felt where it is felt – but neuroscientists and biologists can explain that quite easily now.—No contradiction, only an apparent one. As an idealist I know that all perceptions are internal; but there really is an external world; no contradiction, only an apparent one. solipsism – like the old mind-body duality – is obsolete and insupportable.

    Only the highest animals consciousness? What? Sounds like…. I will suspend judgment.



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  • Cont.

    John Searle states, in response to Dennet’s book ‘Consciousness Explained’ the following: “Where the existence of conscious states is concerned, you can’t make the distinction between appearance and reality, because the existence of the appearance is the reality in question.”

    Don’t know too much about Searle but he got this one right – and it is exactly what I said on this thread and elsewhere.

    “Only the highest animals have consciousness.” At a certain point we have to rely on our intellectual instincts and our reason and simply say that something is every bit as nonsensical as it sounds. So I will say it: Nonsense!!



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  • Color must be seen within the context of one’s experience of reality and consciousness of one’s own existence.

    I am inclined to agree with Rietveld that color cannot be explained in terms of light and as a specific wavelength, and with Schopenhauer (his master) who famously asserted that “color is the qualitative division of the activity of the retina.”

    And the external world exists (98) in relation to an internal one.



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  • Dan

    P-zombie means animals are conscious, in one use of the word, meaning functionally conscious (the one that everyday neuro-scientists use it for).

    The further contention is for an extra vividness in higher hominids, cetaceans etc. This derived from, for instance, a capacity to self-model.

    I’ll run this idea out in a couple of days. Insanely busy atm. and must do this therapeutically in coffee breaks….

    Skim the Chimerical Colours article to understand how well we understand the subjective experience of colours.



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  • 102
    Cairsley says:

    To Dan #100

    Color must be seen within the context of one’s experience of reality and consciousness of one’s own existence.

    Daniel, I would say that color can be seen only in the context of one’s experience of reality, i.e. of objects that one perceives as colored. To what extent, if at all, one may be conscious of one’s own existence does not affect the basic experience of perceiving a colored object, though it does affect the terms in which one might think about colored objects perceived in experience. My experience of seeing a yellow tennis-ball is my experience and mine alone, and everyone else at the tennis court has his or her own experience of a yellow tennis-ball. It has turned out that everyone’s experience of the yellow tennis-ball sufficiently resembles everyone else’s experience of the same to enable people to refer to the yellow tennis-ball in talking to each other and agree concerning a range of characters about it, including its movements, location, size, fuzzy surface, bounciness, color and so on. Thus it becomes an intersubjective object, and its yellowness an intersubjective quality — a quality that can be referred to in conversation between many people, as though it were an objective fact, the incomparability of each person’s subjective experience of the yellowness of the ball notwithstanding. To understand the phenomenon of the tennis-ball more deeply, we need the findings of physics and neuroscience, for these are the sciences that explore the make-up of the tennis-ball, the environment (including light and atmosphere) in which people see it and the physiological and neural mechanisms by which people see it. At least, the physicists’ and neurologists’ accounts of the yellowness of the tennis-ball are based on experimentally tested evidence and careful reasoning. Although your friend Schopenhauer proved himself very capable of careful reasoning, he failed to base his thoughts about perception on sufficient testable evidence for them to compete for credibility with the findings of physics and neuroscience.

    Schopenhauer, . . . who famously asserted that “color is the qualitative division of the activity of the retina.”

    If color is a quality, then saying that it is “the qualitative division of the activity of the retina” is pretty much like Molière’s lampoon of physicians explaining the sleep-inducing effect of opium by reference to its dormitive virtue. Seriously, Daniel, you would do better to look to the relevant sciences to further your understanding of such things as sense-perception. I am not a scientist, but I do what I can to acquaint myself with the findings of scientists in this and many other questions of interest. We are fortunate here to have experienced scientists and technicians participating in this website, whose contributions on such topics are often very helpful.



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  • Hi, Cairsley, (and Phil),

    Nice to receive a reply from you again, Cairsley. Keeps me on my toes. Although Phil does a pretty good job too.

    I misrepresented myself, wrote that too quickly. It was poorly written. I did not do justice to the objective aspect of color.

    “I call the most heterogeneous things yellow if they have this color. Obviously yellow is a name whereby I designate that phenomenon, no matter where it is to be found. In the same way, all common concepts are names for designating qualities that occur in different things.” The same applies to shape. Shape, a uniquely difficult problem, is both subjectively determined and objective in nature. Subjective or objective? This is an erroneous distinction. Shape is dependent upon the representation of space and time. The apodeictic certainty of mathematics (based on extension in space and succession in time) indicates that it is of a priori origin. But like colors, shapes are objective. Yet the objective aspect is bound up with subjective (physiological) conditions.

    I would argue that the subjective aspect of color (and shape) is primary. Without the subjective element the so-called absolute objective element begins to reveal itself as an infinitely mutable, evanescent thing. I agree that a yellow tennis ball is pretty much yellow to everyone, although the shades vary. There is a fine line between a shade and a color. Someone with cataracts will see a different shade. Therefore, perception of color must be determined by subjective conditions, which play nothing less than a critical role in the process of perception.

    But color does have an “objective” aspect. (The nature of the objective quality of colors is not yet clear to me, but it has to be there – for the reason you gave.)

    I am sure that yellow appears more or less yellow to everyone. I don’t yet know why. Physiology may explain
    the relative uniformity of experience vis-a-vis color, why we all see the same color (more or less); but it doesn’t explain the phenomenon of color itself.

    If you hold a light to a yellow ball and then increase the light, the color will change and keep changing. So what is the real color? And what is a real color?

    Hope that was not entirely unclear or ridiculous.

    I love Molière. Have you read Aristophanes?

    Kind Regards,

    D



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  • P.S. “Without the subjective element the so-called absolute objective element begins to reveal itself as an infinitely mutable, evanescent thing.” Makes no sense. What I meant to say (I think) was simply this: objective color is a contradiction in terms. Subject and object constitutes a synthesis.



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  • Dan #103
    Oct 29, 2016 at 5:39 pm

    “I call the most heterogeneous things yellow if they have this color. Obviously yellow is a name whereby I designate that phenomenon, no matter where it is to be found.

    I mentioned additive (projected coloured lights) and subtracted colours (reflective pigments), in and earlier comment.

    If you want to play around with objective colour effects – here is an article which explains issues, such as why a pigmented surface appears yellow in white light as a process of colour subtraction.

    http://www.physicsclassroom.com/class/light/Lesson-2/Color-Subtraction

    To begin, consider white light to consist of the three primary colors of light – red, green and blue. If white light is shining on a shirt, then red, green and blue light is shining on the shirt. If the shirt absorbs blue light, then only red and green light will be reflected from the shirt. So while red, green and blue light shine upon the shirt, only red and green light will reflect from it. Red and green light striking your eye always gives the appearance of yellow; for this reason, the shirt will appear yellow.



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  • I am not even an aficionado when it comes to color. Nor am I a scientist. My interest in the daunting issue of color is bound up with my great, larger interest in the nature of reality.

    The sentence you highlighted, Alan, is undoubtedly true. I wrote that to make the point (to Cairsley) that I agree: we cannot speak of colors as “our colors”; they have an objective dimension.

    (I agree that there are three primary colors. That was not always believed to be the case.)

    With the sincere hope that this question will not annoy you (or Cairsley) I ask (rhetorically and with a certain naiveté) how color perception without the retina (the center in particular) would be possible. And you will say: it wouldn’t be: but the colors would still be “there”.

    My ophthalmologist showed my a painting by a former patient. Two halves of an orange – one on the left and one on the right. The first half of the painting was completed before his cataracts surgery. The second was completed after. One half of the orange was lighter. Not deliberate. That is what he saw. There is no way to know whether anyone sees the same shades. So what does pure (non-primary) orange look like? And how much white light is required to be absorbed and reflected in order to produce the “right” (objective) color?



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  • Dan

    There is no way to know whether anyone sees the same shades.

    Nonsense. Colour scientists test this all the time by colour matching tests. Mapping the colour space equivalence we can see the relative “distortions” of one observer to another, due to physical differences in sensing equipment or even processing. We can say this person’s identification of red is atypical in this way.

    Whether my red experience (whatever may cause it) is the same as your red experience is a quite meaningless question, however, once cultural/semantic issues have been dealt with. (Culture hugely affects and directs perceptions and their refinements.)

    Apart from the primal experience question, this whole area is more wrapped up and understood than just about any other area of the neuropsychology of perception. There are fewer mysteries than you seem to realise.

    Why not find out for yourself?

    What was the last thing you read, Dan?



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  • Dan #107
    Oct 30, 2016 at 5:30 am

    My ophthalmologist showed my a painting by a former patient. Two halves of an orange – one on the left and one on the right. The first half of the painting was completed before his cataracts surgery. The second was completed after. One half of the orange was lighter. Not deliberate. That is what he saw.

    You could achieve the same effect by wearing or not wearing sunglasses, turning up or down the lighting in the room, painting in sunlight at a different time of day, or painting half when it was sunny and half when it was cloudy.

    That is why in the days before artificial light, artists’ studios had north-facing windows, where no direct sunlight entered.

    There is no way to know whether anyone sees the same shades. So what does pure (non-primary) orange look like?

    Phil has answered this. There is no such thing as “primary orange”. Orange is mix.

    And how much white light is required to be absorbed and reflected in order to produce the “right” (objective) color?

    Shades are produced by different balances of mixtures of wavelengths.

    White is all visible wavelengths, but as with sound systems where you can turn up the treble or base, the mixture is the key to “shades”!

    In addition to this, there are mechanisms in the processing by the brain to adjust for different levels of overall light intensity, which can change perceptions. – particularly where there are high contrasts within the same image.

    I linked a couple of videos last night, explaining additive and subtractive colour, but they have not yet cleared moderation.



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  • Dan #110
    Oct 30, 2016 at 8:50 am

    I meant “non primary” as opposes to “pure” (unobserved). Yes, I know that shades can be measured and that cataracts is analogous to wearing sunglasses. But my question is what colors are without the retina, without the eye, the observer, without light and without knowledge themselves?

    I’m not sure what you are trying to understand here, but there certainly is technology which can identify colours for those without functioning retinas or eyes.

    http://www.cipa.dcu.ie/papers/col-speech.pdf

    A Color – to – Speech Sensory Substitution Device for the Visually Impaired.

    BTW: I see the two videos on colour I posted, have now appeared @106.



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  • Phil, Alan, Cairsley

    I meant “non primary” as opposes to “pure” (unobserved). Yes, I know that shades can be measured and that cataracts is analogous to wearing sunglasses. But my question is what colors are without the retina, without the eye, the observer, without light and without knowledge? What are waves? Can they be both seen and not seen?

    I understand what typical red is; but what is red? Color, although it can be explained, and it has, cannot be defined as anything other than a perceived hue, and you all know it. Unless God has eyes.

    Unconsciousness=no color, period.

    My perceptual reality is the only reality, the only thing I can discuss or work with.

    Every time you say wavelengths it is a bore.

    To answer your question, the last book I read was a detective novel by Rex Stout. (I like to read: that George sure is curious!)



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  • Alan, Cairsley

    Thanks for the videos, Alan.
    Q: Identifying colors is not seeing them, is it?
    Cairsley, your point about the tennis ball and inter-subjective experience was very well put.



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  • Dan #112
    Oct 30, 2016 at 9:17 am

    Thanks for the videos, Alan.
    Q: Identifying colors is not seeing them, is it?

    It is not seeing them directly, but of course scientists identify and image many parts electromagnetic spectrum which human eyes can’t see, – indirectly using instruments.

    For a greater perception of colour vision, you could ask a Mantis Shrimp! 🙂

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mantis_shrimp#Eyes

    The mantis shrimp has one of the most elaborate visual systems ever discovered.[12] Compared to the three types of colour receptive cones that humans possess in their eyes, the eyes of a mantis shrimp carry 16 types of colour receptive cones. Furthermore, the shrimp is capable of tuning the sensitivity of its long-wavelength vision to adapt to its environment.[13]

    The midband region of its eye is made up of six rows of specialised ommatidia – a cluster of photoreceptor cells. Four rows carry up to 16 different photoreceptor pigments, 12 for colour sensitivity, others for colour filtering. The vision of the mantis shrimp can perceive both polarised light and multispectral images.[14] Their eyes (mounted on mobile stalks and capable of moving independently of each other) are similarly variably coloured and are considered to be the most complex eyes in the animal kingdom.[15]

    Each compound eye is made up of up to ten thousand side-by-side ommatidia. Each eye consists of two flattened hemispheres separated by six parallel rows of specialised ommatidia, collectively called the midband. This divides the eye into three regions. This configuration enables mantis shrimp to see objects with three parts of the same eye. In other words, each eye possesses trinocular vision and therefore depth perception. The upper and lower hemispheres are used primarily for recognition of form and motion, like the eyes of many other crustaceans.



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  • 114
    Pinball1970 says:

    @Dan “what are colours are without the retina, without the eye,”
    it is more fundamental than that.
    Colour does not exist without light first and foremost; it is not that you don’t see it in the dark it is that is not happening. The apparatus may be there but it is not taking place. Like looking at a stationary car with respect to speed.
    Second every organism that has the capacity to experience colour on earth does it differently. Either via evolution or genetic differences. 700nm wave length light is and will always be just that. My red though as “seen” by brain will always by definition be different from yours. The spectra will not.. I like sour beers you may not- same thing. We still agree its beige wet cold fizzy and tastes like beer



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  • Thanks for all of your replies.

    I can’t seem to get a grasp of wavelengths AS colors, or a grasp of vibrations AS sounds. Sorry. I will do some research – at long last.

    If a wavelength is and will always be just that, what is “that”? Either it is a color or it is not. The human eye sees radiation at certain wavelengths. But without the eye, Pinball, how can we speak of wavelengths as colors, or as having any meaning or properties? Colors are seen.

    Colors are wavelengths.—Granted.



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  • Dan #116
    Oct 30, 2016 at 1:32 pm

    I can’t seem to get a grasp of wavelengths AS colors, or a grasp of vibrations AS sounds.

    Dan – when you play your guitar, the stings vibrate in the shape of a long shallow wave which is highest in the middle of the span and fixed at both ends.

    When you hold down a fret further up the fingerboard, it shortens the moving length of the string, making the wave shorter, the vibrations faster, and the note higher.
    If you half the length of the string, the frequency of the vibrations doubles and the note is an octave higher.

    Try it, and watch the vibrations of the string hitting and moving the air first one way then the other – sending little waves of compressed air travelling away from the string, where they eventually reach your ears and shake your ear-drums.



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  • 118
    Pinball1970 says:

    @116 Hi Dan
    Some good physics to be had here!
    Newton loved playing around with this sort of thing

    If you think of colour a dynamical process rather than a single thing like red.
    Light from the sun shines on an object some wavelengths are absorbed and others are reflected back into your eye.
    It is this reflected combination that stimulates photo receptor cells in your retina stimulated relevant nerves and your brain recognizes this as “red”
    No light shining on the object yields no colour .
    Phil was asking about pink, I don’t have a problem with small gradations of hue and depth, our eye is like an organic photospectrometer only not as accurate. The brain cannot say what wavelengths we are receiving only what the resultant colour is.



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  • 120
    Cairsley says:

    Dan #112
    Cairsley, your point about the tennis ball and inter-subjective experience was very well put.

    Glad it made some sense.
    Yes, I have read Aristophanes, but not in the Greek.



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  • …the physicists’ and neurologists’ accounts of the yellowness of the tennis-ball are based on experimentally tested evidence and careful reasoning.

    And how, finally, is a color (reflected light) or a sound (vibration) seen or heard or identified without eyes, ears or brains? These impressions can be tested, measured, photographed and recorded; but until they reach the eye and the ear, how can they be said to be actually seen or heard?

    How can a physicists and neurologists provide evidence and prove that they are heard or seen without subjects (with sense organs and understanding) that already meet the requirements and are able to participate in theses tests?



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  • Dan #121
    Oct 31, 2016 at 11:16 am

    These impressions can be tested, measured, photographed and recorded; but until they reach the eye and the ear, how can they be said to be actually seen or heard?

    How can a physicists and neurologists provide evidence and prove that they are heard or seen without subjects (with sense organs and understanding)

    I think the existence of the physicists and neurologists making observations, exposes the problem with this hypothetical question.

    The spectrum of light and sounds exist in the physical universe as energy in the form of frequencies and wavelengths.
    Colours are merely the name labels humans stick onto the perceptions they receive via the receptors in their eyes (and for sounds, ears).



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  • Phil #97

    Thanks for the link Phil. It got to technical for me after a while but the ‘mainframe’ brain got me understanding a few things more (I think) and what Dan means by priori knowledge. There is no priori knowledge but the ability to learn. “teach a man to fish and he can eat for a life time’!!!

    If ever I needed examples of qualia (If my understanding is right of it?) my mum is providing some for me. She is not very well and has been in hospital for nearly two weeks. We all take turns to go sit with her and only leave her alone between visiting hours. She has been hallucinating a lot and I had to do an all nighter last week because she thought she had been kidnapped. Last two days her colour has returned and she is talking more to us instead of to her hallucinations. Tonight was even more special. We were having an almost normal conversation when she said, “look at that man over there. He has a lizard in his lap”. “There is no lizard mum”, I say. “Look” she says, I can see its eyes sparkling”. Just then I notice her glasses on the table and ask her to put them on and have another look. “Its not a lizard” she says, “Silly me. Its a goat”.

    I asked her where she was and she rightly replied “in the hospital”. I asked if she thought they would allow lizards and goats in a hospital and she furled up her eyebrows and said “that a point” but kept looking at what she thought was a goat with confusion. I could see the logic had worked but the eyes would not let her alone.



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  • Olgun, (and Phil)—

    I am sorry to hear that your mom is in the state she’s in. You have my empathy. Sounds like my late maternal grandmother, who had late-onset bi-polar with psychotic features. I don’t know what your mother’s diagnosis is, but what you described reminded me of my grandmother when she became ill. My grandmother was probably worse, was rampantly psychotic at times. At one point she handing out rolls of toilet paper in front of a church in Bayside, Queens. (Maybe that’s not so nuts!)

    A priori. Even Phil agrees that we do not enter this world a blank slate. I don’t know if he believes in innate knowledge; I don’t think he does; but in any case, the knowledge I have referred to is a peculiar species of “knowledge”: it is knowledge of the pure intuition of external space, of time ( the form of the internal sense), and causality (the ability to trace an effect back to a cause). This is not learned; all learning requires these pre-conditions . . . in my opinion.



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  • Thanks for the well wishes Dan. Mum is actually in because of a faulty valve in her heart and she has had a few heart attacks. She has her age and a list of other ailments which are stopping her from eating and she loves her food. We are still at the stage where we can laugh at her hallucinations with a fear they may get worse? She now tells of her uncle who had hallucinations and was known to say he always left the house with two or three people even though he went aloneMaybe there IS a family history?

    Of course the main problem I have with understanding what you are saying is the language you use and, for a mechanically inclined brain like mine, where it all fits in. After Phils link, I can only place your priory knowledge in the DNA. It builds the mainframe of the brain and the rest is learned. That, for me, takes it out of the ether and into something solid. Internal sense, space and time now fits also. My (primitive) model functions well with the idea that we are not only tuned into the rhythms of this planet but the atoms within us are tuned into the universe and so to time, on a sliding scale.

    I am stuck on why some animals hit the ground almost running though. Does it learn more than a human baby in the womb? I understand it is more developed but when does it start to learn?



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  • 126
    Cairsley says:

    Dan #121
    And how, finally, is a color (reflected light) or a sound (vibration) seen or heard or identified without eyes, ears or brains? These impressions can be tested, measured, photographed and recorded; but until they reach the eye and the ear, how can they be said to be actually seen or heard?

    These are indeed very odd questions to pose, when what is being discussed is the experience of perceiving colors and sounds — a process that consists of an interaction between stimuli from physical objects and the sense-organs of the perceiver. Obviously, no-one has suggested that this experience of perception occurs or can occur without eyes, ears or brains — quite the opposite!



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