12/7/08

Atheism Plus "Science" – An Infinite Digress

FYI: this post has been moved here.

32 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. But they refuse and the problem is this: science deals with the material, it observes the material, it seeks material causes for material effects, it constructs materialistic explanations and from this apparatus, which is meant to discern the material, atheists infer that the material is all that there is to reality.

    Pointing out the obvious here- every time humans have successfully uncovered the explanation for a natural phenomenon in our universe, the explanation has been completely materialistic. There has not been a single effect found to be the result of a supernatural cause. Ever. Why then, would anyone rely on supernatural explanations, or believe they are capable of illuminating a single truth about our reality?

    If the universe is arbitrary we should not expect the cause and effect relationships, the laws of nature, the continuum or continuity that makes science possible.

    It would seem to me that one would need to know what the complete set of possible universe configurations that can exist are, and the probabilities for each condition, in order to claim knowledge of what should and should not be expected in any given universe.

    Do you have this information?

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  3. "In my essay Omni-Science I pondered this question and concluded that science has nothing to offer atheism."

    Well science has one major thing speaking in its favor: it works. That inspires a certain amount of trust, and confidence, that science is doing something fundamentally right.

    Metaphysics based on extrapolations from science are at least based on something that we can have good confidence in, even if we don't know how far the extrapolations are valid. If there are aspects of reality or a metaphysics that is inaccessible to materialistic science, then there is no reason to believe that religions have access to it either.

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  4. Atheists fallaciously argue that one cannot scientifically or logically infer the existence of the supernatural until all material explanations have been exhausted.

    I'm sure that some atheists do that, and insofar as they do exactly what you say, yes, there's a hole in their argument. There are many, however, who are simply responding to Theists fallaciously arguing that one can logically infer the necessity of a non-material explanation from a lack of current material explanations. C.S. Lewis did a great job of formulating many such false dilemmas, whose logical content amounted to "I didn't do it, and none of my siblings did it, and none of my uncles did it, so clearly it wasn't done - nay, COULDN'T be done - by any human, and was therefore done by something superhuman."

    That is to say, atheists do not fallaciously argue when they say that one cannot logically infer the existence of the supernatural [i]simply from a lack of material explanations[/i] until all material explanations have been exhausted. You may be able to infer such existence in another method, based on different grounds. If you actually do exhaust all material explanations, then you've got it in the bag. Just inferring that there's no material explanation simply because the ones you've heard don't work (or don't make sense to you) is either an argument from ignorance or a false dilemma, and either way it doesn't hold water.

    This is not a "faith" based concept, either. This is honest to goodness logic. It's the kind of thing that's particularly brought into focus when requiring constructive proofs (i.e. intuitionistic logic... whose name is ironically counter-intuitive). It has no reliance on humans being eventually omnipotent. Rather, the point is that to use "the lack of material explanations" as proof for the necessity of a supernatural explanation, you would have to be omnipotent... and since we're not omnipotent, we don't get to make that argument. Omnipotence isn't necessary to make the claim "the Theistic argument requires omnipotence before it would work", and the lack of that omnipotence is thus a problem for Theists, but not for atheists.

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  5. Difficult to know where to start with this article.

    Atheists and indeed scientists assume that the material is all there is because we have absolutely no evidence whatsoever that the converse (the the supernatural exists) is true.

    As interstate rightly pointed out, every single advance in our understanding of the world and how it works has a material explanation behind it. The supernatural has not, ever, explained anything in a way that has proved reliable, testable or observable.

    Why believe in the supernatural at all? Science is doing quite nicely at explaining the world around us thank you very much. Religion, however is daily retreating, baby steps, sure, but religion is becoming increasingly useless, at least in the western world.

    Oh, and those religious scientists that got the science wagion rolling illustrate this point perfectly. They had nothing but superstition and myths to base their view of reality upon UNTIL they started experimenting. Even luminaries such as Newton believed all kinds of nonsense, like alchemy. The great scientists of the past Spinoza, Newton, Galileo, Leibniz were very much against the religious institutions of their day, usually not by their choice.

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  6. Meanwhile, researchers in other fields are tapping them in the shoulder inviting them to turn around and see that there is more to reality than that little corner.

    Really? And just what researchers are these? Are you talking about those researchers that 'study' Ramtha the Lemurian warrior who fought the Atlanteans over 35,000 years ago? Are you talking about the researchers that claim to find footprints of Bigfoot? Or, the UFOologists that 'study' the visitors from other planets? Or, researchers that claim people and dinosaurs used to live together? Or,... I could go on forever listing all the bogus claims to 'knowledge' about reality, that narrow-minded materialistic conceptually blinded scientist just don't see.

    Just because Science has limits on what it can know, does not mean that others CAN or DO know anything about reality.

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  7. Oli said...
    Atheists and indeed scientists assume that the material is all there is because we have absolutely no evidence whatsoever that the converse (the the supernatural exists) is true.


    Let's assume that this is true then. We can then state that the mind, free-will, etc. do not exist and are merely illusions. If this is true than everything you just said is meaningless. Why? Simple. Because everything you said is the result of chemical reactions and genetic programming. This means that if you are right than there is no credibility to what you say because you would say and believe it whether it was true or not. If however, you analyzed the evidence, logically analyzed it, and then came to your conclusions, you are wrong because a non-material force (your consciousness) exists. So which are you, completely lacking credibility because you lack the ability to discern your genetically programmed response from reality or are you a real, logical, thinking entity who analyzed your way to your conclusion in which case you are still wrong.

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  8. If however, you analyzed the evidence, logically analyzed it, and then came to your conclusions, you are wrong because a non-material force (your consciousness) exists.

    You claim that consciousness, unlike every other characteristic of a human being we have come to understand, is immaterial?

    That is a bold claim. What do you say about the evidence that consciousness is a product of brain activity? You know, EEG scans, for one. Also, the fact that consciousness comes and goes with the brain- when you sleep, you are not conscious. When you are hit forcefully over the head, you can very well lose consciousness. There is no evidence that any consciousness persists beyond brain death, but much that suggests it does not.

    If consciousness is immaterial, I also do not understand how it would interact with the material to produce material effects.

    Because everything you said is the result of chemical reactions and genetic programming. This means that if you are right than there is no credibility to what you say because you would say and believe it whether it was true or not.

    These are the same "chemical reactions and genetic programming" that allow human beings to learn, specifically how to discern truth from chicanery.

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  9. @interstate
    If you haven't noticed yet, naturalistic science has no definitive answers for most of fundamental questions, like origin of Universe, life, mind, conciousness, fine-tuned Universe. Even human ability to detect laws in nature is quite amazing.

    @adonais
    Science works great in areas like engineering, when testability and repeatability apply (hard science). But when scientists interpret things that happened 500 My ago, assumptions and "framework" in which they operate play huge role.

    Can you prove beyond reasonable doubt that given fossil is as old as it is claimed to be? Or that none of Paluxy river tracks are human made?
    Anything that is said by creasionists is immediatly ridicouled. On the other hand evolutionary hoaxes are often plausable until they're known to be hoaxes.

    @oli
    no evidence whatsoever that the converse (the the supernatural exists) is true.
    What do you say about thousends of testimonies of events claimed to miraculous by witnesses?

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  10. tremor:

    "Can you prove beyond reasonable doubt that given fossil is as old as it is claimed to be?"

    Nope. I'm not an expert on dating methods (in any sense), and even those who are will report their numbers with error bars.

    "Anything that is said by creasionists is immediatly ridicouled."

    Well, maybe it is now, but it wasn't always that way. I'm sure you understand why. Try to impress physicists today with a revival of phlogiston theory, and see how you're received.

    I don't know what you're driving at; if you want to remind us that humans and the science conducted by human beings are fallible and less than perfect, you'll get no argument from me.

    Sorry if I'm butting in, but I have a comment on this:

    "What do you say about thousends of testimonies of events claimed to miraculous by witnesses?"

    Those testimonies are data, to be analyzed from a third-person perspective. We know by now all too well that the human brain is a great confabulator, and that the reports produced from first-person experiences have to be treated as data, not as uncontroverted truth. Hundreds of people have reported close encounters with aliens and even being abducted by them - what are we to think of those testimonies if we took the reported first-person experience at face value?

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  11. Nastra: This means that if you are right than there is no credibility to what you say because you would say and believe it whether it was true or not.
    The same holds true with religion, only more so. You're operating with the same faulty wetware scientists do and so say and believe things whether they're true or not. The one thing that Science does offer that religion does not is a means for escaping from at least some of the errors, prejudices and self deceptions that humans are heir to.

    If however, you analyzed the evidence, logically analyzed it, and then came to your conclusions, you are wrong because a non-material force (your consciousness) exists.
    You need to know that decisions are made prior to conscious awareness of them. So the degree to which consciousness, will, soul or whatever non-material thing you have in mind is a "force" is problematic. As far as anyone can ascertain so far, decisions and judgments are products of measurable material brain activity, not a cause of them. And what does this alleged "force" act on? Does it push ectoplasmic buttons on the astral plane to make us do it's will? Where's the evidence for that?

    How a conclusion is reached has no bearing on whether or not the conclusion is correct. Indeed, human reasoning is known to be faulty, have limits and is ofter out performed by non-conscious machines. In terms of logic, machines are the gold standard. If this mystical mind-thing is so good, why is it so bad at what it's supposed to be best at?

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  12. @ Interstate...

    Let's start here. First off, unless you can cite which material components give rise to a thinking being that is no longer an object but a subject then all that is occurring in your brain is the interaction of various chemicals and electrical impulses generating the illusion of consciousness and more to the point it is through genetic programming alone that all decisions are made. It is through the process of evolution that traits that help the species were selected and it is through each person that these traits are manifested. No actual mind exists. This is the corner stone of evolutionary psychology. I'll refer you to Doctors Richard Dawkins and PZ Meyers for more information about the illusion of mind and "evodevo".

    Second, your logic with the issue of the brain is flawed. Yes, you do lose consciousness when hit in the head. However, to extrapolate brain damage meaning that mind is generated in the brain is amazing flawgic. You see by that same reasoning if I smack a radio and it loses that ability to play FM channels I can insist that radio waves do not exist and that everything is generated inside that radio.

    The insistence that there is no evidence that consciousness exists beyond death is also incorrect. A number of studies show that people afflicted with cardiac arrest die, and then claim to have seen what was done with them while clinically dead. The important thing to remember about cardiac arrest is that when it kills you, brain function immediately stops. No last gasps of consciousness. Obviously there is more I could cite but I don't want to over do it.

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  13. @Masked Marauder

    I'll make this quick. If you are correct than no one is credible. Science is meaningless as the scientists will report the data as their genetically programmed reactions in their brain tell them to no matter what the data says.

    As for all decisions being made in the brain and demonstrated to do so...Anyone with knowledge knows that the best that science can show is areas attached to certain functions, but no specifics. Beyond originating in the brain no component can be shown to be governing certain functions and that many material qualities we would expect to find in the brain simply aren't there. All of this inevitably routes back into the Hard Problem of Consciousness. A problem that has yet to be solved despite all the science and years of research. If you however have a solution to the problem then by all means what are you doing here!?

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  14. . . .all that is occurring in your brain is the interaction of various chemicals and electrical impulses generating the illusion of consciousness and more to the point it is through genetic programming alone that all decisions are made.

    Well, this is actually two points so I will address them separately. First of all, there is no evidence for anything beyond interactions between chemicals and electrical activity in the brain. Further on that point, damage to specific areas of the brain can result in specific changes to one's personality, self-identity, their "mind" as you may call it.

    Here is a good example for you. People afflicted with Huntington's Disease lose the ability to detect expressions of disgust in other human beings. This phenomenon has been traced to a malfunction in just one gene.

    My question to you is, what is disgust? It is not tangible, you cannot describe its color or its shape, and for all intents and purposes, it is merely a immaterial language symbol. That is, a language symbol for a very material set of characteristics, including facial expressions, tone of voice, body language, etc.. What you refer to as the "mind" is likewise merely a language symbol for a very material set of processes in the brain.

    You are confusing the immaterial nature of language symbols ("words") with the material processes they symbolize.

    Yes, you do lose consciousness when hit in the head. However, to extrapolate brain damage meaning that mind is generated in the brain is amazing flawgic. You see by that same reasoning if I smack a radio and it loses that ability to play FM channels I can insist that radio waves do not exist and that everything is generated inside that radio.

    Yes, you could insist that, and then I could refute that by showing you a radio tower and the equipment used to transmit radio waves from those towers to your radio. I could open the radio and also show you how it receives signals and translates them into sounds.

    If you can show me the "mind towers" broadcasting consciousness into my brain, and if you can show me how my brain takes these immaterial broadcasts and turns them into material effects then I will concede your analogy is not a false one.

    A number of studies show that people afflicted with cardiac arrest die, and then claim to have seen what was done with them while clinically dead. The important thing to remember about cardiac arrest is that when it kills you, brain function immediately stops. No last gasps of consciousness.

    Actually, your brain will survive for several (about 5) minutes without any cardiopulmonary function at all. Brain function certainly does not "immediately stop". (See http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3536160?dopt=abstractplus)

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  15. Nastra: If you are correct than no one is credible. Science is meaningless as the scientists will report the data as their genetically programmed reactions in their brain tell them to no matter what the data says.
    OK, have it your way. No one is credible. Not you, not me, not the Pope, nobody. Where does that leave Religion? Just because you really, really, really want something to be true doesn't prove it is true. Just wanting your mind to be reliable doesn't make it reliable ipso facto.

    But your contrived dichotomy is false. Science is very much driven by data. That is one of it's chief properties that distinguishes it from religion. Drawing conclusions "no matter what the data says" is what religion does, not science. That's why science progresses and religion doesn't; we learn from observation and experience. What you are doing here has the appearance of what is known as "projection." That's when somebody "projects' their faults onto others so they don't have to deal with them themselves. Its one of a family of what are known as defense mechanisms. They are manifestations of the unconscious mind, not consciousness.

    Anyone with knowledge knows that the best that science can show is areas attached to certain functions, but no specifics.
    Not to split hairs, but "showing areas attached to certain functions" is exactly what "specifics" means. Real-time brain imaging has effected a revolution in brain and cognitive science. In the past, brain damage could only be assessed post mortem, and then only crudely. Now, imaging allows location of small micro lesions (tiny strokes or acute ischemic events) affecting perhaps as little as a few cubic millimeters of the brain which can be associated with behavioral tests on the conscious patient. The old data laid out the broad outlines of brain localization of mental function (speech areas, independence of split-brain patients, etc), the new data (see! we do pay attention to what the data say!) shows gradual step-wise degradation of mental function (the "mind" if you prefer) that is fully consistent with the view that the physical brain is the causal source of what others call "mind."

    Antonio DaMasio is one of the principle neurologists working in this field who is also a popular author. He has a very readable book out called "The Feeling of what Happens". Its worth reading if you are genuinely interested in this sort of thing. And then there's Sacks' classic "The Man who Mistook His Wife for a Hat." That's much less focused on this topic, but is a fine anecdotal introduction to how the brain is related to mind.

    What insights about the soul has religion gathered from this vast new fount of data?

    ... and that many material qualities we would expect to find in the brain simply aren't there.
    To what material qualities are you referring here?

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  16. @interstate

    Alright let's take this from the top. First, there is in fact a difference between mind and brain. The brain is what operates your body. However, it is the general neurological consensus that the brain does not provide any selectable component from which consciousness can arise. It is not as you would wish, the mere immature nature of language but rather the actual seperation of them into two definable things. You see we can measure interactions in your brain. However, I cannot measure how happy you feel. Only biological correlations. Which is why it's called the Hard Problem of Consciousness. Again if you have discovered the solution by all means why are you here? An innumerable amount of scientists would love to pick your brain. It appears to me that you are attempting to simultaneously argue the existence of only the brain yet the reality of your mind. Talk about having your cake and eating it too. Everyone else who shares your opinion of the brain being the only component point towards the mind (I.E. your actual experience of being a life form, not the biological correlations) being an illusion generated by chemical interactions and genetic programming derived from evolution. Hence Daniel Denettes (did I spell that right) Memetic Modules theory, evolutionary psychology, etc.

    Next, the radio tower illustration. Let's start first with a critique of your debating (or whatever you'd prefer to call it) skills. The fact that you even bothered to dissect the illustration is just...Bad form...I guess everyone understood that an illustration, no matter how well conceived, inevitably breaks down because ultimately one can find differences in the scenario. Maybe it's just myself and those I associate with but we go after the spirit of the idea. Not the words. Then again I've noticed you seem to have a fascination with...Words. To address your point and to I suppose restructure my own to communicate what I was trying to convey.

    Imagine for a moment we are standing on a beach. Before us is a radio. It's the first of it's kind and we only have a limited understanding of it as we did not build it. It's switched on and playing music but you and I cannot locate the source. I say, "Well I think that the signal is coming from somewhere else. Maybe it's coming from a land far far away." You look to me and say, "Poppycock. The radio must be generating the signal inside itself. You expect me to believe that there are mysterious "Towers" out there that can somehow create an unseen signal and that this thing can receive them." We open it up and see the various parts working a what-not, all we can measure however looking at the parts inside is this radios manifestation of a signal we cannot see nor trace. You then say "I have a way to determine which of us is right." and then you whack it with a hammer. It breaks. You turn to me and say. "There see. It is broken. There is no need to propose unseen "Signal Towers". We what is and as such that is all that there is." Now before you get to work typing away, yes I am aware that as an illustration this can be broken down but that's the point. It's an illustration. To save a few steps the point I am trying to make is that an absence of evidence for the existence of "Mind Towers" is not evidence for their absence. Neither am I necessarily attempting to prove I am right. Rather I seek to demonstrate to you that it could go both ways. The circles right back into areas of the brain and neurobiology. As an example, or illustration, there is no section of the brain that can be attach to belief. I support gay marriage and believe it is right. However, you can't locate a point on my brain, damage it, and suddenly bang I'm a Republican. You can say find a tumor over the section of the brain that controls speech and has been causing you to mix up the words "I" and "Unicorn" but there has never been a tumor that has caused a conversion from Judaism to Islam. This is but one example.

    Now onto my last example the cardiac arrest and the NDE. I am fully aware of the precise circumstances of cardiac arrest. However, the onset of brain death occurs at a much more shall we say rapid and regulated pace making it easier to study. Now to fill out what I was trying to state is that subjects who are both in a state of brain death and clinical death are still capable of reporting events that occurred around them in greater detail than those under the same circumstances but reported seeing nothing. In the case of the study the subjects were put into a state of cardiac arrest were monitored until brain death and then resuscitated. Afterward they were given a battery of tests to see what they had learned. Those who reported seeing what happened to them scored at 98% accuracy while those who reported seeing nothing scored at chance. Does this study confirm life after death? Of course not. This is but one study out of many.

    Accordingly I think this will be my last post. While I had surmised as much when I heard about this place or more to the point what kind of people posted here, this has served as a mildly entertaining confirmation. I bid you adieu.

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  17. Alright let's take this from the top. First, there is in fact a difference between mind and brain. The brain is what operates your body.

    You are claiming dualism is fact? If that is the case, why is it such a small minority view, especially among those who study the brain? Furthermore, where is the evidence for a separation between mind and body/brain (the brain is part of the body, it does not "operate" it from afar)?

    However, it is the general neurological consensus that the brain does not provide any selectable component from which consciousness can arise.

    What is a "neurological consensus", who is included in it, and how was this consensus determined?

    You see we can measure interactions in your brain. However, I cannot measure how happy you feel. Only biological correlations.

    And if I punch you in the face and you bleed and cry, I cannot measure how much it hurts or how upset you are. I only have biological correlations. Are things not what they seem? Can I look at you, bleeding and crying, and claim you are not hurt or upset, but rather that it is all in your mind, distinct from your body?

    Have you ever taken or heard of the drug called MDMA, otherwise known as Ecstasy? It makes people very happy and empathic, but only for several hours. We understand the mechanism of this drug's action quite well. It acts on the brain to release large quantities of serotonin into the neural synapses. This is an interesting dilemma for a dualist. If happiness or other emotions reside in an immaterial mind, how can they be manipulated through purely material means such as this drug?

    It appears to me that you are attempting to simultaneously argue the existence of only the brain yet the reality of your mind. Talk about having your cake and eating it too.

    You sound incredulous that the brain could have an emergent property such as consciousness. Why do you doubt this? No matter how weak you think the evidence might be for that (and it is not weak), there is no evidence for your alternative.

    To save a few steps the point I am trying to make is that an absence of evidence for the existence of "Mind Towers" is not evidence for their absence. Neither am I necessarily attempting to prove I am right. Rather I seek to demonstrate to you that it could go both ways.

    That is quite a lengthy dissertation to attempt to make such an old, tired, and easily defeated point.

    Imagine we are standing in a room with a lamp in the middle of it. The lamp is plugged into the wall and the light bulb is illuminated. You claim to me that electricity is being conducted through the lamp's power cord and into the bulb, where it causes the filament inside to glow as it sheds the incoming electrical energy in the form of light and heat.

    I claim that there are invisible beings inside the bulb that live on the surface of the filament. These tiny beings eat electricity and burp light and heat.

    Absence of evidence for the invisible light burpers is not evidence of their absence. It could go both ways.

    You can say find a tumor over the section of the brain that controls speech and has been causing you to mix up the words "I" and "Unicorn" but there has never been a tumor that has caused a conversion from Judaism to Islam.

    It wasn't a tumor but an iron rod through the brain that has had an effect like that. Google "Phineas Gage".

    Now to fill out what I was trying to state is that subjects who are both in a state of brain death and clinical death are still capable of reporting events that occurred around them in greater detail than those under the same circumstances but reported seeing nothing. In the case of the study the subjects were put into a state of cardiac arrest were monitored until brain death and then resuscitated. Afterward they were given a battery of tests to see what they had learned. Those who reported seeing what happened to them scored at 98% accuracy while those who reported seeing nothing scored at chance. Does this study confirm life after death? Of course not. This is but one study out of many.

    Please, direct me to this and the other "many" studies that prove what you are claiming.

    Accordingly I think this will be my last post. While I had surmised as much when I heard about this place or more to the point what kind of people posted here, this has served as a mildly entertaining confirmation. I bid you adieu.

    You surmised this would be your last post when you heard about this blog? Fascinating.

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  18. Nastra: The brain is what operates your body.
    And vica versa, we have all this sensory apparatus, you see. The brain, and the mind (mirabile dictu!) do different things when deprived of sensory input; they are driven,in parallel, by the world. See the literature on sensory deprivation. And that, by the way, is so despite the fact that much of what we know about our body remains outside consciousness. (parenthetically, the "sixth sense" refers to the somatosensory system which tracks our bodies in space but is invisible to our consciousness; we can't consciously feel our bodies as we consciously "see" color, but we can still touch our nose with our eyes closed. So we know it but don't know it consiously.) So how is it that physically manipulating something with no presence in consciousness changes both brain activity and the content of consciousness at the same time? Is it "just" a correlation or might there be a physical causal thing happening here?

    However, it is the general neurological consensus that the brain does not provide any selectable component from which consciousness can arise.
    Well, there's the brain. Show me a conscious person without a brain and I might believe that mind and brain are categorically distinct.

    Otherwise, yeah, there is no one single identified locus of consciousness, but how is that a problem? Where is it written that the brain/mind should be constructed by physically discrete and uniquely purposed components like a toaster oven?

    Which is why it's called the Hard Problem of Consciousness.
    It may be a hard problem in religion and/or philosophy, but not for anyone else. Having been stumped by this problem for at least all of recorded history I'd think you'd have reconsidered your foundations by now. Surely so many people going nowhere for so long ought to at least raise the concern that you've been barking up the wrong tree for a large part of that time.

    It appears to me that you are attempting to simultaneously argue the existence of only the brain yet the reality of your mind.
    If by "brain" you mean the physical thing and it's work product, then you are correct.

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  19. "You see we can measure interactions in your brain. However, I cannot measure how happy you feel."

    Don't bet on it.

    "Which is why it's called the Hard Problem of Consciousness."

    The so-called "Hard Problem" is a persistent red herring. It's asking the wrong questions based on an intuition pump called the Cartesian Theater (by Dennett).

    "Everyone else who shares your opinion of the brain being the only component point towards the mind (I.E. your actual experience of being a life form, not the biological correlations) being an illusion generated by chemical interactions and genetic programming derived from evolution."

    This old canard. What is an illusion is the notion of the Cartesian Theatre, a mythical central place in the brain where it all comes together and "someone watching the movie." However, the nature of consciousness is turning out to be very non-intuitive, so one should expect this simplistic analogy based on intuition to give the wrong answer.

    "Hence Daniel Denettes (did I spell that right) Memetic Modules theory, evolutionary psychology, etc."

    I assume from this that you haven't actually read Dennett (you misspelled it). He called his theory the multiple-drafts model in 1991, and later "fame in the brain" and "fantasy echo" (in "Sweet Dreams: Philosophical Obstacles to a Science of Consciousness" 2005). The multiple-drafts model, in common with most current plausible theories of mind, proposes that consciousness is a product of the global broadcasting of modules to the entire brain; the cross-talk between modules is what promotes simple perception to cognition, and to consciousness.

    This tacit assumption of a "Hard Problem" is just dualism in drags. Calling the materialistic explanation of mind (as something emergent and computational) an "illusion" suggests that you really prefer a magical explanation.

    "While I had surmised as much when I heard about this place or more to the point what kind of people posted here, this has served as a mildly entertaining confirmation. I bid you adieu."

    How endearing. And what "kind" of people is that?
    Glad you enjoyed yourself.

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  20. adonais "How endearing. And what "kind" of people is that?"
    He probably meant me. He's got something against nudists.

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  21. @adonais
    I don't know what you're driving at; if you want to remind us that humans and the science conducted by human beings are fallible and less than perfect, you'll get no argument from me.
    I was addressing your "science works" statement. It works thanks to repeatability and testability. Even than due to human factor, errors happen. If you can't verify actual age of fossil, assigned age is only hypothesis and should be regarded as such. It is not.

    Nope. I'm not an expert on dating methods (in any sense), and even those who are will report their numbers with error bars.
    And how do they verify those error bars?

    "What do you say about thousends of testimonies of events claimed to miraculous by witnesses?"

    Those testimonies are data, to be analyzed from a third-person perspective. We know by now all too well that the human brain is a great confabulator, and that the reports produced from first-person experiences have to be treated as data, not as uncontroverted truth. Hundreds of people have reported close encounters with aliens and even being abducted by them - what are we to think of those testimonies if we took the reported first-person experience at face value?

    How can you trust anyone, then? Analysis might be confabulation as well.

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  22. "If you can't verify actual age of fossil, assigned age is only hypothesis and should be regarded as such. It is not."

    Is there some particular fossil that is bothering you, since you keep banging on about it, or are you trying to suggest that there is a systematic error in the dating of ALL fossils, or that the dating methods are too inaccurate to ever give any meaningful answers? Or that scientists are being dishonest with their error bars, or don't know how to estimate them? What exactly is your accusation? Be specific.

    "And how do they verify those error bars?"

    Error bars are estimates, based on the accuracy of the instrument, the quality of the data, size of the statistical sample etc. If you were looking for error bars grounded in God, science will disappoint you.

    "How can you trust anyone, then? Analysis might be confabulation as well."

    I'm not sure you understood what I meant by the word. I was referring to the ability of the human mind to fabricate imaginary experiences and memories unintentionally (deliberate lies are a different thing). Science today is a collective and highly technological enterprise, both aspects reinforcing the third-person approach and warding against first-person fallibility and confabulation.

    For human confabulation to be a serious problem in scientific work, it would have to be systematic and very pervasive, or else it would be caught by those not afflicted with the symptom. This, to the best of my knowledge, is a largely uncharted territory in social psychology, but to the extent to which such a thing could possibly happen, the field of science would appear to be the very least susceptible to this kind of corruption, by its principles of independent verification.

    In stark contrast, mass alien abductions and religious experiences usually offers no way for an investigator applying the third-person approach to independently corroborate the stories. Now you tell me where you think confabulation is a more serious issue.

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  23. I'm coming a bit late to this party, and the essential points have been well covered already, but I'd just like to add this. Nastra (if you're still here), you say:

    Let's assume that this is true then. We can then state that the mind, free-will, etc. do not exist and are merely illusions. If this is true than everything you just said is meaningless. Why? Simple. Because everything you said is the result of chemical reactions and genetic programming.

    This assertion contains an implicit, unproven assumption: that "true" meaning must come from something other than chemical reactions and genetic programming. But that's all we've got: we are, as far as we know, chemical machines running wetware, and that is the whole show. Thus, calling the mind and free will "illusions" is begging the question: all perception is an "illusion" by this standard, and thus renders the term "illusion" useless. I know that some would counter that thought cannot be real if it's not running in something more than wetware, but that is assuming what is to be proven. And as others here have nicely said, there is simply no evidence for any supernatural help for the brain.

    The mind is what the brain does. And sure: consciousness remains a hard problem, partially because our brains are so complex, and partially because we have very strong prejudices about how we think. But that doesn't mean that "goddidit" is any kind of explanation, or the default solution.

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  24. Tremor, what do you have against hypotheses? Gravity is just an hypothesis. Do you worry much about floating away into space because it has never been proved?

    Fossil aging is always regarded as tentative. Ages given represent the best estimate given the evidence available at the time. They are always up for debate and to reevaluation as new relevant information becomes available. If you look at the literature over time you'll see that many dates have been amended over the years. The most recent incident that comes to mind is the work on the advent of photosynthesis glossed here. The idea that scientists pick numbers out their hats to suit their fancies is just reactionary obscurantism.

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  25. With fossils dating I just wanted to give example of not so trustworthy science. You know, I'm reasonable skeptic.

    Can anyone point me to any fossil which was dated with more than one method, result of each is given with error bars?

    @MaskedMarauder
    The idea that scientists pick numbers out their hats to suit their fancies is just reactionary obscurantism.
    So maybe you know how to verify for example that given rock is 2.7 billion-year-old and not, let's say, 1 or 4 billion or only 100 thousend?

    what do you have against hypotheses? Gravity is just an hypothesis. Do you worry much about floating away into space because it has never been proved?
    I thought gravity is an observable fact, we only don't know it's source, nature.
    Hypotheses are good as long as you name them as such.

    @adonais
    I'm not sure you understood what I meant by the word. I was referring to the ability of the human mind to fabricate imaginary experiences and memories unintentionally
    Good guess, I didn't put any thinking in my question, it was rather stupid.

    In stark contrast, mass alien abductions and religious experiences usually offers no way for an investigator applying the third-person approach to independently corroborate the stories. Now you tell me where you think confabulation is a more serious issue.
    Now we touch fascinating topic. Question I like to ask athiests is: what would you consider a convincing prove for existence of Christian God?

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  26. Now we touch fascinating topic. Question I like to ask athiests is: what would you consider a convincing prove for existence of Christian God?

    This is always a fun game to play. The very first thing we need is a good precise and detailed definition and description of just what you mean by the term 'Christian God' and just for good measure we also need to be precise about what you mean by 'existence' and 'proof'.

    It has been my experience that what religionists refer to by the label 'God' is so vaguely and poorly defined that talking about proof of it's existence is a meaningless enterprise.

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  27. Off topic: MaskedMarauder, props on your avatar. I love Krazy Kat- a truly surrealistic and deep cartoon strip. Unfortunately, its only worthy successor, Calvin and Hobbes, is no longer with us.

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  28. tremor: With fossils dating I just wanted to give example of not so trustworthy science. You know, I'm reasonable skeptic.
    Reasonable, how? You reject the conclusions of science and yet you admit you don't follow the issues you take sides on. That's prejudice, not skepticism.

    Can anyone point me to any fossil which was dated with more than one method, result of each is given with error bars?
    In general, fossils are dated from the age of the matrix in which they're embedded. This isn't my field,but there are many examples in the literature, Google is your friend, if you care to look.

    One of the more interesting examples, to my idiosyncratic mind, is the co-dating of the conforming Ouachita formation fragments, one of which is in Arkansas, and the other in Argentina (a chunk of Laurentia (a North America pregenitor) broke off, like Madagascar today, wandered away, and eventually fetched up on what is now South America; the fossils and other geological details of the Arkansas and Argentine formations match). Using multiple methods, the dates of the two chunks of the one ur formation match. See here, and here.

    I thought gravity is an observable fact, we only don't know it's source, nature.
    Hypotheses are good as long as you name them as such.

    Gravity is neither observable nor a fact. Nobody needed Newton to tell them that apples often fell from trees. But, as religionists delight in reminding us, it is faulty logic to conclude that because 1,000 apples are seen to fall from a tree then all apples must fall. Those observations, no matter how many in number, are by themselves "just correlations", not a proof.

    What made Newton famous and important was that he provided the "all apples must fall" part by connecting the apple observations (and many others) with 3 counter factual axioms and an hypothesized force we call "gravity."

    zilch: thanks.... Ignatz sends his brick, er, love.

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  29. Mask wrote:

    What made Newton famous and important was that he provided the "all apples must fall" part by connecting the apple observations (and many others) with 3 counter factual axioms and an hypothesized force we call "gravity."

    I would like to quibble about this statement (or, perhaps, I should say extend). What really made Newton justly famous was that he showed that the reason apples fall was the same reason that cannonballs fly in the certain trajectory and that is the same reason that the Moon and the Planets move as they move. It was the unification of all these disparate and seemingly unrelated things under one set of 'laws' that was truly astounding. (Inventing a whole new branch of mathematics to describe that motion was also pretty astounding.)

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  30. @MaskedMaruder
    "With fossils dating I just wanted to give example of not so trustworthy science. You know, I'm reasonable skeptic."
    Reasonable, how? You reject the conclusions of science and yet you admit you don't follow the issues you take sides on. That's prejudice, not skepticism

    This description fits prof. Dawkins perfectly. Maybe I'm prejudiced, but I'm sure, that if you can't verify your theory, it is as good as presumptions it makes.
    If given two methods give similiar results for the same material it doesn't mean they both give proper results, right?

    There was a time I was quite interested in dating of Lucy. However Johanson's papers are not freely available on Internet as some other, (probably) interesting articles.

    Google is your friend
    Maybe I'm too impatient, but I couldn't find anything that would suit my criteria.

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  31. I think Nastra was talking about NDE like this one:

    The Day I Died 4/6

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  32. tremor: Maybe I'm prejudiced, but I'm sure, that if you can't verify your theory, it is as good as presumptions it makes.
    No theory is ever verified, they're all tentative and contingent on new or newly interpreted knowledge. Any presumptions, such as Newton's 3 axioms, are only as good as their ability to make sense of some observable phenomenon/phenomena. Newton's theory of gravity went out the window when Einstein's General Relativity came in. Now there are a lot of Very Bright People trying to deep six GRT.

    I'm sure its a hard reach for someone looking for imperishable certainties to grasp evanescent understandings, but that's how the world is.

    If given two methods give similiar results for the same material it doesn't mean they both give proper results, right?
    If they're both equally consistent with reason and contemporary knowledge then they do both give proper results. At that point its a coin-flip or an aesthetic judgment to choose between the two in your own mind/work. But neither trumps the other until one or the other has a distinct explanatory advantage the other.

    RE: lucy
    Dating recent fossils has been hard. A lot of remains are found mixed in or near stream beds or other complex situations with mixed signals. I don't know about Lucy in particular, but if you're near a good university library you can probably find the original papers in their stacks. Popularized reports of the material is probably a better bet. Its really difficult to digest a broad subject that is not your own specialty. Citation Index will tell you everyone who cites the original work so you can see what they're saying (for and against) the paper you're interested in.

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