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Author: coolerthanranch Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 25027  
Subject: Consciousness and its relationship to Evolution Date: 6/6/2001 3:23 PM
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I take my philosophical starting point as roughly in accordance with Searle, but a bit more "hard AI" in some ways. In other words: Conciousness is not a thing, but a function of the brain, in the same way that the circulation of blood is not a thing, but a property of the vasculature and heart. It is thus neither an object, nor a non-material entity, but a property which an object posesses. In this view point, the "problem" of qualia is not an insurmountable puzzle for conciousness, but simply a description of part of the concious state. The major difference between conciousness and all other visceral functions is that we view (erroneously) a combination of language and entirely subjective states to discuss the visceral function, forgetting that language and subjective states are the visceral function. It is a cognitive trap that is subtle and elusive.
Penrose, and all the other "spooky" theorists of conciousness avoid several facts:

1. Conciousness is made of parts, and lesion studies show that in humans. Concious experience is not bound into a seamless whole: things are at the edge and the center of experiance depending on circumstances, and circumstances will also cause things to intrude that are not objectively real (hallucinations) and cause objectively real phenomena to drop out of sight (Chronic pain is no longer noticed except as irritability).

2. The brain has a specific architecture, and lesions in the brain cause specific syndromes. These syndromes are best explained by the activity of neurons in those areas, and their anatomical connections. These lesions can also alter the capacity of objects to enter the concious arena, and the capacity of the brain to perform tasks employed by the concious mind (ie they limit the sphere of conscious experiance). Hence, any theory of consciousness must explain these two facts in detail.

The microtubular theory proposes that somehow the thalamic 40hz scanning frequency is necessary for the coherence function of the microtubular arrays. This does not address in any way adequately the fact that much of our concious experience appears to be mediated by overlapping circuits between cortical areas: the function of many thalamic nuclei are more plausibly scanning, switching and weighting of functional importance of cortical and subcortical circuits, rather than a spooky source of quantum coherence. If the theory is so modified as to say that the actions of the thalamic mechanism is reflected by neuronal activity, then all you have to do is remove the quantum coherence bit, and you have the same explanation as the usual neurobiological one, but simply lacking the quantum stuff, and since the necessity of invoking quantum coherence on neurobiological grounds is not clear at all, the whole thing becomes somewhat pointless.

In brief, the only sensible neurobiological approach to conciousness is NOT that it is a manifestation of an event or a thing: it is first and foremost a subjective state. But that is a surprisingly subtle and tricky point: it is a subjective state in an organ that appears to have as its function the generation of particular subjective states, in the same way that blood circulation is a phenomenon in an organ whose function seems to be the maintenance of a particular pattern of circulation. If it were otherwise, then the heart (with its pacing, and its intrinsic microtubules) would be "conscious", and so would the bowels (with their truly substantial innervation and intrinsic pacers). But they don't manifest signs of experiancing subjective states in the same way that brains do, even though they surely have both microtubules and a complex architecture and intrinsic pacing. So........


What does this have to do with evolution? Once you work out what conciousness actually is, then that defines the scope of both its consequences and origins. So all of this it has to do with the idea of specified complexity but it also bears directly and simply on the notion of Intelligent design. Let us now consider the simple idea that conciousness is a prerequisite for the activity of intelligence. Hence conciousness is a prerequisite for design. Now, conciousness is a subjective state of a material brain of some sort (that's our definition). That is the only way we know of it, or can define in it any scientific terms (that's a scientific fact). It is thus impossible in the strongest terms to speak of ID without implicitly assuming a material brain of one form or another. I think we all know what that implies for theists of any type: that if G-d is the designer, G-d has a material brain. If G-d had a material brain, then He would be a natural phenomenon (by definition). Seems to me only a very naive person would accept the notion of ID as scientific evidence of Divine intervention.

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Author: Kazim Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 1424 of 25027
Subject: Re: Consciousness and its relationship to Evolut Date: 6/6/2001 3:30 PM
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Good post, coolerthanranch. I have one question though. You mentioned Searle. I'm not that familiar with him, but my understanding is that Searle claimed (as xebec would) that an algorithmic process can never accurately duplicate intelligence. If I'm not mistaken, Searle wrote the thought experiment about the room with the giant book that teaches you how to speak Chinese without actually knowing what you're saying. Then he basically said "Of course neither you nor the book nor the room is 'thinking' in Chinese, and just running a program can never produce consciousness, only a simulation."

Is that your understanding? Do you disagree with him there?


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Author: coolerthanranch Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 1425 of 25027
Subject: Re: Consciousness and its relationship to Evolut Date: 6/6/2001 5:02 PM
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Well, the point of the example is (and Searle has elaborated since on this), is that symbol manipulation is not conciousness: ie syntactical rules are not sufficient to produce conciousness. Something has to posit a symbol and give it meaning.

Here is where Searle and I part (that's why I said I've got a bit of what he calls "strong Artificial intelligence" to my view): he calls this the "deep" problem of consciousness, whereas I call it a trivial objection. If you look at a grid of light and dark, your visual cortex will be activated in a startlingly similar grid pattern. Your visual cortex will then produce an out put accordingly, that will be transformed from that pattern to another pattern to the assosciative cortices and other areas, which will further encrypt, export and weight the signal depending on context. So the central nervous system is already set up to handle encoded material by its very nature. The positing of an external symbol to represent an internal state is not therefore a big deal: All external signals must be converted to internal states in order to be used, so the adoption of an object as having a significance other than its immediate material meaning (ie the adoption of a symbol) is philosophically trivial: the symbol is immediately converted to an internal state. The neurobiology of learning will handle the rest: many stimuli can aquire the significance of an apparently unrelated state by a variety of mechanisms (the simplest being temporal assosciation). How we are set up to learn language is a very deep problem for empirical science, but honestly, I see it (in principle) as no more than a reflection of a symbol manipulating pathway reflected on itself.

Something has to experience conciousness: it is a subjective quality. Hence whatever runs the set of programs (into my way of thinking) with the appropriate input and output will experience conciousness. However, the syntax is not conciousness. Hence a scientific description of conciousness is of necessity a detailed elaboration of the processes that are necessary and sufficient to be up and running while the organism in question is experiancing conciousness. Conciousness itself cannot be reduced to either circuitry, or to algorithms, because it is neither.

For a typically lucid recent exposition of Searle's ideas, go here.http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/~harnad/Papers/Py104/searle.prob.html

I do not agree with him on everything (as you can see), but he stands out as a very clear writer, either on this subject, or any other.



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Author: xebec Three stars, 500 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 1426 of 25027
Subject: Re: Consciousness and its relationship to Evolut Date: 6/6/2001 5:54 PM
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I would very much like to understand what you are talking about. I am sincere in my attempt and hope you can answer some questions. Please don't think I am being a smart aleck or anything ...


Conciousness is not a thing, but a function of the brain, in the same way that the circulation of blood is not a thing, but a property of the vasculature and heart.

OK. Consciousness is a function: "the proper work, normal action or use, purpose". I would guess 'normal action' to be the best choice.

I am confused by saying the circulation of the blood is a property of the heart, although calling it 'the proper work' seems pretty good. 'Funtion' to me suggests process, while property has a more static connotation.

It is thus neither an object, nor a non-material entity, but a property which an object posesses.

OK, more like a property. So consciousness does not have a real, separate existence. It is "a quality or power" belonging to something.
I can't see why it is 'a normal action' any more. And calling circulation "a quality or power" doesn't seem right.

In this view point, the "problem" of qualia is not an insurmountable puzzle for conciousness, but simply a description of part of the concious state.

First 'conscious state'. Is that different from 'consciousness'? I would guess that a 'conscious state' refers to a situation where an object possess the property of consciousness. But this can't be right because a situation can't have parts. But I am not sure that a property ("a quality or power can have parts either.

And this description. A description is an "account that gives a picture in words." I don't understand how a qualia could be a description. And to what is it a description. To the consciousness which possesses the qualia? A description of a part to the whole?

The major difference between conciousness and all other visceral functions is that we view (erroneously) a combination of language and entirely subjective states to discuss the visceral function, forgetting that language and subjective states are the visceral function.

We are viewing a combination of language (the qualia?) and entirely subjective states to discuss a visceral function. How does one combine language (speech?) and subjective states? And when we view this combination we are making a mistake. Is it a mistake to view it, or is it OK to view it, but we view it incorrectly? Or is the mistake that we have forgotten something while we are engaged in the viewing. Or is it the visceral function that has forgotten something as it views itself? (This last seems to be something that almost makes sense to me.)

It is a cognitive trap that is subtle and elusive.

What is the 'it' here?

In brief, the only sensible neurobiological approach to conciousness is NOT that it is a manifestation of an event or a thing: it is first and foremost a subjective state.

Consciousness in not a manifestion, OK, we know it is either a function or a property. But now it is a state (of what, the brain). State here means "a particular condition"? If the brain is in another state, is it not conscious (sure, when we are asleep!) But it is a subjective state. But subjective means "existing in the mind". So, I guess it is not a state of the brain, but a state of the mind. Frankly, I think we are going to have to describe consciousness without recourse to the notion of subjective it we are going to make progress.

But that is a surprisingly subtle and tricky point: it is a subjective state in an organ that appears to have as its function the generation of particular subjective states, in the same way that blood circulation is a phenomenon in an organ whose function seems to be the maintenance of a particular pattern of circulation.

A subjective state in an organ. A state existing in the mind of an organ? Moreover the function of this organ (is this function consciousness) is to generate subjective states. Consiousness generates states in the mind? Didn't you say consciousness was a state existing in the mind.

. Now, conciousness is a subjective state of a material brain of some sort (that's our definition).

OK. Consciousness is a state of mind of a brain. Got it. Here is the problem I'm having. Where does this 'mind' come from? I think we are going to have to pin this down before we can talk about any particular state of mind.

And in any case if you define consciousness as something which requires a material brain then your conclusions follow trivially.

Seems to me only a very naive person would accept the notion of ID as scientific evidence of Divine intervention.

In that case, what is ID scientific evidence for? Aliens? Yes there are people who believe this.



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Author: xebec Three stars, 500 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 1427 of 25027
Subject: Re: Consciousness and its relationship to Evolut Date: 6/6/2001 6:07 PM
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Something has to experience conciousness: it is a subjective quality. Hence whatever runs the set of programs (into my way of thinking) with the appropriate input and output will experience conciousness.

Now we are back to consciousness being a quality existing in the mind. I hope we can figure out mind before we go on to its qualities (or is it states, or is it a property? A red folding chair has the property of being red, but may have the states of being folded or unfolded. I need a little more precision or else I lose the thread.

And whatever runs the programs .. will experience consciousness. But we've got that mind thing again. Does everything have a mind which may burst forth into consciousness if it is capable of, and happens to, run the appropriate programs?

Hence a scientific description of conciousness is of necessity a detailed elaboration of the processes that are necessary and sufficient to be up and running while the organism in question is experiancing conciousness.

Are these processes like UNIX processes? And consciousness is something which can be experienced? Is it this mind that you keep referencing indirectly that is doing the experiencing? Experiencing: 'that which is seen, felt, or lived through'. Does the organism then sense consciousness like it sees something?

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Author: FastLikeFlash One star, 50 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 1435 of 25027
Subject: Re: Consciousness and its relationship to Evolut Date: 6/7/2001 12:29 AM
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Let us now consider the simple idea that conciousness is a prerequisite for the activity of intelligence. Hence conciousness is a prerequisite for design. Now, conciousness is a subjective state of a material brain of some sort (that's our definition). That is the only way we know of it, or can define in it any scientific terms (that's a scientific fact). It is thus impossible in the strongest terms to speak of ID without implicitly assuming a material brain of one form or another. I think we all know what that implies for theists of any type: that if G-d is the designer, G-d has a material brain. If G-d had a material brain, then He would be a natural phenomenon (by definition). Seems to me only a very naive person would accept the notion of ID as scientific evidence of Divine intervention.

I believe, after reading your post several times over (my head was spinning), that I have finally understood what you mean to say. Consciousness = intelligence, however, consciousness is contingent upon material of some sort (specifically a brain). Since God does not have a material brain, He is incapable of intelligent activity as we can define it theoretically and empirically. Consequently, Intelligent Design arguments cannot be used as scientific evidence of design by God since it contains a contradiction.

Ok, I agree with that somewhat, we cannot define God scientifically. But Dembski, for example, specifically studies the results, the design, not the agent that produced it. Dembski further points out that most new theoretical entities would forever remain off limits if their source had to be fully understood before they could be proposed. Example: Boltzmann's kinetic theory of heat, which invoked the motion of unobservable particles (now called atoms and molecules), which Boltzmann could not explain.

He also uses an analogy. Intelligent design points not to a creator, but to a designer -- a crucial distinction. "If you examine a piece of furniture you can identify that it is designed, but you can't identify who or what is responsible for the wood in the first place. Intelligent design just gets you to an intelligent cause that works with pre-existing materials, but not the source of those materials."

According to Eugenie Scott and biologist/philosopher Michael Ruse, science studies natural causes, and to introduce design is to invoke supernatural causes. Dembski says that this contrast is wrong: "The proper contrast is between undirected natural causes on the one hand and intelligent causes on the other. Whether an intelligent cause is located within or outside nature is a separate question from whether an intelligent cause has acted within nature. Design has no prior commitment to supernaturalism."


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Author: coolerthanranch Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 1444 of 25027
Subject: Re: Consciousness and its relationship to Evolut Date: 6/7/2001 12:31 PM
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Something has to experience conciousness: it is a subjective quality. Hence whatever runs the set of programs (into my way of thinking) with the appropriate input and output will experience conciousness.

Now we are back to consciousness being a quality existing in the mind. I hope we can figure out mind before we go on to its qualities (or is it states, or is it a property? A red folding chair has the property of being red, but may have the states of being folded or unfolded. I need a little more precision or else I lose the thread.

Ummm, my bad. But my bad 'cause its easy to slip into a linguistic trap here. Conciousness is a subjective process that exists in the brain. The mind is a result of that subjective state. Its not a property.

And whatever runs the programs .. will experience consciousness. But we've got that mind thing again. Does everything have a mind which may burst forth into consciousness if it is capable of, and happens to, run the appropriate programs?

No, anything that experiences conciousness can have a mind. Thus anything that runs the programs can experience conciousness.

Hence a scientific description of conciousness is of necessity a detailed elaboration of the processes that are necessary and sufficient to be up and running while the organism in question is experiancing conciousness.

Are these processes like UNIX processes? And consciousness is something which can be experienced? Is it this mind that you keep referencing indirectly that is doing the experiencing? Experiencing: 'that which is seen, felt, or lived through'. Does the organism then sense consciousness like it sees something?

Your last question first: conciousness is a subjective quality, in relationship to the organism the same way being a lawn chair is in relationship to the lawn chair: the lawn chair is a structured composite of materials, but it is only a lawn chair relative to an observer (human), or a breeding ground relative to another observer (mildew). Conciousness is a state that the brain experiences relative to itself. Unlike the color red, which has both subjective and objective aspects, conciousness is purely subjective.



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Author: xebec Three stars, 500 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 1459 of 25027
Subject: Re: Consciousness and its relationship to Evolut Date: 6/7/2001 3:26 PM
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I have read the Searle reference and have some comments. I think it is a great article and but in it Searle simply asserts that consciousness is caused by biological process in the brain. He says alot of people object to this statement. (At least I am not alone.) Searle says that he cannot describe how consciousness comes from biological processes but he says words to the effect

"We do not know how consciousness arises from biological processes, but we know that it does."

To motivate this assertion he points out that 100 years ago when biochemistry was completely unknown life seemed as miraculous as consciousness, and that now we don't understand why anyone would think this unplausible.

Fair enough. But I have a counter analogy. Four hundred years ago (more or less) it was believed that life was spontaneously generated from dead matter. The fact that patent to seventeenth century scientists. I can well imagine one of them saying, "we don't know how it happens, but we do know that it happens."

I cannot follow your agument at all because you use the words consciousness, subjective, and mind all in a circular way. Essentially you are saying:

"Consciousness is a subjective phenomenon arising in the mind." You find no argument here, but I don't think you've explained anything.

Your argument against ID is a formidable one if you accept that that consciousness must exist in some physical structure. Thank you for bringing out the salient features.

Now, are people's opinions:

(1) It is a scientific fact, as certain as any other, that consciousness is a consequence of biological activity.

(2) It is not a scientific fact, but I believe it.

(3) It is not a fact, and I reserve judgement.

(4) It is not a fact, and I don't believe it.

(5) It is a scientific fact that consciousness does not require a physical substrate.

For the record I vote for 3, with a bias towards 4.






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Author: coolerthanranch Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 1460 of 25027
Subject: Re: Consciousness and its relationship to Evolut Date: 6/7/2001 3:34 PM
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I would very much like to understand what you are talking about. I am sincere in my attempt and hope you can answer some questions. Please don't think I am being a smart aleck or anything ...

Ok, but remember, this is slippery stuff, so don't look to me to be an expert: I have to work it through every time I think about it.

Conciousness is not a thing, but a function of the brain, in the same way that the circulation of blood is not a thing, but a property of the vasculature and heart.

OK. Consciousness is a function: "the proper work, normal action or use, purpose". I would guess 'normal action' to be the best choice.

I am confused by saying the circulation of the blood is a property of the heart, although calling it 'the proper work' seems pretty good. 'Funtion' to me suggests process, while property has a more static connotation.


Well, fair enough. But I'm trying to avoid inadvertant teleology at each stage. I'm not saying it isn't a function, I'm just saying that its something that it does.

It is thus neither an object, nor a non-material entity, but a property which an object posesses.

OK, more like a property. So consciousness does not have a real, separate existence. It is "a quality or power" belonging to something.

I can't see why it is 'a normal action' any more. And calling circulation "a quality or power" doesn't seem right.


Ummmmm it (conciousness) has a real existance, but not a separate one. Subjective states are real, and can be causative, but they are not separate from the thing that is experiencing them. It is a normal action, because it is a normal state: its just a unique one. Bolld circulates in the cvasculature: therefore the circulation of blood is a property of blood in the vascularlature. Blood circulates: its a real phenomenon, that is neither the blood, nor the vasculature.

In this view point, the "problem" of qualia is not an insurmountable puzzle for conciousness, but simply a description of part of the concious state.

First 'conscious state'. Is that different from 'consciousness'? I would guess that a 'conscious state' refers to a situation where an object possess the property of consciousness. But this can't be right because a situation can't have parts. But I am not sure that a property ("a quality or power can have parts either.


Would a better word than "part" be "aspect"?

And this description. A description is an "account that gives a picture in words." I don't understand how a qualia could be a description. And to what is it a description. To the consciousness which possesses the qualia? A description of a part to the whole?

OK. The sate of having qualia is simply a state of conciousness. Its merely a restatement of the phenomenon of conciousness, in my opinion. It isn't a "problem" in and of itself, but a reflection of the semantic difficulty.

The major difference between conciousness and all other visceral functions is that we view (erroneously) a combination of language and entirely subjective states to discuss the visceral function, forgetting that language and subjective states are the visceral function.

We are viewing a combination of language (the qualia?) and entirely subjective states to discuss a visceral function. How does one combine language (speech?) and subjective states? And when we view this combination we are making a mistake. Is it a mistake to view it, or is it OK to view it, but we view it incorrectly? Or is the mistake that we have forgotten something while we are engaged in the viewing. Or is it the visceral function that has forgotten something as it views itself? (This last seems to be something that almost makes sense to me.)


The last point is the one I'm driving at: we are using a higher order process (language and introspection) to describe the lower order phenomenon which gives rise to the higher order process: of course the description will be inadequate because the information is encoded entirely differently in the higher order process. It cannot describe simply the lower order processes.

Imagine listening to a choir of people singing harmonies in counterpoint, and then trying to describe, using only harmonies in counterpoint, simple melody. Then show, using only harmonies in counterpoint, how such simple melodies are put together to construct harmonies in simple counterpoint. I'm not saying its impossible, just awkward and difficult.

It is a cognitive trap that is subtle and elusive.

What is the 'it' here?

see above


In brief, the only sensible neurobiological approach to conciousness is NOT that it is a manifestation of an event or a thing: it is first and foremost a subjective state.

Consciousness in not a manifestion, OK, we know it is either a function or a property. But now it is a state (of what, the brain). A subjective state of the functioning brain. State here means "a particular condition"? If the brain is in another state, is it not conscious (sure, when we are asleep!) But it is a subjective state. But subjective means "existing in the mind". No, subjective means relative to an awareness. Awareness is not the same as conciousness. .So, I guess it is not a state of the brain, but a state of the mind. Frankly, I think we are going to have to describe consciousness without recourse to the notion of subjective it we are going to make progress. See above. A brain can be aware without being concious.

But that is a surprisingly subtle and tricky point: it is a subjective state in an organ that appears to have as its function the generation of particular subjective states, in the same way that blood circulation is a phenomenon in an organ whose function seems to be the maintenance of a particular pattern of circulation.

A subjective state in an organ. A state existing in the mind of an organ? Moreover the function of this organ (is this function consciousness) is to generate subjective states. Consiousness generates states in the mind? Didn't you say consciousness was a state existing in the mind. See below

Now, conciousness is a subjective state of a material brain of some sort (that's our definition).

OK. Consciousness is a state of mind of a brain. Got it. Here is the problem I'm having. Where does this 'mind' come from? I think we are going to have to pin this down before we can talk about any particular state of mind.


Above: the difference between conciousness and awareness. Conciousness is a subjective state that a brain is aware of. Does that help? I avoid the word "mind" like a plague: it just screws everything up.

The brain is set up (say of a Drosophila) to receive and integrate stimuli, process them (awareness), make decisions and produce an output. At some point, the activities of the brain become the stimulus that the brain recieves. Consciousness is the result of the brain being aware of its own higher order activities.


And in any case if you define consciousness as something which requires a material brain then your conclusions follow trivially.

Of course they follow trivially, but only if you can demonstrate first that the only way to conceptualise conciousness in empirical terms is to demonstrate that it is a subjective state, and thus something has to experience it. It is a trivial point looked at that way, but people have this idea that it can exist as a disembodied entity, precisely because the mind-body "problem" seems intractable.

Seems to me only a very naive person would accept the notion of ID as scientific evidence of Divine intervention.

In that case, what is ID scientific evidence for? Aliens?


That's the only thing I can come up with too. If it is ID, then we are left with "Time Travel" and "Aliens" as hypotheses. The first seems endlessly circular, and the latter, well, weird.



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Author: Kazim Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 1461 of 25027
Subject: Re: Consciousness and its relationship to Evolut Date: 6/7/2001 4:02 PM
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In that case, what is ID scientific evidence for? Aliens?

That's the only thing I can come up with too. If it is ID, then we are left with "Time Travel" and "Aliens" as hypotheses. The first seems endlessly circular, and the latter, well, weird.


Don't forget "infinitely varying parallel universes".
And don't forget "some other natural process, besides Natural Selection, which hasn't been correctly identified yet".

I mean, if you're going to entertain notions of time travel and aliens, you might as well toss those in there too.

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Author: coolerthanranch Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 1462 of 25027
Subject: Re: Consciousness and its relationship to Evolut Date: 6/7/2001 4:20 PM
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I have read the Searle reference and have some comments. I think it is a great article and but in it Searle simply asserts that consciousness is caused by biological process in the brain. He says alot of people object to this statement. (At least I am not alone.) Searle says that he cannot describe how consciousness comes from biological processes but he says words to the effect

"We do not know how consciousness arises from biological processes, but we know that it does."

To motivate this assertion he points out that 100 years ago when biochemistry was completely unknown life seemed as miraculous as consciousness, and that now we don't understand why anyone would think this unplausible.

Fair enough. But I have a counter analogy. Four hundred years ago (more or less) it was believed that life was spontaneously generated from dead matter. The fact that patent to seventeenth century scientists. I can well imagine one of them saying, "we don't know how it happens, but we do know that it happens."

I cannot follow your agument at all because you use the words consciousness, subjective, and mind all in a circular way. Essentially you are saying:

"Consciousness is a subjective phenomenon arising in the mind." You find no argument here, but I don't think you've explained anything.

Your argument against ID is a formidable one if you accept that that consciousness must exist in some physical structure. Thank you for bringing out the salient features.

Now, are people's opinions:

(1) It is a scientific fact, as certain as any other, that consciousness is a consequence of biological activity.

2) It is not a scientific fact, but I believe it.

(3) It is not a fact, and I reserve judgement.

(4) It is not a fact, and I don't believe it.

(5) It is a scientific fact that consciousness does not require a physical substrate.

For the record I vote for 3, with a bias towards 4.





The argument is not circular: Concsciousness is a subjective experiance of an aware brain. There is huge difference between "aware mind" and "aware brain" and if I confused them, my apologies. Like I say, its tricky.

Put it this way: can a brain hallucinate without being concious? Of course: we could stimulate your visual cortex to make you think you saw a pattern that did not exist. Well, in theory we could do that to a fly as well: stimulate its (say) antennae with electrical discharges so that it would experiance a discharge of impulses in such a way that it would "hear" the wings of another fly when no such fly was present. Hence awareness of a stimulus is not the same as conciousness: conciousness is part of our experiance of awareness.

Point #2: We know that biological activity in the brain is absolutely necessary for manifestations of conciousness. This is an undeniable fact.

We do not know of any other process that is necessary for conciousness. This is also a fact.

The question is: is biological activity sufficient for consciousness in the brain"? After 200 years of searching, we haven't found anything other than philosophical argument that suggests that something other than biological activity is necessary. All we have definately found is that we don't know how the biology works, but that is hardly an objection. We are, after all, discussing the most complex single structure within our knowlege: the brain. Hence, I see no reason to adopt anything other than #1, unless you are going to adopt #3 for everything else too. That's simply a stance, but I have yet to see any empirical evidence that would make me change this stance.


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Author: xebec Three stars, 500 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 1466 of 25027
Subject: Re: Consciousness and its relationship to Evolut Date: 6/7/2001 5:39 PM
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You know when I first read you stuff it seems like your a real crank, but when I try to respond I find it all very suggestive and it is like I sense a real and interesting idea and I follow the thread off into a bog.

Let us try just one sentence:

Concsciousness is a subjective experiance of an aware brain.

The problem I have is with the word "subjective". Subjective means to me "existing in the mind" and is opposed to "objective" existing in the real world.

Now the subjective/objective seems to presuppose a Cartesian Dualism which supposedly nobody believes in anymore but seems so imbedded in the language that we use it is unavoidable.

Somewhere else you suggest that subjectivity is "real" and "causative". The "real" part confuses me because of the Cartesian trap again. I know that some cognitive scientists deny that consciousness is causitive. That is because it is subjective and hence not real in the objective sense. They solve Chalmer's hard problem simply by saying there is no problem because consciousness is not objective and hence doesn't exist scientifically.

Any way I need to know what you mean by subjective and its relationship to objective. How does an objective phenomenon transmute into a subjective phenomenon?

-----------------

As a PS, why do you discard "spooky" quantum consciousness theories so cavalierly? Why do you feel consciousness must be explained classically? I know why you want it to be true, but I don't see any justification for just throwing it out. There are other theories than microtubules.



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Author: coolerthanranch Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 1476 of 25027
Subject: Re: Consciousness and its relationship to Evolut Date: 6/8/2001 11:20 AM
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You know when I first read you stuff it seems like your a real crank, but when I try to respond I find it all very suggestive and it is like I sense a real and interesting idea and I follow the thread off into a bog.

Hi ho. Well, I'm glad you don't think I'm a crank, anyways ;-)

Let us try just one sentence:

Concsciousness is a subjective experiance of an aware brain.

The problem I have is with the word "subjective". Subjective means to me "existing in the mind" and is opposed to "objective" existing in the real world.


I think the problem you are having is with the word "mind". "Mind " has so many connotations that I simply do not know any longer what it means, and every time I read a definition of it, I find myself entangled in a blob of wax in which so many processes are mixed up that its very hard to think clearly at all. "subjective" is a word that applies to qualities that only exist relative to an awareness.

Not all awraenesses are concious: most human awareness occurs while humans are conscious, but in pathological states (decorticate states) the subject is aware in a limited sense (ie his remaining brain is in a state of arousal which, had he more brain, would manifest conciousness) in that he can track objects moving across the visual field (for instance) whch demonstrates that information is getting in, being processed and acted on, yet there is no sign of coordinated function that we would assosciate with consciousness. Worms are certainly aware, but no one accuses them of conciousness.

Conciousness exists only relative to an awareness: it is a purely subjective state. That I think is Searles important point. However, conciousness surely affects that awareness, and hence affects the organism directly. Thus it is real, subjective and causal.

Now the subjective/objective seems to presuppose a Cartesian Dualism which supposedly nobody believes in anymore but seems so imbedded in the language that we use it is unavoidable.

See above. I agree that it is tricky, but not completely avoidable.

Somewhere else you suggest that subjectivity is "real" and "causative". The "real" part confuses me because of the Cartesian trap again. I know that some cognitive scientists deny that consciousness is causitive. That is because it is subjective and hence not real in the objective sense. They solve Chalmer's hard problem simply by saying there is no problem because consciousness is not objective and hence doesn't exist scientifically.

Yeah, well, I think they are sticking their heads in the sand.

Any way I need to know what you mean by subjective and its relationship to objective. How does an objective phenomenon transmute into a subjective phenomenon?

See above.

As a PS, why do you discard "spooky" quantum consciousness theories so cavalierly? Why do you feel consciousness must be explained classically? I know why you want it to be true, but I don't see any justification for just throwing it out. There are other theories than microtubules.

Mainly (though there are some other reasons) because the spooky theories do not really explain the structure of the CNS, or its functional anatomy. From a purely philosophical view, consciousness is indeed a marvelous and fascinating phenomenon, but from the point of view of science, the most fascinating aspect of the brain is its spectacular, humbling, awe inspiring, mind numbing complexity. There really is no other natural object remotely in the same class for compact, astounding complexity, and the sheer dynamism, plasticity and fragility of the microanatomy makes its analysis more daunting still. It beats everything else hands down.



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Author: Kazim Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 1479 of 25027
Subject: Re: Consciousness and its relationship to Evolut Date: 6/8/2001 11:55 AM
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Not all awraenesses are concious: most human awareness occurs while humans are conscious, but in pathological states (decorticate states) the subject is aware in a limited sense (ie his remaining brain is in a state of arousal which, had he more brain, would manifest conciousness) in that he can track objects moving across the visual field (for instance) whch demonstrates that information is getting in, being processed and acted on, yet there is no sign of coordinated function that we would assosciate with consciousness. Worms are certainly aware, but no one accuses them of conciousness.

Interesting. I wonder exactly what level of awareness one needs to be considered conscious. Whether a worm is conscious or not (perhaps a better term would be "sentient") might actually be open to some interpretation. Would you consider rats or dogs to be sentient? I have both as pets, and they both seem quite intelligent at times.

Is there, conceivably, an absolute test by which we may say "X is sentient and Y is not"? Or are there varying degrees of sentience which blur into each other?


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Author: coolerthanranch Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 1480 of 25027
Subject: Re: Consciousness and its relationship to Evolut Date: 6/8/2001 12:03 PM
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To follow up:

To say that proposing a designer of life says nothing about the designer is completely ignoring the unity of scientific endeavor. While we all recognise that some systems possess higher order features that others do not, there is also a consensus that sytems should be explicable in common terms, that is to say that chemistry should be explicable in terms of quantum mechaninics, that cell biology should be explicable in terms of chemistry, and that physiology should be explicable in terms of cell biology. None of this denies that physiology is not reducible to cell biology, because higher order process emerge from the events of cell biology (eg the circulation of blood) but a phenomenonthat is proposed in one area of science should be examined in the light of other areas of science. Hence the idea that blood circulates in humans can be examined in the light of what is known about plumbing and pumps, and vice versa. When we do so, we realise that there are properties of the vasculature that do not apply to pipes and plumbing (eg resiliant capacitance vessels) and our knowlege of hemodynamics is improved. Circulation is thus not an isolated idea. Similarly, ID must be examined in the light of all other sciences, and having done so, points you only in the direction of space aliens. I fail to see how anyone can avoid this simple point.


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Author: xebec Three stars, 500 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 1481 of 25027
Subject: Re: Consciousness and its relationship to Evolut Date: 6/8/2001 12:08 PM
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Is there, conceivably, an absolute test by which we may say "X is sentient and Y is not"? Or are there varying degrees of sentience which blur into each other?

Some quantum consciousness proponents suggest that any animal that dreams is conscious. I am not sure why they think this, but I kind of like the idea.

I'd like to talk about dreams and what they mean about the nature of consciousness (as opposed to their symbolism and stuff), but don't know the appropriate forum. On these message boards I have to defend every single niggling point by people who attack me almost reflexively (and I'm not referring to you, Kazim). Maybe its my fault this has happened. But it would be nice to have a discussion where I could take a chance and say something that might be silly and not have to worry about somebody trashing me for it.


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Author: FastLikeFlash One star, 50 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 1482 of 25027
Subject: Re: Consciousness and its relationship to Evolut Date: 6/8/2001 12:59 PM
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Some quantum consciousness proponents suggest that any animal that dreams is conscious. I am not sure why they think this, but I kind of like the idea.

I like the idea myself. Fish for example, seem to always be in a subconscious state because as far as I know, many fish do not sleep the way most animals do. Their awareness is only dulled slightly in the dark, from what I can tell, and therefore, I do not believe that (most) fish sleep, or posses consciousness, and this rules out the possibility of a fish dreaming I think.

I'm extremely curious if Helen Keller was able to dream before she learned language. She said: "When I learned the meaning of 'I' and 'me' and found that I was something, I began to think. Then consciousness first existed for me". This puzzles me in several ways, almost paradoxically. How could she learn language if consciousness did not exist in her world? But then, how could consciousness exist for her without langauge?

I think that she possessed a certain capacity of consciousness and language (within the mind) already, but it was expanded tremendously when she learned a communicative language.

There's basically four levels of consciousness from what I can see:

1) Consciousness within one sense
2) Consciousness where all the sensory systems are integrated.
3) Consciousness where all the sensory systems are integrated with emotions.
4) Consciousness where sensory systems and emotions are integrated and thoughts are in symbolic language.



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Author: coolerthanranch Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 1484 of 25027
Subject: Re: Consciousness and its relationship to Evolut Date: 6/8/2001 1:20 PM
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Whether a worm is conscious or not (perhaps a better term would be "sentient") might actually be open to some interpretation. Would you consider rats or dogs to be sentient? they both seem quite intelligent at times.

i dunno bout rats. Possibly. Dogs definitely. They have internal lives: they dream, mourn, love...

Is there, conceivably, an absolute test by which we may say "X is sentient and Y is not"? Or are there varying degrees of sentience which blur into each other?

I really don't know, and this I think is one of the more interesting questions.




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Author: Kazim Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 1485 of 25027
Subject: Re: Consciousness and its relationship to Evolut Date: 6/8/2001 1:33 PM
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i dunno bout rats. Possibly. Dogs definitely. They have internal lives: they dream, mourn, love...

Our rat is DEFINITELY smarter than our dog. The dog is a toy poodle who was bred by my mother in law. Very cute and excitable, but his favorite pastimes are running around in clockwise circles very very fast, barking at inanimate objects, and finding junk to put in his mouth. He will engage in any of these activities for hours and not get bored. The rat, on the other hand, is a very intelligent animal who follows people around the house, explores, and remembers where she stashed things. She will also scale up the leg of a person as they sit in a chair, and crawl up onto their shoulder to hang out.

I would say the dog has the intelligence of an infant, while the rat has the intelligence of a 2 or 3 year old. There's a good reason why they use rats in psychology experiments.

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Author: FastLikeFlash One star, 50 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 1486 of 25027
Subject: Re: Consciousness and its relationship to Evolut Date: 6/8/2001 1:52 PM
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Our rat is DEFINITELY smarter than our dog. The dog is a toy poodle who was bred by my mother in law. Very cute and excitable, but his favorite pastimes are running around in clockwise circles very very fast, barking at inanimate objects, and finding junk to put in his mouth. He will engage in any of these activities for hours and not get bored. The rat, on the other hand, is a very intelligent animal who follows people around the house, explores, and remembers where she stashed things. She will also scale up the leg of a person as they sit in a chair, and crawl up onto their shoulder to hang out.

I would say the dog has the intelligence of an infant, while the rat has the intelligence of a 2 or 3 year old. There's a good reason why they use rats in psychology experiments.


My vote is # 2 for your rat, and # 3 for your dog even though it may be of lesser intelligence between the two.

1) Consciousness within one sense
2) Consciousness where all the sensory systems are integrated.
3) Consciousness where all the sensory systems are integrated with emotions.
4) Consciousness where sensory systems and emotions are integrated and thoughts are in symbolic language.



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Author: nf Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 1495 of 25027
Subject: Re: Consciousness and its relationship to Evolut Date: 6/8/2001 10:48 PM
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Mr.Ranch,

Post 1423.Are you applying effort to making the possibly understandible un-understandible?

Try to keep it as simple as possible without diminishing your point.

Chris

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Author: nf Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 1501 of 25027
Subject: Re: Consciousness and its relationship to Evolut Date: 6/9/2001 11:39 PM
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ow, are people's opinions:

(1) It is a scientific fact, as certain as any other, that consciousness is a consequence of biological
activity.


Not knowing what I am stepping into,this is my choise.

If my heart stopped I do believe consciousness would soon end.

Chris

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Author: beckyz51 Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 1502 of 25027
Subject: Re: Consciousness and its relationship to Evolut Date: 6/10/2001 12:38 AM
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Hi Xebec!
First explain UNIX processes, please:)

Then, on this consciousness business---Are "mind" and "brain" supposed to be different? That wouldn't make any sense. When you have brain damage, you can lose consciousness and part of your mind--a brain tumor, for instance, can completely change your personality( I knew a girl in high school who had a brain tumor. She was the sweetest girl, then in a few months she completely changed--not incredible for a teenager.
So, thinking she was just 'acting out' no one took her to the doctor until 'physical' problems arose.
I see the brain keeping all the info that is 'us'--If it gets damaged
we aren't 'us' anymore, because we lose whatever was in the damaged part.
My husband has MS. He used to be able to remember appointments months away and everything else. My memory is not good, so that was a blessing . Now, he forgets whole pieces of our life together. I can repeat the whole incident to him and it doesn't help. It's gone. A phone call he got yesterday---gone. Who called? And I talked to her? Gone.
Personality changes would be worse. Especially if a 'church lady' didn't believe in God any more. Will she go to heaven? I think so.
Her 'mind' was partially destroyed in that part of her brain.
Otherwise, the mind would not be 'tangible'. What, some untouchable
thing. Supernatural.
Beckyz

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Author: xebec Three stars, 500 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 1508 of 25027
Subject: Re: Consciousness and its relationship to Evolut Date: 6/10/2001 10:30 AM
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Hi Becky!

First explain UNIX processes, please:)

UNIX is an operating system mostly used on big server boxes, like SUN computers. A process on UNIX is just a program that is running. You can have many simultaneous processes.

Then, on this consciousness business---Are "mind" and "brain" supposed to be different? That wouldn't make any sense. When you have brain damage, you can lose consciousness and part of your mind--a brain tumor, for instance, can completely change your personality( I knew a girl in high school who had a brain tumor. She was the sweetest girl, then in a few months she completely changed--not incredible for a teenager.

I think that mind and brain are different ideas. We talk about "brain damage" and not mind damage. And you can loose your mind without losing your brain. But certainly the mind and brain are intimately related. The scientific fact that I am certain of is that you can't have a mind without a brain, but this is a weaker statement than saying the mind arises from the brain. To use an analogy, you can't listen to a radio program without a radio, but the radio program doesn't arise from the internal workings of the radio.

I see the brain keeping all the info that is 'us'--If it gets damaged
we aren't 'us' anymore, because we lose whatever was in the damaged part.

It is certainly true that the brain keeps all this info, and here the radio analogy breaks down.

From this and another post I know that you identify your self with your personality. (That was a great article you posted before. I ought to have gone over to the Political Asylum board and taunted them with the fact that when a certain part of the brain is damaged you start prefering Taco Bell to French cuisine, and liberal politics to conservative politics.)

Personality changes would be worse. Especially if a 'church lady' didn't believe in God any more. Will she go to heaven? I think so.
Her 'mind' was partially destroyed in that part of her brain.
Otherwise, the mind would not be 'tangible'. What, some untouchable
thing. Supernatural.


Yes, it is all so very mysterious. I, too, have many more questions than answers. I feel that "mind", "consciousness", "soul", "spirit" is an objectively real and fundamental aspect of the universe.

Yesterday morning I woke up with the peculiar thought:

"You can't go to the grocery store and say to the clerk: 'I would like a pound of information, please'."


And I wonder: is information objectively real? Does information exist if there is no mind to be informed? When the first living cell formed in whatever way it did, was there information?

I read somebody's opinion that LIFE = MATTER + INFORMATION; I don't think this is controversial. The argument between ID and Darwinists is often framed as to where this information comes from. But what exactly is being informed by that information?

Dembski has asserted a "law" which says "Information cannot be created or destroyed". I don't know what this means, or whether or not it makes any sense. But thinking that such a law may be a sensible thing to assert seems to be granting information an existence as real and objective as that of matter.

Is this a sensible procedure? Is information as objectively real as matter. Taking the equation LIFE = MATTER + INFORMATION, can we then form the equation INFORMATION = LIFE - MATTER? The anatomists cannot find a soul when they dissect a body. Can they find information?

But I wonder what the materialists think they are talking about when they are talking about information.

The old formula was

LIFE = BODY + SOUL

The new one

LIFE = MATTER + INFORMATION

Is it possible that the materialists have just renamed an old discredited concept with a shiny new name?

It is too nice a Sunday to spend sitting in front of a computer.



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Author: nf Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 1524 of 25027
Subject: Re: Consciousness and its relationship to Evolut Date: 6/10/2001 11:10 PM
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Xebec,

I'd like to talk about dreams and what they mean about the nature of consciousness (as opposed
to their symbolism and stuff), but don't know the appropriate forum. On these message boards I
have to defend every single niggling point by people who attack me almost reflexively (and I'm not
referring to you, Kazim). Maybe its my fault this has happened. But it would be nice to have a
discussion where I could take a chance and say something that might be silly and not have to
worry about somebody trashing me for it.


So do I. How about nc for non-combat as a thred title prefex.Of course
a subthred (probably co for combat-orented) will certainly show up.

Chris

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Author: beckyz51 Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 1546 of 25027
Subject: Re: Consciousness and its relationship to Evolut Date: 6/13/2001 8:37 AM
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Xebec!
I so enjoyed this post!

We talk about "brain damage" and not mind damage. And you can loose your mind without losing your brain.
------
Hmmm. My understanding of 'losing your mind' is being mentally ill.
If you agree, then the brain chemicals are to blame. In my case, seritonin is the culprit. My body produces it but for some reason it just 'falls out' so to speak. So, to be 'normal'(whatever that means!),
I need to take daily medication to replace it, or beef it up. If I forget to take it, in a day or two I am blubbering 24 hours a day about the world being better off without me. I never miss a day any more---
my family is hurt too badly. It's strange how one chemical can turn your outlook on life around. So, I believe the brain also controls the losing of one's mind. I believe the brain makes those chemicals-mstack?
------------------------------------------------------------------------

I think that mind and brain are different ideas. We talk about "brain damage" and not mind damage. And you can loose your
mind without losing your brain. But certainly the mind and brain are intimately related. The scientific fact that I am certain of is
that you can't have a mind without a brain, but this is a weaker statement than saying the mind arises from the brain.

-----

I agree that you can't have a mind without a brain. And that leads me to believe that the mind is stored in the brain. Which makes me think about the term 'soul'. Mind, will and emotions, right? Basically,
the 'soul' is who you are, what makes you-YOU! The question I have on this is that I believe that when the body dies, the soul and spirit survive until God gives us new bodies at the resurrection. I can't figure where our mind would be stored then. But a religious question
can be answered by God's ability to do what we can't. I just hate it when I come up with more questions for "my list" (to ask God, when I see Him)
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

Yesterday morning I woke up with the peculiar thought:

"You can't go to the grocery store and say to the clerk: 'I would like a pound of information, please'."


And I wonder: is information objectively real? Does information exist if there is no mind to be informed? When the first living
cell formed in whatever way it did, was there information?

--------------

LOL! You share a trait of my kids and I. You think too much! We share this type of question often! We think God should have put an 'off' switch on our brains so we could sleep at night!

On the 'pound of info' technically, you could get a pound of 'magazines'!:)

I would think that info is real, just like the laws of science. When the Big Bang happened, I believe everything ever needed for the universe to be was sent out. So, info had to be included. We are understanding
it little by little and once we hit a certain point, faster and faster as Daniel predicted. He didn't understand what he wrote in his 'book'
and asked about it. But was told to close the book and seal it for the future when "Many will go here and there to increase knowledge." I don't see increased knowledge to be new info, but that which always was and is being understood for the first time.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

But I wonder what the materialists think they are talking about when they are talking about information.

The old formula was

LIFE = BODY + SOUL

The new one

LIFE = MATTER + INFORMATION

Is it possible that the materialists have just renamed an old discredited concept with a shiny new name?
-----------------
They left SPIRIT out of the first one(too religious-intangible)

Then the second one implies SOUL and INFORMATION are the same. They sort of are, but I personally believe that any Bible term has to go. I know--PARANIOD! Not from what I've read. And I don't mean 'religious'
articles.

Thanks for the laugh! Let's do it again some time. You know, I went back to the first posts today looking for the posts I laughed at when I first got here--those were happy days. Wish we could lighten up again.

Becky

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