On Aug 26, 4:38 pm, meekerdb <meeke...@verizon.net> wrote:
> On 8/26/2011 1:14 PM, Craig Weinberg wrote:
> > That's the problem. You're interested in the wrong thing. Cells and
> > organsims are not billiard balls. If you treat them as predictable
> > mechanisms, you lose the very dimension that you are trying to
> > emulate.
> It's not a question of "treating" them as predictable; so far as anyone
> has been able to tell they *are* predictable.  No one has found any
> evidence that they do not behave according to the known laws of physics
> and chemistry - which means they are predictable. What evidence do you
> have to the contrary?

None of what goes on in a cell could be predicted purely by chemistry.
If you were down at the level of individual atoms, you would have no
possible clue of the existence of anything like a cell, just as
looking at the surface of a TV screen with a microscope excludes the
possibility of making sense of a movie being watched.

You have to grasp this concept of perceptual frame of reference. A
cell is not the same thing as molecules - it's meta-molecular. Most of
what a cell does makes sense in pure chemical terms, like most of what
an animal does makes sense in purely cellular terms. It has absolutely
nothing to do with defying physics or chemistry, it's that the
reliable, predictable levels of physical reality are routinely
manipulated to serve the purposes, whims, and fantasies of meta-meta-
meta organic entities.

> > The unpredictable behavior of a cell doesn't arise out of
> > complexity, it arises out of a higher order of simplicity that organic
> > molecules facilitate.
> "Higher order simplicity"??  More magic or more poetry?

Do you consider cells and bodies magic or poetic? What about higher
order simplicity sounds like witchcraft to you?

>  You seem to be
> agreeing that complexity is not sufficient to make cells unpredictable.  
> So in principle the complex behavior of the cell could be predicted even
> at the molecular level.  You are claiming this prediction would fail
> because of ...what?

No. You're equating simplicity with microcosm. That's what I mean by
higher order simplicity and perceptual frames of reference. You can't
predict how a baseball game will turn out by looking at nothing but
the trajectories of baseballs in previous games. That is exactly what
substance monism suggests by insisting that the macrocosm can always
be predicted by scaling up the microcosm. I didn't think that kind of
mechanistic view is even taken seriously anymore, even in the hard
sciences. All that went out the window in the 20th century.

The prediction fails because it's basing the prediction on the wrong
thing. What we think about has an effect on our body on a systemic
level. The neurons behavior is caught up in that like we're caught up
in weather systems. We make brain hurricanes happen just by thinking
about something we enjoy or hate. Those make floods and blackouts the
tissues of our gut and sweat glands. It's no big voodoo - it's the
ordinary way that we function and experience our lives.

> >> >  Similarly with an artificial neuron, for the purposes of this
> >> >  discussion we are interested only in whether it stimulates the other
> >> >  neurons with the same timing and in response to the same inputs as a
> >> >  biological neuron would.
> > Even if you could create an artificial neuron which could impersonate
> > the responsiveness of an natural one, it wouldn't matter because it
> > still doesn't feel anything.
> How do you know it doesn't feel anything?  How do you know it doesn't
> feel exactly the same as the neuron it replaced?

Because there is no reason to imagine it would. How do I know that a
ventrilioquist's dummy doesn't feel anything? Because I know it's a
manufactured artifact that has no living tissue in it. Same reason a
semiconductor array has no feeling. I don't *know* know it has no
feeling, but I think that whatever it does have is likely on the
microcosmic level rather than a higher order simplicity, and I think
that because of that it's likely not to be very similar to the
feelings of a conscious Homo sapien.

> How do you know the
> feeling of either the neuron or the artificial neuron has an effect on
> what you would feel?

Because we can feel it when we use transcranial magnetic stimulation
or a taser to change the electromagnetic conditions of our neurons.

>  We know from operations on the brain that
> electrostimulation may evoke memories, the sound of a melody, and other
> qualia.  The subject never says, "That felt like electrostimulation." or
> "That didn't produce any feelings."

You could have electrostimulation to a lot of parts of your brain and
you wouldn't feel it. Only areas relevant to your perception and
cognition would end up being experienced in real time by you. I think
that the perceptual frame determines whether the stimulation is felt
as blind electric shock or a sound or a memory, but it's not really
debatable whether changes to neurons affect how we feel and how we can
act. That's why we care about neurology, because brain cancer and
spinal cord injuries aren't a sometimes bad thing, there is an
established correlation.

Could artificial neurons be used to repair a severed spinal cord?
Sure. If the rest of the spine is healthy then you can use a
prosthetic to telegraph the connection from brain to body across the
gap. Maybe you can even replace the whole spinal cord, because that's
how a person feels and moves their body, but if you replace the brain,
you have replaced the person themselves.


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