On 9/4/2011 4:10 AM, Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
On Sun, Sep 4, 2011 at 1:32 AM, Craig Weinberg<whatsons...@gmail.com>  wrote:

Well, either the atoms got into the book by following the rules of
physics or they got there by magic. What other options are there? This
does not mean that the rules of physics are all known, all
deterministic or all computable; but whatever they are, the atoms in
the universe bounce around according to them and end up in books,
stars and people.
Whatever physical phenomena are observed to be doing, the laws of
physics are extended to allow for. Quantum mechanics is magic, until
physicists call it physics. It's upside down to imagine that our
observations need to fit into our existing rule book, especially when
those observations (like first person singular subjectivity, free
will, qualia, feeling, awareness, perception, etc) both cannot be
denied and cannot be explained within the existing rules.

If I were more of a materialist, I would say that the odds that we
happen to be living in the one era of all of history when our
knowledge of physics coincides with objective truth are astronomically
unlikely and radically anthropocentric. Given our collective history
of willingness to cling to irrational superstition and shortsighted or
premature scientific theory, I see no reason to consider our
contemporary chapter of science any more sacrosanct than that of
centuries past. History has shown that we have always been completely
wrong about the universe. Until our explanation of the universe
accounts fully for all subjective and objective phenomena in their
native presentations, it seems obvious that we have a long long way to
go. Right now, particle physics accounts for human experience about as
much as the Holy Trinity accounts for quarks.
Nothing really new has turned up in the physics underlying the brain
in over a century, since all the discoveries since are consistent with
organic chemistry, a subject reasonably well-understood even in the
nineteenth century. However, it is possible that something
fundamentally novel will turn up at some future point. In that case,
the brain will still follow the laws of physics, just laws that we
previously didn't know about. The brain's behaviour will still be
computable and therefore the brain's consciousness will still be
computable if the new laws are computable. If the new laws are not
computable it might still be possible to make artificial brain
components using non-computational devices, and consciousness would
still be preserved.

In a sense it is true that particle physics does not explain human
experience, and this is what Chalmers called the "Hard Problem" of
consciousness. It does not just apply to known physics, it applies to
any naturalistic theory of consciousness. If we show that the brain
contains dark matter, and the dark matter is responsible for
consciousness, it is still possible to say, "But when I see dark
matter, I don't see thoughts and feelings". And you can make that
observation in response to any theory at all.

And no just to theories of consciousness. When Newton was challenged to explain the cause of gravity he replied, "Hypothesi non fingo". What we think of as successful scientific theories are ones that have descriptive and predictive power. They don't conform to our anthropic instinct for emotion and purpose. It takes some scientific training to give up the intuition that protons and weather and gravity must have purposes. That's why I predict that the "hard problem" will just be bypassed by ever more successful engineering of aritificial intelligence. It will be like the question of what causes gravity and what is life.


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