On Thu, Sep 8, 2011 at 11:16 PM, Craig Weinberg <whatsons...@gmail.com> wrote:

>> Ion channels open and close in response to neurotransmitters or
>> voltage changes.
> A voltage change is nothing but the 3-p view of a sensorimotive
> change. It arises spontaneously from the 1-p sense of the situation. A
> crowd wave is caused by individual people standing up and sitting
> down, but it doesn't explain how and why thousands of people are
> getting up and sitting down in a self-coordinated pattern. To say that
> ion channels open and close *in response* to neurotransmitters or
> voltage changes is to say that they detect electromagnetic and
> electrochemical conditions in their environment.

A crowd wave is a good example of what we are talking about. You can
create one with a simple rule: "stand up when you see the person to
your left stand up, then sit down again". The individuals in the crowd
don't need to understand anything about what is going on, they just
need to follow the rule. The wave is an emergent phenomenon which you
can see if you stand back and look at the whole crowd. Similarly with
neurons: they each follow simple rules, and they are not aware of the
grand picture, which is the emergent phenomenon of intelligence and
consciousness. There is no spirit of the crowd wave directing the
individuals in the crowd, and there is no spirit of consciousness
directing the neurons. The low level behaviour completely accounts for
the high level behaviour.

> That they 'respond' is to say they exercise motive participation with
> their environment which satisfies the conditions of their initial
> sense. They feel that the chemical conditions of their medium have
> changed, and if they can make sense of that change in terms which
> require their motor compliance, then they will, to the extent that
> they can, move or change themselves to effect the necessary change.

What? A ligand-activated ion channel opens because it is a protein
which changes its shape when a small molecule, the neurotransmitter,
lodges in one of its nooks and changes the protein's shape by pushing
and pulling at it. If this doesn't happen then the ion channel won't

>>The neurotransmitters or voltage changes are, in
>> their turn, triggered by other neurons firing, which are triggered by
>> ion channels opening in those neurons, and so on.
> The fact that different neurotransmitters have different effects on
> different neurons should be a hint that the chemistry by itself is not
> unilaterally commanding the brain. The neurons themselves have to be
> sensitive to particular electrochemical conditions and be able to
> respond individually and as a group in a synchronized and syncopated
> manner.

The structure of the receptor protein determines what neurotransmitter
it will respond to, as biochemists have known for many years. How do
you propose that it works?

>> This is all
>> well-established scientific fact. If an ion channel opened without an
>> identifiable trigger (and that would include quantum level events that
>> may be random) that would be a remarkable scientific discovery, and if
>> it happens all the time as you claim then surely it would have been
>> observed over decades of scientific research. It would be like
>> observing that doors open and close due to their own whim, and not
>> because of the wind or vibrations from passing trucks or any other
>> identifiable cause.
> Every time you reiterate this red herring it reminds me that you
> either don't understand what I'm saying or you aren't listening. If I
> could, I would put up billboard sized letters here saying, again, I am
> NOT suggesting anything unscientific whatsoever. You're the one saying
> that consciousness and free will must be some kind of metaphysical
> delusion made out of nothing. I am saying that the pixels of this
> screen need not do anything unusual or unscientific to present an
> infinite portal of human sense to us.

Well, I don't understand. Can you clearly state, do the neurons
respond only to measurable physical stimuli, or do they other things
as well? I understand that you think they respond to mental events,
but if mental events supervene on physical events, then we would only
observe neurons engaging in predictable, mechanistic behaviour. If, on
the other hand, physical events supervene on metal events we would see
neurons doing magical things; for example, we would see ion channels
opening all by themselves, in the absence of any environmental
changes. You might not like it, but that's how magic is defined.

>> Why do you think that the feeling your decisions are not determined
>> means that they are in fact not determined?
> It doesn't matter whether the content of your feelings of free will
> are factually not determined since the fact of the existence of those
> feelings at all makes no sense in a deterministic universe. You can
> choose to model a deterministic universe that is inexplicably
> determined to pretend it is not deterministic - which is fine for
> certain applications and scales physiological-neurological resolution
> where the image of the human psyche breaks down into granular sub-
> identity phenomena, but to literally believe that model and hold to it
> on the macrocosmic level has negative consequences.
> You would have to constantly remind yourself that you have no choice
> but to constantly remind yourself that you are a helpless puppet of
> electrochemical forces. It doesn't fit with the plain common sense
> realism of our lives wherein we routinely read and write what we think
> based upon our own human-scale experiences and ideas, having nothing
> whatsoever to do with serotonin reuptake diffusion gradients or
> whatever neural correlates are associated with it.
> The pattern of our lives and experience is the invariance - the
> continuity of semantic coherence *through* and *in spite of* the
> neurochemistry. We fight our nature. As the saying goes 'You cannot go
> against nature, because when you do go against nature, it's part of
> nature too." A narrowly deterministic view of the universe precludes
> any sort of experience of any sort of fighting - whatever principle is
> destined to overcome another principle in a particular local situation
> will always win, therefore it would be a nonsensical violation of
> parsimony to insert some theater of ambition where there is no need
> for it.

I'm quite happy with a deterministic outlook but even if I were not,
that has no bearing on whether reality is in fact deterministic. I
would prefer it not to be raining, but my wish does not affect the

>> You seem to think that in order to have an adequate model of how an
>> entity will behave you need to know every input it is going to receive
>> for the rest of time, but I don't know where you get this idea.
> It depends what the entity is. If it's a living organism. then you
> won't know exactly how it's going to behave even if you do know every
> input it is going to receive for the rest of time. Even the entity
> doesn't know how it's going to behave. When someone dies, will you be
> shocked? Calm? Sad? Crying hysterically? Nobody knows. Just like you
> don't know where I get this idea - I don't know either. Nobody does.
> No model can predict it. It's the ingression of sensorimotive novelty
> through the sieve of timespace-massenergy.

Again, you seem to completely misunderstand the concept of a model. A
billiard ball does not know the future and does not need to know the
future. All it needs to do is follow simple rules consistent with
conservation of momentum when other billiard balls hit it. A model of
billiard ball behaviour needs to take into account these simple rules,
and given any initial state of the billiard balls it can predict
future states. You run the model and see how things turn out, just as
you hit the billiard balls and see how things turn out.

>> It is possible to predict exactly what the TV screen will display
>> given (a) knowledge of the TV's structure, (b) knowledge of the radio
>> waves the antenna picks up, and (c) an adequate model for how the TV
>> responds to radio waves.
> You're saying here that if we can predict exactly what a TV screen
> will display if we make a model that is the same TV screen. If you
> make another TV, and tune it to the same channel as the first, you
> think that you are 'predicting' what the TV screen will display. Tell
> me, how does knowledge of how to build a TV and knowledge of what has
> been on channel 12 for the last year and an adequate model for how the
> TV receives programs tell me who is going to win the Superbowl next
> year?

There are multiple electronic simulation programs available, and with
little expertise you can draw a circuit and see how it will behave
without going to the trouble of building it. If you simulate an
analogue TV circuit, then the program will tell you what the output
will be given a certain input at the antenna. The simulation won't
tell you who will win the Superbowl next year but neither will the TV,
and we are only trying to simulate the TV, not the entire universe.

>> example, if the neuron is exposed to a concentration of dopamine
>> greater than a certain level it will trigger an action potential, so
>> you know if the action potential will be triggered if you know the
>> concentration of dopamine in the neuron's vicinity. How a neuron will
>> respond to dopamine is something that can be determined by
>> experimental methods.
> But the dopamine itself is being produced by the neurons. They are
> controlling the concentration of dopamine. They trigger each other. If
> anything it's the neurons that are the active agents, and the
> neurotransmitters being the passive signalling medium.

Billiard balls hit other billiard balls which go on to hit other
billiard balls. It can become very complicated but it can all be
modeled given that you know how a billiard ball will respond when hit.

>>Certainly the model does not know what inputs
>> the neuron will see tomorrow, but neither does the neuron or the TV!
> The TV doesn't know, the neuron doesn't know, but the person with the
> neuron or the TV can have an opinion that might be right. They might
> be able to predict who wins the Super Bowl or whether their neurons
> are going to receive a load of caffeine tomorrow morning.

The person's neurons are each doing their own dumb bit, unaware of the
grand picture, like the people in the crowd wave.

>> You say: consciousness is fundamental and supervenes on specific
>> substances functioning in specific ways.
>> A functionalist may say: consciousness is fundamental and supervenes
>> on any substance functioning in specific ways.
> No, I say the fact that specific substances supervenes on (is
> controlled through) human consciousness  functioning in specific ways
> suggests that all substance may be controlled through sensorimotive
> consciousness equivalents of different scopes and character (just as
> chemistry produces effects on different scopes and character). Neither
> consciousness (EFGH over time) nor substance (A, B, C, D in space) are
> fundamental, but the relation between them A,B,C,D(ɥ,ƃ,ɟ,ǝ-pɔqɐ)EFGH
> is fundamental.

OK, so I say the relationship between consciousness and function is
fundamental. Why do you think it is better to say that the
relationship between consciousness and substance is fundamental?

(Incidentally, once the relationship between consciousness and
function is accepted, problems with the physical supervenience thesis
do become evident, as Bruno frequently points out).

Stathis Papaioannou

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