On Wed, Sep 28, 2011 at 6:35 AM, Craig Weinberg <whatsons...@gmail.com> wrote:

>> Do you agree that if a
>> non-observable causes a change in an observable, that would be like
>> magic from the point of view of a scientist?
> Not at all. We observe 3-p changes caused by 1-p intentionality
> routinely. There is a study cited recently in that TV documentary
> where the regions of vegetative patients brains associated with
> coordinated movements light up an fMRI when being asked to imagine
> playing tennis. 
> http://web.me.com/adrian.owen/site/Publications_files/Owen-2006-FutureNeurology.pdf
> p. 693-4

> Why do you want me to think that the ordinary relationship between the
> brain and the mind is magic? The 'non-observable cause' is the patient
> voluntarily imagining playing tennis. There is no other cause. They
> were given a choice between tennis and house, and the result of the
> fMRI was determined by nothing other than the patient's subjective
> choice. So will you stop accusing me of witchcraft about this now or
> is there going to be some other way of making me seem like I am the
> one rejecting science when it is your position which broadly
> reimagines the brain as some kind of closed-circuit Rube Goldberg
> apparatus?

The patient "voluntarily imagines playing tennis" if and only if
certain neural processes occur in the brain. If you believe thoughts
can arise in the absence of such neural processes or that thoughts by
themselves (i.e. not the associated neural process) can cause physical
changes in the brain such as neurons firing then you believe in
something like an immaterial soul which does our thinking for us. It's
not impossible that there is an immaterial soul but then the question
needs to be asked, why would we need a Rube Goldberg apparatus like a
brain at all when matter can be directly animated by spirit?

>> Sense data could be the sight and sound of a poker machine, which gets
>> into the brain, is processed in a complex way, and is understood to be
>> "gambling".
> By sight and sound do you mean acoustic waves and photons? Those
> things don't physically 'get into the brain', do they? You won't find
> 'sights and sounds' in the bloodstream. If you include them in a model
> of neurology, wouldn't you have to include the entire universe?

Light and sound are converted into electrical impulses that travel
down the optic and auditory nerves.

>> I'm not sure if you're not understanding or just pretending not to
>> understand. Take any neuron in the brain: it fires due to the
>> influences of the surrounding neurons,
> Noooo. Millions of neurons fire simultaneously in separate regions of
> the brain. Your assumptions about chain reactions being the only way
> that neurons fire is not correct. You owe the brain an apology.
> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VaQ66lDZ-08
> Please note: "Coherent SPONTANEOUS activity"
> http://jn.physiology.org/content/96/6/3517.full?maxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&author1=vincent&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&sortspec=relevance&resourcetype=HWCIT
>>and each of those neurons fires
>> due to the influence of the neurons surrounding it, and so on,
>> accounting for all the neurons in the brain.
> This is a fairy tale which I have not even heard anyone else claim
> before.

A neuron will fire or not fire due to its internal state and the
influence of its environment. It's internal state includes, for
example, the resting membrane potential, the intracellular
concentration of sodium, potassium and calcium ions, and the type and
number of receptor proteins in the membrane. The environment includes
which other neurons it interfaces with, the type and concentration of
neurotransmitters these neurons may be releasing, the temperature, pH
and ionic concentrations in the extracellular fluid, and so on. These
factors all go into determining whether the neuron will trigger or
not. The analysis applies to every neuron in the brain including the
spontaneously active ones. The same thing applies if there is one
neuron or a hundred billion neurons, although the large number of
neurons will result in much more complex behaviour.

>>These are the third
>> person observable effects; associated with (or identical to, or
>> another aspect of, or supervening on, or a side-effect of - it doesn't
>> change the argument) this observable activity are the thoughts and
>> feelings. A scientist cannot see the thoughts and feelings, since they
>> are non-observable.
> They are observable directly to the subject. A scientist can research
> her behavior of her own brain if she wants to.
>> The non-observable thoughts and feelings cannot
>> affect the observable physical activity,
> If they did not affect the observable physical world then I could not
> type to you my thoughts right now. You position is utterly invalid if
> genuine, and not even entertaining if trollery.
>> for if they could, the
>> scientist would see apparently magical events.
> Like voluntary movement of body parts and speech?

You're just not getting it. It's not that movement in the body is not
due to thought, but we can't see the thought, we can only see the
underlying physical events. So to a scientist, every movement in the
body can be attributed to a chain of physical events. If a thought can
cause a movement in the absence of a physical event, for example if
ligand-dependent ion channels open and trigger an action potential in
the absence of the ligand, that would be observed as magical, like a
table levitating. You seem to think that not only neurons but every
cell has the capacity to do this sort of thing; so why has no
scientist ever reported it?

>>We can still say that
>> thought A leads to feeling B, but what the scientist observes is that
>> brain state A' (associated with thought A) leads to brain state B'
>> (associated with feeling B). So although we can tell the story of the
>> person in terms of thoughts and feelings, the scientist can tell the
>> same story in terms of biochemical events. If the scientist
>> understands the biochemistry then in theory he will be able to predict
>> everything the person will do (or write probabilistic equations if
>> truly random effects are significant in the brain), although in
>> practice due to the complexity of the system this would be very
>> difficult.
> Some brain states do work that way, but some don't. Anyone that moves
> their little finger is going to move it in a neurologically similar
> way, but what people want to do for a career is not determinable in
> the same way. It depends on where they are born, how they are raised,
> what their opportunities are, etc. It's not something which can be
> regressed from brain state Q to some kind of precursor brain state G.

Where they were born, how they are raised, what the weather is like
all has a physical effect on the brain. If some factor has no impact
on the brain then that cannot possibly make a difference to the
person. This is not to say that the person's trajectory through life
can be predicted, but the weather cannot be predicted with certainty

>> "I" am the ensemble of neurons in the brain which when they are
>> functioning properly give rise to consciousness and a sense of
>> identity. "I" never do anything that can't be explained in terms of a
>> chain of neuronal events.
> What makes you think that 'giving rise to consciousness and a sense of
> identity' can be explained in terms of a chain of neuronal events.
> It's just because you assume a priori that is what consciousness is.

Without trying to "explain" consciousness I know the circumstances
under which consciousness can be produced.

>> The making sense of what you read occurs due to certain neuronal
>> activity in the language centre of your brain. This may or may not
>> cause you to take a certain action, just as a coin may come up heads
>> or tails.
> Why is the making sense necessary at all? Why wouldn't the neuronal
> activity of reading just cause the neuronal activity of taking a
> certain action?

It does - and in so doing, understanding occurs. There are varying
degrees of understanding, ranging from blindly following a protocol to
analysing what you read in depth. If you analyse what you read in
depth the neural processing is more complicated and the resulting
decision more difficult to predict. In each case, the understanding
supervenes on the neural activity. Disembodied understanding does not
come forth from an immaterial soul to move your hand.

>> > A few micrograms of LSD or ricin can change a person's entire life or
>> > end it.
>> Yes, there are crucial parts of the system which don't tolerate
>> disruption. It's the same with any machine.
> Are you assuming then that consciousness is not such a disruption
> intolerant part of the system?

Consciousness is affected by small amounts of specific chemicals but
not affected by quite gross physical changes such as the loss of
millions of neurons in the course of a day.

>> >> Whether something is conscious or not has nothing to do with whether
>> >> it is deterministic or predictable.
>> > What makes you think that's true? Do you have a counterfactual?
>> There is no reason to believe that determinism affects consciousness.
>> In general it is impossible to distinguish random from pseudorandom.
>> If the brain utilised true random processes and part of it were
>> replaced with a component that used a pseudorandom number generator
>> with a similar probability function to the true random one we would
>> notice no change in behaviour and the subject would notice no change
>> in consciousness (for if he did there would be a change in behaviour).
> So the answer is no, you do not have a counterfactual, and that there
> is nothing that makes you think that it's true other than it cannot be
> proven to be false by non-subjective means. Considering that the whole
> question is about subjectivity, to rule out subjective views may not
> be a scientific way to approach it. To me, it's pretty clear that one
> of the functions of consciousness is to make determinations, and
> therefore presents another another ontological option besides pre-
> determined, random, or pseudorandom. There is a such a thing as
> intentionality, the fact that is cannot be understood through physics
> and computation is not a compelling argument at all to me, it just
> reveals the limitations of our current models of physics.

You didn't understand my argument. I sometimes don't understand yours.

>> A partial zombie occurs if only part of your brain is zombified.
>> Because this part of the brain (by definition) has the same observable
>> third person behaviour as it did before it was zombified, you would
>> lack the qualia of the replaced part while not noticing or behaving
>> differently. It is this which is absurd.
> That contradicts your view that the behavior of the mind must all be
> physically observable in the brain. We know that qualia doesn't
> physically exist in the brain, so that makes it a zombie already.

Behaviour is observable, qualia are not. I know I'm not a zombie but
you might be. I also know I'm not a partial zombie.

>>The only way out of the
>> absurdity is to say that it is impossible to make a brain component
>> with the same observable third person behaviour that didn't also have
>> the same qualia. (Sorry for the clumsiness of "observable third person
>> behaviour" - I should just say "behaviour" but I think in the past you
>> have taken this to include consciousness).
> No, the way out of it is to see that qualia can be absent, distorted,
> or replaced in the brain. Blind people learn Braille and use the same
> area of the brain that sighted people use for vision, only for tactile
> qualia. Synesthesia also shows that qualia are not fixed to
> functionality, and conversion disorders illustrate absent qualia
> without neurological deficit.
> Even if none of those things were true, to say that this unexplainable
> experiential dimension we live in must just 'come with' particular
> mathematical objects because we can't imagine being able to make
> something that acts like us but doesn't live in the same dimension has
> all the earmarks of a terrible theory.

Again I don't think you understand what would happen if you replaced
part of your brain with a qualia-less component that had the same
third person observable behaviour. Perhaps you could tell me in your
own words if you do.

>> If philosophical zombies were possible, they
>> would have the same survival and reproductive success as non-zombies.
>> But philosophical zombies did not evolve, suggesting to me that
>> consciousness is a necessary side-effect of any intelligent being.
> Philosophical zombies did evolve. They are called sociopaths.

Zombies lack all qualia, not just a conscience.

>> We have already started engineering brain replacement: cochlear
>> implants, artificial hippocampus. These are crude but it's early days
>> yet.
> It wouldn't matter if they were perfect. Using artificial ear to hear
> with is not the same as becoming a computer program. People used to
> use a horn as a hearing aid. If I made a really fancy horn could I
> replace your brain with it?

If the ear can be replaced with impunity why not the auditory nerve,
and if the auditory nerve why not the auditory cortex?

>> The feeling of free will is simply due to the fact that I don't know
>> what I'm going to do until I do it.
> Why would there be a feeling associated with that? What purpose would
> it serve to know or not know that you don't know what you are going to
> do if you can't control whether or not you do it?

I do control what I do, but I don't know what decision I'm going to
make until I make it. If I did know what decision I was going to make
then I could change my mind - in which case, I would again be in a
position where I don't know what decision I'm going to make. Not
knowing what decision I'm going to make until I make it is consistent
with determinism.

Stathis Papaioannou

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