On Mon, Oct 24, 2011 at 2:15 AM, Craig Weinberg <whatsons...@gmail.com> wrote:

>> Are you seriously suggesting that I can talk about an actual event without 
>> there be a causal chain between the event and the sound that comes out of my 
>> mouth?
> You can talk about anything you want though. If I talk about a
> backache it doesn't mean that there is a connection from my back to my
> vocal cords. If I talk about the dark side of the Moon it doesn't mean
> there is a causal connection between my larynx and the unlit lunar
> surface. I don't understand why the A connected to B and B connected
> to C implies A connected to C directly.

If I correctly read something put in front of me there must be a
causal connection between the paper or screen and the sound that comes
out of my mouth. The causal connection is through a chain of neural

>> They are connected to each other through a network of neurons in which the 
>> output of a downstream neuron is dependent on the inputs of the upstream 
>> neurons. This so that the behaviour of the organism as a whole, controlled 
>> by its nervous system, is dependent on its environmental inputs; otherwise 
>> it would quickly die.
> You know that a lot of simple organisms don't have nervous systems,
> right?
> "• Eukaryotic, single-cell protists
>  • Move through environment via coordinated motion of cilia on the
> outer surface
>    But no nervous system!"

I was of course referring to organisms with nervous systems, but even
the ones without must alter their behaviour according to environmental
inputs or they will not survive.

> http://web.pdx.edu/~zelickr/sensory-physiology/lecture-notes/OLDER/L10-invert-mechano.pdf
> As far as I know, there is no 'downstream' neuron in the larynx that
> depends on an upstream 'input' from the optic nerve or vice versa.
> Blindness does not cause people to lose their voice and laryngitis
> doesn't cause loss of vision.

Indirectly, the larynx must be connected to the optic nerve or we
wouldn't be able to describe what we see. Is that not obvious?

>>If this sensitivity to environmental inputs did not require a causal 
>>connection between neurons then why has the nervous system evolved at all? 
>>>Why don't the muscles just make decisions and contract on their own?
> Tissues and cells do make decisions, contract, move on their own (see
> PDF above - eukaryotes). Think about carnivorous plants
> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ymnLpQNyI6 ...no nervous system 2,
> nervous system 0.

Their cells respond to environmental inputs. If they did not they
would display random behaviour and would die.

>> Yes, we assume that that is so. If the visual cortex is missing the visual 
>> qualia are missing. However, if neurons in the motor cortex controlling 
>> >speech get the same inputs they normally get they will produce the same 
>> outputs, so the speech produced will be the same.
> Sorry, I find this is a bizarre misinterpretation of physiology. Motor
> neurons do not determine the content of our speech. They are just the
> mechanical conduit for the cognitive areas of the brain to express
> itself verbally. If the visual cortex is missing, the cognitive areas
> get no new visual experience, therefore they can't accurately report
> on that - not by speech, writing, gestures, etc. Nothing would be the
> same.

Motor neurons controlling speech describing what the person is seeing
must get input indirectly from the retina, processed of course in
complex ways by the intermediate neural tissue. The motor neurons
controlling my hands as I type this must be receiving input from your
brain, albeit relayed through multiple electronic and biological
stages. Otherwise how could I possibly respond to what you are saying?

>>It must be this way given the principle of no magical influences (to which 
>>you claim to subscribe). For if the qualia produced an effect on the >neurons 
>>separate to that of the physical factors, which are replicated by the 
>>artificial neurons, that would appear as a magical influence.
> 2. Qualia routinely has an effect on neurons. That is what voluntary
> action is. Whether or not it appears as magical is a matter of
> interpretation.
> Look at this: 
> http://www.domain-b.com/technology/biotech_pharma/20111019_communication.html
> '''This was a real surprise," says Tyszka. "We expected to see a lot
> less coupling between the left and right brain in this group - after
> all, they are missing about 200 million connections that would
> normally be there. How do they manage to have normal communication
> between the left and right sides of the brain without the corpus
> callosum?'''
> I feel confident that it is only a matter of time before science will
> have to model the nervous system in something like the way that I'm
> suggesting.

But the authors are not claiming a non-physical influence. The
challenge is to find what mechanism is responsible for the
coordination of the resting state activity in these brains:


"Over 80% of neurotypical BOLD resting state networks identified by group
PICA are preserved in adult AgCC subjects suggesting that compensatory networks
established during brain development play a major role in this
condition. Further work is
required to identify the role of the remaining RSNs both unique to and
absent in AgCC."

>> You cite neurobiological research but you reject the most basic scientific 
>> principles of that research, which is that a neuron depolarises its 
>> >membrane in response to physical factors that have been known for decades, 
>> and not seriously disputed. How the ensemble of neurons >behaves, how this 
>> gives rise to intelligence, is still not well-understood, but how an 
>> individual neuron behaves is well-understood, and whether it >fires or not 
>> is a function of its internal state and the inputs it receives. A 
>> neuroscientist would just have to show one example of a neuron doing the 
>> >opposite of what science would predict and he would be famous.
> A neuron depolarises it's membrane in response to electromagnetic
> factors like charge and voltage. These phenomena are what we see when
> we look outside of our perceptual frame of reference. On the inside,
> they are nothing but primitive kinds of feeling and acting. The
> feeling is the depolarization. It is the same thing. There is no
> depolarization without a feeling (not a human feeling of course, but a
> neuron's feeling) and there is no feeling without a depolarization -
> at least as far as we know for sure. NDE's and phenomena like
> hysterical blindness suggest there may be more to it than that.

Whether there is a feeling associated with neuronal activity is
separate from the question of whether the neuronal activity is
determined by the observable physical factors. If something
unobservable, the qualia, causes something observable, membrane
depolarisation, then that would appear like magic.

>> If the physical state of the neuron plus the inputs it receives do not 
>> determine whether it will fire then the neuron behaves in a manner contrary 
>> to >physics, like a table levitating without any force on it. The worst 
>> thing is not that you make the claim that this is how the brain works but 
>> that you >repeatedly contradict yourself by saying this is how it works but 
>> it isn't contrary to the physics.
> You are not understanding that the physical state of the neuron and
> the subjective experience of the neuron are the same thing. You aren't
> reading what I am writing. Your model of one supervening on the other
> is false. Sometimes interior sense drives exterior events, sometimes
> exterior events drive sense, but they are only opposite ends of a
> single process. This does not contradict physical observation in any
> way.

I don't think it is right to say that the physical state of the neuron
and the subjective experience are the same but even if it is, then the
neuron's behaviour should be deterministic and computable, since all
the physical processes in neurons of which we are aware are
deterministic and computable.

>> You're not saying that the neuron's behaviour is determined by as yet 
>> undiscovered physical laws, you're saying that its behaviour is not
>> determined by any physical law at all.
> No, I'm saying the opposite of that. I'm saying that electromagnetism
> is feeling. They are the same thing. There is no physical observation
> that suggests that electromagnetism is not feeling.

An electric motor has a lot of electromagnetism going on but it
probably doesn't have a lot of feeling.

>> This isn't really an answer, it's just a way of avoiding giving an answer. 
>> How is it possible if the artificial neurons produce output with the same > 
>> timing as the biological neurons that the behaviour would look abnormal?
> It's not a matter of timing. The visual cortex can't do anything with
> an optic nerve made of artificial neurons with the 'same timing' as
> natural neurons. They have nothing to do with timing. They have to do
> with transmitting the optical environment from the retina. If you've
> got  a natural retina, and a natural visual cortex, you should be able
> to replace the optic nerve in theory, but you can't replace either the
> retina or visual cortex without losing the ability to see.

If the impulses coming down the fibres of the optic nerve are the same
then the visual experiences will be the same. In general, if any
neuron is replaced by a device that passes on the signals it receives
in a manner similar to the original neuron then the downstream neurons
won't behave any differently, for how could they know that anything
had changed?

>>You would again have to invoke the non-physical influences, since the 
>>physical ones are all taken care of.
> 1. Ok, this is the last time I am going to answer this accusation from
> you. The physical influences are already known. Why they do what they
> do in a brain are not known. There is no mystery associated with how a
> signal travels from one part of the nervous system or another, how
> those signals are produced mechanically, etc. What we don't know is
> what a signal actually is. What makes an electromagnetic event
> meaningful to something. How is meaning or significance attached to
> matter?

It's an unanswerable question, in that no possible answer would satisfy.

> My view is that it isn't. Meaning and significance are attached to
> subjective experience, not to matter. Both matter and experience are
> essentially the same thing but existentially they appear to subjects
> as opposite things. You seem to be unwilling or unable to conceive of
> this relation. It may be an innate ability, like being ambidextrous,
> so even though it is frustrating for me, it may not be your fault at
> all.

But how is subjective experience attached to matter? You can't answer
other than to say "it just is".

> Most people have to see the universe as either a material system that
> somehow evolved consciousness mechanically, or an experiential journey
> orchestrated by a divine agency which uses and controls physical
> events. I see both of those extremes as pathological, but that the
> relation between the two can be used to help us understand how the
> reality of the cosmos is neither of those things but will look like
> either one depending on which perspective we apply. It's like an
> ambiguous image: 
> http://opticalillusions.koalawebsitedesign.com/image/T629037A_002.jpg
> Neither perception is truer than the other, and they are mutually
> exclusive. You can't see both patterns as individually coherent, but
> that doesn't mean that the coherence or incoherence is not real.

And you still haven't explained how a neuron can do anything
non-deterministic if it does not break any of the deterministic laws
of physics. Saying that the qualia and the physics are the same thing
does not help you unless the qualia have an effect separate to the
physics, which would be seen as a non-physical or magical effect by an
observing neuroscientist.

>> They would be understood mechanically so that their senseless 3-p behaviour 
>> would be replicable. That would allow us at least in principle to replace 
>> parts of the brain without affecting the 3-p behaviour of the person. There 
>> is a serious problem when we consider a person whose behaviour is normal 
>> (says that he feels perfectly normal etc.) while he has a gross deficit in 
>> qualia.
> Qualia is feeling. If he feels perfectly normal, then there is by
> definition no deficit in qualia. There would be no reason to replace
> parts of the brain if we didn't know that they facilitate our qualia,
> will, etc. The brain is just a fancy electric sponge without a 1-p
> person experience associated with it.

He would *say* that he feels perfectly normal because his language
centre would be receiving normal electrochemical impulses from the
artificial visual cortex, whose job it is to send those impulses with
the same amplitude and frequency as the original.

>> > No, they would have discovered ordinary subjectivity. It is observable
>> > though, just not with primitive electromagnetic instruments. We
>> > observe them subjectively all the time.
>> So if they had better instruments they would see neurons firing for no 
>> reason at all?
> No, we would observe the reasons that they are firing. We would 'see'
> their pain and pleasure.

What would the low level molecular mechanism of that be?

>> Ion channels open and close in response to electric fields and ligands 
>> binding, just as doors open and close in response to an appropriate force > 
>> on them. Whether there are qualia associated with the ion channels or the 
>> doors (and doors aren't really less likely to have them) makes no
>> difference to what we observe.
> Electric fields are nothing but the sense and will of molecules. It
> doesn't have to make a difference to you as an observer, that's true.
> It's optional. Just as it doesn't have to make a difference to me if
> somebody gets their hands chopped off. It makes a difference to Mr.
> Sadhooks though.

An electric field is precisely measurable and the mathematics
describing it is well-understood. We can therefore tell whether an ion
channel will open by observing the electric field. If there is a 50 mV
potential across the membrane and that is sufficient to make the ion
channel open then it will open, regardless of what the "sense and will
of molecules" is.

>> >> But what causes a particular ion channel to open, for example?
>> > Changes in it's charge.
>> Not really. They are large polarised molecules which are distorted when in 
>> the vicinity of a sufficiently large electric field or non-covalent binding 
>> of a specific ligand. The temperature and pH also affects the configuration, 
>> as with all proteins. Given any set of physical conditions, the 
>> configuration of the ion channel is precisely determined.
> The electric field is not physical. It is not a pseudosubstance that
> persists in space independently of matter. It is nothing but the sense
> and motive of molecules. The molecular sense looks quite deterministic
> to us (and it may actually be deterministic), the cellular sense
> appears less deterministic, and the multicellular sense appears
> routinely non-deterministic and spontaneous. That is all that we
> know.

Not only is the electric field as physical as it is possible to be, it
is also easily measurable and described by well-understood equations.

> How top level intentionality translates into efferent nerve discharge
> is not explainable through physics alone, because pain and pleasure
> have no melting point or specific gravity. They aren't objects in
> space, they are experiences in time. Pain and pleasure do *not*
> contradict physics, they just give meaning to it. My idea explains how
> experiential qualia relate to matter - not attached as a purposeless
> epiphenomenal afterthought, not metaphysically conjured as an
> 'emergent property', but inhering essentially. It seems complicated
> because what we are is complicated so we mistake objective phenomena
> on other perceptual levels for the mechanical cause of our rich
> subjectivity. If we were a single cell, with no nervous system, it
> would be easier to see how simple it actually is...How quorum sensing
> is a shared experience like a wave in a crowd and the firing of a
> neuron is like an individual's local enthusiasm witnessing a home run
> or touchdown shared simultaneously by an audience of billions.

Who said that pain and pleasure contradict physics? If they supervene
on physics there is no problem. The problem is if feelings act on
matter separately to the deterministic laws.

A single cell responds to its environment in a deterministic way just
as neurons do. Quorum sensing involves single cells responding to
chemical factors secreted by their neighbours.

>> Saying that the feeling is the electric field doesn't change the fact that 
>> electric fields are well-understood mathematically and can be incorporated 
>> in a deterministic model without any reference to qualia.
> They are only well understood on the microcosmic level for inorganic
> matter. It is not understood how they scale up through living tissue
> at the macro level. That's the thing about the universe, we can make
> sense of it at different levels. Hence the name - Multisense Realism.
> If all you have is a monochrome monitor, you can still make a coherent
> analysis of the images based on that presentation, but you have
> nothing to say about what colors might be observable on an HDTV. If
> you know about color, you can reverse engineer a black and white image
> and colorize it, but that would not be possible without the existence
> of color in the first place.
> Your view is that since color does not show up on the monochrome
> monitor of physics, it can only be magic. That view is, IMO, a
> primitive superstition that belongs in the 19th century. Consciousness
> does not have to prove it's reality on your monochrome monitor. The
> ordinary experience of voluntary will and sensemaking are real whether
> or not we can understand them in purely 'physical' terms. There is no
> non-physical pseudosubstance which changes physics at will - that is
> *not* *not* *not* what I am talking about. I am talking about the
> nature of physical existence itself being just the public tip of the
> iceberg, with the majority of the universe hidden beneath in private
> realities composed of feeling over time rather than objects across
> space.

Well, if no non-physical substance acts on living tissue then it would
follow the laws of physics, which as far as we know are computable.
That would be the case regardless of whether there are associated
qualia or not, since the qualia do not intrude.

>> The standard position of neuroscientists is that the neurons do their thing 
>> and the qualia follow.
> The degree to which they believe that is the degree to which they will
> eventually be proved wrong.

You have no reason to reject the standard position. It is perfectly
consistent with all observation. As far as I can tell, your main
objection to it is simply that you don't like it, and you create the
logically impossible category of neither-determined-nor-random to
explain free will.

>> OK, the objective side of the neuron is the only thing that can be observed. 
>> So if the neuron behaves according to what is observed of its objective side 
>> it is behaving in a normal mechanistic manner. But if it does something due 
>> to its unobservable subjective side, then it seems to the poor foolish 
>> scientist that it is doing something magical; that is, something not 
>> explainable in terms of objective scientific principles. Do you agree with 
>> that?
> No. If you have a heart cell it beats at a certain time. If you get it
> near another group of heart cells, the first one synchronizes. How do
> you explain this? How does the normal mechanistic manner of the cell
> change by itself? By itself it beats on the one count of a four count
> cycle - it's protein molecules contracting regularly. If you get it
> near other heart cells which beat on the three count, suddenly the
> protein contractions compensate - either waiting two more counts or
> beating twice in one cycle. How do you explain this? Neurons would be
> like 100,000 times as complex as this example, with many different
> 'beating' behaviors synched to many different counts, directly and
> indirectly all over the body.

The myocytes synchronise via gap junctions (eg.
http://www.springerlink.com/content/ug8755r8703kt637/). However, the
specifics are not important for the purposes of this discussion. What
is important is that a scientist observing the phenomenon would
immediately start thinking of experiments to work out what the
physical mechanism for it is and keep going until he finds out, while
you would apparently be content to say that there is no physical

>> but then you could worry about any fundamental fact about the universe, even 
>> a priori facts.
> If you are saying that subjectivity is a fundamental fact about the
> universe, then we agree. I think that you want it both ways though.
> You want to hang on to eliminative materialism but still imagine that
> subjectivity can somehow 'emerge' from it. Mechanism is precisely the
> attempt to remove all trace of subjectivity in what is observed. It
> falls apart of course, when you realize that all observations
> themselves are purely subjective. Such a view considers consciousness
> something like dehydrated water, or a particle-wave. It makes sense
> that way as a computation, but not as an explanation. In fact, the
> mechanistic view prevents all possibility of explanation. My view
> explains why that is the case.

I have not seen any explanation from you as to why consciousness could
not supervene on function as a fundamental fact about the universe.

Stathis Papaioannou

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