On Jan 29, 3:44 pm, meekerdb<meeke...@verizon.net> wrote:
On 1/28/2012 7:05 PM, Pierz wrote:
On Jan 29, 10:57 am, meekerdb<meeke...@verizon.net> wrote:
On 1/28/2012 3:15 PM, Pierz wrote:
These approaches always end up conflating the two, their
proponents getting annoyed with anyone who isn't prepared to wish away
the gap between them.
But most people seem to think that the two are linked; that philosophical
impossible. Are you asserting that they are possible?
Well of course they are linked. As for the problem of zombies, I of
course have to agree that they seem absurd. But to me the zombie
argument elides the real question, which is the explanation for why
there is anyone home to find the zombies absurd. Why aren't zombies
having this discussion? In the traditional materialist worldview,
there is nothing to explain that. We observe that we aren't, in fact
zombies and then the materialist observes that the his/her predictions
would be the same if there were no consciousness and so s/he loses
interest in the issue and effectively shrugs and says "oh well". But
there are some problems, though I expect you'll have little truck with
them. I could, for instance, refer you to a study of near death
experiences in the Lancet in which a person in cardiac arrest and
flatlining on the EEG was able to report the presence of a pair of
sneakers on a high window ledge of the hospital during an OBE which he
would have no way of knowing were there. There is a huge amount of
evidence along these lines that consciousness does not in fact
supervene on the physical brain.
No, there is a huge number of anecdotes.
"Anecdotal evidence" is not an oxymoron. But I am not talking about
pure anecdote, but rather phenomenological studies, such as Grof's
original work (see below).
And when there have been controlled experiments in which signs were placed on
in operating rooms those floating NDE's have not been able to read them.
It's amazing the difference in the standard of evidence expected of a
study that purports to refute a phenomenon outside the conventional
paradigm compared to that expected of a study that claims to provide
evidence for it. We know almost nothing about the study mentioned
except that "it found no evidence" and that seems to be sufficient for
you to cite it, because it confirms your prejudices. If it had claimed
to find evidence, you'd be tearing its methodology to shreds, or
rather going on about the total lack of any methodological explanation
in the above paper.
Other evidence, for instance, comes
from LSD research conducted in the fifties (see Stanislav Grof's
The award winning Dr.
Ridicule is cheap, and does not constitute an argument. Always an
effective means though of discrediting someone with the courage to
express unconventional views. Grof's original research in the fifties
was purely phenomenological, a documentation of hallucinogenic
experiences. He began as a committed materialist, and only slowly was
forced by his observations to a different position. It is so easy to
pile ridicule on anything that is counter to the current paradigm, but
every new worldview began with someone who wasn't afraid to question
It seems to me if you accept the logic of Bruno's UDA, you would be
forced into accepting that consciousness cannot be destroyed, because
it belongs to the mathematical realm not the physical - so nothing in
Grof's research should be intrinsically absurd. How ludicrous would
Many Worlds theory have appeared to Newtonians? They thought that they
almost had the whole answer, and only a tiny explanatory gap remained
to be closed. Only the gap happened to contain all of quantum theory
and relativity, all of modern physics in fact. Nowadays many
scientists believe the same thing - just a few tiny gaps remain - like
where 80% of the universe's mass is, the explanation for
consciousness, and the fact that our two most fundamental theories of
modern science are inconsistent with one another. Small problems to be
fixed with a few tweaks no doubt!
Of course there's also vast and incontrovertible evidence that
consciousness, under normal conditions, does supervene on brain state
and structure, so we are left with an anomaly that in most cases is
resolved by denying the evidence of the exceptions. This is not all
that hard to do when the evidence is to be found in consciousnesses
of subjects rather than 'instruments' and cannot easily be subjected
to controlled experimental trials. But even a single personal
experience can override the weightiest scientific authority
So all those sightings of ghosts and Elvis override the theory that the dead
around where you can see them.
No, you misunderstand. I am not advocating the uncritical acceptance
of every campfire story. I am talking about the weight that first hand
experience can carry. Some years ago, sleep scientists did not believe
in the existence of so-called lucid dreams - dreams in which the
subject is conscious while inside the dream, knows they are dreaming
and exerts conscious control over the dream process. However the guy
(Stephen LaBerge) who eventually proved that they do exist (he did it
through getting sleeping subjects to perform controlled eye movements
inside their dreams) *knew* they were wrong, because he had them all
the time! In that situation, it was rational to believe something that
science discredited. Scientific method is rightly conservative,
because it must use repeatability etc to establish a body of knowledge
that is as reliable as possible. It is rational however for the
individual to be accept a lower standard of evidence in formulating
his or her beliefs in some cases. In the above example, a single
experience of a lucid dream is sufficient to disprove the science for
the individual experiencing it. Working out a way to translate that
into scientific evidence is another thing.
I'll tell you a campfire story of my own. One day my grandmother was
going to drive my mother home across town. We were at my gran's place
at the time and a close friend of mine was present. As they were about
to leave, my friend went suddenly pale. She said "Don't leave! I have
a really bad feeling." She is a super practical, down to earth person
and not given to weird freak outs and anxiety attacks. She was so
insistent about it that my grandmother and mother decided to humour
her. After about 30 minutes she (my friend) said,"It's OK, you can go
now." They went, and were stopped when they turned off the freeway by
a row of police cars. Julian Knight had just shot dead six drivers
from a neighbouring park in what's now called the Hoddle Street
massacre. That was when my mother remembered the dream she'd had the
previous night of driving with my grandmother and saying to her, "get
down, there's shooting."
Now of course this story is supremely unimpressive to you because a) I
might be lying, exaggerating, misremembering, on drugs, mentally ill
etc and b) it's just a random story and very unlikely things must
happen occasionally, right? For me though it's something else. I know
I'm not on drugs/lying crazy etc. As for b) I could write it off as a
truly incredible coincidence if I hadn't seen so many similar types of
things. For instance, I was present with that same friend when she had
another such 'attack'. Out of the blue she was filled with a sudden,
horrible dread and could hardly breathe. As I say, she has no anxiety
disorders and I've never known her to have any such type of panic
attack except on these two occasions. It turned out her best friend
had been killed in a car accident at that moment.
I don't tell you this to persuade, but to make the point that *if* I
was telling the truth, it would be rational in my view for me to
believe that something was at play beyond your "mundane explanation".
I actually don't see anything "supernatural" though. I see something
natural that we don't understand, something that challenges the
material view of mind. It's not scientific evidence, sure, but that
doesn't make it irrational to be persuaded by it.
Galileo looking through the telescope and seeing 'impossible'
mountains on the moon. So one can have a personal conviction that
'something is wrong with the conventional view' without necessarily
being able to present conceptual or experimental proof for one's
conviction. Therefore, I prefer to keep reminding people that
something utterly central to their existence - in fact the defining
feature to that existence: our awareness of it - remains without an
explanation. Even the estimable David Deutsch - arch rationalist and
materialist - concedes that we have no explanation for qualia.
Have you ever considered what form such an explanation might take?
Do you think I wouldn't have? When I was a teenager I used to think on
it all the time, and I formed my own kind of theory of panpsychism. I
concluded that rudiments of consciousness must exist in atoms. I don't
know what I think about that any more. It's not in any case an
"explanation", but maybe that's not what we will have in the end.
Whatever ontology we adopt there is always a mystery at the root, some
"it just is". Either that or another turtle stack. Why does the
mathematical platonia exist? It just does. Why does the quantum field
exist? It just does. Or there's something more fundamental that "just
is". So an ontology that accepts consciousness as fundamental is not
*intrinsically* weirder than anything else. It's just unfamiliar and
contrary to a deeply ingrained intellectual habit of the western mind.
Anyway I doubt that it will be an explanation that "explains away".
Deutsch believes there will be an explanation for qualia one day, and
it will help us to build the first truly intelligent, conscious
machines. I don't know about that. He also thinks we could run such an
intelligent program on a PC with today's resources. I'm pretty sure
he's dead wrong on that.