On Sat, Mar 16, 2013 at 12:07 AM, Craig Weinberg <whatsons...@gmail.com> wrote:

>> The scientific conception of neurons is that *nothing* in them happens
>> without a physical reason, ever.
> Which is why we those scientists have no idea what consciousness is.
> Physical is a meaningless term. Whatever happens is physical, whether it is
> smiling at a neighbor or welding a trashcan shut. The only good use for
> physical in my view is to discern relative presentations from
> representations. The letter A is not physical, but any particular
> instantiation of experience of object that we read as A is physical.

Can we stick to "physical" as something that can be observed and
measured? Smiling at a neighbour has a component that can be observed
and measured, the objective component, and a component that can't, the
subjective component. The scientific conception of neurons is that
nothing in them that can be observed and measured happens without a
physical reason that can be observed and measured.

So you could say "his desire to move caused him to get up", which
would be true at one level, but at the microscopic level it will be
ionic fluxes, electrostatic forces between molecules, and so on that
caused him to get up. The desire to move cannot in itself be observed
and measured, so if it directly caused depolarisation of cell
membranes that would appear as miraculous to a scientist. Membrane
depolarisation is something that can be observed and measured so it
cannot happen without a physical reason that can itself be observed
and measured.

Now, do you think that the desire to move can cause membrane
depolarisation without any physical reason? Do you agree that, given
that scientists define "physical reason" as above, it would appear
miraculous to them if this happened?

>> When a person decides to do
>> something, this corresponds to certain changes in his brain, and these
>> changes all follow absolutely rigidly from the physical laws
>> describing electrochemical reactions.
> No, not all changes in the brain cannot be predicted at all from
> electrochemical reactions. If I decide to go on vacation next week, there is
> no electrochemical chain reaction which can explain why my body will drive
> to work today but not in a week. The explanation is only realized in the
> semantic content of the mind. This is why there is a clear and important
> different in our awareness between voluntary and involuntary reactions. To
> be addicted, coerced, enslaved, trapped, etc, are among the most dire
> conditions which humans confront, yet they have no chemical correlate at
> all. Whether someone is picking up trash on a prison chain gang or they are
> picking up trash on the grounds of their vast estate, there is no functional
> basis for either option being chemically preferable.

For every mental change there is a corresponding physical change. The
reverse is not the case. If it were possible to have a mental change
without a physical change then that would indicate that the mind had
an existence independent from the body - an immaterial soul, in

>> This applies to every molecule
>> in the brains in those fMRI pictures you have referenced.
> There were mostly spontaneous changes of large groups of molecules and
> neurons in those images. That's why I included them, because it is so
> obvious that this is not some kind of rippling, ricocheting, cymatic pattern
> which could conceivably propagate from bottom up chemistry.

If you show a video of an avalanche would it be reasonable to suppose
that it happened "spontaneously" in your sense or would it be
reasonable to suppose that even though the physical cause is not
obvious, it must be there somewhere?

>> You may not
>> be able to predict exactly what the brain will do but you can't
>> predict much simpler systems such as where a billiard ball will end up
>> after bouncing off several cushions either, and that does not lead you
>> to doubt that it is mechanistic.
> Prediction is not the test. We know for a fact that we experience direct
> participation in our lives. That cannot be explained by chemistry as it is
> currently assumed to be. The model is incomplete, not the validity of our
> own experience.

Even if you are right about that chemistry can *completely* explain
the observable behaviour of any biological system.

>> In the standard scientific view,
> which is wrong.
>> spontaneously excitable cells are
>> just a special subtype of excitable cells and still follow absolutely
>> rigidly the physical laws describing electrochemical reactions. Google
>> "excitable cells" and you can read about it. If I understand your
>> view, you think that "spontaneous" means there is neuronal activity
>> not explained by these rigid physical laws.
> Nothing is explained by any physical laws which cannot conceive of top-down
> voluntary control of muscle tissue, cells, and molecules. Excitable doesn't
> exhaustively determine what it is excited by. In some cases they are excited
> by surrounding conditions, in some cases they generate excitement internally
> - and that is who we are, the agency associated with the spontaneous
> internal excitement of those cells (as well as the unseen excitement or
> whatever it is going on in glial cells, etc)

Yes, some cells are self-excitatory. Cardiac pacemaker cells are the
best example. But this self-excitatory quality is well understood in
physical terms. It certainly does not mean that the cell miraculously
decides to depolarise its membrane.

>> That must be evident in
>> some experiment or observation; for otherwise the brain would follow
>> the rigid physical laws in a machine-like way, which you do not
>> believe is the case.
> You are conceiving of the brain in a way which is so pathologically
> prejudiced that there is no possibility of your seeing beyond it. You have
> decided a priori that all there is is what physics has defined, and
> therefore no matter how absurd it is, everything that exists must 'really'
> be part of that. Your view makes it impossible for any organism to do
> anything other than passively wait until something external causes a chain
> reaction that makes their legs move around and their hands shove food into
> their mouth. The universe that you imagine cannot possibly include you or
> your ability to imagine anything - but rather than seeing that as a
> catastrophic problem with your model, you simply let go of common sense,
> personal experience, etc, and think 'If I think that I am doing anything,
> then I must be mistaken." To me, this is the height of anthropocentricism,
> only in reverse. You see everything in the universe as having power and
> presence except us. We are confined to some metaphysical never-never land of
> 'illusion' or 'emergent properties' while the lowliest ganglion strides the
> universe as part of a micro-empire - dictating our every move according to
> rigidly deterministic laws. It's a fantasy that would make Dr. Seuss roll
> his eyes.

I have clearly said that the only thing I believe is impossible in
what you claim is that something could be
neither-determined-nor-random. Leaving that aside, I think it is
possible that you are right about top-down causality or consciousness
causing physical changes in the brain. Moreover, I think that you
could show you are right by experiment, which is a requirement for a
scientific hypothesis. I've even proposed in outline the sort of
experiment that would confirm the hypothesis, which you have rejected.
I think I've been fair. Perhaps you could propose another experiment
that you would accept as confirming or falsifying your theory?

Stathis Papaioannou

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