Ian Musgrave posted Entry 1219 on July 17, 2005 07:56 PM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/1217

Over at Dembski’s blog you will find him commenting on neuroscience.

Dembski wrote:

My good friend and colleague Jeffrey Schwartz (along with Mario Beauregard and Henry Stapp) has just published a paper in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society that challenges the materialism endemic to so much of contemporary neuroscience. By contrast, it argues for the irreducibility of mind (and therefore intelligence) to material mechanisms.

Unfortunately for Dembski, this is completely wrong. The paper,  “Quantum physics in neuroscience and psychology: a neurophysical model of mind-brain interaction” Jeffrey M. Schwartz, Henry P. Stapp, Mario Beauregard, Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences, 2005 argues for a quantum mechanical approach to the problem of mind-brain interaction. Quantum mechanics may seem really weird to the non-physicist, and involve things like “spooky action at a distance” but quantum mechanics is part of the material world in the sense that both scientists use it and Schwartz et al., are using the this paper [1].

Schwartz wrote:

…brain is made up entirely of material particles and fields, and that all causal mechanisms relevant to neuroscience can therefore be formulated solely in terms of properties of these elements. (Emphasis added)

An electron is no less material in quantum mechanics for it being described as a probability distribution. What Schwartz et al. are arguing for is a non-mechanistic description (in the classical physics sense) of mind-brain interaction, not a non-materialist one (in Dembski’s sense). Furthermore, it is not “irreducible” in Dembski’s sense either.

Now, a few caveats. Firstly, I’m a neuropharmacologist, I grow pretend nerve cells in dishes and try to unravel the molecular basis of nerve function and survival. So I’m at the “reductionist” end of the neuroscience spectrum (and the Paleyists have a thing about reductionism) and my comments on psychology are those of an interested lay-person. On the other hand I’ve spent a lot of my professional career working on neuronal calcium channels in one way or another, so when I talk about ion channels, it’s in a professional capacity. Secondly, the mind-body problem is hard; really, really hard. And there have been no end of books by eminent philosophers and neuroscientists on it (see the end of this post for some suggested reading). We are far from understanding the biological basis of consciousness, and it is one of the top 25 questions in the journal Science’s 125th anniversary issue.

However, there is a general consensus that the “mind” [2] is intimately associated with the brain. Brain damage affects the mind. Stroke can affect personality, the ability to associate words with images. Brain tumours can induce extreme personality changes that are reversed when the tumour is removed. A wide variety of drugs, acting solely on brain structures, influence our minds. What is contentious is whether the “mind” is solely generated by the brain (either directly or emergently), or whether “mind” exists in some sense separately from the brain. Also, how can the “mind” influence the brain if it is a construct of the brain?

The latter seems to be the starting point of Schwartz et al. They observe that people can be trained to regulate their emotions or overcome phobias. “Change the mind and you change the brain” is the title of a paper from one of the authors. One of their claims seems to be that as “mental effort” is experiential and cannot be described exclusively in material terms, we cannot use “classical physical” explanations to describe how “mind” can change the brain. Thus they turn to quantum mechanics. This is not new; Roger Penrose articulated a quantum mechanical view of consciousness some time ago. However they have looked at a quantum mechanical description of brain action in more depth than Penrose did.

I have two issues with their approach. Firstly, there is no need for some new principle to describe what happens when people learn to overcome social phobias. The key is that it is learning. We have known for a long time that learning changes brain structure. Nerve firing rates are changed through use dependent changes in nerve chemistry, new connections between nerves are forged and existing ones re-enforced. New firing circuits are produced. This happens in all learning, from unconscious learning of motor skills to conscious learning of more complicated cognitive tasks. Directed attention of the sort used in the phobia paper is also seen in non-human primates as well: it is not only a human domain. Interestingly, there is a type of mental retardation associated with fragile X syndrome that involves “executive attention”, one of the processes Schwartz et al. talk about. A single gene disorder, it causes these people’s brains to be normal 
macroscopically, but with fewer nerve connections than normal. Learning has a basis in remodeling the brain.

Learning in stroke patients can produce new nerve pathways to replace the damaged ones and restore some degree of function. This doesn’t require quantum mechanics to explain, so why should learning which circumvents phobias be any different to learning that circumvents stroke damage? And it is learning. In the spider phobia paper, people are repeatedly exposed to spiders in an environment where they learn that spiders can’t harm them. The title of the paper should have been “Change the brain and you change the mind”.

Secondly, the way they describe the quantum mechanical processes in the brain is problematic. For nerve cells to fire, calcium must enter the nerve cell in response to a stimulus. They correctly state that the ion channels that let calcium into nerve cells are very narrow (0.086-0.158 nm). They claim this will result in a calcium ion to be laterally confined, so that its velocity must become large by the quantum uncertainty principle, a cloud of probability spreads out from the ion channel. The spreading of the ion wavepacket means that it may or may not interact with the calcium-binding proteins that will result in neurotransmitter release, which will mean that the nerve may or may not fire and so on until the brain is one mass of probability and requires a quantum process to collapse it.

There are a number of problems with this. Firstly, lots of excitable tissues have narrow calcium channels and multiple connections. Exactly the same process occurs in the heart, where clouds of ions spread out from a calcium channel until a large mass of cells are firing, the same goes with blood vessels. We need no appeal to quantum mechanics to understand the heart beat, so why is the brain in principle any different (the brain will have more quantum superimposed states, but the heart will have several billion as well). Schwartz et al. claim there is a minimum complexity where quantum effects will begin to dominate, but don’t provide an indication of what this minimum size is. We can have a stab at it by looking at the minimum brain size in a conscious organism. New Caledonian Crows are tool makers and users. When presented with a unique problem, they can create a new tool to help them solve it. By all definitions of the word consciousness, New Caledonian Crows are conscious entities like chimps and us.

Yet they have a brain the size of a walnut. So Schwartz et al.’s quantum processes must take place at these levels of cell number and connectivity. This means that the quantum mechanical processes do occur in the heart if Schwartz et al’s interpretation is right. They will also occur in the enteric nervous system, a thick layer of nerves that lie between two muscle layers in the gut. Highly branching and interconnected, the enteric nervous system has been termed a “second brain”. The quantum processes that underlie Schawrtz et al.’s model of mind-brain interaction must underlie enteric nervous system-gut interaction.

The other implication is that these processes are not confined to humans (pace the New Caledonian Crows above), and must apply to monkeys, marmosets and mollusks. So the quantum mechanical processes cannot be an “irreducible” barrier between humans and animals, as Dembski hopes. Furthermore, it is not “irreducible” in Dembski’s sense. In Schwartz et al.’s model, the conscious mind-brain interaction is an emergent property that occurs when the number of connections are high enough for quantum properties to dominate. Biologists are perfectly happy with emergent phenomena, and connectivity-related emergence has been suggested to explain brain phenomena before.

Finally there is the problem of quantum decoherence. Schwatz et al. largely dismiss it.

Schwartz wrote:

The brain matter is warm and wet and is continually interacting intensely with its environment. It might be thought that the strong quantum decoherence effects associated with these conditions would wash out all quantum effects, beyond localized chemical processes that can be conceived to be imbedded in an essentially classic world. Strong decoherence effects are certainly present, but they are automatically taken into account in the von Neumann formulation employed here. ….

I think the decoherence effects are a lot stronger than they suspect. A calcium ion has to run the gauntlet of many, many molecules before it reaches a binding site, it repeatedly bounces off water molecules and protein molecules. If there is any meaningful quantum effects left by the time calcium binds to synaptogamin, I’d be very surprised. I’ve measured calcium transients in nerve cells (and so have many other people), the spread of the calcium in the nerve terminal is at the standard diffusion rate, so it looks like the quantum effects have been largely removed (allowing of course for the fact that we are observing these systems, which collapses their quantum properties). Also, Schwartz et al. talk of a single ion channel and a single calcium ion and a single calcium binding target. But in realty in a single nerve terminal, there are many ion channels that will be activated, letting in many calcium ions (typical nerve terminal concentrations of calcium during a nerve impulse is around 100 nM), which will bind to many binding sites. The statistical effects of these many interacting calcium ions should wipe out any quantum indeterminacy.

There are many aspects of this paper that don’t seem to hang together for me outside of the issues outlined above. However, I must emphasize again that I am a neuropharmacologist, not a physicist (I don’t even play one on TV). Even though I have forced my way to the end of both “The Emperors New Mind” and “Shadows of the Mind” my grasp of quantum mechanics remains very basic.

But the main issue is that, even if Schwartz et al. are completely correct, this is still a physical theory, and is still “materialist” in the sense that scientists use the word.

To summarise:
1) Schwartz et al.’s model is a materialistic model; it uses a quantum mechanical rather than a classical approach, but it is no less materialistic for that.
2) Schwartz et al.’s model applies to all large concentrations of interacting, excitable cells, not just conscious brains. Consciousness is not unique in this model.
3) Schwartz et al.’s model applies to conscious non-humans. It provides no distinguishing barrier between humans and non-humans.
4) Schwartz et al.’s model is not “irreducible” in Dembski’s sense, it is a version of emergence.
5) It is not clear if Schwartz et al’s model is really needed to explain the phenomena they need to explain.

[1] It needs to be noted that there are several different interpretations of Quantum Mechanics. The most familiar will be the “many worlds” interpretation. Another common one is a Bayesian statistical approach. The interpretation used in this paper is Stapp’s own, and is not very widespread.

Further reading:
The Skeptic’s Dictionary entry on Mind
Blackmore, Susan. Consciousness: An Introduction (Oxford University Press 2003).
Dennett, Daniel Clement. Consciousness explained illustrated by Paul Weiner (Boston : Little, Brown and Co., 1991).
Penrose Roger, The Emperor’s New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds and the Laws of Physics, (Oxford Paperbacks. 1997)

Acknowledgements: Many thanks to the Panda’s Thumb crew for help discussion, particularly Erik for helping me with some Quantum Mechanical concepts.

Commenters are responsible for the content of comments. The opinions expressed in articles, linked materials, and comments are not necessarily those of PandasThumb.org. See our full disclaimer.

Comment #38304

Posted by qetzal on July 16, 2005 9:09 PM (e)

My understanding of QM probably doesn’t even qualify as ‘basic.’ But this seems a pretty devastating criticism to me:

The statistical effects of these many interacting calcium ions should wipe out any quantum indeterminacy.

I could understand that QM might pertain if nerves fired on the basis of single ions, but as you point out, that’s hardly the case. Can someone who understands QM explain why this criticism doesn’t invalidate Schwartz’s hypotheses? And if not, how did this get past the reviewers?

Comment #38305

Posted by Duane on July 16, 2005 9:30 PM (e)

Very helpful and interesting post. I’ve often thought the ID creationists should actually read the articles they discuss. Even the Abstract is clearly talking about natural phenomenon and not the “irreducibility of mind (and therefore intelligence) to material mechanisms.” As you pointed out, quantum phenomenon are material mechanisms. And non-local quantum mechanisms are as material as local mechanisms.

On another point, I suspect that your criticisms of the article are well founded.

Comment #38306

Posted by Matt McIrvin on July 16, 2005 9:31 PM (e)

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Comment #38307

Posted by Engineer-Poet on July 16, 2005 9:31 PM (e)

My education in QM ended with the QM/relativity course in the EE curriculum, but I’d add one more thing to the above evaluation:  Experiments which test quantum behavior of particles (like the two-slit experiment) change their outcomes when the state of the system is collapsed by e.g. measuring which slit the particle passed through.  If the behavior of the neuron is not changed when the spread of calcium ions is measured vs. not measured, it is not exhibiting QM behavior.

Comment #38309

Posted by Mike Walker on July 16, 2005 10:37 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'quote'

Comment #38315

Posted by Jaime Headden on July 17, 2005 12:19 AM (e)

But continuous energy can. If matter and energy are universal and interchangeable, thus the same elementary essence, then all matter and energy ARE connected. At least in theory.

Comment #38318

Posted by Michael Hopkins on July 17, 2005 1:18 AM (e)

qetzal wrote:

I could understand that QM might pertain if nerves fired on the basis of single ions, but as you point out, that’s hardly the case. Can someone who understands QM explain why this criticism doesn’t invalidate Schwartz’s hypotheses? And if not, how did this get past the reviewers?

I won’t comment on the QM issue. But if this is a QM mistake, I think I know how it got past the reviewers. Could the reviewers have been all biologists?

Comment #38324

Posted by SEF on July 17, 2005 3:33 AM (e)

Even if they were all biologists that doesn’t absolve them of their responsibility as scientists and reviewers to recognise that they needed a QM competent physicist to advise as well. Is this sort of thing (ie philosophy to judge by the name) habitually done on the cheap without the ability/money/time to drag in extra people with relevant competence?

Comment #38326

Posted by ts on July 17, 2005 4:49 AM (e)

Also, how can the “mind” influence the brain if it is a construct of the brain?

This is like asking how a process running on a computer can influence the computer if it is a construct of the computer. Or how the digestion can influence the stomach if it’s a construct of the stomach. The simplest answer is that all processes, including the mind and digestion, are timewise dynamic feedback systems or rather, we interpret a series of state changes in a physical object, such as a brain, computer, or stomach as such a system. Any apparent metaphysical problem in re the brain and the mind is illusory.

Cognitive scientists have long considered Henry Stapp to be a conceptually confused physicist trying to address problems in another field (the same goes, of course, for Roger Penrose and his coterie). See, for instance,

http://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/~axs/misc/classicalphysics-and-mind.txt
(Aaron Sloman is Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Science at The University of Birmingham, and Pat Hayes was co-discoverer with John McCarthy of “the frame problem”, a critical problem in AI)

Comment #38327

Posted by ts on July 17, 2005 5:03 AM (e)

Actually, I think Daniel Dennett recently opined that only species with a grasp of language sufficient to refer to the self have a self-symbol and are truly conscious. So he’d disagree with your statement about the crows, I guess.

Aside from Dennett’s views (which I generally share), the claim that “By all definitions of the word consciousness, New Caledonian Crows are conscious entities like chimps and us.” is trivially and transparently false, simply by glancing at a dictionary. For instance,

http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=conscious

a. Having an awareness of one’s environment and one’s own existence, sensations, and thoughts

Tool use most certainly does not establish “an awareness of … one’s existence, sensations, and thoughts”.

Comment #38328

Posted by Dene Bebbington on July 17, 2005 5:51 AM (e)

ts wrote:

“This is like asking how a process running on a computer can influence the computer if it is a construct of the computer. Or how the digestion can influence the stomach if it’s a construct of the stomach. The simplest answer is that all processes, including the mind and digestion, are timewise dynamic feedback systems or rather, we interpret a series of state changes in a physical object, such as a brain, computer, or stomach as such a system. Any apparent metaphysical problem in re the brain and the mind is illusory.”

Indeed. Also, I was thinking of self-modifying code as a software example of a process changing itself.

Comment #38329

Posted by ts on July 17, 2005 6:29 AM (e)

“Also, I was thinking of self-modifying code as a software example of a process changing itself.”

From a physical point of view, there’s nothing interesting about “self-modifying code”. The distinction between code and data is strictly abstract, a matter of our conceptualization. In the computer, there’s a bunch of silicon going through state transitions. The computer is constantly changing, and to the degree that we conceptualize the computer as an agent, it is constantly changing itself.

Comment #38330

Posted by Pete Dunkelberg on July 17, 2005 6:46 AM (e)

See Red State Rabble’s post for friday 15 July, comment # 1. The paper follows standard QM up to a point then uses the second author’s (Stapp’s) QM.

The paper is argumentative. It presents no data and no experiments, and ends by saying that none are planned. They argue that neither classical physics nor QM as usually understood can fully explain consciousness, therefore their QM is required. They quote at length from William James on psychology and argue that they have a QM justification of James’ ideas.

Comment #38331

Posted by NelC on July 17, 2005 6:54 AM (e)

I wonder how you can state so categorically that crows (New Caledonian or otherwise) are lacking in awareness of their environment, existence, sensations or thought? I’d guess that the first three are non-controversial, but the last seems difficult to prove either way.

Comment #38332

Posted by ts on July 17, 2005 7:04 AM (e)

I wonder how you can state so categorically that crows (New Caledonian or otherwise) are lacking in awareness of their environment, existence, sensations or thought?

If you are addressing me, I have to wonder how you can so radically misrepresent what I wrote. I did not make any claim at all about what crows lack or don’t lack. Good grief.

Comment #38333

Posted by ts on July 17, 2005 7:10 AM (e)

Also, the claim that crows are aware of their existence most certainly is controversial, to say the least. As is the claim that they are aware of their sensations, unless you’re confusing *having* sensations with being aware of them.

Comment #38335

Posted by Steven Thomas Smith on July 17, 2005 8:06 AM (e)

In this discussion about materialistic/mathematical explanations of intelligence, don’t forget Douglas Hofstadter’s Gödel, Escher, Bach, which, paraphrased, says that intelligence consciousness like our own may only arise in irrational (logically inconsistent) beings.

This would circumvent Penrose’s criticism that Turing machines cannot possess intelligence and avoid brain function dependence on QM. It’s been years since I read The Emperor’s New Mind—can anyone recall what Penrose had to say about Hofstadter’s arguments?

Also, there’s a wonderful new edition of Nagel and Newman’s Gödel’s Proof with a forward by Hofstadter. This is where I learned about incompleteness—there is no better introduction to the details of this subject.

Hofstadter also has amusing little “fugue” discussion on evolution and teleology:

Crab: [Ant] colonies survive because their caste distribution has meaning, and that meaning is a holistic aspect, invisible on lower levels. You lose explanatory power unless you take that higher level into account.

Anteater: I see your side; but I believe you see things too narrowly.

Crab: How so?

Anteater: Ant colonies have been subjected to the rigors of evolution for billions of years. A few mechanisms were selected for, and most were selected against. The end result was a set of mechanisms which make ant colonies work as we have been describing. If you could watch the whole process in a movie—running a billion or so times faster than life, of course—the emergence of various mechanisms would be seen as natural responses to external pressure, just as bubbles in boiling water are natural responses to an external heat source. I don’t suppose you see “meaning” and “purpose” in the bubbles in boiling water—or do you?

Crab: No, but—

Anteater: Now that’s MY point. No matter how big a bubble is, it owes its existence to processes on the molecular level, and you can forget about any “higher-level laws”. The same goes for ant colonies and their teams. By looking at things from the vast perspective of evolution, you can drain the whole colony of meaning and purpose. They become superfluous notions.

Achilles: Why, then, Dr. Anteater, did you tell me that you talked with Ant Hillary [Hofstadter’s collective name for the ant colony]? It now seems that you deny that she can talk or think at all.

Anteater: I am not being inconsistent, Achilles. You see, I have as much difficulty as anyone else in seeing things on such a grandiose time scale, so I find it much easier to change points of view. When I do so, forgetting about evolution and seeing things in the here and now, the vocabulary of teleology comes back: the MEANING of caste distribution and the PURPOSEFULNESS of signals. This not only happens when I think of ant colonies, but also when I think about my own brain and other brains. However, with some effort I can always remember the other point of view if necessary, and drain all these systems of meaning, too.

Finally, another tangent: I don’t think that we should be allowed to raise the examples of ant evolution, as Hofstadter does, without mentioning the fascinating genetics of eusocial insects, and the 75% relatedness of the workers. If you’re not already familiar with how this works, you owe it to yourself to learn it. Drones are haploid and developed from unfertilized eggs; females are developed from fertilized eggs. If the eusocial queen only mated with a single drone, then the worker sisters share 75% of their genes with each other—50% for the father’s identical contribution and 25% from the mother’s. Compare this 50+25=75% relatedness with the ordinary 25+25=50% relatedness for diploid-diploid siblings. This is aside from Hofstadter’s point, but at least the members of “Ant Hillary” approach more closely the relatedness of individual brain cells (100%) than do siblings in a diploid-diploid society.

Comment #38336

Posted by Flint on July 17, 2005 8:12 AM (e)

As is the claim that they are aware of their sensations, unless you’re confusing *having* sensations with being aware of them.

A semantic issue. We can see, for example, that a dog is in pain. Surely the dog is aware that it’s in pain: it limps or howls, etc. So the question is, is the dog aware that it is aware that it’s in pain? To what degree is the dog capable of introspection about its pain? The crows show an awareness and understanding of their surroundings, and take advantage of it in clever ways. But any organism that responds to stimulus can be said to demonstrate an awareness of sensation. What we’re really asking is whether these organisms reflect on this awareness, or develop a sense of self, an “I am” model. How abstract does this model need to be, before we say the organism is conscious? The dictionary definition doesn’t help much.

Comment #38340

Posted by Ian Musgrave on July 17, 2005 8:19 AM (e)

In Comment #38327

ts wrote:

http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=conscious…

a. Having an awareness of one’s environment and one’s own existence, sensations, and thoughts

Tool use most certainly does not establish “an awareness of … one’s existence, sensations, and thoughts”.

Tool use may not but invention of novel tools does. Think of what is involved in making a tool that you have never seen before to solve a novel proble. It involves conceptalization, forward planning and execution of a mental model. If that is not consciousness, then what is?

Comment #38344

Posted by ts on July 17, 2005 8:49 AM (e)

Tool use may not but invention of novel tools does.

So you claim, but even if it’s true, it’s not true by definition.

Think of what is involved in making a tool that you have never seen before to solve a novel proble.

I’m not a crow, so what is involved for *me* isn’t relevant – other than in how such anthropomorphism can mislead But the dictionary definition referred to awareness of one’s own existence, and you said that crows are conscious but *all* dictionary definitions; that claim is simply wrong. Crows may have a mental model of themselves, but that doesn’t follow from tool use, tool invention, forward planning, or execution of a mental model.

It involves conceptalization, forward planning and execution of a mental model. If that is not consciousness, then what is?

Since I gave a dictionary definition, I don’t understand why you’re still asking. The fact is that many cognitive scientists and philosophers would dispute or at least question that crows are conscious, even given novel tool creation, so the claim that it’s true by all dictionary definitions is extremely tendentious.

Flint wrote:

The dictionary definition doesn’t help much.

Indeed.

Comment #38345

Posted by ts on July 17, 2005 8:59 AM (e)

It’s also useful remember that Julian Jaynes argued, in “The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind”,
that humans weren’t conscious as recently as 3000 years ago. Even if you consider this absurd, clearly Jaynes offered a definition of consciousness by which crows aren’t conscious. To claim that they are by any definition indicates a lack of familiarity with a large body of work and large schools of thinkers concerning consciousness.

Comment #38346

Posted by Ian Musgrave on July 17, 2005 9:02 AM (e)

In Comment #38306

Matt McIrvin wrote:

Actually, I think Daniel Dennett recently opined that only species with a grasp of language sufficient to refer to the self have a self-symbol and are truly conscious. So he’d disagree with your statement about the crows, I guess.

That doesn’t sound right to me. Do you have a reference to the article? That would mean only humans are conscious, and many ethologists working with non-human primates would vocally disagree with that. In non-language using (or non-verbal langaue using, chimps and gorillas can be taught sign langauge, but don’t use it in the wild) primates, there are various tests you can use for self-conciousness (eg recognition of yourself in a mirror, recognising photos etc. etc.) that Chimps and Gorillas all pass.

New Caledonian Crows have a number of behaviours that suggest that they are not only aware, but self aware as well (eg practicing deception).

Comment #38347

Posted by Matt McIrvin on July 17, 2005 9:10 AM (e)

It wasn’t an article, more an expression of his gut feelings in edge.org’s World Question Center roundup: “What do you believe even though you cannot prove it?”

Several other people they talked to expressed vehement disagreement with Dennett.

Comment #38348

Posted by ts on July 17, 2005 9:11 AM (e)

BTW, there are computer programs that produce novel mathematical proofs, and programs that, operating in virtual worlds, figure out how to solve physical problems such as stacking blocks. These programs do forward planning, invent tools, and execute constructed models (I don’t use the word “mental” here to avoid begging the question). It is at least arguable that such programs (properly, computers running these programs) aren’t conscious. Heck, many philosophers would and do argue that even computers with complete self models would not be conscious; John Searle is a notable example of such a philosopher. I’m not saying that I agree with Searle (I emphatically don’t) or any of the others I’ve mentioned, I’m simply arguing that the claim that it’s definitionally uncontroversial that tool inventing crows are conscious is argumentum ad ignorantiam.

Comment #38349

Posted by Matt McIrvin on July 17, 2005 9:18 AM (e)

Right… personally I’d regard the crows as conscious, but it’s actually a controversial assertion.

Comment #38350

Posted by ts on July 17, 2005 9:19 AM (e)

That doesn’t sound right to me. Do you have a reference to the article? That would mean only humans are conscious, and many ethologists working with non-human primates would vocally disagree with that.

But none of them are Daniel Dennett. You’re clearly unfamiliar with his work; see

http://instruct.westvalley.edu/lafave/dennett_anim_csness.html

recognition of yourself in a mirror, recognising photos etc. etc.) that Chimps and Gorillas all pass.

It’s true of chimps but not gorillas. And the claim that they “all” pass shows that you’re reaching, hard, because they haven’t all been tested.

New Caledonian Crows have a number of behaviours that suggest that they are not only aware, but self aware as well (eg practicing deception).

What is suggested by behavior and what is true by definition are very different things. That’s why we need science.

Comment #38351

Posted by ts on July 17, 2005 9:26 AM (e)

BTW, deception is common in the throughout the biological world, plant as well as animal. Deception doesn’t prove self-awareness; not even close. There’s a lot of anthropomoric projection here. I could sometimes swear that silverfish are as conscious as I am, as good they are at staying still at the right time and moving at the right time and always knowing exactly which way to run to evade me. But it’s illusory.

Comment #38352

Posted by Keith Douglas on July 17, 2005 9:30 AM (e)

Matt McIrvin: You’re right about Dennett. He makes it quite clear in Consciousness Explained and elsewhere.

Jaime Headden: mass (the property) and energy are exchangable under some circumstances. Not matter (a stuff) and energy - that would be a confusion
of categories.

Steven Thomas Smith: Hofstadter doesn’t quite say that we are intelligent because we are inconsistent. Rather, he (sort of) says we are capable of error, which makes us intelligent. Penrose’s answer is his conviction that mathematicians are sound, and that an inconsistent mathematical theory is worthless because of contradictions implying every proposition. (There are many, many things wrong with Penrose’s position, but that’s the view.)

ts: I don’t know of any neuroscientist who would take Jaynes seriously: after
all, 3000 years ago humans had already spread into many areas of the world
independent of each other - what could happen to all these isolated
communities at once? Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that according
to his view, yes, crows wouldn’t be conscious.

All: There is an article about the futility of quantum mechanics as applied to
the brain by Patricia Churchland and Rick Grush. It applies to Penrose rather
than Stapp, but the points are often the same. (“Gaps in Penrose’s Toilings”,
available in On the Contrary)

Comment #38353

Posted by ts on July 17, 2005 9:37 AM (e)

“It’s true of chimps but not gorillas.”

I should amend that; it’s generally true of chimps, but not generally true of gorillas, although it is true of Koko. The claim that “Gorillas all pass” looks like just making stuff up on the fly to try to bolster a position. The same goes double for self-recognition in photographs, for which I’m not aware of any evidence, and which strikes me as quite implausible, given how mirror self-recognition tests are structured.

Comment #38354

Posted by cs on July 17, 2005 9:45 AM (e)

Are there *numbers* in this paper? I would have to reject it outright if there were no calculations of feasability, no matter how good their idea sounded. I presume their idea is that the ion channel acts as some kind of diffraction grating for the calcium ions? I doubt that there is much quantum mechanics at the length scales we’re talking about at *room temperature* and I’d need to see detailed calculations to prove that there would be.

By the way, Penrose’s mechanism for introducing quantum mechanics into brain function, as I understand it, has to do with some kind of localization transition in the electron states of microtubules that’s coupled to some protein conformational transition. I never understood what that had to do with brain function but, should such a thing occur to the electrons, it could be within the realm of quantum mechanics. If someone has a better idea of what Penrose’s proposal is, I’d like to hear about it because I’m not very familiar with it.

Comment #38355

Posted by ts on July 17, 2005 9:46 AM (e)

I don’t know of any neuroscientist who would take Jaynes seriously:

I tried to suggest that the default position is that his position is absurd. But many people, including Dennett, have taken him seriously in terms of trying to understand what consciousness is or what we do or should mean by it, without accepting his empirical claims.

after all, 3000 years ago humans had already spread into many areas of the world
independent of each other - what could happen to all these isolated
communities at once?

I don’t think there was any claim that it happened all at once, but rather that it’s a consequence of reaching a certain level of cultural complexity, a level which presumably all cultures have now reached. Jaynes’ argument was based on the alleged absence of any reference to introspection in literature prior to Homer.

Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that according
to his view, yes, crows wouldn’t be conscious.

Which is all I said, and which is independent of the empirical facts of human history.

Comment #38356

Posted by ts on July 17, 2005 9:53 AM (e)

According to http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Roger-Penrose,

Max Tegmark, in a paper in Physical Review E, calculated that the time scale of neuron firing and excitations in microtubules is slower than the decoherence time by a factor of at least 10,000,000,000. The reception of the paper is summed up by this statement in his support: “Physicists outside the fray, such as IBM’s John Smolin, say the calculations confirm what they had suspected all along. ‘We’re not working with a brain that’s near absolute zero. It’s reasonably unlikely that the brain evolved quantum behavior’, he says.” The Tegmark paper has been widely cited by critics of the Penrose-Hameroff proposal. However, it has since been claimed by Hameroff to be based on a number of incorrect assumptions. See the refutation linked below from Hameroff, Hagan and Tuczynksi.

It’s worth keeping in mind that Hameroff is an anethesiologist, not a physicist or neuroscientist.

Comment #38361

Posted by Jim Anderson on July 17, 2005 11:37 AM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'url'

Comment #38362

Posted by Pete Dunkelberg on July 17, 2005 11:39 AM (e)

From the paper, page 10:

Nerve terminals are essential connecting links
between nerve cells. The general way they work is
reasonably well understood. When an action potential
travelling along a nerve fibre reaches a nerve terminal, a
host of ion channels open. Calcium ions enter through
these channels into the interior of the terminal. These
ions migrate from the channel exits to release sites on
vesicles containing neurotransmitter molecules. A
triggering effect of the calcium ions causes these
contents to be dumped into the synaptic cleft that
separates this terminal from a neighbouring neuron,
and these neurotransmitter molecules influence the
tendencies of that neighbouring neuron to ‘fire’.

At their narrowest points, calcium ion channels are
less than a nanometre in diameter (Cataldi et al. 2002).
This extreme smallness of the opening in the calcium
ion channels has profound quantum mechanical
implications. The narrowness of the channel restricts
the lateral spatial dimension. Consequently, the lateral
velocity is forced by the quantum uncertainty principle to
become large. This causes the quantum cloud of
possibilities associated with the calcium ion to fan out
over an increasing area as it moves away from the tiny
channel to the target region where the ion will be
absorbed as a whole, or not absorbed at all, on some
small triggering site.

Comment #38363

Posted by Jim Anderson on July 17, 2005 11:46 AM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'url'

Comment #38364

Posted by Steve on July 17, 2005 12:11 PM (e)

It seems to me that being Dembski’s “good friend and colleague” isn’t all that good a thing. Here we have three guys write a paper that doesn’t invoke IC, CSI, or any other ID shibboleths, and then comes along the “good friend and colleague” who reads those shibboleths into the article. Pretty soon scientists are going to have to stop using the words,

  1. irreducible,
  2. complex,
  3. specified,
  4. information

Lest the paper become hi-jacked and paraded about as an example of ID science.

I always thought Dembski has reached the lowest possible point, then he goes and proves me wrong again, and again.

Comment #38365

Posted by Brian on July 17, 2005 12:15 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'kwickxml'

Comment #38366

Posted by Ginger Yellow on July 17, 2005 12:19 PM (e)

“That doesn’t sound right to me. Do you have a reference to the article? That would mean only humans are conscious, and many ethologists working with non-human primates would vocally disagree with that. “

Isn’t it more that Dennett argues human consciousness requires language. He argues for a spectrum of consciousness, so that the crows have some trappings of consciousness, including some we do not have, while chimpanzees have others. I find it hard to understand why anyone would disagree, but Searle probably does.

Comment #38367

Posted by Qualiatative on July 17, 2005 12:34 PM (e)

Here is the full abstract (emphases mine):

Neuropsychological research on the neural basis of behavior generally posits that brain mechanisms will ultimately suffice to explain all psychologically described phenomena. This assumption stems from the idea that the brain is made up entirely of material particles and fields, and that all causal mechanisms relevant to neuroscience can therefore be formulated solely in terms of properties of these elements. Thus terms having intrinsic mentalistic and/or experiential content (e.g., “feeling,” “knowing,” and “effort”) are not included as primary causal factors. This theoretical restriction is motivated primarily by ideas about the natural world that have been known to be fundamentally incorrect for more than three quarters of a century. Contemporary basic physical theory differs profoundly from classical physics on the important matter of how the consciousness of human agents enters into the structure of empirical phenomena. The new principles contradict the older idea that local mechanical processes alone can account for the structure of all observed empirical data. Contemporary physical theory brings directly and irreducibly into the overall causal structure certain psychologically described choices made by human agents about how they will act. This key development in basic physical theory is applicable to neuroscience, and it provides neuroscientists and psychologists with an alternative conceptual framework for describing neural processes. Indeed, due to certain structural features of ion channels critical to synaptic function, contemporary physical theory must in principle be used when analyzing human brain dynamics. The new framework, unlike its classical-physics-based predecessor is erected directly upon, and is compatible with, the prevailing principles of physics, and is able to represent more adequately than classical concepts the neuroplastic mechanisms relevant to the growing number of empirical studies of the capacity of directed attention and mental effort to systematically alter brain function.

Comment #38368

Posted by steve on July 17, 2005 12:36 PM (e)

And further, the physicists are showing that MIND must be primitive to reality.

So says Sancho P. Cordova on dembski’s blog.

Dust was something like this in Phillip Pullman’s novels. This is ID science where it belongs–the Fantasy section at Borders.

Comment #38372

Posted by steve on July 17, 2005 12:42 PM (e)

I love how Divine Design–without a single accomplishment in the bag–is now involved not only in disproving evolution, proving the ‘tuning’ of the universe and the existence of a tuner, but now in establishing scientifically Cartesian Duality.

How long until the Paul Nelsons, or the Del Ratzschs, ID(DD)ers with some modicum of integrity, jump ship?

Comment #38373

Posted by ts on July 17, 2005 12:44 PM (e)

What these views show is that consciousness cannot simply be defined as “Having an awareness of one’s environment and one’s own existence, sensations, and thoughts.” This is simply a mentalist interpretation and does not exhaust all credible research.

No one claimed that this is a good or complete or accurate or appropriate definition of consciousness; it came from the first on-line dictionary I tried. It was simply *a* definition offered in contradiction of a claim about *all* definitions. It was not offered for its merits.

To consider the consciousness as the above definition is only using one paradigm and ignoring all others.

Uh, ok, but who did that?

Comment #38374

Posted by ts on July 17, 2005 12:56 PM (e)

Isn’t it more that Dennett argues human consciousness requires language. He argues for a spectrum of consciousness, so that the crows have some trappings of consciousness, including some we do not have, while chimpanzees have others.

No, he doesn’t argue for that.

I find it hard to understand why anyone would disagree, but Searle probably does.

You have it backwards; Searle agrees and Dennett doesn’t. From the end of the paper that I cited (which I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that no one read):

“But it is hard to imagine that a dog is not conscious in at least something like the way an infant is conscious” (Margolis, 1987, p. 55). (2) John Searle also holds fast to this myth.

Why do people just make stuff up? All gorillas recognize themselves in mirrors, all chimps recognize themselves in photos, Dennett argues for a spectrum of consciousness … perhaps it comes from associating too closely with IDists.

Comment #38378

Posted by ts on July 17, 2005 1:18 PM (e)

Oops, I misparsed Dennett’s notes; he was saying that Searle holds to the myth that “consciousness … is a phenomenon that is either present or absent, rather as if some events in the brain glowed in the dark and the rest did not”; the quote about dogs and infants is not related. So let’s go directly to what Dennett says about other consciousnesses:

In order to be conscious – in order to be the sort of thing it is like something to be – it is necessary to have a certain sort of informational organization that endows that thing with a wide set of cognitive powers (such as the powers of reflection and re-representation). This sort of internal organization does not come automatically with so-called “sentience.” It is not the birthright of mammals or warm-blooded creatures or vertebrates; it is not even the birthright of human beings. It is an organization that is swiftly achieved in one species, ours, and in no other. Other species no doubt achieve somewhat similar organizations, but the differences are so great that most of the speculative translations of imagination from our case to theirs make no sense.

My claim is not that other species lack our kind of self-consciousness, as Nagel (1991) and others have supposed. I am claiming that what must be added to mere responsivity, mere discrimination, to count as consciousness at all is an organization that is not ubiquitous among sentient organisms. This idea has been dismissed out of hand by most thinkers.(1) Nagel, for instance, finds it to be a “bizarre claim” that “implausibly implies that babies can’t have conscious sensations before they learn to form judgments about themselves.” Lockwood is equally emphatic: “Forget culture, forget language. The mystery begins with the lowliest organism which, when you stick a pin in it, say, doesn’t merely react, but actually feels something.”

Indeed, that is where the mystery begins if you insist on starting there, with the assumption that you know what you mean by the contrast between merely reacting and actually feeling. And the mystery will never stop, apparently, if that is where you start.

Comment #38380

Posted by harold on July 17, 2005 1:20 PM (e)

The main point here is that Dembski is being disingenuous and inaccurate, and dishonestly self-promoting. This is true whether or not New Caledonian Crows, Koko, or hypothetical computers have consciousness.

Dembski wrote -

“My good friend and colleague Jeffrey Schwartz (along with Mario Beauregard and Henry Stapp) has just published a paper in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society that challenges the materialism endemic to so much of contemporary neuroscience.”

But this is dishonest on two levels. First of all, the paper rightly or wrongly makes reference to the role of QM for explaining some issues in neuroscience. QM is part of physics and part of science. The paper proposes that neuroscience draw on QM to explain some issues in neuroscience. It is squarely within the bounds of using methodological materialism to address scientific problems - the opposite of Dembski’s claim. (Some might even make, perfectly honestly, the exact opposite claim of Dembski - that the paper attempts too ambitious a reduction, relative to current neuroscience data and the current state of QM.)

On a deeper level, Dembski is implying that the authors of the paper reject “materialism” IN THE SAME WAY HE DOES, that they ENDORSE his ID methodology. But there is nothing here to suggest that the authors wish to argue that brain processes should not be studied, and instead declared to be due to magic, as ID in essence argues for every scientific issue it touches on. Whether their science is good or bad science, Dembski’s implication that they support HIS “approach to science” problems is false.

Dembski goes on -

“By contrast, it argues for the irreducibility of mind (and therefore intelligence) to material mechanisms.”

As usual, this is mainly tossing around buzzwords which sound impressive but are hard to define. Both terms - “mind” and “intelligence” - are blanket terms which cover a vast number of issues, some of which may be barely related. Whether true “intelligence” has been shown by machines is a very open question, and may ultimately hinge on arbitrary definitions (my arbitrary opinion is some types of intelligence have). However, Dembski’s motivation is clear here. He wants to imply that the “designer” is “intelligent”, “intelligence” is irreducible, therefore the “designer” is irreducible, therefore school children must be taught that the bacterial flagellum can’t have evolved naturally, and that this somehow favors one particular US political movement.

The idea that “intelligence” alone motivates and defines human behavior, and that human motivations and emotions will emerge if “intelligence” is created, is a widespread false idea. The public is somewhat conditioned to assume that other “intelligent beings”, if they existed, would be sympathetic to humans. The high degree of parallel evolution of emotional responses between humans and other intelligent* species, such as dogs, fuels this misperception (*yes, I have used “intelligence” as a term of convenience here). Dembski implicitly endorses (or more likely, exploits) this naive view, to augment the commercial value of his output. The “designer” is “intelligent”, so the “designer” must be like humans, he seeks to insinuate.

Some, including many cognitive and behavioral scientists, might argue that much paper, ink, electricity and electronic data storage media is wasted on difficult-to-test, trendy-sounding hypotheses of “consciousness”, in the absence of a good scientific definition of the term. This is not the same thing as arguing against scientific or philosophic study of consciousness, and not remotely the same thing as arguing against scientific study of either the human brain, or human cognition and behavior. It’s just a criticism that overambitious, hard-to-test hypotheses on this particular issue appear with an annoying frequency. The paper cited above may be vulnerable to this criticism.

Comment #38381

Posted by ts on July 17, 2005 1:29 PM (e)

The main point here is that Dembski is being disingenuous and inaccurate, and dishonestly self-promoting. This is true whether or not New Caledonian Crows, Koko, or hypothetical computers have consciousness.

Believe it or not, some people are interested in more than one issue. And in this case, your “main point” is already extremely well established.

Comment #38382

Posted by Reed A. Cartwright on July 17, 2005 1:55 PM (e)

Ginger Yellow wrote:

human consciousness requires language

I’d say that most humans contemplate with language (i.e. auditory memory). However, there are notable exceptions where people contemplate with images (i.e. visual memory). There is a professor in Colorado (?) who thinks in images and has designed animal pens to minimize stress.

Comment #38386

Posted by ts on July 17, 2005 2:17 PM (e)

I’d say that most humans contemplate with language (i.e. auditory memory). However, there are notable exceptions where people contemplate with images (i.e. visual memory). There is a professor in Colorado (?) who thinks in images and has designed animal pens to minimize stress.

And you learned of this how?

Comment #38390

Posted by Brian on July 17, 2005 3:19 PM (e)

Brian wrote:

To consider the consciousness as the above definition is only using one paradigm and ignoring all others.

ts wrote:

Uh, ok, but who did that?

ts wrote:

Aside from Dennett’s views (which I generally share), the claim that “By all definitions of the word consciousness, New Caledonian Crows are conscious entities like chimps and us.” is trivially and transparently false, simply by glancing at a dictionary.

Going back I do see what you were getting at here. Howeever, even though in the above quote you are showing that not all definitions of consciousness are equivalent, you go on to state:

ts wrote:

Tool use most certainly does not establish “an awareness of … one’s existence, sensations, and thoughts”.

In addition, Ian wrote:

It involves conceptalization, forward planning and execution of a mental model. If that is not consciousness, then what is?

. And ts replied:

Since I gave a dictionary definition, I don’t understand why you’re still asking.

Here, it seems as if you are subscribing to the definition that you provided from the dictionary. If you do not agree with the definition of consciousness that you gave, but were only giving a counterexample, you would think that you would give a definition that you doagree wtih. You simply said that you gave one, which hints at that that isa workable definition. You did not go on to say why consciousness must reside in awareness (again, a mentalist paradigm) of “existence, sensations, and thoughts.” In the exerpts that I provided, they attack the idea that consciousness is any one of these things.

ts wrote:

Also, the claim that crows are aware of their existence most certainly is controversial, to say the least. As is the claim that they are aware of their sensations, unless you’re confusing *having* sensations with being aware of them.

Again, in this comment, your criticism is based on consciousness being aware of sensations. It does not matter if crows are conscious of their sensations. This is not a pre-requisite for consciousness, at least what some postulate. It is only seen to be in the paradigm that you are speaking about.

Here is an article that attacks that very tradition.
http://www.imprint.co.uk/pdf/reclaim_Intro.PDF

Here are the abstracts for the individual papers in the book.
http://www.imprint.co.uk/books/reclaiming_cognition.html#The%20Perceptual%20Form%20of

Brian

Comment #38392

Posted by Brian on July 17, 2005 3:32 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'i'

Comment #38393

Posted by Zim on July 17, 2005 3:35 PM (e)

Dr. (not Prof.) Temple Grandin is probably the person implied. She’s autistic, and has designed slaughterhouses.

www.grandin.com

Comment #38396

Posted by ts on July 17, 2005 3:40 PM (e)

Since I gave a dictionary definition, I don’t understand why you’re still asking.

Here, it seems as if you are subscribing to the definition that you provided from the dictionary.

Not to an intelligent, rational person.

Also, the claim that crows are aware of their existence most certainly is controversial, to say the least. As is the claim that they are aware of their sensations, unless you’re confusing *having* sensations with being aware of them.

Again, in this comment, your criticism is based on consciousness being aware of sensations.

That is nonsensical. I simply pointed out that something was controversial – that is, there are people who disagree with a claim that was stated categorically.

Comment #38397

Posted by ts on July 17, 2005 3:42 PM (e)

Dr. (not Prof.) Temple Grandin is probably the person implied. She’s autistic, and has designed slaughterhouses.

She’s certainly no counterexample to the claim that language is necessary for consciousness.

Comment #38399

Posted by Zim on July 17, 2005 3:56 PM (e)

No, she wasn’t intended to be. She wrote a book called “Thinking in Pictures”, describing her autism and how it helps in her work. There was a programme here a few months ago about her, otherwise I wouldn’t have recognised the reference.

Correction - apprently she is an Associate Professor at Colorado State University.

Comment #38401

Posted by ts on July 17, 2005 4:03 PM (e)

No, she wasn’t intended to be.

You don’t seem to be following the thread. Reed A. Cartwright quoted “human consciousness requires language” and then offered “a professor in Colorado (?)” as a “notable exception”. You then claimed that Dr. Grandin is probably the person implied.

Comment #38402

Posted by Zim on July 17, 2005 4:16 PM (e)

ts - I haven’t waded through all the posts on this thread, no. I was merely providing additional information regarding the possible identity of the person to whom Reed was referring, without taking sides on the issue of consciousness requiring language. Got that?

My real interest in this thread was the original post, particularly the use of quantum mechanics to explain “mind”. I’m generally suspicious of any attempts to use QM for philosophical purposes, but in this case I’m sceptical, to put it mildly, about the paper’s claims that the narrowness of the channels through which the Ca ions flow can affect cell-firing rate due to the resulting lateral Fermi momentum.

However, I’ll refrain from further comment until tomorrow, when I will hopefully have a computer with a functioning mouse, which makes posting here (and just about everything else) that bit easier. So you’ll have to find someone else to try to argue with until then.

Comment #38403

Posted by ts on July 17, 2005 4:20 PM (e)

Got that?

What I got was that your claim that Dr. Grandin was not intended to be a counterexample to the claim that language is necessary for consciousness was factually false. You apparently mistook me to be saying that *you* intended it, but that was a consequence of your own admitted ignorance.
Got that?

Comment #38406

Posted by NelC on July 17, 2005 4:50 PM (e)

ts, are you trying to make up for the lack of creationists in this thread by being contrary with everyone?

You don’t have to try so hard.

Comment #38408

Posted by ts on July 17, 2005 4:54 PM (e)

ts, are you trying to make up for the lack of creationists in this thread by being contrary with everyone?

You don’t have to try so hard.

How, pray tell, would you characterize *your* comment? Leave the hypocrisy to the IDists.

Comment #38409

Posted by Ian Musgrave on July 17, 2005 5:32 PM (e)

In Comment #38306

Ian wrote:

various tests you can use for self-conciousness … that Chimps and Gorillas all pass.

In Comment #38350

ts wrote:

It’s true of chimps but not gorillas. And the claim that they “all” pass shows that you’re reaching, hard, because they haven’t all been tested.

In Comment #38374

ts wrote:

Why do people just make stuff up? All gorillas recognize themselves in mirrors, all chimps recognize themselves in photos…

That is not what I wrote (see above). If I wrote “all chimps and gorillas pass the mirror test”, you would be right. But what I wrote was that enough members of each species had been tested on one or more self-concious test items to be confident that the members of the species in general are self aware. Gorillas in general do not pass the mirror test (athough Koko does as you noted, this may be related to their social behaviour), but pass other tests (see for example this essay.

Interestingly enough, pidgeons also pass the mirror test.

Comment #38412

Posted by ts on July 17, 2005 5:44 PM (e)

I think the plain English language meaning of “there are various tests you can use for self-conciousness (eg recognition of yourself in a mirror, recognising photos etc. etc.) that Chimps and Gorillas all pass”
is clear enough. If you meant to say something else, you should have.

see for example this essay

I see nothing in that essay that supports the claim that there is any test or set of tests that all gorillas pass. When making such a claim, it’s customary to offer a quotation or some indication of what you mean, not require people to go sleuthing.

Comment #38413

Posted by ts on July 17, 2005 5:54 PM (e)

And about photos – how would you determine that a chimp has recognized him/herself in a photo? As I said, I find it implausible, given how the mirror test is structured. At best, it seems, a chimp could recognize that it’s a photo of a chimp, or express familiarity. I believe there have been studies that indicate kin recognition in photos.

Comment #38414

Posted by ts on July 17, 2005 5:59 PM (e)

But what I wrote was that enough members of each species had been tested on one or more self-concious test items to be confident that the members of the species in general are self aware

I can’t find anything in what you wrote that fits that description. “Enough members”? No, I’m pretty sure the word was “all”. And just how many is all? Does every human being require the same number in order to obtain this level of confidence? And just how confident is that?

I think they have a job for you over at DI.

Comment #38415

Posted by ts on July 17, 2005 6:02 PM (e)

“And just how many is all?”

I meant “just how many is enough”. But I guess I got hung up on the word you actually used, “all”, not the word that you now say you used, but in fact didn’t. My bad, I guess.

Comment #38416

Posted by Brian on July 17, 2005 6:03 PM (e)

ts wrote:

Since I gave a dictionary definition, I don’t understand why you’re still asking.

Brian wrote:

Here, it seems as if you are subscribing to the definition that you provided from the dictionary.

ts’ response:

Not to an intelligent, rational person.

So you are saying I am not intelligent or rational. Instead of answering the question, you are attacking the person. That is a strict violation of logical rules.

What you stated (about already giving a definition) makes no sense since you stated:

ts wrote:

No one claimed that this is a good or complete or accurate or appropriate definition of consciousness; it came from the first on-line dictionary I tried. It was simply *a* definition offered in contradiction of a claim about *all* definitions. It was not offered for its merits.

So, you admit that it is not an adequate definition, but when Ian asked what consciousness is (I am assuming that he was asking you what youthink is an adequate definition), you simply stated that you already gave one and leaving the reader to think that what you gave answers what consciousness is. This goes beyond your primary claim that you were giving a counterexample that all definitions of consciousness are how he defined them.

Brian

Comment #38417

Posted by ts on July 17, 2005 6:12 PM (e)

That is a strict violation of logical rules.

It’s not actually; fallacious ad hominem arguments are informal fallacies; they have nothing to do with “strict violation of logical rules”. And all ad hominem arguments are fallacious, and not all comments directed at the speaker are arguments at all.

but when Ian asked what consciousness is (I am assuming that he was asking you what youthink is an adequate definition)

I made it quite clear that there is more than one definition of consciousness, that not all definitions fit the claim made, and therefore the claim was invalid. I referred to the views of Dennett, Searle, Jaynes, and others, and that I don’t agree with all of them, all in the context of what is or is not controversial.

Comment #38418

Posted by ts on July 17, 2005 6:14 PM (e)

I meant “And not all ad hominem arguments are fallacious”; sorry about that.

Comment #38419

Posted by ts on July 17, 2005 6:20 PM (e)

BTW,

Here, it seems as if you are subscribing to the definition that you provided from the dictionary.

is ad hominem – I responded the way I did because I had already stated what I was doing, and you were debating with my about my intentions. In fact all your comments are ad hominem, as you are debating my intentions, rather than some substantial point. But as I said, not all ad hominems are fallacious; some are just poor judgment.

Comment #38420

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 17, 2005 6:51 PM (e)

ts, are you trying to make up for the lack of creationists in this thread by being contrary with everyone?

You don’t have to try so hard.

Indeed. I skip his posts. They are entirely content-free. (shrug)

Comment #38421

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 17, 2005 6:52 PM (e)

By contrast, it argues for the irreducibility of mind (and therefore intelligence) to material mechanisms.

Reeaaalllyyy ….

So what NON-material mechanisms does Dembski want to offer instead?

sound of crickets chirping>

Oh, that’s right — he can’t say, can he …… .

Comment #38422

Posted by Brian on July 17, 2005 6:58 PM (e)

ts,

Yes, they not logical rules, such as logical inferences (modus ponus, modus tollens, etc.), but rather their usage in analysis by stating someone is not intelligent to simply avoid the issue at hand.

In the past, the term ad hominem was sometimes used more literally, to describe an argument that was based on an individual, or to describe any personal attack. But this is not how the meaning of the term is typically introduced in modern logic and rhetoric textbooks, and logicians and rhetoricians are widely agreed that this use is incorrect.

“An inverted ad hominem fallacy consists of asserting that someone’s argument is correct and/or they are correct to argue at all purely because of something creditable/authoritative about the person or those persons cited by them rather than addressing the soundness of the argument itself. The implication is that the person need not even bother to defend against an attack on the soundness of his arguments because of this very credibility/authority.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem

ts wrote:

I made it quite clear that there is more than one definition of consciousness, that not all definitions fit the claim made, and therefore the claim was invalid. I referred to the views of Dennett, Searle, Jaynes, and others, and that I don’t agree with all of them, all in the context of what is or is not controversial.

Yes, and I stated that I recognized this. As seen here:

Brian wrote:

This goes beyond your primary claim that you were giving a counterexample that all definitions of consciousness are how he defined them.

Anyway, his question was removedfrom stating that all definitions of consciousness are how he defined it. He gave an example of what he thought consciousness was and was asking you how you can deny that his example was incorrect. You failed to do so when you said that you already gave one. Thus, it is not a matter of judging yourintentions, but rather it followed from what he asked of you and your response was that of the dictionary’s definition. This is where my assumption comes in. Since he asked you what your definition is and you only gave the one you supplied from the dictionary, one can only assume from thatinstance that you agree with it. However, even though I wrote the above already in my previous post and you did not answer it, I will ask it more directly, how would you define consciousnes?

Lastly, this last comment by you makes my point even more clearly.

Ian wrote:

Tool use may not but invention of novel tools does.

ts wrote:

So you claim, but even if it’s true, it’s not true by definition.

It is trueby his definition that he laid out. What your statement is saying is that there is onedefinition (definition occurs as a singular). On what criteria is his claim false? Whose definition is the measuring stick? It must be noted that what is controversial depends on what paradigm you are in. Obviously, Ian’s ideas are not controversial in his lab, but others whose ideas do not match up with Ian’s are. So to claim that his idea is not true by definition only depends on how he operationally defines consciousness and is not dependent on any other definition of consciousness.

Brian

Comment #38423

Posted by ts on July 17, 2005 6:59 PM (e)

Indeed. I skip his posts. They are entirely content-free. (shrug)

Actually, Lenny argued with me interminably, and when I wouldn’t yield to his clownish tactics such as demanding me to use the scientific method to demonstrate matters of right and wrong when I never claimed that such a thing was possible he switched to transparently dishonest potshots like the above. I don’t tolerate foolishness and intellectual dishonesty gladly, so I piss more than a few people off.

Comment #38425

Posted by ts on July 17, 2005 7:05 PM (e)

Yes, they not logical rules, such as logical inferences (modus ponus, modus tollens, etc.)

And yet you claimed “That is a strict violation of logical rules.” You were wrong about that, and most of the rest of what you wrote is wrong as well, or so confused as to not even qualify as right or wrong.

Comment #38428

Posted by Brian on July 17, 2005 7:13 PM (e)

Lenny wrote:

So what NON-material mechanisms does Dembski want to offer instead?

I have been trying to figure that out since I found out about Dembski’s garbage. It seems to me (in his more philosophical writings) that anythingthat deal with physicalentities are absurd. I say physical instead of material since the physical world can have meaning, but not the God-purposeful meaning that ID tries to promote (ecological psychologists call these affordances; see my comment #38365). He subscribes to Bishop Berkeley’s idea that matter is an abstraction, but Dembski misinterprets him here since Berkeley does not deny abstractions, but he denies the beginning of modern physics idea that matter is seen to be extensionless, colorless, tasteless, etc. In other words, Berkeley thought that all there are are secondary qualities and primary qualities are the qualityless myths. However, Berkeley took these to be ideas (it is unclear, to me, if he means ideas the same way that we do) and stated his famous dictum, “To be is to be perceived.” Thus, I am sure Dembski loves this, to avoid absolute solipsism, God perceives all at all times in order to keep the world from vanishing when we leave the room.

All in all, Dembski views matter to be mind dependent, but has a poor grasp on what constitutes the mind. In fact, he gives no theory at all, except that neuroscience cannot explain how some patients have most of their brain removed, but live a normal life. However, this is easily solved. Even though cortical areas are better suited for some functions, other areas are able to pick up the slack and take over the functions. This is known as the connectionist position and follows from non-linear dynamic laws in the brain. Dembski clearly does not do his homework.

Brian

Comment #38433

Posted by ts on July 17, 2005 7:35 PM (e)

some patients have most of their brain removed, but live a normal life.

Some children who have had hemispherectomies display normal cognitive skills, but certainly do not live normal lives, unless you consider paralysis of half your body “normal”. As for “must of their brain removed” … uh, no, unless it’s true by some definition of yours.

Comment #38434

Posted by Brian on July 17, 2005 7:45 PM (e)

ts,

I said that I know that they are not formal rules (i.e. logical inferences), but that they are violations by using them in logical analysis, meaning foregoing the arguments at hand and resorting to childish name calling.

ts wrote:

And all ad hominem arguments are fallacious, and not all comments directed at the speaker are arguments at all.

The ts wrote:

I meant “And not all ad hominem arguments are fallacious”; sorry about that.

Neglecting that ‘not’ changes the entire meaning of the statement. So do not play these trivial games. I corrected what I meant. Leave it at that.

You have yet been able to grasp what I have been saying so you revert to these childish tactics. Just as in the other thread about computation. I showed that not allbiologists agree with this, but you simply claimed that “Organisms are cellular automata.” Hmmm, this sounds familiar. I was showing that your universal statement was false by providing examples that go counter to your claim, but you continued to state that you were correct. However, in this case, what you are claiming is not what was asked of you. I am not sure why this is so hard for you to grasp. As I stated for the third time now, you were not answering Ian’s question. From your inability to do so, your statement gave the impression that that was the definition that you agree with. As simple as that. The problem is that you did not and still cannot grasp what he was asking.

I am finished with this. You are continuely using a straw man against me (I was analyzing your comments against his, not guessing at your intentions and gave no indication to that). So I will simply use Lenny’s strategy, ignore your misguided comments.

Brian

Comment #38435

Posted by ts on July 17, 2005 8:00 PM (e)

I meant “And not all ad hominem arguments are fallacious”; sorry about that.

Neglecting that ‘not’ changes the entire meaning of the statement. So do not play these trivial games. I corrected what I meant. Leave it at that.

What the HELL are you talking about? *I* accidentally left out the “not”. *I* corrected my error and apologized for it. *You* are a nutcase. Bye.

Comment #38442

Posted by Ian Musgrave on July 17, 2005 10:37 PM (e)

Ian wrote:

They correctly state that the ion channels that let calcium into nerve cells are very narrow (0.086-0.158 nm).

I was wrong, I made a transcription error and gave the figure for the voltage-gated monovalent ion channels (sodium and potassium) not the voltage gated calcium channels (slaps forehead). Voltage gated calcium channels range from 0.5-0.6 nm wide. The calcium ion is 0.2 nm wide, this is substantially less than the pore diameter, but the calcium ion probably goes through as a monohydrate (paired with a single water molecule) that will just fit through. My attention has been drawn to this paper by Max Tegmark on quantum decoherence times. He gives examples for ion channels and microtubules. The ion channels example is based on sodium channels, but is applicable to calcium channels too. The basic point is that the ions transverse a tube of appreciable length undergoing many collisions with water molecules before it exits the channel. A standard ion channel is around 10 nm long, while the de Broglie wavelength of a sodium ion is around 0.03 nm, this means that the superimposition states of the ion will decay in around 10-20 seconds. For calcium or considering calcium monohydrate as a single entity, the de Broglie wavelength is around 0.02 nm and the decoherence time is roughly similar. Tegmark’s calculations on the decoherence times in microtubules have been criticised, but the criticisms based on the ion channels still hold. Interestingly, Schwartz et al. cite the Tegmark paper approvingly in regard to microtubules, but ignore the implications for ion channels.

Another complication is that the calcium ions are not freely diffusing through the pore, but are actually bound by charged amino acids in the pore. This messes up quantum calculations no end as the calcium becomes part of a larger scale entity for a short time, but if you treat the ionic binding as if it were a collision, then you get very rapid decoherence.

All in all, it’s not looking too good for Schwartz et al.’s model.

Comment #38445

Posted by Ian Musgrave on July 17, 2005 11:02 PM (e)

In comment #38363

Jim Anderson wrote:

I’d also like to point out that this particular quotation doesn’t support the inference made by Mr. Musgrave:

Schwartz wrote:

…brain is made up entirely of material particles and fields, and that all causal mechanisms relevant to neuroscience can therefore be formulated solely in terms of properties of these elements. (Emphasis added)

The line immediately after the quoted sentence reads, “This theoretical restriction is motivated primarily by ideas about the natural world that have been known to be fundamentally incorrect for more than three quarters of a century.”

Actually, the lines after are

Schwartz et al., wrote:

Thus, terms having intrinsic mentalistic and/or experiential content (e.g. ‘feeling’, ‘knowing’ and ‘effort’) are not included as primary causal factors.

Which modifies the interpretation substantially.

Even the world of quantum mechanics is made up of particles and fields (although in QM fields are understood as exchanges of particles). What QM is not is purely mechanistic. Both Penrose and Schwartz et al. argue that there are two processes involved (but use different labels). One is mechanistic (Schwartz et al.’s process 2) and one is non-mechanistic (Schwartz et al.’s process 1). But the non-mechanistic process is still a physical (ie materialistic) process, as Penrose points out (see the chapter on Quantum Mechanics and the Brain in Penrose’s “The Shadows of the Mind”). See also Max Tegmarks paper which deals with some of the issues that are raised in the Schwartz et al., paper (forgot to put the URL in the previous post, sorry).

Comment #38447

Posted by Matt McIrvin on July 17, 2005 11:39 PM (e)

Actually, I’m not so sure that Schwartz, Stapp and Beauregard are being as materialistic as Penrose is. Penrose claimed to have found a physical mechanism for consciousness. This paper, on the other hand, I don’t think claims that; in Stapp’s interpretation of QM consciousness is a primary thing that is assumed rather than explained, and this calcium-channel mechanism is supposed to be the place where consciousness reaches in and affects the material brain, sort of like the way Descartes thought the soul drove the brain through the pineal gland. Near the end they openly embrace dualism

The quantum model of the human person is essentially dualistic, with one of the two components being described in psychological language and the other being described in physical terms.

and in the conclusion they explicitly reject materialism:

Materialist ontology draws no support from contemporary physics, and is in fact contradicted by it.

So I’m not so sure that Dembski is misreading the paper. However, I do think that Schwartz et al. are seriously misreading modern physics, repeatedly blurring the distinction between QM and their own dualist gloss on it. A hypothesis reducing consciousness to quantum particle interactions would be materialistic, but that is not what they do; rather their hypothesis reduces volition to an interaction between nonphysical consciousness and the physical world, through Stapp’s rather nonstandard personal version of quantum mechanics.

Comment #38448

Posted by Matt McIrvin on July 18, 2005 12:02 AM (e)

…Another way of saying it is that Penrose thinks “process 2” is materialistic, but Schwartz et al. do not.

Comment #38450

Posted by hal on July 18, 2005 12:05 AM (e)

Ian wrote:

A standard ion channel is around 10 nm long, while the de Broglie wavelength of a sodium ion is around 0.03 nm, this means that the superimposition states of the ion will decay in around 10-20 seconds.

My physics is rusty, but doesn’t the de Broglie wavelength depend on the momentum of the ion? Also, it seems that the paper by Schwartz et al. is more interested in the diameter than the length of the channel.

My guess is they are trying to say that since the calcium ion is confined to small space laterally, it must have a wide range of lateral momentum/velocity, according to the uncertainty principle. As a result, the ion will spread out after it comes out of the channel.

I don’t understand why they think this is a big deal. It’s not as if the ion has to hit its target straight. As you wrote, the ion will collide with water and other molecules. The mean free path of the ion in liquid must be extremely short but it can diffuse freely. Also, it’s not as if a single calcium ion does the job.

Scwartz et al. wrote:

At their narrowest points calcium ion channels are less than a nanometer in diameter (Cataldi et al. 2002). This extreme smallness of the opening in the calcium ion channels has profound quantum mechanical implications. The narrowness of the channel restricts the lateral spatial dimension. Consequently, the lateral velocity is forced by the quantum uncertainty principle to become large. This causes the quantum cloud of possibilities associated with the calcium ion to fan out over an increasing area as it moves away from the tiny channel to the target region where the ion will be absorbed as a whole, or not absorbed at all, on some small triggering site.

Comment #38451

Posted by Ian Musgrave on July 18, 2005 12:47 AM (e)

hal wrote:

My physics is rusty, but doesn’t the de Broglie wavelength depend on the momentum of the ion? Also, it seems that the paper by Schwartz et al. is more interested in the diameter than the length of the channel.

The diameter of the sodium channels is small too, smaller than the calcium channel (on the order of 0.2 nm). The diameter generates the superpositions but the length controls the number of interactions the ion must undergo, thus controlling how long it will take for the superposition to decay. It seems as if Schwartz et al are treating the calcium ions as if they are being fired through a slit or pin hole, rather than traversing a tube.

hal wrote:

I don’t understand why they think this is a big deal. It’s not as if the ion has to hit its target straight. As you wrote, the ion will collide with water and other molecules. The mean free path of the ion in liquid must be extremely short but it can diffuse freely. Also, it’s not as if a single calcium ion does the job.

The point is to generate a quantum indeterminate state which will put the whole brain into a quantum indeterminate state (like the famous cat of Schrodinger, rather than a mere probabilistic description of calcium ion action).

Comment #38452

Posted by Marek14 on July 18, 2005 1:30 AM (e)

I have a simple question to ask:

Is the consciousness currently thought to be “digital” (i.e. a being either IS conscious or IS NOT) or “analog” (i.e. different beings can have different degrees of consciousness and there is no clear line between “conscious” and “non-conscious”)?

Comment #38454

Posted by Ian Musgrave on July 18, 2005 1:45 AM (e)

Matt McIrvin wrote:

…Another way of saying it is that Penrose thinks “process 2” is materialistic, but Schwartz et al. do not.

I think you mean process 1

Schwartz et al. wrote:

This process 2, like its classic analogue, is local and deterministic.

Neither Penrose nor Schwartz et al. see process 1 as mechanistic, and the way I read Schwartz et al (and reading other articles on von Neumann’s process 1) it is still a materialistic process (in the sense that it is a physical process, potentially describable by mathematical constructs). See this paper for a critique of Stapp’s ideas which discusses process 1.

Comment #38457

Posted by Engineer-Poet on July 18, 2005 2:14 AM (e)

Just for my own edification, here’s an estimate of the de Broglie wavelength of a calcium ion in an ion channel.

First, λ = h / p (where p = mv)

m is the easy one:  ~40 AMU, or 6.64e-23 g.
h = 6.626e-27 erg-sec.

v is the tough one.  The velocity of calcium ions probably follows a thermal distribution.  Call it 270 meters/sec (2.7e4 cm/sec) as a first approximation.

So, λ = 6.626e-27 erg-sec / (6.64e-23 g * 2.7e4 cm/sec)
= 3.696e-9 cm = 0.037 nm

The wavelength of the ions appears to be smaller than the channel width, though not overwhelmingly so.

Comment #38463

Posted by Boronx on July 18, 2005 4:55 AM (e)

Consciousness is the story we tell ourselves about what we’re doing.

Comment #38471

Posted by qetzal on July 18, 2005 8:52 AM (e)

I’m still unclear why it matters if a particular calcium ion is in a quantum indeterminate state.

Neurons don’t fire based on a single calcium ion, right? That involves many ions interacting with many ion channels, IIRC. So even if the interaction is indeterminant at the level of any single ion, it won’t be indeterminant at the ‘population’ level, nor at the level of neuron firing.

Doesn’t this make the whole discussion of whether individual ion/channel interactions are indeterminant interesting but relatively pointless? If my ignorance is showing here, will someone please explain what I’m missing? TIA.

Comment #38472

Posted by Unsympathetic reader on July 18, 2005 9:14 AM (e)

Quick reality check: Aren’t the channels dynamic? Do the openings change in size as ions pass through?

Ian Musgrave:
“The point is to generate a quantum indeterminate state which will put the whole brain into a quantum indeterminate state (like the famous cat of Schrodinger, rather than a mere probabilistic description of calcium ion action).”

Hey, we’re loaded with unstable potassium atoms that decay all the time. Who is to say that the resulting trail of ionization from a potassium decay couldn’t trigger a neuron? Maybe they’re looking at the wrong atomic species…

Comment #38473

Posted by Lee J Rickard on July 18, 2005 9:17 AM (e)

A press release from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies throws a fascinating complication into this discussion. One of the key elements of the Schwartz et al article is the assertion that the structure of the synapse is so small that QM effects are important. Yet a study appearing in this week’s Science suggests that a lot of neurotransmitter release is “ectopic”, i.e. away from the synapse itself. For those without subscription access to Science, there is a press release with significant detail at http://www.newswise.com/p/articles/view/513043/.

Comment #38478

Posted by Nick on July 18, 2005 10:23 AM (e)

Ginger Yellow wrote:
Isn’t it more that Dennett argues human consciousness requires language.

In her autobiography, Helen Keller claimed to have memories of the period before she was taught sign language, and those memories includes purposeful actions. If she didn’t have “human” consciousness, it would be interesting to know what sort of consciousness she did have.

Comment #38480

Posted by Alan on July 18, 2005 11:15 AM (e)

Having “waded” through some of the previous comments, I wonder why there is a tendency for some posters to appear as humourless pedants with egos the size of Kansas. What happened to wit?

Comment #38483

Posted by Ginger Yellow on July 18, 2005 11:56 AM (e)

“In her autobiography, Helen Keller claimed to have memories of the period before she was taught sign language, and those memories includes purposeful actions.  If she didn’t have “human” consciousness, it would be interesting to know what sort of consciousness she did have.”

Well, indeed. There are plenty of people who lose language ability as adults, and they clearly have consciousnesses. But from what I’ve read they’re different in many ways from a “normal” human consciousness. There’s probably some fruitful research to be done on synaesthesia as well, since some forms affect language.

Comment #38485

Posted by Gav on July 18, 2005 11:58 AM (e)

Reed A. Cartright wrote “I’d say that most humans contemplate with language
(i.e. auditory memory).”

Does this mean that children can’t contemplate until they learn to speak? Aren’t conscious even?

Does anyone out there actually think in words? It’s (evidently) a struggle
for me to put my thoughts into words at the best of times, but I guess from the exchanges here that there must be some people who do it ass-backwards (from my point of view) and turn their words into thoughts. How do you manage it? I mean, do you hear a voice in your head, like Homer’s brain (say)? That’s really spooky.

Comment #38489

Posted by Ginger Yellow on July 18, 2005 12:54 PM (e)

“Does anyone out there actually think in words? It’s (evidently) a struggle
for me to put my thoughts into words at the best of times, but I guess from the exchanges here that there must be some people who do it ass-backwards (from my point of view) and turn their words into thoughts. How do you manage it? I mean, do you hear a voice in your head, like Homer’s brain (say)? That’s really spooky.”

When I’m contemplating, yeah. Most people do. There’s little difference between turning thoughts into words (talking) and contemplating - it’s just that you do one with your mouth shut.

Comment #38493

Posted by Flint on July 18, 2005 1:13 PM (e)

Maybe if you don’t articulate the word “ouch” in your mind, it won’t hurt? So far I’ve determined that it always hurts, but I can’t be sure I completely failed to articulate it. The harder I try not to use words, the more focused I am on the words I’m trying not to use.

Maybe Zen would help?

Comment #38494

Posted by SEF on July 18, 2005 1:13 PM (e)

“children can’t contemplate until they learn to speak”

I can’t vouch for the rest of you but I was properly conscious as a baby. I remember the content and context of some of my thoughts and “photographic memory” images which I took (can’t say much for my framing at times!). I also learned to read and write very early though. So you could argue that I must have already acquired significant language skills before this (ie language in which I was doing my thinking).

However, I know that some of my thinking even now is outside language and I “translate” it into a language (eg English or a computer language). While other bits of thinking are in other languages I learned and which then have to be consciously internally translated into English to be sure I’m thinking what I think I might be thinking.

Comment #38495

Posted by Qualiatative on July 18, 2005 1:19 PM (e)

Musgrave,

Thus, terms having intrinsic mentalistic and/or experiential content (e.g. ‘feeling’, ‘knowing’ and ‘effort’) are not included as primary causal factors.

In this quote Schwartz quote is chastising materialists.

Actually, the lines after are:

This theoretical restriction is motivated primarily by ideas about the natural world that have been known to be fundamentally incorrect for more than three quarters of a century.

Which modifies *your* interpretation substantially. :-)

Admit it. You just misread (or did not read) the abstract.

Comment #38498

Posted by Alan on July 18, 2005 1:51 PM (e)

Qualiatatative

Here’s another enormous ego.

Comment #38500

Posted by ts on July 18, 2005 2:22 PM (e)

I have a simple question to ask:

Is the consciousness currently thought to be “digital” (i.e. a being either IS conscious or IS NOT) or “analog” (i.e. different beings can have different degrees of consciousness and there is no clear line between “conscious” and “non-conscious”)?

Dualists who believe that consciousness is something above and beyond the material assert that you either have it or you don’t, whereas fact- and reality- based thinkers note that consciousness is a label that we apply to a broad array of behaviors, characteristics, and processes, and that, like health, it’s not something you either have or don’t have. From Dennett’s essay I cited above (it’s probably fair to assume that no one here has troubled themselves to read it):

The very idea of there being a dividing line between those features “it is like something to be” and those that are mere “automata” begins to look like an artifact of our traditional presumptions. I have offered (Dennett, 1991) a variety of reasons for concluding that in the case of adult human consciousness there is no principled way of distinguishing when or if the mythic light bulb of consciousness is turned on (and shone on this or that item). Consciousness, I claim, even in the case we understand best – our own – is not an all-or-nothing, on-or-off phenomenon. If this is right, then consciousness is not the sort of phenomenon it is assumed to be by most of the participants in the debates over animal consciousness. Wondering whether it is “probable” that all mammals have it thus begins to look like wondering whether or not any birds are wise or reptiles have gumption: a case of overworking a term from folk psychology that has losts its utility along with its hard edges.

Some thinkers are unmoved by this prospect. They are still unshakably sure that consciousness – “phenomenal” consciousness, in the terms of Ned Block (1992, 1993, 1995, forthcoming) – is a phenomenon that is either present or absent, rather as if some events in the brain glowed in the dark and the rest did not.(2) Of course, if you simply will not contemplate the hypothesis that consciousness might turn out not to be a property that thus sunders the universe in twain, you will be sure that I must have overlooked consciousness altogether. But then you should also recognize that you maintain the mystery of consciousness by simply refusing to consider the evidence for one of the most promising theories of it.

P.S. The distinction you make is not properly characterized as a difference between digital and analog. Originally, these terms referred to representing, say, a voltage as a numeric value (digital) and representing it as a needle position (analogous). Now, these pretty much refer to discrete (digital) vs. continuous (analog). The sort of binary distinction you’re making is really more about a certain sort of conceptual confusion, of the way that people take natural language terms as if they referred directly to intrinsic features of the universe, rather than being elements of human linguistic behavior. The only words that have this sort of either-or nature are words that are semantically binary, such as “on” and “off”, or terms that have been carefully and explicitly defined, accompanied by inclusion tests; words such as “prime” or “calcium”. such terms are rarely found outside of science and mathematics, and “conscious” does not qualify.

Comment #38502

Posted by ts on July 18, 2005 2:34 PM (e)

“In her autobiography, Helen Keller claimed to have memories of the period before she was taught sign language

Y’know, it helps to provide a quote so people can know what an author really said rather than what someone has interpreted them as saying.

Before my teacher came to me, I did not know that I am. I lived in a world that was a noworld. I cannot hope to describe adequately that unconscious, yet conscious time of nothingness. I did not know that I knew aught, or that I lived or acted or desired. I had neither will nor intellect. I was carried along to objects and acts by a certain blind natural impetus … I can remember all this, not because I knew that it was so, but because I have tactual memory. It enables me to remember that I never contracted my forehead in the act of thinking. I never viewed anything before hand or chose it. I also recall tactually the fact that never in a start of the body or a heart-beat did I feel that I loved or cared for anything. My inner life, then, was a blank without past, present, or future, without hope or anticipation … (Keller 1904[12]/1908, p. 113-14)

It’s worth considering that within the context of this discussion, of whether it’s true that “human consciousness requires language”. I don’t think Keller’s description fits what I would call “human consciousness”. In fact I don’t think I would characterize it as conscious at all. Her brain existed, it functioned, it perceived, and those perceptions resulted in memories which she is now able to articulate, but *at the time* her “inner life … was a blank”.

Comment #38504

Posted by ts on July 18, 2005 2:50 PM (e)

Having “waded” through some of the previous comments, I wonder why there is a tendency for some posters to appear as humourless pedants with egos the size of Kansas. What happened to wit?

And I wonder why there’s a tendency for some posters to be more concerned with the behavior and personalities of posters than the subject being discussed. Actually, I’m fairly certain it’s because, despite having nothing to contribute on the latter, their big egos demand that they say *something*. :-)

Having “waded” through some of the previous comments, I wonder why there is a tendency for some posters to appear as humourless pedants with egos the size of Kansas. What happened to wit?

And I wonder why there’s a tendency for some posters to be more concerned with the behavior and personalities of posters than the subject being discussed. Actually, I’m fairly certain it’s because, despite having nothing to contribute on the latter, their big egos demand that they say *something*. :-) - wit indicator

Boronx wrote:

Consciousness is the story we tell ourselves about what we’re doing.

You might want to read Julian Jaynes’ “The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind”, or Daniel Dennett’s “Consciousness Explained”, or any of the other literature that theorizes on the evolution of language and the development of consciousness in light of the fact that the parts of the brain that produce and comprehend language are distinct. On this view, language starts out as external inter-agent signaling and is later internalized.

Comment #38507

Posted by SEF on July 18, 2005 3:09 PM (e)

ts wrote:

not properly characterized as a difference between digital and analog

You could have cut the rest of that down to: is it boolean or is it real. ;-)

Or, in view of another thread, is it Buellian or is it honest.

Comment #38509

Posted by ts on July 18, 2005 3:24 PM (e)

You could have cut the rest of that down to: is it boolean or is it real. ;-)

Echoing other threads, since computers aren’t really Turing Machines, they aren’t able to model reals; that’s why we often call ‘em “float” instead. (The linguistics of programming languages is rather goofy. “double” as a data type? Double what? Double precision. Double the precision of what? Double the precision of a float. “a float”? A floating point number. “floating”? “point”? The decimal point floats. Floats on what? …)

Comment #38511

Posted by ts on July 18, 2005 3:40 PM (e)

Echoing other threads, since computers aren’t really Turing Machines

Oops, I should have said that computers aren’t really *Universal* Turing Machines. Computers are FSM’s, which are a subset of TM’s. (And to those silly gooses who claim that my statement is false because FSM’s and TM’s are mathematical abstractions, it is customary to omit “modelable as” because that’s understood among people of good faith. My statement is certainly no less true than a claim that trains run in a straight line or that the earth is round.)

Comment #38517

Posted by Rupert Goodwins on July 18, 2005 4:29 PM (e)

Comtemplation sometimes - perhaps mostly - involves internal dialogue, but not always. Musical improvisation is fully involving of the conscious mind but involves no words, as are other creative acts. Even writing is, I think, more a matter of pattern manipulation than straightforward transcription of the inner voice. (I’m aware as I write of the rhythm, structure and tone of the piece, and not in ways that are easy to express in words. And I’m simultaneously aware of the radio on in the background - I can’t be decoding the words there by a process involving other words, can I? That’s right back to the infinite series of homunculuses as a theory of mind) - and the wind blowing the door outside, and very aware of the cold beer that’s waiting for me to finish this sentence. I hear the Voice of Homer.

[there will now be a short intermission]

Mmm.

The most dramatic evidence for high levels of non-verbal conscious processing, in my experience, is paradoxically during discussion. In the flow of a really good argument with someone with whom one is in tune, the reception and processing of ideas happens very fast - to the extent that you become an observer, riding the conceptual white water that crashes towards the confluence. Of course, there’s a lot of verbal processing going on in all directions, but it’s not the source of the ideas.

R

Comment #38520

Posted by ts on July 18, 2005 5:07 PM (e)

Of course, there’s a lot of verbal processing going on in all directions, but it’s not the source of the ideas.

Without direct access to your brain’s internals, it’s not really possible to know the extent to which that’s true. We do know that, say, visual stimuli are one source of ideas, but it really doesn’t go to the crux of the matter – is consciousness, possible without language, not whether conscious entities do some non-linguistic processing. As Dennett says in his essay about animal consciousness (he’s written a great deal more on the subject, but that essay seems to hit a lot of the bases),

I have argued at length, in Consciousness Explained (1991), that the sort of informational unification that is the most important prerequisite for our kind of consciousness is not anything we are born with, not part of our innate “hardwiring,” but in surprisingly large measure an artifact of our immersion in human culture. What the early education produces in us is a sort of benign “user-illusion” – I call it the Cartesian Theater: the illusion that there is a place in our brains where the show goes on, towards which all perceptual “input” streams, and whence flow all “conscious intentions” to act and speak. I claim that other species – and human beings when they are newborn – simply are not beset by the illusion of the Cartesian Theater. Until the organization is formed, there is simply no user in there to be fooled. This is undoubtedly a radical suggestion, hard for many thinkers to take seriously, ; hard for them even to entertain. Let me repeat it, since many critics have ignored the possibility that I mean it – a misfiring of their generous allegiance to the principle of charity.

In order to be conscious – in order to be the sort of thing it is like something to be – it is necessary to have a certain sort of informational organization that endows that thing with a wide set of cognitive powers (such as the powers of reflection and re-representation). This sort of internal organization does not come automatically with so-called “sentience.” It is not the birthright of mammals or warm-blooded creatures or vertebrates; it is not even the birthright of human beings. It is an organization that is swiftly achieved in one species, ours, and in no other. Other species no doubt achieve somewhat similar organizations, but the differences are so great that most of the speculative translations of imagination from our case to theirs make no sense.

My claim is not that other species lack our kind of self-consciousness, as Nagel (1991) and others have supposed. I am claiming that what must be added to mere responsivity, mere discrimination, to count as consciousness at all is an organization that is not ubiquitous among sentient organisms. This idea has been dismissed out of hand by most thinkers.(1) Nagel, for instance, finds it to be a “bizarre claim” that “implausibly implies that babies can’t have conscious sensations before they learn to form judgments about themselves.” Lockwood is equally emphatic: “Forget culture, forget language. The mystery begins with the lowliest organism which, when you stick a pin in it, say, doesn’t merely react, but actually feels something.”

Indeed, that is where the mystery begins if you insist on starting there, with the assumption that you know what you mean by the contrast between merely reacting and actually feeling. And the mystery will never stop, apparently, if that is where you start.

Comment #38527

Posted by Qualiatative on July 18, 2005 5:45 PM (e)

Musgrave said:
Schwartz et al. argue that there are two processes involved (but use different labels). One is mechanistic (Schwartz et al.’s process 2) and one is non-mechanistic (Schwartz et al.’s process 1). But the non-mechanistic process is still a physical (ie materialistic) process

Stapp describes Process 1 interventions as a “probing action performed upon the observed system by an observing system external to it” (emphasis mine)

Clearly Stapp is saying that Process 1 interventions are more than merely a non-mechanical physical mechanism.

Stapp also outright rejects physicalism:

Fundamentally, the shift from classical physics to quantum physics is a transformation from a monistic materialist theory to an interactive dualism akin to that of Descartes, but with the important difference that certain aspects of the interplay between the observed and the observing systems are now specified by the laws of physics.

Comment #38534

Posted by Stuart on July 18, 2005 6:14 PM (e)

Ts wrties “Also, how can the “mind” influence the brain if it is a construct of the brain?

This is like asking how a process running on a computer can influence the computer if it is a construct of the computer. Or how the digestion can influence the stomach if it’s a construct of the stomach. The simplest answer is that all processes, including the mind and digestion, are timewise dynamic feedback systems or rather, we interpret a series of state changes in a physical object, such as a brain, computer, or stomach as such a system. Any apparent metaphysical problem in re the brain and the mind is illusory.”

Certainly no surpise to anybody who has used the Windows operating system in its myriad variants.

Comment #38563

Posted by Rupert Goodwins on July 18, 2005 9:30 PM (e)

ts said:

Without direct access to your brain’s internals, it’s not really possible to know the extent to which that’s true.

You’re right, I was being sloppy. It would be more accurate to say that on the occasions that I’ve caught myself in that state I was unable to access any internal verbal reasoning behind the flow of ideas. I’m not sure how one would distingush between sub-awareness thought that did use language or not – during a discussion such as I described, I’m darn sure my verbal areas would have been lit up like Vegas – and I am sure that were I never to have had language, the situation would not have arisen. But I don’t see that as a sine qua non for the way we think. It could be an interesting byproduct.

I’ve always liked Dennett (but I’ve never quite forgiven him for making me splash out quite a lot of my disposable income at the time on “Consciousness Explained” only to find that it wasn’t). I’m certainly not a season-ticket holder to the Cartesian Theatre as the central issue of human consciousness. Most of the time I have enjoyable discussions, I’m not watching myself do it - I’m not at the moment - and although I can do it, I’m not at all sure that this is what defines me as human and the beneficiary of our uniquely human modes of thought. For most of my day, the theatre is dark - I am simply not aware of being aware. I’d make a terrible Zen monk.

The whole business of how our intelligence evolved alongside our language is fascinating, if frustratingly inaccessible. One of the best things about evolutionary theory is that it has some chance of helping us dig into how this might have happened - and thus what it is we are now. It’s possible to imagine at some point in the future getting the ability to snoop in detail on the processes of brain development from early neural development in the foetus through to late childhood, and it is impossible to imagine how comparing this with similar studies in other animals would not be deeply informative.

It is clearly the case (where is the essay that you quote?) that some animals can and do exhibit strong rational behaviour indicative of complex mental states including themselves as elements. Our unique linguistic abilities may be more concerned with our social skills than our inate modelling abilities (which is roughly what I’d count as core intelligence), although I’d expect all sorts of cross-influences.

R

Comment #38567

Posted by ts on July 18, 2005 9:57 PM (e)

but I’ve never quite forgiven him for making me splash out quite a lot of my disposable income at the time on “Consciousness Explained” only to find that it wasn’t

Perhaps you should reread it (that would cut your cost per reading in half :-) Dennett laid out – in broad strokes – a theory of consciousness (which was largely the result of research by cognitive scientists, not original work of Dennett’s) that has largely panned out in light of later research. The complaint against Dennett seems to come down to his pages not being splashed with grey matter and qualia-colored ink. It was an explanation, and like all scientific explanations it lacks the dynamism and the empirical detail of the thing it explains. People complain that “evolution explained” doesn’t really explain how a single cell turned to mankind, but that complaint is also off the mark.

For most of my day, the theatre is dark - I am simply not aware of being aware. I’d make a terrible Zen monk.

Well, you would make a lousy dualist philosopher, since they subscribe to this myth that being conscious is all about being lit up inside.

where is the essay that you quote?

http://instruct.westvalley.edu/lafave/dennett_anim_csness.html

Comment #38569

Posted by ts on July 18, 2005 10:05 PM (e)

It’s possible to imagine at some point in the future getting the ability to snoop in detail on the processes of brain development from early neural development in the foetus through to late childhood, and it is impossible to imagine how comparing this with similar studies in other animals would not be deeply informative.

Note that, in Dennett’s view, it’s the immersion in human culture that results in the “user illusion” that is consciousness. In this view, if we compare the development of children with the development of other animals, we will note a radical departure in behavior as the child learns language and integrates into society. This is missing in almost all other animals, and greatly foreshortened in those where it is present at all. If this view is correct, and the important physiological differences are those that make such an immersion possible, then the comparison won’t be very informative at all.

Comment #38589

Posted by Reed A. Cartwright on July 19, 2005 1:23 AM (e)

gav wrote:

Does this mean that children can’t contemplate until they learn to speak? Aren’t conscious even?

I’m not referring to consciousness. I chose “contemplate” after contemplating a while on the exact mental faculty I wanted to refer to, i.e. what do I use my internal monologue for? I have no idea whether infants* contemplate.

*”infant” derives from the latin for “not speaking”.

Comment #38592

Posted by ts on July 19, 2005 2:23 AM (e)

I’m not referring to consciousness.

That’s kinda weird, when you posted your comments as a response to “human consciousness requires language”. That wasn’t incidental; you explicitly pulled those words out of their context: “Isn’t it more that Dennett argues human consciousness requires language”. Getting back to what Dennett actually does argue, which is a response to gav’s question,

My claim is not that other species lack our kind of self-consciousness, as Nagel (1991) and others have supposed. I am claiming that what must be added to mere responsivity, mere discrimination, to count as consciousness at all is an organization that is not ubiquitous among sentient organisms. This idea has been dismissed out of hand by most thinkers.(1) Nagel, for instance, finds it to be a “bizarre claim” that “implausibly implies that babies can’t have conscious sensations before they learn to form judgments about themselves.”

I don’t find this implausible at all, but then I don’t share Nagel’s dualistic notion of consciousness as some sort of ethereal goo. I think a more reliable indicator is Helen Keller’s comments:

Before my teacher came to me, I did not know that I am. I lived in a world that was a noworld. I cannot hope to describe adequately that unconscious, yet conscious time of nothingness. I did not know that I knew aught, or that I lived or acted or desired. I had neither will nor intellect. I was carried along to objects and acts by a certain blind natural impetus …

Comment #38593

Posted by SEF on July 19, 2005 2:26 AM (e)

“I have no idea whether infants* contemplate.”

I’d say they do (or at least one of them did) but it’s borderline (both in time-frame and in detail) - especially since you seem to be insisting by your use of contemplate that they use words for the internal concepts yet not have any (spoken) words.

Comment #38615

Posted by Rupert Goodwins on July 19, 2005 8:32 AM (e)

If this view is correct, and the important physiological differences are those that make such an immersion possible, then the comparison won’t be very informative at all.

Unless it’s the comparison that verifies the view.

R

Comment #38620

Posted by Keith Douglas on July 19, 2005 9:38 AM (e)

About real numbers and Turing machines:

Actually, since a “real” real number requires infinite precision they cannot be dealt with on a (U)TM either since they deal with finite precision values. There are so called “hypercomputers” or “super-Turing” computers which can deal with infinite strings (rather than unbounded) but there is good reason to suppose that these are useless as models of computation.

Comment #38622

Posted by Moses on July 19, 2005 10:26 AM (e)

Not to an intelligent, rational person.

This comes from someone offering semantical and liturgical criticims and arguments about conciousness and self-awareness? Blech!

Comment #38624

Posted by SteveF on July 19, 2005 11:02 AM (e)

According to the trackback at the bottom of the page, Ian hasn’t even read abstract let alone the paper!

http://dualisticdissension.blogspot.com/2005/07/pt-watch-3_17.html

Comment #38631

Posted by Gerhard on July 19, 2005 12:26 PM (e)

SteveF wrote:

According to the trackback at the bottom of the page, Ian hasn’t even read abstract let alone the paper!

And yet he manages to quote passages of the paper and comment on them.
Quite likely that the author of the trackback at dualisticdissention is wrong.

Gerhard

P.S.: What the heck is “dualistic dissention”? Dissent would mean ‘I am against something’, but dualistic? ‘I am against it, but I am also against being against it’?

P.P.S.: I wonder whether the dualistic dissenter has read the paper him/herself. All 76 pages of it. After the abstract the authors present a nice quote by Wolfgang Pauli; now that I have read a few pages further, I think they should have chosen a different quote to describe their work: “This isn’t right. This isn’t even wrong.”

P.P.P.S.: Running out of PSs. Just noticed its not dissent, but dissension, “violent disagreement“. It’s getting better and better.

Comment #38632

Posted by Gav on July 19, 2005 12:48 PM (e)

If consciousness does depend on language and language is something that is learned, then is consciousness something that is learned?

As language is something that can be taught, is consciousness something that can be taught?

Comment #38635

Posted by Dene Bebbington on July 19, 2005 1:32 PM (e)

steve wrote:

“How long until the Paul Nelsons, or the Del Ratzschs, ID(DD)ers with some modicum of integrity, jump ship?”

I don’t think Paul Nelson is a good example to hold up in this regard, at least if the following report of a conversation with him is correct:

http://groups-beta.google.com/group/talk.origins/browse_frm/thread/b2feedebd7b0d94c/cec192dd3ac11fc8?q=group:talk.origins+paul+nelson+conference&rnum=1#cec192dd3ac11fc8

The relevant bit:

‘I asked Dr. Nelson: “when dinosaurs started tampering on earth, were they millions years ago..?” “You believe Young Earth ? -“Yes.” Nelson said to latter “question”. I said that I’d somehow comprehend in biology if God is filled into holes of our knowledge. (With left hand as axes I was chopping holes in my right hand). But I don’t get how PhD-guys believes young earth. Paul Nelson was very open-minded, honest. He admitted “I am young Earth Creationist”. He has to believe so due to basis of biblical belief, science tells old earth. His many (ID-)friends believe on old earth. There exist signs on young earth and some work for these (he means YEC-“scientists”) but it does not assure him. He admits permanent tension inside him. (He pointed his right hand to one direction) “I have belief on young earth” (then he pointed his left
hand to another direction) “I know science tells other, old earth”.
“This is tension I just have to live with”.’

In other words, his YEC beliefs based on a particular reading of the Bible trumps the scientific evidence.

Comment #38637

Posted by "Steviepinhead on July 19, 2005 1:41 PM (e)

Fair disclosure: this is a moderately long post. So, FWIW, if you’re looking for the concise one-liners, scroll on!

Pace, ts, but I’m not convinced that Helen Keller, with her extremely limited sensorium, is the best model for what an “ordinary” infant’s consciousness may (or may not) be like, though I agree the reference to her experience–representing perhaps one pole of the possibilities–was a fair and interesting one.

I don’t have a definition of consciousness to offer, and I recognize that an anecdote (particularly a personal one) does not a scientific datum make, but I’ll offer one anyway. (And not feel too bad about it, since an “anecdote” is essentially what HK’s self-report was.)

I have several distinct pre-language memories from babyhood. I have certainly revisited and probably remodeled and refined these memories over the years (and I also remember that I used to have many MORE of them, but those sectors of the hard disk have gradually been rewritten.)

The earlier they are, the less like the integrated memories of a “personality” they are–simple images which certainly had to be “contemplated” later (post-language aquisition) to figure out what the heck they (most likely) were memories OF–for example, the five fingers of my own hand silhouetted against a light background or a memory of a friendly hairy thing posting himself between myself and a drop off the edge of a porch (an old dog named Regen that I have no “conscious” memories of and a porch attached to a house I lived in during my first year, which I never saw again till decades later, after extensive remodelling and repainting).

Sometime during my second year (that is, between twelve and twenty-four months), when I could stand and say a few words (momma, dada, dat [that]), I remember holding extensive discussions with my crib-bound baby sister, in our own private babble language. Perhaps more remarkably (if you are suspending your disbelief so far), my sister (then perhaps only six to nine months old) later claimed to “remember” her end of these “conversations.”

I also remember various scenes from the farmhouse we lived in at that time in the Central Valley of California (a different location than the house-with-porch above). In these slightly later memories, I have “contemporary” knowledge of the identity of actors in the scenes (all family members, grandparents and the like). I could still sketch the rough layout and appearance of that house and yard (to which I have never returned since my second birthday), its direction from the small town the gp’s lived in, etc. This is all unlike the earlier house, where I only retain the one glimpse of a portion of the front porch.

Even these later infant-memories are largely unverifiable, and conceivably confabulated later, if you wish to be skeptical.

Somehow, many years later during a visit with my dad, the subject of how early in childhood we could remember came up, with my father strongly doubting that I “really” remembered anything prior to three years of age.

I described to him a recollected sequence where he and I went to a farm outbuilding, he put me on his lap on the seat of a green tractor, and we used the tractor to view slumped-in ditches of some sort, all for reasons utterly mysterious to me at the time (I was just enjoying hanging with my pops).

My dad happened to have a Sunset magazine publication about earthquakes handy (unbeknownst to me) and he flipped it open to the discussion of the Tehachapi earthquake of July 1952, a strong temblor which he remembered well. (He still doesn’t independently remember the sequence I have described, but he does remember having to survey the irrigation ditches for earthquake damage.)

Blocked irrigation ditches were a common problem in the farmlands of the Central Valley, with numerous causes. While I had probably discussed this memory with others before, I had never attempted to “verify” it with anyone in a position to do so or to “research” it–I was just hoping my dad might remember this particular episode in which he had starred, without knowing in advance that it might tie in to any kind of “dateable” event.

I was born in April 1951, so this “verified” memory (once only one of many from the same timeframe) is from my sixteenth month.

I won’t claim “consciousness” for the early, Helen Keller-like isolated images. But, at least at one time–when I retained more of them–the more-highly-detailed and contextual memories from my second year formed part of that relatively “continuous” stream of memories that I think most of us associate with our personal history and sense of self.

I also learned to read fairly early, by age four or so. Neither the early memories or the early reading led to my becoming the next Einstein, as is all too obvious, but I’ve always been fascinated by the “wolf” children, by stories of private childhood “languages” (the Bronte sisters, for example), and the like.

Comment #38661

Posted by steve on July 19, 2005 5:13 PM (e)

Dene, I had a hard time reading that stuff you posted, but it seems to confirm the basis of my statements–Paul Nelson, unlike some IDers, has a measure of honesty. When i wondered if he and/or del Ratzsch would jump ship, I was thinking they’d do so after seeing their colleagues lie one too many times. Not that they’d be convinced by the evidence. The fact is that many IDers try to stay afloat by lying. Nelson and others with any integrity may someday separate themselves from these liars.

Comment #38669

Posted by ts on July 19, 2005 5:48 PM (e)

If this view is correct, and the important physiological differences are those that make such an immersion possible, then the comparison won’t be very informative at all.

Unless it’s the comparison that verifies the view.

How would a comparison between humans raised immersed in culture and non-humans raised not immersed in culture verify the view that consciousness was a consequence of the immersion? There are too many variables.

As language is something that can be taught, is consciousness something that can be taught?

I think Dennett would find some truth in that idea, but you have to have the requisite physiological structures in place, and we don’t know what species, other than humans, do. The work with chimps and gorillas shows that they have some, but not all, and it’s hard to judge since the work is generally done by people who are way too close to their subjects, and the sentiment that Dennett refers to necessarily comes into play. I think much more work with animals is warranted.

Pace, ts, but I’m not convinced that Helen Keller, with her extremely limited sensorium, is the best model for what an “ordinary” infant’s consciousness may (or may not) be like

Good point.

And not feel too bad about it, since an “anecdote” is essentially what HK’s self-report was.

But note that HK’s anecdote *also* referred to pre-language memories. Having such memories doesn’t go to the question of consciousness; as I noted, “Her brain existed, it functioned, it perceived, and those perceptions resulted in memories which she is now able to articulate, but …”.

I have certainly revisited and probably remodeled and refined these memories over the years

Indeed. Dennett has written at length about “Orwellian” rewriting of memories. Memories of internal experience are not reliable indicators of the nature of the experience. Dennett offers a scientific approach to experience, heterophenomenology, in which we take people’s claims as evidence, not as privileged, inerrant, epistemological access to those experiences. And you’ve certainly provided a lot of very interesting heterophenomenological evidence. :-)

Comment #38672

Posted by ts on July 19, 2005 5:56 PM (e)

Actually, since a “real” real number requires infinite precision they cannot be dealt with on a (U)TM either since they deal with finite precision values.

A TM has an infinite tape, therefore it can calculate results to infinite precision – but not in finite time, of course; not even quantum computers can do that. I’m not sure what you mean by “they deal with finite precision values”; consider that, e.g. sqrt(2) can be expressed in a finite number of symbols and even FSMs can operate on polynomials with no loss of precision.

Comment #38693

Posted by Henry J on July 19, 2005 7:49 PM (e)

At the risk of being slightly off topic, how is it that the first reply in this thread was posted the day before the parent note was posted?

Henry

Comment #38700

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 19, 2005 8:48 PM (e)

At the risk of being slightly off topic, how is it that the first reply in this thread was posted the day before the parent note was posted?

Faster Than Light News Service?

Comment #38704

Posted by Ian Musgrave on July 19, 2005 9:59 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'SFX'

Comment #38705

Posted by Ian Musgrave on July 19, 2005 10:08 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'mode'

Comment #38716

Posted by Dene Bebbington on July 20, 2005 6:53 AM (e)

steve wrote:

“Dene, I had a hard time reading that stuff you posted, but it seems to confirm the basis of my statements—Paul Nelson, unlike some IDers, has a measure of honesty. When i wondered if he and/or del Ratzsch would jump ship, I was thinking they’d do so after seeing their colleagues lie one too many times. Not that they’d be convinced by the evidence. The fact is that many IDers try to stay afloat by lying. Nelson and others with any integrity may someday separate themselves from these liars.”

If Nelson can’t even be honest with himself (his religious YEC belief despite the evidence he knows about) then I don’t see why he’s going to worry about fellow DIers telling liars. Really, if this guy had the integrity you talk about then he’d have left the DI already.

Comment #38724

Posted by SEF on July 20, 2005 8:26 AM (e)

“he’d have left the DI already”

It may not apply in this case but it occurred to me that the DI and other creationist organisations may not be the sort of place you really can leave. Since they have no qualms about telling lies, misquoting people and trying to spin their beliefs or trick them into agreeing with relatively neutral things which they then spin in their publicity into something quite different; I would have thought they would just go on citing someone as a prominent DI scientist even if they did “leave” (or weren’t a scientist anyway!) and issued statements repudiating the DI’s position.

Comment #38729

Posted by Flint on July 20, 2005 10:17 AM (e)

SEF:

A good point. Creationists at lectures continue to sell the Paluxy Footprint stuff, Coso Artifact literature and other long-discredited materials. Not even AiG’s “Don’t say this anymore” list has had any effect. They say they’re only selling existing literature and won’t repeat these claims, but the new literature (unsurprisingly) continues to make them.

This has important connections with Leonard’s PhD defense at OSU as well. Once OSU has been tricked into granting a PhD for fallacious religious doctrine, that “official academic ratification” will live forever, and nothing OSU ever says about it again will be noticed.

So I suspect the DI’s list of “members” includes anyone who can be effectively quote mined. They don’t actually SAY these people aren’t associated with the DI, but they imply this association: “The DI is composed of scientists who find Darwinism seriously questionable, such as Stephen Jay Gould, who wrote…” Uh, wait, didn’t they just say Gould was part of the DI? Well, not quite, exactly, specifically, they only compared a quote-minded statement of Gould’s with the position of DI scientists. He’s not a *member*, see, he just *agrees* with the members…doesn’t he?