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Where Science Can't Go.
Posted: 31 March 2005 10:20 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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From where I sit science is good but limited, it is good at studying things on the 'outside' but is lost when it comes to 'interior' things. For instance science can study the brain but is lost when it comes to the mind. The mind itself is just a 'black box' when it comes to empirical science.  Science does not have direct access to thoughts, feelings, yearnings, desires, awareness and consciousness. Science assumes that all these things are functions of the brain but this cannot be proven.

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“Every minute we spend oblivious to the value of a minute is a minute of unconsciousness. This isn’t some screwball scheme to latch onto the present moment in time, it’s simply what it means to be awake.”

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Posted: 31 March 2005 12:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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Like I have suggested before, if you really want to get an idea what awareness and conscious are like, as far as the physical relationship to the human body, spend some time in a ward with alzheimers or other severly brain damaged people, go volunteer = )

It will change your outlook on life.

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Posted: 31 March 2005 01:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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[quote author=“JustThis”]From where I sit science is good but limited, it is good at studying things on the ‘outside’ but is lost when it comes to ‘interior’ things. For instance science can study the brain but is lost when it comes to the mind. The mind itself is just a ‘black box’ when it comes to empirical science.  Science does not have direct access to thoughts, feelings, yearnings, desires, awareness and consciousness. Science assumes that all these things are functions of the brain but this cannot be proven.

Just thought I’d check in and see not much has changed.  Wonder if there will ever be an honest scientific debate here?

All I can say JustThis is, you must be a big fan of Descartes.

g

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Posted: 31 March 2005 01:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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Meant to say I’ll check back in a week or two to see if anyone has started talking science.  See a couple of bona fide scientists have pulled out of the discussion.  Wonder why. :D

g

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Posted: 31 March 2005 01:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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BTW: JustThis, try reading some up-to-date neuroscience (preferably from the journals).  Your OPINION is getting rapidly out of synch with what folks are studying.

g

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Posted: 31 March 2005 02:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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Iisbliss,

  Why look anywhere else but this body and this mind; up close and as personal as it gets. Like I’ve suggested elsewhere spend some time in meditation it will change your outlook.

Gman,

  Nice snipe and run. Puck puck puck. Join the discussion, enlighten us. I suppose you’re one of those science types who thinks that consciousness originates in the brain and at the same time believes in free will.

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“Every minute we spend oblivious to the value of a minute is a minute of unconsciousness. This isn’t some screwball scheme to latch onto the present moment in time, it’s simply what it means to be awake.”

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Posted: 31 March 2005 03:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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[quote author=“JustThis”]
Gman,

  Nice snipe and run. Puck puck puck. Join the discussion, enlighten us. I suppose you’re one of those science types who thinks that consciousness originates in the brain and at the same time believes in free will.

Actually I was waiting for a response!

JustThis.  I don’t know how to enlighten anyone.  I just know that the majority of brain scientists (and yes I do read the neuroscience journal articles) have long since abandoned the dualist conceptualization of brain/mind.  Even as we speak there are fMRI and other imaging experiments probing many different thinking modes, including meditative states.  The correlations between mental states and brain function are starting to become clearer.  And, as it turns out, subtle timing experiments do demonstrate that it is brain that CAUSES mind and not the other way around.  So your inference that, somehow there is a difference and seeming to hold out that there is separateness to mind and brain is simply not supported by the science.  You seem willing to spout opinions about these phenomena but don’t offer evidence from actual science.  And since this is a SCIENCE forum, I thought sniping would be as acceptable as unsubstantiated inferences.  Do not mean to offend, just would like to discuss the science of belief and faith etc., not more opinons and holdover ideas about mentation.

g

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Posted: 31 March 2005 05:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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Just a quick scan and here we go again. What does man really know about science, not much. Probably hasn’t scratched the surface in relation to DNA, brain functions, etc. That magical life force that makes the heart beat from inside the womb until life’s last breath, what is it? What generates a heart to start beating in the first place, what is it?

Doctors and scientists can only make conjecture about a lot of it. Oh sure, we found out a lot more in the last 100 years than in all of recorded time. But really now, when I hear folks talking conjecture as if it were fact, it makes me chuckle.

And with that, it is time for beddy bye. Good night. Time to check into a REAL factual textbook, the bible. We’re starting over in the book of Luke. It is very interesting. I hope you’ll join in reading. We’ll reconvene here tomorrow night to see what you’ve learn.

Bye bye…

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Posted: 31 March 2005 06:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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[quote author=“JustThis”]From where I sit science is good but limited, it is good at studying things on the ‘outside’ but is lost when it comes to ‘interior’ things. For instance science can study the brain but is lost when it comes to the mind. The mind itself is just a ‘black box’ when it comes to empirical science.  Science does not have direct access to thoughts, feelings, yearnings, desires, awareness and consciousness. Science assumes that all these things are functions of the brain but this cannot be proven.

JustThis:

You are falling victim to one of the classic blunders!  You are confusing the unexplained with the unexplainable.  The notion that science cannot study the things that go on inside the brain/mind is naive.  Anything that one cares to name can be investigated scientifically.  Just like any other field of inquiry, the process remains the same:  Hypothesize.  Experiment.  Theorize.  Rinse.  Repeat.

The notion that what goes on inside of our heads is somehow magically inscrutable to this process is as arrogant as it is absurd.  In fact, it runs contrary to the life experience of virtually every human who has ever lived!  We know that external factors lead to profoundly different mental states, and, because we can talk about them, we know that these factors are much more universal than individual.  By mapping these reactions, along with the physical study of the brain itself as they happen, it is quite possible to learn highly meaningful things about how the brain/mind connection works.

Finally, the fact that peoples’ minds can be radically altered by chemicals should prove to any sane person that mind is informed by brain, and not the other way around.

-Matt

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Posted: 01 April 2005 01:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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I am familiar in a layman’s way with some the mind-brain research that is underway and find it fascinating. However sometimes you need to pull back, apply a little everyday common sense to what is being said and see if it adds up. Can the results of this research be related to the everyday experience of a human being. I don’t see that it can and this is why I doubt that science can explain consciousness.  Let me lay out a mental scenario that will show what I mean.


Let’s say that you come home from work, you’re a little tired so you lay down and doze a bit. Your brain is doing what it does at moments like, kind of humming along in neutral. Then the thought occurs to you that you would like a cup of coffee. So you get up and head for the door, if someone should ask you what you are doing you would reply “I decided to go get a cup of coffee.” Now let’s backtrack and see what happened according to science. Science sees consciousness as an epiphenomenon of the brain or that the brain causes consciousness. So you’re sitting in your chair and suddenly your brain generated the ‘get coffee’ thought. How did this happen? Well there are chemical imbalances of neurotransmitters, synapses start popping, electrons race and so on. This happens in what, several hundred thousand brain cells (I’d have to read a neuroscience journal to find out)? Just how did this activity start? What kicked a hundred thousand brain cells into this flurry of activity, synchronized activity I might add? Did a bunch of brain cells just randomly start firing? Did a few ‘controller cells’ start the process, if so what started their activity? And if somehow it was just a bunch of brain cells that started this whole business why bother creating the thought “I think I’ll go get a cup of coffee?” Why not just send nerve impulses to the body to direct it to get up and go to the nearest 7-11? There is something missing in the scientific explanation of the ‘coffee’ event. Scientifically speaking electrons (or neurotransmitters or nerve cells,etc) in the brain caused you to go get a coffee. Electrons are causing me to write this post. Now I ask you is this how you think of your life? The brain causes consciousness, the brain generates ‘you’, the brain causes you to think, the brain causes you to act, the brain causes you to love your wife and children.

You can say all you want about the scientific explanation of consciousness and you may say that you believe it. The problem is that the scientific conception does not match how we really feel our ‘selves’ to be, there is a ‘disconnect’ here. You have an intellectual, scientific picture of how you are constructed that is very different from how you feel yourself to be. Are ‘you’ really just electrons, molecules and neurotransmitters in motion. There will always be this separation between the interior me(where science can’t go) and the exterior me that can be studied. And when you start believing that the exterior picture is more valid than your interior ‘life’ you are out of touch with what it means to be a human being.

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Posted: 01 April 2005 01:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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[quote author=“psiconoclast”]You are falling victim to one of the classic blunders!


Never fight a land war in Asia?

Byron

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“We say, ‘Love your brother…’ We don’t say it really, but… Well we don’t literally say it. We don’t really, literally mean it. No, we don’t believe it either, but… But that message should be clear.”—David St. Hubbins

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Posted: 01 April 2005 04:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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[quote author=“JustThis”]I am familiar in a layman’s way with some the mind-brain research that is underway and find it fascinating. However sometimes you need to pull back, apply a little everyday common sense to what is being said and see if it adds up. Can the results of this research be related to the everyday experience of a human being. I don’t see that it can and this is why I doubt that science can explain consciousness. Let me lay out a mental scenario that will show what I mean.

In fact, this is wrong.  Common sense is neither common, nor particularly veridical.  When you are dealing with tremendously subtle cause-effect phenomena, common sense is your enemy.

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Posted: 01 April 2005 05:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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[quote author=“JustThis”]You can say all you want about the scientific explanation of consciousness and you may say that you believe it. The problem is that the scientific conception does not match how we really feel our ‘selves’ to be, there is a ‘disconnect’ here. You have an intellectual, scientific picture of how you are constructed that is very different from how you feel yourself to be. Are ‘you’ really just electrons, molecules and neurotransmitters in motion. There will always be this separation between the interior me(where science can’t go) and the exterior me that can be studied. And when you start believing that the exterior picture is more valid than your interior ‘life’ you are out of touch with what it means to be a human being.

Flowers (some of them anyway) are beautiful.  Nobody disputes the notion that what we see, however, is simply light reflected off of a collection of matter, and interpreted by our minds (regardless of how our minds work).  There is no magical flower spirit that makes them pretty, but they are pretty nonetheless.  Human thought is much the same way.  The fact that it arises from phenomena that can be studied does not, in any way, mean that it is not wonderful or special.  In fact, the ability for the electrons and chemicals in our brains to give rise to what we think of as “me” is one of the most wonderful things in the world.

-Matt

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Posted: 01 April 2005 09:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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JustThis, the reason is because you are not looking at what happens to conscious and self awareness when the brain is damaged.  Sure you can mediate all you want, but if you were to lose some brain functions, would you still be you?

I contest you wouldn’t. 

My grandfather was a very religous man that spent his last two years of 98 year long life jacking off constantly and talking about boobs.  Was this him? Was this the release of years of repression? Or was it just the way Alzhiemers destroyed his brain? Since he didnt even know his own name, nor where he was, nor anyone around him anymore, I would say the person I knew as my grandfather had ceased to exist, and was now a very dirty chimpanzee.

So you say there is a disconnect between the interior you and the exterior you where science can’t go.  I contend that those with brain impairment demostrate the real disconnect.

I worked for awhile in a rehab facility for people with severe brain damage.

I meditate, and while I think science is a bit lapse so far in investigating the mechanics of consciousness, I think they are working on it.

But I don’t fool myself to think that if I lost my brain, I would still be me.

now out of respect for gman, and since i am no scientist, I will quit posting in this forum !! = )

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Posted: 02 April 2005 06:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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[quote author=“Isibliss”]now out of respect for gman, and since i am no scientist, I will quit posting in this forum !! = )

I don’t think you have to be a scientist to post here.  But I must confess I tend to agree with some of the comments that gman made re: the lack of rigour with which statements are made.  In my perusal of these discussions I have detected what seems to me to be a substantial amount of opinion and ideological posturing that is as based on blind faith as the religionists against whom so many rail.  This topic contains examples of such.

My question is: what sort of discourse might be helpful and worth the time to participate in for the purpose of illucidating or furthering the arguments that Sam Harris has put forth?  Surely it cannot be peoples’ opinions about gun control or the aimless thoughts of nearly mindless religious sycophants and the responses of those who seek to ‘reason’ with them.

Perhaps a starting point would be to focus on some relevant literature that could provide a focused discussion of some particular points in Mr. Harris’ book.  I believe someone, in one of these topics, posted a reading list.  If non-scientists have read some interesting work (presumbably by a respected scientist) that pertains to the topic, surely they will have interesting insights to offer or raise interesting questions to explore.  The necessary ingredient is critical thinking.  As a starter, I believe someone mentioned the Steven Pinker book, “Blank Slate”.  I found this one particularly enlightening with respect to how some minds may be predisposed to hold strong beliefs even when contrary evidence is supplied.

A serious, broadly engaged, discourse on the topics and conjectures raised in Mr. Harris’ book would be most welcome.  If there are any who would care to join this effort, please respond.

Sincerely

Geoff

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Posted: 02 April 2005 01:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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All you scientists out there, I would like you to explain consciousness to me. I would also like you to verify it’s existence. I am really curious to see where this goes.             


[quote author=“Iisbliss”]Sure you can mediate all you want, but if you were to lose some brain functions, would you still be you?

Scientifically speaking I am not the same person today that I was yesterday. Spiritually speaking I am not sure that ‘this person’ exists at all.

[quote author=“Gman”] The correlations between mental states and brain function are starting to become clearer.

Certainly I believe that there is a correlation between the brain and mental states, I’ve had a few beers in my day, but I am not a scientist. Where is the proof that these ‘mental states’ exist?

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