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James Randi coments on Sam Harris
Posted: 23 June 2007 12:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]  
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[quote author=“Salt Creek”]Name the woo-woo capital of California (and give a summary, 100 words or less, justifying your selection; write-in candidates welcome):

A: Mill Valley
B: Malibu
C: La Jolla
D: Big Sur
E: Willits
F: Placerville
G: Lompoc
H: Zyzzyx

You forgot

Bolinas
Fern-, Forest-, Guerne-, and Garberville
Honeydew

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Posted: 23 June 2007 01:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]  
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[quote author=“waltercat”][quote author=“HappyHeathen”]
Do you mean “more than science will ever be able to describe” or “more than science is currently able to describe”?

What I meant was actually the latter.  And, yes, I know that Randi does not actually think this.  That is why, Salt Creek, I said that Randi “comes close” to this caricature.  Sometimes the things he says really can be read as incredibly close-minded.  It is almost as if, but not quite, he is saying, “Science has not proven P, therefor P is false.”

Randi wouldn’t say that, because Randi knows that science isn’t in the business of proving things anyway.

[quote author=“waltercat”]And of course, there are people who think that this is what skeptics really think; some people believe that skeptics think that since science has not yet demonstrated that P is true, that therefore P must be false.

What this skeptic believes is that if science has not yet demonstarted that the predictions made by P are false, and those predictions are useful, then we can behave as if P were true with a high degree of confidence.

[quote author=“waltercat”]Randi is very dismissive of Sam’s interest in Buddhism, for example,
[quote author=“Randi”]Mr. Harris also has an attraction to mysticism, particularly to Eastern aspects of it, and appears to give credence to some of its tenets. To my mind, metaphysical claims and notions that result from mystical “experiences” – which can take place entirely within the individuals mind – cannot be accepted without accompanying, supporting, strong, empirical evidence. Surely that is not too much to ask?

Now, if you read what Sam says about Buddhism, you’ll see that Sam does not give credence (whatever that fudge-phrase might mean in this context) to any metaphysical claim made by Buddhism.

Why do you call “give credence to” a fudge-phrase?  It may be wordy, but it’s a common usage (right there in Merriam Webster: 1 a: mental acceptance as true or real <give credence to gossip>).  Just curious.

Randi doesn’t say anything about Buddhism in that piece.  Sam does have an attraction to mysticism, particularly of the Eastern sort; he says so; he simply believes that it can be rational.  Given the accepted definitions of mysticism, I find that baffling myself. 

What I read Randi as saying is that recounting subjective experiences that have led someone to metaphysical (transcendent, “spiritual”, etc.) conclusions about consciousness, or anything else, is not sufficient.  We need empirical evidence, and I believe Sam is looking for precisely that in studying neuroscience.  Good luck to him.

[quote author=“waltercat”]Nor does he think that we should just accept, on faith, the claims made for the ameliorative power of meditation.  Sam points to the empirical character of Buddhism (a character that he admits is often hidden behind layers and layers of unhelpful dogma)

There are a few reasons why the Dalai Lama encourages people to stay in their own faith traditions.  One is because a person can more easily detect frauds and charlatans against a familiar background.  (Another is because the Dalai Lama thinks that all faiths can yield the same harvest to the enlightened practitioner.)

Buddhism, Eastern mysticism in general, doesn’t really offer an operating manual for the human psyche - not the way I got an operating manual with my new pedometer (even allowing for awkward translations).  Read the The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, the translation/exposition by Sogyal Rinpoche, for instance, and see if it really does you any good.  I did, most sincerely, and had to admit that it didn’t.  I looked around Eastern mysticism a good deal, not for supernatural purposes but simply to find some mental peace, and found it inaccessible. 

I did eventually learn mindfulness meditation (from a secular source) and it did help me with depression and anxiety.  As I have said many times before, I do not attach any mystical elements to this practice.

[quote author=“waltercat”]and then claims that it is worth pursuing a scientific research program into the effects of meditation.  Randi seems (though I admit that he does not come right out and say this) to simply dismiss out of hand the possibility that meditation may be of some value (that, I take it, is the cash-value of his claim that the “mystical experiences” of Buddhists take place entirely within the individuals mind).  This is Randi’s modus operandi: reject anything that does not comport with his reductive materialist world-view.  He won’t even drink alcohol, for Christ’s sake.

Research is already being done on the beneficial effects of meditation.  Sam is surely well aware of this.  Even Newsweek had fMRI images of the brains of obsessive-compulsive individuals (resistant to other therapies) before and after meditation, showing the physical changes, several years ago.  I don’t think Salt Creek will be too chagrined to learn that the NIH are underwriting some of this because it has nothing to do with fathoming what lies beyond our everyday senses, yada yada yada.

Randi is undoubtedly familiar with that sort of thing as well.  What he dismisses are paranormal claims that purport to affect the observed world - e.g. spoon bending, card reading, dowsing, predicting the future, etc.  He has recently restricted his million dollar challenge to people who already have a media presence, since the original purpose wasn’t to humiliate naive and/or deluded folks who really do believe in their abilities, but to expose those who are already making a buck from their claims, like Uri Geller, John Edward, and Sylvia Browne.

The kind of meditation Randi dismisses is the kind John Hagelin—perennial presidential candidate and well-meaning woo-woo nut extraordinaire—espouses.  Do you remember the Maharishi Effect?  Hagelin claimed to have lowered the crime rate in Washington D.C.  through mass meditation on the mall.  I believe he also recommended Yogic Flying as a way to prevent, or win, or have some other effect on the Iraq War.

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Posted: 23 June 2007 01:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]  
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[quote author=“M is for Malapert”][quote author=“waltercat”][quote author=“HappyHeathen”]
Do you mean “more than science will ever be able to describe” or “more than science is currently able to describe”?

What I meant was actually the latter.  And, yes, I know that Randi does not actually think this.  That is why, Salt Creek, I said that Randi “comes close” to this caricature.  Sometimes the things he says really can be read as incredibly close-minded.  It is almost as if, but not quite, he is saying, “Science has not proven P, therefor P is false.”

Randi wouldn’t say that, because Randi knows that science isn’t in the business of proving things anyway.

Sure, right.  That is why you never hear scientists (or Randi himself, for that matter) saying things like “evolution is a fact” or “it is a proven fact that humans evolved from ape-like ancestors.”  Nope, Randi would never say anything like this.

Honestly, I do understand the model of science you are referring to here.  But let’s not kid ourselves and act as if no scientists ever talks about proving things.

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What do I care for a hell for oppressors? What good can hell do, since those children have already been tortured? And what becomes of harmony, if there is hell? I want to forgive. I want to embrace. I don’t want more suffering. And if the sufferings of children go to swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price.
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Posted: 23 June 2007 02:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]  
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[quote author=“Salt Creek”]Name the woo-woo capital of California (and give a summary, 100 words or less, justifying your selection; write-in candidates welcome):

A: Mill Valley
B: Malibu
C: La Jolla
D: Big Sur
E: Willits
F: Placerville
G: Lompoc
H: Zyzzyx

Woo-woo is a complex-valued function of topographic elevation above sea level, real estate value per square foot, probability of unobstructed view of the ocean, years since last LSD trip, astrological sign, and mass in grams of annual consumption of arugula. Secondary risk factors include ownership of German automobiles, employment in the entertainment industry, and lactose intolerance. Woo-woo can occur inductively in those who come into contact with primary woo-woo carriers. Primary risk factor for inductive woo-woo coupling is IQ of less than 140.

Splendid definition, S.C. The only thing I’d change would be to add an adjective such as “imagined” to the lactose intolerance. And I’ll just ignore the IQ-level part, as mine qualifies me for woo-wooism, unfortunately, if only barely. (Can’t expect everything, right? Good looks and high IQ rarely arrive together in one perfect package.)

Lately I’ve been visiting Fairfax a couple of times a week, which is described in Wikipedia as Mayberry on acid. The visits work out well for me, since those BMW/M-B/turbo-Volvo folks seem to get a kick out of visiting with and admiring the retarded kids I haul around northern California. (I’m their entertainment director/butler and I provide them with a place to live. If you do it right, it pays surprisingly well, and you owe no income tax. I haven’t even filed in ten years.) The other day I finally met an apparent Asperger’s kid in Fairfax. What a brain. He looked to be around 9 or so, and I was picking his as much as he was picking mine—brains, that is, not that mine had anything like his resources, though he immediately clued in to the few I do have. Amazing experience. Truly enlightening.

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Posted: 23 June 2007 02:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]  
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[quote author=“M is for Malapert”]
[quote author=“waltercat”]Randi is very dismissive of Sam’s interest in Buddhism, for example,
[quote author=“Randi”]Mr. Harris also has an attraction to mysticism, particularly to Eastern aspects of it, and appears to give credence to some of its tenets. To my mind, metaphysical claims and notions that result from mystical “experiences” – which can take place entirely within the individuals mind – cannot be accepted without accompanying, supporting, strong, empirical evidence. Surely that is not too much to ask?

Now, if you read what Sam says about Buddhism, you’ll see that Sam does not give credence (whatever that fudge-phrase might mean in this context) to any metaphysical claim made by Buddhism.

Why do you call “give credence to” a fudge-phrase?  It may be wordy, but it’s a common usage (right there in Merriam Webster: 1 a: mental acceptance as true or real <give credence to gossip>).  Just curious.

Why did Randi use the phrase ‘appears to give credence’ rather than ‘believe’?  My suspicion is that Randi is well aware that giving credence falls short of genuine belief and appearing to give credence falls well short of actually giving credence.  Randi was hedging; he didn’t want to claim that Sam actually believed any of the metaphysical mumbo-jumbo, just in case Sam doesn’t. 

Randi wasn’t confident enough in his own understanding of Sam’s views to actually attribute beliefs to him.  But he was confident in his own ability to make Sam look like someone with gaping blind spots in his belief spectrum.

Again, when you look at Sam’s actual views, I don’t think you find a person given to accepting metaphysical claims.  Sam’s interest in Buddhism is not in its metaphysical elaboration, but on the benefits of meditation.  As you say, M, that is a legitimate topic of inquiry

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What do I care for a hell for oppressors? What good can hell do, since those children have already been tortured? And what becomes of harmony, if there is hell? I want to forgive. I want to embrace. I don’t want more suffering. And if the sufferings of children go to swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price.
-Ivan Karamazov

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Posted: 23 June 2007 02:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]  
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[quote author=“waltercat”][quote author=“M is for Malapert”]
Randi wouldn’t say that, because Randi knows that science isn’t in the business of proving things anyway.

Sure, right.  That is why you never hear scientists (or Randi himself, for that matter) saying things like “evolution is a fact” or “it is a proven fact that humans evolved from ape-like ancestors.”  Nope, Randi would never say anything like this.

Honestly, I do understand the model of science you are referring to here.  But let’s not kid ourselves and act as if no scientists ever talks about proving things.

They may say it carelessly—colloquially—but if you point it out, they’ll correct themselves.  Respectable ones anyway.

“Evolution is a fact” is shorthand for what I said later on.  It has made predictions; those predictions have not been falsified; they have been useful.  We can proceed with a high degree of confidence that the predictions can be trusted.  It’s easier to say “it’s a fact”.  For all intents and purposes, it is a fact (has objective reality). 

“DNA analysis shows we are related to the great apes.”  That’s shorthand too.  Some assumptions are made.

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Posted: 23 June 2007 02:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]  
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[quote author=“Salt Creek”]Name the woo-woo capital of California (and give a summary, 100 words or less, justifying your selection; write-in candidates welcome):

A: Mill Valley
B: Malibu
C: La Jolla
D: Big Sur
E: Willits
F: Placerville
G: Lompoc
H: Zyzzyx

La Jollans are far too worried about money, cars, clothes and which piece of real estate has the better view to be genuinely concerned about woo-woo.  And besides, one of the best scientific universities in California is in La Jolla.

So . . . definitely Zyzzyx.

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What do I care for a hell for oppressors? What good can hell do, since those children have already been tortured? And what becomes of harmony, if there is hell? I want to forgive. I want to embrace. I don’t want more suffering. And if the sufferings of children go to swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price.
-Ivan Karamazov

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Posted: 23 June 2007 02:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]  
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[quote author=“M is for Malapert”]
“Evolution is a fact” is shorthand for what I said later on.  It has made predictions; those predictions have not been falsified; they have been useful.  We can proceed with a high degree of confidence that the predictions can be trusted.  It’s easier to say “it’s a fact”.  For all intents and purposes, it is a fact (has objective reality). 

“DNA analysis shows we are related to the great apes.”  That’s shorthand too.  Some assumptions are made.

And “Science has not proven P, therefore P is false” is also shorthand for something as well, maybe.

Probably something like:  “Get your woo-woo out of my face and go back to Zyzzyx, you nutjob.”

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What do I care for a hell for oppressors? What good can hell do, since those children have already been tortured? And what becomes of harmony, if there is hell? I want to forgive. I want to embrace. I don’t want more suffering. And if the sufferings of children go to swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price.
-Ivan Karamazov

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Posted: 23 June 2007 04:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]  
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[quote author=“waltercat”][quote author=“M is for Malapert”]
Why do you call “give credence to” a fudge-phrase?  It may be wordy, but it’s a common usage (right there in Merriam Webster: 1 a: mental acceptance as true or real <give credence to gossip>).  Just curious.

Why did Randi use the phrase ‘appears to give credence’ rather than ‘believe’?

Likes to use three or four words when one would do?  Loves the sound of his own voice?

[quote author=“waltercat”]My suspicion is that Randi is well aware that giving credence falls short of genuine belief and appearing to give credence falls well short of actually giving credence.  Randi was hedging; he didn’t want to claim that Sam actually believed any of the metaphysical mumbo-jumbo, just in case Sam doesn’t. 

Randi wasn’t confident enough in his own understanding of Sam’s views to actually attribute beliefs to him.  But he was confident in his own ability to make Sam look like someone with gaping blind spots in his belief spectrum.

I think you’re making a mountain out of a molehill.  I think “appears to give credence” is a pompous way of saying “believes”, with its unstated but always implied “as far as I can tell”.

I’ve read most of what Randi’s written on Sam, including his statement that he feels “a coolness” in Sam’s attitude towards him, and he’s met Sam, has definitely read End of Faith and probably Letter and some of the articles, heard him talk.  Sponsored one of the debates even.  I’m sure he’s quite familiar with Sam’s views. 

[quote author=“waltercat”]Again, when you look at Sam’s actual views, I don’t think you find a person given to accepting metaphysical claims.

Sorry, W, that’s just not so.  Go back to the part about reincarnation.  Reread the “response to controversies” essay on this very website.  Here, let me conveniently quote it for you:

[quote author=“Sam Harris”]My position on the paranormal is this: While there have been many frauds in the history of parapsychology, I believe that this field of study has been unfairly stigmatized. If some experimental psychologists want to spend their days studying telepathy, or the effects of prayer, I will be interested to know what they find out. And if it is true that toddlers occasionally start speaking in ancient languages (as Ian Stevenson alleges), I would like to know about it. However, I have not spent any time attempting to authenticate the data put forward in books like Dean Radin’s The Conscious Universe or Ian Stevenson’s 20 Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation. The fact that I have not spent any time on this should suggest how worthy of my time I think such a project would be. Still, I found these books interesting, and I cannot categorically dismiss their contents in the way that I can dismiss the claims of religious dogmatists. (Here, I am making a point about gradations of certainty: can I say for certain that the last hundred years of experimentation proves that telepathy doesn’t exist? No. It seems to me that reasonable people can disagree about the data. Can I say for certain that the Bible and the Koran show every sign of having been written by ignorant mortals? Yes. And this is the only certainty one needs to dismiss the God of Abraham as a creature of fiction.)

Wow.  Anyone who even has a position on the paranormal is already WAY behind the old eight-ball, as far as I’m concerned, in terms of being taken seriously as a scientist-guy (which Sam most definitely wants to be).  Anyone who can say that the field of paranormal research has been unfairly stigmatized is just not doing enough reading.  Anyone who cannot categorically dismiss existing paranormal “research” is not doing nearly enough reading, critical reading, by a long shot. 

And for someone who says he is working on a doctorate in neuroscience, that is a very surprising data point.  This is, after all, within the boundaries of his field—it’s not enough to say “I’m not looking any further into it myself”; he needs to know what is worth serious consideration (by others if not himself) and what has already been thoroughly debunked and is categorically dismissed by any scientist without a large buzzing bee in his/her bonnet.

And that it’s someone who can with such certainty dismiss the Bible (which does, after all, exist, just like the last 100 years’ worth of paranormal pseudoscience, and is interesting reading too) makes another surprising data point. 

Taken all together, we get—well, my goodness—someone with a gaping blind spot in his belief system.  Unquote.

[quote author=“waltercat”]Sam’s interest in Buddhism is not in its metaphysical elaboration, but on the benefits of meditation.  As you say, M, that is a legitimate topic of inquiry

It is, but I do not believe that Sam’s interest in Eastern mysticism boils down to a simple interest in the observable, reproducible, beneficial effects of meditation on mental health.  After all:

[quote author=“attributed to Sam Harris”]Those who have read the last chapters of The End of Faith know that I am not convinced of this [“this” being death as the end of consciousness, apparently - M]. While I spend a fair amount of time thinking about the brain, I do not think that the utter reducibility of consciousness to matter has been established. It may be that the very concepts of mind and matter are fundamentally misleading us.

This is a metaphysical claim claiming not to be.  Not very convincingly either.

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Posted: 23 June 2007 04:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]  
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[quote author=“waltercat”][quote author=“M is for Malapert”]
“Evolution is a fact” is shorthand for what I said later on.  It has made predictions; those predictions have not been falsified; they have been useful.  We can proceed with a high degree of confidence that the predictions can be trusted.  It’s easier to say “it’s a fact”.  For all intents and purposes, it is a fact (has objective reality). 

“DNA analysis shows we are related to the great apes.”  That’s shorthand too.  Some assumptions are made.

And “Science has not proven P, therefore P is false” is also shorthand for something as well, maybe.

Sure.  I still have to say that I have spent a lot of time around actual scientists, and it’s just not the way they talk.  They will want to see your evidence.  They will say things like “The plural of anecdote is not data”, “When you hear hoofbeats, look for horses”, and “Document or retract”.  They can be frickin’ annoying about it.  Personally, I feel that I learned something from that way of looking at things.

[quote author=“waltercat”]Probably something like:  “Get your woo-woo out of my face and go back to Zyzzyx, you nutjob.”

Right.  And… ?

You aren’t suggesting there’s something wrong with that, are you?

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Posted: 23 June 2007 04:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]  
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[quote author=“M is for Malapert”]
I think you’re making a mountain out of a molehill.  I think “appears to give credence” is a pompous way of saying “believes”, with its unstated but always implied “as far as I can tell”.

No.  “appears to give credence” is a fudge phrase.  Only a biased observer would think otherwise.

[quote author=“Sam Harris”]My position on the paranormal is this: While there have been many frauds in the history of parapsychology, I believe that this field of study has been unfairly stigmatized. If some experimental psychologists want to spend their days studying telepathy, or the effects of prayer, I will be interested to know what they find out. And if it is true that toddlers occasionally start speaking in ancient languages (as Ian Stevenson alleges), I would like to know about it. However, I have not spent any time attempting to authenticate the data put forward in books like Dean Radin’s The Conscious Universe or Ian Stevenson’s 20 Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation. The fact that I have not spent any time on this should suggest how worthy of my time I think such a project would be. Still, I found these books interesting, and I cannot categorically dismiss their contents in the way that I can dismiss the claims of religious dogmatists. (Here, I am making a point about gradations of certainty: can I say for certain that the last hundred years of experimentation proves that telepathy doesn’t exist? No. It seems to me that reasonable people can disagree about the data. Can I say for certain that the Bible and the Koran show every sign of having been written by ignorant mortals? Yes. And this is the only certainty one needs to dismiss the God of Abraham as a creature of fiction.)

Wow.  Anyone who even has a position on the paranormal is already WAY behind the old eight-ball, as far as I’m concerned, in terms of being taken seriously as a scientist-guy (which Sam most definitely wants to be).

This is very very wrongheaded, M.  You have a position on the paranormal, Salt Creek has a position on the paranormal.  I have a position on the paranormal.  Randi has a position on the paranormal.  C’mon now.

Furthermore, nothing in that quote from Sam gives any credence (see, a proper use of the expression) to Randi’s claim that Sam believes in any metaphysical mumbo-jumbo.  Being open to the possibility is not equivalent to, nor does it imply, belief. 

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

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What do I care for a hell for oppressors? What good can hell do, since those children have already been tortured? And what becomes of harmony, if there is hell? I want to forgive. I want to embrace. I don’t want more suffering. And if the sufferings of children go to swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price.
-Ivan Karamazov

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Posted: 23 June 2007 04:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]  
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[quote author=“M is for Malapert”]
[quote author=“attributed to Sam Harris”]Those who have read the last chapters of The End of Faith know that I am not convinced of this [“this” being death as the end of consciousness, apparently - M]. While I spend a fair amount of time thinking about the brain, I do not think that the utter reducibility of consciousness to matter has been established. It may be that the very concepts of mind and matter are fundamentally misleading us.

This is a metaphysical claim claiming not to be.  Not very convincingly either.

No it isn’t.  It is an epistemological claim, and a true one at that.  Sam is saying that we don’t know whether consciousness is reducible to matter.  There seems to be a correlation, yes.  But does that correlation amount to reduction?  There is much debate.  So it is just demonstrably true that it has not been established that consciousness is reducible to the brain.  And it may (may, M.  You seem to have trouble with that word) very well be that our concepts are part of the problem.

And we are getting dangerously close to an area in which I have a tiny bit of expertise, for once.

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What do I care for a hell for oppressors? What good can hell do, since those children have already been tortured? And what becomes of harmony, if there is hell? I want to forgive. I want to embrace. I don’t want more suffering. And if the sufferings of children go to swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price.
-Ivan Karamazov

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Posted: 23 June 2007 05:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]  
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[quote author=“waltercat”]No it isn’t.  It is an epistemological claim, and a true one at that.  Sam is saying that we don’t know whether consciousness is reducible to matter.  There seems to be a correlation, yes.  But does that correlation amount to reduction?  There is much debate.  So it is just demonstrably true that it has not been established that consciousness is reducible to the brain.  And it may (may, M.  You seem to have trouble with that word) very well be that our concepts are part of the problem.

And we are getting dangerously close to an area in which I have a tiny bit of expertise, for once.

You claim that something “has not been established”. Of course, your claim is all the bolder since you haven’t bothered to commit yourself to ANY particular conceptualization of consciousness, let alone a scientific one. Not even epistemological, W. Your approach, in falling back to the “more things in Heaven and Earth” mode, is nothing but rhetoric.

If, W, your approach is to rig it “conceptually” so that consciousness (however you “conceptualize” it) need not be reducible to matter, or that, “conceptually”, matter need not be reducible to physics, well, you’ve just done what philosophers do, which is to grab the problem back from out of the hands of scientists by transforming it into a problem (with your own “conceptualization”) that no scientist will be interested in.

Tell ya what, let’s assume for the time being that it’s the brain. We’d put that under the rubric of a “working hypothesis”. If we fall on hard times in investigating it that way, well, we can always check out whatever fluffy conceptualization of consciousness you think best.

Considering what neuroscience actually has accomplished in medicine and other fields, what you are really doing is called “leaving in a huff”. Or maybe it’s a minute-and-a-huff. However long it takes, you will have worn out your welcome with the scientists.

[ Edited: 23 June 2007 05:32 PM by ]
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Posted: 23 June 2007 05:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]  
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[quote author=“Salt Creek”]
Tell ya what, let’s assume for the time being that it’s the brain. We’d put that under the rubric of a “working hypothesis”. If we fall on hard times in investigating it that way, well, we can always check out whatever fluffy conceptualization of consciousness you think best.

I am very happy to assume that.  I think it is most likely correct.  But (a) my views aren’t under discussion here, and (b) I won’t begrudge anyone who wishes to entertain and research an alternative hypothesis.  Furthermore, entertaining an hypothesis is not equivalent to believing it (or even giving credence to it, I suppose).

Considering what neuroscience actually has accomplished in medicine and other fields, what you are really doing is called “leaving in a huff”. Or maybe it’s a minute-and-a-huff. However long it takes, you will have worn out your welcome with the scientists.

I’m not leaving to go anywhere.  Nor is John Searle, nor is David Chalmers, nor is Thomas Nagel, nor is anyone who believes that the mind may not be reducible to the brain.

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What do I care for a hell for oppressors? What good can hell do, since those children have already been tortured? And what becomes of harmony, if there is hell? I want to forgive. I want to embrace. I don’t want more suffering. And if the sufferings of children go to swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price.
-Ivan Karamazov

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Posted: 23 June 2007 05:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]  
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[quote author=“waltercat”]And we are getting dangerously close to an area in which I have a tiny bit of expertise, for once.

For once? Well, I know you’re not going anywhere, Walter. Not as long as there is the faintest opportunity for you to trot out, for perhaps the umpty-thousandth time, that tiny bit of expertise. What is old is now new again.

My theory of woo-woo has been seriously challenged:

From the Journal of Irreducible Results

All human beings are born with a woo-woo gland, which appears as a tiny dot on the pineal gland located between the hemispheres of the brain. If an individual avoids injesting certain toxic substances in infancy and childhood, the woo-woo gland will simply atrophy, and by adolescence has typically been completely resorbed into the pineal gland.

In many individuals, the woo-woo gland is strongly affected by injesting toxic quantities of Jeebus during childhood; the gland then undergoes severe hypertrophy and produces heavily-modified secretions; adult behavior can be profoundly disturbed by these altered secretions.

Some individuals who have recovered from injesting Jeebus during childhood regain normal function of their woo-woo glands; however, in many cases, a hypertrophic woo-woo gland can be damaged by recovery from Jeebus toxicity, and rapidly atrophies and is resorbed as in the case of infants and children who were never exposed to such toxins in infancy.

Some individuals are born with highly-overactive woo-woo glands, which secrete enormous excess amounts of woo-woo, sometimes even enough to overcome childhood exposure to Jeebus (or related toxins). With the proper equipment, this excess woo-woo can be extracted and bottled for sale to individuals with atrophied woo-woo glands. Bottled woo-woo fetches a good price on the open market, and woo-woo distributors often attain a luxurious lifestyle.

Risk factors for regrowth of atrophied woo-woo glands in normal adult humans have been identified. This phenomenon is poorly understood. The 140 IQ level is roughly (not rigorously) analogous to the LD-50 for certain chemicals, such that in a percentage of the cases of contact with woo-woo, there is an elevated risk for woo-woo gland regrowth. ALL of us, even people with stratospheric IQs, like Sam Harris, have some risk of regrowth of atrophied woo-woo glands.

Woo-woo gland hypertrophy is frequently untreatable, but there are experimental therapies now in development. It is the opinion of this writer that treatment of woo-woo gland disorders should remain elective, but that those who elect to maintain the functionality of their woo-woo glands be instructed in proper hygiene so that others are not exposed to the consequences of woo-woo toxicity.

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