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EricR
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gmcevoy, I think there's a definite difference between feeling the sense of a divine presence and following a religion for 2 main reasons: First, feeling that way doesn't necessarily mean you believe it's really a divine presence and not just a sensation (I've thought about this all my life and never come to a conclusion)*. Second, even if I believe it's something real, that doesn't mean I'm going to insert a specific religion or relgious belief in there to try to explain or define what it is. As for the former issue, I don't think it's a matter anybody lacking anything. It seems to me more like just two different kinds of wiring, and that a given person can have more of one or the other in them. I don't think one is suprerior to the other. *What I have been arguing that I "know" about consciousness is not a commitment to any idea about divinity; just a perception of the difference between a physical process and a subjective experience generated by it. Plenty of non-theists bring up this idea too without ascribing anything spiritual to it. BKsea: Sounds good.
Toggle Commented Dec 21, 2010 on Jon Stewart Epic FAIL at Skeptico
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Skeptico, Great link! (Global Workspace - posted several comments above for anyone who's interested). Really fascinating research and theories. There's apparently quite a bit more progress in that area than I had been aware of. I especially enjoyed reading the comments below the article. One of the guys (David, I believe) was sort of arguing my angle but doing a more coherent job of it. Well, I guess I don't have to be afraid of death anymore since "I" am just an illusion. Or am I? What about free will? BKsea: Thanks for welcoming me into the fold. But wouldn't I be more of an agnostic than an atheist? I would think most atheists would think it highly unlikely that they'll ever discover that there's anything like a soul, whilst I am still quite open to the possibility, even though I've seen no convincing evidence yet, just lots of interesting testimonies.
Toggle Commented Dec 21, 2010 on Jon Stewart Epic FAIL at Skeptico
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gmcevoy, I hope you're not talking about me in that last sentence, because I've said nothing to suggest that I think your mind is not wired properly. If anything I'm saying that a person whose mind is wired to search for mysticism may have an inherent delusion to satisfy. I'm critiquing myself if anything. My notions of conscious experience don't derive from reading Descartes or from following any religion. They come from looking within myself and noting a difference between the brain's activity and a phenomenon that (apparently) emerges from it. And I've expressed some wonder about possible ramifications of this, but I haven't commited myself to any of them. The only thing I've commited myself to is my own observation of a distinction between physical entities and the experience thereof. But I've even been willing to consider the possibility that that's an illusion. So what are you objecting to? Yojimbo, good point. Clearly most people have a combination of those tendencies, but I sense that I am much more on the intuitive side while Joseph is more on the linear side. I actually find linear thinking quite challenging. I struggle a lot to follow movie plot lines, relationships among people, game directions, puzzles. And I think I was born this way because I've been that way as long as I can remember.
Toggle Commented Dec 20, 2010 on Jon Stewart Epic FAIL at Skeptico
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Wait a second here, Don. "emergent property"? What is that supposed to mean? I'm sorry, but although I don't know how to describe, define, or explain the reality of conscious experience, I know it's not a physical entity. You call it an "emergent property". What is that? Can you put it in a can and ship it to a lab and have it tested? Where's your evidence that it's physical?
Toggle Commented Dec 19, 2010 on Jon Stewart Epic FAIL at Skeptico
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One is physical matter and electricity, that is. The other is, well who knows? But i don't see how it's physical. It's apparently an effect of something physical.
Toggle Commented Dec 19, 2010 on Jon Stewart Epic FAIL at Skeptico
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Garth, I finished reading The Ghost in the Machine. Very compelling. Thanks for sharing that with me. The findings about Alien Hand Syndrome and other disruptions to the corpus callosum strongly support arguments that consciousness derives from physical activity in the brain. It still doesn't change my contention that such physical processes and conscious experience are different entities, even if one is created by the other. One is physical matter and the other is a sort of etherial effect. Also see what I just wrote to Ryan above.
Toggle Commented Dec 19, 2010 on Jon Stewart Epic FAIL at Skeptico
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Ryan, Thanks. I agree: saying "we don't know" or "I don't know" is the best thing to do when there's a lack of evidence or proof. So why doesn't it follow then that you guys on here don't know if consciousness experience is a tangible physical entity? I concede that there is lots of evidence that physical brain activity results in conscious experience, so I'm not about to assume otherwise (even though I hold out the remote possibility since the NDE studies are perplexing). But that still doesn't mean that conscious experience IS itself the physical activity that quite probably gives rise to it. I don't see how that makes any logical sense. You can't pour yourself a glass of conscious experience or catch it in a box. Or even measure it mathematically as far as I know. So in what way is it physical? I said: scientists have not been able to explain consciousness- only the physical mechanisms associated with it. But those mechanisms are not consciousness itself. For me, this is a only matter of thinking logically and conceptually, not about believing in anything. You still don't see what I'm saying?
Toggle Commented Dec 19, 2010 on Jon Stewart Epic FAIL at Skeptico
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Oh yeah, and I forgot to address that last question about the injured brain. My understanding of my own consciousness leads me to the perception that personality is part of the brain--that it is not of the non-material consciousness I perceive. Damage to the brain should be able to change personality. Okay, I'm going back to reading The Ghost in the Machine now.
Toggle Commented Dec 18, 2010 on Jon Stewart Epic FAIL at Skeptico
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Darth: But I'm not believing in anything or trying to peddle anything. I'm not suggesting you try to believe anything either. I'm suggesting you try contemplating the nature of your consciousness by looking within and really trying to get a grip on what its nature is in a way that just comes down to perception. It may help to consider the kinds of questions I've put forth about green. It may help to meditate. I don't know what would work for you. I have no Jesus or any other belief system to sell you. I'm not trying to fill the gap with any inserted explanations. Creationists make an assessment about the outside objective world based on their feelings and faith. I'm just telling you what I can perceive inside my own self. Of course this also raises questions such as how this ephemeral watcher interacts with the material brain. Where is the interface, by what mechanism does it work, if it acts on a material object then it is detectable so where is it? How can brain damage cause substantial change to the injured's personality? Great questions. This is the type of conceptual thinking I enjoy. These are the fun mysteries to contemplate. I'm aware within my own consciousness that there is a sort of disconnect, a sort of gap, in my ability to comprehend what this interface is. I think that's where the danger lies of someone with a specific religious explanation they want to believe in coming and inserting it there. I don't like doing that because i think it's silly, and I can't manage to make myself believe in something just cause I want to either.
Toggle Commented Dec 18, 2010 on Jon Stewart Epic FAIL at Skeptico
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Skeptico: You thought I was trying to dodge Yojimbo's question by asking another question of him instead of answering his question with the proof he seeks. But that's not my purpose actually. I can't offer him proof of what I'm perceiving any more than he can offer me proof that he's conscious (or that his perception of green looks like my perception of green) without us getting inside each other's heads. Therefore I'm just trying to find a different tack, a different way of posing questions or analogies that might help him come to see what I'm perceiving by seeing it within himself. The only way I know of that you can come to this awareness is to look within and really contemplate it. I understand that people also arrive at this thru meditation, but that's not how it came to me, so whatever works for you. This is not a debate for me that I'm trying to win. I don't feel a need to prove this to anyone cause I already am aware of it, but I'd like to be able to discuss it with others cause it's perplexing and interesting. That's why I'm still trying. But if you're not really interested in trying to see it, then maybe I shouldn't bother. Sorry about my recent post that came more out of frustration than careful thinking. Yes, i realized right after I posted it that it's certainly possible to form a hypothesis of that nature and there's plenty of evidence and reason to believe consciousness is produced by brain activity. I will read that hypothesis link you sent me next. But I'm still aware of my consciousness as a reality of its own once its been created even if it exudes from the brain. Another non-material hypothesis I can come up with is that consciousness is not created by the brain but needs the brain to perceive material reality the way a person needs a TV set to see the image of the show being broadcast as digital data thru a cable to his house. If the signal is cut, the image disappears, but the man is still there. Anyway, I don't know any of this. It's all speculative.
Toggle Commented Dec 18, 2010 on Jon Stewart Epic FAIL at Skeptico
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And I should add: That's not even the point I was making in the first place (whether or not consciousness derives from the brain). The fact that we can shut down consciousness by affecting the brain is pretty good evidence that it does. But even so that doesn't mean that consciousness IS the brain just because it exudes from the brain.
Toggle Commented Dec 18, 2010 on Jon Stewart Epic FAIL at Skeptico
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Skeptico: Maybe conciousness derives from the brain, maybe it doesn't. You don't know enough to know that. You can't point to where in the brain consciousness occurs or what physical processes have to occur to make it happen or why we have a unified sense of self and where in the brain that stems from or anything. It's all conjecture at this point. You presume it to derive from the brain because you don't know how else to explain it, and you presume that all reality is material and don't accept the possibility of it being any other way. You think all this even though carbon doesn't think, lipids don't think, cells don't think, tissues don't think, and material in general doesn't think until somehow consciousness just spontaneously pops out of a properly-arranged structure of these non-thinking entities, and you can't explain how that happens nor even put into words a hypothesis of how it might happen. Meanwhile you assume it to be true and accept no other possibility. Scientific?
Toggle Commented Dec 18, 2010 on Jon Stewart Epic FAIL at Skeptico
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Skeptico: Because those computer brains are not yet as massively complex as the human brain. That's just an assumption you're making. You don't know for sure that that's what's causing consciousness to occur; just supposing so. Can you think of any elements that an organic brain has which a complex computer-brained robot doesn't have that might account for consciousness? Why is there reason to believe that other people have consciousness if you can't believe that I am aware that my conscious experience is not the same thing as the physical processes of my brain (even though it's itimately related with them)? Yojimbo asked me to prove how I know that, so I'm saying how can someone prove that they're having any conscious exerience or awareness? If you ask someone to tell you what they see, they might be able to identify the same thing you see, but you don't know if they're really experiencing it. They could be just like an unconcious robot- a machine that just answers your questions. So why would you trust their word any more than my word that I'm aware that my consciousness is not my brain's electrical activity? I'm just as aware of that fact as the blue pen I'm looking at right now. Just because you guys aren't aware of it doesn't mean it isn't a fact. A lot of other people besides me have this awareness too. We're all looking at the dinosaur popping out from the fuzzy dots on the picture, but you guys don't see it because you refuse to look at the picture and try. Or maybe you're not capbable. Maybe not everyone is; I don't know. Where is your evidence that consciousness derives from something other than the brain? I don't know if it does. I haven't investigated that yet. I know that my consciousness is itself not my brain, but it may well completely exude from and derive from my brain. I know that there is anecdotal evidence collected from doctors and nurses about NDE's in which patients saw and heard things in the hospital room that they shouldn't have been able to see and hear, so maybe there is a way for consciousness exist without the brain functioning, but I don't know how, and I don't know how sure these hospital staff are of their accounts. So I have no reason to believe that's true.
Toggle Commented Dec 18, 2010 on Jon Stewart Epic FAIL at Skeptico
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Yojimbo: If my brain's activity is consciousness, why don't robots with computer brains and video camera eyes, which are programmed to learn from input and produce reactions, have consciousness? And if they said they did, how would we really know we could trust them and that it's there? And how do I know that you have consciousness? Just because you say you do? How can you prove it to me?
Toggle Commented Dec 18, 2010 on Jon Stewart Epic FAIL at Skeptico
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gmceyoy: An edition to that last question I posed: "merely seize upon some lines of scripture or some religious beliefs to find justifications" Because I don't think the whole of religion, nor the whole Bible, nor the whole Koran, etc. serves as a source for such justifications.
Toggle Commented Dec 18, 2010 on Jon Stewart Epic FAIL at Skeptico
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Yojimbo: How do you know that there's a 3D image of a dinosaur in one of those pictures with the fuzzy dots?
Toggle Commented Dec 18, 2010 on Jon Stewart Epic FAIL at Skeptico
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gmcevoy: Here's what I said: I am not trying to defend religion in any general sense that includes everything under the heading of that term. I've already made it plainly clear how much I think religion, especially of the fundamentalist sort, is full of problems. Here's what you said: The depravities are those of mainstream religion, not extremist fundamentalism. You speak as if these things have no bearing, meaning or existence and are easily explained away by pretty things or ignored. Where did I say that the depravities were only of extremist fundamentalism? And where do you get the idea that I'm defending mainstream religion? I tend to find myself at odds with mainstream anything. And I don't think the depravities of some religious figures have no meaning or bearing. Why would you say that? Just because I'm pointing out that not every religious person is depraved? As for people using scientific advances for evil purposes, you point out that they are often driven by religious ideas. Good point. It's true. But is it necessarily the religion that caused them to have evil intents? Or did they merely seize on religion to find justifications to act on their fears or thirst for power that they already had? I can see it working both ways.
Toggle Commented Dec 18, 2010 on Jon Stewart Epic FAIL at Skeptico
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Yojimbo again: Okay, maybe what I just said is just an analogy. But if these physical processes of the brain should be able to spontaneously produce experience as we experience it, then a bunch of words on a page should be able to spontaneously produce meaning. I mean, you're kind of saying the same thing. You want me to prove that brain activity isn't consciousness, but how on earth can you prove that it is? I think you need to try meditating to become aware of what your consciousness is, because I'm seeing that you guys on this board apparently have not reached this awareness, which for me is as plain and obvious as daylight.
Toggle Commented Dec 17, 2010 on Jon Stewart Epic FAIL at Skeptico
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Yojimbo: If electromagnetic activity organized as it is in the brain is consciousness, then the ink of a pen organized as it is on the pages of Hamlet is the meaning and ideas of that work of literature. Which it isn't.
Toggle Commented Dec 17, 2010 on Jon Stewart Epic FAIL at Skeptico
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Ryan W: My point in 50 words or less? Robinson made sense when she asserted that the compatibility of science and religion depends on the quality of the science or religion. i.e., not all scientists are hardline materialists and not all practictioners of religion are literal fundamentalists. As a related point, scientists have not been able to explain consciousness- only the physical mechanisms associated with it. But those mechanisms are not consciousness itself. Meditation can help make you aware of this fact. Once you have come to this awareness, you can see more easily how science and spiritual inquiry don't have to be mutually exclusive. here's a little analogy (please keep in mind that it's just an analogy and nothing more): Becoming aware of your consciousness is sort of like looking at one of those pictures they sell at science stores/gift shops that looks like a bunch of fuzzy dots at first, but when your eyes focus in a certain way you can see the 3-D image of the dinosaur that's imbedded in it. If you just walk up to that picture and don't really bother to try, you'll just insist that it's a bunch of fuzzy dots and nothing more. If you really focus, your eyes will eventually readjust and be able to see the 3D image. Becoming aware of consciousness is harder though. At least for most people, you have to meditate regularly for a few months before it starts to become clear.
Toggle Commented Dec 17, 2010 on Jon Stewart Epic FAIL at Skeptico
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gmcevoy: Your pointing out the depravities of priests and popes does nothing to discount anything I said. I am not trying to defend religion in any general sense that includes everything under the heading of that term. I've already made it plainly clear how much I think religion, especially of the fundamentalist sort, is full of problems. One person studies scripture and meditates and gets the inspiration to "do unto others as you would want them to do unto you" and lives a life full of love and service to others. Another person reads the same scripture and interprets it differently to try and justify gaining power over others. One person uses advances in scientific knowledge to help cure sick people. Another person uses them to make biological weapons. What's your point?
Toggle Commented Dec 17, 2010 on Jon Stewart Epic FAIL at Skeptico
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Bronze Dog: It was just a response to your assertion that religion wasn't about truth. I was saying that religion is about truth because because it is trying to make sense of our existence. That's not to say it succeeds or doesn't. Religion seems to me to be an exercise in intuitive understanding, and as such it's susceptible to all kinds of delusions and corruptions. Science is subject to much much less of this and is a method of understanding that I trust far more. But science has a really hard time tackling philosophical questions like whether there's a higher purpose to our existence beyond just happening to be here. How can you test for that? So I don't give any special priority to religion in looking into such questions. I'd really prefer not to. But it's not the kind of thing science tries to deal with (at least not the science I'm familar with). So do I get any insights from religion? Very few so far. But looking into myself on my own and trying to come to and awareness of what my consciousness is, observing social and psychological themes and patterns that come up in relationships and situations in life, I have come to some ideas of my own about possible deeper meanings or purposes to life. And sometimes I see these also expressed in some way by mystics, philosophers, or religious ideas from one tradition or another.
Toggle Commented Dec 17, 2010 on Jon Stewart Epic FAIL at Skeptico
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Sofie/Jean: Thanks for your input. Garth and gmcevoy: This is a really hard thing for me to get across to you guys because you are thinking from the perspective of strict materialism. I'm very much aware of the difference between all of the physical things that my conciousness is interacting with, on the one hand, and my consciousness itself on the other. But how do I get that across to you? I've been trying. All I can say at this point is really ponder this deeply and see if you can start to get where I'm coming from. It may take some time if you're not used to thinking this way. gmcevoy said: I know the canopy of sparkling jewels is wondrous because I marvel at it every time I see it. The 'subjective experience' you're trying to come to grips with is as a result of the reality of the physical properties of our environment, AKA The Universe. It is an ephemeral result of the workings of a material phenomena - the phenomenal grey matter I'm not denying that the experience results from the physical phenomena. Never was. I think you are getting closer to my notion when you call it an "ephemeral result". The materialist bias would be to dismiss this as an illusion or a non-reality. It just happens to come up when we get enough neurons acting in a certain way in response to a certain object. So how does it just happen to come up? And why should it? Why should there be any consciousness at all? I said: I said: "Religion isn't about truth" only if you think there's no meaning to life beyond physical survival and think that subjective conscious experience is not a true reality or facet of reality. Bronze Dog replied: Straw man. I do think there is more meaning to life than simple survival. The fact that you jumped right to that conclusion about me suggests you're awfully cynical and possibly incapable of looking beyond religion for meaning. Sorry you took that interpretation. That's not what I meant. They key word is "about". I was replying to your conclusion that "religion isn't about truth" by trying to explain that religion is intended to be about the pursuit of truth. It is humans trying to understand truth. I'm not saying that religion itself is truth. So my statement extracted above means that you only can think that religion does not pursue truth if you think that life has no meaning beyond physical survival because that is the meaning that religion mainly pursues and tries to address (I mean "you" the general sense, as in "one", not you Bronze Dog per se). So if you/one thinks there's no truth to meaning beyond physical survival then it follows that religion's intention is not to pursue truth. Yojimbo: How do you know that the experience is the electromagnetic activity of your brain? How does electromagnetic activity have a conscious experience? Ryan W: what you've all heard a million times is probably people looking at things in much more paradigmatic and inside-the-box ways than I do. I doubt that what you think I'm talking about is really what I'm talking about. Don (finally): Without getting into specific literature and citations, let me try to give an example of a contribution to understanding of life made by religion: The widely pervasive theme of giving up material gain/comfort/pleasure/success for a higher spiritual reward that comes about thru self-discipline and denial of the parts of oneself that desires more immediate material things. Various religions have different ways of trying to put this into practice. When done in an enlightened and reasonable way (not extremist), this leads to better-lived lives, more communal cooperation and cohesion, happier people who have a sense of purpose, stonger social bonds, more stability to relationships, etc etc.
Toggle Commented Dec 17, 2010 on Jon Stewart Epic FAIL at Skeptico
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Don: I'll get back to you soon. I need to get some sleep first.
Toggle Commented Dec 16, 2010 on Jon Stewart Epic FAIL at Skeptico
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Yojimbo said: You experienced something with measurable attributes. To claim that the experience was real in the same way as the thing experienced would be like saying that dragons are real because you can imagine them Yes, the physical object I experienced (green paint) has measurable attributes. The experience, however, does not. And I'm not claiming that it's "real in the same way". It's only real as an experience. The dragon thing is interesting.
Toggle Commented Dec 16, 2010 on Jon Stewart Epic FAIL at Skeptico
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