Mod+ 268. DAN HARRIS, DOES MEDITATION DEFY SCIENCE?

#62
this one is very easy to google... here's a wiki quote:
  • We are survival machines – robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes. This is a truth which still fills me with astonishment.
He's surely not talking about consciousness here? Also, it's the use of the exact phrase "Biological robot". In what context did he say that?
 
#65
He's surely not talking about consciousness here? Also, it's the use of the exact phrase "Biological robot". In what context did he say that?
Sorry Bishop, but I think you are splitting hairs here. If I recall, Chalmers once referenced Dennett's propensity to call humans "biological robots" by saying something to the effect of Dennett seemingl like a biological robot since there doesn't seem to be any consciousness involved in such a statement. I will see if I can find the quote.

Even still, while I understand that when it comes to prominent figures and what they said or didn't say, we need to avoid putting words in their mouth, I find this is often a tactic of skeptics (not necessarily you, Bishop, since I have no idea if you call yourself one) where they argue over definitions and exact wording. I see it a lot where someone says '"where did I say exactly that?"or "where did so and so say exactly that?" When it's obvious to anyone capable of thought what that person meant. Like reading between the lines. Conjecture or inferrence if you will. Funny how skeptics have no problem with conjecture or inferrence, as long as it is their pet philosophy or figure heads engaging in it.
 
#66
Sorry Bishop, but I think you are splitting hairs here. If I recall, Chalmers once referenced Dennett's propensity to call humans "biological robots" by saying something to the effect of Dennett seemingl like a biological robot since there doesn't seem to be any consciousness involved in such a statement. I will see if I can find the quote.

Even still, while I understand that when it comes to prominent figures and what they said or didn't say, we need to avoid putting words in their mouth, I find this is often a tactic of skeptics (not necessarily you, Bishop, since I have no idea if you call yourself one) where they argue over definitions and exact wording. I see it a lot where someone says '"where did I say exactly that?"or "where did so and so say exactly that?" When it's obvious to anyone capable of thought what that person meant. Like reading between the lines. Conjecture or inferrence if you will. Funny how skeptics have no problem with conjecture or inferrence, as long as it is their pet philosophy or figure heads engaging in it.
Yes, I may be splitting hairs! I'm just bringing it up because Alex says with great frequency that Dawkins said we are nothing more than biological robots, seemingly as it relates to consciousness. As in here:
Alex: there is no voice inside your head, it’s an illusion, right? I mean, Richard Dawkins, you’re a biological robot; Daniel Dennett, consciousness is an illusion.
That's all good and nice, I guess, but I haven't been able to find this anywhere. I don't even like Dawkins! I just think it's interesting to repeat something over and over and over again so emphatically if it's not something he actually said, or without some kind of proper context. As far as I can tell every time he's ever said anything about us being like robots it has to do with genes, in the same way we sometimes think about how the physical body is mechanical. If Alex has a problem with Dawkins because he's an atheist, materialist turd I could care less. But it seems odd to say he said something out of context.
 
#67
Yes, I may be splitting hairs! I'm just bringing it up because Alex says with great frequency that Dawkins said we are nothing more than biological robots, seemingly as it relates to consciousness. As in here:

That's all good and nice, I guess, but I haven't been able to find this anywhere. I don't even like Dawkins! I just think it's interesting to repeat something over and over and over again so emphatically if it's not something he actually said, or without some kind of proper context. As far as I can tell every time he's ever said anything about us being like robots it has to do with genes, in the same way we sometimes think about how the physical body is mechanical. If Alex has a problem with Dawkins because he's an atheist, materialist turd I could care less. But it seems odd to say he said something out of context.
Yeah, I think he is inferring here. I'm not sure he really has ever said "humans are biological robots" either. I did find this:
.
Dennett: For many years I joined in the general battle against a homunculus or one big bunch of them. Then it hit me: Homunculi are fine as long as they're stupid.

The straight Cartesian theory is that you've got a powerful homunculus at the center of the self doing all the work. But if you could break that homunculus down into lesser homunculi that only do part of the job, and break them into even lesser homunculi, and so on, you replace the central smart homunculus with a team of stupid homunculi. Then eventually you can replace it with a machine in place of a self. This view is called homuncular functionalism.

It's not an infinite regress. It bottoms out with the neurons. Yes, you can think of an individual neuron as a little homunculus. It doesn't help much, but you can do it. The point is that you take larger assemblages, cells, tissues, and the like. Then they begin to have individual tasks, larger projects. When you get to a high enough level, you've got homunculi that are really quite agent-like.
http://reason.com/archives/2003/05/01/pulling-our-own-strings/5

Bolding is mine. While not exactly "biological robot", he's kind of saying that when you get down to it, neural processes are like little machines, each performing a specific function, but working together emerges as what we call "consciousness". Granted, this is my interpretation, so I could be wrong. Honestly, I find he shrouds so much of his ideas in doublespeak and pseudointellectual posturing, I'm not sure just what in the hell he's actually trying to say. Maybe I'm just too dumb to understand him, I dunno. He certainly comes across an arrogant ass though, and that can be really offputting. Maybe its not so much his ideas people dislike (if you can understand them) but his delivery.
 
#70
I understand where Alex is coming from regarding neuroplasticity.

If a thought is pure physical processes that are a byproduct, and have no real power of their own, how is it that we can control our thoughts and use them to physically affect our own physiology?
What do you mean when you say thoughts "have no real power of their own"?

And specifically what do you mean by "power"?

And why would you even reach the conclusion that if a thought was an outcome of a physical process, that it would lack the ability to have an impact on anything, be it physical or non-physical?

Are you claiming that thoughts have no power "full stop"? Or are you saying that they have no power in this particular scenario because they were the byproduct of a physical brain?

Maybe I'm missing something here but, it feels to me like you are building a logical argument akin to how many fairies can fit on the head of a pin. The assertions you are making are based on fuzzy, rather undefined particulars. I'm not hair-splitting here. I'm finding it impossible to get my arms around exactly what you are claiming.

Each step in a logical argument should stand on it's own and be provable (or not) on it's own merit. Right?

Help me out here. I really would like to illuminate this topic once and for all.
 
#71
Here's a quote from Dawkins' The Selfish Gene:
.Was there to be any end to the gradual improvement in the techniques and artifices used by the replicators to ensure their own continuation in the world? There would be plenty of time for their improvement. What weird engines of self-preservation would the millennia bring forth? Four thousand million years on, what was to be the fate of the ancient replicators? They did not die out, for they are the past masters of the survival arts. But do not look for them floating loose in the sea; they gave up that cavalier freedom long ago. Now they swarm in huge colonies, safe inside gigantic lumbering robots, sealed off from the outside world, communicating with it by tortuous indirect routes, manipulating it by remote control. They are in you and me; they created us, body and mind;and their preservation is the ultimate rational for our existence. They have come a long way, those replicators. Now they go by the name of genes,and we are their survival machines.
 
#72
Wow... thx for digging into the quantum theory stuff... great.

The simple version works too. Materialism requires that metal processes do no work. When we show that a meditator can mess with the double slit experiment (as Radin did) OR CHANGE THE PHYSICAL STRUCTURE OF A BRAIN (like Schwartz did) then materialism has a huge problem.

Daniel Dennett may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but at least he had a logically consistent position -- "consciousness is an illusion." Everyone since has muddied the water with a lot of arm-waving about microtubules and emergence, but it still comes back to the question of whether consciousness is an illusion. if consciousness can do work it's not an illusion.

Would be happy/grateful to be shown the error in my ways.
Could the materialist argument run something like this...?
1. We know that evrything the brain does alters it slightly
the brain changes continuously simply by functioning normally
2. The brain produces consciousness (awareness and thoughts)
thus the brain produces the meditative thinking or functioning that alters itself
(another commenter referred to it in terms of a feedback loop)

Q. is the thinking changing the brain; or is the brain changing itself by thinking?
 
#73
.Maybe I'm missing something here but, it feels to me like you are building a logical argument akin to how many fairies can fit on the head of a pin.
I don't understand what you mean by this.

Are you claiming that thoughts have no power "full stop"? Or are you saying that they have no power in this particular scenario because they were the byproduct of a physical brain?
Does it matter? What ability do thoughts have to do work within the materialist paradigm? Thoughts are an epiphenomenon of the brain according to reductionist materialism. So, really, that's the heart of the problem, right? What are thoughts? How do they come about? The physicalist theories are lacking because it requires the "creation" so to speak of consciousness (thoughts) out of blind, nondirected molecular interactions. Logically, this doesn't really make sense. Like Chalmers said, let's say that I can create a doppelganger of myself, complete with behaviors and mannerisms that are identical to myself. To the outside world, there would be no way to distinguish me from it. You could even put us both in the most sophisticated brain scanners available, and you still would see no difference between me and it. So consciousness must be some sort of something extra. Something as yet unidentified, that is capable of doing work on the physical. I fully understand this is promissory, not unlike promissory materialism. But it logically makes more sense, to me, since at one time we didn't know gravity existed, we didn't know about radio waves, x-rays, ultraviolet, etc. etc. until our science became sophisticated enough to create machines to detect them. I see no reason why consciousness couldn't be the same. OTOH, maybe it's nothing like what we think and is unknowable in the way we normally think of things as being knowable.
 
#74
Here's a quote from Dawkins' The Selfish Gene:
Yes, exactly. He's not talking about consciousness at all in that quote. He's talking about genes, like I mentioned earlier.

I won't belabor this, because it's not worth it. But just remember next time Alex talks about Dawkins making claims about us being "biological robots" it's not in regard to consciousness. It's out of context.

I'm happy to be proven wrong if someone can dig up a quote from Dawkins about consciousness and robots.
 
#75
I don't understand what you mean by this.
Sorry. Maybe I was being obtuse. What I meant was that you are creating an argument that on it's face appears to be logical and cogent, but upon closer investigation it is based on unsubstantiatable details. Saying that "thoughts have no power" is a meaningless statement unless you can be more clear about what you mean.

I contend that thoughts may have great "power". Certainly enough to change the physical wiring in the brain. And I contend that a materialist could make the same statement while still being true to their core materialist belief system. If one thinks that thought is an outcome of molecules, it doesn't mean that those same molecules aren't involved with subsequent "thinking" (via some molecular cogitation) about what was just thought of a moment ago. This continuous feedback loop could exist in a material or non-material realm couldn't it?

Does it matter? What ability do thoughts have to do work within the materialist paradigm? Thoughts are an epiphenomenon of the brain according to reductionist materialism. So, really, that's the heart of the problem, right? What are thoughts? How do they come about? The physicalist theories are lacking because it requires the "creation" so to speak of consciousness (thoughts) out of blind, nondirected molecular interactions. Logically, this doesn't really make sense. Like Chalmers said, let's say that I can create a doppelganger of myself, complete with behaviors and mannerisms that are identical to myself. To the outside world, there would be no way to distinguish me from it. You could even put us both in the most sophisticated brain scanners available, and you still would see no difference between me and it. So consciousness must be some sort of something extra. Something as yet unidentified, that is capable of doing work on the physical. I fully understand this is promissory, not unlike promissory materialism. But it logically makes more sense, to me, since at one time we didn't know gravity existed, we didn't know about radio waves, x-rays, ultraviolet, etc. etc. until our science became sophisticated enough to create machines to detect them. I see no reason why consciousness couldn't be the same. OTOH, maybe it's nothing like what we think and is unknowable in the way we normally think of things as being knowable.
None of what you have said here seems to pertain to the simple statement that neuroplasticity or lack thereof has a profound influence in the brain=mind question. I'm not claiming that materialism is correct. I'm simply saying that it isn't invalidated by the brain being affected by a thought pattern.

My contention is simple:
I think that it is perfectly reasonable to think that the brain can be physically affected by thought, and that this is not in conflict with either materialistic or most "non-physical centric" paradigms.

I have not seen a set of logical points which would lead one to the conclusion you (and Alex and others) seem to have reached. And I am challenging someone/anyone here to provide such a "proof" for us to read and discuss. Preferably one that isn't a lot of arm waving and links to volumes of pontification. If possible, the proof should be simple and clear and not require a PhD to understand.

Let me prime the pump by saying: when I read the passage above am I right to reduce it to the following?
A materialist can't accept neuroplasticity because the thoughts occurring in the brain "aren't real" and lacking being real, they don't have the ability to interact with physical matter..

Do I have this right? Is this your basic contention?
 
#76
Sorry. Maybe I was being obtuse. What I meant was that you are creating an argument that on it's face appears to be logical and cogent, but upon closer investigation it is based on unsubstantiatable details. Saying that "thoughts have no power" is a meaningless statement unless you can be more clear about what you mean.

I contend that thoughts may have great "power". Certainly enough to change the physical wiring in the brain. And I contend that a materialist could make the same statement while still being true to their core materialist belief system. If one thinks that thought is an outcome of molecules, it doesn't mean that those same molecules aren't involved with subsequent "thinking" (via some molecular cogitation) about what was just thought of a moment ago. This continuous feedback loop could exist in a material or non-material realm couldn't it?



None of what you have said here seems to pertain to the simple statement that neuroplasticity or lack thereof has a profound influence in the brain=mind question. I'm not claiming that materialism is correct. I'm simply saying that it isn't invalidated by the brain being affected by a thought pattern.

My contention is simple:
I think that it is perfectly reasonable to think that the brain can be physically affected by thought, and that this is not in conflict with either materialistic or most "non-physical centric" paradigms.

I have not seen a set of logical points which would lead one to the conclusion you (and Alex and others) seem to have reached. And I am challenging someone/anyone here to provide such a "proof" for us to read and discuss. Preferably one that isn't a lot of arm waving and links to volumes of pontification. If possible, the proof should be simple and clear and not require a PhD to understand.

Let me prime the pump by saying: when I read the passage above am I right to reduce it to the following?
A materialist can't accept neuroplasticity because the thoughts occurring in the brain "aren't real" and lacking being real, they don't have the ability to interact with physical matter..

Do I have this right? Is this your basic contention?
That's a hard question to answer. Some materialists contend that consciousness is an epiphenomenon of the brain, meaning consciousness arises from physical processes in the brain, but the idea of the self and personal volition is an illusion. I was deducing from this the idea that since thoughts are an epiphenomenon of the brain, hence illusory, by definition they cannot have a physical effect. I think what you are saying is that even though thoughts as an epiphenomenon do not have a physical effect per se, the physical processes responsible for bringing about the illusion of consciousness could have a physical effect. My question is, if this is true, how is this process directed. Through mindfulness and meditation, the brain can physically be changed. What, then is directing this change? It cannot be any kind of volitional will since that would be an illusion.

Beyond the responses I've already given, I don't know any other way to put it. Have you read Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz's book The Mind and the Brain? If not, I highly recommend it. Perhaps he elucidates the concept better than I can.
 
#77
Yes, exactly. He's not talking about consciousness at all in that quote. He's talking about genes, like I mentioned earlier.

I won't belabor this, because it's not worth it. But just remember next time Alex talks about Dawkins making claims about us being "biological robots" it's not in regard to consciousness. It's out of context.

I'm happy to be proven wrong if someone can dig up a quote from Dawkins about consciousness and robots.
Yeah, I can see that. Perhaps it's a matter of interpretation?
 
#78
If consciousness defies the materialist view. Then meditation does and everything that follows. The cause of intention that can create a chain of detrminiastic effects does also.

BTW Richard Dawkins I believe, thinks consciousness is an emergent property of the brain, ergo emergent property of genetics.
Also his selfish gene concept has been refuted. A biological robot is inherantly dualistic, as it requires programing and transfer of information via representations that have no physical relation to the things they represent. A biological robot proponent must show how software is a natural phenomena derivable from the laws of physics. Even then the laws of physics are an enigma.

What a silly world.
 
#79
That's a hard question to answer. Some materialists contend that consciousness is an epiphenomenon of the brain, meaning consciousness arises from physical processes in the brain, but the idea of the self and personal volition is an illusion. I was deducing from this the idea that since thoughts are an epiphenomenon of the brain, hence illusory, by definition they cannot have a physical effect. I think what you are saying is that even though thoughts as an epiphenomenon do not have a physical effect per se, the physical processes responsible for bringing about the illusion of consciousness could have a physical effect. My question is, if this is true, how is this process directed. Through mindfulness and meditation, the brain can physically be changed. What, then is directing this change? It cannot be any kind of volitional will since that would be an illusion.

Beyond the responses I've already given, I don't know any other way to put it. Have you read Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz's book The Mind and the Brain? If not, I highly recommend it. Perhaps he elucidates the concept better than I can.
Again, I think it's important that we don't rail against a physicalist position that does not exist - I can barely think of a bigger waste of time! I don't believe they are saying that brain processes (thoughts, perceptions, etc) are illusory. Almost by definition a physicalist would consider them physical ;). The illusion is that when all these thousands upon thousands of processes are happening together, healthily and simultaneously, it feels like.... well... "you". :D
 
#80
Sheldrake tells Dennet the facts. A biological robot is inherantly dualistic. Information is not matter or energy. Also tying in the selfish gene here too.and sory Danny boy the selfish gene has been falsified.

Daniel Dennett (30 minute mark, approx): Rupert, you twice used the word dishonest in your characterization, of first, Dawkins on selfish genes, and then me on computers and brains. I have to say, I think it’s you’re the one that’s being dishonest. Those were both caricatures. You know that Richard Dawkins went way out of his way again and again to show you how to cash out the metaphor of selfishness and show what it means predictively and explanatorily in evolutionary biology and that explanatory matrix has been confirmed and extended in hundreds of experiments. You can’t understand transposons, you can’t understand a great deal of what goes on with genomic printing, if you don’t have that picture which he brilliantly called the picture of selfishness at the gene level. That’s one caricature of yours. And you imposed dualism on him and you imposed dualism on me. And again, it’s a wilful caricature. The whole point of my work on minds as software running on brains as computers has been, just as Colin says, to move away from the simple view of a computer like your laptop; no, the brain isn’t like your laptop much at all. But it is still, as he says, it’s still a computer, nd even to the point where we can profitably and predictably think about the downloading of new tricks, new cognitive talents to the brain, much the way we download new apps to our iPhones and our computers. No, your caricatures are very funny, but that’s all they are, and that’s not the way to deal with serious views.

Rupert Sheldrake: All right, I do hope I can reply to that. First of all, I do think that the selfish gene is an exceedingly misleading metaphor. I think that attributing selfishness to genes—he admits it’s a metaphor, of course, in the small print in The selfish Gene, he says it’s just a metaphor— Dawkins’s metaphors, Instead of enlightening research on —I mean, he’s done very little research on transposons, or actually rather little research at all for many years.

I don’t think that they’re particularly helpful; I think that modern research on genes which shows they’re far more complex and networks of interaction, there’s epigenetic modifications … It all looks hopelessly old-fashioned now. I think they’re metaphors which are past their sell-by date. I don’t they’ve been a very important part of research in actual molecular biology of genes. I think they’ve had a huge popular effect. His book, The Selfish Gene has sold vast numbers of copies to people who are not engaged in scientific research. It’s had a big social effect. I’d dispute that it’s a key player in the actual workings of biology.

And insofar as computer metaphors that rely on software and apps, I think they are intrinsically dualistic. don’t think it’s a caricature to say that they are dualistic; they are. Programs, software, hardware is a kind of dualism. And I think that these app metaphors and computer metaphors do raise a whole question, they have an implicit dualism, even an explicit dualism, which is not pure mechanism. I don’t think they are deliberately dishonest in many cases. I am sorry to say it again, I think it is a confusion of thinking that underlies them.

And you’ll probably totally disagree and say I am caricaturing your view, but I don’t think I am.​
 
Top