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

Discussion in 'Skeptiko Shows' started by Alex, Mar 10, 2015.

  1. JKMac

    JKMac New

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    I think you may have already answered your own question. The physical processes that materialists say are the actual underlying activity behind what others see as "thought" are the motive force behind the change.

    Look at it this way-
    if I'm a materialist, I claim that your experience of consciousness is actually a complex set of physical/molecular interactions. I claim that things like thoughts and memories are actually physical processes located in physical parts of the brain. And just like a river can cut a path with it's own physical movement, so can electro chemical activities strengthen (perhaps etch?) neural pathways in the brain substance. This process could be similar to how a weight lifter enhances certain muscle groups through using them over and over.

    So as a materialist, I am perfectly OK with what "YOU" call thoughts (but I consider physical interactions) being able to modify my brain in physical ways. Physical activities can have physical effects.. What's inconsistent about that?

    "You" believe thoughts are non-physical things, and "I" believe they are an illusion. But the key thing is, my belief that thoughts aren't "real" doesn't mean I see the underlying actual cause as also illusory. This underlying physical cause is what I (as a materialist) say causes physical changes to the brain.

    See?
     
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  2. JKMac

    JKMac New

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    As far as "volition".

    As a materialist, I can claim that although it is an illusion, one "thought" can prompt others by simple physical to physical processes. Sort of like how one domino can push another making it fall. A progression of thoughts doesn't need to be based in a non-physical consciousness to occur. You might see it as volition, where I might see it as inevitable/predictable physics while also contending that the "sense" of thought and therefore volition is actually an illusion.

    The subtly here is that: I can say with logical consistency, it is illusion, while still acknowledging the underlying "motive force" causing the illusion.

    Proving the difference is non-trivial, and I don't think it can be done by looking at Neuroplasticity.
     
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  3. Vault313

    Vault313 New

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  4. Vault313

    Vault313 New

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    so, first Dennett says this:

    Then says this:
    Is it just me or did he just contradict himself?:eek:
     
  5. Vault313

    Vault313 New

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    Yes, very apt metaphor, but I've heard it before. Here's the thing though, a river cannot "choose" to deviate from its course once set (after months/years/decades). I understand that materialists believe that statement to be true for humans. I've heard neuroscientists say that all of our actions are predetermined based on biology and previous experience. That choice is an illusion. If that is the case, how can Dr. Schwartz's patients change their own pathways? They cannot choose to do so as choice is an illusion.
     
  6. JKMac

    JKMac New

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    On what basis do you make the assertion that his patients are "changing their pathways"? As a materialist I would simply say that the changes you refer to are part of the "predictable" path they are already on. This is a major flaw in your whole premise. Who are you to say what was pre-destined by physics, and alternatively, what was a "change" to a pathway? The point is: you can't tell the difference. No matter how you construct the experiment this is always a hidden variable that you have no access to. Assertions such as this are where the logical holes are in your argument lie.

    Also I would respectfully point out that just because you "have heard this before" doesn't make it any less valid.

    If there is a flaw in my logic, I'd love to have someone point it out.

    I would remind people that I am NOT a materialist. I am simply pointing out why I feel that neuroplasticity is not a game-changing concept which can be used to disprove materialism. I can think of many other things that can however... : )

    -Best...
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2015
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  7. Alex

    Alex New

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    Other posters have done a better job of addressing this, but I'd add that I think your open-mindedness is standing the way of understand the position that Dawkins is taking. To him, EVERYTHING (including consciousness) is merely a product of our genes... it can't be anything else!

    Slight tangent, but I always think of Tim Freke #249
    Alex Tsakiris: I also like how you contrast it with the non-mystery that were so used to and so forced upon if you will. So, you talk about reduction as science and how it’s all about non-mystery. I like how you work in this idea of "it’s just." That is the ultimate kind of counter to mystery as, oh no, no, "it’s just", or its evil twin that I like to throw in there, "it’s not." Well, it’s not that. It’s not that. It’s just this. And, talk a little bit about that and talk about —

    Tim Freke: Yeah, the just word. It really struck me, exactly what you’ve just said. I love science. I love all human knowledge, and I love science. I love its attitude. I love what it shows. I hate reductionism, because of this narrowness where it reduces the richness of life to one narrow story, and you can always say, it’s” just” – oh no the birds are singing. No that’s just them – that’s just them holding their territory. Well, it is them, holding their territory. It’s not “just” that. Or, I’ve fallen in love, really, that’s just chemicals. You know that, don’t you, in your body. Well, it is chemicals, but it’s not “just” chemicals. And it’s that seeing that no matter how much we understand of life. When you look at the sunset, it still goes “WOW”! And, that wow is the mystery, when we lose that whether it’s looking at the world in terms of our understanding of it or just in our relationship with our lover’s. When you lose, the mystery goes dead on you. And my whole relationship with life feels a bit like that. It’s a lover. And, when I lose the mystery, it goes dead on me. I put it in a box. I think I know what it is, and I don’t. I need to remember that for it to stay alive.
     
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  8. Alex

    Alex New

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    you just provided the definition of illusionary in this context... i.e. it feels like you but it's not really you.
     
  9. Alex

    Alex New

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  10. malf

    malf Member

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    Exactly.... But perhaps that 'sensation of youness' is 'really you'.

    I know you will think that "silly" but then again I've yet to encounter a model of consciousness that someone doesn't find silly... I consider our very existence to be mind bogglingly absurd :eek:

    At least Dennett is putting his coin down on a model, and I know you respect that (I've heard you rail against agnosticism several times!) On what sort of model are you putting your coin Alex?
     
  11. Alex

    Alex New

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    my coin goes on -- consciousness (not matter) is fundamental. mind>brain
     
  12. malf

    malf Member

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    Ok. It can certainly feel like that ;)

    Thanks for the dialogue.
     
  13. Vault313

    Vault313 New

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    Seriously, just read his book. Otherwise, I'm done here.
     
  14. JKMac

    JKMac New

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    Sure,, me reading a book is easier than you presenting your case. Fine by me.

    PS- I have already read the book.
     
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  15. David Eire

    David Eire New

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    The materialist will say that when we meditate it is the brain which is meditating, not the ‘mind’.
    The mental aspect or experience of meditating is being produced by the meditating brain
    and thus any changes to the brain during meditation are being produced by the brain itself.

    I don’t see how one can break into that argument simply on the basis of neuroplasticity
    which is a natural aspect of all brain functioning, even non-conscious functioning.

    I don’t see how neuroplasticity can be taken as proof of the independence of mind or consciousness.

    ??
     
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  16. Stephen Wright

    Stephen Wright New

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    The context of this is health, repair and re-purposing at the level of biology. Healing of a wound is a subconscious body function. Biology needs no mental stimulus to kick-in clotting (which is a truly amazing cascade of chemical reactions). Meditation is distinct in its healing repair because it is selected by reason and willfully maintained.

    Well the next step of materialist response is to say that like a muscle, the brain gets healthy by the "exercise" of mediation. I think this is true at the physical level of observation. But the cause of the change is different than the chemistry of muscle building.

    With mediation, the goal can be to change the will, as exhibited by a living being's character. OCD is the primary example.

    OCD has a physical basis in the strength of circuits in the neural network. These are not healthy or unhealthy to the brain's biological context and there is no subconscious repair. The brain has no care for them and doesn't see them as disease. They are unhealthy to the character of person and they can be a mental (mind) disease. By thought processes only -- focusing on external behavior and RATIONAL mental imaging - the physical circuits can be rewired by MEANING.

    Meaning is not a juice from a special brain organ. It is a change coming not from biological healing, but from the informational environment of the person. I have yet to read the chemical formula or electronic brain frequency that measures meaning in the brain.
     
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  17. David Eire

    David Eire New

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    I dont think this argument answers the materialist argument I outlined...because you argue from the perspective of one who believes or presumes or 'knows' (or however you wish to express it) that mind is "not a juice from a special brain organ". The materialist comes from the presumption that mind is "a juice from a special brain organ". So the materialist will argue that reason and mental meaning is a product of the brain; and they can argue that the brain produces it for reasons of self preservation and also self adjustment and/or healing.

    It may be that each of us has to decide which way to go in our own mental life. I have yet to see an argument that is objectively conclusive.
    It may be that given the essential nature of consciousness as being radically subjective, that there is no objective proof of its independence other than direct subjective experience - such as an NDE.

    ??
     
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  18. Bucky

    Bucky Member

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    Here are some recent article / studies on meditation practices and physical health.
    In particular they revolve around the "Wim Hof method". Also known as the Dutch Ice Man, the guy has shown outstanding abilities to control his body physiology and immune function at levels that science didn't even imagine. (Well, if they had paid more attention to eastern meditators that would have imagined ;) )

    http://www.highexistence.com/consciously-control-immune-system-wim-hof-method-system-wim-hof-method/

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn26102-three-ways-the-iceman-controls-his-immune-system.html

    http://www.pnas.org/content/111/20/7379.abstract

    I am not sure if people who have attended Wim Hof's courses have been able to attain the level of control he has, but even 20% of that would already be miraculous.

    I think the guy has alien DNA in his cells! :D
     
  19. JKMac

    JKMac New

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    You are right: it doesn't. And I anxiously await someone's attempt to do so.

    My last attempt to crest this hill was met with an exasperated invitation to read a book. One which I have already read. It certainly ended the conversation,,, but did nothing to bring clarity.

    Alex- you are the chief proponent on this forum supporting the thesis that a self adapting brain model is incompatible with materialism. Won't you attempt to explain why you feel this way, and point out the error in our thinking, and explain the apparent holes in yours?

    Come on now, don't run and hide just when we are getting to the crux of this. You have no problem subjecting your guests to the crucible of examination (kudos to you). Certainly you are up to defending your position.. ? : )
     
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  20. bishop

    bishop Member

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    I know all about Dawkins' position. I understand what it is. And like I said, I don't even really like him. Look! I'll even repeat a funny joke I heard about him: A Richard Dawkins tweet is a lot like an episode of Game of Thrones. There are 140 characters & something unimaginably awful happens.

    But he didn't use the term biological robot in regards to consciousness. I'm just saying.
     
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