At last: a thoughtful atheist

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
#21
You're a past bloody master. Reminds me why I usually ignore you. The specific question you asked me was answered, but if you want to engage in your usual solipsistic conversation, go ahead. Just don't expect any further responses.
Seems to me we haven't straightened out the differences between things and processes. For example, a computer is not computation. But okay.

~~ Paul
 
#23
Careful there! You might be confusing correlation with causation; the beehive could be filtering honey from a non local source...
Wait, technically they are filtering honey from a non local source.

" Leaving the hive, they collect sugar-rich flower nectar and return. In the hive, the bees use their "honey stomachs" to ingest and regurgitate the nectar a number of times until it is partially digested "

You have a non local source, a filter, and a product. I'm not sure that satire was very good...
 

Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
#24
Wait, technically they are filtering honey from a non local source.

" Leaving the hive, they collect sugar-rich flower nectar and return. In the hive, the bees use their "honey stomachs" to ingest and regurgitate the nectar a number of times until it is partially digested "

You have a non local source, a filter, and a product. I'm not sure that satire was very good...
Heh. But malf's nonlocality is supernatural. You're just talking about good ol' nature.

~~ Paul
 
#27
Wait, technically they are filtering honey from a non local source.

" Leaving the hive, they collect sugar-rich flower nectar and return. In the hive, the bees use their "honey stomachs" to ingest and regurgitate the nectar a number of times until it is partially digested "

You have a non local source, a filter, and a product. I'm not sure that satire was very good...
I suppose that depends on how one defines "local". Bees don't travel more than 2km from their hive (I am a trained beekeeper) and that area could be included as part of the hive mechanism I guess.

BTW, you appear to be stuck in a materialistic paradigm when you consider the production of honey ;)
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#28
Some Tallis articles from Philosophy Now.

Might be under a paywall as their system is weird, maybe I'll try to offer coherent summaries later:

1) A Smile At Waterloo Station: Raymond Tallis on the true mystery of memory.

...Neurophilosophers will not be impressed by my objection. The difference between the shock-chastened sea snail and my feeling sad over a meeting that passed so quickly, is simply the difference between 20,000 neurons or a hundred billion; or, more importantly, between the modest number of connexions within Aplysia’s nervous system, and the unimaginably large number of connexions in your brain (said to be of the order of a 100 trillion). Well, I don’t believe that the difference between Kandel’s ‘memory in a dish’ and my actual memory is just a matter of the size of the nervous system or the number or complexity of the neurons in it. Clarifying this difference will enable us to see what is truly mysterious in memory...

...Making present something that is past as something past, that is to say, absent, hardly looks like a job that a piece of matter could perform, even a complex electrochemical process in a piece of matter such as a brain. But we need to specify more clearly why not. Material objects are what they are, not what they have been, any more than they are what they will be. Thus a changed synaptic connexion is its present state; it is not also the causes of its present state. Nor is the connection ‘about’ that which caused its changed state or its increased propensity to fire in response to cues. Even less is it about those causes located at a temporal distance from its present state. A paper published in Science last year by Itzhak Fried claiming to solve the problem of memory actually underlines this point. The author found that the same neurons were active in the same way when an individual remembered a scene (actually from The Simpsons) as when they watched it.

So how did people ever imagine that a ‘cerebral deposit’ (to use Henri Bergson’s sardonic phrase) could be about that which caused its altered state? Isn’t it because they smuggled consciousness into their idea of the relationship between the altered synapse and that which caused the alteration, so that they could then imagine that the one could be ‘about’ the other? Once you allow that, then the present state of anything can be a sign of the past events that brought about its present state, and the past can be present. For example, a broken cup can signify to me (a conscious being when I last checked) the unfortunate event that resulted in its unhappy state.

Of course, smuggling in consciousness like this is inadmissible, because the synapses are supposed to supply the consciousness that reaches back in time to the causes of the synapses’ present states. And there is another, more profound reason why the cerebral deposit does not deliver what some neurophysiologists want it to, which goes right to the heart of the nature of the material world and the physicist’s account of its reality – something that this article has been circling round. I am referring to the mystery of tensed time; the mystery of an explicit past, future and present...
2) You Chemical Scum, You

I am sick of being insulted. There seems to be a competition among some contemporary thinkers to dream up the most hostile descriptions of Homo sapiens, a species of which I am proud to be an example.

Admittedly, badmouthing humanity is not an entirely novel pastime. There is a venerable religious tradition of currying favour with the Almighty by people-bashing, telling Him (in case He had forgotten) what third-rate, degraded, fallen, creatures He has created. The female of the species tends to be particularly singled out. St Augustine’s description of women as ‘bags of excrement’ is a characteristic gallantry. In recent centuries, however, the insults seem to be coming from non-religious sources, and to be inspired by the claim that science has revealed our true standing in the order of things.
3) On Points

What, you may ask, has this got to do with philosophy? Well, it has everything to do with rescuing lived space (and lived time) from a reduction to mathematics and mathematized physics. To see this, let us look at something a bit more familiar: those famous paradoxes that have engaged philosophers since Zeno first introduced them to support his teacher Parmenides’ claim that motion is logically impossible, and hence illusory.
 
#29
I suppose that depends on how one defines "local". Bees don't travel more than 2km from their hive (I am a trained beekeeper) and that area could be included as part of the hive mechanism I guess.

BTW, you appear to be stuck in a materialistic paradigm when you consider the production of honey ;)
Sure. I mean, if my consciousness is filtered from halfway across the universe, I guess you could still call it ' local '.

I'm guessing that 2km is much less ' local ' for s bee than it is a human.
 
#30
Some Tallis articles from Philosophy Now.

Might be under a paywall as their system is weird, maybe I'll try to offer coherent summaries later:

1) A Smile At Waterloo Station: Raymond Tallis on the true mystery of memory.



2) You Chemical Scum, You



3) On Points
These articles are indeed behind the paywall. A pity: Tallis is the man who can be deservedly called a secular humanist, in the strict and positive meaning of these words. He is unlike the many self-proclamed "secular humanists" in style of Dawkins and Dennet, who should be properly called antitheistic antihumanists.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#31
My hope is Tallis can publish these essays** into a single package. The one about materialism's inability to account for memory is especially poignant, given his training as a neuroscientist.

His essays challenging mechanistic closure are also great stuff.

Would also be interesting to see what he thinks of the paranormal, along with his reasons for being an immaterialist atheist. Guess I'll ask if he wants to be interviewed, if I get an okay from Alex...

**Some of them are found in this collection.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#32
Philosophy isn't dead yet | Raymond Tallis

...But there could not be a worse time for philosophers to surrender the baton of metaphysical inquiry to physicists. Fundamental physics is in a metaphysical mess and needs help. The attempt to reconcile its two big theories, general relativity and quantum mechanics, has stalled for nearly 40 years. Endeavours to unite them, such as string theory, are mathematically ingenious but incomprehensible even to many who work with them. This is well known. A better-kept secret is that at the heart of quantum mechanics is a disturbing paradox – the so-called measurement problem, arising ultimately out of the Uncertainty Principle – which apparently demonstrates that the very measurements that have established and confirmed quantum theory should be impossible. Oxford philosopher of physics David Wallace has argued that this threatens to make quantum mechanics incoherent which can be remedied only by vastly multiplying worlds.

Beyond these domestic problems there is the failure of physics to accommodate conscious beings. The attempt to fit consciousness into the material world, usually by identifying it with activity in the brain, has failed dismally, if only because there is no way of accounting for the fact that certain nerve impulses are supposed to be conscious (of themselves or of the world) while the overwhelming majority (physically essentially the same) are not. In short, physics does not allow for the strange fact that matter reveals itself to material objects (such as physicists).

And then there is the mishandling of time. The physicist Lee Smolin's recent book, Time Reborn, links the crisis in physics with its failure to acknowledge the fundamental reality of time. Physics is predisposed to lose time because its mathematical gaze freezes change. Tensed time, the difference between a remembered or regretted past and an anticipated or feared future, is particularly elusive. This worried Einstein: in a famous conversation, he mourned the fact that the present tense, "now", lay "just outside of the realm of science".

Recent attempts to explain how the universe came out of nothing, which rely on questionable notions such as spontaneous fluctuations in a quantum vacuum, the notion of gravity as negative energy, and the inexplicable free gift of the laws of nature waiting in the wings for the moment of creation, reveal conceptual confusion beneath mathematical sophistication. They demonstrate the urgent need for a radical re-examination of the invisible frameworks within which scientific investigations are conducted. We need to step back from the mathematics to see how we got to where we are now. In short, to un-take much that is taken for granted...
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#34
Tallis on Nagel's Mind & Cosmos:

Bringing Mind to Matter

The View from Nowhere argues not only that the subjective view of our perception cannot be reduced to the objective view of the universe, but more importantly that, contrary to what so much modern scientific thought attempts to show, the objective view cannot replace or do away with the subjective view. The fact that there is no “me” or “here” or “now” in the scientific perspective does not show that these things are unreal, but rather that physical science is, and may always remain, incomplete. Likewise, though physics aims to reduce and marginalize so-called “secondary” qualities, like color and brightness, to what it (presumptuously) calls “primary” qualities, like light wavelength and amplitude, this does not prove that colors are less real than electromagnetic waves; it only shows that purely objective science has limitations. Since secondary qualities are the very stuff of consciousness, experience will always remain out of science’s total grasp. Objective science, in short, cannot capture what it is like to be a subject who inescapably experiences the world from a certain viewpoint.
It is hardly surprising that the mind seems to elude physical explanation because, as Nagel points out, “the great advances in the physical and biological sciences were made possible by excluding the mind from the physical world.” Anyone who still imagines that there is life to the theory that the mind can be understood in purely physical terms will be cured of this delusion by reading the philosophical literature. While there are some who stick stubbornly to the assumption that consciousness is identical with neural events in certain parts of the brain, their views do not withstand close examination by even the most open-minded philosophers, like Australian professor David Chalmers.

With Mind and Cosmos, Nagel wisely stands on the shoulders of these giants, and asks the readers to stand with him: where many philosophers of mind are so exactingly detailed that they can expend the word count of a Russian novel to refine the edges of error, Nagel, rather than exhaustively explore the arguments against reducing the mind to the brain, simply reiterates them quickly and authoritatively. The result is a compact barnburner of a book. Nagel aims less to check the vital signs of psychophysical reductionism than to note that the patient has long since expired. He then moves along to explore the implications, for if reductionism truly is dead, “this infects our entire naturalistic understanding of the universe, not only our understanding of consciousness”; it has revolutionary implications not only for evolutionary biology, but for our whole metaphysical picture.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#35
Tallis' reflection on his profession of neuroscience, specifically regarding the limits of the discipline:

What Neuroscience Cannot Tell Us About Ourselves

There has been much breathless talk of late about all the varied mysteries of human existence that have been or soon will be solved by neuroscience. As a clinical neuroscientist, I could easily expatiate on the wonders of a discipline that I believe has a better claim than mathematics to being Queen of the Sciences. For a start, it is a science in which many other sciences converge: physics, biology, chemistry, biophysics, biochemistry, pharmacology, and psychology, among others. In addition, its object of study is the one material object that, of all the material objects in the universe, bears most closely on our lives: the brain, and more generally, the nervous system. So let us begin by giving all proper respect to what neuroscience can tell us about ourselves: it reveals some of the most important conditions that are necessary for behavior and awareness.

What neuroscience does not do, however, is provide a satisfactory account of the conditions that are sufficient for behavior and awareness. Its descriptions of what these phenomena are and of how they arise are incomplete in several crucial respects, as we will see. The pervasive yet mistaken idea that neuroscience does fully account for awareness and behavior is neuroscientism, an exercise in science-based faith...
 
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