Brian Cox - Consciouness discussion on Joe Rogan interview

#1
Hi All,

I was listening to the Brian Cox interview on the Joe Rogan podcast/show and whilst its a very fascinating, far-reaching and open-minded debate on many scientific subjects, this part of the interview confuses me (Link Below). Brian Cox dismisses theories related to the hard problem, that are not confined to our current understanding of matter and energy but does so, so 'matter of factly'.

My questions are :-

1) Can anyone explain his position and his argument about why he 'can eliminate woo'? To me, it just seems like the "you cannot weigh the soul argument" and so I do not see the revelation in his thoughts here.

2) Why is someone like this, who is clearly a very intelligent person, so dismissive of this area and do you reckon there is merit in his opinion?

NB. Video will play at the point I am referring to.

 
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#2
The guy played keyboards in D:Ream - everything he says should be treated with suspicion. Joking......kind of.....

There will always be people who make it their mission in life to defend what is reasonable - with what is reasonable changing over time. History is littered with proclaimations from experts-of-the-day holding court on the 'truth'.
 
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#4
To be honest, I can't be bothered to listen to the interview, but if anyone here can extract any argument that he presents (together with the location in that video), then it might be fun to discuss it.

David
 
#5
To be honest, I can't be bothered to listen to the interview, but if anyone here can extract any argument that he presents (together with the location in that video), then it might be fun to discuss it.

David
Hi David, I should have been clearer but the video link is placed at the point where Brian gives the explanation to his claim.
 
#7
Hi David, I should have been clearer but the video link is placed at the point where Brian gives the explanation to his claim.
Thanks - I listened, and here is my response.

Clearly Cox is right that you need some sort of interaction between the physical and non-physical realms if the latter exists. However there is one obvious candidate for that interaction, which is the fact that observation collapses the wave function. The physicist Henry Stapp has studied this in detail, and even within the maths of conventional QM, it is possible for an observer to control matter by the frequency with which he performs an observation - basically if you observe a quantum state very frequently, you can lock it into that state, whereas if you wait after an observation, the environment will gradually perturb the state it is in, and a subsequent observation has a good chance of finding it in another state. This is known as the quantum Zeno effect.

Further to that, normally when a wave function collapses it falls into one of several states with fixed probabilities - if you measure the spin of an electron about a given axis, you will force it into a spin-up state or a spin down state with an essentially 50-50 probability. However, if consciousness interacts with the brain in a way that skews those statistics, who would know? Indeed Dean Radin has published a paper in which he did a series of experiments that showed that meditators who focused on a 2-slit experiment did seem to bias the resulting interference pattern by a small amount! Each experiment was split into intervals, and in each interval the meditators were told to favour the left slit or the right one based on a random number generator. The actual experiment was performed in a sealed device.

There are multiple possible interpretations of QM, and not all involve an observer, and the interaction between soul and body might happen in some other way, but I think the above is an excellent candidate.

David
 
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#8
Thanks - I listened, and here is my response.

Clearly Cox is right that you need some sort of interaction between the physical and non-physical realms if the latter exists. However there is one obvious candidate for that interaction, which is the fact that observation collapses the wave function. The physicist Henry Stapp has studied this in detail, and even within the maths of conventional QM, it is possible for an observer to control matter by the frequency with which he performs an observation - basically if you observe a quantum state very frequently, you can lock it into that state, whereas if you wait after an observation, the environment will gradually perturb the state it is in, and a subsequent observation has a good chance of finding it in another state. This is known as the quantum Zeno effect).

Further to that, normally when a wave function collapses it falls into one of several states with fixed probabilities - if you measure the spin of an electron about a given axis, you will force it into a spin-up state or a spin down state with an essentially 50-50 probability. However, if consciousness interacts with the brain in a way that skews those statistics, who would know? Indeed Dean Radin has published a paper in which he did a series of experiments that showed that meditators who focused on a 2-slit experiment did seem to bias the resulting interference pattern by a small amount! Each experiment was split into intervals, and in each interval the meditators were told to favour the left slit or the right one based on a random number generator. The actual experiment was performed in a sealed device.

There are multiple possible interpretations of QM, and not all involve an observer, and the interaction between soul and body might happen in some other way, but I think the above is an excellent candidate.

David
Thanks very much for this reply. I will digest it and I believe it confirms what I thought, whereby Brian confined himself to a conventional, materialist view and then congratulated himself for solving something within that paradigm (ie. not actually solving or progressing the puzzle at all). The way in which he proclaimed it in such a groundbreaking tone made me think I had missed something. Again, he is a great guy to listen to regarding physics and cosmology but the shutters come down on this topic, confusing for someone who claims that science should never think it has the ultimate answer.
 
#9
Cox's claim (compressed): "We can rule that (duality) out based upon the following basis... electrons, neutrons & protons. Our study of matter has measured how mass behaves and interacts with energy. G, S, w, EM are the only forces which exist and we have examined them with 'high precision'. We know how matter interacts precisely. This observation precision falsifies the notion of duality."

Yawn.

1. Our ability to measure cognitive phenomena is nowhere near precise to the 'proton, neutron, electron' level as he boasts. We can barely measure states of happiness, speech, or cognition - in gross terms inside clinical neurology. These things are not measured to the "Gravity, Strong, weak or EM force" level, - nor are these even relevant even if we could measure neuronal activity to this level. He just threw these terms out to sound intimidating to non-scientists.

It is like saying that there is no such thing as a car because we have measured iron ore, rubber trees and silicon dioxide with high precision, and these things do not move. That was a piss poor answer, especially coming from a physicist.

2. Emergence from Supersymmetry and compactification occurs ostensibly at the quark level by means of a Wilson Loop - so it is clear that IF - a lossless protocol introduces a particle from a string - that it does so BELOW the baryon (neutron, proton) and four-force (G, S, w, EM) level. We should hold as the null hypothesis then that any posited mechanism attributable to consciousness, would also reside at that same scale and with a similar principle. And NO, we have not 'measured with precision' to that level. So the question 'remains open' - if one is a serious and ethical practitioner in the art.

Since he is making a claim to final conclusion (and implying that one is stupid if they do not accept it), and treated the topic very flippantly as if he knew the answer at age 14 - then his enforcement of conclusion is just based upon a set of flat out lies. I would not listen to another word this man says. He did not handle this issue with even the slightest pinch of integrity nor circumspection.
 
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#11
It isn't even clear that super-symmetry is real - no super-symmetric particles were found at the Large Hadron Collider - just the Higgs.

David
Yes, which is why I said 'ostensibly' - but to the actual point made here (not that I think you did not catch it), I am using our tolerance of Supersymmetry as an analogy in method.

1. We consider the origin of matter to be something we cannot measure because it resides inside an ephemeral realm/scale/dimensionality which we do not yet fully understand. Yet we at the same time make the claim (comparatively) that we should be able to measure the genesis of a 'soul' if it existed.

2. We do as science consider the possibility that matter is a lossless communication into this ream from a compressed or separate realm. Yet at the same time we do not afford consciousness that same degree of freedom.

Consciousness is always a cardboard box which we must bring tape measure results on, yet everything else - is given a free pass of being based upon a hidden unmeasurable mystery.

That application of an unlevel playing field was the point, not a claim that our understanding of M Theory is all correct.
 
#12
A philosopher gives his take on the hard problem:

My impression of that guy is he's just another eliminativist. As soon as someone expose themselves as an eliminativist, I stop listening/reading their stuff. There are very few serious academics I listen to, David Chalmers, Christof Koch, maybe some other.

As to OP, many of these "intellectual elites" are staunch materialists who are somehow convinced the brain can produce consciousness like liver secrets bile. They're just beating a dead horse, they get very upset and emotional when you suggest anything else, and you know when someone rages and insults at your comments it's because they have personal agenda. I seriously can't believe the state that philosophy of mind is in. Thomas Nagel put it very well here https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/18/the-core-of-mind-and-cosmos/

Since then the book has attracted a good deal of critical attention, which is not surprising, given the entrenchment of the world view that it attacks.
these guys are entrenched in their fantasises.
 
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#13
Thanks - I listened, and here is my response.

Clearly Cox is right that you need some sort of interaction between the physical and non-physical realms if the latter exists. However there is one obvious candidate for that interaction, which is the fact that observation collapses the wave function. The physicist Henry Stapp has studied this in detail, and even within the maths of conventional QM, it is possible for an observer to control matter by the frequency with which he performs an observation - basically if you observe a quantum state very frequently, you can lock it into that state, whereas if you wait after an observation, the environment will gradually perturb the state it is in, and a subsequent observation has a good chance of finding it in another state. This is known as the quantum Zeno effect.

Further to that, normally when a wave function collapses it falls into one of several states with fixed probabilities - if you measure the spin of an electron about a given axis, you will force it into a spin-up state or a spin down state with an essentially 50-50 probability. However, if consciousness interacts with the brain in a way that skews those statistics, who would know? Indeed Dean Radin has published a paper in which he did a series of experiments that showed that meditators who focused on a 2-slit experiment did seem to bias the resulting interference pattern by a small amount! Each experiment was split into intervals, and in each interval the meditators were told to favour the left slit or the right one based on a random number generator. The actual experiment was performed in a sealed device.

There are multiple possible interpretations of QM, and not all involve an observer, and the interaction between soul and body might happen in some other way, but I think the above is an excellent candidate.

David
I'm not one for substance dualism. What does substance dualism achieve anyway? A non physical substance that has the property that it's consciousness, why can't you just forget the substance and assume matter has the property that it's conscious? You still get the hard problem with dualism, consciousness will always be mysterious when you think of it from a 3rd person perspective. Imo it's this 1st person 3rd person issue that gives rise to the hard problem, consciousness cannot be a content of consciousness, hence the explanatory gap. I think the problem is just how well do current theories know what matter is? In other words panpsychism, idealism.
 
#14
I'm not one for substance dualism. What does substance dualism achieve anyway? A non physical substance that has the property that it's consciousness, why can't you just forget the substance and assume matter has the property that it's conscious? You still get the hard problem with dualism, consciousness will always be mysterious when you think of it from a 3rd person perspective. Imo it's this 1st person 3rd person issue that gives rise to the hard problem, consciousness cannot be a content of consciousness, hence the explanatory gap. I think the problem is just how well do current theories know what matter is? In other words panpsychism, idealism.
Well, as I keep on explaining, I'm less and less sure anyone knows what panpsychism means (when you take QM into account).

I do like the idea of Idealism as the ultimate theory, but it doesn't seem too much use right now as a scientific theory - because as it stands just about anything could happen with Idealism - Mind At Large just has to decide to make all grass purple for a week, and it would happen!

Science really has to develop in smaller steps, and recognising the 'other' realm as real would be a fantastic start, and would let scientists gather the evidence and categorise it.

Dualism clearly isn't the ultimate theory because of the need for interaction, but neither are QM and General Relativity (GR), because they are mutually incompatible! That doesn't stop normal science using both those theories!

David
 
#15
1) Can anyone explain his position and his argument about why he 'can eliminate woo'? To me, it just seems like the "you cannot weigh the soul argument" and so I do not see the revelation in his thoughts here.
I am not him, but I can point out his very basic level fallacies and non-scientific (as in principle working method of science) stances:

Quoting Cox from the video:
"I am damn sure there is nothing going on in my head other than what is allowed by the laws of nature as we understand them."

First fallacy: laws of nature have nothing to do with "as you understand them". They exist, whether you/we understand them or not. You may build approximate models out of the laws, as you understanding grows, but they are not the same.

Second fallacy: plenty of things happen in our "heads" that we do not understand and do not fall into our current models of laws of nature (e.g. NDEs, psilocybin related neural filtering de-activation, the miracle of "consciousness", PSI, etc).

Third fallacy: models are not the reality. You can approximate asymptotically reality, but never achieve it with a model. At least not so far. Even that by itself logically leaves room for something that the models don't cover.

2) Why is someone like this, who is clearly a very intelligent person, so dismissive of this area and do you reckon there is merit in his opinion?
Intelligence is not a substitute for :

1) personal hands-on experience (e.g. if you haven't experienced it yourself, you can be obnoxious in your thinking that it can't exist because of your lack or experience),

2) knowing various fields of research (i.e. actually having read the experimental research on the field). Plenty of people make easily spottable erroneous claims about fields which they have not studied at all (Cox clearly has not studied consciousness research).

3) knowing different models by/with which to think with/through (e.g. if you only know non-modal binary logic, you'll be utterly confused by multi-valued modal fuzzy probability reasoning).

Cox clearly displays arguments that show lacking in all the three above areas. And yes, I'm no different. I have other differences and failings compared to him.

BTW, on a related note, I would not ask serious questions from a particle physicists about consciousness and the workings of the brain and expect any more eloquent or truthful answers than asking the same questions from a plumber or botanist, none of whom has actually pondered or studied the problem of consciousness or is deeply into brain research.

Expertise in one very narrow domain doesn't make one's expertise in other fields any more relevant. In consciousness research and brain understanding he is clearly at the level of a badly read neophyte, based on his arguments.

If he could make one clearly well-studied and carefully constructed argument on a specific point (you know a testable scientific argument), and not an emotional, proof-devoid blanket statement, then we could discuss specifics.

But as he doesn't, we can't.

As for his blanket statement for why we can't have soul, is basically this:

Premises:
1) Everything is physical and is operated by 4 forces (in the known universe)

Argument:
2) We have measured everything, can't find more than 4 forces
3) If something existed (e.g. soul) that influenced matter (physicality) other than what we find physically, it would have to operate via the known 4 forces
4) We have done extremely fine measurements of the 4 forces and no such "soul interactions" can be found in those forces

Thus:
5) No measurable 4-force interactions from the soul -> soul can't exist

Now, this is very easy to at least probabilistically argument against:

Errors:
1) Premises:
- We don't know everything is physical (e.g. "dark matter/energy")
- We have not found how certain known and unknown pieces of our models interact via the 4 known forces (e.g. bright/dark matter, black holes)

Argument
2) Just because we haven't found it , doesn't mean it's there (we used to think things like electricity or gravity where stupid or just flights of fancy)
3) Just because we assume a physical only universe with only 4-forces and claim that "soul" has to abide with these, this is a premise, not an experimental proof
4) We have done extremely fine psyhokinetic measurements where we start to see effects at quantum or brownian motion level (thermal) from "consciousness" or "intent", even if we can't measure the actual conveying/mediating force. If a result exists, we should be able to accept it is possible, even if we don't understand the causal mechanism yet. He claims otherwise: just become we cannot measure with known mediating forces, the results CANNOT exist (i.e. because it doesn't fall on the known map, it can't exist in reality)

5) The above pretty much refutes his conclusion.

This is really pre-graduate level stuff. Anybody trying to pass basic logic courses should be able to take his argument apart as should he.

Which brings me to my final point, as I'm not trying to be particularly disparaging about Cox:

- We are all biased, we all make reasoning / logical errors and having a high IQ or lots of training in logical deduction doesn't make one immune to these. Further, the more one is wedded to any one position, the more one is prone to exhibit cognitive dissonance and reject reasoning, evidence or even physical proof of counter-claims to one's current epistemological framework (i.e. one says "this can't exist, because it fails my world-view coherency tests").

We all do this. I'm no different and I am clearly less intelligent (lower IQ, less education) than Cox, but even I can spot his mistakes.

You should be able to spot mine and correct for them.
 
#16
BTW, on a related note, I would not ask serious questions from a particle physicists about consciousness and the workings of the brain and expect any more eloquent or truthful answers than asking the same questions from a plumber or botanist, none of whom has actually pondered or studied the problem of consciousness or is deeply into brain research.
The theoretical physicist, Professor Roger Penrose certainly gets the issue to some extent.

David
 
#17
Hi All,

I was listening to the Brian Cox interview on the Joe Rogan podcast/show and whilst its a very fascinating, far-reaching and open-minded debate on many scientific subjects, this part of the interview confuses me (Link Below). Brian Cox dismisses theories related to the hard problem, that are not confined to our current understanding of matter and energy but does so, so 'matter of factly'.

My questions are :-

1) Can anyone explain his position and his argument about why he 'can eliminate woo'? To me, it just seems like the "you cannot weigh the soul argument" and so I do not see the revelation in his thoughts here.

2) Why is someone like this, who is clearly a very intelligent person, so dismissive of this area and do you reckon there is merit in his opinion?

NB. Video will play at the point I am referring to.

If one approaches the topic consciousness or the soul from the standard model of physics. That is Brian's area of expertise and his hypothesis is it has to be proven from that POV. Well, I would have to ask where are the research data on consciousness he is referring to. Who has done this type of research, under what grant? Otherwise its conjecture on his part, isnt it?
If he understands all the fundamental qualities of this physical universe please tell us what dark matter is? Dark energy? Explain entanglement? What force ties those tiny entities together? From his argument we should be able to detect that too?

Im not writing consciousness has to have a signature energy which they just havent detected yet. Maybe consciousness leaks in from another dimension like gravity. Maybe space-time is one of its attributes not the other way around. My hypothesis is consciousness is fundamental. How do I know? Its completely subjective as all experience is. What is Brians experience except a shared intellectual understanding of how different mathematical models fit together. Yeah you can make cool things with that knowledge, but it doesnt explain why he can understand it. Brian has no clue who Brian is. How did we get from the hydrogen atom to Brian talking about consciousness. Is time that powerful all by itself? Theres plenty of mystery left to discover in physics. When I watched that video, I believe Brian was just a little uncomfortable handling that topic IMO
 
#18
The theoretical physicist, Professor Roger Penrose certainly gets the issue to some extent.

David
Yes, agreed.
And like a true scientist in the fields where he makes arguments. He actually makes testable arguments in the field of consciousness or labels his speculation as such, unlike Cox in the above example. Cox merely has an opinion, and a very emotional one, without having looked into the literature (obviously).

That is not scientific method, it is just prejudice.
 
#19
What really pisses me off is... on another forum years back, I was talking to a bio med student, and she said Cox is hot, I got the impression she's some hot blonde. I thought he was ugly but didn't care much at the time (I'm not gay afterall so I can't judge male looks properly). Now knowing his attitude I'm just mad.
 
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