Dr. Philip Goff, Will Academia Get Beyond Materialism? |409|

#1
Dr. Philip Goff, Will Academia Get Beyond Materialism? |409|
by Alex Tsakiris | May 7 | Consciousness Science
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Dr. Philip Goff is a philosophy professor who dares to challenge biological-robot-meaningless-universe party line.
photo by: Skeptiko
(clip from Dr. Strange)
I spent my last dollar getting here you’re talking to me about healing through belief…
You’re a man looking at the world through a keyhole and you spent your whole life trying to widen that keyhole to see more to know more and now on hearing that it can be widened in ways you can’t imagine you reject the possibility.
I reject it because I do not believe in fairy tales about chakras, or energy, or the power belief there is no such thing as spirit.

That’s a clip from the 2016 mega sci-fi hit Doctor Strange. This scene really captures a scientist at the tipping point.
We are made of matter nothing more… just another tiny momentary speck within an indifferent universe.
You think too little of yourself.
Oh you think you see through me doing what you don’t, but I see through (Dr. Strange is thrown out of his body)… what was that?
I pushed your astral form out of your physical body.
What’s in that tea? psilocybin? LSD?
Just tea, with a little honey.

Of course wouldn’t it be great if it was that simple, but the transition from the materialistic scientific paradigm into what lies beyond is anything but clean, and there are a lot of hangeroners as today’s guest Dr. Philip Goff (author of Galileo’s Error) has experienced.
Philip Goff: There is a philosopher who’s very good friend of mine a very warm and pathetic guy very kind cares about the world but he doesn’t think consciousness exists it’s always incredible to me that it you know in a sense he thinks you know no one has ever really felt pain. I think one of the big problems in that position is all of scientific knowledge is mediated through consciousness… thinking that you could have scientific evidence that consciousness doesn’t exist is a bit like thinking astronomy can tell us that there are no telescopes.
But one of the questions for me is how much of this hangeroner stuff should we tolerate, should we accept as just part of the change process, versus calling it for what it is:
Alex Tsakiris: you know in academia it’s really easy who gets the grants? who gets promoted? who doesn’t get promoted? who doesn’t get tenure? they get pruned off the tree and at the end of the day you wind up with what we have now. we wind up with you debating with Jerry Coyne, which again I know I get push back when I say this, but he’s just really incompetent. I’ve had him on the show and he just… just gets major things wrong that he’s supposed to know about. and yet he’s put forward and propped up. He’s at University of Chicago, been around forever, and this goes on and on. so that that’s the social engineering project, not that people don’t legitimately believe [in materialism] it’s just that the people who are really thinking this thing through are not presented as credible.
This was a very fun chat with a very bright guy who’s doing some great work. I hope you enjoy my conversation with Dr. Phillip Goff.
 
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#2
One of the signals indicating I was giving up materialism was a strange fondness for movies like Dr. Strange circa 2016.

The intelligent integration of memory is our human superpower which underlies our very weak general intelligence. Humanity will learn how memory relates to the brain. They will even discover how memory integrates with the brain after an NDE.

You cannot deny the correlations Alex. My stance is its both -- we are in this brain, right now. But its not all we are. You keep saying 'yoga this and nondual that' but there is never any engineering stance. Never any integration. I offer a nudge: start asking questions about friendly AI and really look into the difficulty of integrating the heart and mind as it relates to ethical problems.

Isn't that what this place is? The problem of evil may already be solved and its up to us to find the same perfect solution.
 
#4
Dr. Philip Goff, Will Academia Get Beyond Materialism? |409|
by Alex Tsakiris | May 7 | Consciousness Science
Share
Tweet
0SHARES

Dr. Philip Goff is a philosophy professor who dares to challenge biological-robot-meaningless-universe party line.
photo by: Skeptiko
(clip from Dr. Strange)
I spent my last dollar getting here you’re talking to me about healing through belief…
You’re a man looking at the world through a keyhole and you spent your whole life trying to widen that keyhole to see more to know more and now on hearing that it can be widened in ways you can’t imagine you reject the possibility.
I reject it because I do not believe in fairy tales about chakras, or energy, or the power belief there is no such thing as spirit.

That’s a clip from the 2016 mega sci-fi hit Doctor Strange. This scene really captures a scientist at the tipping point.
We are made of matter nothing more… just another tiny momentary speck within an indifferent universe.
You think too little of yourself.
Oh you think you see through me doing what you don’t, but I see through (Dr. Strange is thrown out of his body)… what was that?
I pushed your astral form out of your physical body.
What’s in that tea? psilocybin? LSD?
Just tea, with a little honey.

Of course wouldn’t it be great if it was that simple, but the transition from the materialistic scientific paradigm into what lies beyond is anything but clean, and there are a lot of hangeroners as today’s guest Dr. Philip Goff (author of Galileo’s Error) has experienced.
Philip Goff: There is a philosopher who’s very good friend of mine a very warm and pathetic guy very kind cares about the world but he doesn’t think consciousness exists it’s always incredible to me that it you know in a sense he thinks you know no one has ever really felt pain. I think one of the big problems in that position is all of scientific knowledge is mediated through consciousness… thinking that you could have scientific evidence that consciousness doesn’t exist is a bit like thinking astronomy can tell us that there are no telescopes.
But one of the questions for me is how much of this hangeroner stuff should we tolerate, should we accept as just part of the change process, versus calling it for what it is:
Alex Tsakiris: you know in academia it’s really easy who gets the grants? who gets promoted? who doesn’t get promoted? who doesn’t get tenure? they get pruned off the tree and at the end of the day you wind up with what we have now. we wind up with you debating with Jerry Coyne, which again I know I get push back when I say this, but he’s just really incompetent. I’ve had him on the show and he just… just gets major things wrong that he’s supposed to know about. and yet he’s put forward and propped up. He’s at University of Chicago, been around forever, and this goes on and on. so that that’s the social engineering project, not that people don’t legitimately believe [in materialism] it’s just that the people who are really thinking this thing through are not presented as credible.
This was a very fun chat with a very bright guy who’s doing some great work. I hope you enjoy my conversation with Dr. Phillip Goff.
There is no link to the interview itself in the original post!
 
#5
I don't think it is a good idea to beat materialists over the head because that would just cause cognitive dissonance and make them cling to their beliefs all the harder. It would not make them more rational, it would make them less rational. This happens over and over in many of your interviews. Beating them over the head would not change their minds it would injure their minds. If you want to change their minds, study the psychology of persuasion.

However discussing the evidence that consciousness is non physical is useful. It helps people who already believe it and those who are open to it but have not yet made up their minds.

...

The words "robot" and "meaning" might mean different things to different people.

People who mediate a lot have a diminished sense of free will. Dr Martin found this in his research ...

http://www.skeptiko-forum.com/threa...nlightenment-be-taught.1953/page-2#post-58913

PNSE 4​
- No sense of agency
- No emotions​
- No ‘self’ thoughts​
- Perceptual triggers at their bare minimum​
- No sense of divine or universal consciousness​
- life was simply unfolding and they were watching the process happen​
- Memory deficits/scheduled appointments, etc.​
- Highest well-being reported​

Meditation has had that sort of effect on me. The more I observe the mind, the more I see my thoughts and impulses are a either a result of cause and effect or they come from some source below my conscious awareness (where in the mind to thoughts and impulses arise from?). I don't know how to define free will in any meaningful way. To me everything has a cause and there are laws of psychology that describe how people behave just like there are natural laws that describe how matter and energy behave.​
In my opinion, free will is a feeling. It is a feeling that we feel or do not feel. It is not a logical proposition about something that we have or do not have. There is no correct answer to the question of do we have free will or not.​
But this is all dependent on what I think "free will" means. Different people might think differently about what it means and given their different definition I might agree with their different conclusions about free will.​
We are not biological robots. But maybe we are spiritual robots. I don't know. I don't think it matters because it would not change anything about how we experience existence and it would not mean life is meaningless.​
I don't think in terms of "meaning" I think in terms of purpose. Meaning is also subjective. "Meaning" is a feeling. A machine does not wonder if its existence has meaning. Meaning is a feeling that a machine cannot have. Only a conscious being can feel that life might or might not have meaning. Since meaning is subjective, a person who believes in materialism might feel there is meaning in life and a person who believes in the afterlife might feel that existence is meaningless. In my opinion feelings of meaninglessness have more to do with the brain chemistry of depression rather than lack of spiritual understanding.
In the field of spirituality, I think there is a lot of confusion because people treat subjective phenomena as if they were objective phenomena. People describe spiritual states (oneness, nonduality, enlightenment, no self, non self, free will, meaning etc) with words and that makes them sound like something that can be understood with logic (objective) and are either true or false, when they are really just trying to communicate feelings (subjective). All those words trying to describe spiritual states just cause confusion like trying to explain "blue" to a color blind person would. The words might help you to identify an experience you have had but they don't help you to have the experience.​
 
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#7
"The question I’d have to tee up from this interview is the question of acceptance. We all get that 'biological robot in a meaningless universe' is an absurd idea, but how much do we need to pound that over the head of stuck in the mud academics and other ordained holders of power and influence?"

I only know a few academics and I'm not sure that I know any other holder of power in this regard, so I don't think it's a question I have much of an answer to. I have myself at different periods in my life slipped into "biological robot in a meaningless universe" type of thinking (nihilism) and it's important for me to not slide back into that perspective. I had a wise friend point out to me once that my views sounded like nihilism, and this was before I knew what that meant. This friend had read some Buddhism books and so was familiar with the concept from that reading, and he mentioned his perspective that the Buddha warned against nihilism. It is an easy philosophy to slip into for a lot of folk. Maybe someday I will be able to "pay it forward" if somebody I know in my local circle is struggling with the nihilism thing.

Another highlight of the interview was this quote from Goff:

"[In my] philosophical education we were told that the the only options you had [were] to be a materialist or a dualist. You had to to think like a materialist so you could just explain consciousness in terms of the chemistry of the brain or you’re a dualist and you think consciousness is outside of the physical body and brain, which is ... maybe from what you’ve just said, that's more the direction you’re aiming, perhaps. I guess I’ve always found both of these problematic."

I have been trying to find some middle ground between eternalism and nihilism, so my ears perked up when he was describing a similar tension between materialism and dualism. I don't think it's the exact same question, though. For one thing, panpsychism doesn't hold much appeal to me. For another, I believe it ends up being a form of eternalism.

One other note from this show, I enjoyed the Dr. Strange excerpt, and I especially liked the EMOTION in Cumberbatch's delivery. I have been thinking a lot about how the emotional aspects of spiritual/philosophical exploration, so his emotion jumped out at me right away. I only wish I could remember WHY Dr. Strange is so emotional in this scene. It's been too long since I've seen the movie to remember.

It's also of note to compare Dr. Strange's emotion with Philip Goff's seemingly non-emotional/non-spiritual interest in the topic of pan-psychism. But even though Goff doesn't seem to have any emotional relationship to his philosophy, I think there is a very strong chance that if we dug around enough in his psyche, we could find aspects of his personality structure, familial relationships, etc that predispose him to pursue this specific philosophical approach to the point where he's writing books on it.

I also appreciated the guest's comments on quantitative versus qualitative knowledge. And this article has some interesting ideas about the difference between faith and belief: https://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/public/believers-without-belief-religious-fictionalism/
 
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#8
That was an interesting interview, and I do hope Philip will join our discussion for a bit.

Listening to him, I think academics find it incredibly hard to recognise that other areas of academic life may not be scrupulously honest or logical on their own terms (to put it mildly!). So for example Alex looked up neuroscience in Wiki while the conversation was proceeding, and found a description probably something similar to this:
Neuroscience (or neurobiology) is the scientific study of the nervous system.[1] It is a multidisciplinary branch of biology[2] that combines physiology, anatomy, molecular biology, developmental biology, cytology, mathematical modeling and psychology to understand the fundamental and emergent properties of neurons and neural circuits.[3][4][5][6][7] The understanding of the biological basis of learning, memory, behavior, perception, and consciousness has been described by Eric Kandel as the "ultimate challenge" of the biological sciences.
That description contradicted Philip's description of neuroscience as merely collecting data - which obviously couldn't actually explain consciousness (I hope I have gist of his response correct) - at any rate he slid off that point.

If you are reading this, Philip, do please discuss your ideas with us.

Alex, the title of each podcast discussion normally links to a page at septiko.com, from which I download the mp3 version of the podcast. I found that page in a roundabout way, but the link makes it a lot easier.

David
 
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#9
I don't think it is a good idea to beat materialists over the head because that would just cause cognitive dissonance and make them cling to their beliefs all the harder. It would not make them more rational, it would make them less rational. This happens over and over in many of your interviews.
Beating materialists over the head isn't worthwhile, tempting as it is, because that makes for similarly dictatorial behaviour. But without equality of status and representation any alternative idea to the dominant one, remains just that. Ideally the ridiculously intransigent inadequacies of Materialism need to become apparent, and the number of materialist 'believers' will fall.
 
#10
Listening to him, I think academics find it incredibly hard to recognise that other areas of academic life may not be scrupulously honest or logical on their own terms (to put it mildly!). So for example Alex looked up neuroscience in Wiki while the conversation was proceeding, and found a description probably something similar to this:
That description contradicted Philip's description of neuroscience as merely collecting data - which obviously couldn't actually explain consciousness (I hope I have gist of his response correct) - at any rate he slid off that point.
I think Philip was claiming "neuroscience is neutral" as if it had the status of a robotic innocent, which is a nice idea, but that doesn't address the fact that the data is used by the unscrupulous.
 
#11
Having just finished a Masters of Research in Cognitive Science, I must say that the academic study in the science of the human mind is highly depressing. There is literally millions of dollars being spent on looking at correlations between psychological attributes: memory, learning, attention, perception, affect etc. and physiological measures of brain states: EEGs, MEGS, TMS, MRI. The end result is thousands upon thousands of journal publications of technical data that no one will ever read and does not expand our understanding of the human mind. Truth is, most neuroscientists can tell you a whole lot about sodium ion channels in the brain, but seem to be no wiser then the person on the street when it comes to the subject of Mind and Consciousness. If you want the big mysteries of consciousness, mind and reality answered don't ask Cognitive Neuroscientists. If you want to know which bit of the brain shows slightly increased blood flow compared to other parts of the brain when someone hears the phoneme "Ba" rather then the phoneme "Pa" - ask a Cognitive Neuroscientist.
 
#13
Beating materialists over the head isn't worthwhile, tempting as it is, because that makes for similarly dictatorial behaviour. But without equality of status and representation any alternative idea to the dominant one, remains just that. Ideally the ridiculously intransigent inadequacies of Materialism need to become apparent, and the number of materialist 'believers' will fall.

https://sites.google.com/site/chs4o8pt/suppressed_parapsychology

Dean Radin, in his book "The Conscious Universe" in the chapter "Seeing Psi" proposes that some scientists may have too much self interest in preserving the materialist status quo to be objective about psychic phenomena. He writes that if this is true, belief in psychic phenomena should depend how committed a person is to the materialist world view. He then presents evidence to support this contention showing that 68% of the general public believe in the possibility of psychic phenomena, 55% of college professors also believe, 30% of American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) division heads believe, but only 6% of the members of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) believe in psychic phenomena.

I understand what you are saying about equality of status. I'm posting the quotes below because it might be of interest, not disagreeing with you.

People who have more education are more likely to believe in the afterlife.

Contrary to researchers' expectations, a poll of 439 college students found seniors and grad students were more likely than freshmen to believe in haunted houses, psychics, telepathy, channeling and a host of other questionable ideas.
http://www.nbcnews.com/id/10950526/...nce/t/does-education-fuel-paranormal-beliefs/

Most doctors believe in the afterlife.

In the survey of 1,044 doctors nationwide, 76 percent said they believe in God, 59 percent said they believe in some sort of afterlife, and 55 percent said their religious beliefs influence how they practice medicine.
http://www.nbcnews.com/id/8318894/n...t-doctors-believe-god-afterlife/#.XNLh_tjQhGM
 
#14
I would like an expansion on Philip's comment "consciousness is unobservable". Doesn't that take it out of the realm of materialism?
Maybe he means unobservable objectively (from a second-person perspective). He'd probably agree consciousness is subjectively (from a first-person perspective) observable - indeed, without consciousness, I'd opine that effectively nothing would be observable from either first- or second-person perspectives. The physicalist argument is that events happen whether or not they're observed: the tree falls in the forest regardless; bishop Berkeley, who used this metaphor, argued that God is an observing consciousness, and so everything is observed, albeit not necessarily by living creatures.

Quantum physics provides strong, apparently loophole-free evidence that everything exists in superposition (potential) until observed, when it becomes actualised: Bernardo Kastrup, if I understand correctly, might add: by self-reflective organisms, which could include all organisms, not just human beings, but not "God" as Berkeley understood the term.

BK opines that Mind At Large, or That Which Experiences (MAL or TWE, his somewhat different concept of "God") may not be conscious in a self-reflective (aka meta-conscious) way. Living organisms could constitute "organs" whereby MAL is able to appreciate -- vicariously one might say -- a meta-conscious awareness of itself.

That said, it itself is posited not to have a meta-conscious first-person perspective like ours. Its being, as assessed from our second-person perspective, appears highly ordered and regular; but its inner experience of itself may not be meta-conscious. All we can detect of it is from our second-person perspective (we perceive it as galaxies, stars, planets, natural "laws" and so on). Just as (usually at any rate) we can only detect other people's consciousness from a second-person (correlative) perspective, we can only detect TWE's consciousness from such a perspective.

I said "usually" because many people may, in special circumstances, have the ability to share in a first-person experience of the minds of other organisms (and maybe even of TWE), and this possibility is where we begin to stray into matters we think of as "spiritual", or, if one is a physicalist, "woo-woo". I find it strange that such circumstances usually involve lessened rather than heightened brain activity, such as occur in psychedelic experiences and NDEs.

I also find it strange that one doesn't need much of a brain to live a perfectly normal life. People with a brain only a few percent of the normal size can be just as effective and intelligent as anyone else, and many people with hemispherectomies (removal of one hemisphere of the brain), particularly performed when young, can be pretty normal or even somewhat improved in at least some respects -- including cognitively. Surprisingly, complete hemispherectomies can have better results than partial ones.

How in the face of this hard evidence physicalists can so confidently maintain that the brain generates consciousness, I don't know. With half or more of the brain missing, people can still be conscious and even brighter than average.

I don't myself agree with Goff's panpsychism; it's something that enables one to hang on to physicalism, but faces the combination problem -- how it is that myriads of tiny consciousnesses manage to combine to produce something with a higher degree of consciousness, or put another way, how it is that higher degrees of consciousness "emerge" out of lower degrees thereof.

I'm not saying that BK's version of Idealism holds the ultimate answer to the mystery of consciousness; but I do opine that, so far, it's the most satisfying and parsimonious explanation I've come across, and, moreover, it's one that is compatible with psi/spiritual phenomena.
 
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#15
Having just finished a Masters of Research in Cognitive Science, I must say that the academic study in the science of the human mind is highly depressing. There is literally millions of dollars being spent on looking at correlations between psychological attributes: memory, learning, attention, perception, affect etc. and physiological measures of brain states: EEGs, MEGS, TMS, MRI. The end result is thousands upon thousands of journal publications of technical data that no one will ever read and does not expand our understanding of the human mind. Truth is, most neuroscientists can tell you a whole lot about sodium ion channels in the brain, but seem to be no wiser then the person on the street when it comes to the subject of Mind and Consciousness. If you want the big mysteries of consciousness, mind and reality answered don't ask Cognitive Neuroscientists. If you want to know which bit of the brain shows slightly increased blood flow compared to other parts of the brain when someone hears the phoneme "Ba" rather then the phoneme "Pa" - ask a Cognitive Neuroscientist.
In the 1840 the magnertisers (hypnotists) did something called phreno-magnetism, this entailed them touching various parts of the skull
that they thought correlated to behaviors. They actually had a fair amount of success, but when we look at this through our modern sophisticated
scientific lens its clearly mumbo jumbo and rather infantile even though it was seen as a branch of science.
I cant help wondering what we will be thinking of our new endeavours in the future,but push on we must.
 
#16
You cannot deny the correlations Alex. My stance is its both -- we are in this brain, right now. But its not all we are. You keep saying 'yoga this and nondual that' but there is never any engineering stance. Never any integration.
good... love it. I would suggest nde science pushes this question to its limits. leaving aside all the linguistic gymnastics we do to accommodate skeptical neuroscientist the evidence suggests nde sometimes happen during periods when the brain is dead. I'm not saying we have to deny correlations, but I'm suggesting we use this mystery as our starting point.
 
#19
In the 1840 the magnertisers (hypnotists) did something called phreno-magnetism, this entailed them touching various parts of the skull
that they thought correlated to behaviors. They actually had a fair amount of success, but when we look at this through our modern sophisticated
scientific lens its clearly mumbo jumbo and rather infantile even though it was seen as a branch of science.
I cant help wondering what we will be thinking of our new endeavours in the future,but push on we must.
Let's not forget that "our modern sophisticated scientific lens" is increasingly recognising the power of the placebo response, which the erstwhile "magnetisers" may have unwittingly been taking advantage of:

 
#20
Gordon White asked Rupert Sheldrake the question, “are we winning” and Sheldrake said “yes” during this interview on Rune Soup. And he
Made several great and interesting points to support his position.

More and more materialists are moving to a “pansychist” view of the universe. There is all kinds of research coming out showing the benefits of meditation and spiritual practices. Of course the materialist hold is still strong, but there ranks are decreasing according to Sheldrake.

I personally think it’s only a matter of time. Maybe it’s 20 years, maybe it’s 100 years, maybe it’s 200. But I do think it’s a phase. And phases end.

 
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