Friday Roundup


“As we have already argued, the new compounding of inherited by earned economic disparity is generating a new aristocracy shorn of all vestiges of chivalry and honour. To some degree this new aristocracy is in direct continuity with older ones of ancien regime bastard feudalism and nineteenth-century quasi-feudal industrialism. And in this light, as Piketty suggests, meritocracy would appear to be the ruse of the landed and capitalised in an era of mass democracy and liberal rights.”

  • Two things: First, I see this growing diversity and focus on social issues as a very positive trend and, second, more confirmation here that atheism is more a reaction to religious fundamentalism than it is any dispassionate, objective, and deliberative (outside a narrative) conclusion to the “facts” and “evidence.”   It exists for the same reason Protestants exist.


“Those last few words speak directly to the very reason behind organized atheism: almost everyone who deconverts from religion and declares themselves a nonbeliever does so because of a compelling need to talk about reality. Whether it’s because we couldn’t reconcile the fossils in the earth with the story of creation we were told by our parents and clergy, or because of a need to lay claim to our sexuality without first checking for the approval or condemnation of a deity, the desire to discard what we perceive as falsehoods and speak honestly about the realities of our lives is one of the most commonly shared passions of atheists as a whole.”

The “reality” he is talking about is a reaction (encompassing a certain view of reality) against the way fundamentalists construe reality.  But what if they are wrong (and they are)?  Then one lives his life based upon his reaction to something that was never true to begin with.  How sad.  A life spent charging at windmills.

  • There is not a single “lesson” here that any orthodox-mainstream Christian (the majority) would not agree with, contrary to all the hype that Christians were upset with “Cosmos”.  The only people who were upset were fundamentalist Christians—apparently the only type Christian Salon believes exists.  Ignorance abounds.  Sort of a, “All black people can dance…” type of assessment.

Of course number five was ironic: “Discovery starts with an open mind and the scientific method.” If one truly has an open mind, he would be open to the discovery that not all truth (if such is what is meant by discovery—discovering the truth) is established by the scientific method.  Again, ignorance abounds and the way “lesson” five is stated simply shows us how clueless and selfunaware we can often be.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

418 Responses to Friday Roundup

  1. JP says:

    Hi Darrell,

    let's use a little bit of logic.

    Well, ok. Bill's fingerprints have been found at the murder scene; the murder weapon turns out to be his own gun he claims was lost last year; he cannot prove he was alone at home the night of the murder; and he and the victim have been seen fighting. It does not follow from all this that Bill is the murderer but the evidence is not neutral, it clearly points to Bill.

    So, is the evidence from neuroscience neutral or not?

    memory is an aspect of consciousness

    I may have misunderstood what Ron meant by this. This is ambiguous.

    I took it to mean that memories cannot be processed/used/created outside of consciousness, which is clearly false. If you mean instead that conscious experience uses/accesses memories, then of course it does. This is all your quotes say.

    Like

  2. JP says:

    Hi Darrell,

    On McGinn's mysterianism, some quotes from him:

    “Hence, it occurred to me that the problem might lie not in nature but in ourselves: we just don't have the faculties of comprehension that would enable us to remove the sense of mystery. Ontologically, matter and consciousness are woven intelligibly together but epistemologically we are precluded from seeing how.” (2012, in your own link)

    “No one should become a mysterian over night, after a single exposure to the view; it is something that creeps up on you until, one crepuscular dawn, you find yourself thinking, “Yes, it really has to be so, doesn't it – nothing else works, and it certainly makes sense of it all.”” (2004)

    “We have been trying for a long time to solve the mind-body problem. It has stubbornly resisted our best efforts. The mystery persists. I think the time has come to admit candidly that we cannot resolve the mystery.” (1989)

    Like

  3. Darrell says:

    Bernard,

    “…and makes the point that no centre of empathy has been identified in the brain, nor that the Good can be located via brain function. I agree with both these points…”

    Well then there you have it. If the “Good” cannot be located via brain function, it is possible there is an objective morality and if consciousness cannot be reduced to brain function and is the seat of our moral capabilities, then you have business saying the belief in such clashes with science.

    “With regard to agnosticism and clash, it's simple. I'm agnostic with regard to A and B (the solution to the hard problem).”

    But the hard problem holds the very possibility of us being moral beings able to recognize an objective “Good” as noted above. If you are agnostic, you should be saying “I just don’t know if we are moral beings able to recognize an objective “Good”, not that the view clashes with science.

    “I hold, however, that if we argue either that the physical brain discerns objective moral truths…”

    No one is arguing that. Again (wow) what people are arguing is that our consciousness is able to discern objective moral truth (the Good noted above remember? The “Good” you are agnostic about? Remember?) And if consciousness doesn’t reduce to the brain…then what? You’ve said yourself you don’t think there is enough evidence to state categorically that it does. See the problem here?

    Again, Bernard, you have nothing here. Your argument is question begging and simply doesn’t follow logically. It violates the scientific consensus of those philosophers of science working in this area.

    “…or move to C (arguing that moral truth enters the brain via non-physical conscious processes) then we are clashing with the current best models within science.”

    What in the world do you mean by enters the brain? Do you think our consciousness “enters” the brain? Are you saying you've solved the problem of the relation? Moral truth is able to be recognized by our conscious selves and how that happens is bound up in the hard problem and the relation and last I checked no one is sure how that relation works.

    You have no logical argument here at all. And it certainly goes against the neutral scientific consensus in regards the philosophy of mind and the hard problem.

    Like

  4. Darrell says:

    Bernard,

    “…and makes the point that no centre of empathy has been identified in the brain, nor that the Good can be located via brain function. I agree with both these points…”

    Well then there you have it. If the “Good” cannot be located via brain function, it is possible there is an objective morality and if consciousness cannot be reduced to brain function and is the seat of our moral capabilities, then you have business saying the belief in such clashes with science.

    “With regard to agnosticism and clash, it's simple. I'm agnostic with regard to A and B (the solution to the hard problem).”

    But the hard problem holds the very possibility of us being moral beings able to recognize an objective “Good” as noted above. If you are agnostic, you should be saying “I just don’t know if we are moral beings able to recognize an objective “Good”, not that the view clashes with science.

    “I hold, however, that if we argue either that the physical brain discerns objective moral truths…”

    No one is arguing that. Again (wow) what people are arguing is that our consciousness is able to discern objective moral truth (the Good noted above remember? The “Good” you are agnostic about? Remember?) And if consciousness doesn’t reduce to the brain…then what? You’ve said yourself you don’t think there is enough evidence to state categorically that it does. See the problem here?

    Again, Bernard, you have nothing here. Your argument is question begging and simply doesn’t follow logically. It violates the scientific consensus of those philosophers of science working in this area.

    “…or move to C (arguing that moral truth enters the brain via non-physical conscious processes) then we are clashing with the current best models within science.”

    What in the world do you mean by enters the brain? Do you think our consciousness “enters” the brain? Are you saying you've solved the problem of the relation? Moral truth is able to be recognized by our conscious selves and how that happens is bound up in the hard problem and the relation and last I checked no one is sure how that relation works.

    You have no logical argument here at all. And it certainly goes against the neutral scientific consensus in regards the philosophy of mind and the hard problem.

    Like

  5. Darrell says:

    JP,

    “Well, ok. Bill's fingerprints have been found at the murder scene; the murder weapon turns out to be his own gun he claims was lost last year; he cannot prove he was alone at home the night of the murder; and he and the victim have been seen fighting. It does not follow from all this that Bill is the murderer but the evidence is not neutral, it clearly points to Bill.”

    So are you agreeing that all the evidence points toward the truth of what McGinn is asserting, but you are holding onto the notion that it doesn’t necessarily mean he (or I) are right? That is a really strong case you have then.

    “The answer must surely be that the brain is causally connected to the mind and the mind contains and processes information. That is, a conscious subject has knowledge, memory, perception, and the power of reason—I have various kinds of information at my disposal. No doubt I have this information because of activity in my brain, but it doesn’t follow that my brain also has such information, still less microscopic bits of it.” –McGinn

    So you are asking, basically, (as was Bernard) is it true that there is a relation between the brain and the mind (consciousness)? And the answer is (again, for the millionth time) yes. Now, if you want to stop there and drop your claim that memories are physical things, then great. But see you don’t want to stop there, just like Bernard didn’t want to stop there and drop his claim that there is no objective morality. You further want to claim that this relation means (=) that memories are physical things. McGinn (And Stanford and all the others I’ve noted) disabuses us of this “logic” by noting that: “No doubt I have this information because of activity in my brain, but it doesn’t follow [and this is where you and Bernard’s logic fails] that my brain also has such information, still less microscopic bits of it.”

    So your logic fails. No clash.

    “I took it to mean that memories cannot be processed/used/created outside of consciousness, which is clearly false. If you mean instead that conscious experience uses/accesses memories, then of course it does. This is all your quotes say.”

    No that is not all they say. Experience and memory are bound together and experience “is” the hard problem. And if experience cannot be reduced to brain function then neither can memory. Again, your logic fails here-all the way around.

    Like

  6. JP says:

    Hi Darrell,

    You have not answered my question. Do you think that the evidence from neuroscience is neutral with regards to the idea that memories are stored in the brain?

    Are you also saying that consciousness is necessary to form and use memories?

    Like

  7. Hi Darrell

    The problem is that you are conflating B and C.

    The hard problem refers to qualia, the first person subjective experience of being, as your quote from Nagel explains very clearly.

    You wish to say more, not just that consciousness of this sort is not explained, but also that it has an extra capacity, the ability to discern moral truth.

    If it has this further capacity, on which the hard problem has nothing to say, then this knowledge it accesses or generates does indeed get into the brain (insomuch as at the end of this process, the physical brain triggers the mouth to utter the phrase 'no, this is wrong').

    To believe in this interaction is to believe that the laws of physics are broken in this instance. Now, maybe they are. What is very interesting is your total reluctance to accept the need for this overturning of scientific understanding.

    Bernard

    Like

  8. Darrell says:

    JP,

    I very clearly answered your question in my last response. We all know there are neuronal correlations. We know there is relation. What didn't you get?

    Like

  9. JP says:

    Hi Darrell,

    On one side, there is all the evidence from neuroscience (E). On the other, the idea that memories are stored in the brain (S). By the way, to my knowledge, this is the mainstream scientific position.

    I'm asking if, in your opinion, E is neutral with regards to S. In other words, which of the following do you agree with:

    1. E indicates that S is probably true.
    2. E indicates that S if probably false.
    3. E is neutral with regards to S. It is as much consistent with the idea that memories are NOT stored in the brain as with the idea that they are.

    Can you simply indicate which one of 1, 2 or 3 you agree with? This would help moving this forward.

    Like

  10. Darrell says:

    Bernard,

    “You wish to say more, not just that consciousness of this sort is not explained, but also that it has an extra capacity, the ability to discern moral truth.”

    Why is that an “extra” capacity? How do you know that such is not a normal aspect of consciousness (notice how you presume it could not just be a normal aspect)? I am saying it simply leaves open the possibility that our sense that we are moral beings (the sense that humans have had since as far back as you want to go) and our ability to recognize a moral grain to the universe is part of what consciousness means and does. You are the one who wishes to say more. You are one claiming that “science” somehow reveals consciousness cannot do this. I thought you were agnostic?

    “To believe in this interaction is to believe that the laws of physics are broken in this instance.”

    I will ask it again, what in the world are you talking about? Are you saying that our consciousness “interacts” in such a way as to violate the laws of physics? And you never answered my other questions: What in the world do you mean by enters the brain. Do you think our consciousness “enters” the brain? Are you saying you’ve solved the problem of the relation? Moral truth is able to be recognized by our conscious selves and how that happens is bound up in the hard problem and the relation.

    Because no one in this conversation, and none of the people I’ve cited, are suggesting the consciousness “enters” or “interacts” with the brain like a ghost or something. We don’t know what the relation is—that is the hard problem. Have you figured it out?

    By the way Bernard, in case you missed it, this admission dismantled your argument:

    “…and makes the point that no centre of empathy has been identified in the brain, nor that the Good can be located via brain function. I agree with both these points…”

    Like

  11. Darrell says:

    Bernard,

    “…and makes the point that no centre of empathy has been identified in the brain, nor that the Good can be located via brain function. I agree with both these points…”

    This needs to be qualified, but I think this is what you meant anyway. McGinn's point wasn't that the Good couldn't be located via brain function, simply that the “Good” is not located in the physical brain, as in empathy atoms or as microscopic “bits” of something physical.

    So this is not to say that our minds (and their relation to our brains-whatever that relation is) cannot locate the “Good”.

    Like

  12. Darrell says:

    JP,

    “The answer must surely be that the brain is causally connected to the mind and the mind contains and processes information. That is, a conscious subject has knowledge, memory, perception, and the power of reason—I have various kinds of information at my disposal. No doubt I have this information because of activity in my brain, but it doesn’t follow that my brain also has such information, still less microscopic bits of it.” –McGinn

    “As any philosopher, scientist, and even undergraduate student should know, saying that “A is correlated with B” is rather weak (though it is an important first step), especially if one wishes to establish the stronger identity claim between consciousness and neural activity. Even if such a correlation can be established, we cannot automatically conclude that there is an identity relation. Perhaps A causes B or B causes A, and that’s why we find the correlation. Even most dualists can accept such interpretations. Maybe there is some other neural process C which causes both A and B. “Correlation” is not even the same as “cause,” let alone enough to establish “identity.” Finally, some NCCs are not even necessarily put forth as candidates for all conscious states, but rather for certain specific kinds of consciousness (e.g., visual).” http://www.iep.utm.edu/consciou/

    As you carefully note the above, what is it that you think “E” represents? Evidence for what—or for what conclusion?

    Like

  13. Darrell says:

    JP,

    Let's just cut to the chase:

    “Even if such a correlation can be established, we cannot automatically conclude that there is an identity relation. Perhaps A causes B or B causes A, and that’s why we find the correlation. Even most dualists can accept such interpretations. Maybe there is some other neural process C which causes both A and B. “Correlation” is not even the same as “cause,” let alone enough to establish “identity.”

    As to memories, are you arguing for identity, which is basically saying they are physical things in the brain, or are you simply arguing correlation, which no one disagrees with?

    Like

  14. Darrell says:

    JP,

    Here is another clue: I've already told you that there is no evidence for the idea that memories are stored in the brain as “physical” things. That there is correlative empirical evidence of the relation is not disputed. However, they are two different things entirely.

    You are late to the game. Bernard gave this line up a while ago–I'm just rehashing the same thing I told him. He finally got it. I'm patient however.

    Like

  15. JP says:

    Hi Darrell,

    OK, you don't want to answer my question about the neuroscience evidence. I get it.

    Try this one: do you know of any reliable scientific source for the idea that memories are NOT stored in the brain? I can't find any but there is plenty of the opposite.

    If you know of such a source (scientific not philosophical), it would be very useful if you shared it with us.

    Like

  16. Hi Darrell

    With regard to the extra capacity of consciousness, I use extra in the obvious sense.

    So, almost everybody accepts that consciousness provides the first person perspective, the 'what's it like' of qualia (Dennett rejects the existence of qualia, but for now it's an outlying position).

    Some people think not only that consciousness is the provider of subjectivity, but also that it provides a mechanism by which certain truths are accessed. So, this is an extra capacity you believe in, extra in the sense that others believe in the qualia providing aspect, but not in this. That's all I mean.

    Now, you argue that your belief does not require consciousness acting upon the brain. This confuses me. Consider the case where I see a child beaten and utter the phrase 'that should be stooped.' The input (visual and aural stimuli) is physical, and the output (the movement of my mouth, voice box etc) is physical.

    Now, if consciousness plays a part in determining the wrongness of the action, then there is a causal chain of events from this conscious awareness, to my physically realised utterance. That's the posited interaction that appears to break the current laws of physics, a physical act that is neither physically caused, nor the result of probabilistic chain of causation associated with quantum calculations.

    Bernard

    Like

  17. JP says:

    Hi Darrell,

    A few more remarks. I have been commenting on memories and not on the larger issue of consciousness/experience which, as everyone agrees, is still an unresolved issue. The question of memories is simpler and better understood.

    Now, for some reason, you have been conflating the two. For instance, most of the quotes you have provided in answer to my comments were taken from texts addressing the consciousness issue, not specifically the question of memories. But, while related, they constitute different issues.

    What does science say about memories? I looked it up and, everywhere I look, it's the same: memories are stored in the nervous system, specifically the brain. I'm not making this up: this is what appears to be not only mainstream neuroscience but an essentially settled question. I have asked if you have a reliable scientific source for the opposite opinion but I doubt you can find it.

    You want to deny this conclusion, you say there is not a single bit of evidence to support it. But in fact, from what I understand, you're contradicting all the experts in the field. Are you really saying the whole field is making the elementary mistake of confusing correlation and causality?

    Like

  18. Darrell says:

    Guys,

    Please move this conversation (Too many comments here-it is making it hard for some comments to post) to the most current July 18th post. Thank you and thank you JP for pointing this out.

    Like

Comments are closed.