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Author Topic: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?  (Read 307921 times)

Offline RD

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #800 on: 08/11/2013 21:12:59 »
Yeah , i appear to be saying , but i did not say that : reread what i said then .
Appearances are deceptive indeed .

Then can you please explain to us , in simple concise terms if possible, how the meaning of what you have said ...

... Biological or any physical or material 'systems " for that matter cannot give rise to totally different phenomena qua their nature whose components are totally different from those that allegedly "gave rise to them "

differs from " emergent properties 'cannot' occur ".
« Last Edit: 08/11/2013 21:16:36 by RD »
 

Offline David Cooper

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #801 on: 08/11/2013 21:19:42 »
Up to a point, it's easy to see how people can make the mistake of thinking that consciousness can emerge out of something complex, but when you move from woolly feelings of existence and feelings of understanding to somthing with more bite such as pain and suffering, it shows that the emergence explanation fails. You cannot have suffering without a sufferer, but a sufferer cannot emerge by magic out of a set of parts which are incapable of suffering. If a system of a number of parts contains a sufferer but none of the individual parts is or contains a sufferer, you have a contradiction rather than an explanation. Ten (you can substitute this number with any number of your choice) parts of something cannot suffer without at least one of those parts suffering. What is there in a system of ten parts that might exist to suffer which doesn't exist in any of the ten parts? A geometrical arrangement? Can geometry be tortured? A plurality? Can plurality be tortured? That is the problem with the idea of emergence as an explanation of consciousness, because it depends on magic to make something exist to suffer that can't exist as anything that could realistically suffer.

That is science's biggest mistake, pushing this non-explanation as an explanation. It's manifestly wrong when it comes to pain and suffering, and by extension it's wrong about every other kind of quale too.
 

Offline DonQuichotte

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #802 on: 08/11/2013 21:47:47 »
" I am anti-science ? " , so is Nagel, Sheldrake and many other philosophers scientists and other anti-reductionists as well, logically,paradoxically enough  .

They are giving up on science and replacing it with a quest to not understand.

Why would they do just that ? Do they have some inexplicable grudge of some sort against science ? Come on, be serious : they just try to set science free from materialism as a false conception of nature : they are more pro-science thus than you could ever be , Dave , sorry to say that , but i have to .
There must be some more fundamental phenomena , processes or whatever that might be ,that might be underlying the laws of physics themselves : even a notion of law is just a  human projection .

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I am way more pro-science thus than you could ever be , my friend , sorry, simply because you have been turning science into just a materialist secular exclusive dogmatic mechanistic religion you have been taking for granted as the 'scientific world view " ,without question so far .

Your position is an abandonment of science. You can call that "science" all you like, but it is the opposite.

No , Dave : science tries to describe explain and therefore make us understand reality , so , science must therefore include the missing part of reality which has been labeled as non-existent or as just physical by the materialist mechanistic "scientific world view " thus .
You cannot just decide to pick a certain level of reality via some sort of belief of yours , and impose it as the "scientific world view " , as materialism has been doing all along : science must include in its search all levels of reality thus , including the non-physical , the one it can deal with empirically somehow at least .

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It is reasonable enough to assume that the non-physical mental is non -reducible to the physical , and therefore all physical sciences for that matter ,including biology and modern physics thus , must include the non-physical mental in their approach of reality as a result :they have no choice but to do that ,if they want to  fully deserve being   called sciences at least :  they cannot keep on reducing the non-physical  to just the physical it cannot be reduced to , you cannot just decide  to reduce the irreducible mental to the physical via some false materialist mechanistic belief of yours on the subject , just in order to make it fit into your owm materialist reductionist mechanistic conception of nature ,or world view , while assuming that that's the 'scientific world view "

I'd take your argument seriously if you didn't keep telling me that things which can manifestly be explained mechanistically can't be understood mechanistically.


There might be some more fundamental phenomena out there underlying even the laws of physics themselves : who know ?
I did not make reality the way it is , so, science has no choice but to deal with all parts of reality it can deal with empirically , including the non-physical thus .
Science is not a matter of like , dislike , taste , or a matter of opinions ,beliefs, science is a matter of ...facts : fact is , reality is not just material or physical ,as  the false materialist "scientific world view " has been assuming it to be for so long now ,thus .

So, what if it turns out to be that reality is not just a matter of laws of physics , mechanisms , cause and effect ,at its fundamental ultimate core ?
What if reality is somehow "governed " by more fundamental processes or whatever ,deep down, we cannot explain just in terms of laws ?
Sounds insane , but , that's a reasonable option to consider ,if we only would realise the fact that materialism is false , and hence the non-physical side of nature must be included in science .
I dunno .
In short :

We should't try to ossify science as to hold it imprisoned within some sort of particular exclusive orthodox dogmatic perceptions of reality of ours we might have .

Science should be free to engage reality in any way it can , without getting  restricted in its search by any beliefs, assumptions  or whatever we might hold , regarding the nature of reality or whatever .


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Will those machines of the future be able to tell the people that the materialist 'scientific world view " is ,obviously , false ? =   just a false materialist conception of nature : Don't think so , if they would happen to be made by materialists such as yourself .

They will read the arguments on all sides without bias, yours included, and then they will judge them by means of reasoning and reject the ones which don't hold. When you tell these machines that they cannot do what they are doing (thinking and using language 100% mechanistically), they will reject your views on those points. In any place where your arguments do stack up though, they will recognise that
.

I do not need any machine for that matter , no matter how futuristic or sophisticated it might turn out to be , to tell me whether the materialist mechanistic mainstream "scientific world view " is false or not : i know for a fact that it is : every sane and intelligent person does or should do .
There is more to reality , nature or the universe , there is more to life , man , consciousness ....than just the material or physical .


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I do not buy that whole idea of yours , simply because any machines for that matter are man-made , and can thus never surpass man as a whole package , even though they can be faster in calculations , can be better at making and designing models , prediction models ....= man will always have the upper hand over or above  man's  own created machines .

No. People make mistakes in their thinking all over the shop, and although they can correct a lot of them, it's hard for them to remove them all. On many issues the thinking that needs to be done is just too deep and involves too much data, so the machines will always outthink them.

You're chasing an elusive  and deceptive  mirage , an utopia , Dave : you're too much of a naive mechanistic idealist : machines are made by people , scientists that have their own prejudices, stereotypes, bias , ....
Objectivity is a myth even at the level of  science itself , even at the level of the very exact sciences themselves ...Proof ? : the  mainstream  false materialist mechanistic 'scientific world view " .
Scientists' conceptions of nature , or rather most scientists ' belief assumptions regarding the nature of reality do hold science back in its search for describing , explaining and understanding reality ,as if they already know what reality is : they should leave the latter to science : science that cannot pretend to know the nature of reality as a whole already : science that's still a relatively young unparalleled and effective adventurer that must be free in its explorations of reality , whatever the latter might be .
If we would keep science imprisoned within a particular conception of nature , as it has been the case for so long now , then, it is like dictating to a particular adventurer what specific fields he/she should exlpore , and not the other potential ones out there .


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Ironically paradoxically enough , you do take the materialist mechanistic core belief assumption regarding the nature of reality for granted as  being  "true " , and hence you do take the materialist mechanistic world view for granted as the " scientific world view " , without question .

The only thing I take for granted is that reason applies, because without it we cannot work out anything at all or argue about anything. Everything in my position is generated through applying reason to the data that comes in from the universe around me, and that is how AGI systems will work. There may be places where I'm failing to apply reason correctly which I haven't noticed, but AGI systems will pick up on those and set me on the right path. It will do the same for everyone else. Wherever anyone has a belief based on bad reasoning, it will show them the error of their ways.

 Pure naive idealist mirage or utopia : science , reason, logic maths do not yet dare to go beyond the materialist version of reality , or beyond the false materialist mechanistic "scientific world view " .

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That's precisely what the mainstream  scientific establishment or community has been doing for so long now = that's exactly what's wrong with science today = that's a way deeper malaise than just what you were mentioning thus .

There is no way to do science properly than to do science properly. If you chuck out all attempts to understand things and deny that there are mechanisms behind the things that happen in the universe, you're left with anti-science where any assertion is as valid as any other, so you can spout any garbage you like and call it science. I know which kind of science I prefer.

Science without materialism will not abandon its search for trying to describe explain and hence make us understand reality ,by trying to reveal the hidden mechanisms behind phenomena ,  it will just extend its realm by including the non-physical ,the mental it can deal with empirically .
But , then again , there might be more fundamental phenomena underlying the laws of physics , causation or cause and effect thus : causation or the laws of physics , mechanisms , cause and effect might just be an elaborate illusion , as David Hume said once regarding causation thus .
Who knows ?
Science must also pursue that option as well : that's the very nature of science to try to go beyond what it has been able to reveal so far , including beyond the laws of physics thus .

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Science will be certainly better off without materialism, no doubt about that : how ?,i wish i knew how ,  i dunno exactly yet , if ever thus .
Only time will tell then .
Let's hope we will all witness that ,during our short lifetimes.

What has materialism got to do with it? What exactly is materialism anyway? Is it just stuff like matter, energy and the fabric of the universe or does it also include things of no material substance such as actions which play upon the material? Is it any kind of cause-and-effect interaction? If you define the term materialism narrowly, it doesn't cover anyone's position. If you define it more broadly, it includes my position where mechanism is key to understanding. If it includes mechanism, there is nothing that can interact with anything which doesn't depend upon mechanism. I really can't see what you think you're left with when you reject this wider sense of materialism, because as soon as you deny the role of mechanism, all you're left with is magic and an assertion that magic doesn't need any mechanism to operate. You can't get more anti-science than that.

Materialism is just a false conception of nature in science that has been taken for granted as the 'scientific world view " , in the sense that reality as a whole is just material or physical : has science ever proved that materialist "fact " , or rather that materialist core belief assumption regarding the nature of reality ? Obviously not , never , ever thus : that's exactly what i have been asking you , folks , so far , for so long now by the way .

In short :
There might be some more fundamental processes or whatever underlying even the laws of physics themselves , who knows ? , science van try to reveal , when science will include the mental and other non-physical part of reality it has been missing , thanks to materialism thus , once again .
 

Offline RD

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #803 on: 09/11/2013 00:21:28 »
DonQ has omitted to reply to my request in my previous post to clarify how his view differs from " emergent properties 'cannot' occur ".

He instead subjects us to another torrent of rambling verbal diarrhoea , where he tells us that he knows for a fact he is right, ( without providing any evidence to support his view ), instead implying that any person who disagrees with him is not "sane" nor "intelligent", ( he's already overused the word "stupid" in this forum, see attachment)

You're more articulate (and obsessive) than the average troll DonQ , but you're simply trolling this forum.
« Last Edit: 09/11/2013 03:55:34 by RD »
 

Offline DonQuichotte

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #804 on: 09/11/2013 17:30:26 »
Up to a point, it's easy to see how people can make the mistake of thinking that consciousness can emerge out of something complex, but when you move from woolly feelings of existence and feelings of understanding to somthing with more bite such as pain and suffering, it shows that the emergence explanation fails. You cannot have suffering without a sufferer, but a sufferer cannot emerge by magic out of a set of parts which are incapable of suffering. If a system of a number of parts contains a sufferer but none of the individual parts is or contains a sufferer, you have a contradiction rather than an explanation. Ten (you can substitute this number with any number of your choice) parts of something cannot suffer without at least one of those parts suffering. What is there in a system of ten parts that might exist to suffer which doesn't exist in any of the ten parts? A geometrical arrangement? Can geometry be tortured? A plurality? Can plurality be tortured? That is the problem with the idea of emergence as an explanation of consciousness, because it depends on magic to make something exist to suffer that can't exist as anything that could realistically suffer.

That is science's biggest mistake, pushing this non-explanation as an explanation. It's manifestly wrong when it comes to pain and suffering, and by extension it's wrong about every other kind of quale too.
[/quote]

Well said , Dave :

The biggest error ever made in science is that the image of the process gets confused with the cause of the process , and hence that silly inexplicable materialist magical "emergence " trick performance regarding the origins or nature of consciousness is false :

The biggest error ever made in the name of science :

 

Offline DonQuichotte

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #805 on: 09/11/2013 17:33:31 »
DonQ has omitted to reply to my request in my previous post to clarify how his view differs from " emergent properties 'cannot' occur ".

He instead subjects us to another torrent of rambling verbal diarrhoea , where he tells us that he knows for a fact he is right, ( without providing any evidence to support his view ), instead implying that any person who disagrees with him is not "sane" nor "intelligent", ( he's already overused the word "stupid" in this forum, see attachment)

You're more articulate (and obsessive) than the average troll DonQ , but you're simply trolling this forum.
[/quote]

See right here above .

Once again, emergent phenomena do occur only at the biological material or physical levels : consciousness is not a biological process = cannot have emerged from a biological one thus .

You just confuse the image of the process with the cause of the process in relation to mind and body thus , for example :

The biggest error ever made in the name of science :

« Last Edit: 09/11/2013 17:35:56 by DonQuichotte »
 

Offline DonQuichotte

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #806 on: 09/11/2013 18:01:26 »
Folks :

The core issue here is , once again , as follows :

We shouldn't try to ossify science as to hold it imprisonned within a certain false conception of nature , as it has been the case since the 19th century at least thus .
Science that's a kind of an effective and unparalleled adventurer like no other that should be completly free in its inquiry in relation to reality whatever the nature of which   might turn out to be .
So, to keep science confined to just  a certain conception of nature is like pretending that we do already know what the nature of reality is , and it is more like dictating to an adeventurer such as science what specific part of reality it must explore , and no other .
Science that's still a relatively young effective and unparalleled adventurer like no other that  cannot pretend to know the nature of reality as a whole already , an adventurer that must be totally free in  exploring reality , or just the parts of reality it can dela with empirically , free in exploring reality , whatever the latter might turn out to be thus .
The mainstream materialist conception of nature , and hence the 'scientific world view " , just hold back science and restrict its scope ,realm ,reach and jurisdiction , by keeping science imprisonned within the materialist version of reality that's obviously false.
The materialist reductionist naturalist conception of nature , in the sense that reality is just material or physical , is false , and hence the materialist 'scientific world view " is false also .
Even evolution itself is not exclusively biological thus.
Reality is thus not just physical or material ,which means that all physical sciences for that matter must undergo a revolutionary and radical change , in order to be able to deal with the missing part of reality which has been labeled by the materialist false "scientific world view " as being non-existent , or as being just physical or material ,if all physical sciences want to fully deserve being called sciences at least : science thus has no choice but to include the missing part of reality in its attempts to try to describe , explain or understand reality as a whole .
Science must be totally free to explore reality , whatever the latter might turn out to be , instead of being held captive within a particular conception of nature, a false one at that  .
Science whose nature is to try to go beyond what it has already revealed , including beyond the laws of physics themselves .
There might be some more fundamental processes or whatever that might be underlying the laws of physics themselves thus , who knows ? and that might turn out to be totally different from any human notion of law that's just a human projection .
No wonder that modern physics do speak in terms of fields , for example : electro-magnetic and other fields thus : even the most basic particules are a matter of waves and mass ...
Do the maths then .

Cheers.
« Last Edit: 09/11/2013 19:12:10 by DonQuichotte »
 

Offline RD

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #807 on: 09/11/2013 18:46:32 »
Once again, emergent phenomena do occur only at the biological material or physical levels : consciousness is not a biological process = cannot have emerged from a biological one

Emergent phenomena occur, e.g. in cellular automata. Neurons, the hardware on which the software that is consciousness runs , can be modelled using cellular automata. So emergent phenomena which appear in cellular automata are sufficient to create neuronal behaviour and consciousness.

So consciousness can be created by emergent phenomena in physical / biological processes.
« Last Edit: 09/11/2013 19:01:59 by RD »
 

Offline DonQuichotte

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #808 on: 09/11/2013 19:09:59 »
Once again, emergent phenomena do occur only at the biological material or physical levels : consciousness is not a biological process = cannot have emerged from a biological one

Emergent phenomena occur, e.g. in cellular automata. Neurones, the hardware on which the software that is consciousness runs , can be modelled using cellular automata. So emergent phenomena which appear in cellular automata are sufficient to create neuronal behaviour and consciousness.

So consciousness can be created by emergent phenomena in physical / biological processes.
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Deja-vu:
You do listen only to your own music , i see .
That's just mechanistic materialism at work in science regarding the nature of reality as a whole , and regarding life in particular , no empirical fact .
Living organisms that allegedly do behave like machines or computers : a mechanistic metaphor or conception of nature  in science ,that's obviously false,and hence the 'scientific world view " is also false , logically .
Have you ever seen any man-made machine  or computer for that matter that are capable of adaptation, flexibility , replication reproduction, self-replication self-reproduction, that are capable of evolution , relative self-organization ,relative self-maintenance , relative self-sustainance , that are capable of growing from some of their most basic elements cells or genes ....that do have their unique-to-living organisms metabolisms ...?
We're no hardware programmed by software = that's just the mechanistic materialist conception of nature that's false, no empirical fact  .
The role of DNA is even way too exaggerated ,DNA just "codes " the synthesis of proteins : heridity is not just genetic or material ...

 

Offline David Cooper

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #809 on: 09/11/2013 19:44:24 »
Why would they do just that ? Do they have some inexplicable grudge of some sort against science ? Come on, be serious : they just try to set science free from materialism as a false conception of nature : they are more pro-science thus than you could ever be , Dave , sorry to say that , but i have to .
There must be some more fundamental phenomena , processes or whatever that might be ,that might be underlying the laws of physics themselves : even a notion of law is just a  human projection .

As soon as you abandon the search for mechanism, you abandon science. There is nothing useful you can say about anything once you remove mechanism because you lose causation. You cannot understand anything where there is no mechanism to understand. With a mechanism you can say that B depends on A, but without a mechanism you just have A and B and no useful connection between them. You can't do any science with that - all you can do is assert magic.

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No , Dave : science tries to describe explain and therefore make us understand reality , so , science must therefore include the missing part of reality which has been labeled as non-existent or as just physical by the materialist mechanistic "scientific world view " thus .

Any missing part of reality is still within the reach of science and cannot interact with the physical at all without a mechanism. If consciousness depends on something weird, that weird stuff interacts with "normal" stuff and is part of the same system, interacting with it mechanistically.

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You cannot just decide to pick a certain level of reality via some sort of belief of yours , and impose it as the "scientific world view " , as materialism has been doing all along : science must include in its search all levels of reality thus , including the non-physical , the one it can deal with empirically somehow at least .

What I have done is tied science to mechanism. If there are lots of scientists who fail to do that, that is their problem - they may not be doing science properly, but that doesn't mean that what science is is dictated by them. It isn't. Science is about understanding reality, and understanding relies on uncovering mechanism. There are a lot of people in science who wrongly imagine that they understand something as soon as they can fit a bit of maths to it, but that's only one step on the way to understanding - it still needs to be tied to an actual mechanism, because without that it is still left to run on magic.

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There might be some more fundamental phenomena out there underlying even the laws of physics themselves : who know ?
I did not make reality the way it is , so, science has no choice but to deal with all parts of reality it can deal with empirically , including the non-physical thus .
Science is not a matter of like , dislike , taste , or a matter of opinions ,beliefs, science is a matter of ...facts : fact is , reality is not just material or physical ,as  the false materialist "scientific world view " has been assuming it to be for so long now ,thus .

Anything that doesn't involve a mechanism is something you cannot understand or make sense of, so you're abandoning science. You are wandering off into territory where you lose causality, and at that point there is nothing useful you can say about anything else at all, ever.

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So, what if it turns out to be that reality is not just a matter of laws of physics , mechanisms , cause and effect ,at its fundamental ultimate core ?
What if reality is somehow "governed " by more fundamental processes or whatever ,deep down, we cannot explain just in terms of laws ?
Sounds insane , but , that's a reasonable option to consider ,if we only would realise the fact that materialism is false , and hence the non-physical side of nature must be included in science .

You can consider it, but that's as far as it can go because you're throwing out all your tools for investigating and understanding it, so the entirety of your new kind of science is, "we can't know anything". It may be true, but it's absolutely useless if we want to go beyond it. True, but complete and just four words long - no need for 33 pages of this stuff, never mind three other threads.

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We should't try to ossify science as to hold it imprisoned within some sort of particular exclusive orthodox dogmatic perceptions of reality of ours we might have .

Science should be free to engage reality in any way it can , without getting  restricted in its search by any beliefs, assumptions  or whatever we might hold , regarding the nature of reality or whatever .

I've stated your case in four words. That is the totality of your new kind of science.

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I do not need any machine for that matter , no matter how futuristic or sophisticated it might turn out to be , to tell me whether the materialist mechanistic mainstream "scientific world view " is false or not : i know for a fact that it is : every sane and intelligent person does or should do .
There is more to reality , nature or the universe , there is more to life , man , consciousness ....than just the material or physical .

You do need a machine though to help you analyse properly by applying reason without error. If you want to abandon reason though, you should abandon all argument at the same time, because argument depends on reason.

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You're chasing an elusive  and deceptive  mirage , an utopia , Dave : you're too much of a naive mechanistic idealist : machines are made by people , scientists that have their own prejudices, stereotypes, bias , ....

A properly made AGI system has no bias. It simply applies reason and is not programmed with any beliefs beyond the core reasoning and mathematical capabilities which no one rational would take issue with. Such machines will automatically do science correctly and not fool themselves into thinking they understand things that they don't, nor tie themselves to theories which have already been disproved through logic.

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Objectivity is a myth even at the level of  science itself , even at the level of the very exact sciences themselves ...Proof ? : the  mainstream  false materialist mechanistic 'scientific world view " .

The practical choice we have is either to give up on science and say "we can't understand anything", or else we do science and attempt to do it correctly. Machines will have no problem doing it correctly because they will never get emotionally tied to beliefs. There is no better way to do science. Your alternative is actually just to give up on science and claim you're doing better science because you don't rely on any rules, but without any rules you can understand precisely nothing. Your path is a dead end [that has nothing to do with death - I need to point that out as English isn't your first language and I don't want it to be mistaken for a death threat].

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Scientists' conceptions of nature , or rather most scientists ' belief assumptions regarding the nature of reality do hold science back in its search for describing , explaining and understanding reality ,as if they already know what reality is

That does indeed happen in places.

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...they should leave the latter to science : science that cannot pretend to know the nature of reality as a whole already : science that's still a relatively young unparalleled and effective adventurer that must be free in its explorations of reality , whatever the latter might be .

But they are trying to do science. There is no point in them following your direction because it would stop them doing science altogether.

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If we would keep science imprisoned within a particular conception of nature , as it has been the case for so long now , then, it is like dictating to a particular adventurer what specific fields he/she should exlpore , and not the other potential ones out there .

There's nothing else that can be explored, unless you want to propose alternative mechanisms for things. That would be fine if that was where you were taking things, but it isn't.

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Pure naive idealist mirage or utopia : science , reason, logic maths do not yet dare to go beyond the materialist version of reality , or beyond the false materialist mechanistic "scientific world view " .

It's all we've got. The alternative is to give up on science altogether and to call that abandonment of science "science".

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Science without materialism will not abandon its search for trying to describe explain and hence make us understand reality ,by trying to reveal the hidden mechanisms behind phenomena ,  it will just extend its realm by including the non-physical ,the mental it can deal with empirically .

Materialism looks to me like a bit of a straw man. Things that exist are material. Interactions between things that exist are not material, but they are mechanistic interactions. Materialism without mechanism is not going to get anywhere as a kind of science because it cannot handle interaction, and for that reason I don't think there's anyone out there in science doing pure materialism. There are places in science where mechanism is being ignored though, so those places need to be identified and the people who are making errors through ignoring mechanism need to be helped to see where they're going wrong. Unfortunately they don't want to know that they're wrong, and they become emotionally tied to incorrect theories which they spread in universities like religious dogma with the result that anyone who tries to point out the errors gets shouted down by a parrot army of "experts" who have all the qualifications that prove that they have learned the "truth". An example of this is time dilation. When a rocket accelerates away from another rocket, it will either have its time slowed down or speeded up, but it can't do both of those things at the same time. Special Relativity studiously ignores this problem and bans anyone from addressing it, but it's actually a problem which invalidates the theory. But errors of this kind in science are rare - it is only a few special cases where dogma is allowed to prevail over reason.

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But , then again , there might be more fundamental phenomena underlying the laws of physics , causation or cause and effect thus : causation or the laws of physics , mechanisms , cause and effect might just be an elaborate illusion , as David Hume said once regarding causation thus .
Who knows ?

And it could be right, but it isn't useful. Your kind of science gets stuck at "we can't know anything", while real science continues to advance and make discoveries. You might imagine that all those discoveries are shared as part of your kind of "science", but they aren't.

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Science must also pursue that option as well : that's the very nature of science to try to go beyond what it has been able to reveal so far , including beyond the laws of physics thus .

There is nothing in that option to pursue - it stops right where it starts at "we can't know anything".

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Materialism is just a false conception of nature in science that has been taken for granted as the 'scientific world view " , in the sense that reality as a whole is just material or physical : has science ever proved that materialist "fact " , or rather that materialist core belief assumption regarding the nature of reality ? Obviously not , never , ever thus : that's exactly what i have been asking you , folks , so far , for so long now by the way .

Science can never prove the true reality of anything as everything we have access to could be virtual while a higher level of reality is kept hidden from us. All we can do is work out viable mechanisms by which the things we see happening could be happening, though there's no guarantee that those proposed mechanims are the actual ones. The important thing though is that as soon as you have a viable proposed mechanism for something, you know that it can be done without relying on magic. Science is concerned with the elimination of magic by proposing mechanisms by which events occur, and mechanism involves interactions which are not material, although material is necessarily involved.

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In short :
There might be some more fundamental processes or whatever underlying even the laws of physics themselves , who knows ? , science can try to reveal , when science will include the mental and other non-physical part of reality it has been missing , thanks to materialism thus , once again .

But that is already part of science - it is the attempt to identify mechanism. If you want to take it beyond that, you are also taking it beyond processes, at which point you have absolutely nothing to hang your hat on.
 

Offline RD

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #810 on: 09/11/2013 21:46:41 »
Have you ever seen any man-made machine  or computer for that matter that are capable of adaptation, flexibility , replication reproduction, self-replication self-reproduction, that are capable of evolution , relative self-organization ,relative self-maintenance , relative self-sustainance , that are capable of growing from some of their most basic elements cells or genes ....

See … https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionary_computation

[ You can see computer evolution too by playing with biomorphs … http://www.rennard.org/alife/english/biomgb.html ]


See … https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conway%27s_Game_of_Life#Self-replication
         https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-organization


That less than a century of computer technology is not yet equivalent to what has taken billions of years to evolve does not prove the human brain is not mechanistic.

[ BTW your verbosity has now descended into tautology : adaptation=flexibility,  replication=reproduction,  self-replication=self-reproduction ]
« Last Edit: 09/11/2013 21:50:23 by RD »
 

Offline DonQuichotte

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #811 on: 09/11/2013 21:47:19 »
Mr.David  Cooper :

Time up, i have to go, sorry :
I will try to respond to the  extremely  interesting relevant issues contained in your above displayed post , mainly the one regarding how, on earth, the non-physical can interact with the physical : that's an extremely puzzling and old impossible issue , i will try to address somehow ...You got me cornered there , you devil (kidding ).
Thanks a lot for your very interesting latest post right here above :
You have just put your fingers on the essential issues i will try to manoeuvre my way to  somehow .

Best wishes.

Cheers
 

Offline DonQuichotte

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #812 on: 09/11/2013 21:53:01 »
Have you ever seen any man-made machine  or computer for that matter that are capable of adaptation, flexibility , replication reproduction, self-replication self-reproduction, that are capable of evolution , relative self-organization ,relative self-maintenance , relative self-sustainance , that are capable of growing from some of their most basic elements cells or genes ....

See … https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionary_computation

[ You can see computer evolution too by playing with biomorphs … http://www.rennard.org/alife/english/biomgb.html ]


See … https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conway%27s_Game_of_Life#Self-replication
         https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-organization


That less than a century of computer technology is not yet equivalent to what has taken billions of years to evolve does not prove the human brain is not mechanistic.

[ BTW your verbosity has now descended into tautology : adaptation=flexibility,  replication=reproduction,  self-replication=self-reproduction ]

You haven't been reading what Dave and i were saying on the subject : you just prefer to continue listening to your own music instead .
Why are you replying to someone you called a troll by the way ?
Anyway :
Reality as a whole cannot be just material or physical , and hence   ...evolution  cannot be just biological either  by the way : i did mention the latter option, didn't i ?

 

Offline RD

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #813 on: 09/11/2013 22:38:26 »
Why are you replying to someone you called a troll by the way ?

On this one occasion I take your point.
 

Offline cheryl j

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #814 on: 10/11/2013 03:44:22 »
Quote from: David Cooper link=topic=48746.msg423652#msg423652

Materialism looks to me like a bit of a straw man. Things that exist are material. Interactions between things that exist are not material, but they are mechanistic interactions. Materialism without mechanism is not going to get anywhere as a kind of science because it cannot handle interaction, and for that reason I don't think there's anyone out there in science doing pure materialism. There are places in science where mechanism is being ignored though, so those places need to be identified and the people who are making errors through ignoring mechanism need to be helped to see where they're going wrong.

That comment strikes me as disingenuous. I'm not familiar with any form of science, material or otherwise, that doesn't include mechanisms. That's the whole point, unless one envisions a static world in which nothing happens, and there is no causality.
I would also suggest that mechanisms alone are not sufficient. One could imagine or invent mechanisms, entire models, but unless they correspond to something that actually exists, they are just ideas, even if they are logically consistent ones.  Someone from another world who saw a car for the first time could invent or imagine mechanisms that explain its movement, whether it's many squirrels in tiny wheels, or a  sophisticated, alternative engine design, but at some point, he'd actually have to look inside to be certain.

Never the less, it's encouraging to see Don appropriating the word mechanism (as in "the mechanism of non-physical processes,") when previously "mechanistic" was only used derisively.
« Last Edit: 10/11/2013 04:50:35 by cheryl j »
 

Offline Pmb

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #815 on: 10/11/2013 08:56:07 »
Quote from: David Cooper
An example of this is time dilation. When a rocket accelerates away from another rocket, it will either have its time slowed down or speeded up, but it can't do both of those things at the same time. Special Relativity studiously ignores this problem and bans anyone from addressing it, but it's actually a problem which invalidates the theory.
That’s not a problem in special relativity. The problem here is with your understanding of special relativity. I’ll explain your error to you: If two observers are moving relative to each other such that each measures the speed of the other to be v then each reckons the other’s clock to be running slow. That’s not a problem whatsoever. No true paradoxes or contradictions arise from this observed fact. By observed fact I mean that time dilation has actually been observed so we know that it’s true from an experimental point of view.

There is a famous scenario called the Twin’s Paradox which is used to clarify the nature of time dilation. This subject came up recently in my science forum. We have a resident expert on general relativity there who sent me his article on the subject. If you’re really interested in learning the correct understanding of time dilation then you can download and read about it here – The twin paradox and principle of relativity – by Øyvind Grøn which can be found at http://arxiv.org/abs/1002.4154

The abstract reads
Quote
Abstract - In the standard formulation of the twin paradox an accelerated twin considers himself as at rest and his brother as moving. Hence, when formulating the twin paradox, one uses the general principle of relativity, i.e. that accelerated and rotational motion is relative. The significance of perfect inertial dragging for the validity of the principle of relativity is made clear. Three new results are reviewed in the discussion. A cosmic time effect which cannot be reduced to the gravitational or the kinematical time dilation. Perfect dragging in an exact solution of Einsteins field equations describing flat spacetime inside a shell with Kerr spacetime outside it. An extended model of Minkowski spacetime in order to avoid introducing absolute acceleration and rotation through the asymptotic emptiness of the Kerr spacetime.


Here is the essence of twin paradox – Two twins start off on a journey which starts off on the Earth and . Twin A stays at home and twin B travels to a distant planet light years away at speeds close to the speed of light. When it gets there it stays a short time and then turns around and comes home. When the traveling twin arrives back on Earth she compares her age with at that of her brother their ages and they both agree that the twin A is older then her traveling.

It’s the accelerating twin that was younger in this scenario.
 

Offline dlorde

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #816 on: 10/11/2013 10:52:17 »
...anyone who tries to point out the errors gets shouted down by a parrot army of "experts" who have all the qualifications that prove that they have learned the "truth". An example of this is time dilation. When a rocket accelerates away from another rocket, it will either have its time slowed down or speeded up, but it can't do both of those things at the same time. Special Relativity studiously ignores this problem and bans anyone from addressing it, but it's actually a problem which invalidates the theory.
It's not a problem. The idea is that there is no absolute time or space. What is measured depends on the context of the observer - i.e. it is relative rather than absolute, hence Special Relativity.  The rocket time is slowed down for any observer moving relative to it. For the rocket occupants, the time of everything moving relative to them is slowed down. No observer sees the rocket time speeded up. Fortunately we no longer have to trust what the maths is telling us - the effect has been observed many times, and is used in practical applications.
 

Offline DonQuichotte

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #817 on: 10/11/2013 16:51:51 »
Excerpts from "Science Set Free : 10 Paths to new discovery " By R.Sheldrake : Chapter 1 : Is Nature Mechanical ? :


Many people who have not studied science are baffled by scientists’ insistence that animals and plants
are machines, and that humans are robots too, controlled by computer-like brains with genetically
programmed software. It seems more natural to assume that we are living organisms, and so are
animals and plants. Organisms are self-organizing; they form and maintain themselves, and have their
own ends or goals. Machines, by contrast, are designed by an external mind; their parts are put
together by external machine-makers and they have no purposes or ends of their own.
The starting point for modern science was the rejection of the older, organic view of the universe.
The machine metaphor became central to scientific thinking, with very far-reaching consequences. In
one way it was immensely liberating. New ways of thinking became possible that encouraged the
invention of machines and the evolution of technology. In this chapter, I trace the history of this idea,
and show what happens when we question it.
Before the seventeenth century, almost everyone took for granted that the universe was like an
organism, and so was the earth. In classical, medieval and Renaissance Europe, nature was alive.
Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519), for example, made this idea explicit: “We can say that the earth has a
vegetative soul, and that its flesh is the land, its bones are the structure of the rocks … its breathing
and its pulse are the ebb and flow of the sea.”1 William Gilbert (1540–1603), a pioneer of the science
of magnetism, was explicit in his organic philosophy of nature: “We consider that the whole universe
is animated, and that all the globes, all the stars, and also the noble earth have been governed since the
beginning by their own appointed souls and have the motives of self-conservation.”2
Even Nicholas Copernicus, whose revolutionary theory of the movement of the heavens, published
in 1543, placed the sun at the center rather than the earth was no mechanist. His reasons for making
this change were mystical as well as scientific. He thought a central position dignified the sun:
Not unfittingly do some call it the light of the world, others the soul, still others the governor.
Tremigistus calls it the visible God: Sophocles’ Electra, the All-seer. And in fact does the sun,
seated on his royal throne, guide his family of planets as they circle around him.3
Copernicus’s revolution in cosmology was a powerful stimulus for the subsequent development of
physics. But the shift to the mechanical theory of nature that began after 1600 was much more radical.
For centuries, there had already been mechanical models of some aspects of nature. For example, in
Wells Cathedral, in the west of England, there is a still-functioning astronomical clock installed more
than six hundred years ago. The clock’s face shows the sun and moon revolving around the earth,
against a background of stars. The movement of the sun indicates the time of day, and the inner circle
of the clock depicts the moon, rotating once a month. To the delight of visitors, every quarter of an
hour, models of jousting knights rush round chasing each other, while a model of a man bangs bells
with his heels.
Astronomical clocks were first made in China and in the Arab world, and powered by water. Their
construction began in Europe around 1300, but with a new kind of mechanism, operated by weights
and escapements. All these early clocks took for granted that the earth was at the center of the
universe. They were useful models for telling the time and for predicting the phases of the moon; but
no one thought that the universe was really like a clockwork mechanism.
A change from the metaphor of the organism to the metaphor of the machine produced science as
we know it: mechanical models of the universe were taken to represent the way the world actually
worked. The movements of stars and planets were governed by impersonal mechanical principles, not
by souls or spirits with their own lives and purposes.
In 1605, Johannes Kepler summarized his program as follows: “My aim is to show that the celestial
machine is to be likened not to a divine organism but rather to clockwork … Moreover I show how
this physical conception is to be presented through calculation and geometry.”4 Galileo Galilei (1564–
1642) agreed that “inexorable, immutable” mathematical laws ruled everything.
The clock analogy was particularly persuasive because clocks work in a self-contained way. They
are not pushing or pulling other objects. Likewise the universe performs its work by the regularity of
its motions, and is the ultimate time-telling system. Mechanical clocks had a further metaphorical
advantage: they were a good example of knowledge through construction, or knowing by doing.
Someone who could construct a machine could reconstruct it. Mechanical knowledge was power.
The prestige of mechanistic science did not come primarily from its philosophical underpinnings
but from its practical successes, especially in physics. Mathematical modelling typically involves
extreme abstraction and simplification, which is easiest to realize with man-made machines or
objects. Mathematical mechanics is impressively useful in dealing with relatively simple problems,
such as the trajectories of cannonballs or rockets.
One paradigmatic example is billiard-ball physics, which gives a clear account of impacts and
collisions of idealized billiard balls in a frictionless environment. Not only is the mathematics
simplified, but billiard balls themselves are a very simplified system. The balls are made as round as
possible and the table as flat as possible, and there are uniform rubber cushions at the sides of the
table, unlike any natural environment. Think of a rock falling down a mountainside for comparison.
Moreover, in the real world, billiard balls collide and bounce off each other in games, but the rules of
the game and the skills and motives of the players are outside the scope of physics. The mathematical
analysis of the balls’ behavior is an extreme abstraction.
 

Offline DonQuichotte

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #818 on: 10/11/2013 16:56:04 »
From Living Organisms To Biological Machines :



The vision of mechanical nature developed amid devastating religious wars in seventeenth-century
Europe. Mathematical physics was attractive partly because it seemed to provide a way of
transcending sectarian conflicts to reveal eternal truths. In their own eyes the pioneers of mechanistic
science were finding a new way of understanding the relationship of nature to God, with humans
adopting a God-like mathematical omniscience, rising above the limitations of human minds and
bodies. As Galileo put it:
When God produces the world, he produces a thoroughly mathematical structure that obeys the
laws of number, geometrical figure and quantitative function. Nature is an embodied
mathematical system.5
But there was a major problem. Most of our experience is not mathematical. We taste food, feel angry,
enjoy the beauty of flowers, laugh at jokes. In order to assert the primacy of mathematics, Galileo and
his successors had to distinguish between what they called “primary qualities,” which could be
described mathematically, such as motion, size and weight, and “secondary qualities,” like color and
smell, which were subjective.6 They took the real world to be objective, quantitative and
mathematical. Personal experience in the lived world was subjective, the realm of opinion and
illusion, outside the realm of science.
René Descartes (1596–1650) was the principal proponent of the mechanical or mechanistic
philosophy of nature. It first came to him in a vision on November 10, 1619, when he was “filled with
enthusiasm and discovered the foundations of a marvellous science.”7 He saw the entire universe as a
mathematical system, and later envisaged vast vortices of swirling subtle matter, the ether, carrying
around the planets in their orbits.
Descartes took the mechanical metaphor much further than Kepler or Galileo by extending it into
the realm of life. He was fascinated by the sophisticated machinery of his age, such as clocks, looms
and pumps. As a youth he designed mechanical models to simulate animal activity, such as a pheasant
pursued by a spaniel. Just as Kepler projected the image of man-made machinery onto the cosmos,
Descartes projected it onto animals. They, too, were like clockwork.8 Activities like the beating of a
dog’s heart, its digestion and breathing were programmed mechanisms. The same principles applied to
human bodies.
Descartes cut up living dogs in order to study their hearts, and reported his observations as if his
readers might want to replicate them: “If you slice off the pointed end of the heart of a live dog, and
insert a finger into one of the cavities, you will feel unmistakably that every time the heart gets
shorter it presses the finger, and every time it gets longer it stops pressing it.”9
He backed up his arguments with a thought experiment: first he imagined man-made automata that
imitated the movements of animals, and then argued that if they were made well enough they would
be indistinguishable from real animals:
If any such machines had the organs and outward shapes of a monkey or of some other animal
that lacks reason, we should have no way of knowing that they did not possess entirely the same
nature as those animals.10
With arguments like these, Descartes laid the foundations of mechanistic biology and medicine that
are still orthodox today. However, the machine theory of life was less readily accepted in the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries than the machine theory of the universe. Especially in England,
the idea of animal-machines was considered eccentric.11 Descartes’ doctrine seemed to justify cruelty
to animals, including vivisection, and it was said that the test of his followers was whether they would
kick their dogs.12
As the philosopher Daniel Dennett summarized it, “Descartes … held that animals were in fact just
elaborate machines … It was only our non-mechanical, non-physical minds that make human beings
(and only human beings) intelligent and conscious. This was actually a subtle view, most of which
would readily be defended by zoologists today, but it was too revolutionary for Descartes’
contemporaries.”13
We are so used to the machine theory of life that it is hard to appreciate what a radical break
Descartes made. The prevailing theories of his time took for granted that living organisms were
organisms, animate beings with their own souls. Souls gave organisms their purposes and powers of
self-organization. From the Middle Ages right up into the seventeenth century, the prevailing theory
of life taught in the universities of Europe followed the Greek philosopher Aristotle and his leading
Christian interpreter, Thomas Aquinas ( c. 1225–74), according to whom the matter in plant or animal
bodies was shaped by the organisms’ souls. For Aquinas, the soul was the form of the body.14 The soul
acted like an invisible mold that shaped the plant or the animal as it grew and attracted it toward its
mature form.15
The souls of animals and plants were natural, not supernatural. According to classical Greek and
medieval philosophy, and also in William Gilbert’s theory of magnetism, even magnets had souls. 16
The soul within and around them gave them their powers of attraction and repulsion. When a magnet
was heated and lost its magnetic properties, it was as if the soul had left it, just as the soul left an
animal body when it died. We now talk in terms of magnetic fields. In most respects fields have
replaced the souls of classical and medieval philosophy.17
Before the mechanistic revolution, there were three levels of explanation: bodies, souls and spirits.
Bodies and souls were part of nature. Spirits were non-material but interacted with embodied beings
through their souls. The human spirit, or “rational soul,” according to Christian theology, was
potentially open to the Spirit of God.18
After the mechanistic revolution, there were only two levels of explanation: bodies and spirits.
Three layers were reduced to two by removing souls from nature, leaving only the human “rational
soul” or spirit. The abolition of souls also separated humanity from all other animals, which became
inanimate machines. The “rational soul” of man was like an immaterial ghost in the machinery of the
human body.
How could the rational soul possibly interact with the brain? Descartes speculated that their
interaction occurred in the pineal gland.19 He thought of the soul as like a little man inside the pineal
gland controlling the plumbing of the brain. He compared the nerves to water pipes, the cavities in the
brain to storage tanks, the muscles to mechanical springs, and breathing to the movements of a clock.
The organs of the body were like the automata in seventeenth-century water gardens, and the
immaterial man within was like the fountain keeper:
External objects, which by their mere presence stimulate [the body’s] sense organs … are like
visitors who enter the grottoes of these fountains and unwittingly cause the movements which
take place before their eyes. For they cannot enter without stepping on certain tiles which are so
arranged that if, for example, they approach a Diana who is bathing they will cause her to hide in
the reeds. And finally, when a rational soul is present in this machine it will have its principal
seat in the brain, and reside there like the fountain keeper who must be stationed at the tanks to
which the fountain’s pipes return if he wants to produce, or prevent, or change their movements
in some way.20
The final step in the mechanistic revolution was to reduce two levels of explanation to one. Instead of
a duality of matter and mind, there is only matter. This is the doctrine of materialism, which came to
dominate scientific thinking in the second half of the nineteenth century. Nevertheless, despite their
nominal materialism, most scientists remained dualists, and continued to use dualistic metaphors.
The little man, or homunculus, inside the brain remained a common way of thinking about the
relation of body and mind, but the metaphor moved with the times and adapted to new technologies. In
the mid-twentieth century the homunculus was usually a telephone operator in the telephone exchange
of the brain, and he saw projected images of the external world as if he were in a cinema, as in a book
published in 1949 called The Secret of Life: The Human Machine and How It Works .21 In an exhibit in
2010 at the Natural History Museum in London called “How You Control Your Actions,” you looked
through a Perspex window in the forehead of a model man. Inside was a cockpit with banks of dials
and controls, and two empty seats, presumably for you, the pilot, and your co-pilot in the other
hemisphere. The ghosts in the machine were implicit rather than explicit, but obviously this was no
explanation at all because the little men inside brains would themselves have to have little men inside
their brains, and so on in an infinite regress.
If thinking of little men and women inside brains seems too naïve, then the brain itself is
personified. Many popular articles and books on the nature of the mind say “the brain perceives,” or
“the brain decides,” while at the same time arguing that the brain is just a machine, like a computer.22
For example, the atheist philosopher Anthony Grayling thinks that “brains secrete religious and
superstitious belief” because they are “hardwired” to do so:
As a “belief engine,” the brain is always seeking to find meaning in the information that pours
into it. Once it has constructed a belief, it rationalises it with explanations, almost always after
the event. The brain thus becomes invested in the beliefs, and reinforces them by looking for
supporting evidence while blinding itself to anything contrary.23
This sounds more like a description of a mind than a brain. Apart from begging the question of the
relation of the mind to the brain, Grayling also begs the question of how his own brain escaped from
this “hardwired” tendency to blind itself to anything contrary to its beliefs. In practice, the
mechanistic theory is only plausible because it smuggles non-mechanistic minds into human brains. Is
a scientist operating mechanistically when he propounds a theory of materialism? Not in his own eyes.
There is always a hidden reservation in his arguments: he is an exception to mechanistic determinism.
He believes he is putting forward views that are true, not just doing what his brain makes him do.24
It seems impossible to be a consistent materialist. Materialism depends on a lingering dualism,
more or less thinly disguised. In the realm of biology this dualism takes the form of personifying
molecules, as I discuss below.
 

Offline DonQuichotte

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #819 on: 10/11/2013 16:58:25 »
The God of Mechanical Nature :



Although the machine theory of nature is now used to support materialism, for the founding fathers of
modern science it supported the Christian religion, rather than subverted it.
Machines only make sense if they have designers. Robert Boyle, for example, saw the mechanical
order of nature as evidence for God’s design.25 And Isaac Newton conceived of God in his own image
as “very well skilled in mechanics and geometry.”26
The better the world-machine functioned, the less necessary was God’s ongoing activity. By the end
of the eighteenth century, the celestial machinery was thought to work perfectly without any need for
divine intervention. For many scientifically minded intellectuals, Christianity gave way to deism. A
Supreme Being designed the world-machine, created it, set it in motion and left it to run
automatically. This kind of God did not intervene in the world and there was no point in praying to
him. In fact there was no point in any religious practice. Several Enlightenment philosophers, like
Voltaire, combined deism with a rejection of the Christian religion.
Some defenders of Christianity agreed with the deists in accepting the assumptions of mechanistic
science. The most famous proponent of mechanistic theology was William Paley, an Anglican priest.
In his book Natural Theology, published in 1802, he argued that if someone were to find an object like
a watch, he would be bound to conclude on examining it and observing its intricate design and
precision that “there must have existed, at some time and at some place or other, an artificer or
artificers, who formed it for the purpose which we find it actually to answer, who comprehended its
construction and designed its use.”27 So it was with “the works of nature” such as the eye. God was the
designer.
In Britain in the nineteenth century, Anglican clergymen, most of whom emphasized the same
points as Paley, wrote many popular books on natural history. For example, the Reverend Francis
Morris wrote a popular, lavishly illustrated History of British Butterflies (1853), which served both as
a field guide and a reminder of the beauty of nature. Morris believed that God had implanted in every
human mind “an instinctive general love of nature” through which young and old alike could enjoy the
“beautiful sights in which the benign Creator displays such infinite wisdom of Almighty skill.”28
This was the kind of natural theology that Darwin rejected in his theory of evolution by natural
selection. By doing so, he undermined the machine theory of life itself, as I discuss below. But the
controversy he stirred up is still with us, and its latest incarnation is Intelligent Design. Proponents of
Intelligent Design point out the difficulty, if not impossibility, of explaining complex structures like
the vertebrate eye or the bacterial flagellum in terms of a series of random genetic mutations and
natural selection. They suggest that complex structures and organs show a creative integration of
many different components because they were intelligently designed. They leave open the question of
the designer,29 but the obvious answer is God.
The problem with the design argument is that the metaphor of a designer presupposes an external
mind. Humans design machines, buildings and works of art. In a similar way the God of mechanistic
theology, or the Intelligent Designer, is supposed to have designed the details of living organisms.
Yet we are not forced to choose between chance and an external intelligence. There is another
possibility. Living organisms may have an internal creativity, as we do ourselves. When we have a
new idea or find a new way of doing something, we do not design the idea first, and then put it into our
own minds. New ideas just happen, and no one knows how or why. Humans have an inherent
creativity; and all living organisms may also have an inherent creativity that is expressed in larger or
smaller ways. Machines require external designers; organisms do not.
Ironically, the belief in the divine design of plants and animals is not a traditional part of
Christianity. It stems from seventeenth-century science. It contradicts the biblical picture of the
creation of life in the first chapter of the Book of Genesis. Animals and plants were not portrayed as
machines, but as self-reproducing organisms that arose from the earth and the seas, as in Genesis 1:11:
“And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit trees yielding fruit
after his kind, whose seed is in itself.” In Genesis 1: 24: “God said, Let the earth bring forth the living
creature after his kind, cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth after his kind.” In theological
language, these were acts of “mediate” creation: God did not design or create these plants and animals
directly. As an authoritative Roman Catholic Biblical Commentary expressed it, God created them
indirectly “through the agency of the mother earth.”30
 

Offline DonQuichotte

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #820 on: 10/11/2013 17:01:45 »
When Nature Came To Life Again :



Followers of the Enlightenment put their faith in mechanistic science, reason and human progress.
“Enlightened” ideas or values still have a major influence on our educational, social and political
systems today. But from around 1780 to 1830 in the Romantic movement there was a widespread
reaction against the Enlightenment faith, expressed mainly in the arts and literature. Romantics
emphasized emotions and aesthetics, as opposed to reason. They saw nature as alive, rather than
mechanical. The most explicit application of these ideas to science was by the German philosopher
Friedrich von Schelling, whose book Ideas for a Philosophy of Nature (1797) portrayed nature as a
dynamic interplay of opposed forces and polarities through which matter is “brought to life.”31
A central feature of Romanticism was the rejection of mechanical metaphors and their replacement
with imagery of nature as alive, organic and in a process of gestation or development.32 The first
evolutionary theories arose in this context.
Some scientists, poets and philosophers linked their philosophy of living nature to a God who
imbued Nature with life and left her to develop spontaneously, more like the God of Genesis than the
designer God of mechanistic theology. Others proclaimed themselves atheists, like the English poet
Percy Shelley (1792–1822), but they had no doubt about a living power in nature, which Shelley called
the Soul of the universe, or the all-sufficing Power, or the Spirit of Nature. He was also a pioneering
campaigner for vegetarianism because he valued animals as sentient beings.33
These different worldviews can be summarized as follows:
Worldview
Traditional Christian
God
Interactive
Nature
Living organism
Worldview
Early mechanistic
God
Interactive
Nature
Machine
Worldview
Enlightenment deism
God
Creator only
Nature
Machine
Worldview
Romantic deism
God
Creator only
Nature
Living organism
Worldview
Romantic atheism
God
No God
Nature
Living organism
Worldview
Materialism
God
No God
Nature
Machine
The Romantic movement created an enduring split in Western culture. Among educated people, in the
world of work, business and politics, nature is mechanistic, an inanimate source of natural resources,
exploitable for economic development. Modern economies are built on these foundations. On the
other hand, children are often brought up in an animistic atmosphere of fairy tales, talking animals
and magical transformations. The living world is celebrated in poems and songs and in works of art.
Nature is most strongly identified with the countryside, as opposed to cities, and especially by
unspoiled wilderness. Many urban people dream of moving to the country, or having a weekend home
in rural surroundings. On Friday evenings, cities of the Western world are clogged with traffic as
millions of people try to get back to nature in a car.
Our private relationship with nature presupposes that nature is alive. For a mechanistic scientist, or
technocrat, or economist, or developer, nature is neuter and inanimate. It needs developing as part of
human progress. But often the very same people have different attitudes in private. In Western Europe
and North America, many people get rich by exploiting nature so that they can buy a place in the
countryside to “get away from it all.”
This division between public rationalism and private romanticism has been part of the Western way
of life for generations, but is becoming increasingly unsustainable. Our economic activities are not
separate from nature, but affect the entire planet. Our private and public lives are increasingly
intertwined. This new consciousness is expressed through a revived public awareness of Gaia, Mother
Earth. But goddesses were not far below the surface of scientific thought even in its most materialist
forms.
 

Offline DonQuichotte

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #821 on: 10/11/2013 17:04:09 »
The Goddesses of Evolution :



One of the pioneers of evolutionary theory was Charles Darwin’s grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, who
wanted to increase the importance of nature and reduce the role of God.34 The spontaneous evolution
of plants and animals struck at the root of natural theology and the doctrine of God as designer. If new
forms of life were brought forth by Nature herself, there was no need for God to design them. Erasmus
Darwin suggested that God endued life or nature with an inherent creative capacity in the first place
that was thereafter expressed without the need for divine guidance or intervention. In his book
Zoönomia (1794), he asked rhetorically:
Would it be too bold to imagine that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living
filament, which the great First Cause endued with animality, with the power of acquiring new
parts, attended with new propensities, directed by irritations, sensations, volitions and
associations, and thus possessing the faculty of continuing to improve by its own inherent
activity, and of delivering down these improvements by generation to its posterity, world without
end!35
For Erasmus Darwin, living beings were self-improving, and the results of the efforts of parents were
inherited by their offspring. Likewise, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck in his Zoological Philosophy (1809)
suggested that animals developed new habits in response to their environment, and their adaptations
were passed on to their descendants. The giraffe, inhabiting arid regions of Africa,
is obliged to browse on the leaves of trees and make constant efforts to reach them. From this
habit long maintained in all its race, it has resulted that the animal’s fore-legs have become
longer than its hind legs, and its neck is lengthened to such a degree that the giraffe attains a
height of six metres.36
In addition, a power inherent in life produced increasingly complex organisms, moving them up a
ladder of progress. Lamarck attributed the origin of the power of life to “the Supreme Author,” who
created “an order of things which gave existence successively to all that we see.”37 Like Erasmus
Darwin, he was a romantic deist. So was Robert Chambers, who popularized the idea of progressive
evolution in his bestselling Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation , published anonymously in
1844. He argued that everything in nature is progressing to a higher state as a result of a God-given
“law of creation.”38 His work was controversial both from a religious and scientific point of view but,
like Lamarck’s theory, it was attractive to atheists because it removed the need for a divine designer.
But Chambers, Lamarck and Erasmus Darwin not only undermined mechanistic theology, they also,
perhaps unwittingly, undermined the mechanistic theory of life. No inanimate machinery contained
within it a power of life, capacity for self-improvement or creativity. Their theories of progressive
evolution demystified the creativity of God by mystifying evolution.
Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace’s theory of evolution by natural selection (1858)
attempted to demystify evolution. Natural selection was blind and impersonal, and required no divine
agency. It weeded out organisms that were not fit to survive, and favored those that were better
adapted. The subtitle of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was The Preservation of Favoured Races in
the Struggle for Life. The source of creativity was within animals and plants themselves: they varied
spontaneously and adapted to new circumstances.
Darwin gave no explanation for this creative power. In effect, he rejected the designing God of
mechanistic theology, and attributed all creativity to Nature, just as his grandfather had done. For
Darwin, Nature herself gave rise to the Tree of Life. Through her prodigious fertility, her spontaneous
variability and her powers of selection, she could do everything that Paley thought God did. But
Nature was not an inanimate, mechanical system like the clockwork of celestial physics. She was
Nature with a capital N. Darwin even apologized for his language: “For brevity’s sake I sometimes
speak of natural selection as an intelligent power … I have, also, often personified the word Nature;
for I have found it difficult to avoid this ambiguity.”39
Darwin advised his readers to ignore the implications of his turns of phrase. If, instead, we pay
attention to their implications, Nature is the Mother from whose womb all life comes forth, and to
whom all life returns. She is prodigiously fertile, but she is also cruel and terrible, the devourer of her
own offspring. She is creative, but she is also destructive, like the Indian goddess Kali. For Darwin,
natural selection was “a power incessantly ready for action,”40 and natural selection worked by
killing. The phrase “Nature red in tooth and claw” was the poet Tennyson’s rather than Darwin’s, but
sounds very like Kali, or the destructive Greek goddess Nemesis, or the vengeful Furies.
Charles Darwin, like his grandfather Erasmus and Lamarck, believed in the inheritance of habits.
His books give many examples of offspring inheriting the adaptations of their parents.41 The neo-
Darwinian theory of evolution, which developed from the 1940s onward, differed from Charles
Darwin’s theory in that it rejected the inheritance of acquired characteristics. Instead, organisms
inherited genes from their parents, passing them on unaltered to their offspring, unless there were
mutations, that is to say, random changes in the genes. The molecular biologist Jacques Monod
summarized this theory in the title of his book, Chance and Necessity (1972).
These seemingly abstract principles are the hidden goddesses of neo-Darwinism. Chance is the
goddess Fortuna, or Lady Luck. The turnings of her wheel confer both prosperity and misfortune.
Fortuna is blind, and was often portrayed in classical statues with a veil or blindfold. In Monod’s
words, “pure chance, absolutely free but blind, [is] at the very root of the stupendous edifice of
evolution.”42
Shelley called Necessity the “All-sufficing Power” and the “Mother of the world.” She is also Fate
or Destiny, who appears in classical European mythology as the Three Fates, who spin, allot and cut
the thread of life, dispensing to mortals their destiny at birth. In neo-Darwinism, the thread of life is
literal: helical DNA molecules in thread-like chromosomes dispense to mortals their destiny at birth.
Materialism is like an unconscious cult of the Great Mother. The word “matter” itself comes from
the same root as “mother”; in Latin the equivalent words are materia and mater.43 The Mother
archetype takes many forms, as in Mother Nature, or Ecology, or even the Economy, which feeds and
sustains us, working like a lactating breast on the basis of supply and demand. (The Greek root eco in
both of these words means family or household.) Archetypes are more powerful when they are
unconscious because they cannot be examined or discussed.
 

Offline DonQuichotte

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #822 on: 10/11/2013 17:06:42 »
Life Breaks out of Mechanical Metaphors :


The theory of evolution destroyed the argument from mechanical design. A creator God could not
have designed the machinery of animals and plants in the beginning if they evolved progressively
through spontaneous variation and natural selection.
Living organisms, unlike machines, are themselves creative. Plants and animals vary
spontaneously, respond to genetic changes and adapt to new challenges from the environment. Some
vary more than others, and occasionally something really new appears. Creativity is inherent in living
organisms, or works through them.
No machine starts from small beginnings, grows, forms new structures within itself and then
reproduces itself. Yet plants and animals do this all the time. They can also regenerate after damage.
To see them as machines propelled only by ordinary physics and chemistry is an act of faith; to insist
that they are machines despite all appearances is dogmatic.
Within science itself, the machine theory of life was challenged continually throughout the
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by an alternative school of biology called vitalism. Vitalists
thought that organisms were more than machines: they were truly vital or alive. Over and above the
laws of physics and chemistry, organizing principles shaped the forms of living organisms, gave them
their purposive behavior, and underlay the instincts and intelligence of animals. In 1844, the chemist
Justus von Liebig made a typical statement of the vitalist position when he argued that although
chemists could analyze and synthesize organic chemicals that occurred in living organisms, they
would never be able to create an eye or a leaf. Besides the recognized physical forces, there was a
further kind of cause that “combines the elements in new forms so that they gain new qualities—
forms and qualities which do not appear except in the organism.”44
In many ways, vitalism was a survival of the older worldview that living organisms were organized
by souls. Vitalism was also in harmony with a romantic vision of living nature. Some vitalists, like the
German embryologist Hans Driesch (1867–1941), deliberately used the language of souls to
emphasize this continuity of thought. Driesch believed that a non-material organizing principle gave
plants and animals their forms and their goals. He called this organizing principle entelechy, adopting
a word that Aristotle had used for the aspect of the soul that has its end within itself (en = in, telos =
purpose). Embryos, Driesch argued, behave in a purposive way; if their development is disrupted, they
can still reach the form toward which they are developing. He showed by experiment that when seaurchin
embryos were cut in two, each half could give rise to a small but complete sea urchin, not half
a sea urchin. Their entelechy attracted the developing embryos—and even separated parts of embryos
—toward the form of the adult.
Vitalism was and still is the ultimate heresy within mechanistic biology. The orthodox view was
clearly expressed by the biologist T. H. Huxley in 1867:
Zoological physiology is the doctrine of the functions or actions of animals. It regards animal
bodies as machines impelled by various forces, and performing a certain amount of work which
can be expressed in terms of the ordinary forces of nature. The final object of physiology is to
deduce the facts of morphology on the one hand, and those of ecology on the other, from the laws
of the molecular forces of matter.45
In these words, Huxley foreshadowed the spectacular development of molecular biology since the
1960s, the most powerful effort ever made to reduce the phenomena of life to physical and chemical
mechanisms. Francis Crick, who shared in a Nobel Prize for the discovery of the structure of DNA,
made this agenda very explicit in his book Of Molecules and Men (1966). He denounced vitalism and
affirmed his belief that “the ultimate aim of the modern movement in biology is in fact to explain all
biology in terms of physics and chemistry.”
The mechanistic approach is essentially reductionist: it tries to explain wholes in terms of their
parts. That is why molecular biology has such a high status within the life sciences: molecules are
some of the smallest components of living organisms, the point at which biology crosses over into
chemistry. Hence molecular biology is at the leading edge of the attempt to explain the phenomena of
life in terms of “the laws of the molecular forces of matter.” In so far as biologists succeed in
reducing organisms to the molecular level, they will then hand the baton to chemists and physicists,
who will reduce the properties of molecules to those of atoms and subatomic particles.
Until the nineteenth century, most scientists thought that atoms were the solid, permanent, ultimate
basis of matter. But in the twentieth century it became clear that atoms are made up of parts, with
nuclei at the center and electrons in orbitals around them. The nuclei themselves are made up of
protons and neutrons, which in turn are composed of components called quarks, with three quarks
each. When nuclei are split up in particle accelerators, like the Large Hadron Collider, at CERN, near
Geneva, a host of further particles appears. Hundreds have been identified so far, and some physicists
expect that with even larger particle accelerators, yet more will be found.
The bottom has dropped out of the atom, and a zoo of evanescent particles seems unlikely to
explain the shape of an orchid flower, or the leaping of a salmon, or the flight of a flock of starlings.
Reductionism no longer offers a solid atomic basis for the explanation of everything else. In any case,
however many subatomic particles there may be, organisms are wholes, and reducing them to their
parts by killing them and analyzing their chemical constituents simply destroys what makes them
organisms.
I was forced to think about the limitations of reductionism when I was a student at Cambridge. As
part of the final-year biochemistry course, my class did an experiment on enzymes in rat livers. First,
we each took a living rat and “sacrificed” it over the sink, decapitating it with a guillotine, then we cut
it open and removed its liver. We ground up the liver in a blender and centrifuged it, to remove
unwanted fractions of the cellular debris. Then we purified the aqueous fraction to isolate the enzymes
we wanted, and we put them in test tubes. Finally we added chemicals and studied the speeds at which
chemical reactions took place. We learned something about enzymes, but nothing about how rats live
and behave. In a corridor of the Biochemistry Department the bigger problem was summed up on a
wall chart showing the chemical details of Human Metabolic Pathways; across the top someone had
written in big blue letters, “KNOW THYSELF.”
Attempting to explain organisms in terms of their chemical constituents is rather like trying to
understand a computer by grinding it up and analyzing its component elements, such as copper,
germanium and silicon. Certainly it is possible to learn something about the computer in this way,
namely what it is made of. But in this process of reduction, the structure and the programmed activity
of the computer vanishes, and chemical analysis will never reveal the circuit diagrams; no amount of
mathematical modelling of interactions between its atomic constituents will reveal the computer’s
programs or the purposes they fulfilled.
Mechanists expel purposive vital factors from living animals and plants, but then they reinvent
them in molecular guises. One form of molecular vitalism is to treat the genes as purposive entities
with goals and powers that go far beyond those of a mere chemical like DNA. The genes become
molecular entelechies. In his book The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins endowed them with life and
intelligence. Living molecules, rather than God, are the designers of the machinery of life:
We are survival machines, but “we” does not mean just people. It embraces all animals, plants,
bacteria, and viruses … We are all survival machines for the same kind of replicator—molecules
called DNA—but there are many different ways of making a living in the world, and the
replicators have built a vast range of machines to exploit them. A monkey is a machine which
preserves genes up trees; a fish a machine which preserves genes in the water.46
In Dawkins’s words, “DNA moves in mysterious ways.” The DNA molecules are not only
intelligent, they are also selfish, ruthless and competitive, like “successful Chicago gangsters.” The
selfish genes “create form,” “mould matter” and engage in “evolutionary arms races”; they even
“aspire to immortality.” These genes are no longer mere molecules:
Now they swarm in huge colonies, safe inside gigantic lumbering robots, sealed off from the
outside world, communicating with it by tortuous indirect routes, manipulating it by remote
control. They are in you and me; they created us, body and mind; and their preservation is the
ultimate rationale for our existence … Now they go by the name of genes, and we are their
survival machines.47
The persuasive power of Dawkins’s rhetoric depended on anthropocentric language and his cartoonlike
imagery. He admits that his selfish-gene imagery is more like science fiction than science,48 but
he justifies it as a “powerful and illuminating” metaphor.49
The most popular use of a vitalistic metaphor in the name of mechanism is the “genetic program.”
Genetic programs are explicitly analogous to computer programs, which are intelligently designed by
human minds to achieve particular purposes. Programs are purposive, intelligent and goal-directed.
They are more like entelechies than mechanisms. The “genetic program” implies that plants and
animals are organized by purposive principles that are mind-like, or designed by minds. This is
another way of smuggling intelligent designs into chemical genes.
If challenged, most biologists will admit that genes merely specify the sequence of amino acids in
proteins, or are involved in the control of protein synthesis. They are not really programs; they are not
selfish, they do not mold matter, or shape form, or aspire to immortality. A gene is not “for” a
characteristic like a fish’s fin or the nest-building behavior of a weaver bird. But molecular vitalism
soon creeps back again. The mechanistic theory of life has degenerated into misleading metaphors and
rhetoric.
To many people, especially gardeners and people who keep dogs, cats, horses or other animals, it is
blindingly obvious that plants and animals are living organisms, not machines.
 

Offline DonQuichotte

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #823 on: 10/11/2013 17:09:02 »
The Philosophy of Organism :



Whereas the mechanistic and vitalist theories both date back to the seventeenth century, the
philosophy of organism, also called the holistic or organismic approach, has been developing only
since the 1920s. One of its proponents was the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead (1861–1947);
another was Jan Smuts, a South African statesman and scholar, whose book Holism and Evolution
(1926) focused attention on “the tendency of nature to form wholes that are greater than the sum of the
parts through creative evolution.”50 He saw holism as
the ultimate synthetic, ordering, organizing, regulative activity in the universe, which accounts
for all the structural groupings and syntheses in it, from the atom and the physico-chemical
structures, through the cell and organisms, through Mind in animals to Personality in man. The
all-pervading and ever-increasing character of synthetic unity or wholeness in these structures
leads to the concept of Holism as the fundamental activity underlying and co-ordinating all
others, and to the view of the universe as a Holistic Universe.51
The holistic or organismic philosophy agrees with the mechanistic theory in affirming the unity of
nature: the life of biological organisms is different in degree but not in kind from physical systems
like molecules and crystals. Organicism agrees with vitalism in stressing that organisms have their
organizing principles within themselves; organisms are unities that cannot be reduced to the physics
and chemistry of simpler systems.
The philosophy of organism in effect treats all nature as alive; in this respect it is an updated
version of pre-mechanistic animism. Even atoms, molecules and crystals are organisms. As Smuts put
it, “Both matter and life consist, in the atom and the cell, of unit structures whose ordered grouping
produces the natural wholes which we call bodies or organisms.”52 Atoms are not inert particles of
stuff, as in old-style atomism. Rather, as revealed by twentieth-century physics, they are structures of
activity, patterns of energetic vibration within fields. In Whitehead’s words, “Biology is the study of
the larger organisms, whereas physics is the study of the smaller organisms.”53 In the light of modern
cosmology, physics is also the study of very large organisms, like planets, solar systems, galaxies and
the entire universe.
The philosophy of organism points out that everywhere we look in nature, at whatever level or
scale, we find wholes that are made up of parts that are themselves wholes at a lower level. This
pattern of organization can be represented diagrammatically as in Figure 1.1. The smallest circles
represent quarks, for example, within protons, within atomic nuclei, within atoms, within molecules,
within crystals. Or the smallest circles represent organelles, in cells, in tissues, in organs, in
organisms, in societies of organisms, in ecosystems. Or the smallest circles are planets, in solar
systems, in galaxies, in galactic clusters. Languages also show the same kind of organization, with
phonemes in syllables, in words, in phrases, in sentences.
FIGURE 1.1 A nested hierarchy of wholes or holons.
These organized systems are all nested hierarchies. At each level, the whole includes the parts; they
are literally within it. And at each level the whole is more than the sum of the parts, with properties
that cannot be predicted from the study of parts in isolation. For example, the structure and meaning
of this sentence could not be worked out by a chemical analysis of the paper and the ink, or deduced
from the quantities of letters that make it up (five as, one b, five cs, two ds, etc.). Knowing the
numbers of constituent parts is not enough: the structure of the whole depends on the way they are
combined together in words, and on the relationships between the words.
Arthur Koestler proposed the term holon for wholes made up of parts that are themselves wholes:
Every holon has a dual tendency to preserve and assert its individuality as a quasi-autonomous
whole; and to function as an integrated part of an (existing or evolving) larger whole. This
polarity between the Self-assertive and Integrative tendencies is inherent in the concept of
hierarchic order.54
For such nested hierarchies of holons, Koestler proposed the term holarchy.
Another way of thinking about wholes is through “systems theory,” which speaks of “a
configuration of parts joined together by a web of relationships.”55 Such wholes are also called
“complex systems,” and are the subject of a number of mathematical models, variously called
“complex systems theory,” “complexity theory” or “complexity science.”56
For a chemical example, think of benzene, a molecule with six carbon and six hydrogen atoms.
Each of these atoms is a holon consisting of a nucleus with electrons around it. In the benzene
molecule, the six carbon atoms are joined together in a six-sided ring, and electrons are shared
between the atoms to create a vibrating cloud of electrons around the entire molecule. The patterns of
vibration of the molecule affect the atoms within it, and since the electrons are electrically charged,
the atoms are in a vibrating electromagnetic field. Benzene is a liquid at room temperature, but below
5.5÷C it crystallizes, and as it does so, the molecules stack themselves together in a regular threedimensional
pattern, called the lattice structure. This crystal lattice also vibrates in harmonic
patterns,57 creating vibrating electromagnetic fields, which affect the molecules within them. There is
a nested hierarchy of levels of organization, interacting through a nested hierarchy of vibrating fields.
In the course of evolution, new holons arise that did not exist before: for example, the first amino
acid molecules, the first living cells, or the first flowers, or the first termite colonies. Since holons are
wholes, they must arise by sudden jumps. New levels of organization “emerge” and their “emergent
properties” go beyond those of the parts that were there before. The same is true of new ideas, or new
works of art.
 

Offline DonQuichotte

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
« Reply #824 on: 10/11/2013 17:14:50 »

The Cosmos as a Developing Organism :

The philosopher David Hume (1711–76) is perhaps best known today for his skepticism about
religion. Yet he was equally skeptical about the mechanistic philosophy of nature. There was nothing
in the universe to prove that it was more like a machine than an organism; the organization we see in
nature was more analogous to plants and animals than to machines. Hume was against the idea of a
machine-designing God, and suggested instead that the world could have originated from something
like a seed or an egg. In Hume’s words, published posthumously in 1779,
There are other parts of the universe (besides the machines of human invention) which bear still a
greater resemblance to the fabric of the world, and which, therefore, afford a better conjecture
concerning the universal origin of the system. These parts are animals and plants. The world
plainly resembles more an animal or a vegetable, than it does a watch or a knitting-loom … And
does not a plant or an animal, which springs from vegetation or generation, bear a stronger
resemblance to the world, than does any artificial machine, which arises from reason and
design?58
Hume’s argument was surprisingly prescient in the light of modern cosmology. Until the 1960s, most
scientists still thought of the universe as a machine, and moreover as a machine that was running out
of steam, heading for its final heat death. According to the second law of thermodynamics,
promulgated in 1855, the universe would gradually lose the capacity to do work. It would eventually
freeze in “a state of universal rest and death,” as William Thomson, later Lord Kelvin, put it.59
It was not until 1927 that Georges Lemaître, a cosmologist and Roman Catholic priest, advanced a
scientific hypothesis like Hume’s idea of the origin of the universe in an egg or seed. Lemaître
suggested that the universe began with a “creation-like event,” which he described as “the cosmic egg
exploding at the moment of creation.”60 Later called the Big Bang, this new cosmology echoed many
archaic stories of origins, like the Orphic creation myth of the Cosmic Egg in ancient Greece, or the
Indian myth of Hiranyagarbha, the primal Golden Egg.61 Significantly, in all these myths the egg is
both a primal unity and a primal polarity, since an egg is a unity composed of two parts, the yolk and
the white, an apt symbol of the emergence of “many” from “one.”
Lemaître’s theory predicted the expansion of the universe, and was supported by the discovery that
galaxies outside our own are moving away from us with a speed proportional to their distance. In
1964, the discovery of a faint background glow everywhere in the universe, the cosmic microwave
background radiation, revealed what seemed to be fossil light left over from the early universe, soon
after the Big Bang. The evidence for an initial “creation-like event” became overwhelming, and by
1966 the Big Bang theory became orthodox.
Cosmology now tells a story of a universe that began extremely small, less than the size of a
pinhead, and very hot. It has been expanding ever since. As it grows, it cools down, and as it cools,
new forms and structures appear within it: atomic nuclei and electrons, stars, galaxies, planets,
molecules, crystals and biological life.
The machine metaphor has long outlived its usefulness, and holds back scientific thinking in
physics, biology and medicine. Our growing, evolving universe is much more like an organism, and so
is the earth, and so are oak trees, and so are dogs, and so are you.


What Difference does it Make? :

Can you really think of yourself as a genetically programmed machine in a mechanical universe?
Probably not. Probably even the most committed materialists cannot either. Most of us feel we are
truly alive in a living world—at least at weekends. But through loyalty to the mechanistic worldview,
mechanistic thinking takes over during working hours.
In recognizing the life of nature, we can allow ourselves to recognize what we already know, that
animals and plants are living organisms, with their own purposes and goals. Anyone who gardens or
keeps pets knows this, and recognizes that they have their own ways of responding creatively to their
circumstances. But instead of dismissing our own observations and insights to conform to mechanistic
dogma, we can pay attention to them and try to learn from them.
In relation to the living earth, we can see that the Gaia theory is not just an isolated poetic metaphor
in an otherwise mechanical universe. The recognition of the earth as a living organism is a major step
toward recognizing the wider life of the cosmos. If the earth is a living organism, what about the sun
and the solar system as a whole? If the solar system is a kind of organism, what about the galaxy?
Cosmology already portrays the entire universe as a kind of growing super-organism, born through the
hatching of the cosmic egg.
These differences in viewpoint do not immediately suggest a new range of technological products,
and in that sense they may not be economically useful. But they make a big difference in healing the
split created by the mechanistic theory—a split between our personal experiences of nature and the
mechanical explanations that science gives us. And they help heal the split between the sciences and
all traditional and indigenous cultures, none of which sees humans and animals as machines in a
mechanical world.
Finally, dispelling the belief that the universe is an inanimate machine opens up many new
questions, discussed in the following chapters.


Questions for Materialists

Is the mechanistic worldview a testable scientific theory, or a metaphor?
If it is a metaphor, why is the machine metaphor better in every respect than the organism metaphor?
If it is a scientific theory, how could it be tested or refuted?
Do you think that you yourself are nothing but a complex machine?
Have you been programmed to believe in materialism?
SUMMARY
The mechanistic theory is based on the metaphor of the machine. But it’s only a metaphor. Living
organisms provide better metaphors for organized systems at all levels of complexity, including
molecules, plants and societies of animals, all of which are organized in a series of inclusive levels, in
which the whole at each level is more than the sum of the parts, which are themselves wholes at a
lower level. Even the most ardent defenders of the mechanistic theory smuggle purposive organizing
principles into living organisms in the form of selfish genes or genetic programs. In the light of the
Big Bang theory, the entire universe is more like a growing, developing organism than a machine
slowly running out of steam.
 

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Re: What, on Earth, is The Human Consciousness?
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