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    1. #1
      DuB
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      Can Cognitive Neuroscience Tell Us Anything About the Mind?

      [Note: This is an article written by Jeremy Dean for his blog PsyBlog. I have copied the content here in the hope that doing so will engender more discussion than simply posting a link.]

      Cognitive neuroscience - essentially brain scanning - has become all the rage in psychology and related fields. Given the headlong rush by, well, practically everyone, into cognitive neuroscience I still entertain a quaintly unfashionable stance: I'm sceptical. My scepticism is not total though, many cognitive neuroscientists claim that there are many exciting findings to come. They're probably right, but while neuroimaging can certainly tell us much about the brain, there's reason to believe it hasn't told us much about the mind. To understand what I mean by this we need to go back to basics by asking what research is for.

      Like all scientists, psychologists are continually knocking out new theories to explain the way we think and behave. One of the most important functions of research is its ability to differentiate between two theories. If research doesn't at least provide a clue one way or the other then theoretically, and so practically, it's a waste of time. Does cognitive neuroscience really have the power to distinguish between psychological theories? Is it any use to a cognitive psychologist?

      A critic's view

      Max Coltheart is Professor of Psychology at Macquarie University in Australia and in a recent journal article he wonders whether cognitive neuroscience has really told us anything useful about the mind so far (Coltheart, 2006). It's important to realise that his emphasis is on the mind, as in cognitive processes, as distinct from the brain, as in physiological processes.

      There's no doubt the mind's cognitive processes are a function of the brain's physiological activity but these two things are nevertheless (currently) separate questions. Cognitive neuroscience's strength is in physiological processes, and as imaging technology improves, so will the importance of its findings in this area. But, again, why should a psychologist care that much which part of the brain lights up in a scanner, if the mind's functioning is still so far removed from our understanding of its physiology?

      An example

      All this can be difficult to grasp in abstract. Take one of Coltheart's examples. Suppose you're a psychologist interested in how people work out what other people are going to do. Their intentions. Suppose there are only two competing theories that you've got to choose between:
      • 'Simulation theory': I literally run a crude simulation of your mental state in my own mind. From this I try and work out what you're going to do next.
      • 'Theory theory': I create a theory about you, then try to work out what you're going to do from that.
      A recent neuroimaging study claimed to be able to distinguish between these two theories. Ramnani and Miall (2004) put people in the brain scanner, got them to carry out certain tasks and predicted that if a particular part of the brain was activated it supported the first theory, and if another, then it supported the second. What actually happened was nowhere near this simple. Despite the claims of the study's authors, Coltheart argues that actually neither theory was substantially supported or refuted by the findings.

      This is just two theories and one study - not exactly a scathing criticism of the whole of cognitive neuroscience. But Coltheart does run through four other examples where evidence from cognitive neuroscience fails to distinguish between theories. Again, remember that we're talking about relatively high level psychological theories here, not low-level physiological processes.

      Coltheart goes on to pull quotes from a range of people who argue that, in principle, neuroimaging is useless for psychological theory and understanding of the mind. Here's a good computing metaphor:
      "No amount of knowledge about the hardware of a computer will tell you anything serious about the nature of the software that the computer runs. In the same way, no facts about the activity of the brain could be used to confirm or refute some information-processing model of cognition."
      (Coltheart, 2004, p.22)
      I personally don't know enough about cognitive neuroscience to argue whether or not this statement is true, but it certainly has intuitive appeal. Considering the enormous quantity of money going into cognitive neuroscience right now, it seems unlikely this would be a majority view amongst psychologists. Not that scientist are slaves to money, of course...Ahem...

      What's your view?

      Spoiler for References:

    2. #2
      Xei
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      It's all nonsense until somebody cracks the neural code.

      It's like trying to come up with a model of how proteins are made before Watson and Crick came along. Or trying to get insight into how computers work by messing about on Windows XP.

    3. #3
      DuB
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      Quote Originally Posted by Xei View Post
      It's all nonsense until somebody cracks the neural code.
      Pinning down the neural code would certainly do wonders for our understanding of the brain on the physiological level, but what of the mind?

      Not to imply, of course, that the two are separable entities - I think we both agree that what we know as the mind is the result of processes within the brain - but it nevertheless remains a useful distinction to make. The idea seems to be that the key to understanding a complex system like the human mind is to reduce it to its most basic components; take it apart and put it back together again, like a pocket watch.

      Consider the genetic code. As you alluded to, Watson and Crick elucidated the structure of DNA and paved the way for a much greater understanding of protein synthesis, etc. But 50 years later we are still struggling to figure out how these correlate to phenotypes. We are making progress - it seems like nearly every week we identify some gene that is "associated with" a certain characteristic - but when it comes to the bigger picture of how the genome interacts with itself to produce the astonishingly complex system of the human being, we have miles to go.

      Back to neural coding. In relation to cognitive neuroscience, this is even lower-level. What happens when we "crack the neural code?" In reality, probably not much. It will certainly be invaluable for understanding the lowest levels of the system, but in terms of a holistic understanding of the mind and human behavior, we will have miles to go before we can put this information to good use.

      Which is not to say, of course, that we will be unable to apply that information eventually to achieve holistic understanding; only that I don't think it's going to be the revolution that you think it will be.

      Let's consider the example that you gave about understanding computers by tinkering with Windows XP. Clearly the insight one could gain from doing this would be limited. But let's turn the analogy on its head: what happens when we take a strictly bottom-up approach? Incidentally, we can explain the working of Windows XP in terms of bits and even electrons. However, most people do not find this to be a particularly useful explanation. Without the contexts of the higher levels of understanding, explaining Windows XP in terms of electron movements is essentially meaningless.

      What's the lesson? Is reductionism bad? The answer is, of course, a resounding no - this approach is responsible for much of our understanding of the world as we know it, and it will continue to be an invaluable philosophical tool. The lesson is that we can't completely rely on reductionist explanations - we get the most utility from taking a middle-ground approach between that and holism. We have to study the system at every level, from the top to the bottom and back up again. With this in mind, to say that all study of the mind/behavior is "nonsense" until we have "cracked the neural code" is, at best, overly dismissive.
      Last edited by DuB; 04-12-2009 at 07:13 PM.

    4. #4
      Sleeping Dragon juroara's Avatar
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      the brain is the most complicated organ to understand, the mind is even more complicated. its like comparing a computer, its programming (DNA) and form. which is finite. to the boundless information that is held in it (the internet), which we could say is virtually infinite.

      I imagine that the internet exists in a computer in the same way a mind exists in a brain.

      how can a scientist claim to understand the mind? how can a stranger claim to understand your mind? they would first have to understand their own mind. what profession is better suited to understand the self, except the man who is self reflective? spirituality is the self reflective practice, not science.

      I'm not saying science has no place in this field, it does. but science currently only cares to talk about the objective. its too chicken to get into the subjective, as things can no longer be as easily defined. problem is, our minds are experiencing a subjective reality! how much can science tell us then???

      the 'science' that talks about the subjective reality is eastern practices. I called it a science because like science, it has defined things and has defined how those things relate to each other

      and maybe in the future, we will recognize the science of the subjective reality




      a screwed up computer doesn't damage the internet. as the internet exists outside of the computer. but a screwed up computer can't process the internet correctly. for the sake of the internet, you need a functioning, up to date, virus free computer!

    5. #5
      DuB
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      Quote Originally Posted by juroara View Post
      the brain is the most complicated organ to understand, the mind is even more complicated. its like comparing a computer, its programming (DNA) and form. which is finite. to the boundless information that is held in it (the internet), which we could say is virtually infinite.

      I imagine that the internet exists in a computer in the same way a mind exists in a brain.

      ...

      a screwed up computer doesn't damage the internet. as the internet exists outside of the computer. but a screwed up computer can't process the internet correctly. for the sake of the internet, you need a functioning, up to date, virus free computer!
      I'm not sure that I like this analogy. It seems to imply that much of what we know is not physically located in our brain, but rather in some outside entity. This dualist perspective flies in the face of science. I'm not sure if this is the position you were intending to take in positing this analogy, but that's how I interpreted it.

      (It is also important to note that just because something flies in the face of science doesn't necessarily mean that it is not true - but that is perhaps a discussion for another day.)

      Quote Originally Posted by juroara View Post
      I'm not saying science has no place in this field, it does. but science currently only cares to talk about the objective. its too chicken to get into the subjective, as things can no longer be as easily defined. problem is, our minds are experiencing a subjective reality! how much can science tell us then???
      Give me some specific examples of issues that science is "too chicken" to address.

    6. #6
      Sleeping Dragon juroara's Avatar
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      Quote Originally Posted by DuB View Post
      I'm not sure that I like this analogy. It seems to imply that much of what we know is not physically located in our brain, but rather in some outside entity. This dualist perspective flies in the face of science. I'm not sure if this is the position you were intending to take in positing this analogy, but that's how I interpreted it.

      (It is also important to note that just because something flies in the face of science doesn't necessarily mean that it is not true - but that is perhaps a discussion for another day.)

      Give me some specific examples of issues that science is "too chicken" to address.

      every night is living proof that we are dualistic creatures. do you realize who it is that you speak with when you speak with a character in a dream? how many times have you been fooled into thinking it someone other than you?

      what kind of creature speaks with itself? and doesn't even know its speaking with itself? but a dualistic creature?

      or even, why do we have to very different brain halves? that can act independently of each other?

      I didn't mean to imply an outside entity. I mean YOU exist outside of the brain as well as function within it. Even your concern is dualistic. You basically said there are two possibilities

      1. either the information of our being is in the brain, we have no soul or
      2. its not the brain because we have a soul

      why isn't it both at the same time? Why cant that information exist in the brain and without? Why does it have to be one or the other?

      what is science too chicken to address? anything that a scientist doesn't what to consider as being reality

      materialistic science in the past has tried to tell us that if you experience something other wordly that can't be proven, it was nothing more but a hallucination. just your brain for what ever illogical reason in the face of evolution, just decided to make things up arbitrarily, for no reason at all just because it can

      though they haven't given us any real explanation why people hallucinate the most meaningful life altering experiences. why an erronous brain fuck would do that???

      thats the kind of crap that I am talking about

      scientists have had it written in stone..there is NOTHING outside of the physical world. not becuase their science has told them so.........oh no....they made this declaration even before they understood what a dream was! they made this declaration because religion caused them personal injury

      science is already talking about multiple dimensions, higher dimensions, that beings could exist in these dimensions, and we can't see them. even if they are right next to us. It has tried to describe this phenomenon in scientific terms. HELLO!! and people still argue science can't talk about spirits? what the fuck, seriously. the terminology may be different, but the definition is the same!!

      materialistic science doesnt even consider for a moment how ancient men could talk about things only science today can describe. how? they just use their second favorite word next to hallucination.........COINCIDENCE. just a bloody meaningless coincidence that a bunch of old meditating men just happened to be right about a few not so important things...

      so why is it that every time I read about this idea of there being multiple/higher dimensions in a scientific text, that the world spirit never comes up? and why do people try so hard to argue that these beings in other dimensions aren't the very same spirits religions world wide have spoken about since man has walked on the earth, when the understanding of the nature of these beings is the same?

      .........denial???

      here is the big problem for our western, objective, material science. it decided to say what is reality and what isnt. Which was a mistake! Such a bold declaration! Not unlike christianity so sure of itself of what is and isn't. And that was until it came to this problem recently, which still has materialists pulling out their hairs

      And that was
      1. we only percieve a tiny, tiny, tiny, TINY TINY TINY portion of reality
      2. we KNOW our physical tools are inadequate to study a large large portion of reality
      4. so we turn to math instead, which tells us that yes there are many dimensions of reality

      and....
      3. there is no universal law of how to percieve reality!!! Where is the universal law that says all beings must percieve blue the same way as the next being percieves blue?

      Suddenly when we realize the human being never percieves reality directly, that his reality is and always has been his own unique and special subjective understanding of reality....................that subjective reality is once again important and crucial to understanding what is reality!! no longer can we so boldy know, what is.......and isn't.........

      the objective study is slapped in the face! and all those meaningless experiences, could in fact be the most important

      Do you understand? It's not up for science to tell us what is real. It never was!

      Science is just a tool created by man to serve man. To enrich our lives. And for no other purpose. And if our lives were about meditating and dreaming, then thats what science studies.....................

      there is a greater holistic science thats emerging. this new science holds the human experience on a pedestal, unlike the old science which denies half of the human experience by calling it a meaningless and erronous hallucination.

      though it has no objective proof that is a hallucination, only that the experience did not fit their model of what is reality. maybe its not the experience that was wrong.......maybe it was their model of reality????

      thanks to this new science, and its holistic approach, we have new ways to describe and talk about the supernatural. of which there is no supernatural. just another process of nature that is completely natural. and while the old science has things in little boxes where by quantum physics doesn't affect biology, this new science understands that yes...quantum fucking physics does fucking affect biology!!

      and the OLD biology class tells you, you are composed of mushy solid cells. end of story.

      the new science starts off the day right. YOU ARE ENERGY. Your thoughts are waves of energy. And everything is energy. And you only percieve it as solid.

    7. #7
      h҈e҄'s i҉n th҉e۱m҉e҈ss poliganometry's Avatar
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      I propose the following:

      How can we study our brain, using our own brain? I don't think we'll ever be able to fully understand 'how we tick'. Imagine trying to figure out how a microscope works - using a microscope.

      Solution:

      Create a proxy

      Invest quintajillions of dollars into biotechnology and genetic engineering to develope an organism from scratch, whos sole purpose is to become aware of every facet of the human brain. Once these organisms completely understand how we work, they wont be able to explain it to us- so we all will just have to take comfort in the fact that our expensive pets know whats going on.


    8. #8
      This is my title. Licity's Avatar
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      Quote Originally Posted by juroara View Post
      every night is living proof that we are dualistic creatures. do you realize who it is that you speak with when you speak with a character in a dream? how many times have you been fooled into thinking it someone other than you?
      Now that you mention it, never.


      Quote Originally Posted by juroara View Post
      what kind of creature speaks with itself? and doesn't even know its speaking with itself? but a dualistic creature?
      Speaking to one's self is typically considered to be a sign of insanity in the literal sense. You mean figuratively...?

      Quote Originally Posted by juroara View Post
      or even, why do we have to very different brain halves? that can act independently of each other?
      The individual parts in the halves act independently of one another as well, but we only have one stream of thoughts.


      Quote Originally Posted by juroara View Post
      I didn't mean to imply an outside entity. I mean YOU exist outside of the brain as well as function within it. Even your concern is dualistic. You basically said there are two possibilities

      1. either the information of our being is in the brain, we have no soul or
      2. its not the brain because we have a soul

      why isn't it both at the same time? Why cant that information exist in the brain and without? Why does it have to be one or the other?
      Prove we have souls and we can start trying to see if information is stored as both at the same time.



      Quote Originally Posted by juroara View Post
      what is science too chicken to address? anything that a scientist doesn't what to consider as being reality

      materialistic science in the past has tried to tell us that if you experience something other wordly that can't be proven, it was nothing more but a hallucination. just your brain for what ever illogical reason in the face of evolution, just decided to make things up arbitrarily, for no reason at all just because it can
      A mechanic in the past has tried to tell me that if my car stalls, it was nothing more than a glitch. Just my engine, for whatever illogical reason in the fact of engineering, just decided to stop working arbitrarily for no reason it all because it can.

      If you hallucinate, it means something in the brain broke or messed up. This is usually temporarily, brought on by drugs, heat stroke, exhaustion, etc.



      Quote Originally Posted by juroara View Post
      though they haven't given us any real explanation why people hallucinate the most meaningful life altering experiences. why an erronous brain fuck would do that???

      thats the kind of crap that I am talking about
      Our brains decide what "meaningful life altering experiences" are; doesn't it make sense that if the brain makes something seem to happen, the neuron that judges the effects of it might get tangled up too?



      Quote Originally Posted by juroara View Post
      scientists have had it written in stone..there is NOTHING outside of the physical world. not becuase their science has told them so.........oh no....they made this declaration even before they understood what a dream was! they made this declaration because religion caused them personal injury
      Actually, science does tell us there is nothing outside of the physical world(everything is physical, depending on what you call "physical"). So far, there isn't much unexplainable. The stuff that we can't label, we just don't have the right tools to do so yet. Remember wayyyy back when, we thought mirrors were magical? We didn't understand reflectivity. Now we do, and we know mirrors are just pieces of glass

      Also, not all scientists study what they do because they dislike religion. Science =/= atheism.

      Quote Originally Posted by juroara View Post
      science is already talking about multiple dimensions, higher dimensions, that beings could exist in these dimensions, and we can't see them. even if they are right next to us. It has tried to describe this phenomenon in scientific terms. HELLO!! and people still argue science can't talk about spirits? what the fuck, seriously. the terminology may be different, but the definition is the same!!
      I would say the definition differs maybe a little more than a little bit.
      Scientist: Cool, a being from a higher dimension! Let's make friends!
      Average Classical Mystic: A SPIRIT! MUST FEAR/WORSHIP!


      Quote Originally Posted by juroara View Post
      materialistic science doesnt even consider for a moment how ancient men could talk about things only science today can describe. how? they just use their second favorite word next to hallucination.........COINCIDENCE. just a bloody meaningless coincidence that a bunch of old meditating men just happened to be right about a few not so important things...
      Like what?


      Quote Originally Posted by juroara View Post
      so why is it that every time I read about this idea of there being multiple/higher dimensions in a scientific text, that the world spirit never comes up? and why do people try so hard to argue that these beings in other dimensions aren't the very same spirits religions world wide have spoken about since man has walked on the earth, when the understanding of the nature of these beings is the same?

      .........denial???
      Spirits aren't mentioned because we are using different definitions of "dimension". Usually when a scientist speaks of a "higher dimension", they mean a space that needs more than three/four coordinates to describe a location. Everyday life only involves four: width, height, depth, and time. String theory is one of the few theories that predicts the actual number of dimensions(it claims 10).


      Quote Originally Posted by juroara View Post
      here is the big problem for our western, objective, material science. it decided to say what is reality and what isnt. Which was a mistake! Such a bold declaration! Not unlike christianity so sure of itself of what is and isn't. And that was until it came to this problem recently, which still has materialists pulling out their hairs
      If we didn't say what's real and what isn't, how can we possibly discuss anything?


      Quote Originally Posted by juroara View Post
      And that was
      1. we only percieve a tiny, tiny, tiny, TINY TINY TINY portion of reality
      2. we KNOW our physical tools are inadequate to study a large large portion of reality
      4. so we turn to math instead, which tells us that yes there are many dimensions of reality
      1. True.
      2. Also true, which is why we build new tools.
      3. There is no three.
      4. Math is a tool we have used and is often the best tool even when physical ones are available.(I have a right triangle with legs measuring 3 and 4 lightyears - use math to tell me the third side measures 5, or find a really big tape measure?)


      Quote Originally Posted by juroara View Post
      and....
      3. there is no universal law of how to percieve reality!!! Where is the universal law that says all beings must percieve blue the same way as the next being percieves blue?
      Here's 3!

      3. There is no universal law for this, UNLESS the beings perceiving reality are in the same frame of reference.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frame_of_reference

      Einstein came up with the Special Theory of Relativity in 1905, which states that things must be in the same reference frame to observe things in the same way.

      As for the blue thing, it doesn't matter whether or not the blue I see is the blue you see, we both say the sky is blue. What we see doesn't matter, it's a case of what we see compared to whatever else we see.



      Quote Originally Posted by juroara View Post
      Suddenly when we realize the human being never percieves reality directly, that his reality is and always has been his own unique and special subjective understanding of reality....................that subjective reality is once again important and crucial to understanding what is reality!! no longer can we so boldy know, what is.......and isn't.........
      I see a cloud. You see the same cloud. Random Person #3 sees the cloud. The cloud is real, we all know it to be.

      I get drunk and see a pink elephant. You don't see it. Person #3 doesn't see it. It isn't real, not all confirm it to be.



      Quote Originally Posted by juroara View Post
      the objective study is slapped in the face! and all those meaningless experiences, could in fact be the most important

      Do you understand? It's not up for science to tell us what is real. It never was!

      Science is just a tool created by man to serve man. To enrich our lives. And for no other purpose. And if our lives were about meditating and dreaming, then thats what science studies.....................
      So then what is to tell us what is real? Science isn't some powerful institution, the first scientists were tribal shamans experimenting with the effects of plants, then astrologists studying the sky, then alchemists trying to convert metals to gold. It's always been that way, it wasn't until the scientists started saying things that disagreed with holy texts that religions decided to throw a collective fit and declare them separate.


      Quote Originally Posted by juroara View Post
      there is a greater holistic science thats emerging. this new science holds the human experience on a pedestal, unlike the old science which denies half of the human experience by calling it a meaningless and erronous hallucination.
      What science is this?

      Quote Originally Posted by juroara View Post
      though it has no objective proof that is a hallucination, only that the experience did not fit their model of what is reality. maybe its not the experience that was wrong.......maybe it was their model of reality????
      One hallucination < Years of experimenting with trial and error. It's not like we are clinging to one hopeless model, the LHC at CERN is looking for the final piece of the puzzle that is the Standard Model. Find it or not, we are going to have some revising to do.


      Quote Originally Posted by juroara View Post
      thanks to this new science, and its holistic approach, we have new ways to describe and talk about the supernatural. of which there is no supernatural. just another process of nature that is completely natural. and while the old science has things in little boxes where by quantum physics doesn't affect biology, this new science understands that yes...quantum fucking physics does fucking affect biology!!
      Quote Originally Posted by juroara View Post
      and the OLD biology class tells you, you are composed of mushy solid cells. end of story.
      What exactly are you speaking of when you talk about biology being affected by quantum mechanics? It's always been affected by quantum mechanics, our "old biology" seems to be holding water.


      Quote Originally Posted by juroara View Post
      the new science starts off the day right. YOU ARE ENERGY. Your thoughts are waves of energy. And everything is energy. And you only percieve it as solid.
      Special Relativity predicts mass-energy equivalence. We are made of matter, therefore made of energy. Our thoughts are electrical impulses or chemicals therefore matter. However, it isn't just perceived to be solid, it's one of the forms energy can take.

    9. #9
      DuB
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      First it is necessary to clarify that we are referring to the same idea when we speak of "dualism." Dualism, in the present sense, refers to the idea that our mind exists, at least to some degree, outside of and separate from our physical brain. With that aside...
      Quote Originally Posted by juroara View Post
      every night is living proof that we are dualistic creatures. do you realize who it is that you speak with when you speak with a character in a dream? how many times have you been fooled into thinking it someone other than you?

      what kind of creature speaks with itself? and doesn't even know its speaking with itself? but a dualistic creature?
      Quote Originally Posted by juroara View Post
      or even, why do we have to very different brain halves? that can act independently of each other?
      • Regarding non-lucid dreams as proof of dualism; this is complete non-sequitur. How does mistakenly believing a dream character to be an actual person prove, or even suggest, that our mind exists outside of our brain? You explicitly point out that we are mistaken in believing dream characters to be separate entities, and then somehow turn around and suggest - from what I can tell - that this erroneous belief is evidence of a dialogue between the separate entities of brain and mind? Contradiction much?
      • Regarding the existence of two hemispheres of the brain; this is a non-sequitur to the point of being completely irrelevant to the topic at hand. You seem to be grasping onto the fact that there are two brain hemispheres and then making some unfathomable logical leap to concluding that this implies two bases of the human mind - physical and non-physical - all the while offering zero argument beyond a rhetorical question. How does this even begin to make sense?
      Quote Originally Posted by juroara View Post
      You basically said there are two possibilities

      1. either the information of our being is in the brain, we have no soul or
      2. its not the brain because we have a soul

      why isn't it both at the same time? Why cant that information exist in the brain and without? Why does it have to be one or the other?
      You read an awful lot into my post, considering that all I said was that you were taking a "dualist perspective."

      At no point did I break it down to only those two possibilities. I allow for the possibility that the mind may be varying degrees of each (although this is not what I personally believe).

      Quote Originally Posted by juroara View Post
      what is science too chicken to address? anything that a scientist doesn't what to consider as being reality
      ...
      here is the big problem for our western, objective, material science. it decided to say what is reality and what isnt. Which was a mistake! Such a bold declaration! Not unlike christianity so sure of itself of what is and isn't.
      Quote Originally Posted by juroara View Post
      materialistic science in the past has tried to tell us that if you experience something other wordly that can't be proven, it was nothing more but a hallucination. just your brain for what ever illogical reason in the face of evolution, just decided to make things up arbitrarily, for no reason at all just because it can
      ...
      though they haven't given us any real explanation why people hallucinate the most meaningful life altering experiences. why an erronous brain fuck would do that???
      • You are mistaken; scientists do not attempt to dictate the nature of reality. Rather, they consider all the possible explanations and they say, "Show me the data." Thus far, the data has supported the notion that so-called "other worldly" phenomena (I assume you are referring to out-of-body experiences and the like, since you've once again been terribly vague) are most parsimoniously explained as physical brain-based phenomena. A full treatment of this topic is outside the scope of this thread, but if you are interested you can begin here.
      • Actually they have very coherent explanations for why an "erroneous brain fuck" would produce phenomena such as OOBEs; see the link that I just posted. I should additionally point out that one's subjective evaluation of the "significance" of a given event has no bearing whatsoever on what caused that event.
      Quote Originally Posted by juroara View Post
      scientists have had it written in stone..there is NOTHING outside of the physical world. not becuase their science has told them so.........oh no....they made this declaration even before they understood what a dream was! they made this declaration because religion caused them personal injury
      • Science does not assert that there is nothing beyond the material. Rather, it asserts that explanations invoking immaterial/supernatural causes are neither useful nor necessary for explaining phenomena in the natural world, and thus should not be considered (cf. Occam's Razor).
      • Science has been personally injured by religion? Oh please. Dubious veracity aside (I can't recall ever being personally offended or injured by religion), how is this discussion even relevant to the topic at hand?
      Quote Originally Posted by juroara View Post
      so why is it that every time I read about this idea of there being multiple/higher dimensions in a scientific text, that the world spirit never comes up? and why do people try so hard to argue that these beings in other dimensions aren't the very same spirits religions world wide have spoken about since man has walked on the earth, when the understanding of the nature of these beings is the same?

      .........denial???
      I smell a straw man. I challenge you to provide me with even one instance of a scientific consensus that there exists some sort of extra-dimensional being(s).

      Your next few paragraphs apparently advance the idea that individual differences in perception refute the existence of an objective reality, which is a position that I will not even dignify with a response (take it to the Philosophy forum). Which brings me to:
      Quote Originally Posted by juroara View Post
      there is a greater holistic science thats emerging. this new science holds the human experience on a pedestal...
      ...thanks to this new science, and its holistic approach, we have new ways to describe and talk about the supernatural. of which there is no supernatural. just another process of nature that is completely natural. and while the old science has things in little boxes where by quantum physics doesn't affect biology, this new science understands that yes...quantum fucking physics does fucking affect biology!!
      ...
      the new science starts off the day right. YOU ARE ENERGY. Your thoughts are waves of energy. And everything is energy. And you only percieve it as solid.
      Please tell me more about this "new science." Got any links?
      Last edited by DuB; 04-19-2009 at 09:39 AM.

    10. #10
      Sleeping Dragon juroara's Avatar
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      "Now that you mention it, never."

      so you are some powerful lucid dreamer that never once in your entire life time was fooled into believing a dream at the time was reality? a reality outside of your self?

      thats quite the ego you have, but I'm more honest. my dreams have fooled me loads of times into thinking I was talking to another being. when I was only talking to my subconscious, which is apart of myself

      "The individual parts in the halves act independently of one another as well, but we only have one stream of thoughts."


      dualism is not the belief in two streams of thoughts. the dualism I am referring to is the trap of seeing the world in two outcomes. a black and white thinking. a left or right brain thinking. rather than a unification of the two halves. ask questions. why do we have two halves? why couldn't we have evolved with only a unified brain? why is one side of the brain more feminine and the other more masculine?

      are you so sure you've only had one stream of thoughts?

      why is it when you lie to others, your body warns others that you are lying? why is that even if you lie to yourself that everything is okay, your body again warns others that there is something emotionally wrong? who then is keeping us honest? are all thoughts words in our heads? can't a thought be wordless?

      have you never had conflicting thoughts?

      never heard music in your head you couldn't quiet?

      "Prove we have souls and we can start trying to see if information is stored as both at the same time."

      don't bring in that word proof. the comment was simply that the need to describe that information is either or either isn't in the brain is a dualistic one. in other words, the circular logic of religion versus science. where as spirituality has no problem seeing both and accepting both simultaneously. something materialists having trouble understanding

      "If you hallucinate, it means something in the brain broke or messed up. This is usually temporarily, brought on by drugs, heat stroke, exhaustion, etc."

      have you ever asked, who is that decides you have hallucinated? most people who hallucinate, KNOW they are hallucinating.

      every morning we wake up, and even if we weren't lucid in the dream we say "ahh..now I am finally awake." there seems to be some mechanism, some way of knowing what is the waking reality once you are actually awake! argumentative, yes, but for the most part, most of us trust our waking judgment to decide what is waking reality

      sure its failed us in dreams. but not in the morning.

      what if someone wasn't exhausted? what if they weren't under the influence of drugs? what if what they supposedly hallucinated was witnessed by others? and what if it was broad daylight? and you still go to them and say that their experience was a hallucination. and that it was a group hallucination, despite that the event was instant and spontaneous. and group hallucinations require an incubation time. despite not having any evidence what so ever that they did hallucinate.

      only that their experience went against someones notion of reality.


      why are we so afraid to trust their judgment? they know when they wake up. they know when they are drunk. they know when they see crap when they are drunk or high. yet you can't trust their waking and sober judgment? why? what are you afraid of? what bubble will burst if they speak the truth?

      "Our brains decide what "meaningful life altering experiences" are; doesn't it make sense that if the brain makes something seem to happen, the neuron that judges the effects of it might get tangled up too?"

      tangled up neurons? is that what you think love is? the depth of experiencing absolute love and universal unity, and you call it tangled up neurons? lol

      "Actually, science does tell us there is nothing outside of the physical world(everything is physical, depending on what you call "physical")"

      and I don't believe in the supernatural, and I believe the astral is physical! moot

      "Also, not all scientists study what they do because they dislike religion. Science =/= atheism."

      all of my comments are directed at the materialistic scientist, who is the product of religion. hates religion, and argues with fundamentalists all day long. and has a need to believe there is nothing outside of his idea of reality! which he calls the physical.

      "I would say the definition differs maybe a little more than a little bit.
      Scientist: Cool, a being from a higher dimension! Let's make friends!
      Average Classical Mystic: A SPIRIT! MUST FEAR/WORSHIP!"


      no, the definition is the same. you are just displaying a misunderstanding of spirituality, and holding it to some dark age religion. mystics neither fear or worship spirits. for one, they believe they are spirits. do they fear or worship themselves?

      "Like what?"

      I already gave you an example. There are many others. How about the relationship of sound and form. Mystics described that relationship thousands of years before science could.........What is the materialists answer for this being? Oh...a COINCIDENCE

      "Spirits aren't mentioned because we are using different definitions of "dimension""


      says who? says you!! and thousands of other materialists who think spirituality must only talk about the supernatural. spiritual people have use string theory to talk about their beliefs. science has not gone against their understanding of what is and isn't.

      "If we didn't say what's real and what isn't, how can we possibly discuss anything?"

      don't worry, you're bubble won't burst. not today. maybe tomorrow.

      "There is no universal law for this"

      good. keep it that way. how many ways can you experience reality? my friend is scitzo. but he admits he misses the in depth conversations he used to have with this imaginary friends. maybe they werent imaginary. maybe he is constantly dreaming unless he takes drugs. and sees manifestations of his subconscious, where by speaking with his manifestations he can learn about himself.

      we decided not only what is reality, BUT HOW TO PERCEIVE REALITY. and we decided that he was hallucinating. and that his hallucinations were meaningless

      he's walking the path of buddhism, and has actually thought of not taking the drugs, at least for some time. so that he can self reflect with those imaginary beings - that he consciously knows are manifestations of his mind

      sure, you can call him crazy. he knows it, he takes drugs. but its not like the hallucinations can mind control him. his desire to speak with his minds manifestations consciously is not unlike a lucid dreamer desiring to speak with a dream character

      "As for the blue thing, it doesn't matter whether or not the blue I see is the blue you see, we both say the sky is blue. What we see doesn't matter, it's a case of what we see compared to whatever else we see."

      you took the comment so literally. you're not understanding. let me ask you this.

      what is the correct way to perceive reality?

      "I see a cloud. You see the same cloud. Random Person #3 sees the cloud. The cloud is real, we all know it to be."

      my argument is of perception. not that there is no objective reality. I believe there is. but all living things have a perception of reality. we never see the objective reality directly.

      never forget that you only perceive reality based on the signals your brain receives. never forget, your physical receptors only see a tiny tiny tiny, if not less than 1% of the reality AROUND YOU RIGHT NOW.

      whats the point? you know what the point is. what if we could percieve a greater portion of reality? what would happen?.......what would you experience?............something known as spiritual?

      "So then what is to tell us what is real?"

      You

      "What science is this?"

      Science has always been our method of understanding the truth of our reality. To serve mankind, and fulfill mankinds desire to know the truth of things. At some point science decided, it wasn't going to look at the subjective reality. Despite it being so important to humanity. Science is what we ask it to be. Without humanity, science does not exist.

      Science is materialistic because we have asked it to be

      "What exactly are you speaking of when you talk about biology being affected by quantum mechanics?"


      I am talking about our perception that there are different fields of science. When science is one continuous motion. People say what happens at the quantum level does not affect biology *observer affect*....I say......how can it not?

      "However, it isn't just perceived to be solid, it's one of the forms energy can take"

      Then why is my body resonating a frequency? As if I were a violin strung? What is the relationship of sound and form? When does something stop being sound, and start being form?

      are we forms resonating? or are we waves of energy expressing form?

      You seem so sure of it all. So certain you know what is and isn't and the proper way to perceive what is and isn't.

      I'm just asking questions.

    11. #11
      Member Photolysis's Avatar
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      yet you can't trust their waking and sober judgment? why? what are you afraid of? what bubble will burst if they speak the truth?
      Because even when sober our mind can be fooled. There are many illusions that can easily demonstrate this. Are you that uninformed that you think a sober mind is immune to misinterpretation, errors, hallucinations, not to mention "glitches" in the way our minds work?

      The human body is very powerful, but it has many many limitations. Trusting our senses only is a foolish way to determine the nature of reality.

      I find your ramblings about western science very amusing, since not only do you project a whole bunch of characteristics such as the nonsense that

      it decided to say what is reality and what isnt
      When all they say is "provide evidence for this conclusion before I will take it seriously", but you don't seem to appreciate that endless non-scientific speculation on the mind has gotten us Nowhere.

      ll of my comments are directed at the materialistic scientist, who is the product of religion. hates religion, and argues with fundamentalists all day long. and has a need to believe there is nothing outside of his idea of reality! which he calls the physical.
      This sounds like a reverse projection of yourself. Why do you constantly do that, you always try and tell people what they believe (often being very far of the mark), instead of actually listening to what they say. If you spent more time listening to people and less time replacing their words with your imagined ones, you might be more informed on the subjects you decide to comment on, at least with regards to science anyway.

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      Sleeping Dragon juroara's Avatar
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      "First it is necessary to clarify that we are referring to the same idea when we speak of "dualism." Dualism, in the present sense, refers to the idea that our mind exists, at least to some degree, outside of and separate from our physical brain. With that aside..."

      Unfortunately, I didn't limit my understanding of dualism to that definition. My understanding of dualism comes from a spiritual background, where dualism is the root of evil. In other words, division.

      My example of the non-lucid dreams as dualism, was not an example of your dualism. But the dualism of not recognizing the self.
      • You seem to be grasping onto the fact that there are two brain hemispheres and then making some unfathomable logical leap to concluding that this implies two bases of the human mind - physical and non-physical
      I'm sorry for the confusion. What I was trying to get at that our very notion of dualism could be stemming from us having two halves. Two brain halves that function and view reality very different. Two halves, one yin, one yang, with contradicting ways of approaching reality. Two halves that don't always communicate properly, and things can get.........lost in translation

      "A full treatment of this topic is outside the scope of this thread, but if you are interested you can begin here."

      you're right, its way to big to talk about here. in short, spirituality does not expect something supernatural to be occuring in the brain. Nor does it rely on the brain to know reality when it sees it.

      "Science has been personally injured by religion?"

      scientists. there are many materialistic scientists who grew up with bitter memories of religious dogma. even now, they through hissy fits if someone even mentions spirituality and science based on some false notion it must include religion. based on some false notion that this means we need a supernatural "God did it" explanation. When spirituality is not asking for a God-did-it explanation. Were perfectly happy with science telling us how the universe goes round. the difference is a matter of perception.

      "Your next few paragraphs apparently advance the idea that individual differences in perception refute the existence of an objective reality, which is a position that I will not even dignify with a response (take it to the Philosophy forum). Which brings me tolease tell me more about this "new science." Got any links?"

      years ago my friend told me they have proven without a doubt that people who see spirits are just hallucinating. he then tells me the evidence. that they observed someones brain receiving signals, signals telling them that someone was present in the room. When nobody was. Thus absolute evidence that all ghosts were hallucinations.

      I shook my head and said no, it was only evidence she percieved something not physically present in the room. Which, at the time, ghosts weren't considered physical any way. So it was evidence for no one.

      My argument was not that there is no objective reality. THERE IS!! My argument is that we do not perceieve the objective reality directly. We have a tiny human point of view of reality. AND I MEAN TINY.

      But what happens if a human can percieve more of this objective reality??? What will we see happening in the brain? But a person receiving signals that they have perceived something you didn't? You call it a hallucination. They claim the experience was as real as day. How can you prove them wrong?

      Do you understand? The scientists expected something strange and supernatural to be happening in the brain as evidence of the supernatural. The problem is how our brain perceives reality, perceives the dream, or something 'supernatural' is exactly the same. There is no differiation.

      So how can we look to the brain to tell us what did or didn't happen? The brain can't even tell us when we are dreaming or when we aren't dreaming. And I mean as you in the person, the brain doesn't tell you. Most of us are fooled into thinking its the waking.

      The brain doesn't tell us what is and what isn't. As it does not actually decide what is real and what isn't. Everything that happens to the brain is a reality. As the brain is trapped in a body, relying on it's body to give it messages about the objective world around it. It never deals in it directly, so it does not measure what is and isn't.

      What if every morning you woke up some place new? Wouldnt the waking become just as illusionary as a dream? We use the larger picture, continuity, patterns to DECIDE what is and isn't. But if we have a tiny perception of reality, then our decision is always wrong.

      Why is spirituality still strong today in the face of science poking around the brain? Because we understand that the brain doesn't actually decide what is reality. It merely perceives reality. Then how do we know if these hallucinations are....or aren't?? We put those so called random hallucinations together, examined them all. What did we find?

      Continuity. A really big picture.

    13. #13
      Sleeping Dragon juroara's Avatar
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      Quote Originally Posted by Photolysis View Post
      Nowhere.
      you don't understand my point of view, thats all I can say. And I'm sorry you feel its gotten us nowhere

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      DuB
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      Right, so if you're finished now, let's get this thread back on track with the brain/mind discussion, shall we?

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      Sleeping Dragon juroara's Avatar
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      you asked if science can tell you about the mind? I said science is too materialistic right now to do so, having forgotten the virtue of our subjective/perception of reality. you're better off looking else where

    16. #16
      DuB
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      I asked if the discipline of 'cognitive neuroscience' can give us meaningful insight into the mind. You responded that science in general is inadequate as a source of knowledge - which is a discussion for another time.

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      This is my title. Licity's Avatar
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      I think that cognitive neuroscience only has real applications if taken as far as possible. You can figure out what a computer is doing by watching the individual parts. If the modem isn't doing anything, it's a safe bet that whatever the computer is up to, it doesn't involve the Internet. However, knowing there is no Internet connection isn't a particularly important piece of knowledge.

      Watching bloodflow would help us build a better simulation, as in theory #1. Ideally, we would have an absolutely flawless virtual clone of a person's brain to work with. If we wanted to know how someone would react to a situation, just load the situation and put the virtual clone in it to observe how they act.

      Until we get that far, cognitive neuroscientists will have to settle for long stretches of no major discoveries.

      I think cracking the neural code would work wonders for advancing this branch of science, you could potentially set up a scanner to watch the impulses in the brain as a person thinks about something to map out which neurons are activating. I would bet that a perfect simulation is impossible without understanding each of the very smallest functional pieces of the brain. Going much smaller than that isn't worthwhile, a proton is a proton no matter where it is.

    18. #18
      DuB
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      Quote Originally Posted by Licity View Post
      I think that cognitive neuroscience only has real applications if taken as far as possible. You can figure out what a computer is doing by watching the individual parts. If the modem isn't doing anything, it's a safe bet that whatever the computer is up to, it doesn't involve the Internet. However, knowing there is no Internet connection isn't a particularly important piece of knowledge.
      Now this is an analogy I can work with . That really is descriptive of the way (and extent) that cognitive neuroscience informs us about brain/mind activity.

      I'm not sure exactly what you mean by "taken as far as possible," though - could you expand on that? I suspect that you are referring to the quote immediately below, but I'm not entirely sure:
      Quote Originally Posted by Licity View Post
      Watching bloodflow would help us build a better simulation, as in theory #1. Ideally, we would have an absolutely flawless virtual clone of a person's brain to work with. If we wanted to know how someone would react to a situation, just load the situation and put the virtual clone in it to observe how they act.
      Indeed, that would be immense - but I don't think this is something that is going to happen in our lifetimes. Probably the closest thing we have to achieving this right now is work being done with artificial neural networks, i.e., computer models of cognition. This gets at the basic objective of a complete brain/mind model, but is still pretty limited in scope.

      Quote Originally Posted by Licity View Post
      I think cracking the neural code would work wonders for advancing this branch of science, you could potentially set up a scanner to watch the impulses in the brain as a person thinks about something to map out which neurons are activating. I would bet that a perfect simulation is impossible without understanding each of the very smallest functional pieces of the brain. Going much smaller than that isn't worthwhile, a proton is a proton no matter where it is.
      One thing to keep in mind is that figuring out the neural code won't automatically improve our measurement technology. It is currently possible to sort of "listen to" very small groups of neurons as they function in the nervous system - they are too densely intertwined to eavesdrop on individual cells - but even doing this is a complex and highly invasive procedure involving surgically inserting a series of tiny electrodes into nervous tissue - something done occasionally with animals, but I'm not sure if it's ever been done with human subjects. If so, then on very rare occasion.

      The point is that, currently, no form of "scanner" is capable of measurements this precise. I'm reasonably confident that sometime in the future we will have this technology. Hopefully that will be sooner rather than later.

      The article in the OP is primarily inspired by a single editorial article in an academic journal on brain science. Needless to say, this article provoked many responses by scholars in the field, some supporting the author's views and some opposing (most opposing, not surprisingly). I've procured the original article as well as several of the response articles and am currently reading through them, so hopefully before too long (it's several dozen pages of reading if I choose to go through it all) I'll have some more insight on this topic.

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      This is my title. Licity's Avatar
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      Quote Originally Posted by DuB View Post

      I'm not sure exactly what you mean by "taken as far as possible," though - could you expand on that? I suspect that you are referring to the quote immediately below, but I'm not entirely sure
      Yea, I was talking about the perfect simulation.

    20. #20
      Xei
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      Pinning down the neural code would certainly do wonders for our understanding of the brain on the physiological level, but what of the mind?
      Personally I equate the two. I don't really associate the neural code with physiology at all, or indeed anything remotely biological; I associate it with the fundamentals of consciousness. That is to say, if we cracked how the brain actually functions, and then emulated the same logical structure on a computer, we would effectively be creating consciousness.

      I think there is definitely something lacking in reductionism. As far as I see it, reductionism leads incontrivertably to philosophical zombies. In reductionism, asbolutely no objective reality is given to causal systems. However, it must be the case that such systems have objective reality; it is the most intimate and unshakable piece of knowledge that we possess. What do you think?

      Regarding the value of cracking the neural code; personally I still think top-down measures such as MRI are pretty much useless. What do they tell you? They tell you that brain function is highly departmentalised in space... and that's pretty much it.

      If we're going to understand how the brain works as a system - that is, how the mind works - we are going to have to liberate the entire study from a physical object, and I think the only way of doing this is to work out how the fundamental units actually function.

      I believe, perhaps largely on faith, that the neural code will be simple. Maybe it will vary for very different processes - such as memory contrasted with perception - but ultimately I believe that there will be some sort of fundamental architecture, such as binary for computing. I think this because I find the alternative absurd; that every single neuron could function in a completely isolated, ad hoc means.

      A particular quote that sticks in my mind is from, I think, the scientist running IBM's Blue Brain project. He quite frankly stated that the entire field was currently just waiting for some kind of simple conceptual breakthrough.

    21. #21
      DuB
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      Quote Originally Posted by Xei View Post
      Personally I equate the two.
      Right, well it's really just a semantic distinction . Clearly they are the same in the sense that one constitutes the other. Referring to one or the other serves mainly to emphasize a particular level of analysis; brain being the biological level and mind being the abstract/representational level. You'll notice that in my last few posts I've taken to referring to the system as the "brain/mind" - perhaps not the most elegant or original label, but I do feel that it most accurately conveys what we're both referring to.

      Quote Originally Posted by Xei View Post
      I still think top-down measures such as MRI are pretty much useless. What do they tell you? They tell you that brain function is highly departmentalised in space... and that's pretty much it.
      But are not strictly bottom-up approaches equally useless?
      (And just as an aside: MRI - and I'm sure you mean fMRI since classic MRI gives structural but not functional information - would not really be considered a top-down approach, since it doesn't deal with the most abstract units of analysis, e.g., goals, attitudes, beliefs, etc. Functional neuroimaging is really more of mid-level approach. I get your point though.)

      I'm having a difficult time reconciling the other parts of your post. You criticize strict reductionism, but your ideas of how best to tackle the brain/mind system strike me as greedily reductionist...?

      One more thing:
      Quote Originally Posted by Xei View Post
      What do you think?
      I don't quite follow you when you say, "In reductionism, asbolutely no objective reality is given to causal systems." Can you clarify this for me?

    22. #22
      Xei
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      In a nutshell, I do not think of the mind as a physical, biological object. I consider it to be the result of a system; the system being an abstract object, in this case a network. Therefore I think the only way to properly study the mind is to study the abstract system and how it works; I consider the physical brain and where, for example, certain cognitive functions are located in space, to be of no consequence (unless it turns out that space itself plays a fundamental role in the system, but I very much doubt this).

      So, I am not really a reductionist; in fact, quite the opposite. Although indeed I disgregard the physical brain when discussing the mind, this is only because I consider the physical brain disctinct from the mind, so by modelling the mind as an algorithm, I am not actually reducing anything; because an algorithm is precisely what I consider the mind to be.

      I find my views to be totally opposite to those of reductionism. According to reductionism, systems are not 'real' things; they have no objective reality. Systems are viewed as being, at best, just ways of modelling or simplifying a large number of parts. The only objective reality is given to the parts themselves.

      I however consider systems to have real, objective existence... and I find this really quite beautiful. It implies that there is more to reality than the physical; and that concepts, which in reductionism are really just taken to be illusions, can actually be real.

      I base this view on the existence of consciousness; qualia, etcetera. Consciousness is a binary thing - it exists or it does not - and apparently it is only associated with systems, regardless of their physical bases. People would still act exactly the same in a reductionist world, but I see no reason that reductionism would predict any consciousness to exist. There would only be physical bodies (i.e. the concept of philosophical zombies), moving around.

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      DuB
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      I see. So in your view, the human mind is an emergent property of the brain - i.e., constituted by the brain, but nevertheless "more than the sum of its parts." Additionally, this "mind algorithm" could potentially be implemented in a system other than the brain. Do I have that right?

      While I can accept this in principle, it raises important practical issues.

      1. As already noted, any given algorithm - being simply a set of rules - can necessarily be physically implemented in multiple ways. For example, I can implement the algorithm of subtraction using either a hand-held calculator or my fingers. The point here is that because of this fact, for a given system, knowledge of the algorithm in itself gives us no important information as to the specific physical implementation of that algorithm. Therefore, knowledge of the "mind algorithm" necessarily cannot tell us any more about the physical brain than knowledge of subtraction tells us about my calculator.

      Now, I expect that you will think, "Yes, and that is just fine." However, for most scientists this is not just fine, for a few reasons. The first reason is that many scientists are simply inherently interested in the brain. Even supposing that we had access to this mind algorithm and had the technological means to implement it in other systems beside the brain, for many scientists this wouldn't make the study of the brain (as a physical implementation of the mind algorithm) one bit less interesting. The second reason relates to the other practical issue I mentioned above (which I describe below).

      2. While it may be possible in principle to implement this mind algorithm in other systems once we have discovered it, I do not think it will be possible for us to discover the mind algorithm in the first place without detailed information about the known physical implementation (i.e., the brain/nervous system) to constrain and inform this discovery process.

      Now, I can't assert that doing so would be objectively impossible - but I will say that I don't think we ever will or ever should solve the problem this way. By this second point (that we shouldn't approach it this way), what I mean is that even if we could do so in principle, wouldn't it just be quicker and easier to use neurobiological information to constrain and guide us in devising the mind algorithm? Studying the action of neurons and biological neural networks can give us very important clues about the rules of the mind algorithm that they ultimately implement. If we accept that this is the case, we see that the physical brain is anything but irrelevant.

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      This is my title. Licity's Avatar
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      I would think the physical brain is of critical importance when studying the mind, if the mind is taken to be an abstraction rising from the neural network. Why? Simple. Millions of years of evolution have singled out the human brain as being the best natural structure for using the mind algorithm. Brains differ from species to species, and species clearly have different levels of intelligence, doesn't it make sense that the hardware the algorithm is computed on makes a difference?

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      Xei
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      In our case, the brain is where the system arises. However, in my view, if that brain were to be emulated on any other medium, it would be the same mind.

      What you said about the nature singling out the brain as the best natural structure: I disagree. Evolution is a heuristic thing. The physical attributes of the brain exist largely out of necessity and an inavailability of alternatives, or because that's just the way that evolution happened to go. During the gradual increase of complexity of various animal brains over history, evolution could not simply revamp the entire brain; it had to go with what it already had, in small steps, which is not necessarily the best way.
      I see. So in your view, the human mind is an emergent property of the brain - i.e., constituted by the brain, but nevertheless "more than the sum of its parts." Additionally, this "mind algorithm" could potentially be implemented in a system other than the brain. Do I have that right?
      Yes, essentially. You could replace the brain with any physical object which emulated the same algorithm.
      As already noted, any given algorithm - being simply a set of rules - can necessarily be physically implemented in multiple ways. For example, I can implement the algorithm of subtraction using either a hand-held calculator or my fingers. The point here is that because of this fact, for a given system, knowledge of the algorithm in itself gives us no important information as to the specific physical implementation of that algorithm. Therefore, knowledge of the "mind algorithm" necessarily cannot tell us any more about the physical brain than knowledge of subtraction tells us about my calculator.
      I'm not really sure what you mean by this. Both algorithms have the same outputs, which is what most scientists would find interesting.
      Now, I can't assert that doing so would be objectively impossible - but I will say that I don't think we ever will or ever should solve the problem this way. By this second point (that we shouldn't approach it this way), what I mean is that even if we could do so in principle, wouldn't it just be quicker and easier to use neurobiological information to constrain and guide us in devising the mind algorithm? Studying the action of neurons and biological neural networks can give us very important clues about the rules of the mind algorithm that they ultimately implement. If we accept that this is the case, we see that the physical brain is anything but irrelevant.
      Well, of course, we'd need to study the brain first to find out the algorithm... I never suggested we should do otherwise; I don't see how else it could be done really (in fact this is precisely what I hope to be doing in my career).

      However as I said earlier, the algorithm is only implemented in the medium of the brain because that is all that is available or possible.

      Interesting news today, by the way: the Blue Brain project has finally finished stage 1. They've got a complete virtual simulation of the fundamental functional unit of the brain. Now they've got to start looking at how it works. They say simulating the human brain is just a matter of scale.

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8012496.stm
      Last edited by Xei; 04-22-2009 at 09:04 PM.

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