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Fri May 9, 2014, 11:03 PM

 

Consciousness: often even scientifically minded people make unscientific assumptions

Last edited Tue May 13, 2014, 03:27 PM - Edit history (1)

when the subject of consciousness comes up, including Richard Dawkins in this thread posted here a few days ago: http://www.democraticunderground.com/1218128811

Richard Dawkins' own words: http://old.richarddawkins.net/articles/91-to-live-at-all-is-miracle-enough

We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.

Moralists and theologians place great weight upon the moment of conception, seeing it as the instant at which the soul comes into existence. If, like me, you are unmoved by such talk, you still must regard a particular instant, nine months before your birth, as the most decisive event in your personal fortunes. It is the moment at which your consciousness suddenly became trillions of times more foreseeable than it was a split second before....

The lottery starts before we are conceived. Your parents had to meet, and the conception of each was as improbable as your own. And so on back, through your four grandparents and eight great grandparents, back to where it doesn't bear thinking about....

...The odds of your century being the one in the spotlight are the same as the odds that a penny, tossed down at random, will land on a particular ant crawling somewhere along the road from New York to San Francisco. In other words, it is overwhelmingly probable that you are dead.

In spite of these odds, you will notice that you are, as a matter of fact, alive. People whom the spotlight has already passed over, and people whom the spotlight has not reached, are in no position to read a book....

...But we as individuals are still hugely blessed. Privileged, and not just privileged to enjoy our planet. More, we are granted the opportunity to understand why our eyes are open, and why they see what they do, in the short time before they close for ever.


Most genes likely don't influence what conscious-self is created, so you can't really use all of the potential genetic combinations as a guide to determine the chances that your conscious-self could have come into existence. But Richard Dawkins does start down the path making the odds of each of our conscious-selves coming into existence close to an impossibility. When your views on reality make reality next to impossible, you should change your views.

So in the infinite time that has ever existed or will ever exist Richard Dawkins implies that each of us only get one chance at life at most, though he claims that most potential conscious-selves will never come into existence. This make each of our conscious-selves existing right now an impossibility, since one finite life time (at most) divided by infinite time equals zero – which are the chances that I could exist at any particular time, assuming there has and/or there will be infinite time in the multiverse.

But I exist right now. So something has to give. I cannot accept an impossible coincidence as truth. Richard Dawkins and numerous other people are not correct in their views on reality.

Many people seem to think something magical happens after you die. Some place in the great beyond there is a record of each of our conscious-selves exiting in this Universe. Once we've had one life we are checked off the list. So something that was possible just before you were conscious suddenly becomes impossible forever after.

There should be no change in the odds of a particular consciousness existing in the future regardless of whether it has existed in the past. It's magical thinking if you think nature keeps records of past lives.

The same physics that created our Universe likely created many other universes. This process likely has been going on forever and will continue forever. Through infinite time, everything that is possible will happen an infinite number of times. And the larger the multiverse the more often the possible will happen.

By my very own existence my consciousness is proven to be possible. It's impossible for us to know what natural brain process creates our conscious-selves, but all evidence is that each of our conscious-selves is created by a natural brain process. It is easy to explain my conscious existence right now with an infinite multiverse. There's no way that I don't exist. All potential conscious-selves have to always exist in an infinite multiverse. No impossible math is required.

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Reply Consciousness: often even scientifically minded people make unscientific assumptions (Original post)
cpwm17 May 2014 OP
unblock May 2014 #1
longship May 2014 #2
cpwm17 May 2014 #5
unblock May 2014 #6
cpwm17 May 2014 #9
skepticscott May 2014 #11
cpwm17 May 2014 #13
Igel May 2014 #14
cpwm17 May 2014 #20
unblock May 2014 #34
AleksS May 2014 #51
cpwm17 May 2014 #59
skepticscott May 2014 #35
cpwm17 May 2014 #36
intaglio May 2014 #3
skepticscott May 2014 #4
cpwm17 May 2014 #8
skepticscott May 2014 #10
cpwm17 May 2014 #12
Humanist_Activist May 2014 #41
edhopper May 2014 #7
LiberalAndProud May 2014 #15
cpwm17 May 2014 #21
LiberalAndProud May 2014 #24
cpwm17 May 2014 #40
cbayer May 2014 #16
cpwm17 May 2014 #22
cbayer May 2014 #23
Warren Stupidity May 2014 #25
pinto May 2014 #17
cbayer May 2014 #18
pinto May 2014 #19
arcane1 May 2014 #26
cbayer May 2014 #27
arcane1 May 2014 #28
cbayer May 2014 #29
arcane1 May 2014 #30
cbayer May 2014 #31
arcane1 May 2014 #32
Jim__ May 2014 #48
cbayer May 2014 #49
cpwm17 May 2014 #33
cbayer May 2014 #37
cpwm17 May 2014 #38
cbayer May 2014 #39
Warren Stupidity May 2014 #52
Humanist_Activist May 2014 #42
cbayer May 2014 #43
Humanist_Activist May 2014 #44
cbayer May 2014 #45
Humanist_Activist May 2014 #46
cbayer May 2014 #47
cpwm17 May 2014 #50
Humanist_Activist May 2014 #53
cpwm17 May 2014 #54
Humanist_Activist May 2014 #57
cpwm17 May 2014 #58
WovenGems May 2014 #55
cpwm17 May 2014 #56

Response to cpwm17 (Original post)

Fri May 9, 2014, 11:26 PM

1. your comments seem to rely heavily on "infinite", a term that doesn't appear in the dawkins extract

dawkins uses large numbers, not infinity. this seems to be a crucial distinction as for dawkins, reality is not only possible but obviously so, his point being that those currently alive are so quite against the odds.

i think he's simply maintaining that had your parents never met, or had a different set of gamete combined, *you* would never have existed. whatever person would have sprung into existence instead would have had a different consciousness and would not have been *you*.

i think a scientist could provide more precise numbers than dawkins offered, but that would hardly change the point.

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Response to unblock (Reply #1)

Sat May 10, 2014, 12:13 AM

2. Yup. You have it right.

And BTW, Richard Dawkins is a scientist, a biologist. I imagine he did not go into the numbers because people do not generally like numbers. And as those words were likely published in a work for the public instead of other scientists, Dawkins forgoes the analysis for a convenient metaphor.

I have read those words before and have heard Dawkins recite them. It is part of a kind of a love prose to his wife, Lala Ward.

Best regards,
LS

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Response to unblock (Reply #1)

Sat May 10, 2014, 07:41 AM

5. Richard Dawkins didn't bring up "infinite"

 

but I did, and for good reason. That's where his logic leads.

Even ignoring the infinite time that probably has and probably will ever exist, Richard Dawkins has made what is most important for me, my consciousness, at this very special moment, the present, close to impossible. Someone would win a trillion lotteries many times over before I would win the consciousness lottery in Richard Dawkins' version of reality.

Richard Dawkins is correct in that chance has to take a precise path to reach me with my exact genetic make-up. But I see no requirement that my consciousness requires my exact genes to create my conscious-self. That requirement makes my existence in this world virtually impossible.

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Response to cpwm17 (Reply #5)

Sat May 10, 2014, 07:50 AM

6. if your quibble is about the finite number of finite genes required to for your counscious-self

given that not all genes are involved in that creation (you'd still be you if your little toenail were slightly larger, for instance) then i'm really not following your logic because the size of the finite numbers doesn't matter at all if you're stuck on infinite numbers.

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Response to unblock (Reply #6)

Sat May 10, 2014, 08:38 AM

9. That was just minor aside concerning Richard Dawsons' assumptions

 

about what in our genes makes our conscious-selves.

Richard Dawsons, and a very large percentage of people in this world, make the faith-based assumption that once a particular consciousness has existed once it can never exist again. Plus, more important to Richard Dawsons' main point, he makes the claim that the chances for a particular consciousness to even exist once is extremely low.

I don't think my consciousness existing at this moment is a far-fetched, nearly impossible (or impossible if you consider time is infinite), coincidence. My consciousness is the most important thing I have and I believe my consciousness came into being by a reasonably possible natural process.

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Response to cpwm17 (Reply #9)

Sat May 10, 2014, 08:42 AM

11. No, you still don't understand the concept

 

of necessary improbability. Until you do, I'm afraid this will continue to confuse you.

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Response to skepticscott (Reply #11)

Sat May 10, 2014, 09:06 AM

13. I Googled it

 

I got no hits. I had to guess. So you tell me what it means.

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Response to cpwm17 (Reply #13)

Sat May 10, 2014, 10:32 AM

14. I got 133 hits.

"necessary improbability"

Let's say I number 5000 pennies (on the side, using massless ink) 1 to 5000. Each has a chance of 50% being heads if I drop it.

Now I define an outcome. Penny 1 is heads, penny 2 is heads, penny 3 is tails, penny 4 is heads, penny 5 is tails, penny 6 is tails ... and I go on, stipulating what the outcome is. The probability of that, IIRC, is 1 in 2^5000. One in 1.4 x 10^1505. That's pretty darned improbable.

In fact, that's the odds of *any* combination of heads and tails for those pennies. The one I stipulated. The one where all pennies are heads. The one where all pennies are tails. The one where all even numbered pennies are heads and the odds are tails, or vice-versa.

The probability of any outcome is vanishingly small. Only a fool would bet on any outcome. In fact, you could argue that since every outcome is so highly unlikely, there'll be no outcome--but that, again, would land us in fool territory.

I throw the pennies by handfuls up in the air so they fall down Baltimore's shot tower and land.

But look! There it is, an outcome. No matter how improbable that outcome, an outcome was necessary. It was a necessarily improbable event that happened. Improbability =/= impossible. In fact, if you sum up all those impossible odds you get 100: There had to be an outcome, however unlikely any outcome might be.

In the end, after the fact, the probability of that outcome is 100% by definition. It happened.

It works the same if there are two possible outcomes, one very improbable and one probable. There will be an outcome. And sometimes it will be the improbable one. After it happens, whatever the improbability before the event (in terms of prediction), its probability was 100% after the event (because it happened). As the Doctor would say, "It's not impossible, it's just highly implausible."

I might check back to see if I abduced the right meaning for the term. Perhaps SS will comment.

The term seems to have started in quasi-secular theological circles, dealing with the utter improbability of miracles being an argument against having miracles happen. A priori calculations don't mean must a posteriori.

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Response to Igel (Reply #14)

Sat May 10, 2014, 01:51 PM

20. Thanks for the nice reply

 

That's more or less what I meant by the first sentence in reply 8. All outcomes are improbable, including any particular series of coin flipping in your example. So if after the fact someone notes the improbability of your coin flipping results and claim some sort of an improbable miracle, they would be mistaken.

But, from my own selfish perspective, the series of improbable events that created my consciousness is very much not like the rest. It's more the equivalent of me predicting the exact series of improbable events that created my consciousness and getting it right, and with a probability much less than in your penny example.

Most likely (one can only guess since we don't know what in our brains creates each of our conscious-selves), if our present visible Universe were all there is, there would be no getting around the fact that my existence right now is likely a highly improbable event. But there is almost definitely far more beyond the visible horizon in our Universe and there are likely far more universes beyond our own. Due to the huge existence out there, what would be highly improbable becomes far less so.

From my selfish perspective, my existence right now is evidence that there is far more beyond our visible universe (to make my existence right now reasonably likely), and my existence right now is also evidence that I am experiencing one of an infinite past and future conscious-selves in the infinite time of all of existence.

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Response to cpwm17 (Reply #20)

Sat May 10, 2014, 09:07 PM

34. from your selfish perspective, with an understanding of this concept, you would recognize

that your wondering about the improbability of it all is in fact entirely mundane.

the parallel to the penny toss idea would be that it was always going to be the case that *someone* was going to be sitting there wondering about how improbable it was that *they* were the person that came into existence to ponder and wonder about it. from your selfish perspective, you know that the pennies had to land one way or another, there had to be an outcome. so someone had to come into existence. it happened to be you. if it had been someone else, they would have been wondering the same thing. nothing special about that.

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Response to unblock (Reply #34)

Sun May 11, 2014, 06:10 PM

51. I think it's also well analogized (is that a word?) by

I think it's also well analogized (is that a word?) by the lottery.

While it is vanishingly improbable that I will win, it is not nearly as unlikely that someone will win. And ultimately, when a guy does win it would be silly to tell him: "Hey, you really didn't win, since the chances of you winning were so darn low."

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Response to unblock (Reply #34)

Sun May 18, 2014, 09:59 PM

59. Not all improbable coincidences are created equal

 

Some improbable coincidences are clues to some deeper understanding.

Back when the Earth and some lights in the sky were all we knew, the improbable coincidence that the Earth also had intelligent life was difficult to explain. Some people may have claimed that shit happens and the Earth had to take some path, so this is the path it took. Of course many people also believed our complex Earth was evidence that it was all created by a super natural being.

Well all evidence is that they were both wrong. A much simpler and down to earth explanation works. There is a huge Universe out there and probably much outside our Universe. So what was extremely unlikely became probably almost guaranteed.

That is a similar logic proposed as evidence for the Multiverse. Our seemingly designed Universe, which has planets suitable for life, is one of many or infinite universes out there – with each universe having different conditions. With so many universes, inevitably there are universes suitable for life. Almost impossible shit didn't just happen: http://www.democraticunderground.com/1218129813#post40

The coincidences that created our Universe and our Earth as they are weren't anything like the coincidences that happen every day on this Earth: people win lotteries, people get jobs through an improbable sequence of events, evolution takes paths through improbable sequence of events. All of these things have happened enumerable times on this earth.

The most important fact for every conscious being is their consciousness itself. For anyone thinking about their own existence, they could rightfully ask themselves what is the most likely explanation for their own existence? Is there only one planet? (which makes my existence mathematically improbable). Is there only one Universe? (which makes my existence mathematically improbable). Do I only get one life in the infinite time of all existence? (which makes my existence at this moment mathematically impossible). I know that I am very possible so reasonable explanations are likely required to explain my existence.

Do you believe that of all of the conscious critters that have ever existed that none of their conscious-selves have ever returned in another conscious creature? Because, in additional to making each individual conscious-self mathematically impossible to only exist at a particular time in all of infinite existence, that would make each individual consciousness impossible to exist ever at all. Because if something is impossible to exist in the infinite past and the infinite future (before and after its current existence) then that same something is impossible to exist ever at all.

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Response to cpwm17 (Reply #13)

Sat May 10, 2014, 10:46 PM

35. The other two posters here have explained it nicely

 

For which I thank them. If you still don't have a grasp of it, I can't help you.

Not sure what to make of your reported inability to get any information on the Intertubes, given others easy success.

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Response to skepticscott (Reply #35)

Sat May 10, 2014, 11:04 PM

36. When you Google "necessary improbability"

 

you return "Improbability Principle" which I correctly assumed is what you were referring to since it potentially applies to this conversation. "Necessary improbability" didn't appear anywhere in the results. So your insult wasn't necessary.

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Response to cpwm17 (Original post)

Sat May 10, 2014, 06:20 AM

3. You are confusing large numbers, which are finite

with infinities, which by definition are not.

The Shannon number for chess is around 10[sup]43[/sup] and Avogadro's Constant is 6.022 x 10[sup]23[/sup]. Using large numbers can make a problem intractable but not unsolvable.

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Response to cpwm17 (Original post)

Sat May 10, 2014, 07:29 AM

4. You apparently don't understand the concept

 

of necessary improbability. If you had a grasp of that, there would be nothing unscientific or strange about what Dawkins is saying.

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Response to skepticscott (Reply #4)

Sat May 10, 2014, 08:13 AM

8. I can guess what "necessary improbability" means

 

When you come right down to it, everything in life happens through a series of improbable events. Sometimes you notice the improbability and you may attach a greater meaning to the improbability.

Creationists make this mistake. They see the series of improbable events required to evolve us as humans, as if the creation of humans was a long-tern goal of evolution. So creationists can't accept the claims of science and insist that a high power must have designed it all.

Evolution creating humans wasn't a goal. If not humans, evolution would have taken a different improbable path. But from the perspective of my consciousness, my consciousness is a goal. It's the most important fact of my existence. Any other path that doesn't lead to my consciousness is a big loss for me.

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Response to cpwm17 (Reply #8)

Sat May 10, 2014, 08:41 AM

10. Your particular consciousness was no more a "goal"

 

than any other result of evolution. Sorry about that. There's nothing out there for it to have been a goal of. It just happened.

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Response to skepticscott (Reply #10)

Sat May 10, 2014, 09:03 AM

12. From my perspective it is a goal

 

I can't accept that I won a nearly impossible or impossible lottery. Plus there is no reason that I have to accept that claim.

Consciousness is a natural process. A particular brain process creates a particular consciousness. How could it be that a natural process that was just recently able to create my current consciousness not able to achieve that very same natural process ever again? In science, once something is proven to be possible it is assumed to be possible again.

When you die, your consciousness returns to the exact same state it was in before you were alive. Without a natural record keeper, the future chances for you consciousness to return again after you die is exactly the same as your future chances had been before you were alive.

If you claim that there would be impossible odds for the natural process to recreate the same consciousness again after you die, then you would essentially be claiming that your current consciousness is impossible also.

But I am very possible. In an infinite multiverse through time, everything that is possible will happen an infinite number of times. Since my particular consciousness is proven to be possible, I must exist an infinite number of times through infinite time.

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Response to cpwm17 (Reply #12)

Sun May 11, 2014, 10:18 AM

41. Your consciousness is an emergent property of many different processes of the brain...

 

shaped by your memories, your biology, by your life and experiences. You can attempt, I guess, to recreate those processes, but it would be difficult to do so, and while there may be a lot of different yous who exist that are genetically identical in a large amount of universes, none of them are actually the you that I'm talking to now.

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Response to cpwm17 (Original post)

Sat May 10, 2014, 08:01 AM

7. I am sorry you spent

this much time trying to refute an argument he is not making and maybe trying to make a point yourself about consciousness, failing at both.

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Response to cpwm17 (Original post)

Sat May 10, 2014, 11:13 AM

15. Are you arguing that Dawkins claims you do not exist?

I don't think Dawkins means what you think he means.

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Response to LiberalAndProud (Reply #15)

Sat May 10, 2014, 02:09 PM

21. No, I just think he should rethink some of his assumptions concerning consciousness

 

From his perspective, each of our individual conscious-selves came into being through a series of highly improbable events. Though only implied and not at all a main point of his piece, he also indicates that each of our conscious-selves only get one chance at conscious life.

I pointed out that if there were a multiverse, infinite in time, my existence at this moment would be impossible if I only got one life.

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Response to cpwm17 (Reply #21)

Sat May 10, 2014, 04:47 PM

24. I'm not terribly familiar with theories of multiverse.

Isn't there a theory that suggests that at each point of possible divergence, the divergent reality creates another universe? If that is so, you already both exist and do not exist in billions of other universes. Since we can't possibly be aware of our parallel existences (however divergent), how does that speak to whether the you that is you in this universe has more than one life?

Good grief, I just gave myself a migraine.

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Response to LiberalAndProud (Reply #24)

Sun May 11, 2014, 09:31 AM

40. I've heard similar speculations concerning the multiverse

 

I like to keep it simple, since any details concerning multiverses are extremely speculative.

It seems that universes may be born in other dimensions, each with their own separate "Big Bang." And possibly there are higher dimensions containing many more multiverses. The size of all of reality could be staggering or infinite.

Here's what I consider as evidence for the multiverse: with only one universe the odds of having a seemingly designed universe with conditions suitable for life are extremely small. This apparent design of our Universe can easily be explained by the Multiverse (more than one universe) theory. Astronomer Martin Reese covers this in his book “Just Six Numbers”. If any number were minutely changed, our Universe would have been completely different.

For example: if the amount of matter in our Universe would have been a tiny fraction different, our Universe would have quickly collapsed or quickly flown apart and no life could have arisen. Some have proposed a many universes theory to explain this (each universe with its own conditions). This greatly increases the odds of there being a universe suitable for life.

Here’s astronomer Martin Reese’s reasoning for the existence of the Multiverse at 11:10 to 26:40 in video – ignore the rest:


Being the scientist that Astronomer Martin Reese is, he didn't accept a shit happens explanation for the extremely low probability coincidence that we live in a universe suitable for life. He came up with a reasonable explanation: we live in a multiverse with an extremely large number of universes.

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Response to cpwm17 (Original post)

Sat May 10, 2014, 12:27 PM

16. While his explanation makes some sense when describing the biologic entity that is a person,

he really offers nothing to promote the idea that consciousness is purely and only a part of that biologic entity.

Since no one has ever offered evidence that it is or isn't, it remains one of the great unanswered questions. There may be a time in the future when it can be answered, but then again, it may not be.

And while most agree on how that the biologic entity is conceived and what happens to it after death, there is clearly no agreement on what happens to that other part (assuming it may not be a part of the biologic entity).

I think I follow your reasoning about everything possible happening an infinite number of times in a truly infinite multiverse, but we seem very, very far from understanding that as well.

I'm glad Dr. Dawkins has found the answers that make sense to him, but he is no more correct about this than those who carefully explain what happens to a person's soul after death.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #16)

Sat May 10, 2014, 02:37 PM

22. Based on the fact that ones consciousness diminishes or dies from brain damage

 

that would strongly indicate that consciousness is a natural process of the brain.

Even though we really have no idea how a physical brain can make consciousness, consciousness does strongly influence the operations of our brains. The brain works through an electrochemical process, so it seems very likely that evolution evolved consciousness to work through an electrochemical process.

You do understand my point concerning the multiverse

In Big Bang Inflation Theory, as I understand it, well before the first second of our Universe was over, the Universe greatly expanded such that most of the Universe then would permanently remain beyond our visible horizon. What we see in our Universe is an unknown tiny fraction of the whole. It is a very big world out there. That greatly increases the odds of each of us existing at least once.

Plus, the same physics that created our Universe very likely created many more. As Neil degrasse Tyson says: nature doesn't make things in ones, meaning there are likely many universes beyond our own. That should also apply to my consciousness. Why should nature only be able to create my consciousness one time.

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Response to cpwm17 (Reply #22)

Sat May 10, 2014, 02:44 PM

23. I tend to lean towards it all being neurochemical, but

I don't think we have sufficient understanding.

And perhaps consciousness is not even the correct term to use for what I am rather lamely trying to describe.

What you describe in terms of an infinite universe I have sometimes thought is a reasonable argument for the possible (probable?) existence of a god or gods.

Again, this may not be the best word for whatever it may be, but I have sometimes argued that we can not possible be the top of the multiverse's, or even this universe's, food chain.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #23)

Sat May 10, 2014, 04:49 PM

25. " the top of the multiverse's, or even this universe's, food chain"

 

is a concept that makes no sense. A "food chain" makes sense only within an ecosystem, or more broadly a biosphere A "universe" is not an ecosystem unless you can provide evidence of any significant biological interaction across galaxies, across solar systems, or even across planets. And more importantly, aliens are not feeding on any life forms here, nor are we eating alien life forms.

You probably meant something closer to "the universe's most advanced life form", which is only related to a food chain in that an advanced life form is likely to be at the top of its food chain in its biosphere. The view that we are "the universe's most advanced life form" is true only if qualified by "that we know of", and is highly likely to be proven false in the future.

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Response to cpwm17 (Original post)

Sat May 10, 2014, 01:14 PM

17. (somewhat aside) I used to wonder how other species experience their "universes".

What their self-perceptions are. What their experience of time is like. Etc. Still do.

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Response to pinto (Reply #17)

Sat May 10, 2014, 01:22 PM

18. I've wondered that as well.

I have thought at various times that dogs have a very limited perception of time.

That was based on their reactions. You can be gone 1 hour or 10 hours, and they will react pretty much the same.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #18)

Sat May 10, 2014, 01:26 PM

19. LOL. Maybe there's only now to them...not such a bad thing in some ways.

You get back home and it's Now!

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Response to cpwm17 (Original post)

Sat May 10, 2014, 05:56 PM

26. Consciousness is the result of neural activity, and no two brains are the same

 

This is why identical twins, while sharing the same genes, are two different people.

Once you're gone, you're gone, and there will never be another you. Enjoy it while it lasts!

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Response to arcane1 (Reply #26)

Sat May 10, 2014, 05:57 PM

27. Are you certain you are gone? Is that a belief, by any chance?

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Response to cbayer (Reply #27)

Sat May 10, 2014, 06:01 PM

28. It is what the evidence points to.

 

Just like watching a movie on my laptop- if the battery dies, the movie stops playing because there is no energy to run it.

I would LOVE to believe that thoughts continue after the body's death, and would welcome evidence to support it.

Lewis Thomas ruminates on the same topic as the OP, regarding the stupendous odds of any one of uys being here at any given time. It's exhilarating to ponder

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Response to arcane1 (Reply #28)

Sat May 10, 2014, 06:20 PM

29. I think you are most likely right, but I don't really know.

It could be much more complex than a battery running out.

I've been sleeping outside lately and i have found that looking up into the night sky has also led to some rather exhilarating and ponderous moments.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #29)

Sat May 10, 2014, 06:30 PM

30. Indeed, I certainly don't know.

 

I'm a little jealous of your skygazing- I haven't been out of the city at night in too long!! Being so closely aware of the vastness really sets the mind free, untethered.

I really MUST go camping this year!

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Response to arcane1 (Reply #30)

Sat May 10, 2014, 06:32 PM

31. You really must. It will awaken and revitalize the tiredest of souls.

I'm sleeping out because it is just way to hot inside the boat. I've made myself a palette on the deck and we are in a very dark place.

There is one enormous planet that is coming up during the night - I think maybe about an hour before dawn.

I'm not sure what it is, but I need to look it up.

Get that camping gear out! Air out the tent and sleeping bag and just do it.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #31)

Sat May 10, 2014, 06:49 PM

32. Thanks for the encouragement, I need it! :)

 

I think it's Saturn that's coming up soon, and the angle will be such that the rings will be more noticeable

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Response to cbayer (Reply #31)

Sun May 11, 2014, 11:50 AM

48. My guess is that it's Venus

http://space.jpl.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/wspace?tbody=1000&vbody=1001&month=5&day=11&year=2014&hour=00&minute=00&fovmul=1&rfov=5&bfov=30&porbs=1&showsc=1&showac=1

Saturn isn't in that view, but, if you go here, you can widen the view. The view on top is at 5%. 10% would bring in Saturn which looks like it would be up in the middle of the night.

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Response to Jim__ (Reply #48)

Sun May 11, 2014, 11:52 AM

49. I meant to take my star gazer app on deck last night, but forgot it.

I was able to identify mars, which was near the moon and up very early.

You are probably right about the later one being Saturn. Gorgeous right now.

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Response to arcane1 (Reply #26)

Sat May 10, 2014, 08:24 PM

33. You can claim that it is impossible for a consciousness to return after the body dies

 

but I've never seen a compelling reason to believe that.

How can what was perfectly possible before I was alive, my future consciousness, become impossible after I die? Where did my consciousness go?

I don't believe in souls, so I don't believe my consciousness will permanently disappear to another place or into permanent nothingness. I don't believe that nature has a record keeper keeping track of which potential consciousness has yet existed. All evidence that I know indicates that consciousness is a particular natural process of the brain.

What is it that makes twins that share the same genes have different conscious-selves is unknowable. But the only alternative to brains creating consciousness through a particular brain process would be that consciousness is separate from the physical brain, contained in a soul. I don't believe that.

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Response to cpwm17 (Reply #33)

Sun May 11, 2014, 08:13 AM

37. The twin issue is fascinating.

How can to biological entities with exactly the same DNA have, often, very different kinds of consciousness or personalities?

I think that actually makes the argument for the possibility of there being something "extra-biologic".

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Response to cbayer (Reply #37)

Sun May 11, 2014, 09:03 AM

38. Yes, I see why it could be tempting to believing in a soul

 

I thought the same thing, that the twin issue could be used as evidence for a metaphysical explanation for consciousness. I personally don't believe in such things.

Without knowing it, I think the soul issue creeps into discussions concerning consciousness, even among folks that don't really believe in souls.

Most people seem to think there is something that leaves the body after we die and that something can't ever return naturally. Maybe they don't believe it has an existence outside the body, but they believe there is something that dies, even if they don't think they believe in this something. It's hard to get away from the soul.

I take the extreme position and claim that there is no soul and when your body dies the processes that creates your consciousness shuts off. That in no way means that an adequately similar brain process couldn't return and create the same consciousness again.

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Response to cpwm17 (Reply #38)

Sun May 11, 2014, 09:10 AM

39. I don't know and am not sure we will ever know.

I find it very difficult to embrace things for which I have no adequate explanation, but try to stay open to the reality that there may, in fact, be things that I will never be able to explain.

However, in the long run, it makes no difference. I will live my life the same.

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Response to cpwm17 (Reply #33)

Sun May 11, 2014, 07:48 PM

52. there is no twin issue with respect to consciousness.

 

consider a human clone of yourself - it would not have your consciousness. It would not have *your experiences* merely a nearly identical replication of your dna. It might share personality traits, but it would be its own conscious entity.

A twin might start out identical, but each twin has its own experience of life, and the consciousness that it develops is its consciousness, not some shared mind.

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Response to cpwm17 (Original post)

Sun May 11, 2014, 10:36 AM

42. Your mistake is assuming that consciousness is, in itself, an individual process of the brain...

 

its an emergent property of the brain, a useful shortcut or construct that you create to examine yourself, and for you to make sense of the various different processes that occur in your head all the time.

That is what makes you unique, your consciousness was not created at birth, its not set in stone by your DNA, but it is created and recreated throughout your life, creating both a construct of its own continuity and a construct of its existence as a single entity, you. Its the sum of all your experiences and memories as an addition to what was the basic framework set up by your biology.

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Response to Humanist_Activist (Reply #42)

Sun May 11, 2014, 10:44 AM

43. In my way of looking at things, what you describe is personality, not consciousness.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #43)

Sun May 11, 2014, 11:05 AM

44. I would consider your personality as a part of your consciousness...

 

and hence not something separate. Consciousness is, ultimately, an ability to examine oneself, self awareness, your personality can influence how you view yourself.

It all get really fuzzy though.

ON EDIT: Even more confusing, you describing your personality is an exercise in consciousness.

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Response to Humanist_Activist (Reply #44)

Sun May 11, 2014, 11:12 AM

45. I see your point. I think we may be just speaking from different definitions.

As I said above, I am not sure consciousness is the right word to use here.

But in the end, it's a discussion in which I find myself somewhat over my head.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #45)

Sun May 11, 2014, 11:14 AM

46. I blame you for what I'm doing now, watching Crash Course: Psychology on youtube...

 

dammit, get my curiosity going, and now I have to know, at least the cliff notes version, be back in about 6-8 hours, woo hoo!

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Response to Humanist_Activist (Reply #46)

Sun May 11, 2014, 11:21 AM

47. Lol, hope you enjoy it.

It's hard because so many terms used formally in psych are used informally outside of psych and take on a relatively different meaning.

I'm kind of a stickler for these words, because so many of them are used in a denigrating or pejorative way, which I think further marginalizes people with psychiatric illnesses.

Have fun.

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Response to Humanist_Activist (Reply #42)

Sun May 11, 2014, 05:23 PM

50. Where I write about a brain process that creates consciousness

 

Last edited Tue May 27, 2014, 07:48 AM - Edit history (1)

I am referring to the total brain process. In some places I did write brain processes to make my meaning more clear.

I agree with some of what you write. It's impossible for us to know what brain processes creates consciousness. Consciousness is almost certainly not located at one location in the brain.

The conscious-self that your brain experienced when you were young is not necessarily the same conscious-self you are experiencing now. Our brains change over time so our conscious-selves might change also.

As I see it, evolution found consciousness useful. Starting hundreds of million years ago, consciousness allowed complex animated life to evolve. Consciousness is dominated by our feelings, which make it possible for us to think, do, and learn. Learning allows our brains to contain far more information than is contained in our DNA.

As I define it, consciousness is that which experiences your senses, good and bad feelings, and your thoughts. Consciousness isn't your memories, feelings, or any other experience, but it is what experiences those things.

The processes that create the thoughts in our brain happen before our consciousness experience them. Emotional reactions from these thoughts and other feelings in consciousness drive the thought processes in our brains and potentially drive our actions. Our brains are automatically driven by the feelings (motivational force) experienced in our consciousness. Our consciousness takes our thoughts and all other inputs from our brains to cause our consciousness to experience more feelings, which automatically drives our brains even further. It's circular. It's usually a very subtle process, but I believe this is the basic process that is required to animate our thoughts and actions.

This process gives our consciousness the illusion of free will, even though we are slaves to the feelings in our brains. There does require a conscious-self for our thought processes to work and our conscious-selves are created by particular brain processes.



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Response to cpwm17 (Reply #50)

Mon May 12, 2014, 05:35 PM

53. I think its better to say "construct" rather than illusion...

 

similar to how I mentioned the construction of continuity, in other words, our memories of our past selves as children lead to us, we were different people, but our consciousness kinda makes us think we weren't.

Also, just a note, our brain is very, modular? Not sure of the right terminology, there are physical sections of the brain that are largely responsible for very specific types of cognitive processing. For example, damage to a small area of the brain, or it failing to develop at all can lead a person to not be able to recognize any face of anyone, ever. So it is actually surprising, if you think about it, that consciousness itself doesn't have its own section of the brain that it is responsible for.

Of course, we are getting into theory of mind territory here, and I don't know if I'm ready for my mind to melt yet, or perhaps I am.

I think what you are saying is that our consciousness is all of the above, its what collates everything our brains do to make us, us. If that makes sense.

I would go further and say that, in social animals, particularly mammals and birds, consciousness was heavily selected for, a sense of distinction between self and other is necessary in complex social groups, whether a troop of chimpanzees, a murder of crows, a herd of elephants, or human society, is very beneficial for the survival of that species.

I think language fails us when it comes to "free will" I agree its largely a, I will term it construct, rather than a reality, but that's probably the result of the definition that fails. We still have a will, so to speak, we still can make some decisions, or at least influence them, in a conscious way, we are simply limited in how to do so. This means it isn't free, but we aren't complete slaves either, I don't think. This can be both due to biology and nurturing, its cautious territory to delve in to, and very perilous.

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Response to Humanist_Activist (Reply #53)

Tue May 13, 2014, 01:10 PM

54. Since consciousness is extremely difficult for science to study

 

Last edited Tue May 27, 2014, 07:44 AM - Edit history (1)

that leaves a lot of room for laymen to speculate. It's all in good fun.

If I understand what you mean by "construct", then I guessing you are using a different definition of consciousness than me. Since it is consciousness itself that assists our brains in their activities, then any brain activities that create consciousness can't be created with the assistance of consciousness itself. That's almost like saying consciousness creates itself. So consciousness has to be made totally by the unconscious brain.

If you mean that consciousness is made in the brain, regardless of whether consciousness assists, then that has to be correct.

Yes, it is a big mystery how our consciousness can operate with the modular nature of our brains, even though consciousness doesn't seem to be modular. Probably consciousness is created in multiple locations throughout the brain, but they somehow communicate, such that your brain has one goal at a time.

In addition to making it possible for us to think, do, and learn, I think consciousness forces the complex brain to act as one. This is important, of course, since we only have one body so the brain needs to have only one self.

I think you understood much of what I wrote. I think that the unavoidable force from the feelings experienced in our consciousness is what drives the whole operation of our brains. That is why we are conscious, in my opinion.

When you touch something hot with your finger, the pain you experience has an obvious purpose. That is an extreme example, but when you come right down to it, every moment of your waking life your are experiencing positive and negative feelings (usually very subtle feelings from emotions and related feelings, and these feelings are created from your brain's pattern recognition of your thoughts and senses) while you are reacting to your environment and your thoughts. These feelings are an unavoidable force that cannot be avoided by your brain. The strength of the feelings forces you to choose (the stronger feeling at the moment gets the attention, automatically), and the same feelings drive your thoughts and actions. And the strength of the feelings determines what you learn and remember. The whole process forces the brain to act as one.

It's probably impossible to know exactly how the brain makes consciousness and how all of this works, but in my opinion, consciousness and its feelings kills multiple birds with one stone. So evolution found consciousness very useful in order to create complex animated life.

So consciousness seems to be a trick evolution found to create complex animated life. Consciousness is a way the brain can force itself to act. But almost everything that happens in the brain happens outside of consciousness. The brain is a black box and we as individuals have almost no idea how our brains work and really how our decisions are reached. When we talk, words flow out and we have no idea where they come from in the brain.

But we do have this profound experience of consciousness; and consciousness is a witness to some thoughts, our environment through our senses, and our positive and negative feelings. But we are really not the author of any of it:
We may be the conscious witness of these thoughts, but we are not their authors. Thoughts just arrive....

There has been a long controversy as to whether subjectively ‘free’ decisions are determined by brain activity ahead of time. We found that the outcome of a decision can be encoded in brain activity of prefrontal and parietal cortex up to 10 s before it enters awareness. This delay presumably reflects the operation of a network of high-level control areas that begin to prepare an upcoming decision long before it enters awareness.

http://fieldlines.org/2012/04/21/free-will-the-local-miracle/

So we really have no conscious free will. Our conscious-selve are along for the ride. We just have to hope that our brains, with the critical feedback from our consciousness, make the right decisions.

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Response to cpwm17 (Reply #54)

Sat May 17, 2014, 12:00 AM

57. I think the easiest way to think of consciousness is that its an emergent property of complex...

 

brains. As you said, consciousness is probably necessary so that our complex brains can think of themselves as one, so the we are us, and we know we are us. Damn the limitations of our language, that almost sounds nonsensical.

I do agree with you mostly on how it came about in our species, I just emphasize the social aspect because it probably led to our need for such outsized brains, compared to most other species on the planet. A keen consciousness, an awareness of self, would be necessary to be able to effectively communicate complex thoughts and emotions to others of the same species.

You are correct in noting that we have little control over our thoughts and little control over many of our emotional and physical reactions. Some of these are instinctual, such as pulling a hand off a hot stove, and indeed it doesn't even require the brain to do it, but the automatic nervous system, which we haven't even talked about. Does shorten reaction times though. I do think that much of it is conditioned, so at least can be influenced, if not by us, then by others.

How about this for a mind bender, does our consciousness need to be continuous? In other words, is it on all the time? If, as I think you and I are postulating, the consciousness, as a emergent process of the brain, creates a construct of continuity, so that we think of our 5 year old selves as ourselves just as much as yesterday's selves, perhaps this means that consciousness isn't a continuous activity. Perhaps, in a sense, we cease being ourselves when we fall unconscious, as a normal part of living, rather than disease or injury killing our consciousness, it disbands, perhaps every night. In the morning, it reconstitutes itself which would mean that we wake up a slightly different person, but one who thinks they are the same as the person who fell asleep the night before.

Perhaps that's what dreaming is, our consciousness turning off, forcing the brain to review the events of the day, figure out what is important or not, and distracting other parts with a "movie" of sorts to pass the time, more or less.

Now, onto philosophy, would this person still be the person they were before? Does this question even make sense? Does the answer even matter?

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Response to Humanist_Activist (Reply #57)

Sun May 18, 2014, 09:56 PM

58. Multicellular animal life did not evolve until 520 million years ago

 

but once that happened complex animal life took off. The original multicellular life form didn't evolve to form such things as legs, hands, and conscious intelligence. But once multicellular life started the future allowed all sorts of possibilities.

Same with consciousness: consciousness probably didn't originally evolve to create good social critters. But due to the flexibility of consciousness all sorts of abilities evolved in the future. Often the abilities are indications of higher intelligence rather than more consciousness.

You ask excellent questions. Is it possible to only be part of the person you were the day before? Your memories, goals, thought processes change over time; so can your conscious-self change in increments? I like to think that the self doesn't change even when many other things change in your brain. Your conscious-self isn't your memories, thoughts, goals, etc; your consciousness is what experiences those things. So why should your consciousness necessarily change when your life changes? But then I may be too attached to the concept of the soul if I believe that the conscious-self can only come in whole increments, and I don't believe in souls.

Your sleep question does lead to interesting points. So when you fall asleep it does seem it is similar to losing your consciousness when dying. When you're not dreaming your consciousness does shut off. Your memories give you continuity so it sure does feel like we are the same person when we wake up. But how can we prove it?: we can't.

How different is falling asleep than having your body evaporated and then with an hour delay have your body reconfigured exactly as before, would you then be the same person with the same conscious-self? I don’t see why not.

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Response to cpwm17 (Original post)

Tue May 13, 2014, 03:16 PM

55. My bad!

I thought this was a thread about the OBGYNs in congress. As those boys are the smartest dumb ones on the planet.

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Response to WovenGems (Reply #55)

Tue May 13, 2014, 03:41 PM

56. And they're all Republicans

 

What's up with that? I would have thought that their job would have given them a soul.

You reminded me that I had wanted to change the title of this thread, so I just added the word "consciousness." Now people will know what this is really about.

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