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Name: Paul
Gender: Male
Hometown: Florida
Home country: USA
Member since: Wed Mar 31, 2010, 03:20 PM
Number of posts: 3,829

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The Universe is huge or infinite.

Host: What is the origin of life? Itís a question scientists, philosophers and theologians have debated for centuries. If you believe one widely accepted scientific theory, life on Earth was one big happy accident, overcoming the astronomical odds against it.

The Universe is astronomically huge and astronomically old. There is also a good chance there is far more beyond our Universe. Given enough chances, the highly improbable becomes guaranteed.

A god is generally defined as a first cause. A god would be far more complex than the most complex life we know, in a form that contradicts all we know that is possible here in our Universe. What are the chances, of all the imaginable starting points, the single starting point of all of existence is this invisible critter with super powers?

A starting point with dumb matter and energy seems infinitely more plausible. Life starting by a low odds event in our ancient and huge Universe is infinitely more likely than the starting pint of all of existence starting with this mysterious critter with super powers.

Free will and consciousness

I consider free will impossible. Free will is an illusion, which is due to how consciousness works.

Free will means your decisions are made directly from your conscious brain. How can that be possible? Our brains are very complicated black boxes. We have no idea whatís going on up there while we are thinking. How can someone claim an ability, free will, when they canít even begin to explain how they do it? The burden of proof is on those that claim they have this ability of free will.

Many people, especially among the religious, include in free will such things as our sexual preferences and our religious beliefs. These are all things we have no way of controlling. I believe something is true or find someone attractive, or I donít. I have no choice. I canít choose to believe in Santa Claus or god nor can I choose to be attracted to men.

We are all products of our genetics and environment, neither one of those we choose at birth. From then, we become what we are based on what we began with and how the environment made us. We have no choice. Any decision we make to affect our condition is based on who we are, which had been made by conditions outside of our control.

We experience inputs to our senses as our brains automatically interpret the inputs. We experience different levels of understanding of the world around us as our brains automatically interpret the world. And we also experience various good and bad feelings (emotions, pain, and pleasure, along with much more subtle feelings) which control our thoughts and actions. In practice, all conscious experience is a mixture of these three types of experiences (sensing, understanding, and feeling), including emotions, which are more complex than just raw feelings. Thatís everything in consciousness and they are all only experiences.

Conscious animals make a connection of food with hunger; it may not be a profound understanding, but it is an understanding (or at least a connection) at some level. Driven by its feelings, assisted by its senses and memory, and enabled by its instincts and past learned behavior, the animal can find its food. The strength of the animalís feelings-experience will determine how well it remembers and learns from the experience. For all animals, including humans, everything in this process is imposed on consciousness.

Conscious non-human animals also have the sensation of being in control. To various degrees, they operate very much like we do. They are all feelings driven. Do people claim that rats have free will?

Everything is imposed on consciousness inside our black boxes. We have no idea how anything is made conscious and we have no idea where our thoughts come from. We experience inputs to our consciousness and stuff happens. We are fooled into thinking we are in control due to the fact that our thoughts and actions are consistent with our feelings.

This process is a clue to the role feelings play and ultimately why we are conscious. I believe that feelings are a device that brains have evolved that force themselves to operate; enabling (and forcing) our brains to give attention to the issue of the moment, think, do, act as one unit, and give the brain criteria for learning and remembering through strength of experience. Without feelings in consciousness, is there another way for a brain to do all of that? So this one function of the brain (feelings in consciousness) kills multiple birds with one stone. Clearly evolution found consciousness very useful.

Feelings in consciousness is a motivational force, of sorts, that the brain itself canít ignore, without which, complex animated critters would probably be impossible. Without feelings we would not have the capability to do anything at all. We are complete slaves to our feelings and feelings are imposed on our consciousness. Itís impossible to know how brains can create consciousness (seems impossible, but itís clearly not), but we can recognize that feelings in consciousness are a powerful force.

So we experience feelings and stuff happens, driven by the feelings flywheel. But we canít explain where our thoughts and decisions come from. When we think, stuff pops into our heads. Without knowing where the thoughts in our heads come from we have no real control of our decisions. We have no free will.

So it is clear to me that consciousness is important, but consciousness does far less than we think, including actually making the ultimate decisions. Without conscious free will, the concepts of heaven and hell make no sense, and retribution in the criminal justice system is immoral. It isnít consciousness that makes the decisions but itís consciousness that suffers the consequences. Without conscious free will, the ultimate crime, according to many believers, of believing in a different reality than them is no crime at all.

*edit: additions:

Free will: The thoughts that arise in our conscious minds originate from an unknown place, unchosen by our conscious minds - to choose a thought would mean to already have that thought in your mind, which would mean you didn't just choose your thought (infinite regress). The thought had to have originated from somewhere. It can't be your consciousness, since that would mean your very same consciousness already had that thought in mind.

You can't have a separate consciousness (which is also you) in your mind choosing your thoughts for your consciousness. It makes no sense. Thoughts have to originate from somewhere and it can't be from consciousness. Our conscious minds aren't the authors of our conscious thoughts. Thoughts pop into our conscious minds as we think. Words flow into our conscious minds as we write.

Stuff concerning feelings from: Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain, Paperback by Anthony Damasio: professor of neuroscience at the University of Southern California and an Adjunct Professor at the Salk Institute:

page 170 in the pdf in Demasio's book: Descartes Error::

More restricted in range than the emotional feelings described
previously, background feelings are neither too positive nor too
, although they can be perceived as mostly pleasant or
unpleasant. In all probability it is these feelings, rather than emotional
ones, that we experience most frequently in a lifetime. We are
only subtly aware of a background feeling,
but aware enough to be
able to report instantly on its quality. A background feeling is not
what we feel when we jump out of our skin for sheer joy, or when we
are despondent over lost love; both of these actions correspond to
emotional body states. A background feeling corresponds instead to
the body state prevailing between emotions. When we feel happiness,
anger, or another emotion, the background feeling has been
superseded by an emotional feeling. The background feeling is our
image of the body landscape when it is not shaken by emotion. The
concept of "mood," though related to that of background feeling,
does not exactly capture it. When background feelings are persistently
of the same type over hours and days, and do not change
quietly as thought contents ebb and flow, the collection of background
feelings probably contributes to a mood, good, bad, or

We always feel something. I believe the subtle variations through time of our (background) feelings are critical to the moment to moment operation of the conscious mind.

page 93 in the pdf in Demasio's book: Descartes Error:

Before leaving the subject of human brain lesions, I would like
to propose that there is a particular region in the human brain
where the systems concerned with emotion/feeling, attention, and
working memory interact so intimately that they constitute the
source for the energy of both external action (movement) and internal
action (thought animation, reasoning).
This fountainhead region
is the anterior cingulate cortex, another piece of the limbic system

Damage to this sector not only produces impairment
in movement, emotion, and attentiveness, but also causes a virtual
suspension of the animation of action and of thought process such
that reason is no longer viable.
The story of one of my patients in
whom there was such damage gives an idea of the impairment.

The stroke suffered by this patient, whom I will call Mrs. T,
produced extensive damage to the dorsal and medial regions of the
frontal lobe in both hemispheres. She suddenly became motionless
and speechless, and she would lie in bed with her eyes open but with
a blank facial expression; I have often used the term "neutral" to
convey the equanimity-or absence-of such an expression.
Her body was no more animated than her face. She might make a
normal movement with arm and hand, to pull her bed covers for
instance, but in general, her limbs were in repose. When asked
about her situation, she usually would remain silent, although after much
coaxing she might say her name, or the names of her husband and
children, or the name of the town where she lived. But she would not
tell you about her medical history, past or present, and she could
not describe the events leading to her admission to the hospital.
There was no way of knowing, then, whether she had no recollection
of those events or whether she had a recollection but was unwilling
or unable to talk about it. She never became upset with my insistent
questioning, never showed a flicker of worry about herself or anything
else. Months later, as she gradually emerged from this state of
mutism and akinesia (lack of movement), and began to answer
questions, she would clarify the mystery of her state of mind. Contrary
to what one might have thought, her mind had not been
imprisoned in the jail of her immobility. Instead it appeared that
there had not been much mind at all, no real thinking or reasoning.
The passivity in her face and body was the appropriate reflection of
her lack of mental animation. At this later date she was certain about
not having felt anguished by the absence of communication. Nothing
had forced her not to speak her mind. Rather, as she recalled,
"I really had nothing to say."

To my eyes Mrs. T had been unemotional. To her experience, all
the while, it appears she had had no feelings. To my eyes she had not
specifically attended to the external stimuli presented to her, nor had
she attended internally to their representation or to the representation
of correlated evocations. I would say her will had been preempted,
and that seems also to have been her reflection.

Reagan continued his attacks against Lebanese targets

that he had done before the Marines were killed. Reagan put the Marines in Lebanon while supporting Israel's destruction of much of Lebanon and while supporting one side of a civil war.

After the Marines were killed, the battleship USS New Jersey shelled Lebanese targets. I remember that well. I hated Reagan for those terrorist attacks. At least one member of US Congress blasted Reagan for his indiscriminate shelling of Lebanon, calling it immoral. I think it was US Senator John Glenn, but I can't find a link.

On June 6, 1982, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) initiated Operation "Peace for Galilee" and invaded Lebanon ostensibly to create a 40 km buffer zone between the PLO and Syrian forces in Lebanon and Israel. The Israeli invasion was tacitly approved by the U.S., and the U.S. provided overt military support to Israel in the form of arms and materiel. The U.S.' support for Israel's invasion of Lebanon taken in conjunction with U.S. support for Lebanese President Bachir Gemayel and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) alienated many. Bachir Gemayel was the legally elected president, but he was a partisan Maronite Christian and covert associate of Israel. These factors served to disaffect the Lebanese Muslim and Druze communities. This animosity was made worse by the Phalangist, a right-wing, largely Maronite-Lebanese militia force closely associated with President Gemayel. The Phalangist militia was responsible for multiple, bloody attacks against the Muslim and Druze communities in Lebanon and for the 1982 atrocities committed in the PLO refugee camps, Sabra and Shatila by Lebanese Forces (LF), while the IDF provided security and looked on. The Phalangist militia's attacks on Sabra and Shatila were purportedly a response to the September 14, 1982, assassination of President-elect Bachir Gemayel. Amine Gemayel, Bachir's brother, succeeded Bachir as the elected president of Lebanon, and Amine continued to represent and advance Maronite interests.

It has been estimated that as many as 8,000 civilians died during Israel's invasion of Lebanon, which destroyed large areas of Beirut, including shopping centers and apartment buildings. Marine commander Colonel James M. Mead was dismayed at the level of destruction he saw in the city, describing it as being ďlike pictures Iíve seen of Berlin at the end of World War II.Ē The Beirut newspaper An Nahar reported that 5,515 people, both military and civilian, were killed in the Beirut area alone, while 2,513 civilians were killed outside Beirut. How many of those civilians were killed by US military actions? No one knows, but it goes without saying that firing hundreds of shells in the vicinity of a major city like Beirut and its suburbs is bound to result in civilian deaths, not "peace."...

Here is a quick two-week chronology of the events that preceded the car-bombing attack that resulted in the deaths of 241 American marines:...

9/11/1983: The battleship USS New Jersey (BB-62) was alerted for rapid deployment to the Eastern Mediterranean.
9/12/1983: The USS New Jersey refueled in Colon, Panama, then began a high-speed run east, averaging 25 knots per hour.
9/12/1983: A Marine Amphibious Unit arrived off Lebanon and assumed a standby role.
9/16/1983: The destroyer USS John Rodgers (DD-983) and frigate USS Bowen fired five-inch shells into Syrian-controlled parts of Lebanon.
9/19/1983: The USS John Rodgers and USS Virginia (CGN-38) fired 338 five-inch shells at the Shouf Mountain village of Suq al Gharb.
9/20/1983: The USS John Rodgers and USS Virginia fired more shells.
9/21/1983: The USS John Rodgers and USS Arthur Radford (DD-968) fired more shells.
9/23/1983: The USS Virginia employed 155mm artillery fire and five-inch gunfire; French planes struck the Bekaa Valley.
9/25/1983: USS New Jersey arrived off the Lebanese coast.
9/26/1983: There was an immediate cease-fire, but the outgunned insurgents would soon resort to unconventional methods...

Someone else also strongly opposed American entry into the war, and its killing of civilians. Osama Bin Laden would later state that when he saw the results of the US shelling of Lebanon: "God knows it did not cross our minds to attack the towers. But after the situation became unbearable and we witnessed the injustice and tyranny of the American-Israeli alliance against our people in Palestine and Lebanon, I thought about it. And the events that affected me directly were that of 1982 and the events that followedówhen America allowed the Israelis to invade Lebanon, helped by the US Sixth Fleet. In those difficult moments, many emotions came over me that are hard to describe, but that produced an overwhelming desire to reject injustice and a strong determination to punish the unjust. As I watched the destroyed towers in Lebanon, it occurred to me to punish the unjust the same way and to destroy towers in America so it could taste some of what we are tasting and stop killing our children and women."
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