Materialism vs the Mind

maxresdefaultHow do you know that you are conscious?

It may seem silly to ask that question. That one is conscious is so obvious, there seems to be no reason to bother asking about how one knows it. Personally, I might have agreed, were it not for the number of times I’ve heard others insist that humans only know things through scientific investigation.

In fact, materialism is rooted in the idea that there is nothing other than the physical. It takes as its starting point that the sciences are the only legitimate form of investigation–because there is nothing other than that which science studies.

But there simply is no scientific test for whether or not one is conscious.

Most of us have never had a brain scan. And anyone who pauses to reflect on the situation will realize that it won’t tell you that you are conscious unless you already know it. Neurology reveals correlations between brain activity and behavior; it does not reveal consciousness to anyone who doesn’t already know that it exists.

In fact, there is no scientific test for whether or not consciousness really exists–or is simply a delusion.

Of course, one could insist that, while there is currently no scientific test for consciousness, there will be someday. While I’m sure that neurology will do amazing things, there are reasons why this won’t be one of them.

But that is a side-point. More pertinently, I don’t know anyone who claims to be unsure about whether or not consciousness exists–and is waiting for neurologists to get back to us on that.

And that, it seems to me, is the long and short of it. Those who know that they are conscious believe in something without scientific evidence for it.

And this leaves the blunt materialist (such as the New Atheists) in a rather difficult situation. Either admit that there are ways of knowing outside of science, or recant all belief that one is sometimes conscious.

Some, believe it or not, have chosen the latter view, which leads me to suspect that there are motivations for believing in materialism that have nothing to do with a desire to be rational.

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98 responses to “Materialism vs the Mind

  • john zande

    Debilis, have you ever asked yourself: can my god be a self-generated delusion or, perhaps, a solipsistic error? The answer i’m sure you’re looking for is of course, No, but to arrive at this answer you have to determine whether your belief has revealed anything to you (at any time) that you didn’t already know. Has it?

    • Debilis

      The short answer, to both questions, is “yes”.

      Of course I’ve asked these things, and entertained doubts on many occasions. I read large amounts of non-theist literature precisely because I believe in re-considering.

      I also believe that, at the end of the day, the materialist views put forth in that literature is false. But I took quite some time to reach that conclusion.

      As to your second question, of course I’ve learned things from my belief system. The learning about any worldview will teach one things. That’s rather what learning entails, after all. I see no reason why one would think mine would be any different.

      But, so long as you’re asking, I’d present you with the same questions:

      How often do you seriously question materialism?

      As there is nothing about science, or the physical world that I can’t learn as a theist, what do you feel you’ve learned from your belief in materialism that you didn’t already know?

      And, last, what is your position on the actual topic? Do you believe that people are conscious? If so, do you agree that there are ways of knowing other than the physical sciences?

      • john zande

        Your questions are a little odd, and seem to indicate that you don’t actually understand science. Trying to bundle naturalism in with religious belief is fundamentally in error. Science is a method of discovery. It does not begin with the conclusion, as religion does. In the modern world, the two are, as such, diametrically opposed. One may, of course, argue that the gods were our first attempts at science; a proto-science, if you like. Primitive minds observed the world around and to understand it they animated the environment with supernatural personalities. A noble attempt to understand nature, but devastatingly wrong. Modern naturalism, that which emerged with the Enlightenment, services human curiosities in an ordered manner. It is the mechanisms for self-correction – methods of experimentation, publication, and peer review fine-tuned in the 19th and 20th Centuries – from which science has derived its increasing accuracy. It must be stressed that science is only ever “less wrong.” The genius of science, as method, is therefore that it proceeds from a position of humility and does not – cannot – assume anything to be 100% known, rather best theorised. It is an unrestricted, open air, temporary platform which is free to be revised and repositioned as new evidence comes to light. The fundamental ineptness of dogma is that it doesn’t even understand this concept. It proceeds from a position of certainty whereby adaption to new information – as it comes to light – is seen as an admission to its own falsehood. By its very nature dogma is therefore unmovable. Shifts in its station, even tiny movements, are signs of weakness and are as such met with fierce opposition.
        Now, your questions get even more bizarre. I will, however, just give you one extended example of what naturalism has revealed to me which I did not know. Altar is the biggest star presently known in the universe. It is dying. It’s core is collapsing and finding newer, shorter-lived equilibriums in an outrageously violent 26-part long death dance where increasingly insane pressures and temperatures are desperately fusing heavier and heavier elements. Soon, in the middle of Altar, at 3.5 billion degrees, silicon will fuse into iron, and for this giant it is the end of the line. It’s an impossible situation. Iron fusion absorbs energy rather than liberates it, and in a matter of seconds it will be obliterated in a Type-2 supernova that will eject 99% of all the matter that makes up the chemistry set of the universe.
        Through the work of Cecilia Payne establishing the nature of the ionization inside stars, and the later work of Margaret Burbidge, Naturalism revealed to us that stars are elemental factories. They are our parents.
        Debilis, has your religion ever “revealed” anything even approaching such a “truth.”

        My ideas on consciousness are not fully formed. I’m of the un-learned position that conscious is a delayed feedback whereby the brain senses its own activity. As traumatic brain injury drastically alters one’s conscious-interface with material world, then the hard evidence points to conscious being a function of the brain and nothing more.

        • Debilis

          Let me correct some of the confusion then:

          I’m not bundling naturalism with religious beliefs. I can certainly bundle science with religious belief (in fact, I’ve argued that it is a better fit with certain religious views than it is with naturalism).

          This comment seems to assume, however, that naturalism is synonymous with, or part of, science. This is either not true, or means that naturalism is not synonymous with materialism (which is what I asked about–your materialism).

          Second, it assumes that religious belief starts with a conclusion. I agree that many religious people do this (and many do this when claiming to defend science as well), but religion, properly understood, does not. It is a form of inquiry, just as science is.

          Thus, claiming that science and religion are “diametrically opposed” is to misunderstand one or both of these subjects. Certainly, to compare my beliefs to beliefs in “the gods” is to misunderstand the distinction between the natural and the non-natural we’ve discussed elsewhere. Whether or not belief in Dionysus, Thor, or the like is proto-science (the historians I’ve read treat that as a crude generalization at best) this has nothing to do with the non-natural.

          A better comparison, if one wants to drag in the ancients, is Plato’s form of the good or Aristotle’s uncaused cause.

          Next, it cannot be stressed enough that I’m not proceeding from a position of 100% certainty. I consider some things more likely than others, the same as yourself. But this isn’t remotely to say that I’m not constantly revising my position as new discoveries are made known to me.

          None of these things are incompatible with theism. They are only incompatible with the New Atheist version of theism. But I simply don’t see why I should allow the New Atheist to dictate what theism is. I have no trouble approaching theism without 100% certainty, with a mind to learn new things, and expecting to adjust what I believe. I have done all of those things, pretty consistently, since I began thinking on the issue years ago.

          So, I simply don’t see any real understanding of religion here. Of course change is met with opposition. Of course people want to debate every point. This is both a good thing, and exactly what happens in a science convention. One even, sadly, sees many scientists irrationally committed to unsupported conjectures. The getting at truth is very difficult, and is going to involve a lot of debate. This is to be expected.

          Even more simply, theologians do all of the things you claim they do not do here. And I can’t imagine which theologians you’ve read if you have this impression.

          Naturalism didn’t remotely reveal anything about which star is the largest in the known universe, science did that. Naturalism, if it is to be seen as incompatible with theism, is the add on “and there’s nothing else but the physical”. No one needed to declare that in order to study the properties of stars. If it is just the looking into natural causes, however, there’s nothing about that which contradicts theism. To insist otherwise is to misunderstand theism.

          In fact, the basis of science requires that there is more than the physical, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere.

          As such, this information is perfectly discoverable by theists (as should be obvious by the fact that so many scientists, both historically and today are theists). There is no information that is privileged only to naturalists.

          Someone who doesn’t believe in the physical universe (and there have been a few) would dismiss this as real knowledge. They would say that you’re just getting more detailed and elaborate in your hallucinations. Likewise, someone who dismisses the non-natural will not accept discoveries about the non-natural as real.

          But, frankly, that is their problem. I’ve presented both reasons why there must be a non-natural, and what can be known about it. Right now, you seem to be dismissing the former in favor of demanding the latter, and dismissing the latter in favor of demanding things about my beliefs that are simply not true.

          Regarding the actual topic, I agree that there is much to be learned about consciousness (I can’t imagine that anyone would disagree with that). But that isn’t what I asked. I asked whether you believed that consciousness exists, and how you know that.

          As you are telling me what you believe consciousness to be, I assume that you believe it exists. Please tell me how you acquired this information. Is there a study that tested the hypothesis “consciousness exists”, or did you learn it through basic life experience?

          Obviously, I have my suspicions, but I’m willing (in the spirit of inquiry) to be corrected if one can offer evidence. So far, all of the evidence is that people know consciousness exists through personal experience, but I’m open to reading a study which tested the idea.

        • john zande

          I take Naturalism to be science. Perhaps you should try and explain how/why you think it is not.

        • Debilis

          You are free to define naturalism as you’d like. But, if you take naturalism to be science, then:

          1) I see nothing about science that I can’t study, accept, or discover as a theist.

          2) There is absolutely nothing about naturalism (by this definition) that, in any way, implies that there is nothing more to reality than the physical. I am as much a naturalist as you are, by this definition.

          Rather, my complaint is with the idea that there is nothing else other than the physical (a claim science does not test). If we are agreed that this claim is to be rejected, then I have nothing but agreement with those who simply appreciate science.

        • john zande

          1) Of course. A theist can be a scientist. A theist, however, cannot use any dogma to practice science.

          2) Who said there was? Naturalism does not proceed from the conclusion. New discoveries will change the knowledge platform.

          I don’t think i’ve ever seen “science” make any such claim. Naturalism proceeds from observation. You’re free to research whatever you like, Debilis. Construct your hypothesis and present it to the Templeton Foundation for funds.

        • Debilis

          Okay, here we go:

          1) I agree, and have no idea what that has to do with the point. Theism allows for all the metaphysical underpinnings of science, and allows theists to be scientists.

          As such, it is no less scientific than any view which allows the same. Dogma (whether religious dogma or materialist dogma) has nothing to do with it.

          2) If there is no implication, then there is nothing whatsoever that you’ve learned from naturalism that isn’t equally available to theists.

          As you were insisting that a view is only respectable if something has been learned from it, I thought you would care.

          So, it seems that we’re agreed that there is nothing at all about science which speaks against the idea that there is more to reality than the physical.

          That being the case, coupled the fact that we know things through experience apart from experiments, means that it is to those areas we ought to turn.

          Constantly pointing out that science is silent on the matter is rather pointless, after all.

        • Frank Morris

          @John, naturalism is religion-based pseudoscience and it DOES begin with a conclusion. The presumption of naturalism is essentially the same as materialism, which is an arbitrary belief that only matter and energy exist.

          Naturalism rejects intelligent agency on purely religious grounds. Naturalists merely proclaim anything seen in evidence as “not natural” and apply a censorship stamp.

          It is NOT science to arbitrarily dismiss evidence.

        • john zande

          Hi Frank. So, do you actually have any “evidence” of something unnatural, or are you just ranting?

        • Frank Morris

          Hi John. There are entire mountain ranges of evidence of things that you deny without reason, but it is you who apply the term “unnatural”, not me.

          My concern is not over an arbitrary term used, be it “natural”, “unnatural”, “supernatural”, “artificial” or “metaphysics”. My concern is whether or not science shows me that something exists. Evidence overwhelmingly indicates that intelligent agency exists. Applying the useless term “unnatural” to it does not make it go away.

          Do you agree that overwhelming evidence demonstrates that teleology exists?

          Personally I consider intelligent agency to be quite natural, (arguably the only truly natural thing, in fact) but I’m not asking and don’t care whether you consider it natural or not.

          I’m asking if you admit the evidence shows that teleology exists.

        • john zande

          “Do you agree that overwhelming evidence demonstrates that teleology exists?”

          -Short answer, no. Long answer, no.

          You haven’t actually presented a single shard of evidence. Sure, you keep saying there’s evidence, but i haven’t seen you present anything yet.

          When you do, be sure to let me know what the purpose of the design is, as to conclude something is “designed” we must first know the intention.” Correct?

        • Anonymous

          John, every time I give you more “shards” of evidence you run and hide, or claim the evidence isn’t “actual” evidence, not bothering to explain why that is.

          Most atheist fanatics admit the evidence indicates intelligent, purposeful behavior, but they insist without explanation that it is all an “illusion”. You are one of the most extreme atheist evangelists who claim there is no evidence of intelligence in intelligent living beings.

          If yellow objects consistently attract to red ones, then that would be evidence that yellow and red attract somehow. If living organisms consistently move toward an accomplishment that improves the organism’s condition, then it is entirely logical and scientific to consider such movements as being connected to the beneficial end result.

          Consistent accomplishment of a purpose = Evidence of movement FOR that purpose.

          I keep using the word “intelligence” yet you keep putting the word “design” in quotes, a word I do not use. I see you like to be deceptive, rather than honest.

          Perhaps it would help move this discussion forward if you could either explain why the evidence I have already shown you isn’t “actual” evidence or even if you give an example of something that could be considered evidence of intelligence in a living creature.

          If an organism consistently makes movements that accomplish a purpose, I say that is evidence that the organism’s movements are for the intention of accomplishing the purpose.

          I have no idea how any sane person could honestly disagree with that, but you seem to, so please explain why movements that consistently accomplish a purpose are not evidence of purposive movements.

        • john zande

          First up, who am I talking to? Who’s Anonymous?

          “If yellow objects consistently attract to red ones, then that would be evidence that yellow and red attract somehow.”

          -Yes, and water flows downhill. Does this denote intelligence? If a certain colour succeeded better than another in attracting a certain type of bug which best suited the pollination needs of a certain plant then that colour will naturally be passed on through the success of that genetic strain. That’s not rocket science.

          I fear you might not understand the basic premise of evolution.

          “If living organisms consistently move toward an accomplishment that improves the organism’s condition, then it is entirely logical and scientific to consider such movements as being connected to the beneficial end result.”

          -Wrong. There is no guarantee any mutation or adaption will succeed. Evolution is blind. Many doors are pressed, and many paths are taken; simultaneously. Black coloured peppered moths were a horrendous mutation in that species prior to the industrial revolution in southern England. By chance alone, the soot spewed out by the industrial chimneys turned the trees black which, in-turn, meant the black coloured months (who were once unfit to survive) suddenly enjoyed great camouflage, whereas their lighter coloured brothers and sisters (who were once the better fitted to survive) suddenly stood out and were consumed en masse by flocks of very, very happy birds. Blind chance.

          What about The Great Oxygen Catastrophe 2.3 billion years ago. It brought about the extinction of nearly every species on the planet who couldn’t breathe the poisonous gas. Where was the “accomplishment” for these species that had been fit for survival?

          “Consistent accomplishment of a purpose = Evidence of movement FOR that purpose.”

          -Would you like me to list every species that has gone extinct to prove this point fundamentally wrong?

          Also, you can’t just keep repeating the word “purpose” without identifying what that purpose is.

          “Perhaps it would help move this discussion forward if you could either explain why the evidence I have already shown you isn’t “actual” evidence or even if you give an example of something that could be considered evidence of intelligence in a living creature.”

          -As far as I can see you haven’t produced any evidence yet, and I’m not at all sure what you’re asking regarding “evidence of intelligence”?

          “If an organism consistently makes movements that accomplish a purpose, I say that is evidence that the organism’s movements are for the intention of accomplishing the purpose.”

          -If you mean a digestive system is pretty good at digesting food then I’d certainly agree with that. Why, what point were you trying to make?

        • Frank Morris

          I don’t know why my name was replaced with “anonymous”, but the post above is me, Frank Morris.

          John, almost nothing you stated is correct and you didn’t even address my question.

          I asked you to give an example of what you might consider evidence of intelligence in living organisms and your response indicated to me that no matter what the evidence says, you reject it on atheistic religious grounds.

          You say “Evolution is blind.” so you need evidence for that statement, especially since almost nobody in the scientific community agrees with that anymore. Mutations are not random, as Darwinists claimed, but purposeful and tied directly to environmental need.

          For example, your own example, the peppered moth, will change color from dark to whitish (or vice versa) the first generation after you change the color of their enclosure, even with no predators in their cage. Earlier experiments in the wild have been discredited because they had no idea how many were “eaten”, born differently colored or simply flew away.

          It was a disgraceful example of how NOT to do science. If you want to claim “selection did it!” you need to have a control group (with and without a changed environment) but NO selection to compare to the experimental group. Had they done that, they would have saved themselves the embarrassment. Scientific method 101.

          The accomplishment of 2.3 billion years ago is adaptation to new environmental conditions, just as teleologists have always said happens and continues to happen today under experimental conditions.

          I said the fact that living things nearly always make movements that accomplish a purpose should logically be seen as evidence that they did so FOR the purpose.

          You replied: “Wrong. There is no guarantee any mutation or adaption will succeed.”

          First,I was referring to physical movements in general, not just nucleotide changes. Yes, mutational changes do appear to be just as intentional as all other movements in life, which was very predictable, but I’m including movements such as standing up to walk, hiding from a predator or picking fruit to eat.

          Moreover, they don’t need to SUCCEED to be intentional. I may get into my car and turn the key for the purpose of driving it somewhere, but it doesn’t start. Does that mean there was no purpose to my actions? What we always see in living organisms is goal-oriented movement. This does not mean that the goal is always accomplished.

          Thats one reason why extinctions do not indicate lack of purpose. To try yet fail still shows intention. The Ford Edsel is extinct. Was it accidentally created or intentionally?

          Goal–oriented movement in living organisms is not limited to digesting or adaptation. Trillions of movements daily in every one of trillions of organisms are logically observed to be goal-oriented. Even one goal-oriented action is statistically impossible by blind chance, but to claim consistent goal-oriented action is chance is beyond silly – it is either dishonesty or insanity.

          Can you please be sane and honest so that we can discuss this rationally?

        • Frank Morris

          This message isn’t really for John, so much as to the neutral reader, who may well wonder how I can say that evidence of consciousness, intelligence or goal-oriented movements in living organisms is overwhelming, while John claims there is not a “shard” or “blip” of evidence of intelligence in life.

          John is an atheism apologist who has an agenda against those who believe differently than he does. For some reason most people can not see, he has convinced himself that intelligent agency can not possibly exist.

          Therefore, no matter how clear the evidence that living things, including ourselves, have a self-aware consciousness, he will say that the evidence CAN’T be leading to something he doesn’t *believe* in, so it is not possible for anything to be evidence of it, no matter what.

          I encourage all to make your own unbiased assessment. Do other living things seem to move intelligently as if they have a conscious will similar to our own? All but a tiny percentage of adults give a resounding YES to that question.

          Many atheists fully accept the scientific reality of intelligent agency, consciousness and volition, but they don’t believe in God. John is a more extreme case, not believing in any form of intelligent agency, despite the obvious evidence.

          He will always and forever reject all science, because his BELIEF is the only thing that matters to him.

  • myatheistlife

    I disagree with your analysis and some of the premises: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/15/magazine/what-anesthesia-can-teach-us-about-consciousness.html?pagewanted=2&_r=0

    Your ultimatum is poorly formed, passive aggressive, and does not lead to a truth of any value. You’ll have to read a lot to keep up with science – or search the Internet prior to posting. (good advice for us all).

    • Debilis

      I definitely agree that we should all read and learn as much as possible.

      However, I don’t see anything in that article, or any other, that contradicts anything I’ve said. Even assuming, for a moment, that consciousness is purely physical, no one believes in consciousness because of neurology.

      If you are making the claim that you didn’t believe that you have consciousness until someone showed you a neurological study, please let me know what that study is. I’d be very interested to read on it.

      If, however, you did already know that you were conscious, apart from studies, then you have ways of knowing thing other than studies–which was my original point.

      • myatheistlife

        Then I misunderstood your point somehow, and still don’t think your post reads that way. Cogito ergo sum, and the science confirms that this is correct.

        • Debilis

          Fair enough, let me try it this way:

          “Cogito ergo sum” isn’t science. If you accept it as a valid argument (which I think one should), you agree that there are ways of knowing other than the physical sciences.

          But this runs counter to materialism. It contradicts the demand that people shouldn’t believe things without scientific evidence, among other things that materialists often say.

          Nor is there any scientific study that confirms this. Science starts from this assumption (again, with good philosophical reason). But it is bad science, and bad philosophy, to claim to have “confirmed” something one had to assume even to perform the experiment.

          That being the case, we’re left back at the idea that belief in consciousness is something we know from experience (Cogito ergo sum), not through experiment.

        • myatheistlife

          You’re trying too hard to show a difference without a distinction. Science has shown that without brain activity we stop being who we are. Certain brain damage alters conscious activity and thus shows consciousness to be contingent on the physical world, thus part of the material world. Experience and experiment confirm this. There is no wiggle room.

        • john zande

          Thank you, MAL. I’ve have tried to enlighten Debilis on this fact a number of times in the past, but he chooses to dance around it.

        • Debilis

          If this had been your goal, wouldn’t it have been easier to simply present me with some scientific evidence for consciousness?

          That’s what I’ve asked for, and claimed does not exist.

          As such, my entire case could be countered by showing that. I’d be “enlightened”, and would retract it.

        • john zande

          Hehe, you heard that, did you? 🙂

          Isn’t the evidence you’re choosing not to acknowledge exists that which is associated with brain injury?

        • Debilis

          Not remotely.

          I’ve agreed that the brain is highly involved in consciousness. Given the existence of consciousness, that only stands to reason.

          But none of these studies test whether or not consciousness exists. They assume that from the outset.

          Really, if one respects science, one needs to understand the importance of understanding clearly what a study or experiment is testing, and what it is not.

        • john zande

          I don’t understand your position, Debilis. What is it, actually? What are you actually arguing?

        • Debilis

          I’m arguing that we know that this thing called “consciousness” exists in ways other than science.

          Hence, those that demand that we can only look to science for knowledge either need to reject the idea that consciousness exists, or quit making that demand.

        • john zande

          That doesn’t make any sense at all. You’re proposing all enquiry cease! That’s ridiculous!! Just because we can’t precisely describe it today doesn’t mean we won’t be able to tomorrow. If we followed your rationale here we would have never gotten down for the trees.

          Honestly, you should read what you write sometimes, Debilis.

        • Debilis

          Insulting me and pointing out that you don’t understand my position are not points against it.

          So, to correct some of that: I’m not remotely proposing that all inquiry cease. If you read over the discussion, you’ll find it’s the other way around. I’ve pointed out that there are forms of inquiry other than physical tests, and others have been demanding that all inquiry cease with the physical.

          Of course, we could gain more knowledge. I’m suggesting precisely that we do exactly that–to constantly apply all ways of gaining knowledge.

          Demanding that we not do this, and limit ourselves to a single way is what is halting inquiry.

        • Debilis

          Either that, or the distinction has been missed.

          The idea that consciousness is dependent on the functioning of the body is not a discovery of modern science. That has been known at least since antiquity (and probably for all history).

          I’m not remotely disagreeing with that. I’m pointing out that, wether or not human consciousness requires the physical (I say that it does), there is no physical test for whether or not human consciousness exists.

          That’s the distinction. Anyone who reveres science should care acutely about what has been tested, and what hasn’t. That’s an important part of knowing whether or not there is scientific evidence for a thing.

          So, if you don’t care about the fact that there is no scientific evidence for consciousness, it may not seem like a distinction to you. But that is hardly borne out of a respect for science.

        • myatheistlife

          You are not listening. Recent discoveries show that when there is integrated information exchange or activity between brain sections there is consciousness and when activity is not integrated across the brain there is no consciousness. This has been reported for months now. Go do some searching. There are tests for consciousness.

          In case that is something that you want to dance around, this test is being used to tell the difference between vegetative state and low functioning consciousness. There is, in fact, at least one test for consciousness. More are on the way. What was known by experience is now know by experiment and test. Your argument fails. It might have been a defensible argument last year but it now no longer is.

        • Debilis

          I completely got that.

          Do you want me to summarize it, so that you can rest at ease that this is coming across?

          You are essentially arguing that consciousness does not exist in humans without EEG activity. Let’s not “dance around” that: there is not consciousness in humans without brain activity, alterations to brain activity (including alterations to the brain structure via damage or surgery, of course) will alter or destroy consciousness.

          Was that clear enough? Should I go on?

          A number of experiments have been done outlining the details of these correlations. The effects of various traumas and chemicals have been tested, and we’ve consistently found that consciousness depends on brain activity.

          Is that about right?

          Would it shock you if I said that I 100% agree with all of that? I do, as a matter of fact.

          But, now that I’ve spent some time on that, let’s also not dance around my point:

          None of those studies (not a single one) has tested whether or not consciousness exists. They all have assumed this as part of the background data going in to the situation.

          How do the researchers know whether or not a patient is conscious? Is it through testing whether activity is integrated across the brain?

          If that were how they were doing it, they couldn’t possibly have shown the fact that you cite.

          This is for a very simple reason: if they’d been testing for consciousness by scanning the brain, they would have just been assuming that brain activity is consciousness, not showing it to be so.

          And that would have been terrible science.

          Rather, they showed that there is a connection to consciousness by comparing brain scans to behavior. People with altered brain activity act as if their consciousness has been altered (they seem to forget things, slur their speech, don’t respond to stimuli, or whatnot).

          After that, yes, one can infer a lack of consciousness from a lack of brain activity. But this isn’t remotely a test for whether or not consciousness exists (in the general sense) it is only a test of whether or not a particular person is conscious.

          But the fact that this is all based on what the scientists knew before they did these experiments is almost exactly what I claimed–that we had to know consciousness existed already to even start doing studies on the comparison between consciousness and brain activity.

          So, let’s not dance around the fact that brain activity is required for human consciousness. Likewise, let’s not dance around the fact that brain scans weren’t ever what told us that consciousness exists.

          To ignore either of these things is to misrepresent (and, therefore, disrespect) what science is and does.

        • john zande

          “None of those studies (not a single one) has tested whether or not consciousness exists.”

          Debilis, seriously, what does that even mean?

        • Debilis

          Just what it says.

          The existence of consciousness is not known through those studies.

          Really, that seems pretty straight-forward to me. I’ll try to go slowly through these points, if you’re having trouble understanding. But, I don’t see any validity in the implication that your inability to understand an argument tells us anything other than that you don’t understand it.

        • john zande

          Rather than just wobbling your mouth, how about you tell us what you think consciousness is.

        • Debilis

          Again, insults are pointless.

          Rather, let’s get to the point. Consciousness is self-awareness. It also comes with an awareness of the surrounding environment.

          But, out of a certain amount of fear that I’ll now be asked to define “awareness”, I’d like to point out that you already know what consciousness is. Most pertinently, it isn’t behavior.

          So, if you can point to a study that observed consciousness (not behavior) and showed that it existed, I’d be very interested. Really, my entire argument would collapse if even a single study could be produced to that effect.

          But I’m confident that it won’t be because:
          1. I’ve checked, and
          2. I know how science works.

          Science observes behavior because it is physical. Consciousness is not a physical concept. It is on another subject altogether.

          Its rather like mathematics and logic, in that way. These subjects are simply not known to us through physical experimentation. And some overly-concrete thinkers have trouble understanding them because of this.

          But that doesn’t change the fact that logic and mathematics are valid means of inquiry.

        • john zande

          Yes, yes, i get all that. In some ways i fully agree with you. i’m merely asking you to state what you actually think. That is to say, stop just trying to hype on about what you “think” science can’t explain fully just yet (God of the gaps), and actually enhance the discussion by adding something to it.

        • Debilis

          Fair enough.

          And, for the record, I agree that God of the gaps reasoning is silly. I’m definitely not proposing that.

          Rather, what I was trying to add to it was that, given the facts of how we know about things like consciousness, mathematics, logic, etc., we should broaden our search of inquiry.

          First, this means that we need to understand something of metaphysics, as that is the relevant subject when we are discussing the basic structure of reality.

          Second, this means that experience, not merely physical observation, should be admitted as evidence in considering things.

          Third, if follows from these that we need to be careful to make clear distinctions (between the scientific and the metaphysical) when reading off the implications of this or that piece of evidence.

          All three of those are massive subjects, of course (which would add volumes to the discussion), but to give one example:

          The ability to predict a physical system doesn’t actually show that it is entirely physical. There may well be (and, in fact, demonstrably are) traits in that system which are not described by the equations of physical study. This is actuality a massive paradigm shift for most anyone in modern culture, and represents an enormous blind-spot in our conception of things.

          As for an alternative, I recommend a basically aristotelian approach. There are categories of description there which most of us lack.

          Was that enough adding–or did you want me to connect this specifically to a concept of God. That really wasn’t my point, this time around, but I’d be happy to if you indicate that’s what you were asking.

          For now, the things I’ve pointed out would bring entire academic fields into the discussion that were previously being shut out–that’s definitely an advance.

        • john zande

          Thanks, now we’re getting somewhere… sort of.

          “we should broaden our search of inquiry”

          -The Templeton Foundation, and its kitty of $2.5 billion, has been doing this for decades. See Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, renamed in 2001 the Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities.

          And anyway, science does not ever decide to “not study” a subject. If there is nothing to “observe” then there is nothing to study. It has to begin with observation, hence neurology. MAL has been at pains to demonstrate to you how science “is” studying consciousness. You are seemingly just ignoring all this because, I suspect, it doesn’t fit in with the answer you want.

          “First, this means that we need to understand something of metaphysics, as that is the relevant subject when we are discussing the basic structure of reality”

          -What is metaphysics, Debilis? Writing a sentence like this means absolutely nothing. No offense, but its meaningless. Say something. Tell us what metaphysics is, and what should be studied. I don’t care if it sounds outlandish (I actually love outlandish things, the crazier the better), but please actually say something. Are you referring to things like telepathy?

          “Second, this means that experience, not merely physical observation, should be admitted as evidence in considering things.”

          -Surely experience is located in the neurological connections. Example: brain injury in a certain part of the head will result in a loss of learned functions. The “experience” of learning is studied by development psychologists. Example: studying the process of aborisation, the Swiss developmental psychologists, Jean Piaget, noted that until an early developmental stage a child watching a toy train disappear into a tunnel will witness the event and perceive the train to have simply vanished. In the infantile mind, a mind that experiences the world as parcels of constant novelty, what emerges magically from the other side is an entirely new train. Piaget observed that it was only after a sufficient number of the right connections had been made in the infantile frontal cortex, connections that allowed a sequential ordering of events, did a child instinctively glance forward after seeing a train enter a tunnel and wait for it – the same train – to emergence from the other end. He called this ability to predict “conservation,” and it appears in us all bit by little bit. Month after month the dendrites branch out in a massive public works program until finally stabilising at about the 36th month, and with that begins the age of memory: the age of self.

          This stuff is all out there, Debilis. You seem determined to ignore it all (pretending, perhaps, it doesn’t exist) and instead just go off on your merry way crying God of the Gaps. Now, this is not a slur. I don’t think you’re a bad person, but please be honest in approaching these subjects.

          “Third, if follows from these that we need to be careful to make clear distinctions (between the scientific and the metaphysical) when reading off the implications of this or that piece of evidence.”

          -Again, what are you even talking about here? Seriously, what are you trying to say?

          “The ability to predict a physical system doesn’t actually show that it is entirely physical. There may well be (and, in fact, demonstrably are) traits in that system which are not described by the equations of physical study.”

          -OK, like what? What “traits” are demonstrably evident? Worry not, I’m not setting you up to pounce. I really want to hear what you think is there to study. Is are talking about parapsychology, for example?

        • Debilis

          I’m aware of the Templeton Foundation. I agree that they’ve put a lot of money and energy into promoting a dialogue between theology and science. Rather, I’m opposing those who don’t recognize the content of that dialogue–who insist only hearing only the scientific half of that conversation.

          (Incidentally, I’d have an equal problem with those who are only listening to the the theological side of it. We need to take a broader approach, such as the Templeton Foundation does.)

          But science most certainly does abstain from studying certain subjects. That has been my point. It observes the physical. If the subject at hand isn’t physical, science is silent.

          If that weren’t true, then someone should be able to produce a scientific experiment which tested for something non-physical.

          As to what metaphysics is, no, I’m not referring to things like telepathy (other than the fact that I threw a picture of Xavier on the post, I have no idea where that came from). Rather Metaphysics is the study of the fundamental nature of reality. It is a well known area of study, and (among other things) provides the basis for science. Anytime anyone outlines what science is, that person is making a series of (valid, in my view) metaphysical claims.

          Is reality patterned or chaotic? Purely physical? Physical at all (as opposed to being an illusion)? Does causation exist–or only correlation?

          These are all metaphysical questions. Likewise, whatever your working answers to them are–they are metaphysical positions.

          The metaphysical position of materialism, for instance, claims that the world is entirely physical and patterned. That may be good metaphysics, or (as I claim) demonstrably false metaphysics. Either way, Metaphysics is the subject we are discussing.

          And this is yet another answer to your claim that experience is purely physical. I’m aware of Piaget’s experiments; I’m also aware that he never tested whether or not experience is purely physical. Rather, he tested whether or not there was a physical correlation with certain behavior patterns that seem to indicate an understanding of object permanence.

          Or, more simply, you’ve tacked on a metaphysical claim to the end of a scientific finding.

          I completely agree that the brain is necessary for human consciousness. I’ve already clarified this point. And that’s all, in this context, that Piaget’s experiment shows. Acting as if it somehow demonstrates that there is nothing other than the physical–and no way of investigating anything other than the physical, is a materialist interpretation of the experiment, not anything the data actually shows.

          And this leads straight into my third point: that we must be careful to understand the difference between the scientific data and a metaphysical interpretation.

          It isn’t remotely scientific to not understand the difference.

          And, as you’ve admitted on multiple occasions, you don’t understand this. That’s only a problem so long as one knows that and is willing to learn–or at least refrains from speaking for science.

          To put it another way, one needs to understand the metaphysical foundations of science in order to understand what sort of information science offers. Bypassing this step only results in sloppy thinking and speaking for science when one should be silent.

          Moving on to the last point, everything that is not described by mathematics is not physical in the scientific sense of the term.

          It’s long been known that science doesn’t actually have a non-circular definition for the terms “matter” and “energy”. Physics, for instance, can tell you a great deal about the patterns of movement these things have, but actually doesn’t tell you what they are outside of that.

          Nor should it; that isn’t its job. That’s a metaphysical question.

          So, unless our understanding of what we call “physical” includes more than what science studies, then there is more than the physical in every object we’ve ever encountered.

          And it is simply unscientific to refuse to make careful distinctions like this. The value of science is that it defines its area of study so carefully, and the science-lover in me hates the kind of sloppy thinking I encounter when people make wild pronouncements about what “science shows”.

        • john zande

          Debilis, I think you’re being terribly (and knowingly) disingenuous in dismissing the work of Templeton Foundation. The simple fact is this: a very wealthy fund has existed for decades to finance research into spiritual realities. To date, that effort has returned precisely zero positive results. If there is nothing there, not even a single blip, then how can you expect governments and Universities to waste money chasing phantoms?

          “But science most certainly does abstain from studying certain subjects.”

          -No, Debilis, it doesn’t. See the success rate of the Templeton Foundation. Magic is not a valid (or rational) research field.

        • Debilis

          Frankly, I don’t know how you know my personal psychology.

          As your only source of information to that end, let me clarify that I am not remotely “dismissing” the work of the Templeton Foundation.

          Rather, it is you who are dismissing their work. They simply are not looking for the same sort of things that you seem to presume they are looking for. Therefore, it is simply false that they’ve “returned precisely zero results”.

          But, you seem very excited about this lack of results, and are very insistent that science tests for everything. So, please let me know what experiment tested for the non-physical. That would do a lot more than vast unsupported claims about what the foundation hasn’t done.

          And, frankly, if they were looking for the exact same thing that you’re looking for, then all of my statements about bad metaphysics would simply apply to them.

          That is the overall point here. The only way you can make this vast conclusion about the Templeton Foundation is to presume scientism. You’re measuring success in predicable results in physical experiments.

          That is a (poor) metaphysical position–but I’ve not been given any reason whatsoever to believe that position, nor even a response to the reasons I’ve given why it is false.

          So, if you can complain that I’m “dismissing” the issue of the Templeton Foundation (after a single mention of it), I can certainly point out that you’re dismissing the issue of how one believes in consciousness.

          That is a “positive result”, after all. And it happens to be the actual topic of the post.

          And it isn’t being addressed. Rather, I’m asked to (for the umpteenth time) explain the difference between what I’m claiming and “magic”.

          I can go over it again. But the point is that, if you don’t understand the difference, then there is no reason to think your personal judgment of the Templeton Foundation (which isn’t looking for magic, either) is worth a moment’s consideration.

          The person who speaks against theism while refusing to address metaphysics is like the person who speaks against the quadratic formula while refusing to discuss mathematics–and throwing the word “magic” around as if that somehow made it okay to loudly attack something out of ignorance of the logic behind it.

          That is argument by meme, not logic.

        • john zande

          Debilis, in a recent post and discussion i urged you to write your hypothesis and present it to the Templeton Foundation to request research funds.

          Did you ever do this?

          I assure you, this is not a poke in the eye. I’d love to look it over.

        • Debilis

          As I’ve not claimed anything that hasn’t been said by quite a few people already known to the Templeton Foundation, I don’t quite see the point of that.

          But you still seem to have this misconception that what I’m proposing is a “hypothesis”. The entire point was that I’m discussing things outside the purview of science.

          You’re free to make a case against, but topic shifts to the Templeton Foundation are pointless.

          How so? You’ve already been presented with at least four reasons to quit demanding that every question is scientific that aren’t remotely answered by requests for a “hypothesis”:

          1. The fact that you yourself know of consciousness without having to consult a neurological test.
          2. The fact that science is based on mathematics and logic (meaning that math and logic can’t be reduced to a subdivision of science)
          3. The fact that, similarly, one must accept certain metaphysical claims in order to do science.
          4. The fact that materialism is a metaphysical tack-on to science, which has no evidential support from any experiment.

          In response, I’ve received a shift to talks about the Templeton Foundation, which seems to be just one more variation on “give me scientific evidence of your claim that not everything is scientific”.

          If you aren’t accepting the fact that science doesn’t work without assuming things that aren’t scientific (mathematics, logic, metaphysics…)–that is, if you aren’t accepting the whole of science–then why on Earth would you accept a single experiment?

        • john zande

          Perhaps I’m not making myself clear.

          1. You say these things you’re talking about are “real.”

          2. You are complaining that science doesn’t study them (although i’m still not entirely sure i understand what you’re actually talking about).

          3. If however they are indeed real, as you insist, then there must be a way of studying them… or else you wouldn’t be winging about science not studying them.

          4. Surely, then, you can come up with a working hypothesis (which includes falsifiable predictions), and experimentation to test this hypothesis… which is what science does.

        • Debilis

          I think you’ve been very clear on your position, but very off base on mine.

          To explain:
          1. Yes; just don’t conflate real and physical.

          2. I’m not remotely complaining. I am stating a fact that doesn’t bother me in the slightest.

          3. There is a way of studying these things. That is precisely what metaphysics does.

          4. Here, you confuse scientific tests for all means of studying. This simply assumes that the materialist position is correct, rather than offering a reason why other means of inquiry should be rejected–or even answering the reasons I’ve given why this isn’t the whole story.

          In short, I know you believe that all inquiry is a matter of testing hypotheses via experiments. What I need is a reason to reject logical analysis and direct experience as valid.

        • john zande

          Well, wouldn’t the answer to that be obvious? If you can’t test it, and repeat the results, then how can you possibly know its true?

          To your point on metaphysics: what does it do?

        • Debilis

          There are several ways, actually. The most obvious is the test for logical consistency. If it weren’t for this, in fact, science simply wouldn’t work.

          I’ve also mentioned the fact that not all experience is a physical test (that is the point of this topic). Meaning that some things can be known, and even repeated, without a scientific test.

          You are free to reject these ideas, but:

          1. We need to give a reason for rejecting them, rather than simply asking “how can you possibly know”.

          2. Rejecting these things means rejecting the basis of science.

          And this is one of the many things that metaphysics does: gives us a rational basis for other forms of inquiry (such as science). It is how science was invented. Logic and metaphysics, in fact, are the basis of all inquiry.

        • john zande

          OK, logical consistency is something, but that does not necessarily establish if something is true, and therefore cannot be relied up. A clear example is cause and effect. The general flow of causality appears logical, certainly, but it’s not entirely true. Radioactive decay is, seemingly, causeless. Retrocausality has been demonstrated in the lab. And particles randomly pop in and out of existence. That said, to a point I agree with you here, although I fail to see how this can be a discipline in and by itself. Surely “thinking really hard about something” is the root of ontology. It’s interesting, sure, but it’s never discovered a single truth.

          Your 2nd point can be proven wrong. The 12,000 to 15,000 year old Thaïs Bone is the first evidence we have of observational science; and observational science is the basis of modern “science” which seeks to understand nature.

          Your statement at the end is a based in truth, but you’re glossing it a little. Thinking about things was indeed one our species first methods for understanding nature, but you can’t ignore that so too was scientific observation, as exampled in the Thaïs bone. This “method of discovery” (thinking really hard about something) was, however, not at all reliable, as you well know. It led to Poseidon, Neptune, Siduri, Olódùmarè, and millions upon millions of other supernal and earth spirits. The problem here is man’s bias to finding agency in things. That is in-built, a Palaeolithic artefact, and it has proven unreliable.

        • Debilis

          Of course logical tests can establish things. To grab a simple example, logical consistency shows us that there are no married bachelors.

          Moreover, to dismiss tests of logical consistency is to dismiss science. Every scientific theory in existence depends on this principle.

          This is why, even if quantum mechanics were a counter example to causation (it isn’t: indeterminacy is simply not the same as “uncaused”).

          Nor is metaphysics the same as “thinking really hard about something”. That’s rather like describing science as “looking really hard at something”. There is quite a bit more to it than that.

          Beyond that, I simply don’t agree with the idea that thinking about things has never revealed a single truth. It’s closer to say that all truth is revealed through thought.

          And this is why metaphysics and logic are indeed the basis of science. I’m not sure how the discovery of a Thaïs Bone is supposed to refute this. Are you trying to argue that science should be thought of as this age–and that metaphysics can’t possibly be older than that?

          If so, I’d simply request support, and point out that what you call “scientific observation” requires metaphysics.

          Personally, I don’t know much about the details of the metaphysics held by those living 12,000 years ago. But modern science does indeed have logic and metaphysics as its rational basis.

          I’ll completely agree with you, however, that people can reach poor conclusions. But this is clearly not a problem of too much thinking, but thinking too sloppily. Science requires clarity of thought and a well-defined conceptual framework.

          This is metaphysics. It isn’t simply “thinking really hard about things” and it needn’t be done in abstraction from what we know from experience and observation.

          So, if you find metaphysics unreliable, science would need to be dismissed. If you find “thought alone” unreliable, I’d say that you’ve misunderstood metaphysics.

        • john zande

          Don’t go to the extreme, Debilis. I didn’t say one couldn’t use logic altogether. I said it wasn’t a reliable way of discovering truth. And its not. Generally, though, I’m agreeing with you.

          I’m still utterly confused about what point you’re trying to make here. You seem to be winging that science doesn’t use metaphysics/logic, then spinning on a dime and saying science doesn’t exist without metaphysics and logic.

          If I’ve missed it, I apologise in advance, but as far as I recall you still haven’t actually provided a single working example to cement whatever it is you’re saying.

          Do you have an example, so i can sort this out in my head.

        • Debilis

          Fair enough. I’ll agree that one should gain as much information as one can to analyze with logic. The main thing I’d add to that is to underline that this is exactly what metaphysicians do.

          As to your question about science. That should be clarified. Science does indeed use metaphysics–but only certain parts of it. It depends on certain metaphysical positions. But, as science is a method, rather than a person, in can simply ignore certain metaphysical questions.

          That being the case, it is simply silent about some areas. Those of us living life, however, must answer certain questions. And my contention here is that the rational processes that led to the conclusions that science uses (metaphysics and logic) should not be dismissed simply because we aren’t now doing science.

          As for logic, I think we agree that it is valid. This would mean that, if a position (such as materialism) can be shown to contradict itself, it should be rejected.

          And these would be the “examples” I’ve given. The metaphysics and logic that are the basis of science contradict materialism and lead to theism.

          The only way that one could say that I’ve not provided an example is if “example” means “physical example”. If this is the case, then my point is that, according to logic, asking for a physical example of the non-physical is a contradiction.

          Rather, I’ve presented this:
          1. Materialism contradicts itself in its treatment of the mind
          2. Materialists contradict their own metaphysics to believe in the mind
          3. Materialism contradicts the principle of causation regarding the whole of physical reality.
          4. Materialists contradict their own metaphysics to believe humans have value.
          5. Science doesn’t logically lead to materialism–nor have materialists offered any reason to believe their metaphysics.

          All of these are logical conclusions, not “examples”. But please note that none of them rely simply on logic alone. As I’ve presented them in the posts where they were discussed, they start with publicly available information.

        • john zande

          Just another point on logic being unreliable. You’re belief in a benevolent, aseitic, perfect god is illogical, yet you still believe. Why? Because your belief is actually shaped by an emotional need, not facts. There are so many logical inconsistencies with your concept of a god that believing in it is illogical. Take the concept of omniscience, free will, and reward/punishment. These things are incompatible. The entire concept of Christianity is in fact logically inconsistent: god sacrificed himself, to himself, to save humanity from himself. Explain that one in a logical way. And if we actually look at the world around us, and truly apply an objective eye, then you inevitably arrive at a malevolent, not benevolent, creator god. No one, however, wants to believe in a malevolent creator, so no one accepts that conclusion, despite the overwhelming (logical) evidence.

          You see, logic alone is not reliable. It helps, sure, but it’s not a guaranteed method to revealing truth in and by itself.

        • Debilis

          So, assuming that you’re right and I’m wrong, then my position is illogical.

          I suppose that’s good logic, but I don’t see the point. That doesn’t prove that logic is unreliable. At most, it would prove that there was a flaw in my reasoning somewhere.

          If you think you know what that flaw is, we can have that conversation next. But, so far, if materialism means rejecting logic, it’s definitely an irrational position.

          As to your thoughts on Christianity, I can only say that this is, whether intentionally so or not, a straw man. This is both a misrepresentation of my beliefs and a very presumptive approach to what is consistent without presenting an actual case.

          But that’s a side point. The main issue for now is that, if pure thought is worthless, then the pure thought that you just offered against Christianity can be dismissed.

          And this is one more reason why it does no good to dismiss the validity of logic. Not only does it mean dismissing science (which requires trusting logic), but it is the essence of what it means to be irrational.

        • john zande

          I said it was *unreliable* as a method of establishing truth.

          Yes, *your* Christianity is different to everyone else’s Christianity. Doesn’t that in itself say Christianity is false?

          Regardless: do you agree or disagree with the statement that the premise of Christianity is:

          “God sacrificed himself,
          to himself,
          to save humanity from himself.”

          Please explain your answer

        • Debilis

          I simply disagree that logic is unreliable. If it were, science wouldn’t work.

          I’ve started from publicly available information, and used logic to reason to a conclusion. You can claim that there is a mistake in my logic, but to dismiss logic as unreliable is to dismiss science.

          As to Christianity, it is simply false that mine is different from everyone else’s. I don’t think I’ve said anything about Christianity that wasn’t essentially repeating some theologian. Really, I don’t know who this “everyone else” is, but I’ve never actually met that Christian.

          And, no. It wouldn’t, in itself, mean that Christianity is false. If two things contradict one another, it means that at least one of them is false.

          And, as you’ve done such an excellent job of showing that this other version of Christianity is false, I think we can safely say that it does nothing to compete with my view as a potential true position.

          Last, the answer is “no”. I don’t remotely agree that this is the basic premise of Christianity (or any part of Christianity). I’ve never believed that.

          Rather, I believe that God sacrificed himself, not “to” anything, but because there were certain practical, logical reasons why such a thing would be necessary both to be close to humanity, and to make it clear to humans that he does indeed understand humanity.

          And God was not remotely saving humanity “from himself”, but from the horrific things that happen to humans when we are too long outside the source of all life and goodness (God). God has essentially said “you can leave me if you choose, but I should warn you that, on an eternal timeline, it’s literally Hell out there”.

          That was what God was saving people from.

        • john zande

          Debilis, I know you’ll be interested in this article.

          http://xposethereal.com/scientists-claim-that-quantum-theory-proves-consciousness-moves-to-another-universe-at-death.html

          Enjoy, and i’d be keen to hear your thoughts.

        • Debilis

          Are you promoting this idea? Are you claiming that this is a genuinely scientific position?

          If you genuinely believe this is a serious possibility, I’ll outline the problems with it–and why this isn’t science. They’re mostly the same as the reasons I’ve already given for other claims that consciousness is a purely physical entity.

          If not, I don’t see much point in refuting a position that neither of us accept.

        • john zande

          Why so nasty? I sent you this in good faith, thinking you’d be interested to hear a hypothesis concerning “immaterial” consciousness.

          And yes, I had heard of this before, and i’m aware of the problems and objections. It is pseudoscience, and considering 30 years have passed and no one’s come up any experimentation to test the idea isn’t encouraging. This doesn’t however mean i’m anti the idea. Like every other sentient creature i would like to think consciousness lives on.

          Doesn’t this, however, sort of rain on your idea that no one in science is investigating the “immaterial”?

        • Debilis

          Apologies; this was not meant in a nasty way. I simply meant that it seems strange to mention it–as we agree that it is pseudoscience.

          At least, I think we agree. You seem to think that this constitutes a legitimate scientific investigation. But, no, a pseudoscientific proposal doesn’t remotely show that “science is investigating the immaterial”.

        • john zande

          Perhaps you can give me an example of “how” science can test the immaterial.

        • Debilis

          I’ve claimed that it cannot.

          I agree that anyone who claims that it can ought to explain how.
          Similarly, anyone who claims that the immaterial is unlikely to exist should present a test that has been done.

          On the other hand, I claim that science does not test for the immaterial. The fact that its methods require a physical test is my reason.

        • john zande

          Did you read this comment before posting?

          You say science cannot test the immaterial, then make the statement that science does not test the immaterial.

          Are you just playing a game here?

        • Debilis

          I have no idea why any of this bothers you.

          Yes, I’ve said that science cannot test the immaterial.

          This is perfectly compatible with saying that science does not test the immaterial. In fact, they are virtually the same statement.

          You’ve responded by asking “but how could science test the immaterial?”. I’ve said “It can’t; that way my point.”

          I really don’t know how to make it any simpler than that. If you think that science can test for the immaterial, please explain how.

          If you think that science has tested for the immaterial, mention the experiment.

          If you agree that it cannot, then we agree that scientific data is not relevant to the question of the immaterial.

        • john zande

          Sooooo, what’s your point?

          You say science can’t test the immaterial, then whine that science doesn’t test the immaterial, yet still haven’t provided an example of what the immaterial is (as far as i recall).

          This all seems to be a colossal waste of time.

        • Debilis

          My point is that asking for scientific (material) examples is silly.

          I’ve provided non-material examples of what the immaterial is: the mind, moral truth, God, etc. You may claim that these are physical things, and/or do not exist, but they are still “example[s] of what the immaterial is”.

          What seems to be going on is that I’m getting requests for “examples” as if that should settle the entire discussion–as if that were what was going to prove that such things exist.

          But that is simply not true. Examples are merely illustrations of the point. The actual reason to believe them is the logic behind the argument.

          So, by all means, ask for examples if I haven’t been clear enough. But, if you want a reason to think I’m correct, forget examples and ask for a reason.

        • Frank Morris

          I guess I disagree with pretty much everybody here, but I’ll speak directly to myatheistlife’s “no wiggle room” post.

          If my computer crashes and you don’t hear anything from me anymore, does that mean I no longer exist? Or that I was just an illusion in the first place? No wiggle room, right?

          If a car breaks down does that mean that the driver who has been intelligently controlling it was really an “illusion” all along, with no “wiggle room” for other explanations (such as he is taking the bus)? Does the driver somehow simultaneously die by coincidence?

          If a contractor builds a home and a tornado comes along and damages it, does that prove with no wiggle room that the contractor was just randomly throwing wood and mortar together? No, if an immaterial intelligent agency builds a functional brain, that does not mean that the brain must remain impervious to damage or else we have to assume that nothing intelligent built it in the first place.

          We do not know what happens to consciousness after we die, but there is no reason to believe it ends and certainly there is no “science” telling us an answer. Dead people would have to tell us what it is like to be dead.

          Millions of comatose patients with little to no brain activity have reported full consciousness while in that state and have verified it through accurately describing events they wouldn’t have known. Others do not. We have a lot to learn here.

          Both materialists and teleologists would predict difficulties after brain damage, but only teleologists would further predict repair of the brain and restored functions, sometimes with functions redirected to other undamaged areas of the brain.

          So are we left just not knowing whether the mind causes the brain or the brain causes the mind?

          No. We know for certain that the mind causes the brain because it is intelligent. Random chemical reactions can not be coherent – ever.

        • myatheistlife

          @Frank Morris

          Your analogies are a bit off. Your words on the Internet are to you what consciousness is to a brain. If you die, your words die.
          Motion is to the car what consciousness is to the brain. If the car dies, there is no more motion.
          The building analogy just made no sense at all.

          Your assertion that an immaterial intelligent agent builds brains is without credible supporting evidence. The second half of that statement makes no sense to me.
          There is science telling us what/where consciousness is. The news will make it to your world soon. Consciousness is contingent on a functioning brain. When the brain stops working consciousness is gone. That is far and away enough for us to believe it ends.

          Where are ‘they’ keeping these millions of comatose patients? How was brain activity measured?
          Note please that I have never said that when brain activity is minimal there is no consciousness.
          No, it is not true that only teleologists would predict restoral of brain function. That’s a very silly thing to say. VERY silly.

          No we are not left wondering if the brain causes the mind or vice versa. If mind caused the brain, brain damage or malfunction would not impair conscious affects.
          Your statement that random chemical reactions can not ever be coherent shows a marked lack of understanding both of chemistry and how the brain works physiologically.

          In review, your assertions are not at all in alignment with what humanity does know about the brains of mammals.
          Your assertion that the mind is intelligent is not always true, so the assertion is false. Of course, that depends on how you define intelligent. If I understand your thinking it is the kind of thinking that says the mentally handicapped are sub-human, clearly their lack of intelligence is a sure sign that their mind is defective, impure, less than human. It can’t be because the brain is malfunctioning because the mind causes the brain… am I right?

        • Frank Morris

          MAL, its easy to see why you can’t get my analogies. It is because you reverse the mind-brain cause-effect by presumption, which leads you to your own a priori conclusion.

          No, the words on the internet do NOT represent consciousness. I myself represent the intelligent source. The words on the internet represent your ability to detect my existence, as a cause of what you can see.

          If my computer (the brain) dies, that doesn’t mean I (the intelligent consciousness) died too. It just means you no longer have any way to detect my existence. Is this really so hard to follow?

          Even though you don’t agree with me, you know the words were not random gibberish, so the source is intelligent. Likewise, we know the intelligent formation of the brain, as well as the precise timing and precision of the chemo-electric data transmissions therein, indicate an intelligent source.

          Neural pathways, like all tissues in all organisms, form purposefully and as needed, when needed. Start regularly playing ping pong, for example, and your hand will develop nerve pathways to expedite and improve the functionality. Damage those nerves and you will become lousy at ping pong again, at least until you heal.

          Likewise the brain forms as you use it and as you choose to regularly think thoughts. Your free will thoughts are the cause. This is well understood and demonstrated science, and there is no hope for a reversal of that because you would need random mess to cause functional order and accident to cause intent, none of which is possible. Brain causing mind would be a reversal of all scientific evidence, as well as logic.

          Consciousness is in every part of every living organism. More recent evidence shows that it can extend beyond the organism, further proving it has nothing to do with matter, as if that ever made any sense. Nobody has located a clump of matter that is a consciousness and there is no logical pathway from matter to awareness.

          And no, you DON’T have an explanation for restoration of brain functions in another undamaged part of a brain. If you do, please spell it out.

          If a car is damaged it will be impaired until we fix it. If a brain is damaged it will be impaired until the mind fixes it. If a car is damaged beyond repair we will abandon it. If the brain is damaged beyond repair the mind will abandon it.

          Where you came up with the comment that mentally handicapped people are “sub-human” is beyond me, but I find it disgusting and I certainly do not agree.

          Are you seriously contesting that there have been millions of documented cases of comatose people? Where have they been keeping them? In hospitals, of course. I’m not saying they are all still comatose and piling up somewhere. Yeesh.

          In your best words as someone who seems to feel so confident he knows, what causes intelligence?

  • myatheistlife

    What science is and does? The scientific method is:

    a method of procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.

    I don’t think you understand what science is. Did you see that observation part? It’s pretty important. You clearly seem to not think so. Observing consciousness is part of the scientific process in this consideration. I do not understand what you are trying to argue any more now than at the first post. To me it seems that you do not understand what should be easily understood.

    • Debilis

      I did in fact see the “observation part”.

      In fact, I was pointing out that one needs to be careful about what is actually being observed. Being sloppy about this–or trying to add things on that the experiment didn’t actually test is to misrepresent science.

      And these studies were not testing whether or not this thing called “consciousness” exists. The scientists who ran the experiments you mentioned started with that knowledge.

      I was pointing out that this contradicts the idea that all knowledge is acquired via science–and that the wholesale dismissal of other forms of inquiry is irrational.

      • myatheistlife

        By that logic, scientific investigation of magnetism or the Higgs Boson is not scientific.

        Your ideas here seem to be working from the notion that consciousness cannot be measured. Science is trying to measure it while you seem to be assuming that observation of a phenomena cannot be a measure of it. Just as observation of a wind is a measure of it, so too is the observation of consciousness.

        By observation a person’s state of consciousness can be classified against the definition of consciousness. This is a measurement of consciousness. Science now strives to find the source of that consciousness and how it might be measured more accurately.

        The definition of consciousness is such that clearly it does exist, and this is testable by observation alone.

        So, let’s hear one or more other ways to acquire knowledge that do not fit the scientific method?

        • Debilis

          Of course it is.

          Investigation into magnetism and the Higgs Boson are physical matters. These things are known through sensory experience (augmented by instruments, in many cases) and applying reason and mathematics to those experiences.

          Science has shown that we need to propose certain physical things (such as magnetism) in order to explain the physical.

          But we don’t need to propose consciousness in order to explain anything that science has studied. There are patterns of activity in the brain, and there is human behavior (including speech behavior). This is what science studies; consciousness is an extra layer of explanation that doesn’t contribute to the result.

          Or, to put it in your terms. No, consciousness cannot be measured. Brain activity can be measured. Magnetism can be measured. But none of those experiments are observing consciousness; they are observing brain activity.

          Of course, one can insist that these are the same thing. This is what materialists do. Whether or not that is true, the fact remains that none of these experiments show this. They observe brain activity. To show that these things were the same, they would have to observe consciousness in a different manner, and compare the two things.

          One could observe consciousness by, say, being conscious, but that is not science. There’s no physical test there at all.

          And this gets us back to a recurring point: respecting science means understanding what it is actually observing. It isn’t consciousness; it is behavior and brain activity. That’s pretty amazing, actually, but is a different subject. Testing whether or not there is such a thing as consciousness simply isn’t science’s job. Science deals with the physical.

        • myatheistlife

          Debilis, I’ll give you some time to rethink what you have written here. I do not think you have thought that through

        • Debilis

          How is this any different from my writing “I’ll give you some time to rethink your position–it isn’t very well thought through”?

          Are you seriously saying that, if it weren’t for the brain-scans that you’ve mentioned, you wouldn’t know that consciousness exists?

          If not, you’re agreeing with me that there are other ways of knowing than scientific investigation.

          If so, well, I have a host of questions about your life up until these studies were published.

        • myatheistlife

          You are conflating observation with ‘other ways of knowing’ and I cannot see that. Observation is a primal part of science. You work so very hard to show there is some other way by trying to confuse and conflate… observation is observation and it _is_ a way of measurement. How you think there is some way around that is completely beyond me.

        • Debilis

          Actually, I’m not conflating. I’m the person in this conversation drawing more lines of distinction. I’m specifically arguing that not all forms of observation should be conflated with scientific methodology.

          So, if you take all observation to be a way of measurement, then you seem to agree that the types of observation I’m discussing are legitimate sources of knowledge.

          But they simply aren’t scientific. Science deals only with the physical aspects of any given observation. Thus, I propose recognizing the distinction. This is the exact opposite of conflation.

  • Frank Morris

    Not only is it possible for science to study consciousness but it is done extensively throughout the world.

    The fact that we know consciousness exists because we directly observe it hardly means that it is outside of the realm of science. At some point, all science reduces down to direct experience. The ultimate reduction – indeed the ultimate axiom of all science – is the fact that consciousness exists. It does not even makes sense to claim that it is an illusion, because you need cognizance to have your awareness be deluded.

    There can be no more certain fact than to accept that consciousness exists. To deny it is a lie before the utterance reaches your lips, because you could not accept or reject anything without conscious awareness.

    • Debilis

      I completely agree that consciousness exists. I also agree that science can study the physical effects of consciousness.

      But the fact that science must assume that consciousness exists doesn’t mean that science can provide physical evidence for it (and science only deals in the physical).

      Rather, the study of consciousness is a matter for other subjects (philosophy, mostly). In fact, the reasons you gave for consciousness are all philosophical.

      This isn’t much different from pointing out that science doesn’t study mathematics–because it has to assume that mathematics works before it can even get started.

      • Frank Morris

        Debilis, science studies anything it can study. Sometimes you know something exists, not because it is physical or visible, but because of its effects that are detected.

        By my way of thinking, studying the physical effects of consciousness is one way of studying it. Maybe our disagreement is somewhat semantic, but I’d say studying the physical effects of a phenomenon constitutes studying the phenomenon.

        Noetics, the study of consciousness, goes far beyond brain scans. There are people who have spent entire illustrious careers studying consciousness.

        • Debilis

          I suspect that your are right in your suggestion that our disagreement is largely semantic.

          Personally, I agree that much can be known about consciousness via physical studies of the brain–and in just the way you describe.

          I merely meant that there is a metaphysical component. So, not that there is no studying of consciousness going on in the physical sciences, but that neither the consciousness nor the study of it is completely physical.

          I suspect that you’d basically agree with that, and apologize if I made it sound like I was claiming something more radical than I was.

        • Frank Morris

          Debilis, I think I get what your saying and, if so, I can agree to it. No doubt that there are aspects of our knowledge of consciousness that are more in the realm of feelings and thoughtful understanding than anything deduced from a lab experiment or read in a textbook. I get it.

          Still, I encourage studying and researching to the greatest extent possible. Sometimes we can surprise ourselves by finding out things we once thought were beyond our reach.

    • john zande

      I’m confused here, Frank. Are you agreeing wit the naturalists approach?

      I would imagine you would, if you were rational, as immensely well founded organisations, such as the Templeton Fund, has spent billions and decades trying to find ANY scrap of evidence for something “spiritual” (something beyond the natural) and have failed at every turn.

      • Frank Morris

        John, no naturalists are religious evangelists who misuse science to try to prove spirituality doesn’t exist, just as the organization you mentioned tries to misuse science to prove that it does.

        There is plenty of evidence against both extremes if you are open-minded, and you can bet that any legit science will be stretched, denied or abused by the religious fanatics from both ends of the spectrum, particularly by the atheist cults.

        I don’t even know what it means to be “beyond the natural”. Does that mean, by definition, that it isn’t real? Or that we can’t detect it in any way? If we can’t detect it, isn’t it just a guess? It certainly isn’t science.

        On the other hand if we CAN detect something, then it does exist, whether a naturalist considers it beyond the natural or not. Denial of evidence in trying to support atheism, as the naturalists do, isn’t science either.

        Everything that exists is a part of nature, isn’t it? Even such things as intelligence or love are not physical, but they exist, so they are natural.

        A so-called “naturalist” would falsely claim that intelligence and love are chemicals, because they fear being honest about it would threaten their atheistic beliefs.

        I reject naturalism in the strongest of terms. It is not science.

        • john zande

          Philosophy is like being in a dark room and looking for a black cat.

          Metaphysics is like being in a dark room and looking for a black cat that isn’t there.

          Theology is like being in a dark room and looking for a black cat that isn’t there, and shouting “I found it!”

          Science is like being in a dark room and looking for a switch. The light will reveal a cat… if there is one.

        • paarsurrey

          @Frank Morris :April 9th, 2014 at 9:44 pm

          I agree with your argument.

        • Frank Morris

          John, I’d say you are as much in the dark as any of us, so you don’t know what is there or what isn’t.

          Atheism is like being in a brightly lit room filled with cats and denying cats exist.

          Perhaps the majority in the room have found something you haven’t found yet.

  • paarsurrey

    Reblogged this on paarsurrey and commented:
    Paarsurrey says:
    I totally agree with you.
    The same way one could ask the materialists; do you exist? If yes, give its proofs and evidences. They never give answer to this question.

    Thanks and regards

    • Debilis

      That one has never occurred to me, I must admit.

      I’ll have to remember that.

      • paarsurrey

        @Debilis : April 9th, 2014 at 11:43 pm

        “That one has never occurred to me, I must admit.
        I’ll have to remember that.”

        Thanks for your appreciation. You make good points defending religion.

        The arguments, though sophisticated and philosophical for the learned at times; should have a simple form also so that ordinary people could benefit from them and they could also defend religion on their own.

        Most people are not much educated; religion is also for them; they should be equipped to defend religion in simple terms.

        Communication between us is proof of our existence; otherwise we are just illusions or shadows of existence.

        God has communicated with perfect men among human beings in all ages and all regions of the world; that is a strong proof of His existence.

        Regards

  • paarsurrey

    @john zande:April 10th, 2014 at 4:23 am

    “1. Philosophy is like being in a dark room and looking for a black cat.
    2. Metaphysics is like being in a dark room and looking for a black cat that isn’t there.
    3. Theology is like being in a dark room and looking for a black cat that isn’t there, and shouting “I found it!”
    4. Science is like being in a dark room and looking for a switch. The light will reveal a cat… if there is one.”

    I would like to add two more categories to the above.

    5. Revealed Religion is like being in a dark room and looking for a cat from its meowing; if the room is dark one cannot know the color of a cat.

    6. Atheism is like thinking one is in a dark room while the room is well-lit; and one sees a black cat but insists that there is no cat out there.

    Regards

  • Frank Morris

    paarsurrey, you and I had the same thought on number 6, but I hadn’t read your post yet.

    As an open-minded skeptic who rejected everything told to me at school, home or church to try to see what the facts are really telling me, I may be in a 7th group.

    I am in a brightly lit room desperately fumbling for a light switch but finding cats.

    • paarsurrey

      @Frank Morris : April 10th, 2014 at 11:15 pm

      “paarsurrey, you and I had the same thought on number 6, but I hadn’t read your post yet.
      As an open-minded skeptic who rejected everything told to me at school, home or church to try to see what the facts are really telling me, I may be in a 7th group.
      I am in a brightly lit room desperately fumbling for a light switch but finding cats.” Unqote

      Frank Morris

      Thanks for your appreciation. I regularly view Fide Dubitandum and sometimes I write comments also. I like Debilis defending religion with good arguments.

      You are welcome to visit my blog @ http://paarsurrey.wordpress.com/

      I would be pleased to visit your blog and enjoy your wisdom; please give me the link of your blog.

      Regards

  • paarsurrey

    @Frank Morris :April 9th, 2014 at 9:44 pm

    I want to copy/paste your comments on my blog:

    https://fidedubitandum.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/materialism-vs-the-mind/#comment-3931

    Please allow me to do it.

    Thanks and regards

  • Frank Morris

    paarsurrey, I don’t have a blog, but please feel free to copy/paste my comments whenever you wish. I do fear the quote you have for me above may need context or else people may wonder why I find felines.

  • Frank Morris

    The article begins like this: “How do you know that you are conscious?

    It may seem silly to ask that question. That one is conscious is so obvious, there seems to be no reason to bother asking about how one knows it.”

    I like to tell it like it is. It isn’t just that it SEEMS silly and obvious. It IS completely ridiculous to claim that there is no consciousness.

    Consciousness is the ultimate axiom.

    If we can’t believe that our own self-aware consciousness exists, despite directly experiencing it, then we can’t believe anything exists at all. Even absolute denial of everything that we know doesn’t eliminate consciousness, because it is paradoxically impossible to think, deny or believe anything without an aware sentient consciousness.

    How do I know I am conscious?

    Don’t be silly.

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