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View Diary: Atheist Digest '10: Debunking Dogmas, Part II: Scientific Materialism (111 comments)

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  •  I would say that the bird in question (4+ / 0-)

    is indeed conscious although the "other bird" in the mirror has it fooled.  The same bird eating an insect off of it's leg will recognize the leg as part of itself.  The "mirror-test" (i. e. does an animal recognize that a mirror is reflecting itself?) may be a good test for intelligence but I do not think it serves as a good test for consciousness.

    Evreything Right is Wrong Again - TMBG (lyrics)

    by GreenPA on Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 09:19:03 AM PDT

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    •  You said " consciousness is an outgrowth of (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SciMathGuy, Joieau

      perception."

      I would correct that by saying that "perception is an outgrowth of consciousness."

      and I certainly agree with you on:

      The "mirror-test" (i. e. does an animal recognize that a mirror is reflecting itself?) may be a good test for intelligence but I do not think it serves as a good test for consciousness.

      After all is said and done, a lot more is said than done.

      by Brahman Colorado on Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 10:04:04 AM PDT

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      •  Consciousness - if defined (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        GreenPA, Brahman Colorado

        loosely as an awareness of self-other and the ability to act (however minimally) on that awareness, seems to be a ubiquitous property of living organisms. Including single-celled organisms, which have the ability to ingest, relocate in response to the presence of 'food' or threats, etc. Though it's clear that complex multicellular life forms aggregate 'more' of the property of consciousness, and even among them there seems to be a progressive concentration. All the way to what we call "sentience" or high-level self-awareness and the capacity to ideate from scratch in novel circumstances.

        So it would appear that the property of consciousness (if defined in this way) is not exclusive to organisms with specialized neural cells constituting the CPU we call a brain. Even though if the property is to be considered real (and just because what happens in your head is "subjective" doesn't mean it's not real), it must have physical mechanisms of operation. Of all the prospective correlates suggested thus far, I like those postulated by Penrose, Hameroff, Tuszinsky [et al.] in the Orch-OR theory. I'm not sold on Penrose's reduction operator - quantum gravity, something we're never likely to see - but there is quite a bit of evidence that the state-switching tubulin dimers and associated proteins constructing those ever-dynamic cellular microtubules are up to something that looks a lot like information processing...

        Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

        by Joieau on Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 10:26:43 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Not sure I get what you are saying (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Brahman Colorado, Joieau

        I would correct that by saying that "perception is an outgrowth of consciousness."

        Let's take the case of the Venus fly trap. We are completely out of the animal kingdom now, yet this plant can "perceive" when a meal is in it's "mouth" and close the trap.

        Would you argue that such a plant must have some level of consciousness on which to base this perception?

        I personally think that perception in life forms developed first and as the senses evolved to take in a wider spectrum of data, this paved the roads for the vehicles of consciousness.

        Maybe this is a chicken-egg question, this way just makes more sense to me.

        Evreything Right is Wrong Again - TMBG (lyrics)

        by GreenPA on Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 12:30:00 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  the terms "perception" and "consciousness" (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Brahman Colorado, Joieau

          imply an inner subjective awareness.  The actions of the Venus flytrap are fully explainable by reference to a cascade of physical events starting with a touch upon its trigger hairs. So we have no means to infer perception or consciousness exist within a Venus flytrap. Moreover, materialism does not allow such an inner state, if it exists, to influence this phyisical cascade, which is the point of this diary.

          The same argument applies to humans, except that being aware of our own consciousness we infer by symmetry that other humans must also be conscious.

          •  I'd argue that the divide (3+ / 0-)

            inherent to a distinction between "subjective" experience and "objective" fact may be leading us astray in our understanding of the phenomena at issue. The only things we can ever 'know' for sure are the things we directly perceive. This is the very definition of "empirical" knowledge. We can do the double slit experiment ourselves, see the results for ourselves. And the only "objective" aspect of it is that the experiment works every time, no matter who's staging it.

            Then there are the vast majority of human beings in the world who, if they are aware at all of a thing called "wave-particle duality" just choose to take somebody else's word for it and who never do the testing for themselves, thus never directly observe it.

            We all "agree" that the color red is a particular wavelength of reflected light that most of us subjectively perceive and can readily identify as 'red' as soon as we learn what it's called, but that some of us can't perceive directly. That's more sociology than science (this is green, this is red, this is yellow - we learn that when we learn to use our bodies and acquire language). Not a bit of any of this ensures that what perceive and experience as 'red' [the quale of red] is the same as what you perceive and experience as 'red'. We've just agreed on a name for it.

            Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

            by Joieau on Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 01:11:11 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

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