# Can Everything be Reduced to Pure Physics?

## In which other ways can the Physical world be explained?

• ### By Physics alone?

Votes: 144 48.0%
• ### By Religion alone?

Votes: 8 2.7%
• ### By any other discipline?

Votes: 12 4.0%
• ### By Multi-disciplinary efforts?

Votes: 136 45.3%

• Total voters
300
Les Sleeth
Gold Member
selfAdjoint said:
Quite often we can tell what specifically is different in the killed cell, that apoptosis has operated or some protein has accumulated blocking metabolism or some other specific condition. This is all well known science; it is wrong to deny it.
You are quite right that failed mechanisms kill the organism. Actually, I might have to revise my thinking and admit that a cell at least (i.e., non-nervous system life) could be functioning purely as a machine. My real objection is attributing the initial development of that living machine to mechanics alone. That is where physical processes cannot yet be shown to possess sufficient self-organizing ability to lead to life. Because of that, I honestly don't understand physicalists' absolute faith in abiogenesis. It doesn't seem objective to me, but more akin to blind faith.

But even if life is purely mechanistic, there's still the problem of consciousness.

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Les Sleeth
Gold Member
balkan said:
maybe you it is quite possible to tell what has changed when something dies, the "life" you're talking about though, is a quality that you put there, and you recon that it has somehow left the body since the body is no longer moving...
Maybe so. But like in my car example above, even if the body is NOW a machine, no one can at this time demonstrate chemistry behaving with adequate self-organizing ability that would lead to a living system. Until that ability of chemistry can be demonstrated, physicalist theory is lacking an essential factor required to explain the origin of life. And that also leaves the door open to some other force besides physical processes.

balkan said:
of course, no matter how much the operation of conciousness, mind and life is proven to work by biological mechanisms, alot of people will still believe that there "is something more"... perhaps because it is more comfortable to believe, and who are we to take that comfort away, really?
Well, there is something more to consciousness: subjectivity. Please, if you've found proof that physical processes can account for that I'd like to know about it. No one disputes biology is involved in making consciousness present here on Earth. The question is if there is something else there too. What is illogical with being open to that if physics seems unable to explain certain aspects of existence? Why can't existence be multifaceted?

Again, I really do not understand the apparent obsession to attribute everything to physics. Can anyone explain to me why that is important? Is it like being a Republican and so feeling one has to defend everything the party does?

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Les Sleeth said:
Maybe so. But like in my car example above, even if the body is NOW a machine, no one can at this time demonstrate chemistry behaving with adequate self-organizing ability that would lead to a living system. Until that ability of chemistry can be demonstrated, physicalist theory is lacking an essential factor required to explain the origin of life. And that also leaves the door open to some other force besides physical processes.

Well, there is something more to consciousness: subjectivity. Please, if you've found proof that physical processes can account for that I'd like to know about it. No one disputes biology is involved in making consciousness present here on Earth. The question is if there is something else there too. What is illogical with being open to that if physics seems unable to explain certain aspects of existence? Why can't existence be multifaceted?

Again, I really do not understand the apparent obsession to attribute everything to physics. Can anyone explain to me why that is important? Is it like being a Republican and so feeling one has to defend everything the party does?
well, can you explain the (much more widespread) obsession about there being something more to conciousness? can you explain the obsession about Gods and religion? those are much worse obsessions in my oppinion due to the fact that they are irrational and impossible to disprove... why is it so bad to believe that we are here by accident, that there migth be other lifeforms than us in the universe and that there is no life after death?

it hasn't been proven yet, but i do not believe there is anything more than neurological impulses to our mind... and you migth as well admit that it wouldn't matter if there were proof... people would still say there has to be more, which would be impossible to disprove, cause they state at the same time that it cannot be measured and is out of this world ect.
why couldn't subjectivity be another function like memory and pattern recognition? it's a very subjectivestatement that it isn't, anyway ... cause you can't prove or back your theory up by anything but your own oppinion... me, on the other hand, i got lots of indications that my theory is the rigth one...

the general concensus amongst us pagan scientists is that life started as very simple molecules which through an incredibly long amount of time turned into single cell organisms and virus... which then evolved and so on and so on... the chemistry of life can be directly monitored and if we could efficiently build molecules atom by atom, we could copy this process as it is based on catalytical processes... where do you get the idea that these processes aren't understood?
anyway, we can't make living things yet, but we haven't had millions of years to do it, have we? we can on the other hand make self assembling molecules and molecular systems, so i'm afraid we're already halfway there ...

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selfAdjoint said:
This undervalues what we DO know about cells. Quite often we can tell what specifically is different in the killed cell, that apoptosis has operated or some protein has accumulated blocking metabolism or some other specific condition. This is all well known science; it is wrong to deny it.
Yes, your right of course. I may not have made it clear enough. We can tell why the cell died, what was wrong or what was not happening to kill the cell; but, we cannot detect what it was that left or quit when the living cell died.
when life was no longer present in the cell. What property, characteristic, quality that is life changed the instant the cell or anything changed from living to dead other than everything stopped.

Les Sleeth
Gold Member
balkan said:
well, can you explain the (much more widespread) obsession about there being something more to conciousness?
Yes. You might want to do a Google search on the "hard problem of consciousness."

balkan said:
can you explain the obsession about Gods and religion? those are much worse obsessions in my oppinion due to the fact that they are irrational and impossible to disprove...
I agree. However, do you think everyone has to fall into one of two categories (physicalist or religious)? I am not religious in the slightest, can't stand the stuff.

There might be something which people in the past labeled "God," but it doesn't mean they or religion have anything to do with experiencing and therefore knowing it. It's like a witch doctor casting spells on a sick person to rid him of a disease. There really is such a thing as helping to heal, but the witch doctor isn't doing anything which brings it about. Do you say there is no such thing as healing simply because of the ignorance of the witch doctor?

balkan said:
why is it so bad to believe that we are here by accident, that there migth be other lifeforms than us in the universe and that there is no life after death?
Because it is contradicted by the facts. The "blindness" of faith unsupported by facts is probably one of the things you find distasteful about religion. But that is exactly what physicalists do when it comes to this question of accidents. They cannot, and aren't even close, to demonstrating the potential of matter to "accidentally" organize itself into life. Since that physical potential is not merely a peripheral requirement, but an absolutely necessary one for physicalist theory to work, it should, in an objective mind, raise a red flag about the theory. Does it? Nope. Why? Because they are already committed, in spite of facts, or lack of to physicalism. Now really, is that what you'd call "objective"?

balkan said:
it hasn't been proven yet, but i do not believe there is anything more than neurological impulses to our mind... and you migth as well admit that it wouldn't matter if there were proof... people would still say there has to be more, which would be impossible to disprove, cause they state at the same time that it cannot be measured and is out of this world ect.
You of course are entitled to your theory, but there are others just as interested in truth as you who have different theories. When you say "people would still say there has to be more," it seems you are generalizing and suggesting someone who suspects there is "something more" is just another member of the ignorant masses. You shouldn't assume that anyone who doubts physicalism is anti-science. I for one am not, and read posts by Hypnagogue or Fliption to see others who suspect something more but also yield to what science actually has proven.

balkan said:
why couldn't subjectivity be another function like memory and pattern recognition?...
Because you can't create subjectivity with artificial memory, recognition programming, or anything else mechanical. If you do, then you've got it haven't you. If not, the question remains a mystery.

balkan said:
. . . you can't prove or back your theory up by anything but your own oppinion... me, on the other hand, i got lots of indications that my theory is the rigth one...
I might have my own pet theory, but I don't "believe" it. Can you accept that an intelligent, thinking person might look at the physical evidence and conclude something is missing, and what's "missing" seems to possess characteristics which are not physical? I agree there are lots of physical indiations of the physicalness of reality, including life and consciousness. My objection isn't to the indications physicalists notice, but the contraindications they ignore.

Tom suggests that maybe one day we will discover new physical potentials which will explain what now appears non-physical; the concept of emergence in consciousness studies is like that. But -- and here's where I claim to be more objective than you or Tom or selfAdjoint, or any dedicated physicalist -- as of now there are no demonstrated physical potentials to account for 1) the quality of organization which leads to a living system, or 2) consciousness. So isn't the objective stance one which acknowledges a non-physical explanation might be required to explain those two aspects?

balkan said:
the general concensus amongst us pagan scientists is that life started as very simple molecules which through an incredibly long amount of time turned into single cell organisms and virus... which then evolved and so on and so on... the chemistry of life can be directly monitored and if we could efficiently build molecules atom by atom, we could copy this process as it is based on catalytical processes... where do you get the idea that these processes aren't understood?
Of course it's the concensus among scientitsts; that's because for the most part they are physicalists. I am very familiar with physicalist abiogenesis theory; and we already can "copy this process as it is based on catalytical processes" with PCR. I never said such processes weren't understood . . . you miss the (or my) point. If a bunch of scientists use their consciousness to organize chemistry and create a living cell, that does not demonstrate that chemistry can self-organize itself! Consciousness has done the organizing, which is exactly what those who believe in God say is missing from physicalist creation theory.

balkan said:
anyway, we can't make living things yet, but we haven't had millions of years to do it, have we? we can on the other hand make self assembling molecules and molecular systems, so i'm afraid we're already halfway there ...
That is the common argument. Quite convenient don't you think? Let me ask you, is a cell, organizationally speaking, more complex than the Declaration of Independence? Yes it is. So, could we attach a pencil to a flexible mechanical arm, put it in a windy area, and expect that in millions or billions or trillions of years the Declaration of Independence would accidentally be written?

I realize that's not a proper counterexample except in one respect, which is that we don't have to wait for the Declaration of Independence to happen by accident because someone can sit down and reproduce it right now. Similarly, if you could demonstrate the sort of self-organizing quality that would lead to a living system, then as far as I'm concern you have the basis for a sound abiogenesis theory. So you don't need millions of years not only because we don't need to demostrate life (only the mysterious self-organizing quality), but also because we have something which serves to accelerate things expotentially . . . conscious intervention in the laboratory.

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Les Sleeth said:
Yes. You might want to do a Google search on the "hard problem of consciousness."

1) I agree. However, do you think everyone has to fall into one of two categories (physicalist or religious)? I am not religious in the slightest, can't stand the stuff.

2) There might be something which people in the past labeled "God," but it doesn't mean they or religion have anything to do with experiencing and therefore knowing it. It's like a witch doctor casting spells on a sick person to rid him of a disease. There really is such a thing as helping to heal, but the witch doctor isn't doing anything which brings it about. Do you say there is no such thing as healing simply because of the ignorance of the witch doctor?

3) Because it is contradicted by the facts. The "blindness" of faith unsupported by facts is probably one of the things you find distasteful about religion. But that is exactly what physicalists do when it comes to this question of accidents. They cannot, and aren't even close, to demonstrating the potential of matter to "accidentally" organize itself into life. Since that physical potential is not merely a peripheral requirement, but an absolutely necessary one for physicalist theory to work, it should, in an objective mind, raise a red flag about the theory. Does it? Nope. Why? Because they are already committed, in spite of facts, or lack of to physicalism. Now really, is that what you'd call "objective"?

4) You of course are entitled to your theory, but there are others just as interested in truth as you who have different theories. When you say "people would still say there has to be more," it seems you are generalizing and suggesting someone who suspects there is "something more" is just another member of the ignorant masses. You shouldn't assume that anyone who doubts physicalism is anti-science. I for one am not, and read posts by Hypnagogue or Fliption to see others who suspect something more but also yield to what science actually has proven.

5) Because you can't create subjectivity with artificial memory, recognition programming, or anything else mechanical. If you do, then you've got it haven't you. If not, the question remains a mystery.

6) I might have my own pet theory, but I don't "believe" it. Can you accept that an intelligent, thinking person might look at the physical evidence and conclude something is missing, and what's "missing" seems to possess characteristics which are not physical? I agree there are lots of physical indiations of the physicalness of reality, including life and consciousness. My objection isn't to the indications physicalists notice, but the contraindications they ignore.

7) Tom suggests that maybe one day we will discover new physical potentials which will explain what now appears non-physical; the concept of emergence in consciousness studies is like that. But -- and here's where I claim to be more objective than you or Tom or selfAdjoint, or any dedicated physicalist -- as of now there are no demonstrated physical potentials to account for 1) the quality of organization which leads to a living system, or 2) consciousness. So isn't the objective stance one which acknowledges a non-physical explanation might be required to explain those two aspects?

8) Of course it's the concensus among scientitsts; that's because for the most part they are physicalists. I am very familiar with physicalist abiogenesis theory; and we already can "copy this process as it is based on catalytical processes" with PCR. I never said such processes weren't understood . . . you miss the (or my) point. If a bunch of scientists use their consciousness to organize chemistry and create a living cell, that does not demonstrate that chemistry can self-organize itself! Consciousness has done the organizing, which is exactly what those who believe in God say is missing from physicalist creation theory.

9) That is the common argument. Quite convenient don't you think? Let me ask you, is a cell, organizationally speaking, more complex than the Declaration of Independence? Yes it is. So, could we attach a pencil to a flexible mechanical arm, put it in a windy area, and expect that in millions or billions or trillions of years the Declaration of Independence would accidentally be written?
1) well... technically, people would fall into the two categories: physicalists and "there is something else"... i'm not just talking about religion... you can't be both...

2) the mind is a powerfull thing...

3) It really isn't contradicted or anything... i mentioned it as a posibility, and you say i'm contradicted by facts? i didn't say there were any facts or that i believed there to be... chemical systems can "accidentially" organize themselves into alot of incredible structures... you are aware of this, aren't you?
by your standards, nothing is based on physics... we don't have proof of how gravity, energy quantization or wave propagation works either... we only have indications... so let's just attribute that to "something else"... we have to, otherwise we're not being objective by your standards...

4) i'm not implying anything... at all... lots of brilliant people believe in god... if you have low self esteem, don't take it out on me...

5) you can't yet... a random number generator is mechanical aswell... and most of what you probably attribute to "something else", phychologists would attribute to alot of other things, mechanical processes, that "seems" like an act of individuality and a free mind... our mind is not anyway near free from mechanical processes, it is loaded with them... unless of course you want to argue with the field of psychology aswell...

6) yes of course... you are on the other hand ignoring the fact, that a lack of facts isn't a proof of anything either...

7) of course i'm open for the option, but rigth now the evidence points in the direction of physicality, so i'm betting my money on that horse...

8) so what you're saying is: you're not thrilled about the physicalist idealism, cause scientists cannot demonstrate self assembly yet... but if they could demonstrate self assembly, it would be due to "something else"... okay, why are you having this discussion if you have already made up your mind about not being convincable?

9) a flexible arm wouldn't move... the universe is constantly moving towards a higher entropy, and self assembly of systems happens all around us...
it is a very good argument... you're demanding us to demonstrate something that has been million years in the making, and you want it now! and like you said yourself, if we could demonstrate it to you, it would "prove" the existance of "something else" to you anyway... now that is what i call "not being objective," and that is also why i said "no matter how much we prove it, how many indications we find, people will still find more comfort in the existance of "something else""...

Les Sleeth
Gold Member
balkan said:
i'm not implying anything... at all... lots of brilliant people believe in god... if you have low self esteem, don't take it out on me...
I don't have much time now . . . I'll answer your points later. But I wanted to apologize if I came off weird. In trying to make my points I get intense just to help me get my thoughts out, and then when someone reacts I am always surprised. I'm enjoying the debate.

Les Sleeth said:
I don't have much time now . . . I'll answer your points later. But I wanted to apologize if I came off weird. In trying to make my points I get intense just to help me get my thoughts out, and then when someone reacts I am always surprised. I'm enjoying the debate.
that's allright... i'll make a mental note about it and not take those things too serious then... it's a fun debate, although it's all just basically a matter of opinion...

Nereid
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
Coming late to this thread, much catching up to do (begging indulgence and patience from readers).
[can] everything in the whole universe can be explained by Physics and Physics alone?
In the sense of, for example, accounting for the ecology of the Delaware delta in terms of eigenstates of up and down quarks (plus the behaviour of the odd lepton or two), it'd be a pretty tiresome task.

But the thread early on put this quibble - and others such as laws, chaos, determinist predictions, the definition and scope of physics, etc - firmly to bed, and moved on as these thread are wont to do to
explaining the basis of life and consciousness/
and
No one disputes biology is involved in making consciousness present here on Earth. The question is if there is something else there too.
So, if romantic love can be explained as drug addiction, why should we expect that one day consciousness could not be explained in terms of (something like) brain chemistry too? Goodness, maybe 'spirituality' and 'belief in gods' has a solid (meta) brain chemisty explanation too?
then the universe would be full of life and we don't seem to observe that.
Depends what you mean by 'life' - the overwhelming quantity of life on Earth is bacteria, and always has been. What observational evidence is there that bacteria are not common in the warm, wet bedrock of most 'terrestrial' planets?
So it is kind of a hard problem if you consider life to have happened *by chance* because that probability is SO low that it shouldn't have happened in the visible universe.
With a sample size of just 1 (and close to zero knowledge about life on any other planet or moon) it's kinda hard to use observational data to argue the case one way or the other.
Can you accept that an intelligent, thinking person might look at the physical evidence and conclude something is missing, and what's "missing" seems to possess characteristics which are not physical?
... and what if, 200 years or more from now, the fine details of just how this intelligent, thinking person came to reach what to her are these 'conclusions' are well understood in terms of brain chemistry (and, similarly, why a different intelligent, thinking person concludes otherwise)?

Yes, your right of course. I may not have made it clear enough. We can tell why the cell died, what was wrong or what was not happening to kill the cell; but, we cannot detect what it was that left or quit when the living cell died.
when life was no longer present in the cell. What property, characteristic, quality that is life changed the instant the cell or anything changed from living to dead other than everything stopped.
Just what do you mean by "life"?? In the biological sense, life is characterized by (AFAIK) hereditary material. Of course, that characterization is derived from what is observed in our explored environment. In the sense you seem to be depicting, "life" is a spiritual characteristic. For example, you say :

we cannot detect what it was that left or quit when the living cell died.

I should probably note as well that we cannot tell what anything is really; we can only infer what something may be by its characteristics. Take force for example. We don't know precisely what it is, but we have an exceptional understanding of what it does. So in this context, no one can tell you what life is, but they can tell you what its characterized by...right?

Les Sleeth
Gold Member
balkan said:
It really isn't contradicted or anything... i mentioned it as a posibility, and you say i'm contradicted by facts? i didn't say there were any facts or that i believed there to be... chemical systems can "accidentially" organize themselves into alot of incredible structures... you are aware of this, aren't you?
I am very aware of that. I am also very aware that the self-organizationalness of chemistry so far turns repetitive far to soon to lead to a living system (i.e., in my language, it is "non-progressive"). I have never said there isn't some self-organizing ability to found in physical processes.

The "facts" to which I refer (the inability to demostrate "progressive" organization and subjective experience) may not contradict, but I think in an unbiased mind they should naturally prevent one from being confident about physicalism at this time. The fact that right now the world is filled with people who already believe physicalism is a viable explanation indicates to me (obviously one of the few unbiased people on the planet ) that objectivity is as absent in physicalist circles as it is among the religious.

balkan said:
by your standards, nothing is based on physics... we don't have proof of how gravity, energy quantization or wave propagation works either... we only have indications... so let's just attribute that to "something else"... we have to, otherwise we're not being objective by your standards...
Untrue! I have never said or implied such a thing (there's a thread on the straw man argument going on somewhere at PF ). I have limited my challenge to a 100% physicalist theory to two areas, that's it. And even then, I have NOT said because there is currently no physical explanation for those two areas we should jump to the conclusion "something more" is behind it. I've simply said it should, in an unbiased mind, raise a red flag. Also about an unbiased mind I ask, what is the big deal if there is "something more"? Why should anyone genuinely interested in the truth care? I certainly don't care what the truth is as long as I can have it.

balkan said:
a random number generator is mechanical aswell... and most of what you probably attribute to "something else", phychologists would attribute to alot of other things, mechanical processes, that "seems" like an act of individuality and a free mind... our mind is not anyway near free from mechanical processes, it is loaded with them... unless of course you want to argue with the field of psychology aswell...
Again, we know that if consciousness is "something more" it interacts with brain physics. But why must it be fully physical or fully something more?

balkan said:
yes of course... you are on the other hand ignoring the fact, that a lack of facts isn't a proof of anything either...
Yes it is proof of something, and that is that something is a mystery. And if the "something" is alien to known principles, that is a stonger reason to give pause before just automatically assuming it will one day fit into one's preferred metaphysics.

balkan said:
of course i'm open for the option, but rigth now the evidence points in the direction of physicality, so i'm betting my money on that horse...
The evidence (in the case of progressive organization and consciousness) does NOT point in the direction of physicality yet. The evidence shows there are physical processes present, but their behaviors are not explained by physical law. According to your logic, if we find a Monet painting and wonder about its origin, we should limit ourselves to the physical processes required to create it. When I want to know how those physcial processes got in the shape of a beautiful painting, the physicalist must repy (in the absence of knowing about Monet) "right now the evidence points in the direction of physicality."

balkan said:
so what you're saying is: you're not thrilled about the physicalist idealism, cause scientists cannot demonstrate self assembly yet... but if they could demonstrate self assembly, it would be due to "something else"... okay, why are you having this discussion if you have already made up your mind about not being convincable?
I didn't say that, I don't know how you got that interpretation. I don't insist there is something more, I don't know for sure if there is or not. I only say that progressive organization and consciousness are reasons for suspecting something more. It is the physicalist or religionist or whatever "-ist" one can imagine who usually embraces their favorite metaphysical stance in the absence of adequate facts to justify the strength of their embrace. I myself simply say there is reason to not yet accept physicalism as the total answer, and there is reason to suspect something more.

balkan said:
it is a very good argument... you're demanding us to demonstrate something that has been million years in the making, and you want it now! and like you said yourself, if we could demonstrate it to you, it would "prove" the existance of "something else" to you anyway... now that is what i call "not being objective," and that is also why i said "no matter how much we prove it, how many indications we find, people will still find more comfort in the existance of "something else""...
I am starting to feel like the scarecrow on his way to Oz (you know, a straw man). Show me where I said if you could demonstrate chemogenesis to me it would prove the existence of something more. I said the opposite, that if chemistry could be shown to possess progressive self-organizaing ability, that would strongly tip the scales in favor of a physicalistic model of biogenesis; similarly, if a computer can create consciousness, I would also say physicalism is the current best explanation.

I am NOT anti-physicalist. What I am, is highly skeptical of those who are proclaiming confidence in a physicalist TOE as though the evidence is there to support that confidence. I say, their bias and a priori assumptions are showing.

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Nereid
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
Les Sleeth said:
The evidence (in the case of progressive organization and consciousness) does NOT point in the direction of physicality yet.
With apologies in advance that I'm taking this out of a much larger context.

I want to argue the case that the evidence *does* point in the direction of physicality, for consciousness.

If good insights into such subjective experiences as colour perception and romantic love can be obtained from scientific study - chemistry, physics, anatomy, etc - and the more we study the better our understanding of what's going on gets, isn't this 'evidence [which points] in the direction of physicality' of consciousness?

Further, the rate of change in our understandings of subjective experience in terms of chemistry etc has been quite rapid. While all extrapolations are fraught, extrapolating this rate of change just 50 years into the future suggests even consciousness will become at least somewhat understood in terms of 'physics'.

I feel the corresponding case for 'progressive organisation' isn't as strong yet; with each advance, the gulf still to be bridged remains huge.

Les Sleeth
Gold Member
Nereid said:
So, if romantic love can be explained as drug addiction, why should we expect that one day consciousness could not be explained in terms of (something like) brain chemistry too?
I am guessing what you mean by saying romantic love is "drug addiction" is that it is encouraged by hormones, and so does have significant physiological force behind it. But there is also non-romantic, objectless love, or "agape" as it is called. Hormones nor any other drugs explain that.

However, you haven't addressed the main point when it comes to consciousness. Remember, when we refer to the hard problem of consciousness, we are not referring merely to the ability to think, sense and remember -- mechancal devices can do that. But there is also that aspect which is experiencing what one is thinking, sensing, and remembering, and that is what cannot be explained by any known physical processes.

This idea of one day "expecting" is a way of saying the trend in evidence points so strongly to a conclusion that it (the conclusion) now justifies faith regardless of the fact that absolute proof isn't possible (evolution is something like this, which IMO does deserve faith in the absence of absolute proof). My entire objection is exactly to that faith by physicalists in a physical TOE theory. I say it is not justified as long as there are such major missing parts to a physicalist TOE theory as progressive organization (needed for an abiogenesis explanation) and for the subjective aspect of consciousness.

Nereid said:
Goodness, maybe 'spirituality' and 'belief in gods' has a solid (meta) brain chemisty explanation too? . . . and what if, 200 years or more from now, the fine details of just how this intelligent, thinking person came to reach what to her are these 'conclusions' are well understood in terms of brain chemistry (and, similarly, why a different intelligent, thinking person concludes otherwise)?
That's a lot of maybe's and what if's . However, I am not talking about spirituality, belief in gods, or any such thing. I am arguing from the position of reason, looking at what appears to me to be people replacing religious dogma with a new variety of dogma.

I simply look at what we know is present in the universe, and how the vast majority of the universe appears to work, and notice that in two instances there are major exceptions: the origin of life and the subjective aspect of consciousness. I say, only if you approach those exceptions already believing in a physicalist TOE will you automatically assume they must have a physicalist explanation. If one is uncommitted to any metaphysical stance one is free to be objective; and to say there is reason to suspect "something more" seems to me to be a pretty conservative stance to take.

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Les Sleeth
Gold Member
Nereid said:
I want to argue the case that the evidence *does* point in the direction of physicality, for consciousness.

If good insights into such subjective experiences as colour perception and romantic love can be obtained from scientific study - chemistry, physics, anatomy, etc - and the more we study the better our understanding of what's going on gets, isn't this 'evidence [which points] in the direction of physicality' of consciousness?
I don't think so. If you were to similarly analyze someone using a fork lift, you would point to all the mechanical principles involved in using the fork lift without acknowledging the driver.

Is there any reason why a non-physical consciousness couldn't interact with a physical system? Well, we don't know that. I myself can imagine it could be so, and even modeled it in my "panpsychism" thread. I don't know what the truth is, but let's say I am extremely resistant to granting physicalism TOE status until progressive organization and the hard problem of consciousness can be shown to be physical.

Nereid said:
Further, the rate of change in our understandings of subjective experience in terms of chemistry etc has been quite rapid. While all extrapolations are fraught, extrapolating this rate of change just 50 years into the future suggests even consciousness will become at least somewhat understood in terms of 'physics'.
I am not sure what understandings you are referring to. I've not seen any new understanding of that unless you are talking about understanding neurological influences and our psychology, which are not the subjectiveness that characterizes the "hard problem" of consciousness.

Nereid said:
I feel the corresponding case for 'progressive organisation' isn't as strong yet; with each advance, the gulf still to be bridged remains huge.
I am impressed to hear you say that. I think it is the first time I have ever heard a physicalist (assuming you are) admit the difficulties in abiogenesis theory.

I hope you can see that I am only resisting jumping to the conclusion that physicalist theory can explain everything. I am not the slightest bit resistant to allowing what is physical be explained physicalistically, or to granting science top honors for discovering what is physical. It is just that as of now, I think some physicalists are going too far with the evidence we have, and are not as open as an objective mind should be.

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Les Sleeth said:
I am very aware of that. I am also very aware that the self-organizationalness of chemistry so far turns repetitive far to soon to lead to a living system (i.e., in my language, it is "non-progressive"). I have never said there isn't some self-organizing ability to found in physical processes.

The "facts" to which I refer (the inability to demostrate "progressive" organization and subjective experience) may not contradict, but I think in an unbiased mind they should naturally prevent one from being confident about physicalism at this time. The fact that right now the world is filled with people who already believe physicalism is a viable explanation indicates to me (obviously one of the few unbiased people on the planet ) that objectivity is as absent in physicalist circles as it is among the religious.

Untrue! I have never said or implied such a thing (there's a thread on the straw man argument going on somewhere at PF ). I have limited my challenge to a 100% physicalist theory to two areas, that's it. And even then, I have NOT said because there is currently no physical explanation for those two areas we should jump to the conclusion "something more" is behind it. I've simply said it should, in an unbiased mind, raise a red flag. Also about an unbiased mind I ask, what is the big deal if there is "something more"? Why should anyone genuinely interested in the truth care? I certainly don't care what the truth is as long as I can have it.

Again, we know that if consciousness is "something more" it interacts with brain physics. But why must it be fully physical or fully something more?

Yes it is proof of something, and that is that something is a mystery. And if the "something" is alien to known principles, that is a stonger reason to give pause before just automatically assuming it will one day fit into one's preferred metaphysics.

The evidence (in the case of progressive organization and consciousness) does NOT point in the direction of physicality yet. The evidence shows there are physical processes present, but their behaviors are not explained by physical law. According to your logic, if we find a Monet painting and wonder about its origin, we should limit ourselves to the physical processes required to create it. When I want to know how those physcial processes got in the shape of a beautiful painting, the physicalist must repy (in the absence of knowing about Monet) "right now the evidence points in the direction of physicality."

I didn't say that, I don't know how you got that interpretation. I don't insist there is something more, I don't know for sure if there is or not. I only say that progressive organization and consciousness are reasons for suspecting something more. It is the physicalist or religionist or whatever "-ist" one can imagine who usually embraces their favorite metaphysical stance in the absence of adequate facts to justify the strength of their embrace. I myself simply say there is reason to not yet accept physicalism as the total answer, and there is reason to suspect something more.

I am starting to feel like the scarecrow on his way to Oz (you know, a straw man). Show me where I said if you could demonstrate chemogenesis to me it would prove the existence of something more. I said the opposite, that if chemistry could be shown to possess progressive self-organizaing ability, that would strongly tip the scales in favor of a physicalistic model of biogenesis; similarly, if a computer can create consciousness, I would also say physicalism is the current best explanation.
i'm certainly not trying to make a strawman argument, m8... i'm merely responding to what you said, which is:

"If a bunch of scientists use their consciousness to organize chemistry and create a living cell, that does not demonstrate that chemistry can self-organize itself! Consciousness has done the organizing, which is exactly what those who believe in God say is missing from physicalist creation theory."

how in the living hell will we ever be able to prove the physicalist theory to you? we would have to create another earth, with the chemical system it had several million years ago, and then we would have to wait a million years or so untill something chemically organized itself into life...

the evidence do point in the direction of physicalism... we have lots and lots of proof of how the brain works, while we have no evidence what so ever (except for the lack of evidence as you say, which is shrinking every day) of "something else"... lots of evidence vs. nothing... that's pretty compelling, really...

now imagine that your truck is driven by a really smart computer, and that we know all the mechanisms of the computer aswell as the mechanics of the truck itself... anyway... like i said, i'm open for the option of "something else" aswell, but i'd really like some evidence to back it up if i'm going to endorse it in any way, and i'm simply not going to settle for lack of evidence...
i'm glad to hear that evidence could convince you, but it didn't come off like that in your post... quite the contrary... so if you don't want to feel like the scarecrow (what was controlling the scarecrow btw? new thread? ), you should proof read your posts for spots that could be misinterpreted

Les Sleeth
Gold Member
balkan said:
i'm certainly not trying to make a strawman argument, m8... i'm merely responding to what you said, which is:

"If a bunch of scientists use their consciousness to organize chemistry and create a living cell, that does not demonstrate that chemistry can self-organize itself! Consciousness has done the organizing, which is exactly what those who believe in God say is missing from physicalist creation theory."

how in the living hell will we ever be able to prove the physicalist theory to you? we would have to create another earth, with the chemical system it had several million years ago, and then we would have to wait a million years or so untill something chemically organized itself into life...
. . . if you don't want to feel like the scarecrow . . . you should proof read your posts for spots that could be misinterpreted

What I was saying was that if a cell were created in the laboratory, one has to take into consideration the role of consciousness of those involved in creating that cell. If the scientists do anything which injects organizationalness into the creation of the cell which wouldn't be found in nature, then they've not proven life could have evolved from chemistry without the organizational help consciousness provides (i.e., the scientists' consciousnesses). And since most believe the help "something more" provided in the creation of life is precisely that sort of organizational quality, that is why I say if scientists' consciousnesses add the missing organizational aspect and through that create a living cell, they've actually given evidence in favor of "something more" present when life first evolved billions of years ago.

In this very thread I changed my mind about the possibility of a living cell being created in the lab after I realized it very well could be a pure machine, and that whether it is or isn't a machine isn't the main thrust of my argument anyway. My objection is that I don't believe natural conditions can generate the level of organization necessary for chemicals to achieve the functionality of a cell. So to prove it can, scientists must get the conditions together imitating Earth's early environment, and the see if life will spontaneously develop. That's what Urey and Miller did, and what happened? A few steps, and that was it. Physicalists constantly point to that as evidence chemistry self-organized into life. But I say instead it is evidence of exactly the opposite! It proves that chemicals cannot be shown, not yet anyway, to organize themselves beyond a few steps.

Now regarding the subject of creating subjective consciousness with a computer, I think if scientists could do that it would prove consciousness is physical, regardless of the help researchers provided (although that still wouldn't answer the progressive organization problem). That's because consciousness does appear to "emerge" from the machinery of biology. Yet the question is, is consciousness generated by the brain, or is the brain a device which draws consciousness into the CSN from some pre-existing general consciousness source? Because we can't tell which is happening, that's why all your examples of the physicality of the brain, and the interdepence of consciousness and brain functions, doesn't mean consciousness at the foundation is physical.

It isn't easy to see how to avoid duality and also say there is a physical system and non-physical consciousness entwined together in biology, but I believe that could be the case. I suspect there is a common foundation to them both which is neither physical nor conscious, and that is what allows their interaction (if you are interested in how this could be so, check out my thread on "panpsychism").

Anyway, my point is that the physicalist model is missing major factors needed to deserve the level of confidence many physicalists have in it. I attribute that to a lack of objectivity caused by looking only at that which supports physicalism. To me it's kind of like those cases they profile on A & E's American Justice (a cable channel) where police think a suspect did some crime, and so stop looking for any evidence but that which indicates the suspect's guilt, while also ignoring evidence which seems to suggest they're investigating the wrong man.

selfAdjoint
Staff Emeritus
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Les Sleeth said:
My objection is that I don't believe natural conditions can generate the level of organization necessary for chemicals to achieve the functionality of a cell.
Do you grant that genetic variation and natural selection between them can increase adaptive complexity? It would seem they can, as demonstrated in the (misnamed) artificial life software, and for that matter in the hot field of genetic programming, where these actions are used to produce adaptive, commercially viable computer program code.

So given that the general properties of evolution are demonstrated to work to increase complexity in different arenas, I would not think that the complexity of a cell is obviously unattainable to blind physicalist processes.

Thoughts?

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Les Sleeth
Gold Member
selfAdjoint said:
Do you grant that genetic variation and natural selection between them can increase adaptive complexity?
Yes.

selfAdjoint said:
So given that the general properties of evolution are demonstrated to work to increase complexity in different arenas, I would not think that the complexity of a cell is obviously unattainable to blind physicalist processes.

Thoughts?
Well, I haven't said it is unattainable, I've said that nothing demonstrated yet shows progressive organization is possible from any chemistry left sitting on its own.

The problem with using genetics or even programming is that those things are taking place within established systems. Evolution might work to increase complexity in different arenas, but it is doing so from within an already established living system. I am not disputing evolution, or the chemical basis of adaptation; it is the initial establishment of the system through chemogenesis I am questioning.

Personally I can't see any other way to establish certainty about chemogenesis than to demostrate chemistry's ability to spontaneously get progressive. As I pointed out to balkan, about the best we've seen is what Miller's apparatus produced half a century ago! That wasn't progressive organization anyway, so by any objective scientific standard, we are far from proving an abiotic origin of life. In fact, I suspect science's inability to demostrate progressive organization is why some have started hypothesizing that life might have first arrived on Earth hitchhiking on a meteorite (which obviously doesn't solve the origin of life problem).

"asymmetrically optic"

That's what Urey and Miller did.

There one thing that should be clear and most physcalist know this.

Pasteur pointed out the most profound enigma, of the chemical construction of living things. they are asymmetrically optic. I hope I spelled that right for you, I am a little rusty in English these days. To state that a little clearer, living substances, like proteins, deviate polarized light that vibrate in only one plane, in a different dirrection, from right to left, when other molecules of the same solution of the same optical type, do not deviate, if they mix equal quantities of molecules, of the opposite optical type.

Molecules that deviate polarized light to the left are levogiras L, those that deviate to the right are dextrogiras D and those that do not deviate are racemicas LD.

This property has the funtion of the molecule to have two distinct spacial confirguations, "isomeros", which are mirrored images of its opposite, like left and right hands are symetrical but not superimposed, although exactly alike, from the point of view chemically, they are without doubt completely distinct, as far as optic activity and biological properties.

Quess what Millers experiment made? racemicas LD :surprise:

I would say that, it is unattainable, until we know the origin of the intellegent design.

There exists only two ways in which molecules can appear asymmetrically optic. One is by action of enzymes inside the cell or by a chemical reactions directs a substance already asymmetrically optic. En both cases a specific information is introduced, into the chemcial reaction, to orchestrate optical resolution. Informtion that does not depend on physio-chemical laws. For the simple reason that molecules that descriminate opticallly, are chemically identical. Chemical reations of inatimate material are not discriminitative. :tongue2:

Therefore, there is no way to obtain active optical components, only by physio-chemical laws. It is absolutely necessary, another information that is of a completely different nature, to exist previous to the aparition of asymmetrically optic molecules. Without this information you end up with racimicos.

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selfAdjoint
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Well, Marshall Nirenberg created a synthetic RNA molecule consisting of only uracil. Placed in a bath of amino acids it assembled the molecule phenylalanine. Does phenylanaline have enantiomorphs? Was Nirenberg's phenylalanine racemic? I don't know. It would be interesting to use a bath of Miller's racemic amino acids with Nirenberg's poly-U to see what the optical properties of the result would be. I am sure those with defensive stances about physicality and evolution would find ways to disdain such discoveries, but I for one would be fascinated to know. It doesn't seem to me implausible that a poly-U molecule could be put together by chance processes, and look what it produces, a molecule that has in it alanine, another base.

Thought I'd stir things up a bit.

I would make the arguement that reality is not physical at all. From large to small - All things are conceptual in nature. I.E. A rock on the side of the road is a conceptual entity expressed by it's geometric embodiment. I'm sure this is hard to accept, but what makes everyone so sure about physical reality?

The Right-Conditions Theory of Life

The claim that life forms only where physical conditions are right does put a question mark on the 'Designer Theory of Life'. If Life like any other design had a designer, would it matter which pysical condition life inherits or is placed in? Even more so, this could point to the possibility of 'propreitory self-organisation' on the basis of suitable pysical conditions. What about a 'multi-condition' form of life? How may such a life be formed, if any?

And even more troubling is the fact that the term 'self-organising' is a vague term and somewhat very misleading. Do we mean:

a) A group of things organising themselves into a thing?

b) A thing organising itself into the same or similar thing by recycling its imperfect parts?

c) Or a thing organising itself into another thing by rearanging its changeagble parts?

And lastly, those who claim that there is something more than physical explanation also need to clarify the following relations:

1) The relation between something and nothing;

(a) Can Nothing give rise to something?
(b) Can something decline or change into nothing?

2) The relation between things that can be seen or felt and those that can
neither be seen nor felt in any way conceivable;

(a) Does the invisibility or non-observability of things make them
non-physical?
(b) Does the invisibility or non-observability of things make them non-
existent?

3) The Relation between the design and the designer (given that we took
this route);

(a) can anything single-handedly give rise to another thing?
(b) what ought to be the appropriate relation between the design and
the designer?
(c) Can a perfect designer give rise to an imperfect design, or the
superior to the inferior?

These are hard-headed issues needing clarification if this debate is to have any chance of heading in the right direction, I hope.

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Les Sleeth
Gold Member
selfAdjoint said:
I am sure those with defensive stances about physicality and evolution would find ways to disdain such discoveries, but I for one would be fascinated to know.
I don't know if you'd include me with those "would find ways to disdain" but I don't believe I am trying to scorn any legitimate achievement by science or any other discipline. This phase of our debate has become about proper inference and interpretation, not achievement.

Can we infer from any experiments conducted so far that progressive organization is likely to happen? (In case there's any doubt about what I mean by "progressive organization" -- the quality of self-organization which, under conditions found naturally on Earth, heads toward adaptive system building, and keeps going.) I don't believe there's anything disparaging in challenging physicalist assertions that when researchers push organization toward amino acid formation it is similar to chemistry taking over and continuing to organize toward an adaptive system. So, while it may not be "implausible that a poly-U molecule could be put together by chance processes," that isn't the issue. I don't want to be a mega-skeptic, but I am not suspending my logic skills either to prematurely buy what appears to be over-eager physicalist inferences.

Les Sleeth
Gold Member
UltraPi1 said:
Thought I'd stir things up a bit.

I would make the arguement that reality is not physical at all. From large to small - All things are conceptual in nature. I.E. A rock on the side of the road is a conceptual entity expressed by it's geometric embodiment. I'm sure this is hard to accept, but what makes everyone so sure about physical reality?
That would be a pretty good argument except for one thing: non-mental experience. We discover a wall is more than a concept when we smash into it. That's exactly why science-oriented philosophy has surpassed (IMHO) purely rationalistic musings . . . because empirical thinkers attempt to seek confirming experience. If one eschews the experiential aspect and does nothing but think about reality, then I suppose reality for that person could be wholly conceptual.

That would be a pretty good argument except for one thing: non-mental experience. We discover a wall is more than a concept when we smash into it.
I was going to bring that up .... such as stubbing your toe on a chair leg. How could anyone argue that it's not physical? But ........ Who says a concept can't be stationary, and who says that a concept can't move.? Who says a concept can't give you a bloody nose ... such as running into a wall?

Concepts could have laws that are followed implicitly - Same as you have physical laws. If conceptual geometric forms (made of nothing at all) obey what we term physical laws - Reality still looks and feels and acts the same as the physical one you adhere to.

In a physical reality you have a couple of choices. Either the entire panoply , including the vacuum of space is composed of physical entities by which movement seems unlikely to be even remotely possible, or we have physical entities opposed by nothing at all, by which we differentiate those physical entities?