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Do we really think?

  1. Apr 16, 2006 #1
    Hello, I've had spent some of my time to study why should we think? and that can't just we say that thinking is actually reaction ( a complex type )
    What makes me say this is by some observational examples such as any type of cell even the nervous cells, none of them has supernatural power of making decisions and instead all that they do is the reaction to there sorrounding environment. When we get to nervous cells which are the experts in this task, again all they do is reaction. You touched an extreamly cold object and all you'll do will be taking your hand away because you dont want to lose your body tempreature ( let's say you are in siberia).

    What this point of view results to is that we have no power of choice and that we are all living under some exactly defined mathmatical formulae and that we might imagine that we have made a certain decision but it was actually our reaction where we can find no probobility.

    It might sound somehow useless idea but I'd be glad to know the way you look to this mathmatical world of logics.........
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 16, 2006 #2


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    What we call thinking involves more than simple reactions to our environments, and we are demonstrably not the only animals to "think". One day, I was in the corner of the living room reading a book and our ferret Turbo ran into the room with a favorite toy in his mouth. He glanced around and ran to the home entertainment center with his treasure, opened the door to the tape-storage compartment and backed in, hauling the stuffed toy rooster with him. He hid his toy and came back out of the compartment with its spring-loaded door and started back to the kitchen...then he noticed me sitting there. He immediately stopped, ran to the home entertainment center, opened the door, retrieved his rooster, and ran off to hide it in a different place. Now tell me, was he thinking? Here is a little 2-1/2# animal with a brain the size of a walnut who sees me sitting there, deduces that I must have been there earlier, and thus his hiding place is not secure, so he has to recover his treasure and hide it somewhere else. This is just one example - I have cohabitated with ferrets (and my wife) for decades, and these little guys can outclass dogs and cats in many ways - their ability to balance on their hind legs and use their front paws as hands makes them a challenge to live with, but the ability to manipulate their environments also seems to enhance their intelligence and makes them a joy to live with.
  4. Apr 17, 2006 #3
    Well, thats a good example, About your farret's action but no, from my point of view it was a complex reaction only in other words the addition of diffrent senses that the farret had resulted to a natural reaction.
    Lets take a single celled organism as an example, due to its energy requirments it might move towards the source (a specific type of food lets say), Did it think? as far as I know it was the diffusion/active transport of the ingredients to the cell. Know lets see the nervous system which is responsible for thinking, all the nerve impulses are a type of electric wave created by calcium & potasium ions, so don't you think that the wave was a type of code? If so, for thinking we would need an infinte number of codes while it's not possible for these waves to be in an ifinte variety they are just calcium and potasium ions Don't you think that the waves cant be in an infinte variety?

    After considering the nervous system's actions I guess using the word reaction is better instead, which is because of the previously programed chip inside the body which is actually the gene & all that we think about is reacting due to the structure and the type of program installed inside chip ( chip = genes )..........??
  5. Apr 17, 2006 #4
    Personally, I think that's a valid, yet largely unuseful assessment. It's effectively chaos theory in action. I think one example James Gleick used in Chaos was with complex weather patterns.

    Let's say we developed some sort of super-sensative weather sensor. It detects temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, CO2/Oxygen/Hydrogen/etc content, and it's oh, say, fist-sized. It's got temperature accuracy to 1/1000th of a degree, humidity to 1/25000th of a percent, etc. We deposit them all over the Earth, fixed into locations such that there does not exist a regular tetrahedral shape greater than 10 cubic meters in size on the Earth (10 miles vertically, down to the surface) where there ISN'T a little sensor.

    We take the data from those sensors, and feed it into a perfect or nearly-perfect weather model on a supercomputer. It makes predictions, and is able to predict tomorrow's weather with such accuracy that we can't detect a reliable difference between the prediction and the actual fact.

    But now take the prediction forward 6 years. Totally inaccurate. And it's important to note here that there's two reasons why. First, and most obviously, there are issues that the sensor's don't detect. Meteor activity, human movement, trees dying which alter wind resistance, etc.

    But the *real* problem is that we don't have perfect data. So even if we took our little weather predictor to a TOTALLY isolated environment (yes, I know it's an impossibility), it would STILL be inaccurate at certain distances into the future, because the tiny discrepancies in the data eventually add up. The difference between 0.0000256 and 0.00002562283197650091858 is miniscule when looking at tomorrow's weather, but the further into the future you go, the more that precision matters. And that will only ever be solved by obtaining and manipulating *perfect* data perfectly.

    The human being is similar, except we're even less predictable than the weather. Putting little sensors in our cells might tell you our actions in the next few seconds, or maybe even a few minutes given regular conditions, but until you can get both *perfect* data as well as *universal* perfect data, a human reaction is largely unpredictable.

    We can certainly predict certain things. The reaction to something sad, or to being insulted or praised. Answering questions in similar ways, or repeatedly making similar decisions on things like what to order at a restaurant. But for all intents and purposes, it's still unpredictable.

    As for the title question, whether or not it's thinking? Sure! Why not? We predict people's thoughts all the time as though they were purely reactionary, but we still don't treat them as something other than thought. The only problem seems to be that people don't like to think of themselves as purely reactionary creatures with a singular future. We like to think of ourselves as having free will. Personally, I think it's an illusion, but it's an imperceptable truth behind it, so we might as well treat the illusion as reality, until such time as we find a reliable means of assessing the underlying truth.

  6. Apr 17, 2006 #5

    I think what you are ultimately getting at here is whether or not consciousness is strongly emergent or weakly emergent.

    Strongly emergent means that consciousness transcends time and space, and that there is something else guiding it, while weakly emergent means that consciousness can be reduced to its physical components. (ie: the brain and body.)

    The hard problem of consciousness remains unsolved, and while your idea is a great one, it remains to be seen about its truthfulness.

    But consider this;
    In nature, there is no color.
    Color in nature exists as frequencies in the electromagnetic spectrum(source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Light_spectrum .)

    The light wave oscillates at a certain frequency, and when the photons hits your eye, the brain interprets it as "green" for instance.
    But the color green itself doesn't exist in nature other than that frequency.

    In other words; we cannot objectively see the color green, we need a pair of eyes and brain to do so.
    What this means to this discussion is that in some ways, this color, when perceived, exists outside of time and space.
    While you may argue that the brain and the eyes are physical, it still doesn't explain why we can't measure or quantify or predict subjective qualia (qualia is basically the subjective experience, like an emotion, or seeing a color; source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qualia .)

    So ultimately what this means is that there are things in nature that we cannot predict or measure with science, while that doesn't mean everything can't be deterministic, it just means that we don't have the faintest idea how this works, but the idea is good anyway.
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