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Light having a conscious?

  1. Sep 16, 2005 #1
    :Edit: I did not intend for this to go in the sceptisism forum, when given the chance please move it to the general physics forums. Or wherever appropriate.

    I had heard or maybe even had read that light has been determined to have a consciousness. An ability to make a decision. But I long have forgotten what source I heard this from. I did a quick search or two on google but could not find anything. How can someone determine light has a conscious and ability to make a decision when it could just be doing what the laws binding it to the universe tells it to do. How can one differentiate the two with an entity seperate from one? Someone please shed some light on the subject. No pun intended :rofl:
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2005
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 16, 2005 #2
    I'll shed some light. It doesn't have a consiciousness. Claiming that is analogous to claiming that rocks have consiciousness because they fall down if you throw one in the air. Which is pretty rediculous.
  4. Sep 16, 2005 #3


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    I don't know if he came up with the idea, but Deepak Chopra had a recent blog entry about this idea. By the way, I would not take anything Deepak Chopra has to say about anything pertaining to science seriously. For instance, see a critique of part I of Deepak's entry about science and Intelligent Design http://pharyngula.org/index/weblog/comments/moonbat_anti_evolutionist_deepak_chopra/ [Broken]. It's not very pretty.

    This thread was moved here because it deals with a highly speculative idea. It's not appropriate for the General Physics forum.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  5. Sep 16, 2005 #4


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    Perhaps someone misunderstood some of the QM delayed-choice type issues with the photon actually making a choice. It does not.

    Ie, if you do a double-slit experiment but close one slit after a photon has passed through, it'll behave as if it was closed the whole time. It doesn't "know" or "decide" how to act, it just acts according to the laws of physics.
  6. Sep 16, 2005 #5
    In order to have a conscience you need a brain, don't you?

    This could open up a whole new field of medical science! Photon-Neurology?
  7. Sep 16, 2005 #6


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    It is up in the air at this time what is needed for a system to have subjective experience. However, to make decisions, and in general to have intelligence, certainly some kind of processor like a brain or a CPU is needed.
  8. Sep 16, 2005 #7
    It pains me to see people try to put God into our physical existence (i.e. light has a conscience, God is light). And I'm a Christian. But, I know He does not fit in the physical "realm" so to speak. I'm assuming that is where Lifter was going with the post...
  9. Sep 16, 2005 #8

    Les Sleeth

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    Whether or not we should take Chopra seriously (I am not a fan), I don't see all his comments as ID. Some of it is what a lot of people (you know, like the majority?) find incredible about physicalist theory. And what was less pretty, Chopra's sloppy science or the critic's nasty, dogmatic, sarcastic, failure-to-address-the-major-points attitude?

    He, like so many "believers" in the secular religion of scientism think they are right, and therefore anyone who disagrees must be stupid. The problem is that the critic doesn't even see what the major objection is (if he does he certainly didn't address it), like most members of the scientism cult, and that he/they are glossing over the fact that the evidence isn't there to show physicalness alone can either originate life or guide it via natural selection to something so advanced as a functioning organism.

    Why can't that be considered a type of stupidity by us doubters? I can report from debating the physicalist point of view for years that I virtually never hear anyone either admit they don't have the evidence yet to say (or act like) "we know," or hear anyone actually grasp the fact that purely reductionist thinking (not to mention with a priori physicalist assumptions in place) might have a blindside. And it couldn't possibly be that the priests of the scientism cult are trying to force physicalist dogma down our (you know, the vast majority's) throats. No, the only reason anyone doubts, according to the above critic, is because we are so stupid as not to buy his belief system.

    How about decisions made on pure feeling? Leaving human consciousness out of it for a second, even an amoeba can "decide" to swim away from something it finds in the water. But I say I can make decisions without a processor; in fact, that is really what most defines consciousness, not the processor.
  10. Sep 16, 2005 #9
    I had an interesting experience yesterday. I came across a website with a quiz to test the visitor's knowledge of Mozart's musical style. The site presented ten clips of classical compositions, some from Mozart, some from the much inferior Salieri. ("inferior" can be misleading; Salieri was rather good)

    As I tried to determine the composer for each individual clip, I discovered something quite interesting. For the clips that turned out to be Salieri's, I had to analyze the music and look for things I thought Mozart wouldn't do - banal harmonies, poorly resolved cadences, excessive repetition, things like that. Mozart's clips, however, immediately "felt" like Mozart. All I had to do was notice how I emotionally responded to the music - I didn't have to think at all.

    Now the interesting thing is, not only Mozart's music "feels" superior, it also reveals itself superior on technical analysis. If you have knowledge of musical theory, analyzing a Mozart score can often be as thrilling as listening to the music itself. So that makes me think perhaps feeling and reason are the same thing, or maybe feeling arises out of a reasoning process so complex it can't be done consciously.

    I don't like this "processor" analogy, I think it's too primitive, but I do suspect the same kind of intellectual activity is behind every single decision, that the only difference is our awareness of the process that lead to the decision. It's as if the mind decides "this is simple so it can be handled consciously, this is too complex so it must be handled subconsciously".

    If that is the case, then conscious thought is a huge waste of time. If subconscious "reasoning" can solve problems far more complex than conscious analysis can even handle, let alone solve, why bother with conscious analysis at all?
  11. Sep 16, 2005 #10

    Les Sleeth

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    I think I like this post of yours better than any other you've offered. But I still disagree.

    I have a very large in-law family. Before I got to know them, I attended a wedding of one of the in-laws, and some of us started talking about what it's like to join a family where everyone has a long personal history except you. I told them that when I enter a group like theirs, I switch to pure feeling because I have no other information. I explained that I evaluated everything by what I felt was going on between people, and by how each individual felt.

    They were fascinated and made me elaborate. So I went on to say that I just became one, big feeling thing and tried to totally ignore my mind. I didn't accept judgement my mind offered, but stayed in the feeling mode until I got out of that situation. I allowed my impressions to guide me in my behavior, so if someone felt cold, I might try to warm them, unless they got hostile to that, and then I would back off. Every circumstance was determined by how thing felt. Later of course, I might start to a analyze.

    I like your music example. I have noticed the same thing in jazz, where someone like Chet Baker or Miles Davis or John Scofield feels superior, and their music reflects that analytically too. But then there is Oscar Peterson, who was so techinically brilliant (IMHO) he at times allowed technicalness to predominate in his music . . . I thought his music suffered then. In contrast, look at the late, great Luther Vandross or James Taylor . . . simple music made beautiful by such strong feeling. So when it comes to enjoyment, and if I had to choose which to sacrifice (technical skill or feeling), I would choose to stick with feeling everytime.

    But to get back to why I disagree with your statement that feeling and intellect are the same, it's because they can operate independently. I do believe each on occasion can give us the same interpretation, but then there are areas where one fails in the other's realm. Could we do math by feeling? Can we love with the intellect?
  12. Sep 16, 2005 #11

    Ivan Seeking

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    The path of any particular photon [whatever that means], as well as any other subatomic particle, cannot be predicted. Nor can we predict when any particular particle might decay. I think this relates indirectly to some ideas about consciousness [that is to say, I have heard this discussed]. Large systems of particles act like large systems of people: The overall result of certain forces on the system can be predicted, but the actions of any particular person is random, or a matter of choice.
  13. Sep 17, 2005 #12
    if light has does it wants then our fiber optics would be going berserk all the time wouldnt it
  14. Sep 17, 2005 #13
    Remember when that file u downloaded was corrupt?
  15. Sep 17, 2005 #14
    Just wait. Soon we'll have protestors demanding we cease the inhumane imprisonment of light in fibre optic cables.
  16. Sep 17, 2005 #15
    I might have a problem with a photon making a decision, but I can accept a photon being aware of itself. In this sense it is conscious. I would further propose that a photon is aware of any unit that crosses it's path. This is acceptable to me because I consider reality to be conceptual in nature.

    All that exist must interact, and interaction is a form of awareness.
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2005
  17. Sep 18, 2005 #16
    I have to ask... What is the most complex physical *insert-noun-here* that we could agree has a conscience. Let's start there before we assign consciousness to particles?
  18. Sep 18, 2005 #17


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    The text the blogger was criticizing was quoted from Chopra's blog, from a post about ID. I agree that the author's tone was over the top, but Chopra really did make some bad blunders and sloppy reasoning in that blog entry of his.

    Well, I'd say decisions made on pure feeling still find manifestation in brain processes, so on my view it would be either false or meaningless to say one can make decisions without the brain. I'd say you can't make decisions without your brain simply because you are your brain, and brain processes are the very means by which you make decisions; that's the view I'm settling on. I do think there must be more to the brain than just physical structure and function to account for subjective experience, but whatever this is, I think there is a direct and complete mapping from its properties onto physical brain properties.

    As for what defines consciousness, this certainly cannot be the ability of consciousness to make decisions without the brain, as this has not even been demonstrated, and many people believe they are conscious without believing such a thing. What defines consciousness is subjective experience, what it feels like to experience various things.
  19. Sep 18, 2005 #18


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    That's putting the cart before the horse. We can't decide what physical systems have subjective experience until we're in possession of good principles of what it is that makes physical systems experience in the first place.
  20. Sep 19, 2005 #19
    Is that supposed to be a compliment or an insult? :smile:

    You got me wrong, I wasn't talking about feeling in that sense. Plenty of bad music is full of feeling; such music is called "sentimental". Sentimental music often sounds amazing the first time you hear it, but repeated hearings make you want to forget you ever heard it. (off the top of my head I remember a song called "I wanna know what love is" by a band called Foreigner - full of feeling, and banal beyond belief)

    When we listen to music, we are analyzing it whether we do it consciously or not. Whatever you feel when you listen to music, even sentimental music, is the result of intellectual effort and can be done consciously. Let me give you a simple example: almost every pop song has three stanzas (verses), with a bridge inserted between the second and the third. Everyone knows that, even if they have never stopped to count or do statistics about all the songs they ever heard. And you don't have to count the stanzas to know if a song has the right number of them, you can simply "feel" it. Most of the time a song with two stanzas will feel "too short", one with four will feel "too long", one without a bridge will feel "repetitive".

    That was the kind of feeling I was talking about. I hope I've explained myself better now.

    I hope my description of the typical pop song has helped you understand that, at least in some cases, they are not independent at all but are in fact the same thing.

    Some people can tell the square root of any number, or the day of the week for any date, without thinking at all. You ask them "what day of the week will March 13, 2498 be and they instantly reply "Wednesday" simply because they "feel" Wednesday is the right answer.

    Probably not. I didn't say the intellect can do everything we do by "feeling", I said it's possible the opposite is true. If an autistic savant can know the square root of any number without doing mental step-by-step calculations, isn't it possible everyone could do the same if we were able to achieve the right mental state?
  21. Sep 20, 2005 #20

    Les Sleeth

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    It is not the same to say that the brain doesn't process when we feel, or think, and that the brain is making the decision or thinking. Do you believe when you use your calculator the calculator thinks?

    I know you'd say that, but you nor anyone else can prove it is true yet.

    I know. I respect that even though I thoroughly disagree.

    You don't get to authoritatively define consciousness when lots of people don't agree what it is. You are just stating the position of your particular belief system as though it's all decided. Consciousness might be something you and your fellow believers haven't thought of, and won't care much for if it turns out to be outside the set of skills you wish to apply to understand consciousness.
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2005
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