The Mind of Man

  • Thread starter Royce
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  • #26
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Heres an example of a succesful OBE in a lab situation.

http://www.paradigm-sys.com/display/ctt_articles2.cfm?ID=50 [Broken]

On the first three laboratory nights Miss Z reported that in spite of occasionally being “out,” she had not been able to control her experiences enough to be in position to see the target number (which was different each night). On the fourth night, at 5:57am, there was a seven minute period of somewhat ambiguous EEG activity, sometimes looking like stage 1, sometimes like brief wakings. Then Miss Z awakened and called out over the intercom that the target number was 25132, which I wrote on the EEG recording. After she slept a few more minutes I woke her so she could go to work and she reported on the previous awakening that:

"I woke up; it was stifling in the room. Awake for about five minutes. I kept waking up and drifting off, having floating feelings over and over. I needed to go higher because the number was lying down. Between 5:50 and 6:00 A.M. that did it. . . I wanted to go read the number in the next room, but I couldn’t leave the room, open the door, or float through the door. . .. I couldn’t turn on the air conditioner!"

The number 25132 was indeed the correct target number. I had learned something about designing experiments since my first OBE experiment and precise evaluation was possible here. The odds against guessing a 5digit number by chance alone are 100,000 to 1, so this is a remarkable event! Note also that Miss Z had apparently expected me to have propped the target number up against the wall behind the shelf, but she correctly reported that it was lying flat.
 
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  • #27
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Facinating. I would say it proves our point. Thanks again as I said your doing a better job at supporting this than I am.
 
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  • #28
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heh for those of you who like to think about the brain vs metaphysics....how many of you have studied the structures inside the brain?
 
  • #29
Faustus
Royce said:
Well it is not only here that I get that impression. I've watched a number of TV shows about OBE and NDE mainly on TLC and Discovery. They always have a "scientist" on that refutes the evidence and attempts to show that there are perfectly normal reasonable explanations for all of it, much like Hypnagogue did that are not reasonable or normal.
I think we, as a society, suffer from a case of acute rationalism, which causes people to believe everything must be explained, if possible, or rejected, if impossible to explain. Notice that the compulsion to explain NDEs on a scientific basis, as Hypnagogue did, is essentially no different from the compulsion to explain it on any basis. I have read quite a bit about NDEs and I can conclude, with nearly absolute certainty, that nobody knows what is going on. Neither scientists nor the experiencers themselves have a clue to what is going on, although both sides like to claim they do.

That said, any person can verify for themselves that the following are indisputable facts about near-death experiences (I know of no sensible explanation for these facts, but that doesn't make them less factual):

- They feel extremely real, "more real than ordinary reality" as experiencers often describe it. If you had an NDE, the chance you would be fully convinced the experience was real is higher than 90%; that is a statistical fact.

- Experiencers do acquire information by means other than their senses. The claim that people who are unconscious can hear and remember things does not explain how near-death experiencers see things during their experiences. There are reports, which have been verified by reliable sources, that NDEers often see things they couldn't possibly see even if they were not unconscious.

- It is also a fact that people sometimes receive information, which they could not otherwise have known about, from recently deceased people; that usually happens during dreams or in the hypnopompic state (when people are about to wake up)

All those things are facts but, as I said, one must verify them for themselves. You don't need science to know that the Red Sox won the World Series last year; why pay attention to stuffy academics on a subject they know as much about as the next person?
 
  • #30
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Heres a study, which demonstrates some of Faustus points:

http://www.scientificexploration.org/jse/articles/pdf/12.3_cook_greyson_stevenson.pdf [Broken]

An even more important kind of NDE for suggesting that NDEs are not simply subjective hallucinations or imagination are those in which experiencers report perceiving events that occurred beyond the normal range of the physical senses, events that they could not have perceived normally even if they had been conscious.
Hart (1954) identified 288 published cases in which a person claimed to have perceived events at some distant location at a time when he or she seemed to be out of the physical body. (Ninety-nine of these met Hart’ s criteria for evidentiality, in that the events seen were later verified and had also been reported to someone by the experient before that verification took place.)
Nevertheless, there has been one notable attempt to determine whether theOBEs reported in connection with NDEs are solely the product of subjectiveimagery or whether they sometimes include objective, out-of-body perceptions.Michael Sabom, a cardiologist, compared the accuracy of the descriptions by near-death experiencers of their resuscitations with the descriptions of cardiac patients who did not report an NDE but who were asked to imaginewhat a resuscitation looked like. He concluded that the near-death experiencers seemed to be describing actual observations rather than imagined events (Sabom, 1982).

And here is another bit about an OBE experiment:
In an attempt to address this problem, Osis and McCormick (1980) designed a visual target that could be identified only if viewed from one particular visual perspective, and they recruited as the subject for their experiments a person skilled at inducing OBEs in himself. The success of this person in identifying the target led Osis and McCormick to conclude that he had done so by viewing it while out of his physical body, rather than by clairvoyance while inside his physical body.
 
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  • #31
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My father died a number of years ago. All three of us, my two sisters and I, on the day that he died, had a sense of well being, that everything was fine and as it should and was expected to be. I said that my feeling was a free and easy feeling. It was remarkable only because it was unusual and we all "knew" it was Dad giving this to us, saying good bye.
We miss him but none of us mourn his passing. Just thought that I'd add this bit. You can make of it what you will. It was real to me, to us and I'll never forget it. By the way I was here in Atlanta, GA and my father and sisters
live(d) in California.
 
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  • #32
hypnagogue
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Royce said:
First it is their physicalist paradigm that the mind does not exist but is only a property of the physical brain function that makes them try with this convoluted theory to make the relatively simple processor responsible for human mentality and consciousness.
I find it ironic that you are accusing me of physicalist dogma when you should know I'm an anti-physicalist! Of course the mind exists, and no, I do not believe that everything about the mind is reducible to physical facts. In particular, I believe that physicalism can only account for structural and functional facts, and that subjective experience cannot be reduced to structural and functional facts alone.

But the mind modulo subjective experience is nothing but a set of structures and functions, and so a physical perspective does not face the same kind of in-principle difficulties in accounting for these aspects of the mind. Now, in principle, it could nonetheless be the case that not all of the structural and functional facts about mind could be accounted for by a physicalist perspective-- in particular, if the sort of OBEs described by loseyourname really do exist, we will have another dilemma for physicalism. But scientifically ascertaining the existence of this sort of non-local information transfer in human minds has been notoriously elusive, and science is our best epistemological tool for investigating objective phenomena. (Acquisition of information about the world by means of OBEs would constitute an objective phenomenon.) If our best epistemological tool cannot readily confirm the existence of a phenomenon whose alleged character flies in the face of everything we otherwise know about the objective world, we must retain significant doubts as to its true nature.

They have yet to discover how the physical brain brings all of these processes together to form the concept of a chair that is universal to all chairs regardless of shape, size color and type. Maybe this is where Plato's forms come in.
There is as of yet no definitive and meticulously detailed account of how the brain forms concepts, but we already have identified the general mechanism. Concepts are sets of fuzzy categories with rich patterns of interrelations and overlaps, and just this sort of thing can be modeled on a computer using computational neural networks. Computational neural networks, of course, are just computational models of how neurons in the brain function and interact. There is not as much of a mystery here as you would like to believe.

If our perceptions were not reality but an inaccurate model then what we have discovered, learned, and know of the physical world scientifically would not be nearly so accurate, verifiable or useful. Nor would one discovery lead to even more theories and discoveries.
I only claimed that our perceptions are a model of the world, not the world itself; I said nothing about their accuracy. Our perceptual models of the world must be accurate at least to the extent that they allow us to thrive (in the sense of survival and reproduction) in a competetive and unforgiving environment. But at the same time, our perceptual mechanisms are easily given over to illusions, inaccurate representations of things as they actually are. This is a plain fact, and I hope I do not have to ennumerate the many ways in which this can happen. That our perceptual mechanisms can be easily fooled in the proper circumstances in no way implies that we should not have the capacity to do good science.

It seems to me that they are over complicating the issue and throwing in a bunch of extra steps just so they can rationalize and justify it to fit the physicalist view point. Where is Occam's Razor when you need it. As they say; "If you hear hoof beats in the American West don't go looking for zebras."
This is not about Occam's Razor at all. It's about consistency with the evidence. You might say that quantum physics is only a needless complication of Newtonian physics, but the simple fact is that those complications are required if we are to honor the experimental evidence we have. Likewise, naive realism is plainly inconsistent with the evidence from the cognitive sciences, and so it must be rejected and replaced with a more complicated view that accomodates all the evidence.

So far as I know, I am always aware that I am asleep and dreaming. I also usually know when I am awake and my perceptions are real or not real because of optical illusions or sensory distortions. This comes from experience and my personal experiences are my ultimate test for reality.
If you're having a dreaming experience and you're aware you're dreaming, that does not change the fact that you are inhabiting a rich perceptual space that is more or less distended from the influence of your environment. The point is that we can find ourselves experiencing perceptual spaces in a large variety of conditions, only a subset of which correspond to the objective world. The simplest explanation is just that it's our brain activity which constructs these perceptual worlds.

My locus of consciousness does not lie in a perceptual model of the body. It is usually in my head behind my forehead but I can at times move it, not outside my body but to various location within my body.
Your locus of consciousness lies in your perceptual model of your head, behind your perceptual model of your forehead. You're again espousing naive realism here, which is a view as plainly untenable as the view that the Earth is flat, due to its inability to accomodate known facts. For further arguments, see here and here.

Such reports are accurate and verifiable. Now you question the veracity of me and people you know nothing about because it doesn't fit your preconceived model of the physical brain.
I did not categorically deny the veracity of the reports in your initial post. I said that even if they were true, they could find explanations consistent with what we know about how the world works. This point was contrary to your claim that these reports could find no explanation other than the one you offered.

The veracity of stronger cases of OBE phenomena, like the kind loseyourname described, is a stickier issue. If such cases are so readily verifiable, why do we consistently find conflicting results from scientific studies? The failure of such phenomena to be readily verified by science is not necessarily a death knell-- perhaps their occurence depends on conditions that we do not understand and hence cannot control for-- but it certainly is grounds for retaining a healthy skepticism. Susan Blackmore's account of her thirty-year history of researching paranormal phenomena, and her eventual rejection of them, seems telling here.

I knew that this challenge was coming and I've been here before. I also know the futility of arguing with a physicalist view point. I am a realist and I don't believe that it is naive. It is the physicalistic view point that ignores so much data, experience and information because it doesn't fit the physicalist paradigm.
Again, the tack I'm taking here is not a physicalist one. I am not a physicalist, but I am completely comfortable offering the line of argument I've presented here.

As for your view, it quite simply is the view that is called "naive realism" in philosophy. It has acquired that pejorative name for a reason.

As for the issue of data-- nothing is being ignored here. I'm not covering my ears shouting "la la la!" What I'm doing is considering possible explanations for the phenomena you're talking about. That's not ignoring data, it's interpreting it.

I have said it so many times before and will keep right on saying it until even I won't listen any more. There is so much more to reality than merely the physical and the physical cause and effect. You/they say ideas are not physical but are only the effect of physical processes. How then can anyone come up with a new idea, create something never seen, nor heard, nor read before or a new theory of a reality that he cannot and does not perceive but just some cause and effect subjective model created electrochemically in his physical brain cells?
Simple-- the computational dynamics of the neurons of the brain. We have internal models of the world that we build through experience, and we have faculties of reasoning and intuition-- both conscious and unconscious-- that continuously draws from and operates upon those models. The general schema is not unlike a system of axioms (the model of the world) operated upon by a set of rules of inference (reasoning/intuition) in order to generate novel propositions. There is nothing fundamentally mysterious here.
 
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  • #33
hypnagogue
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hypnagogue said:
Now, in principle, it could nonetheless be the case that not all of the structural and functional facts about mind could be accounted for by a physicalist perspective-- in particular, if the sort of OBEs described by loseyourname really do exist, we will have another dilemma for physicalism.
I should say that this would be a dilemma for physics, rather than physicalism-- a much deeper dilemma that could only be resolved by reformulating our physical models of the world accordingly. Having done that, physicalism could be preserved, but only at the cost of re-writing physics itself.
 
  • #34
Faustus
Royce said:
My father died a number of years ago. All three of us, my two sisters and I, on the day that he died, had a sense of well being, that everything was fine and as it should and was expected to be. I said that my feeling was a free and easy feeling. It was remarkable only because it was unusual and we all "knew" it was Dad giving this to us, saying good bye.
We miss him but none of us mourn his passing. Just thought that I'd add this bit. You can make of it what you will.
These things have always happened, but only in our scientific-materialistic society have we come to classify them as delusions, superstition, lies, just because it makes the scientific-materialistic types uncomfortable. I say, that is their problem!

A couple of months ago my mother had the strangest experience. She was half-asleep in bed when she heard someone enter the door and walk in her direction. It was late at night so she became very upset thinking it could be a robber, but she couldn't move a limb. She was there, lying in bed, terrified of the intruder, who entered her room and sat beside her in the bed! She could not see the man, but she could feel his presence and his weight on the matress. Then she woke up and realized it was a dream, although a very real and frightening one.

The next day she told a friend about it and the friend said she had a very, very similar experience, at about the same time. The coincidence was strange enough, but she was really flabbergasted when, later on, she learned a close mutual friend of both of them had died the night before... at about the same time both had the experience!

Now this was my mother and she's a skeptic, she didn't know what to make of it. I don't know if it means the spirit of their friend came to say good-bye, but something really happened which cannot be dismissed as a coincidence or a fantasy. Clearly we still don't know what is going on in the world, and the old religious beliefs about souls and afterlife may not be entirely true, but they do have a basis in people's experiences. And the scientific-materialistic world view may not be entirely false, but it cannot possibly be the final truth about the mind and consciousness.
 
  • #35
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hypnagogue said:
I find it ironic that you are accusing me of physicalist dogma when you should know I'm an anti-physicalist! Of course the mind exists, and no, I do not believe that everything about the mind is reducible to physical facts. In particular, I believe that physicalism can only account for structural and functional facts, and that subjective experience cannot be reduced to structural and functional facts alone.
I was not referring to you as a physicalist but the cognitive scientist. If you got that impression, I am sorry it was not my intention. I know your writing well enough to know that you are not a physicalist but you can and do argue their point very well at times.

But the mind modulo subjective experience is nothing but a set of structures and functions, and so a physical perspective does not face the same kind of in-principle difficulties in accounting for these aspects of the mind. Now, in principle, it could nonetheless be the case that not all of the structural and functional facts about mind could be accounted for by a physicalist perspective-- in particular, if the sort of OBEs described by loseyourname really do exist,
Statements like the one above; " if the sort of OBEs described by loseyourname really do exist," is what I talking about when I said that you question the veracity of me, loseyourname and others that you know nothing about. I realize that neither you nor I can take any individual statement as gospel carved in stone but we do have to consider the possibility of a number of such statements that claim verification and witnesses as existing and possibly true. It is your wording the rubbed me the wrong way. I was out of sorts Tuesday when I wrote and posted my initial reply. Even my boss said that I was being old (cranky). I think had you said that "if they are true indications of OBE's and NDE's" rather than saying "if they exist" it would have been much more agreeable to me. Again I think that I over reacted and for that I apologize.

we will have another dilemma for physicalism. But scientifically ascertaining the existence of this sort of non-local information transfer in human minds has been notoriously elusive, and science is our best epistemological tool for investigating objective phenomena. (Acquisition of information about the world by means of OBEs would constitute an objective phenomenon.) If our best epistemological tool cannot readily confirm the existence of a phenomenon whose alleged character flies in the face of everything we otherwise know about the objective world, we must retain significant doubts as to its true nature.
With this I agree completely. I have no idea how an out of body mind can perceive anything and retain an accurate memory of the event without a physical medium (brain) to store the information. It may be an indication that we are all part of and interconnected with the one consciousness talked about in another thread. It amazes, fascinates and baffles me yet I have to accept at least some of it as true and real. Something is obviously happening that is not explainable if physical terms.

There is as of yet no definitive and meticulously detailed account of how the brain forms concepts, but we already have identified the general mechanism. Concepts are sets of fuzzy categories with rich patterns of interrelations and overlaps, and just this sort of thing can be modeled on a computer using computational neural networks. Computational neural networks, of course, are just computational models of how neurons in the brain function and interact. There is not as much of a mystery here as you would like to believe.
As I have said in other threads as well as this one, I'm not really sure what I think about the mind/brain relationship. It is a work in progress. The way that I am beginning to see it is that the brain is the hardware and the mind is the software but this is really too simplistic. We receive date from our senses.
Our brain processes and correlates that data much like a computer. And, yes it builds corresponding models in our brains. I think of it more like an interface processor between the real physical world and our mind.

Our senses see a chair, an unusual chair the type of which we have never seen before. Our senses send the information to the brain and in one area the brain builds a model of shape, form and size, another detects and correlates the color and texture etc. Somewhere this model and color and texture etc are brought together and compared to previous data. There must be somewhere in our brain or mind a concept of a generic universal chair (Plato's forms?) to which we compare the data collected processed and correlated so that we instantly recognize the object as a chair and know its purpose and function.

I only claimed that our perceptions are a model of the world, not the world itself; I said nothing about their accuracy. Our perceptual models of the world must be accurate at least to the extent that they allow us to thrive (in the sense of survival and reproduction) in a competetive and unforgiving environment. But at the same time, our perceptual mechanisms are easily given over to illusions, inaccurate representations of things as they actually are. This is a plain fact, and I hope I do not have to ennumerate the many ways in which this can happen. That our perceptual mechanisms can be easily fooled in the proper circumstances in no way implies that we should not have the capacity to do good science.
You are, of course, correct here. We do not and cannot have the real world in our heads or minds and we have only our imperfect senses to give us information. We must create models and from those models form our perceptions of the world around us. I maintain that our perceptions are real, they exist subjectively and reflect reality (most of the time). Where these perceptions form and where they exist is IMHO in our minds which is different from but intertwined, interfaced and interactive with our brains. How they continue to functions outside of our bodies is a whole 'nother can of worms for which I have no answers or solutions only more questions. I do not doubt however that it happens and that it is real.

This is not about Occam's Razor at all. It's about consistency with the evidence. You might say that quantum physics is only a needless complication of Newtonian physics, but the simple fact is that those complications are required if we are to honor the experimental evidence we have. Likewise, naive realism is plainly inconsistent with the evidence from the cognitive sciences, and so it must be rejected and replaced with a more complicated view that accomodates all the evidence.
I have no problem with the evidence. The question in my mind is, is the evidence the cause or the effect. Are they seeing the process at work and assuming that it is the end result, the finished product?

If you're having a dreaming experience and you're aware you're dreaming, that does not change the fact that you are inhabiting a rich perceptual space that is more or less distended from the influence of your environment. The point is that we can find ourselves experiencing perceptual spaces in a large variety of conditions, only a subset of which correspond to the objective world. The simplest explanation is just that it's our brain activity which constructs these perceptual worlds.
Yes, it is our brain activity that constructs these perceptual worlds. It is our mind that perceives and evaluates and "lives" in these perceptual worlds.

I did not categorically deny the veracity of the reports in your initial post. I said that even if they were true, they could find explanations consistent with what we know about how the world works. This point was contrary to your claim that these reports could find no explanation other than the one you offered.
Again the words "even if they were true" connotates, that they are not true but if they were...., We can always rationalize and justify anything if we try hard enough. Why not accept them as fact or true phenomenon and go from there? They are evidence. Not just some made up imaginings of deluded people to be brushed aside and dismissed because they don't fit our preconceived paradigms. The reality of the current situation is that nobody knows what is going on or how or why it happens. So why dismiss part of the evidence that may lead to a better understanding of what is really going on.
We learn by solving hard problems not by just doing the easy ones that we already know how to solve. In my business of electronic service and repair we call that cherry picking.

As for your view, it quite simply is the view that is called "naive realism" in philosophy. It has acquired that pejorative name for a reason.
I looked up "naive realism" on the internet. While I am a realist in that our perceptions are accurate reflections of reality, I don't think that I am a naive realist. I still don't like that term, but that's my problem. I also believe that reality consists of all that we perceive, physical, mental and spiritual. Dreams may not be real in content (though some may contain some reality) they do exist and in that sense are real.

s for the issue of data-- nothing is being ignored here. I'm not covering my ears shouting "la la la!" What I'm doing is considering possible explanations for the phenomena you're talking about. That's not ignoring data, it's interpreting it.
I didn't think you were. Some,however, do. By interpreting data as something other than it is however is just as bad. Data is data and should stand alone on it's own merits. Interpreting data can and often leads to falsifying or twisting or dismissing crucial parts even unintentionally. If the data is real and true it does not need interpretation only integration.



Simple-- the computational dynamics of the neurons of the brain. We have internal models of the world that we build through experience, and we have faculties of reasoning and intuition-- both conscious and unconscious-- that continuously draws from and operates upon those models. The general schema is not unlike a system of axioms (the model of the world) operated upon by a set of rules of inference (reasoning/intuition) in order to generate novel propositions. There is nothing fundamentally mysterious here.
No, theres nothing mysterious except where does this reasoning, intuition, set of rules of inference and propositions come from and where do they reside. Is it the physical neurons with there analog electrochemical properties which is the physical brain or is it something else we call the mind but know very little about?

As always this is just my thinking and opinions. I have no proof nor do I attempt to prove anything nor claim any expertise or special knowledge.
 
  • #36
Faustus said:
I don't know if it means the spirit of their friend came to say good-bye, but something really happened which cannot be dismissed as a coincidence or a fantasy. Clearly we still don't know what is going on in the world, and the old religious beliefs about souls and afterlife may not be entirely true, but they do have a basis in people's experiences. And the scientific-materialistic world view may not be entirely false, but it cannot possibly be the final truth about the mind and consciousness.
That's a good example to work on. Many people including myself have had similar experiences, and anyone who dismisses such events or plays down how amazing they are would be wrong to do so. But the divide between your view of it and other 'scientific-materialistic' people does not, or should not, lie in the event itself, but our rationalisation of such events.

First off, is it an inexplicable phenomenon? Can this event you describe legitimately happen in 'the scientific-materialistic world'? Yes, it can. It is overwhelmingly improbably that just by chance, at any given time, someone may die and two other people who know the deceased have similar dreams about someone coming and sitting on their bed. But it is also highly improbable that at any given time a man riding a bicycle will see a dog chasing its own tail while a fat man wearing a beret watches on unaware that his fly is undone. Does this warrant someone to search for a hitherto undefined force at work? No, because it is not the overwhelmingly unlikelihood of events that forces us to search for explanations, but seeming connections between them - the everyday, rather than scientific, definition of a coincidence.

Quite probably no-one has ever had the exact same startling experience you describe, and quite probably no-one will ever have it again. It is an overwhelmingly unlikely event to occur, but over the millions of years of human existence, unlikely events become less overwhelming. One could conceive of an infinite number of possible but highly unlikely events that could occur within the life of the human race. We don't and cannot even know what all of these infinite possibilities are, but we can put them all in one group. All such experiences as you described, all those spooky happenings, belong in this group. Now, if there are an infinite number of them, and each has a probability greater than zero, what is the chance of, within any given time, only ONE of them occurring. Or two, or ten, or a hundred?

Secondly, even if it were an inexplicable phenomenon, I don't think any reasonable person would dismiss it - it would simply remain unexplained. However people automatically rationalise such events for their own benefit. They can't help but invent explanations in the absence of existing ones, such as the deceased's 'spirit' coming to sit with them. For all I know, this may indeed be what happened, but what reason is there to assume this invented explanation above any other explanation, or to decide on an explanation at all?

Thirdly, by stating that "the scientific-materialistic world view cannot possibly be the final truth about the mind and consciousness", do you mean the current sum of scientific knowledge, or are you placing a limit on what science CAN ever explain? You seem to be asserting that some events MUST have a non-scientific explanation without knowing what that explanation might be, or even specifying the truths that cannot be scientifically explained, so without knowing whether it may be scientific. Choosing what can and cannot be explained to you by physical laws betrays your own need to have some things that cannot be explained by science, but must nonetheless be explained, therefore must be explained by non-scientific theories. I mean, can you explain WHY "the scientific-materialistic world view cannot possibly be the final truth about the mind and consciousness", other than that you feel this to be true?

I'm not having a go, or ruling anything out, but it is interesting that it is something that IS known about the human brain - the way it disconnects and reconnects stored information when processing new information - that is the probably cause for the need to look beyond the physical for explanations. The way I understand it, when we learn or experience something, we cannot help but try and fit this into our model of the world. We do this by connecting the information we carry to existing related information. We are constantly doing this. If two or more experiences should seem connected, but the connection is unknown, it is very likely the brain would find a best fit. That you yourself did not conceive of the idea of a spirit, but that it is information you have received and retained, may highlight the rationalisation process in action: the brain finds information, however dubious and unexplained itself, that would best fit the bill for the missing connection between two seemingly associated events. This happens with no help from us, so it cannot be avoided that it occurs to each and every one of us under such circumstances that there may, even must, be some grounds for such non-scientific notions as 'spirits' and 'souls'. The human brain simply does not handle unknowns very well, because at it's most basical level it is a machine for connecting knowns with other knowns.

A well known and universally experienced example of this is dreams. How often have you woken up from a dream, then tried to explain it to someone else, and found that during your explanation you find yourself describing events that you are a little hazy on and unsure of, but that must have happened in your dream to get from event A to event B. This isn't fibbing, or even overactive imagination, but is your brain at work trying to find connections between experiences without your say-so.

Or maybe that's all horseradish and there is something else at work. It pays to keep an open mind.
 
  • #38
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El Hombre Invisible said:
This paragraph explains everything about why you can't abide the notion that human and other mammalian minds aren't different in ways other than biochemical. If you start with the notion that humans aren't animals, it will, in a rather self-fulfilling way, lead you to the conclusion that we have something non-physical that they don't. There's simply no arguing this because it's practically religious.
You presume too much. I firmly believe that Mankind is part of the animal kingdom at least physically, bodily. I just as firmly believe that we all are part of nature, the one nature here on this earth as well as all of nature in the Universe which is the Universe.
I start with the observation that mankind has progressed far beyond that of any other animal here on Earth, that we are inventive and creative and build upon our knowledge and abilities as no other animal does. Yet we have many behaviors and properties in common and are all of the same life form.
We share much of the same DNA even that of bacteria. We can interchange human DNA with that of fungi, yeast, and it will produce insulin that can keep human diabetics alive for instance. Our brains are made of the same material and function in the same way.
Yet even with all of these commonalities, we are different. That there s a difference is obvious. What that difference is is not so obvious. We are human beings and they are animals and there does not seem to be any one thing that we can point of and say; "Here, this is the difference."
So what is different? I say that it is the mind of man that make him different. The mind as opposed to the brain which is large than most but not all and more complex than most but not all. I say that there is something more than just increased brain size and complexity that makes us different.
It must be, at least to me, the mind, spirit and soul of man and again by spirit and soul I do not necessarily mean something supernatural or mystical, metaphysical, yes, even obviously but not necessarily of religious or mystical origin.
For one thing, I believe that if it happens, what ever it may be, and if it is real, it is then natural and of nature. I also believe in a God/Creator but not a God outside or beyond the Universe but a natural God that is nature and nature of him just as we all are. You may call this God the Universe or the universal consciousness or whatever. Neither God nor I care. I just believe that He is and that He is part of us of all that is and we and all that is are of Him.
Okay, I done preaching you all can wake up now.
 
  • #39
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Royce said:
Yet even with all of these commonalities, we are different. That there s a difference is obvious. What that difference is is not so obvious. We are human beings and they are animals and there does not seem to be any one thing that we can point of and say; "Here, this is the difference."
So what is different? I say that it is the mind of man that make him different. The mind as opposed to the brain which is large than most but not all and more complex than most but not all. I say that there is something more than just increased brain size and complexity that makes us different.
It must be, at least to me, the mind, spirit and soul of man and again by spirit and soul I do not necessarily mean something supernatural or mystical, metaphysical, yes, even obviously but not necessarily of religious or mystical origin.
Exactly what is it that makes you so certain about the conscious experience of being an animal of another kind? Have you tried it?
 
  • #40
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rune said:
Exactly what is it that makes you so certain about the conscious experience of being an animal of another kind? Have you tried it?
No. I only study and observe. I am certain of very little, What's your point?
 
  • #41
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I just think that while we are different from other animals, it might be that we aren't _that_ different, as it seems you have asserted to the contrary. I don't think the experience of being a dog or an ape is necessarily that much different from being a human, on a basic level (of course I don't know this either, but by observing dogs and apes I certainly see a lot more of myself in them than I do in a plant, and to me some of the ways they behave confirm the notion that they are not just soulless robots acting only on instinct).

I'm sorry if you took any kind of offense by my blunt reply, but it's actually a subject that matters to me. I just don't like the way some people treat animals like they where simply machines for producing meat, and every time I hear people say things like "but animals don't have real feelings" to try and justify this I get very ill-tempered, becuase like I said, how would they know.
 
  • #42
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rune, I'm not offended. I like animals too. They have emotions, self awareness and consciousness. They reason, solve problems, have a sense of humor. As I said earlier we are not only of the animal kingdom, we share many traits and behaviors. Having said this I also know that they do not have much of a technology, they are not very creative, they don't build on their knowledge. They haven't advanced or developed civilization or science.
While we are animals in the physical sense we are different from animals. This cannot be denied. What is it that makes us so different, if not our minds, spirit and soul? You tell me.
 
  • #43
Faustus
El Hombre Invisible said:
Can this event you describe legitimately happen in 'the scientific-materialistic world'? Yes, it can.
I believe there's more to scientific materialism than what it can explain. Scientific materialism is not to be confused with reason; reason can find explanations for everything, worldviews are limited by their very nature since they require a basic set of assumptions.

Think of alchemy. Most goals of the alchemists have been achieved, but not through alchemy. As it evolved, alchemy became completely disfigured, so much so that it needed a new name - chemistry. Astronomy also evolved from astrology. Whatever science eventually explains those strange experiences, it will be rational, but it won't be called materialistic.

Quite probably no-one has ever had the exact same startling experience you describe, and quite probably no-one will ever have it again.
By that reasoning, no one has verified the same scientific experiment twice. Are we supposed to think all scientific truths are just extremely unlikely coincidences? I don't think so!

It is an overwhelmingly unlikely event to occur, but over the millions of years of human existence, unlikely events become less overwhelming. One could conceive of an infinite number of possible but highly unlikely events that could occur within the life of the human race.
This is like the story of monkeys hitting random keys at a keyboard and coming up with a Shakespeare novel. It can happen given enough time. What cannot happen is to have the same monkeys match Shakespeare in his ability to produce a more novels than gibberish. This whole notion of things happening by chance given enough time is, I think, misleading. It's how often it happens that matters, not the fact that it may happen.

people automatically rationalise such events for their own benefit. They can't help but invent explanations in the absence of existing ones, such as the deceased's 'spirit' coming to sit with them. For all I know, this may indeed be what happened, but what reason is there to assume this invented explanation above any other explanation, or to decide on an explanation at all?
There is a reason, and it has nothing to do with spirits themselves. The point is that if it looks like a spirit, walks like a spirit, bends mattresses like a spirit, then we are somewhat justified in calling it a spirit, even if it isn't. It may not be a true explanation but it is, in my opinion, the best one available.

It's just like atoms. For all our knowledge of physics, we know that atoms do not exist the way we think of them, but we also know that we can talk about atoms to describe phenomena thought to be caused by atoms.

It's a mistake to take an explanation literally. An explanation is just a story, a figment of our imaginatoin rather than the real phenomena.

Thirdly, by stating that "the scientific-materialistic world view cannot possibly be the final truth about the mind and consciousness", do you mean the current sum of scientific knowledge, or are you placing a limit on what science CAN ever explain?
I'm not placing limits on science, just saying those limits exist. They are known as the scientific method. Notice how I said that science cannot be used to prove that the Boston Red Sox won the last world series. It's true, but cannot be proved scientifically.

You seem to be asserting that some events MUST have a non-scientific explanation without knowing what that explanation might be
Actually, I know what the explanation is. It's what our grandmothers used to think about such things, which we have been told is superstition.

can you explain WHY "the scientific-materialistic world view cannot possibly be the final truth about the mind and consciousness", other than that you feel this to be true?
See my comment about the Red Sox. Some truths will forever lie beyond the reach of science.
 
  • #44
Royce said:
We are human beings and they are animals and there does not seem to be any one thing that we can point of and say; "Here, this is the difference."
No, it seems I did not presume too much. You still think of the human race as non-animal. You divide the human species out of the animal kingdom, saying WE are humans but THEY are animals... and then ask why we are different? We are different simply because you separated us out from other animals. You don't even need the human race to observe diversity. Why is a piker different? Why is an elephant different?

Maybe somewhere there's an elephant observing us and other animals thinking: "Why are we elephants so different? Why are dogs, giraffes, zebra and humans all ANIMALS and we are ELEPHANTS?" Hopefully there's a second elephant trying to explain to him that elephants are animals too. ;o)
 
  • #45
Faustus said:
The point is that if it looks like a spirit, walks like a spirit, bends mattresses like a spirit, then we are somewhat justified in calling it a spirit, even if it isn't. It may not be a true explanation but it is, in my opinion, the best one available.
Ha ha! That's class! Hmmm... judging by the bend in the matress, I would say this could only be... A SPIRIT! Only spirits bend matresses this well, as discovered and confirmed in many, repeatable spirit matress-bending experiments. What?!?

"The best one available..." precisely what I was talking about. It's the nature of the human mind to find the best explanation possible where it deems an explanation MUST exist. It's also, though, an ability of the human mind to be able to tell when the former nature has manifest itself and so be able to quality control its reasoning.
 
  • #46
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Royce said:
So what is different? I say that it is the mind of man that make him different. The mind as opposed to the brain which is large than most but not all and more complex than most but not all. I say that there is something more than just increased brain size and complexity that makes us different.
It must be, at least to me, the mind, spirit and soul of man and again by spirit and soul I do not necessarily mean something supernatural or mystical, metaphysical, yes, even obviously but not necessarily of religious or mystical origin.
Don't leave us in supense. If the mind is neither the brain nor a supernatural spirit, what is it ?
 
  • #47
Royce said:
What is it that makes us so different, if not our minds, spirit and soul? You tell me.
Elongated pre-frontal lobes, opposable thumbs, unique (as is every life-forms's) evolutionary history, larger brain-to-body-mass ratio... probably countless more besides. I think you underestimate the astounding impact of small biological changes. The mammalian central nervous system is incredibly flexible. A part of the brain that serves one function can be trained to perform a different one. This is evident in people with spinal injuries. The spinal column is composed of fibres, each ended by the brain and some aggregate of nerves in the human body. When this column is severed, the fibres may heal at the wound by connecting to any other fibre end it can. This means that a part of the brain that used to send impulses to your left knee may now be connected to your right big toe. This leads to discoordination, but the brain has the ability to redistribute its functions so the 'left-knee' operator in the brain now becomes the 'right big toe' operator. Therefore any slight difference either in the brain itself or in anatomy can lead to differences in the mental capabilities of the animal.

If you are so sure that non-physical concepts, such as spirit or soul, DO account for these differences, then what insight do you have into the nature of the soul that leads you to believe it will account for what biology, biochemsitry and biophysics cannot? What do you know that you're not telling us? To make such a claim, one would need insight into both sides of the debate: the physical and the spiritual. You cannot claim the brain alone is not enough if you do not have some insight into the workings of the human brain. Likewise you cannot claim the soul is enough unless you have similar insight into the soul. Now I know what you're going to say - how, therefore, can I say the brain WILL account for such differences without such insight into the human brain? Some of the amazing aspects of the human mind you bring up I've read SOMETHING about, and those you mention that I haven't seem to follow on from more fundemental ones I have. I'm no expert... I wouldn't even say I'm familiar with these concepts, but I've maintained a layman's interest in developments in understanding the human mind to the extent that I can see there is SOME justification for believing the uniqueness of the physical human brain and our unique evolutionary history CAN account for human-specific behaviour and talents. I cannot see and you have not shown any justification for believing in a non-physical cause, mostly because no-one can define what this non-physical attribute actually is (i.e. how it works). It's akin to not knowing enough about cosmology and quantum theory to be able to explain the origin of the universe, but knowing enough about the expansion of the universe to see justification in the Big Bang model over divine creation, simply because the nature of God cannot be explained at all.

There is another crisis in your argument. To have a non-physical entity such as a soul that makes us who we are, you would need to account for personality-altering physical actions, such as taking drugs, or even learning. There would need to be some interface between the physical and non-physical. If it is your soul rather than your brain that advises your next response on this thread, then the light travelling from your monitor to your eye (physical), causing an electrical current to travel along your optic nerve (physical) causing activity in the brain (physical) which somehow 'updates' your soul (non-physical) which makes a decision (non-physical) which causes brain activity (physical) which causes electrical impulses to be carried along your nervous system (physical) which twitch your muscles which make your fingers move over your keyboard (physical). Not only would you require an insight into this non-physical entity itself, but also a set of laws by which the physical and non-physical can interact. How do the soul and the brain communicate?

This is the inherent problem with spiritual theories - you can no more explain the spirit than you can explain how the physical brain may account for the same phenomena. So why do people do it? Because, I would say, it leads otherwise unconnected questions to one unanswerable, and that's a heck of a lot easier for the mind to handle.
 
  • #48
Faustus
El Hombre Invisible said:
Ha ha! That's class! Hmmm... judging by the bend in the matress, I would say this could only be... A SPIRIT! Only spirits bend matresses this well, as discovered and confirmed in many, repeatable spirit matress-bending experiments. What?!?
:rofl:

That was a good one, I liked it!

"The best one available..." precisely what I was talking about. It's the nature of the human mind to find the best explanation possible where it deems an explanation MUST exist.
I happen to have an unorthodox view of what an explanation is. For one thing, I would never say an explanation "exists". I think an explanation is just a story we make up to help communicate our experiences. From that perspective, it makes a lot more sense to talk of spirits than to talk of fancy materialistic theories which are, in all likelihood, just as false as the notion of spirits. That's really all I meant.
 
  • #49
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Tournesol said:
Don't leave us in supense. If the mind is neither the brain nor a supernatural spirit, what is it ?
I am not a physicalist nor am I a dualist. I am a realist, some would and do say a naive realist (though I dislike that term) in that I believe that rocks are hard and grass is green because rocks are hard when I touch them or get hit with one or kick one. Grass is green because when I look at grass I experience green. When I look at a red rose I see a red rose because it is a red rose. Yes I know the science and especially physics behind why and how I see a red rose. I also am familiar with the cognitive theories of how my brain builds a model of the red rose; but, none of that matters. It is not significant when I look at a red rose. In essence if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and sounds like a duck, its probably a duck and I will draw a tentative conclusion that it really is a duck and hold to that conclusion until it is proven otherwise. If I perceive a red rose it is because there exists in front of me a red rose and all of the physics and science and steps that it takes for me to perceive, see, that red rose are not significant at this time. I simply appreciate and enjoy its beauty. "A rose is a rose is a rose."
I hold that there is one reality and everything that happens and exist within this one reality is real and exists. Within this one reality there exists the physical world, universe, the mental realm and the spiritual realm. A rock exists and is real. An idea, thought or consciousness exists and though it is not material it is real. The spiritual or as you refer to it "supernatural" exists and is real. If it is, it is natural. What does not exist is un-natural. If there is a supernatural does this imply or necessitate a normal natural and a sub-natural?
So to answer your question the spirit of man is that Essenes of man that makes him creative, inventive, a builder, an explorer and discoverer. That immaterial property of his mentality that drives him onward and upward to better ways of life, of learning of knowing and of exploring and knowing the universe. I know of no animal that does this.
The soul of man is his consciousness and identity that lives on after physical body death. It is spiritual. I can't prove this. I can't even know this for sure. I can however observe and experience indications of this and know that there is indeed something more than the physicalist physical world.
 

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