Reconciling materialism and dualism (Endings)

by dhw, Friday, January 05, 2018, 17:33 (342 days ago)

I've been threatening for some time to look at this subject again, but after a diligent search I have found my first attempt, and I don't think I can express it any better now. It was written on 8 November 2016 at 12:16 under Human Consciousness: Penrose: soul survives! - a very dramatic headline which turned out to be somewhat misleading. We had a discussion afterwards, and David quite rightly pointed out that my post did not solve the problem of how consciousness came into being, but that was not my aim. It may be that there is nothing more to comment on, but I thought it was worth reviving, as is also the post on "big brain evolution".


DAVID: Penrose believes in microtubules in the brain carrying a quantum representation of the soul:
http://www.express.co.uk/news/science/728897/LIFE-AFTER-DEATH-consciousness-continue-SOUL

I’ve had another look at this, and I think Penrose has a major problem which I’ll come onto later, because first I want to try and formulate my own “reconciliation” between materialism and dualism. This entails synthesizing some of the theories we’ve been discussing, but my starting point is very different from all of them. I pointed out in the “brief guide” that someone on a planet billions of miles away with a powerful enough telescope would be able to view the crucifixion. Light is energy, and theoretically the visual image generated by a material event goes on for ever. The source is material (the actual crucifixion), but the image in the form of energy is not. It survives the death of the material source.

If we take this as an analogy, we can argue that although the material brain may be the source of the consciousness which contains all our non-material attributes – our thoughts, emotions, memories etc. – these are also a form of energy, or in other words the “image” produced by the materials is not material.

This ties in with two of the ideas we have already discussed: emergence, as the process whereby the property of the whole cannot be explained by the properties of its parts, and Sheldrake’s morphic field, which I take to mean all the attributes and information that comprise the identity of the individual. Once we think of consciousness in terms of energy produced by materials, and we link it to the analogy of the image produced by light, it seems to me that we have a reconciliation between materialism (materials are the source of consciousness) and dualism (the energy exists independently of the source).

We now come onto the subject of the “immortal soul”. My crucifixion analogy is limited because it is fixed, whereas consciousness is not. It continues to absorb and produce information so long as it exists, and this is where my hypothesis, Penrose’s and Sheldrake’s run into the same difficulty. My “energy”, Penrose’s “quantum information”, and Sheldrake’s “morphic field” are all immaterial products of the material being, and they may survive the death of the individual body in the sense that their already formed information can be accessed by others (like the image of the crucifixion). But that does not necessarily mean that the immaterial information/ energy/ morphic field is capable of undergoing any change once its source is extinguished. Penrose agrees with Hameroff that consciousness is “merely information stored at a quantum level”. But consciousness is not information; consciousness is awareness of information. It contains information – all the information that makes us what we are – but even if we can argue that the information itself may last for ever, the extra dimension of the conscious “I” which is aware of and uses the information cannot be explained as itself BEING information. To go back to my crucifixion image: the being with the telescope could theoretically observe every incident of my whole life, and if he was telepathic he could theoretically read every thought I ever had: all that information lives on. But it can’t go beyond what has already taken place.

I am making two points here. One, that materialism and dualism are not incompatible. But two, we are no nearer to solving the question of whether there is such a thing as a consciousness which can live on as a functioning, communicating, observing “I” after the death of its material source. That would require the purest possible form of dualism, with consciousness preceding materials – a concept that lies at the very heart of most religions and inevitably leads to God. I am not arguing against it, or against the possibility of an immortal, observing and thinking soul, as seems to be suggested by NDEs. I am simply saying that none of the hypotheses (quantum information, morphic field, everlasting energy) are of any help in settling the issue, and I would suggest that science is incapable of doing so, since it is restricted to a materialist approach to the whole subject. That’s why I like Penrose’s caution: “It’s possible,..can exist…perhaps indefinitely, as a soul” We shall just have to wait and see – or not see!

BACK TO THE PRESENT: The only thing I would add to this is that it would explain a number of psychic events that relate to the past: ghosts, deja vu etc. But it would not, of course, explain those relating to the future or the unknown present (e.g. NDEs in which patients are given information they could not have known).

Reconciling materialism and dualism

by David Turell @, Monday, January 08, 2018, 21:18 (339 days ago) @ dhw

dhw: I am making two points here. One, that materialism and dualism are not incompatible. But two, we are no nearer to solving the question of whether there is such a thing as a consciousness which can live on as a functioning, communicating, observing “I” after the death of its material source. That would require the purest possible form of dualism, with consciousness preceding materials – a concept that lies at the very heart of most religions and inevitably leads to God. I am not arguing against it, or against the possibility of an immortal, observing and thinking soul, as seems to be suggested by NDEs. I am simply saying that none of the hypotheses (quantum information, morphic field, everlasting energy) are of any help in settling the issue, and I would suggest that science is incapable of doing so, since it is restricted to a materialist approach to the whole subject. That’s why I like Penrose’s caution: “It’s possible,..can exist…perhaps indefinitely, as a soul” We shall just have to wait and see – or not see!


BACK TO THE PRESENT: The only thing I would add to this is that it would explain a number of psychic events that relate to the past: ghosts, deja vu etc. But it would not, of course, explain those relating to the future or the unknown present (e.g. NDEs in which patients are given information they could not have known).

An admirable effort to recapitulate, but still we have no definitive answers. NDE's are prime evidence the s/s/c can act independently of the brain. Can one despute them? Evan Alexander was convinced by his own, and he is an academic neurosurgeon.

Reconciling materialism and dualism

by dhw, Wednesday, January 10, 2018, 11:10 (338 days ago) @ David Turell

dhw: I am making two points here. One, that materialism and dualism are not incompatible. But two, we are no nearer to solving the question of whether there is such a thing as a consciousness which can live on as a functioning, communicating, observing “I” after the death of its material source. That would require the purest possible form of dualism, with consciousness preceding materials – a concept that lies at the very heart of most religions and inevitably leads to God. I am not arguing against it, or against the possibility of an immortal, observing and thinking soul, as seems to be suggested by NDEs. I am simply saying that none of the hypotheses (quantum information, morphic field, everlasting energy) are of any help in settling the issue, and I would suggest that science is incapable of doing so, since it is restricted to a materialist approach to the whole subject. That’s why I like Penrose’s caution: “It’s possible,..can exist…perhaps indefinitely, as a soul” We shall just have to wait and see – or not see!

BACK TO THE PRESENT: The only thing I would add to this is that it would explain a number of psychic events that relate to the past: ghosts, deja vu etc. But it would not, of course, explain those relating to the future or the unknown present (e.g. NDEs in which patients are given information they could not have known).

DAVID: An admirable effort to recapitulate, but still we have no definitive answers. NDE's are prime evidence the s/s/c can act independently of the brain. Can one despute them? Evan Alexander was convinced by his own, and he is an academic neurosurgeon.

In the passages you have quoted above, I have emphasized that there are no definitive answers! And NDEs are one reason why. There is no disagreement between us on this point.

Reconciling materialism and dualism

by David Turell @, Wednesday, January 10, 2018, 15:24 (337 days ago) @ dhw

dhw: I am making two points here. One, that materialism and dualism are not incompatible. But two, we are no nearer to solving the question of whether there is such a thing as a consciousness which can live on as a functioning, communicating, observing “I” after the death of its material source. That would require the purest possible form of dualism, with consciousness preceding materials – a concept that lies at the very heart of most religions and inevitably leads to God. I am not arguing against it, or against the possibility of an immortal, observing and thinking soul, as seems to be suggested by NDEs. I am simply saying that none of the hypotheses (quantum information, morphic field, everlasting energy) are of any help in settling the issue, and I would suggest that science is incapable of doing so, since it is restricted to a materialist approach to the whole subject. That’s why I like Penrose’s caution: “It’s possible,..can exist…perhaps indefinitely, as a soul” We shall just have to wait and see – or not see!

BACK TO THE PRESENT: The only thing I would add to this is that it would explain a number of psychic events that relate to the past: ghosts, deja vu etc. But it would not, of course, explain those relating to the future or the unknown present (e.g. NDEs in which patients are given information they could not have known).

DAVID: An admirable effort to recapitulate, but still we have no definitive answers. NDE's are prime evidence the s/s/c can act independently of the brain. Can one despute them? Evan Alexander was convinced by his own, and he is an academic neurosurgeon.

In the passages you have quoted above, I have emphasized that there are no definitive answers! And NDEs are one reason why. There is no disagreement between us on this point.

Agreed.

Reconciling materialism and dualism

by Balance_Maintained @, U.S.A., Thursday, March 08, 2018, 19:11 (280 days ago) @ dhw

It seems to me that some of this is putting the cart before the horse. We can, in a way, define whether something is alive or dead. We recognize the quality, yet defining it is rather difficult. What is the moment of death? The last heartbeat? The last brainwave or the final firing of a synapse? Perhaps it is the point where we can no longer be brought back. At any rate, defining this critical moment in a way that is universally accurate has to be the first step before speaking of nde's and immortal souls.

--
What is the purpose of living? How about, 'to reduce needless suffering. It seems to me to be a worthy purpose.

Reconciling materialism and dualism

by David Turell @, Thursday, March 08, 2018, 19:38 (280 days ago) @ Balance_Maintained

Tony: It seems to me that some of this is putting the cart before the horse. We can, in a way, define whether something is alive or dead. We recognize the quality, yet defining it is rather difficult. What is the moment of death? The last heartbeat? The last brainwave or the final firing of a synapse? Perhaps it is the point where we can no longer be brought back. At any rate, defining this critical moment in a way that is universally accurate has to be the first step before speaking of nde's and immortal souls.

NDE's occur while the patient has no evidence of a functional brain cortex during resuscitation or during coma. Eban Alexander's (academic neurosurgeon) coma lasted a week with no demonstrable cortical function. Yet when he woke up, against all medical expectation, he had an amazing story to tell about his guardian angel who was a real in life sister of his he had never met.

Reconciling materialism and dualism

by dhw, Friday, March 09, 2018, 10:20 (280 days ago) @ Balance_Maintained

Tony: It seems to me that some of this is putting the cart before the horse. We can, in a way, define whether something is alive or dead. We recognize the quality, yet defining it is rather difficult. What is the moment of death? The last heartbeat? The last brainwave or the final firing of a synapse? Perhaps it is the point where we can no longer be brought back. At any rate, defining this critical moment in a way that is universally accurate has to be the first step before speaking of nde's and immortal souls.

DAVID: NDE's occur while the patient has no evidence of a functional brain cortex during resuscitation or during coma.

I agree with Tony regarding NDEs. How do we know that the brain is completely dead? However, one then has to explain how a patient lying in bed can acquire knowledge that he/she could not possibly have had beforehand (e.g. the death of a relative). I’m not taking sides – typical agnostic! – but I am not prepared to dismiss such psychic experiences out of hand.

Reconciling materialism and dualism

by David Turell @, Friday, March 09, 2018, 15:58 (279 days ago) @ dhw

Tony: It seems to me that some of this is putting the cart before the horse. We can, in a way, define whether something is alive or dead. We recognize the quality, yet defining it is rather difficult. What is the moment of death? The last heartbeat? The last brainwave or the final firing of a synapse? Perhaps it is the point where we can no longer be brought back. At any rate, defining this critical moment in a way that is universally accurate has to be the first step before speaking of nde's and immortal souls.

DAVID: NDE's occur while the patient has no evidence of a functional brain cortex during resuscitation or during coma.

dhw: I agree with Tony regarding NDEs. How do we know that the brain is completely dead? However, one then has to explain how a patient lying in bed can acquire knowledge that he/she could not possibly have had beforehand (e.g. the death of a relative). I’m not taking sides – typical agnostic! – but I am not prepared to dismiss such psychic experiences out of hand.

The brain is not dead in resuscitations! The cortex is stunned and inactive from loss of adequate blood supply. If that supply returns the cortex wakes up.

Reconciling materialism and dualism

by dhw, Saturday, March 10, 2018, 10:34 (279 days ago) @ David Turell

dhw: I agree with Tony regarding NDEs. How do we know that the brain is completely dead? However, one then has to explain how a patient lying in bed can acquire knowledge that he/she could not possibly have had beforehand (e.g. the death of a relative). I’m not taking sides – typical agnostic! – but I am not prepared to dismiss such psychic experiences out of hand.

DAVID: The brain is not dead in resuscitations! The cortex is stunned and inactive from loss of adequate blood supply. If that supply returns the cortex wakes up.

Agreed. I should not have used the word “dead”, and your correction makes the argument a great deal clearer. I should have said: how do we know that the brain is completely stunned and inactive? That was Tony’s point about defining death in relation to Near Death Experiences. Sceptics may argue that the brain is NOT inactive. In my post above I have also offered a counter to the sceptics.

Reconciling materialism and dualism

by David Turell @, Saturday, March 10, 2018, 15:10 (278 days ago) @ dhw

dhw: I agree with Tony regarding NDEs. How do we know that the brain is completely dead? However, one then has to explain how a patient lying in bed can acquire knowledge that he/she could not possibly have had beforehand (e.g. the death of a relative). I’m not taking sides – typical agnostic! – but I am not prepared to dismiss such psychic experiences out of hand.

DAVID: The brain is not dead in resuscitations! The cortex is stunned and inactive from loss of adequate blood supply. If that supply returns the cortex wakes up.

dhw: Agreed. I should not have used the word “dead”, and your correction makes the argument a great deal clearer. I should have said: how do we know that the brain is completely stunned and inactive? That was Tony’s point about defining death in relation to Near Death Experiences. Sceptics may argue that the brain is NOT inactive. In my post above I have also offered a counter to the sceptics.

Some recent research has found a few slow very deep EEG waves, not representing thought areas. All areas stay alive, if not really functional, when resuscitation proceeds. The key is to get the heart pumping and everything can come back, hopefully completely.

Reconciling materialism and dualism

by dhw, Sunday, March 11, 2018, 13:06 (277 days ago) @ David Turell

DAVID: The brain is not dead in resuscitations! The cortex is stunned and inactive from loss of adequate blood supply. If that supply returns the cortex wakes up.

dhw: Agreed. I should not have used the word “dead”, and your correction makes the argument a great deal clearer. I should have said: how do we know that the brain is completely stunned and inactive? That was Tony’s point about defining death in relation to Near Death Experiences. Sceptics may argue that the brain is NOT inactive. In my post above I have also offered a counter to the sceptics.

DAVID: Some recent research has found a few slow very deep EEG waves, not representing thought areas. All areas stay alive, if not really functional, when resuscitation proceeds. The key is to get the heart pumping and everything can come back, hopefully completely.

Thank you for this. You have mentioned it before, and we discussed it. Who knows what research will uncover next, but I think we need to be very careful about pinning thought to a specific area. That is why I prefer to talk about the brain generally. You have also drawn our attention to brain damage which theoretically should have interfered with the patient’s cognitive abilities but did not. As always, I greatly appreciate your fairness in presenting such findings.

Reconciling materialism and dualism

by David Turell @, Sunday, March 11, 2018, 18:52 (277 days ago) @ dhw

DAVID: The brain is not dead in resuscitations! The cortex is stunned and inactive from loss of adequate blood supply. If that supply returns the cortex wakes up.

dhw: Agreed. I should not have used the word “dead”, and your correction makes the argument a great deal clearer. I should have said: how do we know that the brain is completely stunned and inactive? That was Tony’s point about defining death in relation to Near Death Experiences. Sceptics may argue that the brain is NOT inactive. In my post above I have also offered a counter to the sceptics.

DAVID: Some recent research has found a few slow very deep EEG waves, not representing thought areas. All areas stay alive, if not really functional, when resuscitation proceeds. The key is to get the heart pumping and everything can come back, hopefully completely.

dhw: Thank you for this. You have mentioned it before, and we discussed it. Who knows what research will uncover next, but I think we need to be very careful about pinning thought to a specific area. That is why I prefer to talk about the brain generally. You have also drawn our attention to brain damage which theoretically should have interfered with the patient’s cognitive abilities but did not. As always, I greatly appreciate your fairness in presenting such findings.

Just remember the material side of the research. The fMRI's do designate cortical areas that are used in specific tasks for thought. It is the cortex which ceases function in 5-10 seconds if the heart stops, stunned but not dead. That can happen in adults after 5+ minutes.

Reconciling materialism and dualism

by dhw, Monday, March 12, 2018, 11:09 (277 days ago) @ David Turell

DAVID: The brain is not dead in resuscitations! The cortex is stunned and inactive from loss of adequate blood supply. If that supply returns the cortex wakes up.

dhw: Agreed. I should not have used the word “dead”, and your correction makes the argument a great deal clearer. I should have said: how do we know that the brain is completely stunned and inactive? That was Tony’s point about defining death in relation to Near Death Experiences. Sceptics may argue that the brain is NOT inactive. In my post above I have also offered a counter to the sceptics.

DAVID: Some recent research has found a few slow very deep EEG waves, not representing thought areas. All areas stay alive, if not really functional, when resuscitation proceeds. The key is to get the heart pumping and everything can come back, hopefully completely.

dhw: Thank you for this. You have mentioned it before, and we discussed it. Who knows what research will uncover next, but I think we need to be very careful about pinning thought to a specific area. That is why I prefer to talk about the brain generally. You have also drawn our attention to brain damage which theoretically should have interfered with the patient’s cognitive abilities but did not. As always, I greatly appreciate your fairness in presenting such findings.

DAVID: Just remember the material side of the research. The fMRI's do designate cortical areas that are used in specific tasks for thought. It is the cortex which ceases function in 5-10 seconds if the heart stops, stunned but not dead. That can happen in adults after 5+ minutes.

Used for thought or used by thought? “Just remember” that according to you, the brain is the receiver not the generator. The crucial factor for dualists is that thought and emotion and memory and decision-making and judgement and everything else connected with the immaterial s/s/c continue after the stunning and/or death of the cortex. It is materialists who believe that the cortex produces thought, as opposed to receiving it.

Reconciling materialism and dualism

by David Turell @, Monday, March 12, 2018, 14:10 (276 days ago) @ dhw

DAVID: Just remember the material side of the research. The fMRI's do designate cortical areas that are used in specific tasks for thought. It is the cortex which ceases function in 5-10 seconds if the heart stops, stunned but not dead. That can happen in adults after 5+ minutes.

dhw: Used for thought or used by thought? “Just remember” that according to you, the brain is the receiver not the generator. The crucial factor for dualists is that thought and emotion and memory and decision-making and judgement and everything else connected with the immaterial s/s/c continue after the stunning and/or death of the cortex. It is materialists who believe that the cortex produces thought, as opposed to receiving it.

I remember full well. I was simply noting the regions differ where the s/s/c software and the material brain hardware have to interface for certain processes.

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