Reality (General)

by dhw, Thursday, August 08, 2019, 13:06 (12 days ago)

A review in The Sunday Times has prompted me to write this post. The book is called
The Case Against Reality - How Evolution Hid the Truth from Our Eyes

The author is Donald D. Hoffman, a professor of cognitive science at the University of California.
It is unfair to judge a book when you’ve only read the review, and so my comments only concern remarks made in the review.

QUOTE: “Consider a tomato. One right in front of you. Hoffmann argues that we usually believe the tomato is there because we can see, smell, taste and touch it. But if you test that belief, he says [……] you will realise you are wrong. “Something is there”, but it is certainly not a tomato, and indeed “not any object in space time”. This idea, Hoffman says, “sounds faintly mad…”

I disagree. I think it sounds totally mad. So too does the claim that “your very sense that you are living inside space and moving through time…is an evolved illusion. Space and time are not underlying realities, they are “simply the format of our interface” with whatever reality is.” This to me is all a reductio ad absurdum of the indisputable fact that perception is a subjective process. Let us take that for granted, and let us by all means conclude that we cannot know what constitutes objective reality. But firstly, that does not mean there is no such thing as objective reality: it simply means that we can never be sure that our perception of something corresponds to that reality. Secondly, the word “tomato” has been invented by us English-speaking humans to denote a particular object. The tomato could have been called peach or banana or hoffman, but we have settled on “tomato” and there is a general consensus among us that the word denotes this particular object. It most emphatically does NOT mean that the object itself does not exist, and yes indeed, all our senses and experiences tell us that it does – or did, until we’ve eaten it. Is there really some superior criterion to these that can establish the non-existence of the object, and indeed of ourselves?

Thirdly, “space” and “time” are also human terms invented to describe what we move through. If someone tells me that moving from one place to another and that movement from cause to effect are both illusions, my stock answer is to invite him/her to step in front of a bus. The fact that in time (I choose the expression deliberately) neither I nor the bus will exist does not alter the objective reality of our both having existed in the past. It simply means that objective reality is not only subjectively perceived but is also constantly changing as it moves through the phases which we humans have called past, present and future, and cause and effect.

QUOTE: “All this time we have been wondering how consciousness emerges from physical reality, he says, when the real problem is how reality emerges from consciousness.”

Does he truly believe that the sun and stars and Planet Earth did not exist until we humans arrived to perceive them? If consciousness is “real”, then is the being who has consciousness unreal, and do all the things that consciousness is conscious of have no reality? His answer is presumably yes. So why the heck did he write his unreal book to be read by unreal readers sitting in unreal armchairs and subsequently writing unreal comments about it? Sadly, this is not tongue-in-cheek philosophy. I recently went to a funeral, and after the palpable and all-too-real emotions of the occasion, I met a student who is writing a thesis on this very subject, and was wildly enthusiastic about the theory that even my proverbial bus, let alone the widow’s grief, was not real. She regaled me with computer images and technical terminology to illustrate the point that although we agreed that she was lecturing me, she was not even there to lecture me, and I was not there to listen to her.

To sum it all up, I propose that there IS such a thing as objective reality, we can never be sure of its true nature, but anyone who claims that reality is created by consciousness and has no existence outside our consciousness should step...But no, I shan’t repeat the invitation. I can only hope they won’t accept it.

Reality

by David Turell @, Thursday, August 08, 2019, 15:31 (12 days ago) @ dhw

dhw: A review in The Sunday Times has prompted me to write this post. The book is called
The Case Against Reality - How Evolution Hid the Truth from Our Eyes

The author is Donald D. Hoffman, a professor of cognitive science at the University of California.
It is unfair to judge a book when you’ve only read the review, and so my comments only concern remarks made in the review.

QUOTE: “Consider a tomato. One right in front of you. Hoffmann argues that we usually believe the tomato is there because we can see, smell, taste and touch it. But if you test that belief, he says [……] you will realise you are wrong. “Something is there”, but it is certainly not a tomato, and indeed “not any object in space time”. This idea, Hoffman says, “sounds faintly mad…”

I disagree. I think it sounds totally mad. So too does the claim that “your very sense that you are living inside space and moving through time…is an evolved illusion. Space and time are not underlying realities, they are “simply the format of our interface” with whatever reality is.” This to me is all a reductio ad absurdum of the indisputable fact that perception is a subjective process. Let us take that for granted, and let us by all means conclude that we cannot know what constitutes objective reality. But firstly, that does not mean there is no such thing as objective reality: it simply means that we can never be sure that our perception of something corresponds to that reality. Secondly, the word “tomato” has been invented by us English-speaking humans to denote a particular object. The tomato could have been called peach or banana or hoffman, but we have settled on “tomato” and there is a general consensus among us that the word denotes this particular object. It most emphatically does NOT mean that the object itself does not exist, and yes indeed, all our senses and experiences tell us that it does – or did, until we’ve eaten it. Is there really some superior criterion to these that can establish the non-existence of the object, and indeed of ourselves?

Thirdly, “space” and “time” are also human terms invented to describe what we move through. If someone tells me that moving from one place to another and that movement from cause to effect are both illusions, my stock answer is to invite him/her to step in front of a bus. The fact that in time (I choose the expression deliberately) neither I nor the bus will exist does not alter the objective reality of our both having existed in the past. It simply means that objective reality is not only subjectively perceived but is also constantly changing as it moves through the phases which we humans have called past, present and future, and cause and effect.

QUOTE: “All this time we have been wondering how consciousness emerges from physical reality, he says, when the real problem is how reality emerges from consciousness.”

Does he truly believe that the sun and stars and Planet Earth did not exist until we humans arrived to perceive them? If consciousness is “real”, then is the being who has consciousness unreal, and do all the things that consciousness is conscious of have no reality? His answer is presumably yes. So why the heck did he write his unreal book to be read by unreal readers sitting in unreal armchairs and subsequently writing unreal comments about it? Sadly, this is not tongue-in-cheek philosophy. I recently went to a funeral, and after the palpable and all-too-real emotions of the occasion, I met a student who is writing a thesis on this very subject, and was wildly enthusiastic about the theory that even my proverbial bus, let alone the widow’s grief, was not real. She regaled me with computer images and technical terminology to illustrate the point that although we agreed that she was lecturing me, she was not even there to lecture me, and I was not there to listen to her.

To sum it all up, I propose that there IS such a thing as objective reality, we can never be sure of its true nature, but anyone who claims that reality is created by consciousness and has no existence outside our consciousness should step...But no, I shan’t repeat the invitation. I can only hope they won’t accept it.

A brilliant rejection of the point of the book. Reality does not require our existence, but our brain certainly helps us in appreciating it. And no computer will ever have consciousness, although some computer simulations do advance scientific findings. The young student is filled with the exuberance of youthful discovery.

As for the title of the book, the author seems to feel that evolution evolved a brain with which to fool us? Evil evolution!

Reality

by dhw, Friday, August 09, 2019, 12:40 (11 days ago) @ David Turell

Dhw: To sum it all up, I propose that there IS such a thing as objective reality, we can never be sure of its true nature, but anyone who claims that reality is created by consciousness and has no existence outside our consciousness should step...But no, I shan’t repeat the invitation. I can only hope they won’t accept it.

DAVID: A brilliant rejection of the point of the book. Reality does not require our existence, but our brain certainly helps us in appreciating it. And no computer will ever have consciousness, although some computer simulations do advance scientific findings. The young student is filled with the exuberance of youthful discovery.
As for the title of the book, the author seems to feel that evolution evolved a brain with which to fool us? Evil evolution!

Thank you for your support. It’s always a great pleasure when we agree on something!

Reality

by David Turell @, Friday, August 09, 2019, 15:43 (11 days ago) @ dhw

Dhw: To sum it all up, I propose that there IS such a thing as objective reality, we can never be sure of its true nature, but anyone who claims that reality is created by consciousness and has no existence outside our consciousness should step...But no, I shan’t repeat the invitation. I can only hope they won’t accept it.

DAVID: A brilliant rejection of the point of the book. Reality does not require our existence, but our brain certainly helps us in appreciating it. And no computer will ever have consciousness, although some computer simulations do advance scientific findings. The young student is filled with the exuberance of youthful discovery.
As for the title of the book, the author seems to feel that evolution evolved a brain with which to fool us? Evil evolution!

dhw: Thank you for your support. It’s always a great pleasure when we agree on something!

We agree lots of the time

Reality

by Balance_Maintained @, U.S.A., Sunday, August 11, 2019, 07:31 (10 days ago) @ dhw

DHW (Perception is a subjective process and we cannot know what constitutes objective reality) that does not mean there is no such thing as objective reality: it simply means that we can never be sure that our perception of something corresponds to that reality.

This statement feels off to me...not wrong necessarily, just incomplete, and I'd like to pick this apart a bit before I tackle the other. I work through it as I write, though, which is why my arguments seem a bit....fuzzy sometimes.

Agreed - Perception is a subjective process.
Agreed - There is such a thing as objective reality.
Agreed - We can never be sure that our perception agrees with objective reality. (Being partially color-blind and aware of it, this is consciously embodied in my every day life.)

And this is where it feels incomplete. We can never be 100% certain that our perception agrees with objective reality or any other perceived reality. This would mean that objective reality and perceived reality are separate AND unequally valid realities. Objective reality differs in the fact that it can operate absent OUR mind, which means that the mind behind it is on a different, higher in terms of complexity, level of existence. It is different in degree and magnitude but NOT by type.

We know that the structure of the brain and the universe are very similar. We know that they both have complex physical structures of deeply complex relationships and nested hierarchies of scale and influence.

Universe > Galaxy > Solar System > Planet > Geological Scale > Human Scale > Cell > Molecule > Atom > Sub-Atomic Particles.

Body > Brain > Hemisphere > Region > Neuron/Synapses > Cell Bodies >

I am certain I am missing some scales and this is a gross oversimplification. Feel free to add/reclassify. The interesting thing is that these nested structures exist both internal and external to what we would classify as living creatures AND in non-living system. It is also interesting that the relationship structure is bi-directional. Each structure spreads influence up and down the chain. This, of course, suggest communication up and down the chain.

In molecular biology, we see this in chemical and electrical signaling between cells. In the physical world, we see this in terms of energy and motion, but, and here is the point, we never look at it in terms of communication. What is being communicated, and is it being communicated in a language we can comprehend? If we could comprehend it, could we communicate with it?


Despite what you might think, this is not a call for God. But rather, a call to look at the similarities between the systems and see if any avenues for research could be inferred.

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

Reality

by dhw, Sunday, August 11, 2019, 11:30 (9 days ago) @ Balance_Maintained

This is a really stimulating post – as ever – and I shall cherry-pick for the sake of brevity and clarity.

TONY: We can never be 100% certain that our perception agrees with objective reality or any other perceived reality.

I don’t know why “objective reality” cannot include all the realities that we perceive.

TONY: This would mean that objective reality and perceived reality are separate AND unequally valid realities. Objective reality differs in the fact that it can operate absent OUR mind…[dhw: fine with me up to this point]… which means that the mind behind it is on a different, higher in terms of complexity, level of existence. It is different in degree and magnitude but NOT by type.

You say later that “this is not a call for God”, but what else could it be if you say there is a mind behind it? We simply do not know if there is a mind behind it. Objective reality might simply be the materials that make up the universe and operate just as we see them operating. However, if there is a mind, I have no objections at all to it being different in degree and magnitude but NOT by type. It makes perfect sense to me that a God would have attributes in common with the humans he has been instrumental in creating – though this is anathema to David.

TONY: We know that the structure of the brain and the universe are very similar. We know that they both have complex physical structures of deeply complex relationships and nested hierarchies of scale and influence.

Universe > Galaxy > Solar System > Planet > Geological Scale > Human Scale > Cell > Molecule > Atom > Sub-Atomic Particles.
Body > Brain > Hemisphere > Region > Neuron/Synapses > Cell Bodies >

I love this. I also see the body as a microcosm of the universe, in which all individual parts combine to form a functioning whole.

TONY: It is also interesting that the relationship structure is bi-directional. Each structure spreads influence up and down the chain. This, of course, suggest communication up and down the chain. (dhw’s bold. See below.)

In molecular biology, we see this in chemical and electrical signaling between cells. In the physical world, we see this in terms of energy and motion, but, and here is the point, we never look at it in terms of communication. What is being communicated, and is it being communicated in a language we can comprehend? If we could comprehend it, could we communicate with it?

This is where I become partially sceptical. Of course I agree that molecular biology requires communication, but I’m far from convinced that the physical world of energy and motion “communicates”. Communication as you have described it requires a conscious effort on both sides (use of some kind of language, as you say), but influence doesn’t. A rock falling on my head may have a profound influence on me, but in all honesty, I do not believe the rock is making any attempt at communication. You can expand this to universal proportions. An atheist will no doubt claim that the combination of materials of which we are composed has come about through mindless mixing, and the sun is not deliberately and consciously giving us life and threatening us with death, and the wind doesn’t use any form of language when it blows down the tree. The vagueness of your conclusion below suggests to me that you are just as aware of this as I am:

TONY: Despite what you might think, this is not a call for God. But rather, a call to look at the similarities between the systems and see if any avenues for research could be inferred.

I don’t think the type of similarity you are looking for can dispense with God, unless perhaps you are considering some form of panpsychism (i.e. all matter has a degree of…let’s call it quasi-consciousness), but I’ll be very interested to read your response to this, as I’m not convinced that I’ve grasped the whole of your argument.

Reality

by David Turell @, Sunday, August 11, 2019, 15:09 (9 days ago) @ dhw

TONY: We can never be 100% certain that our perception agrees with objective reality or any other perceived reality.

dhw: I don’t know why “objective reality” cannot include all the realities that we perceive.

What we perceive may not be all of the reality that really exists. we have to accept what our brain gives us.


TONY: This would mean that objective reality and perceived reality are separate AND unequally valid realities. Objective reality differs in the fact that it can operate absent OUR mind…[dhw: fine with me up to this point]… which means that the mind behind it is on a different, higher in terms of complexity, level of existence. It is different in degree and magnitude but NOT by type.

dhw: You say later that “this is not a call for God”, but what else could it be if you say there is a mind behind it? We simply do not know if there is a mind behind it. Objective reality might simply be the materials that make up the universe and operate just as we see them operating. However, if there is a mind, I have no objections at all to it being different in degree and magnitude but NOT by type. It makes perfect sense to me that a God would have attributes in common with the humans he has been instrumental in creating – though this is anathema to David.

Not 'anathema' to me. What is anathema is trying to attribute human mental traits to God. Some or all may exist, but all we can do is guess.


TONY: It is also interesting that the relationship structure is bi-directional. Each structure spreads influence up and down the chain. This, of course, suggest communication up and down the chain. (dhw’s bold. See below.)

In molecular biology, we see this in chemical and electrical signaling between cells. In the physical world, we see this in terms of energy and motion, but, and here is the point, we never look at it in terms of communication. What is being communicated, and is it being communicated in a language we can comprehend? If we could comprehend it, could we communicate with it?

dhw: This is where I become partially sceptical. Of course I agree that molecular biology requires communication, but I’m far from convinced that the physical world of energy and motion “communicates”.

I agree about the physical world not communicating, but in the biological world information is communicated.

Reality

by Balance_Maintained @, U.S.A., Sunday, August 11, 2019, 23:59 (9 days ago) @ dhw

This is a really stimulating post – as ever – and I shall cherry-pick for the sake of brevity and clarity.

TONY: We can never be 100% certain that our perception agrees with objective reality or any other perceived reality.

I don’t know why “objective reality” cannot include all the realities that we perceive.

It is different because it exists independent of us and is not subject to our subjective interpretations. Our personal realities are objective reality overlayed with our own filters and perceptions.

TONY: This would mean that objective reality and perceived reality are separate AND unequally valid realities. Objective reality differs in the fact that it can operate absent OUR mind…[dhw: fine with me up to this point]… which means that the mind behind it is on a different, higher in terms of complexity, level of existence. It is different in degree and magnitude but NOT by type.

You say later that “this is not a call for God”, but what else could it be if you say there is a mind behind it?

I am asking the question "Could physical reality be the manifestation of a 'mind', and if so, can we look at our own consciousness and infer questions to ask and avenues to research. It does not exclude God, but does not focus on God either.


TONY: We know that the structure of the brain and the universe are very similar. We know that they both have complex physical structures of deeply complex relationships and nested hierarchies of scale and influence.

Universe > Galaxy > Solar System > Planet > Geological Scale > Human Scale > Cell > Molecule > Atom > Sub-Atomic Particles.
Body > Brain > Hemisphere > Region > Neuron/Synapses > Cell Bodies >

I love this. I also see the body as a microcosm of the universe, in which all individual parts combine to form a functioning whole.

TONY: It is also interesting that the relationship structure is bi-directional. Each structure spreads influence up and down the chain. This, of course, suggest communication up and down the chain. (dhw’s bold. See below.)

In molecular biology, we see this in chemical and electrical signaling between cells. In the physical world, we see this in terms of energy and motion, but, and here is the point, we never look at it in terms of communication. What is being communicated, and is it being communicated in a language we can comprehend? If we could comprehend it, could we communicate with it?

DHW This is where I become partially sceptical. Of course I agree that molecular biology requires communication, but I’m far from convinced that the physical world of energy and motion “communicates”. Communication as you have described it requires a conscious effort on both sides (use of some kind of language, as you say), but influence doesn’t.

Well, not precisely. Chemical communication does not require a consciousness, just something that can interpret the signal. If non-biological communication does exist, it certainly varies in degree, just as biological signalling does.

DHW The vagueness of your conclusion below suggests to me that you are just as aware of this as I am:

TONY: Despite what you might think, this is not a call for God. But rather, a call to look at the similarities between the systems and see if any avenues for research could be inferred.

DHW I don’t think the type of similarity you are looking for can dispense with God, unless perhaps you are considering some form of panpsychism (i.e. all matter has a degree of…let’s call it quasi-consciousness), but I’ll be very interested to read your response to this, as I’m not convinced that I’ve grasped the whole of your argument.

I'm not sure I grasp it all right now. So often these things sit on the edge of my ability to articulate for quite some time. I think in some way, I am questioning our way of looking at the universe. We have it clumped as organic and inorganic, living and non-living, and everything non-living is just big dumb dirt. But our dumb dirt is, in its own way, just as rich and complex as living creatures. I am still trying to work through it. I will try to argue it more clearly later.

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

Reality

by David Turell @, Monday, August 12, 2019, 01:40 (9 days ago) @ Balance_Maintained

Tony: I am asking the question "Could physical reality be the manifestation of a 'mind', and if so, can we look at our own consciousness and infer questions to ask and avenues to research. It does not exclude God, but does not focus on God either.


TONY: We know that the structure of the brain and the universe are very similar. We know that they both have complex physical structures of deeply complex relationships and nested hierarchies of scale and influence.

Universe > Galaxy > Solar System > Planet > Geological Scale > Human Scale > Cell > Molecule > Atom > Sub-Atomic Particles.
Body > Brain > Hemisphere > Region > Neuron/Synapses > Cell Bodies >

dhw: I love this. I also see the body as a microcosm of the universe, in which all individual parts combine to form a functioning whole.

TONY: It is also interesting that the relationship structure is bi-directional. Each structure spreads influence up and down the chain. This, of course, suggest communication up and down the chain. (dhw’s bold. See below.)

Tony: In molecular biology, we see this in chemical and electrical signaling between cells. In the physical world, we see this in terms of energy and motion, but, and here is the point, we never look at it in terms of communication. What is being communicated, and is it being communicated in a language we can comprehend? If we could comprehend it, could we communicate with it?

DHW This is where I become partially sceptical. Of course I agree that molecular biology requires communication, but I’m far from convinced that the physical world of energy and motion “communicates”. Communication as you have described it requires a conscious effort on both sides (use of some kind of language, as you say), but influence doesn’t.


dhw: Well, not precisely. Chemical communication does not require a consciousness, just something that can interpret the signal. If non-biological communication does exist, it certainly varies in degree, just as biological signalling does.

This is the point I keep making: cells make chemical signals which do not require a conscious interpretation, but just an automatic chemical response.

DHW The vagueness of your conclusion below suggests to me that you are just as aware of this as I am:

TONY: Despite what you might think, this is not a call for God. But rather, a call to look at the similarities between the systems and see if any avenues for research could be inferred.

DHW I don’t think the type of similarity you are looking for can dispense with God, unless perhaps you are considering some form of panpsychism (i.e. all matter has a degree of…let’s call it quasi-consciousness), but I’ll be very interested to read your response to this, as I’m not convinced that I’ve grasped the whole of your argument.


Tony: I'm not sure I grasp it all right now. So often these things sit on the edge of my ability to articulate for quite some time. I think in some way, I am questioning our way of looking at the universe. We have it clumped as organic and inorganic, living and non-living, and everything non-living is just big dumb dirt. But our dumb dirt is, in its own way, just as rich and complex as living creatures. I am still trying to work through it. I will try to argue it more clearly later.

I strongly doubt dumb dirt is in any way conscious.

Reality

by Balance_Maintained @, U.S.A., Monday, August 12, 2019, 01:43 (9 days ago) @ David Turell

Tony: I'm not sure I grasp it all right now. So often these things sit on the edge of my ability to articulate for quite some time. I think in some way, I am questioning our way of looking at the universe. We have it clumped as organic and inorganic, living and non-living, and everything non-living is just big dumb dirt. But our dumb dirt is, in its own way, just as rich and complex as living creatures. I am still trying to work through it. I will try to argue it more clearly later.


I strongly doubt dumb dirt is in any way conscious.

And I am not claiming that it is, any more than we claim that our cells are. However, our dumb unconscious cells somehow work together to produce, or at least support, consciousness. If it is possible that our dumb cells do it, why is it impossible on a higher level?

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

Reality

by dhw, Monday, August 12, 2019, 13:06 (8 days ago) @ Balance_Maintained

TONY: We can never be 100% certain that our perception agrees with objective reality or any other perceived reality.

dhw: I don’t know why “objective reality” cannot include all the realities that we perceive.

DAVID: What we perceive may not be all of the reality that really exists. we have to accept what our brain gives us.

TONY: It is different because it exists independent of us and is not subject to our subjective interpretations. Our personal realities are objective reality overlayed with our own filters and perceptions.

Yes, of course. We are all agreed that our perception is subjective and limited. I was simply pointing out that Tony’s original comment doesn’t quite make sense: “we can’t be certain that our perception agrees with...any other perceived reality.” There are realities that we perceive and realities that we do not perceive. “Objective reality” must include all the realities that we do perceive, even though we perceive them subjectively. Or are you referring to imagined "realities" which we think we perceive but may be figments of our imagination? That = we can't be certain that our perception agrees with things that might not have any objective reality. (God would be an example.) It's all getting too complicated!

TONY: This would mean that objective reality and perceived reality are separate AND unequally valid realities. Objective reality differs in the fact that it can operate absent OUR mind…[dhw: fine with me up to this point]… which means that the mind behind it is on a different, higher in terms of complexity, level of existence. It is different in degree and magnitude but NOT by type.

dhw: You say later that “this is not a call for God”, but what else could it be if you say there is a mind behind it? We simply do not know if there is a mind behind it. Objective reality might simply be the materials that make up the universe and operate just as we see them operating.

TONY: I am asking the question "Could physical reality be the manifestation of a 'mind', and if so, can we look at our own consciousness and infer questions to ask and avenues to research. It does not exclude God, but does not focus on God either.

But you didn’t ask a question in your original post. You simply referred to “the mind behind it”, which is “on a different..level of existence”. The question you are now asking gets to the nub of the matter: Is there a mind behind it (e.g. God, or some kind(s) of panpsychist consciousness) or is physical reality nothing but mindless materials swirling around in mindless space?

dhw: However, if there is a mind, I have no objections at all to it being different in degree and magnitude but NOT by type. It makes perfect sense to me that a God would have attributes in common with the humans he has been instrumental in creating – though this is anathema to David.

DAVID: Not 'anathema' to me. What is anathema is trying to attribute human mental traits to God. Some or all may exist, but all we can do is guess.

Of course we can only guess at his nature and his purposes (not to mention his existence), but it is anathema to you if someone guesses at either of these unless it is your guess, which is that he is always in control and is purposeful, and his one and only purpose in creating life was to produce H. sapiens, and he specially designed billions of non-human life forms, lifestyles and natural wonders (like the remarkable jumping larva of the golden rod gall midge) only so that they could eat or be eaten by one another until he could specially design the only thing he wanted to design: H. sapiens. You even guessed yourself once that his purpose in specially designing all these wonders (if he did design them) could have been to enjoy his own work, like a painter enjoying his paintings. But for some reason you have a fixed belief in the "eat or be eaten" guess.

END OF PART ONE

Reality

by dhw, Monday, August 12, 2019, 13:23 (8 days ago) @ dhw

PART TWO

TONY: It is also interesting that the relationship structure is bi-directional. Each structure spreads influence up and down the chain. This, of course, suggest communication up and down the chain. (dhw’s bold. See below.)
In molecular biology, we see this in chemical and electrical signaling between cells. In the physical world, we see this in terms of energy and motion, but, and here is the point, we never look at it in terms of communication. What is being communicated, and is it being communicated in a language we can comprehend? If we could comprehend it, could we communicate with it?

dhw: This is where I become partially sceptical. Of course I agree that molecular biology requires communication, but I’m far from convinced that the physical world of energy and motion “communicates”. Communication as you have described it requires a conscious effort on both sides (use of some kind of language, as you say), but influence doesn’t.

TONY: Well, not precisely. Chemical communication does not require a consciousness, just something that can interpret the signal. If non-biological communication does exist, it certainly varies in degree, just as biological signalling does.

DAVID: This is the point I keep making: cells make chemical signals which do not require a conscious interpretation, but just an automatic chemical response.

David wrongly attributed Tony’s comment to me. We are talking about molecular biology, and lots of organisms use chemical signals to communicate. These include bacteria, which are single cells. Many scientists agree that they are sentient, communicative, cooperative, decision-making, and therefore intelligent. Of course their “consciousness” is not comparable to ours, but David’s theory that 3.8 billion years ago his God preprogrammed every single bacterial response to every single new problem for the rest of time seems to me less likely than the (theistic) theory that his God gave them the intelligence to work out their own solutions. This would also apply to our own cell communities which at some time in the past cooperated to produce every individual organ in our bodies, and which continue (now mainly automatically) to cooperate in enabling those organs to function. (See also below.)

dhw: I don’t think the type of similarity you are looking for can dispense with God, unless perhaps you are considering some form of panpsychism (i.e. all matter has a degree of…let’s call it quasi-consciousness), but I’ll be very interested to read your response to this, as I’m not convinced that I’ve grasped the whole of your argument.

TONY: I'm not sure I grasp it all right now. So often these things sit on the edge of my ability to articulate for quite some time. I think in some way, I am questioning our way of looking at the universe. We have it clumped as organic and inorganic, living and non-living, and everything non-living is just big dumb dirt. But our dumb dirt is, in its own way, just as rich and complex as living creatures. I am still trying to work through it. I will try to argue it more clearly later.

Then you are clearly thinking your way into some kind of panpsychism (which of course does not exclude a God).

DAVID: I strongly doubt dumb dirt is in any way conscious.

TONY: And I am not claiming that it is, any more than we claim that our cells are. However, our dumb unconscious cells somehow work together to produce, or at least support, consciousness. If it is possible that our dumb cells do it, why is it impossible on a higher level?

I object to the assumption that our cells are dumb and unconscious (see above), although no one knows the source of consciousness. Clearly there are different levels of consciousness, but I share David’s doubts about dumb dirt, and even about rocks and waters and stars and gases having any level of consciousness. However, life and consciousness are either the result of top-down creation (God) or bottom-up evolution (the most rudimentary consciousness, formed by chance and evolving to higher levels). I myself am unable to choose between the two. Whatever may be the objective reality is beyond the reach of my subjective perception - and also of my subjective powers of interpretation!

Reality

by David Turell @, Monday, August 12, 2019, 17:21 (8 days ago) @ dhw

PART TWO

dhw: This is where I become partially sceptical. Of course I agree that molecular biology requires communication, but I’m far from convinced that the physical world of energy and motion “communicates”. Communication as you have described it requires a conscious effort on both sides (use of some kind of language, as you say), but influence doesn’t.

TONY: Well, not precisely. Chemical communication does not require a consciousness, just something that can interpret the signal. If non-biological communication does exist, it certainly varies in degree, just as biological signalling does.

DAVID: This is the point I keep making: cells make chemical signals which do not require a conscious interpretation, but just an automatic chemical response.

dhw: David wrongly attributed Tony’s comment to me. We are talking about molecular biology, and lots of organisms use chemical signals to communicate. These include bacteria, which are single cells. Many scientists agree that they are sentient, communicative, cooperative, decision-making, and therefore intelligent. Of course their “consciousness” is not comparable to ours, but David’s theory that 3.8 billion years ago his God preprogrammed every single bacterial response to every single new problem for the rest of time seems to me less likely than the (theistic) theory that his God gave them the intelligence to work out their own solutions. This would also apply to our own cell communities which at some time in the past cooperated to produce every individual organ in our bodies, and which continue (now mainly automatically) to cooperate in enabling those organs to function. (See also below.)

And I reply it all can be automatic, based on instructions the organisms or cells carry.


dhw: I don’t think the type of similarity you are looking for can dispense with God, unless perhaps you are considering some form of panpsychism (i.e. all matter has a degree of…let’s call it quasi-consciousness), but I’ll be very interested to read your response to this, as I’m not convinced that I’ve grasped the whole of your argument.

TONY: I'm not sure I grasp it all right now. So often these things sit on the edge of my ability to articulate for quite some time. I think in some way, I am questioning our way of looking at the universe. We have it clumped as organic and inorganic, living and non-living, and everything non-living is just big dumb dirt. But our dumb dirt is, in its own way, just as rich and complex as living creatures. I am still trying to work through it. I will try to argue it more clearly later.

Then you are clearly thinking your way into some kind of panpsychism (which of course does not exclude a God).

DAVID: I strongly doubt dumb dirt is in any way conscious.

TONY: And I am not claiming that it is, any more than we claim that our cells are. However, our dumb unconscious cells somehow work together to produce, or at least support, consciousness. If it is possible that our dumb cells do it, why is it impossible on a higher level?

dhw: I object to the assumption that our cells are dumb and unconscious (see above), although no one knows the source of consciousness. Clearly there are different levels of consciousness, but I share David’s doubts about dumb dirt, and even about rocks and waters and stars and gases having any level of consciousness. However, life and consciousness are either the result of top-down creation (God) or bottom-up evolution (the most rudimentary consciousness, formed by chance and evolving to higher levels). I myself am unable to choose between the two. Whatever may be the objective reality is beyond the reach of my subjective perception - and also of my subjective powers of interpretation!

I'm not surprised, since our reality is based on counterintuative quantum mechanics.

Reality

by David Turell @, Monday, August 12, 2019, 17:17 (8 days ago) @ dhw

dhw: However, if there is a mind, I have no objections at all to it being different in degree and magnitude but NOT by type. It makes perfect sense to me that a God would have attributes in common with the humans he has been instrumental in creating – though this is anathema to David.

DAVID: Not 'anathema' to me. What is anathema is trying to attribute human mental traits to God. Some or all may exist, but all we can do is guess.

dhw: Of course we can only guess at his nature and his purposes (not to mention his existence), but it is anathema to you if someone guesses at either of these unless it is your guess, which is that he is always in control and is purposeful, and his one and only purpose in creating life was to produce H. sapiens, and he specially designed billions of non-human life forms, lifestyles and natural wonders (like the remarkable jumping larva of the golden rod gall midge) only so that they could eat or be eaten by one another until he could specially design the only thing he wanted to design: H. sapiens. You even guessed yourself once that his purpose in specially designing all these wonders (if he did design them) could have been to enjoy his own work, like a painter enjoying his paintings. But for some reason you have a fixed belief in the "eat or be eaten" guess.

My fixed belief is supported by the history we have uncovered. Humans are the current and possibly the last endpoint, and everyone has eaten or been eaten since the beginning. My fixed reason is entirely based on fact and logic.


END OF PART ONE

Reality

by David Turell @, Monday, August 12, 2019, 15:24 (8 days ago) @ Balance_Maintained

Tony: I'm not sure I grasp it all right now. So often these things sit on the edge of my ability to articulate for quite some time. I think in some way, I am questioning our way of looking at the universe. We have it clumped as organic and inorganic, living and non-living, and everything non-living is just big dumb dirt. But our dumb dirt is, in its own way, just as rich and complex as living creatures. I am still trying to work through it. I will try to argue it more clearly later.


David: I strongly doubt dumb dirt is in any way conscious.


Tony: And I am not claiming that it is, any more than we claim that our cells are. However, our dumb unconscious cells somehow work together to produce, or at least support, consciousness. If it is possible that our dumb cells do it, why is it impossible on a higher level?

It is not impossible if one assumes we exist in God's consciousness.

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