Consciousness - the elephant in the room

What is a human being? What is life? Can science give us reliable answers to such questions? The electricity of life. The meaning of human consciousness. Are we alone? Are the traditional contests between science and religion still relevant? Does the word "spirit" still hold meaning today?

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Re: Consciousness - the elephant in the room

Unread postby StevenJay » Mon Oct 24, 2011 1:06 pm

mjv1121 wrote: [...] physicality stems from itself and is self-evident!!!!

1) No, it most certainly is not self-evident. If it were, there would be no mystery, and we wouldn't be having this discussion.
2) You can place a whole handful of exclamation points after a proclamation and that still won't make it so - at least outside of your own perception.

mjv1121 wrote:I am not suggesting that the topic is not of interest nor that it does not deserve discussion, simply that consciousness and all human existence is by definition emergent from the universe.

Huh?? Where is this definition? I'd love to see it. Seriously - I've been knocking around on this marble for 62 years, and this is the first I've heard of it. :shock:
It's all about perception.
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Re: Consciousness - the elephant in the room

Unread postby mjv1121 » Mon Oct 24, 2011 1:38 pm

Steven,

Physicality is utterly self-evident (with or without exclamation marks), but if you prefer, have it your way - we are not here, we are not us, we do not exist, the rest of the universe does not exist.

Of course humans are emergent from the universe, but if you disagree, have it your way - the universe exists to service human civilisation and the hopes dreams and thoughts of humans, in fact the universe only exists in any form whatsoever because of the existence of humans and human "consciousness".

You can choose: the universe exists despite humans OR the universe exists because of humans.

Michael
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Re: Consciousness - the elephant in the room

Unread postby StevenJay » Mon Oct 24, 2011 2:50 pm

mjv1121 wrote:Steven,

Physicality is utterly self-evident (with or without exclamation marks).

Well, within five-sensory perception, you're right. It certainly appears to be. But our five-sensory apparatus can be "manipulated" mentally, chemically and, most importantly, IMO, electromagnetically. . . and all by just we humans and our current technology! Imagine the possibilities - the chaos on that very fragile system - that the inherent energies present throughout the universe could easily impart. Given that, I don't give five-sensory perception a whole lot more credence than, say, radiometric dating techniques, with regard to determining what's "real" and what's not. Unfortunately, the philosophical aspect of this topic simply cannot be avoided.

mjv1121 wrote:... but if you prefer, have it your way - we are not here, we are not us, we do not exist, the rest of the universe does not exist.

I'm not just having it my way. Those sentiments have been pondered intently by the greatest thinkers and philosophers since, I imagine, the onset of sentience itself. As far as I know, the jury is still out.

mjv1121 wrote:Of course humans are emergent from the universe, but if you disagree, have it your way

Obviously, humans are emergent from the universe. I never implied otherwise. I only take exception to the notion that Consciousness is also emergent from the physical universe.

mjv1121 wrote:... the universe exists to service human civilisation and the hopes dreams and thoughts of humans, in fact the universe only exists in any form whatsoever because of the existence of humans and human "consciousness".

That position could easily be argued in favor of! Although, it's not about human consciousness, per se, but rather, just Consciousness.

mjv1121 wrote:You can choose: the universe exists despite humans OR the universe exists because of humans.

I choose neither because, again, this topic isn't about whether the universe exists because of humans or not. You seem to restrict Consciousness to a purely human domain. Or maybe that's just the linguistics getting in the way?
It's all about perception.
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Re: Consciousness - the elephant in the room

Unread postby Scott MC » Mon Oct 24, 2011 3:01 pm

There is a relationship between the universe and consciousness.

Consciousness - roughly, the cognitive and functional characteristics of life, incl. observation - affects the universe on a quantum level as well as in everyday life, where of course the shaping or conquering of our environment for our survival or convenience is solely due to acts performed after perceiving it. Where the universe is not perceived, there is no potential for development.

From the other side, the universe affects us totally. Yet there are rumors about and inferences to things like eternity and love.

Saint and sages of impeccable character in every civilised* culture throughout known history have declared the practical utility of a way of life - usually involving physical, mental and intellectual self-discipline plus focus, reflection and prayer# - that maximises certain human potentials that otherwise can lay totally unmanifest.

It's like we are savages* in this field. Savages with shiny instruments.



* Meant literally not pejoratively.
# Again, uncapturable and unmeasurable = insignificant?
99.999+% of everything can't be that simple, can it?
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Re: Consciousness - the elephant in the room

Unread postby mjv1121 » Tue Oct 25, 2011 3:21 am

Steven,

My apologies for my "humans are the centre of the universe" inference, twas a deliberately clumsy ploy.

Of course we may include all life and "consciousness" throughout an infinite universe, but to no avail. It is not our physical senses through which the physicality of the universe is made self-evident. Atomic materials are insufficient to probe to the levels of size required to fully understand even the workings of atoms, let alone beyond that. Ironically in this context it is the logic provided to us by our consciousness that makes the physicality of the universe self-evident.

Your cannot ignore the inevitable truth that our brains, in which our minds reside, are merely computers. It is therefore also inevitable that any and all the forces that may affect our sensory perception must in some way also affect our cognitive perception. By the same token gravity, electromagnetism and chemical bonding and the mechanisms that create those effects are responsible for the creation and ongoing operation of our brains and by extension our minds, or consciousness (not to mention the obvious fact that all our external sensory perception actual occurs in our brains and is interpreted by our minds - you don't "see" with eyes, you "see" with your brain/mind, etc.). Apart from the obvious physicality of our bodies, we exist ONLY in our brains. Insects also only exist in their brain, but I would tentatively suggest that they have no mind with consciousness (we could argue this point but it would only be a diversion). Accepting, as we must, that we exist only in our brains, we can see, as evidenced by this very discussion, that WE, the bit that is the unique individual we refer to as ME, resides in our mind, that is our consciousness, and that our mind resides in our brain.

Our brain is a computer, a computer within which our mind resides. The obvious conclusion from this line of reasoning is that our consciousness, perhaps the part of our mind that we most comfortably associate with ME, is in some way "a ghost in the machine". Very quickly then we can assign the same accusation to almost our entire mind
(and perhaps the insect mind may be included too).

This rather obvious preamble raises the prospect of an assertion that the universe has, by the above method, created something more than itself. And that therefore consciousness resides separate from and maybe even beyond the physical boundaries of the universe. Personally, I feel no need to support or deny such a definition.

Returning to my interpretation of the original thread question: is consciousness an ignored subject of scientific investigation and therefore the elephant in the room?.

I would say no. Surely, much thought and study in ongoing on the subject. That there is no 6 billion dollar Large Consciousness Collider being built is no direct indication of disinterest. And my original point was that although the results of consciousness ("thoughts") may exist beyond the physicality of the universe, the physical mechanisms by which thought operates are still a facet of the physical universe. So, ultimately if you want to understand all the ins and outs of consciousness you need to understand how the physical universe operates - electrons and quantum thingymajigs are still the elephant in the room.

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Re: Consciousness - the elephant in the room

Unread postby tayga » Tue Oct 25, 2011 4:41 am

StevenJay wrote:
mjv1121 wrote:You can choose: the universe exists despite humans OR the universe exists because of humans.

I choose neither because, again, this topic isn't about whether the universe exists because of humans or not. You seem to restrict Consciousness to a purely human domain. Or maybe that's just the linguistics getting in the way?


Like StevenJay, I've pondered this for years and I've read what some of the greats had to say. I don't tend to discuss my own ideas because I don't think I've done enough research to defend them but batting ideas around in this context might help.

First, I'll deal with the distraction of God and gods which is how I came to be reading Jaynes via Jno Cook's Saturnian Cosmology. For my part, I'm happy with the notion that God and the conscious part of Man are aspects of the same thing, however you want to define it. In my opinion, the separation between the two is spurious and harmful, to say the least, but that's a position not really open to constructive argument. At least assuming that the our conscious selves are 'God' simplifies the debate.

That reduces to the dichotomy, mirrored in this thread, regarding consciousness and the physical universe as to which emerges from which, or which exists within the other. I tend toward seniority of consciousness over the physical but justifying that position is a tough as the contrary. Jaynes makes a good stab at this and I've yet to finish his book so I'll reserve judgement.

Here’s a sketch of how I think things might be.

If consciousness creates or created the physical universe it is not a physical thing itself and this begs the question why it does or did create. I’ll suggest that it is to make a game which can be watched or played. In order to play it consciousness locates itself within the universe it made/makes. Certainly, there could be games like ‘being a rock’ or ‘being plasma’ but the more complex the physical entity the more fun would be the game for something which can, after all, create universes. (This might also suggest a purpose for directed evolution). I’d argue that being a human would be more interesting than being a cat, for example, but even that is not interesting enough which is why we ‘drift off’ more often than not.

To return to the OP. If the previous paragraph were at all accurate, how would science address studying it?
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Re: Consciousness - the elephant in the room

Unread postby tayga » Tue Oct 25, 2011 5:13 am

mjv1121 wrote:Our brain is a computer, a computer within which our mind resides. The obvious conclusion from this line of reasoning is that our consciousness, perhaps the part of our mind that we most comfortably associate with ME, is in some way "a ghost in the machine". Very quickly then we can assign the same accusation to almost our entire mind(and perhaps the insect mind may be included too).


I've never understood why intelligent people are so ready to identify brain with mind and mind with soul/spirit/consciousness/"ghost in the machine". That parts of the brain are shown to be associated with particular activities is not in dispute. But where is the justification for stating that activity in the brain indicates the brain is the cause of the activity?

Association does not demonstrate cause and this view fails to account for well-documented out-of-body experiences
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It doesn't matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn't matter how smart you are. If it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong.

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Re: Consciousness - the elephant in the room

Unread postby Sparky » Tue Oct 25, 2011 8:29 am

tayga,
To return to the OP. If the previous paragraph were at all accurate, how would science address studying it?


Though we have poked around in the brains of humans and tortured animals for years, tying to figure out the brain, it is all still in it's infancy. All experiments are subject to biases. The most predominate bias is the genetic bias of the experimenter or the one who analyzes the data. People are genetically programed to be either, or some combination of, fact based reasoning or superstitious reasoning. Those who are fact based will never fully understand the superstitious people and vice-a-versa.

To the question; there are ways to deduce, to some degree, what is going on, as far as consciousness is concerned. But, it may take better technology and different interpretation of the data in order to begin to better understand the subtleties of consciousness.

We measure "brain dead" , using detection of electrical signals. We assume that if there are signals, that the brain is alive and somewhat conscious. But, we really do not know, unless the patient wakes up and becomes more brain active.

It is still a new field, even with all the advances that have been made. It is speculation, some better supported than others. And each speculation is driven by the genetic disposition/bias of the speculator. One looks at the data and speculates from other facts or theories, which may or may not be superstitious, the other looks at the same data and speculates from some "spiritual" teachings, and superstitious imaginations which they consider as valid facts.

Many of these speculations/hypothesis are not scientific, as they can not be falsified. So, we end up with data, strangeness, speculations, and assumptions.

btw, we are in a science forum...other than one book, where are the studies/experiments to support these dogmatic statements being thrown around. Or should this thread be moved to the "wild ideas" section of NIMI?


http://www.thegreatdebate.org.uk/MGCDLNotes.html
The question is not 'what is the genetic explanation of mind and consciousness?', but rather 'how can there possibly be a genetic explanation of mind and consciousness?' At best genetics seems only to say that consciousness is here and that this genetic mechanism is here and that, in the absence of any further explanation, this genetic mechanism must be the mechanism that explains consciousness.
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Re: Consciousness - the elephant in the room

Unread postby tayga » Tue Oct 25, 2011 10:22 am

Sparky wrote:should this thread be moved to the "wild ideas" section of NIMI?


I'd be happy with that. As I said above, my own ideas aren't well enough researched for me to properly defend them. I'd really just hope for some useful objections or pointers to further study.
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It doesn't matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn't matter how smart you are. If it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong.

- Richard P. Feynman

Normal science does not aim at novelties of fact or theory and, when successful, finds none.
- Thomas Kuhn
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Re: Consciousness - the elephant in the room

Unread postby Sparky » Tue Oct 25, 2011 11:01 am

tayga wrote:
Sparky wrote:should this thread be moved to the "wild ideas" section of NIMI?


I'd be happy with that. As I said above, my own ideas aren't well enough researched for me to properly defend them. I'd really just hope for some useful objections or pointers to further study.


Although i used your quote to begin my tirade, it was not really pointed at you.. ;)

I would like to ask, to what end do you study consciousness?
I study, to use the term extremely loosely, to burn up time, to distract my mind. Is that what we all do, whether we are aware, are conscious of it or not? ;)

It is difficult to defend speculations that can not be tested...unless one accepts consensus. then, joining a cult that is in lock step on certain ideas will assure a consensus for any one of those ideas. ;)
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Re: Consciousness - the elephant in the room

Unread postby tayga » Tue Oct 25, 2011 12:57 pm

Sparky wrote:I would like to ask, to what end do you study consciousness?


I study in general out of a desire to make sense of stuff but I study consciousness in particular because I have sneaking feeling I know what it's about and I want to try my ideas out against the best available sources.
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It doesn't matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn't matter how smart you are. If it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong.

- Richard P. Feynman

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- Thomas Kuhn
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Re: Consciousness - the elephant in the room

Unread postby MrAmsterdam » Tue Oct 25, 2011 2:06 pm

tayga wrote:
Scott MC wrote:has any researcher made a link between consciousness and life?


Well, there's another tough subject :D

What do you mean by life?


-> Life = electromagnetic-liquid-water-resonant-crystal-stardust-plasma-antennae phenomena surrounded by a medium of cold low density dust plasma.

Consciousness however is somehow less easy to define... ;)
Today's scientists have substituted mathematics for experiments, and they wander off through equation after equation, and eventually build a structure which has no relation to reality. -Nikola Tesla -1934
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Re: Consciousness - the elephant in the room

Unread postby Scott MC » Wed Oct 26, 2011 11:52 pm

.. other than being :D an elephant in the room
99.999+% of everything can't be that simple, can it?
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Re: Consciousness - the elephant in the room

Unread postby johnm33 » Thu Oct 27, 2011 12:13 pm

No discussion of consciousness can be complete until you glimpse what can be done with it. http://vfedtec.com/doc/leadbeater/TPH_OC01.php backed up by a modern scientist at, http://www.smphillips.8m.com/ check out the news and page 7 of 'occult chemistry' and the resonance with many trains of sacred thought. This work is the tip of the iceberg of ancient schools of attention training as old as the vedas. In modern times it was replicated by a canadian who in ' the secret life of nature' by peter tomkins describes his journey into the heart of an electron, this book is available for peanuts second hand and could be the best value you ever get. Also on another tack 'intelligence in nature' by jeremy narby [best read after'the cosmic serpent' but it can stand alone] gives an astonishing insight into the possibilities of a clear consciousness. Geoffrey Hodson is worth a look too some of his work is evocative of the nature spirits of greek and roman tales. http://www.katinkahesselink.net/other/c ... ffrey.html
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Re: Consciousness - the elephant in the room

Unread postby Ghendi » Tue Nov 01, 2011 3:43 pm

I see consciousness as the elephant in the room... not noticing the other elephant.

For me the concept of consciousness applies not only to humans but to everything, on different levels.
Anyway I will reffer only to human consciousness here.

I think we all agree that humans consciousness exists. But this consciousness fluctuates:
- throughout the day in our daily activities we can be more or less aware of things and of us
- throughout the day and night cicle, where I see dreaming state as a different level of consciousness; there are also even deeper levels when sleeping with no kind of dreams, and so on
- throughout the live - different levels of consciousness from the time we are born to the time we die
- maybe even beyond that if we would agree that being conscious does not necessarely need to rely on something physical
- it fluctuates from person to person based on a multitude of factors, from the condition of the body to human qualities that cannot be measured physically

I think we could also agree that we know only what we've experimented in terms of consciousness and there can be degrees of consciousness that exists and we're just not aware of.

As described before I see consiousness as dependent to more factors, and in permanent fluctuation. I don't see a begining or end for consciousness, I see transformation and I see it as a property of things (yes, I did not say humans or life but I will not go further :P ).

Where some see the consciousness as a result of a physical computer, I see a computer being operated by consciousness existing on different levels (which actually acts as both the hardware and the software engineer of the computer) ;)
I perfectly understand the concept of the consciousness beying produced by the brain, but for me this is just an oversimplified act of judgement, a speculation, it's not an experimental result - how would you be able to say something about consciousness by thinking of how it's generated by a physical something or by actually using it and experimenting with it?
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