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C. S. Lewis, or whatever it is that I'm in the mood to discuss.
so what is the observer or observers in that quantum chaos of membranes and neurotransmitters?http://www.iop.org/EJ/abstract/0295-5075/82/1/10006
We discussed that paper in some depth in the comments in this thread. They are arguing for the importance of quantum mechanics in the brain. I'd be surprised if QM effects weren't important in the brain. We need QM to explain phototransduction in the retina, and we may well need it to explain things at individual synapses or ion channels. Perhaps QM is needed to explain the values of release probability at a synapse (release probability is probability that you will get neurotransmitter vesicle release at a synapse in response to an action potential in that neuron).Getting from such pipette-level phenomena, that we can express in a petri dish, up to consciousness is the hard part. There is no evidence that such micro-level phenomena like synaptic vesicle release are sufficient for consciousness. To alter consciousness we have to alter neuronal dynamics at spatiotemporal scales much higher than those of these microlevel phenomena. That's the data, and it is hard for the quantophiles to absorb.Note that even if quantum mechanics is important, that doesn't imply things aren't mechanistic. They just aren't mechanistic in a classical sense. They would still follow the rules of quantum mechanics! The bits in the paper where they talk about this latter stuff, and "non-mechanistic" processes, is just too out there for me to take seriously, and doesn't address the basic problem of spatiotemporal scale.Let's see some data from these quantophiles. Sure they are full of ideas. Where's the evidence? It ain't in that paper.
yes, total lack of good research to support quantum effects at the cortical level after over 12 years. Not a good sign.Maybe the quantum physics field needs to develop better methods to apply to the neuroscience first.
If the definition of "mechanistic" is applied that broadly, then what the hell. Every dualist out there, from cartesians to hylomorphists to panpsychists to idealists, are proposing a "mechanistic" theory.Nor do we know that "to alter consciousness we have to alter neuronal dynamics at spatiotemporal scales much higher than those of these microlevel phenomena." That's chock-full of assumptions about what is or is not conscious, when, and how. Which just so happens to be what's under investigation here.And that's probably the hardest bullet for everyone to bite. Crow all day about how the theories of the "quantophiles" are lacking hard evidence. The funny thing is, if these criticisms are correct, they would mean that the quantophiles are pulling even with the traditional "mechanists" when it comes to explanations of consciousness. We may simply have to end up taking consciousness (at the very least) as a given at the end of the day.
Anonymous said:Nor do we know that "to alter consciousness we have to alter neuronal dynamics at spatiotemporal scales much higher than those of these microlevel phenomena." That's chock-full of assumptions about what is or is not conscious, when, and how. There are two issues here.For those focusing on the neuronal basis of consciousness (whether it be quantum or traditional neuroscience) it is clear that my criticism holds. Changes in consciousness are network-level changes, observable changes in electrical activity on large spatial and temporal scales.I talked about these issues in my series of posts on consciousness indexed here (especially posts two, three, and four).So, the traditional neuroscience that focuses on voltages, currents, and all that has supplied evidence. The research is well underway. Until the neuroquantum folk provide something substantive beyond weird philosophy they will remain squarely in the fringe. At the very least, they need to establish a correlation between these quantum events and different higher-level conscious states.That's the first issue. The second issue is whether the neuronal is strictly necessary for consciousness (my hunch is it is strictly just sufficient not necessary). E.g., perhaps an amoeba is conscious. I discussed such possibilities here, explicitly admitting things like amoeba are an interesting case.
Re: the amoeba. I've long had this thought that in looking at the quantum role in biology, we should focus on the amoeba and other small systems before we jump to the human brain. (We have to walk before we can run.)BDK: isn't it possible that you and we quantophiles are both partly right? The kind of changes in human consciousness we can model are driven by larger scale processes that are very unlikely to be quantum coherent themselves, but non-trivial quantum effects are needed to get the whole thing off the ground at a smaller scale?
Steve, I think it would be even better to start with things like ion channels, where there is the highest likelihood of success. I talked about this stuff here. Generally, the quantophiles need to pick better model systems for their cause, do some biology, get their hands dirty.
At least the researchers admit that mere mechanism (or neurological reductionism) may not be sufficient to explain mental phenomena (or dare we say qualia). To correlate Mind with synapse firing or areas of the brain is not that profound, and that's really about the extent of most brain "science" But the memory itself is not traceable, or duplicate-able, at least at this point. "it appears memory is located here, and relates to these neurons"--sort of like lobotomies in reverse: Vee insert the object at this precise point in zeee patient's cortical area, und Vee see that he no longer speaks! Voonderbar.....
J: As for neuroscience finding "mere" correlations with states of consciousness, I agree that's just a start. Mendelian genetics was a humble beginning to the study of inheritance, a recognition of correlations between parent and offspring phenotypes. Certainly not a solution to the problem of inheritance, which took decades more. It was a great clue as to where scientific efforts should be focused.The quantophiles don't even have that barest empirical foothold on the problem, not even a correlation, not even that barest clue. If they ever do, then they will be taken more seriously in science. Right now they give us things like Godel, or kooky interpretations of QM involving conscious observers, or spurious inferences about "unity". Why should we take them seriously as science?Dualism is a different matter. They don't have any positive, substantive, contribution to the discussion except 'NO!' OK, thanks for your call. On to the next caller, let's get back to the science.
I think it is pretty straightforward to keep a foot in both worlds without saying "No" to either :).
"The quantophiles don't even have that barest empirical foothold on the problem, not even a correlation, not even that barest clue."Funny. The quantophiles (and many others) say this exact same thing about the "mechanists". And the quantophiles could claim they have correlations as well, considering the mechanist correlation comes with a lot of assumption built in."Right now they give us things like Godel, or kooky interpretations of QM involving conscious observers"If you think the only people who have considered conscious observers and measurement to play a role in QM are 'kooky', you need to get out of your shell more."Dualism is a different matter. They don't have any positive, substantive, contribution to the discussion except 'NO!'"If "NO!" means pointing out that a consistent materialism/mechanistic view undermines all of science and is an obvious dead end, sure, they say no. If you disregard everything they do with a sniff and a wave of your hand, they have no contribution either.lol
"Dualism is a different matter. They don't have any positive, substantive, contribution to the discussion except 'NO!' OK, thanks for your call. On to the next caller, let's get back to the science."What a joke! It seems you're completely oblivious of modern dualism like Chalmers property dualism. Also dualism at least offers different possibilities concerning mental causation worth exploring. Physicalism on the other hand precludes any possibility of mental causation as a series of arguments by Kim and Merricks show.And as far as neuroscience goes dualism accepts the general research program. They only deny that the knowledge thus gained is knowledge about phenomenology - which seems to be true so far. Even some physicalists reluctantly agreed to this and came up with all sorts of ad hoc theories about how this is possible given physicalism.
Anonymous_1: getting at my first point about the science involved. If you need to see the data I'm talking about perhaps try reading Kristof Koch's book 'Quest for Consciousness'. The quantophiles have no such data, not even the barest correlation which you mocked earlier as somehow inferior (inferior to what?). You say I'm wrong about this. You seem to like to cite people a lot, so please provide the reference to the literature where they have these data (and not Aspect's experiments, which are not the same thing at all; we are talking about quantum effects in brains).
Anonymous_2: I'm quite familiar with Chalmers' work (for instance, see this post I wrote about the "hard" problem).His major task was saying "NO" to the biological explantions. His alternative panpsychist theory takes up the last section of his book, the section he admitted is the most speculative and most likely to be wrong (i.e., the most substantive, important, and what he thought most likely to be right was his "NO")). More on this below.Then you quixotically bring up the problem of epiphenomenalism. The major problem with Chalmers'entire edifice is that it implies panpsychism. Try reading Chapter 5 of his book. If zombies are possible (and their possibility is the basis of his entire argument) then consciousness is epiphenomenal. How would that help the dualist? Just read his book.Indeed, one appeal of reductive biological approaches is that you won't have epiphenomenalism, because consciousnes is straightforwardly a natural process that causes other things to happen. Indeed, you've missed the point of Kim's argument about this, as his point was that without reduction, you will have epiphenomenalism!Kim does go on to argue that reduction won't work, but that is a different topic. He tends to put a lot of confidence in his intuitions about what will or won't be explained by future neuroscience, another topic we've hacked at a lot here ad nauseum (for instance this post). Kim's mistake, and the mistake of most dualists/panpsychists, is to draw ontological conclusions from semantic differences. The fact that it is a mistake is enough to kill the arguments against biological explanations of consciousness. 'DNA sequence xyz' has a different meaning than 'gene for blue eyes' but that doesn't mean they aren't the same.As for dualists taking neuroscience seriously, I know dualists have to acknowledge that neuroscience is important. When a relative needs deep brain stimulation because they have Parkinson's, then they suddenly love neurology. However, vaguely acknowledging something is important is one thing. What they need to do is build a positive research programme that involves integrating and explaining the science into the entire framework (with more than "receiver" and "transmitter" metaphors). Enough with the arguments that the other side is wrong: provide the alternative, in detailed specific terms. Even though the arguments from people like Chalmers and Kim don't kill bionaturalism, that doesn't mean they aren't right!Instead of blowing smoke with these zombie-bat-swamp-mary boilerplate arguments against reducing consciousnes, they need to do some positive work. I've already discussed this contrast in research programmes (derivative and contrary versus generative and productive) in some detail here. For instance, the dualists need to deal with Libet's data, as I mentioned at that link.Chalmers made a start, in the last chapter of the last section of his book, a barest incling of what a nonbiological theory might look like. Basically, panpsychism in which light switches are conscious, and consciousness is epiphenomenal.Even if you don't think such a view sort of is a reductio of itself, that was almost 15 years ago. The dualists/panpsychists need to make some positive contributions. Their in-principle a priori arguments that mind is not neural just fail, but that's OK they should be developing a positive theory anyway.Philosophers need their paychecks, I suppose.
Okay then, here is a research project:1. Assume all life can experience the consequences of choices (a big assumption)2. On one interpretation of QM the observer can influence the quantum field's collapse by their choices3. Breed a strain of (motile?) bacteria or other protist (or protozoa I suppose) which can improve its reproductive rate via a (repeated) quantum observation.Problem is that many contrarians will claim (justifiably I suppose) that it is we who are influencing the quantum collapse, using the single celled life form as a measuring device! Hmm.
William LOL.I think the following is very interesting, and promising:Roy S, Llinás R. C R Biol. 2009 Jun;332(6):517-22. Relevance of quantum mechanics on some aspects of ion channel function.
"Enough with the arguments that the other side is wrong: provide the alternative, in detailed specific terms. "As a Network Engineer, I'm often called upon to troubleshoot a problem of unknown origin, with unknown solutions, and with vague symptoms.The *only* way to do this is to eliminate possibilities---i.e., prove what the source of the problem *isn't*. Again, this is the ONLY way to approach this type of problem, unless you get absurdly lucky or simply follow a hunch that works out. Put differently, the only way to arrive at the right conclusion in these cases, is to first accurately discover what the wrong conclusions are.
Shackelman: in biology clearly one aspect of building up theories is showing that other stories are wrong (e.g., genes aren't made of protein, neuronal electrical signals aren't generated from a general dissolution of the cell membrane).More importantly, we always work toward positive stories about how things actually work. E.g., DNA is the mechanism of inheritance. Neurons carry electrical signals via ion-specific channels embedded in the cell membrane.The contrary and derivative work can be important, but it isn't the bread and butter of understanding a biological system. How many decades to they have to keep saying it isn't the brain? Fine, we know they believe that. They's been saying "No" for decades. The zombies, bats, and swamp people are entertaining. Now give a positive story, with alternate predictions. Most importantly, in science when we falsify a hypothesis we do it with data, rarely is something so simple as to be solved by a thought experiment. What thought experiment would have revealed whether plants use the Krebs cycle to generate ATP, or whether genes are proteins?The productive and generative scientific approach means creating new data, and using it to modify one's ideas, to slowly paint a picture of how things actually work, not just saying No. That's only a fraction of what the goal is.
BDK,You're the one who poo-poo'd "kooky" interpretations of QM. My reply is the same: If that's your view, get out of your shell. Better yet, provide an interpretation of QM that can't be sniffed at as "kooky". Bohm? Consistent histories? Many-worlds? Many-minds? To say nothing of the amusement of the "kooky" charge coming from a Churchlands fan. Even other materialists think those guys are utterly nutso on the subject of mind. lolWhat's more, QM - as Stapp and others point out - pulls the rug out from under the traditional mechanist picture regardless, precisely because QM is fantastically confirmed by experiment, yet undercuts the traditional materialist/mechanist conception of reality in dramatic ways. Matter just isn't what materialists (of all people, having put it on a pedestal) expected it to be. Indeed, matter can't be what those materialists expected it to be if they really to do things like "expect" and "reason".The traditional materialist/mechanist ship is sunk on questions of mind, and not just ones of consciousness. Even panpsychism is in a better position to deal with the obvious reality of minds than the traditional materialist picture is. As much as it may grind your gears (lol) to accept it from people you consider kooky, pointing out the inability of mechanistic explanations to account for given data is a positive contribution. Maybe mysterians are right, and we're not going to get an explanation at all. Maybe the panpsychists are right, as aesthetically displeasing as you find it. Maybe other dualists are right, as horrifying as you'd find that.But it's a start to figure out who's clearly wrong. And that would be the materialists. ;)
Anon: lots more talk. I look forward to some evidence from the quantophiles. Rather than follow the data we already have, go right ahead and hang an empirically unsupported theory of brain function on a weird and empirically unsupported theory of measurement in QM. Perhaps the weirdness will cancel out. Measurement in QM is a problem. No theory is accepted. To pick one far out theory, one that simply accepts Schrodinger's cat is , seems a bit premature. If you are OK with that, fine. If it's in a superposition until a conscious observer looks at it, more power to ya'. Don't worry about the fact that this does nothing to explain consciousness but just discharges it as a brute explanandum so you are right back where you started. That's helpful.Right now, all theories of measurement in physics are weird and none are established. That is different from saying 'Go ahead and pick any one, they are all equally good.' Again, weirdness is not negation, it actually tends to accumulate.We understand photosynthesis, bile production, neuronal transmission, inheritance just fine without having a solution to the measurement problem.Again, I look forward to a future empirically grounded discussion. I appreciate your confidence, and in a few decades one of us will look silly. Not based on a priori arguments, but based on the data.(Incidentally as for alternatives to claim that 'consciousness' solves the measurement problem, I prefer decoherence theories, or those that treat Schrodinger as a linear approximation to an underlying nonlinear process. Regardless I don't see an appeal to quantum weirdness helps you, it just compounds your weirdness.)
1. Consciousness is baffling and mysterious. 2. Quantum measurement is baffling and mysterious. 3. Therefore, by Ockham's razor, the solution to quantum measurement is a solution to the problem of consciousness.
We don't have any "data" right now re: consciousness that isn't largely following from metaphysical presumptions that are themselves subject to fatal problems when actually thought about in a consistent and rational manner. You know, that thing you deride as "lots of talk". Though I find it amusing that the people who always whine about how reasonable, logical arguments demonstrating the futility of materialism are just "talk" and how we should sit back and wait for "the science" to inform us, have diarrhea of the fingers when typing on a philosophical blog. ;)
Anon: the difference is I can point to a pile of data. You're stuck talking.Thanks for the entertainment.
Fantastic, BDK. You do realize that the same "data" you point to can be and is pointed to as either supportive of their views or non-problematic for them by quantophiles (Hameroff in particular loves doing this), dualists of various stripes, panpsychists, and even idealists? It's not the data we're disputing here, it's the interpretation give to that data. And once we start talking about interpretations, there comes that scary, unfortunate "talk" that so bothers you. You know, the stuff that illustrates the fatal problems facing materialism on multiple subjects relating to mind?But go ahead. Dig your heels in the ground and insist that this is "all talk" and science will vindicate your kooky view in a few decades. You may as well insist that, damn it, 2 + 2 = 5, and while we can't see how that's possible now, just give science a few decades and we'll all see that you're right. And not, you know. Goofy. ;)
OK anon you are sure confident. In 50 years come back here and we'll compare notes about which research programme has made more progress. I'm done: you can have the last word.
"His major task was saying "NO" to the biological explantions."I don't think that's correct. Rather he aims to show that there are no biological explanations of phenomenology, only of functions. He points out a misunderstanding of terminology: psychological states understood as mereological or functional states can be explained biologically, and this has been done. But there are also phenomenal aspects of psychological states and those have been exluded by this narrow definition. His argument is not a "no" to biological explanations, it's a correction of semantical misunderstandings in order to show that there are no biological explanations. I'm sure Chalmers would love biological explanations."His alternative panpsychist theory takes up the last section of his book, the section he admitted is the most speculative and most likely to be wrong"His last section was not just about panpsychism, but about an information theory of consciousness. It is speculative, as is all new scientific theory. "The major problem with Chalmers'entire edifice is that it implies panpsychism." You know that Chalmers advocates one form of property dualism. But there are other forms that don't suffer from this defect."Indeed, one appeal of reductive biological approaches is that you won't have epiphenomenalism, because consciousnes is straightforwardly a natural process that causes other things to happen. Indeed, you've missed the point of Kim's argument about this, as his point was that without reduction, you will have epiphenomenalism!" You advocate the old-school motivation for physicalism which was all the rage 30 years ago. Things have changed though.You understood Kim on this point, unfortunately you didn't understand Merricks. Kim only thinks that mereological or functional properties are causally relevant because of his "inheritance principle". But Merricks shows that Kims inheritance principle leads to systematic overdetermination. If we get rid of the inheritance principle, we lose mental causation of reduced properties, be it macrophysical or mental properties. "Kim does go on to argue that reduction won't work, but that is a different topic."No he doesn't. Actually he thinks reduction works for many aspects of the mind, e.g. intentionality. He's only sceptical about qualia.
"Kim's mistake, and the mistake of most dualists/panpsychists, is to draw ontological conclusions from semantic differences."That's a fundamental misunderstanding of conceivability arguments. Dualists (or rather rationalists) draw possibility conclusions from conceivability arguments. That's a completely other business. You can have conceivability arguments without any language at all, therefore semantics are irrelevant."'DNA sequence xyz' has a different meaning than 'gene for blue eyes' but that doesn't mean they aren't the same." That's true, but this is a trivial case of reduction. Feel free to show that consciousness is similar in this aspect, you'll be famous."As for dualists taking neuroscience seriously, I know dualists have to acknowledge that neuroscience is important." It's always entertaining to see how little history of science people know once they take the "modern science stance". Descartes was one of the first systematic scientists of the brain."However, vaguely acknowledging something is important is one thing. What they need to do is build a positive research programme that involves integrating and explaining the science into the entire framework (with more than "receiver" and "transmitter" metaphors)." The great thing about any form of dualism is that it provides a reductive and multilayered framework of sciences. If dualism is true, then we can trust conceivability. This is an important advance for science of any type and the the idea of unified sciences. Physicalism ruins this positive picture of unified sciences."Enough with the arguments that the other side is wrong: provide the alternative, in detailed specific terms. Even though the arguments from people like Chalmers and Kim don't kill bionaturalism, that doesn't mean they aren't right!"You misunderstand what ontology is about. Once we reach to bottom level of reduction, the "what there is" level, there can't be any reductive explanations anymore. You seem to expect some sort of explanations of ontology, but that's certainly naive, for ontology "happens" at the bottom level, where there are no explanations anymore. Everything a dualist can do is show that consciousness is not entailed by physical facts. This is very similar to a physicalist showing that facts about elementary particles are not entailed by facts about even smaller particles. If you don't want to deny that physics can tell something about the bottom level, you can't deny that dualism can make claims about the bottom level.
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