Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Too stupid to educate and conscious liars to boot

People who hide the evidence that they are dead wrong.

In my previous post, "Why they want to silence us," I suggested that the people controlling the comments on certain websites were consciously lying through their deletions of posts and the banning of people. I mean this in the sense that they knew they were hiding effective criticisms of their positions which they could not effectively argue against. In order to check this out I decided to run a little experiment over at Uncommon Descent.

After posting in only three threads for a short time, the experiment lasted less than four days and involved relatively little time or attention on my part, I first got a warning on the thread called "Information: Why the Darwinian Mechanism is Dead Except as an Explanation of the Trivial" initiated by GilDodgen.

And then within a few posts I was banned on the thread, "'Unpredictable' Does Not Equal 'Contingent'" initiated by Barry Arrington.

As you'll see if you explore the topic, Barry Arrington had written some things that were clearly and demonstratably wrong and when presented with evidence that it was wrong simply banned the two people who had pointed it out and never published our posts.

In the initial post Barry had said:

Now JT might counter that I only believe I had a choice in writing that sentence, that my consciousness is an illusion, and that my actions were governed by law as surely as the flight of the pieces of bombshell. Well that’s the question isn’t it. JT – and other materialists – do not know that my consciousness (and theirs) is an illusion.

Okay, may be JT and some neuroscientists would say that "consciousness is an illusion" but which ones? So, RoyK, the other person banned from the site, asked a simple question; who says "consciousness is an illusion"? And that's when Barry said something clearly and demonstratably wrong, he said "all of them."

RoyK says: “I’m curious: which materialists say that consciousness is an illusion?

How about “all of them.” If the mind is an epiphenomenon of the brain, then it necessarily follows that consciousness is an illusion. All materialists say that the mind is an epiphenomenon of the brain, because all other explanations of the mind are non-materialist in nature.

RoyK, your question suggests one of two things: (1) you are deeply ignorant; or (2) you are just throwing rocks into the gears to see what happens.

Either way, you are on probation

The bolded emphasis is mine.

Soon after saying that both RoyK and I were banned and I suspect it was for the same reason, we linked to some materialist neuroscientists who clearly do not say that "consciousness is an illusion" or an "epiphenomenon of the brain."

The one example I linked was Marvin Minsky's article over at Edge called, "CONSCIOUSNESS IS A BIG SUITCASE." Minsky's position being not that consciousness is an illusion or an "epiphenomenon of the brain," but that the word itself lacked a clear definition:

Most words we use to describe our minds (like "consciousness", "learning", or "memory") are suitcase-like jumbles of different ideas. Those old ideas were formed long ago, before 'computer science' appeared. It was not until the 1950s that we began to develop better ways to help think about complex processes.

Computer science is not really about computers at all, but about ways to describe processes. As soon as those computers appeared, this became an urgent need. Soon after that we recognized that this was also what we'd need to describe the processes that might be involved in human thinking, reasoning, memory, and pattern recognition, etc.

And Minsky isn't the only one, but that one example was enough to get me banned from Uncommon Descent.

I could have also included Francis Crick and Christof Koch and their study of consciousness:

We assume that when people talk about "consciousness," there is something to be explained. While most neuroscientists acknowledge that consciousness exists, and that at present it is something of a mystery, most of them do not attempt to study it, mainly for one of two reasons:

(1) They consider it to be a philosophical problem, and so best left to philosophers.

(2) They concede that it is a scientific problem, but think it is premature to study it now.

We have taken exactly the opposite point of view. We think that most of the philosophical aspects of the problem should, for the moment, be left on one side, and that the time to start the scientific attack is now.

We can state bluntly the major question that neuroscience must first answer: It is probable that at any moment some active neuronal processes in your head correlate with consciousness, while others do not; what is the difference between them? In particular, are the neurons involved of any particular neuronal type? What is special (if anything) about their connections? And what is special (if anything) about their way of firing? The neuronal correlates of consciousness are often referred to as the NCC. Whenever some information is represented in the NCC it is represented in consciousness.

Or I could have linked "The Neuroscience of Consciousness" or "Will neuroscience explain consciousness?" or many other such examples. I just liked Minsky's clarity and simple language and didn't want to overwhelm him with examples.

Of course, by the time I posted my link Barry had waded so far into the depths of wrongness that there was no saving him:

Consciousness is by definition a subject-object proposition. In other words, to accept consciousness, one must accept that there is a subject (i.e, a mind) that has a particular relation to an object (i.e., is conscious of it).

He has no idea what he is talking about. Consciousness is no more an object than the "running" or "go" of a car is an object. As Minsky said, it's a process, a verb not a noun, it's something the brain does like the engine of a car makes the car run. Minsky had nailed him years before he said that:

Let's get back to those suitcase-words (like intuition or consciousness) that all of us use to encapsulate our jumbled ideas about our minds. We use those words as suitcases in which to contain all sorts of mysteries that we can't yet explain. This in turn leads us to regard these as though they were "things" with no structures to analyze. I think this is what leads so many of us to the dogma of dualism-the idea that 'subjective' matters lie in a realm that experimental science can never reach. Many philosophers, even today, hold the strange idea that there could be a machine that works and behaves just like a brain, yet does not experience consciousness. If that were the case, then this would imply that subjective feelings do not result from the processes that occur inside brains. Therefore (so the argument goes) a feeling must be a nonphysical thing that has no causes or consequences. Surely, no such thing could ever be explained!

The first thing wrong with this "argument" is that it starts by assuming what it's trying to prove. Could there actually exist a machine that is physically just like a person, but has none of that person's feelings? "Surely so," some philosophers say. "Given that feelings cannot not be physically detected, then it is 'logically possible' that some people have none." I regret to say that almost every student confronted with this can find no good reason to dissent. "Yes," they agree. "Obviously that is logically possible. Although it seems implausible, there's no way that it could be disproved."

The next thing wrong is the unsupported assumption that this is even "logically possible." To be sure of that, you'd need to have proved that no sound materialistic theory could correctly explain how a brain could produce the processes that we call "subjective experience." But again, that's just what we were trying to prove. What do those philosophers say when confronted by this argument? They usually answer with statements like this: "I just can't imagine how any theory could do that." That fallacy deserves a name-something like "incompetentium".

Another reason often claimed to show that consciousness can't be explained is that the sense of experience is 'irreducible.' "Experience is all or none. You either have it or you don't-and there can't be anything in between. It's an elemental attribute of mind-so it has no structure to analyze."

There are two quite different reasons why "something" might seem hard to explain. One is that it appears to be elementary and irreducible-as seemed Gravity before Einstein found his new way to look at it. The opposite case is when the 'thing' is so much more complicated than you imagine it is, that you just don't see any way to begin to describe it. This, I maintain, is why consciousness seems so mysterious. It is not that there's one basic and inexplicable essence there. Instead, it's precisely the opposite. Consciousness, instead, is an enormous suitcase that contains perhaps 40 or 50 different mechanisms that are involved in a huge network of intricate interactions. The brain, after all, is built by processes that involve the activities of several tens of thousands of genes. A human brain contains several hundred different sub-organs, each of which does somewhat different things. To assert that any function of such a large system is irreducible seems irresponsible-until you're in a position to claim that you understand that system. We certainly don't understand it all now. We probably need several hundred new ideas-and we can't learn much from those who give up. We'd do better to get back to work.

Why do so many philosophers insist that "subjective experience is irreducible"? Because, I suppose, like you and me, they can look at an object and "instantly know" what it is. When I look at you, I sense no intervening processes. I seem to "see" you instantly. The same for almost every word you say: I instantly seem to know what it means. When I touch your hand, you "feel it directly." It all seems so basic and immediate that there seems no room for analysis. The feelings of being seem so direct that there seems to be nothing to be explained. I think this is what leads those philosophers to believe that the connections between seeing and feeling must be inexplicable. Of course we know from neurology that there are dozens of processes that intervene between the retinal image and the structures that our brains then build to represent what we think we see. That idea of a separate world for 'subjective experience' is just an excuse for the shameful fact that we don't have adequate theories of how our brains work. This is partly because those brains have evolved without developing good representations of those processes. Indeed, there probably are good evolutionary reasons why we did not evolve machinery for accurate "insights" about ourselves. Our most powerful ways to solve problems involve highly serial processes-and if these had evolved to depend on correct representations of how they, themselves work, our ancestors would have thought too slowly to survive.

As for feelings in the brain not being detectable, well, check this out:

investigators have used an MRI to read images off the visual cortex. They presented subjects with some simple symbols and letters, scanned their brains, and read off the image from the data — and it was even legible!

Are the visual stimuli we experience in our brains "subjective feelings"? What about when we might see a person's dreams this way?

As RoyK had already said, Barry's claims had "a distinct odor of straw" about them. Not only do not ALL materialists say consciousness is an illusion, most "materialist" neuroscientists do not say it. The claim was such an obvious error and the only way Barry could protect his reputation was to ban the people who exposed his errors, thus perpetuating the error and lying to everyone who reads his thread by doing so.

UPDATE:

Barry Arrington has now written "Materialist Hypocrisy" where he demands answers from the people he has banned from posting. Talk about hypocrisy.

The only, so called, "materialist" left is the pathetically ill-equipped DaveScot.

Why don't you go over there and see how long it takes before Barry bans you?

6 comments:

ngong said...

Moderating at UD must be a difficult job. You've got to maintain the illusion that "evolution is in its death throes" by restricting the number of biologically-informed posters. Since ID is supposed to be a purely scientific endeavour, you must also restrict the overtly religious posts.

I've been eyeballing the "Bloom's Complex" thread over there. Really despicable...they offered up three quotes from a Nature paper, and a fourth from Behe, leaving no clues that #4 isn't from Nature. They've since withdrawn #4.

get_education said...

Wow, the posts over there are of sch low quality that it is impossible even to note if they are arguing for or against whatever the thread was about ... seems like even doing the experiment of getting banned is futile.

G.E.

normdoering said...

get_education wrote:
"...is impossible even to note if they are arguing for or against whatever the thread was about ..."

I think part of the reason for that confusion is that people know they'll get booted off the site if they're too critical.

Here's an example of a really low quality thread: O'Leary's "Mind reading technology: In your face and in your mind - or not."

Consider all the errors there. The first paragraph is:
"Here is a Fox News interview with Japanese physicist, Michio Kaku, who is quite convinced that in the near future we will be able to read people’s minds - high tech phrenology, really."

1) Michio Kaku is Korean/American, not Japanese. (born January 24, 1947 in San Jose (CA))

2) The so called mind reading technology already exists:

PZ Myers' post on it.

And except for the part about Michio Kaku being born in California no one has pointed out what is wrong. You can't, your post won't show up.

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