Cosmology, Quantum Mechanics & Consciousness Message Board › Who wants a soul?

Who wants a soul?

A former member
Post #: 61
The brain creates an electromagnetic field; it’s very weak, but nonetheless real. Like all electromagnetic fields it spreads out, influences and is influenced by everything it encounters. So there is a sphere of influence centred on our head as wide in light years as we are old, which will continue to be part of the universe long after we are dead. It doesn’t seem very likely, but what if that is our soul?


(Really this is an invitation for other members to participate to see if there is any life in the message board beyond the usual. Camilla, Ian, Andrew, give them a chance.)
Danny B.
user 71184962
London, GB
Post #: 1
There is a strong belief that the moon has an effect on the brain hence the word lunatic, it is a well known fact that calls to the emergency services rise during a full moon so this may be the effect on our personal electromagnetic field or soul?
A former member
Post #: 62
Thanks for your interest Danny. From my point of view the brain is made of exactly the same stuff as the rest of the world and so like everything else it is affected by the gravity of the moon. I also believe that the 'mind', what we experience, feel and think, is caused by the brain so that it would be a bit weird if the moon had no effect on our mind, but I have no idea what that effect is.
lan B.
user 10895495
London, GB
Post #: 278

Right. Well I've restrained myself for 24 hrs so I think you'll agree that that's a herculean achievement on my part.

Yes the Moon exerts a gravitational influence on the Earth, otherwise there wouldn't be tides. However our planet masses in at 81 x that of the Moon, and the centre of mass of our planet lies a mere 6,430 km away, whereas that of the Moon lies, on average, 383,000 km away. Consequently the gravitational force exerted by the Moon on any terrestrial test-particle is as small as 1/(60 x 60 x 81) = 1/ 2.92 x 10^5 or almost one third of a millionth of that exerted by the Earth itself on said test-particle. Significant? Were a large asteroid briefly to graze past the top of our atmosphere without descending any further and wiping us all out, would there be a comparable, brief outbreak of "lunacy" ( or whatever) within an area whose perimenter dodes not lie more than a few hundred km away from the hypocentre?

I'm going to go all carping and "philosophical" in a moment but just for now let's continue to keep the figures neat for Andrew. Intra-cranial single-neuron action potentials only began to be detected during the '90s -- by curious coincidence, by deployingg Anthony Leggett's brilliant invention -- deploying the decoherence effect! -- the Superconducting QUantum Interference Device, which at within a degree or less of Absolute Zero can detect magnetic fields of less than 1 microtesla. However in order to do this successfully it needs to be in contact with the surface of the subject's scalp's skin, otherwise the adverse S/N ratio is insuperable. This implies a high level of causal isolation of the brain from the rest of the world as long as we're considering any interactiuon with any "exosomatically" generated electromagnetic fields.

I regretfully conclude that there's unlikely to be any scientifc reality to your conjecture, Will.

And now for the philosophy bit: It seems a bit odd trying to equate some clearly and utterly pre-scientific piece of antique folklore such as "the soul" by means of some causal process understood in terms of physical mensurables instead. It is of course the case that certain alleged "paranormal phenomena" -- such as the alleged actions of fairies -- have been "explained" as the actual consequences of more believable, natural, agencies instead, and one might be tempted to persist in the indulgence of soul talk by analogy with such cases, but this seems to me to be yet another example of "explaining" something which shouldn't even be the target explanandum anyway.

The real interest should IMHO lie in explaining consciousness rather than in attempting to justify no matter how tenuously any persisting relict belief in antique fictions. Whatever religiously inclined folk might be inclined to accept as some doctrinally given truth should not in any case be allowed to impinge on any scientific claims as to the nature of reality (and vice versa, to be strictly fair). Such beliefs should be treated hermetically, at best to be politely acknowledged as the lawfully permitted outcome of the adherence to belief-systems which are able to provide existential comfort in the face of the physically convincing infinite nothingness which lies beyond the personal deaths of each one of us. The holding of such beliefs should I think be treated as a respected right, but their contents should not be taught as facts by the recognised State or State-equivalent educational services.

OK, that's my politically correct secularisation bit out of the way. I'll conclude by recalling the distinction made by Stephen J. Gould in his demarcation of the so-called Non-Overlapping MAgisteria. Science and religion are both in the truth game,but in such different senses that they really couldn't, even in principle, interfere with each other in any epistemic sense. (For instance, the natural, physical sciences are obliged to pursue the policy of methodological naturalism. I think that few philosophers of science would be inclined to disagree with that claim.)

I'm sincerely sorry to pour cold water on your praiseworthy effort to stimulate public interest in our arcane exchanges, Will, especially considering that you're a nice guy and always willing to go the extra mile to try to conciliate others, but as always I think it's essential not to let perhaps wishful thinking override likelihood within the context of scientific message boards.



lan B.
user 10895495
London, GB
Post #: 279

Hmmm .. Maybe I should try being a little more empirical before sounding off (re Danny's claim to the effect that medically serious accidents increase around full moon). Here are some interesting links, "www." omitted for obvious reasons!:
eboolifejourney.blo
gspot.c
o.u
k/2011/01/weekend-of-full-moo
n.ht
ml

.. Sadly, however,the relevant wiki article says (my italicised emphasis):

Lunar effectFrom Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

The term lunar effect refers to the unfounded belief that there is correlation between specific stages of the Earth's lunar cycle and deviant behavior in human beings that cannot simply be explained by variation in light levels. There is no scientific reason to expect this to be the case,[1][2] and in spite of numerous studies, no significant lunar effect on human behaviour has been established.[1] Scholars debunking the effect sometimes refer to it as the Transylvanian hypothesis or the Transylvanian effect to emphasise its fanciful nature.[3]



A former member
Post #: 64
Right. Well I've restrained myself for 24 hrs so I think you'll agree that that's a herculean achievement on my part.

Bravo!

Yes the Moon exerts a gravitational influence on the Earth, otherwise there wouldn't be tides. However our planet masses in at 81 x that of the Moon, and the centre of mass of our planet lies a mere 6,430 km away, whereas that of the Moon lies, on average, 383,000 km away.

Ah, but the Earth’s gravity, being constant, is responsible for the everyday madness.

Consequently the gravitational force exerted by the Moon on any terrestrial test-particle is as small as 1/(60 x 60 x 81) = 1/ 2.92 x 10^5 or almost one third of a millionth of that exerted by the Earth itself on said test-particle. Significant? Were a large asteroid briefly to graze past the top of our atmosphere without descending any further and wiping us all out, would there be a comparable, brief outbreak of "lunacy" ( or whatever) within an area whose perimenter dodes not lie more than a few hundred km away from the hypocentre?

Who knows?

I'm going to go all carping and "philosophical" in a moment but just for now let's continue to keep the figures neat for Andrew. Intra-cranial single-neuron action potentials only began to be detected during the '90s -- by curious coincidence, by deployingg Anthony Leggett's brilliant invention -- deploying the decoherence effect! – (Here we go.)the Superconducting QUantum Interference Device, which at within a degree or less of Absolute Zero can detect magnetic fields of less than 1 microtesla. However in order to do this successfully it needs to be in contact with the surface of the subject's scalp's skin, otherwise the adverse S/N ratio is insuperable. This implies a high level of causal isolation of the brain from the rest of the world as long as we're considering any interactiuon with any "exosomatically" generated electromagnetic fields.

All of which demonstrates what a delicate thing consciousness is and how sensitive to external influences. Like the moon.

I regretfully conclude that there's unlikely to be any scientifc reality to your conjecture, Will.

I think that is almost certainly true.

And now for the philosophy bit: It seems a bit odd trying to equate some clearly and utterly pre-scientific piece of antique folklore such as "the soul" by means of some causal process understood in terms of physical mensurables instead.

That’s the only way anyone will persuade me there is any such thing. How about you?

It is of course the case that certain alleged "paranormal phenomena" -- such as the alleged actions of fairies -- have been "explained" as the actual consequences of more believable, natural, agencies instead,

If there were a phenomenon that some might attribute to the paranormal, you and I would be quite certain there was a natural explanation.

and one might be tempted to persist in the indulgence of soul talk by analogy with such cases, but this seems to me to be yet another example of "explaining" something which shouldn't even be the target explanandum anyway.

But you see, I don’t happen to believe in the soul.

The real interest should IMHO lie in explaining consciousness rather than in attempting to justify no matter how tenuously any persisting relict belief in antique fictions.

Well, there are electromagnetic theories of consciousness. (Load of hooey if you ask me.)

Whatever religiously inclined folk might be inclined to accept as some doctrinally given truth should not in any case be allowed to impinge on any scientific claims as to the nature of reality (and vice versa, to be strictly fair). Such beliefs should be treated hermetically, at best to be politely acknowledged as the lawfully permitted outcome of the adherence to belief-systems which are able to provide existential comfort in the face of the physically convincing infinite nothingness which lies beyond the personal deaths of each one of us.

I’m not convinced that this is every religious person’s motive.

The holding of such beliefs should I think be treated as a respected right, but their contents should not be taught as facts by the recognised State or State-equivalent educational services.

Calm down, Ian!

OK, that's my politically correct secularisation bit out of the way. I'll conclude by recalling the distinction made by Stephen J. Gould in his demarcation of the so-called Non-Overlapping MAgisteria. Science and religion are both in the truth game,but in such different senses that they really couldn't, even in principle, interfere with each other in any epistemic sense. (For instance, the natural, physical sciences are obliged to pursue the policy of methodological naturalism. I think that few philosophers of science would be inclined to disagree with that claim.)

You still haven’t read Against Method then.

I'm sincerely sorry to pour cold water on your praiseworthy effort to stimulate public interest in our arcane exchanges, Will, especially considering that you're a nice guy and always willing to go the extra mile to try to conciliate others, but as always I think it's essential not to let perhaps wishful thinking override likelihood within the context of scientific message boards.

Oh don’t be such a spoilsport. And let's be clear, I am not trying to stimulate interest in our exchanges.

You're a nice guy too.
A former member
Post #: 180
I don't think Ian gets why we were asked to keep quiet. Anyway, as he has broken his brief silence then I shall do so, though more in the spirit of your question, Will: Who wants a soul?

I strongly believe in the ethos and methods of science. I believe that this world would be a much better place for everyone if many more people understood science and abided by its highest ethics. I can think of no better belief-set for the future of mankind than one which admires and cherishes the Earth and the universe and all life within it, treating human life as the most sacred thing in existence. There are religions of that sort around already, but I don't adhere to any of them. They are probably all a bit bonkers and what I'm talking about is really no different from what Einstein and many others have felt as they ponder the universe.

But the surprising thing about a true scientific ethos is the freedom of thought and expression that it allows. Many strange ideas - even spiritual ideas about the world - can conceivably be true. Purely to illustrate that point, it could be true that there are 10 not 3 dimensions of space and we haven't yet seen the other 7. If someone comes up with an idea that our universe has been created by a higher intelligence that dwells in all 10 dimensions, and that all our mental activity from birth to death is imprinted in the 10 dimensions in the form of a soul that cannot continue in our humble 3d world but will live on in the 10d world after we die, there is no present way of disproving such an assertion. I might debate the point but I would hope not to laugh at anyone who claims that or any similar belief because I am aware that science has its own set of limitations. For that reason I regard atheism as fundamentally unscientific. Richard Dawkins is a very good scientist I am sure, but his strident fundamental atheism marks the point where he departs from the true ethos of science by espousing his own fixed belief.

One other point. In the 21st century there are going to be huge changes in the world, some good and some not so. New technology and medical advances are likely to enable the gradual transfer of brain operations, ie the mind, from organic grey matter to photonic computers or some such technology. Immortality of minds is a prospect for some. If your mind can become immortal, then you will be able freely to travel through space and future time almost without limit, and then you will know that you have a soul.

PS Will, if you ask me again to be silent then I will honour the request so long as Ian does the same!
lan B.
user 10895495
London, GB
Post #: 280

>Yes the Moon exerts a gravitational influence on the Earth, otherwise there wouldn't be tides. However our planet masses in at 81 x that of the Moon, and the centre of mass of our planet lies a mere 6,430 km away, whereas that of the Moon lies, on average, 383,000 km away.

Ah, but the Earth’s gravity, being constant, is responsible for the everyday madness.

Arf. (Squared.)

> … ~~~//~~/~/~~ …


All of which demonstrates what a delicate thing consciousness is and how sensitive to external influences. Like the Moon.

Ah .. but in all seriousness (just for now) Will, I think that you’ve inadvertently switched subject-matter. Had you been speaking as a control systems engineer (“cybernetician”) then it would have been legitimate to comment that some system’s detection capacity for some specific feature is delicate and sensitive to external influences. After all, that’s its design remit! But consciousness itself – that capacity for phenomenological self-instantiation as a whole; that ultimate “phenomenology of all phenomenologies”, which as far as most thinkers are concerned seems to be so purposeless in terms of biological function that engineers would feel utterly flummoxed about how to begin to proceed to design some artificial conscious system even in the event of its being commissioned by some interested customer with a hefty bank balance – that phenomenology conspicuously does not figure in terms of such down-to-Earth expectations. (As implied, the mere fact that most thinkers feel obliged to ask “what it’s for?” derails the enterprise before it can get started.)

>I regretfully conclude that there's unlikely to be any scientific reality to your conjecture, Will.


I think that is almost certainly true.

That response genuinely surprised me. I appreciate that you were trying to “get others going” but it hadn’t occurred to me that you are perfectly prepared to flog the dead-in-advance horse in order to achieve your purpose!

>And now for the philosophy bit: It seems a bit odd trying to equate some clearly and utterly pre-scientific piece of antique folklore such as "the soul" by means of some causal process understood in terms of physical mensurables instead.

That’s the only way anyone will persuade me there is any such thing. How about you?

Sorry that I hadn’t stressed the point sufficiently: I was and still am saying that I don’t think that there is any such “phenomenon” to be explained.

Obviously, if someone comes up with some specification for some reason or other and then says “I call this system a soul” then no perplexity arises because we’re simply following some consistent definition (as in mathematics itself; I concede that although it’s stretching the point it is legitimate to assert that “definitions exist” it would seem bizarre to endow the situation with any more substantial status than that). However I am observing that the soul is a piece of antiquated phenomenology. It has no more legitimacy within contemporary scientific discourse than do the Ptolemaic crystal spheres, caloric, phlogiston or indeed Daltonian atoms. It clearly was at one time considered a plausible contender just as were the other candidates just mentioned, but as in those cases so also with the soul, mountains of evidence and plausible reasoning have since accrued to the contrary. The fact that most or all of the major religions have shown themselves eager to accommodate the concept is presumably the reason for its otherwise bizarre-seeming persistence into modern times, but you would probably agree that other than as the expression of sentiment within some personal written greeting or formal ceremony it has negligible public presence.

>It is of course the case that certain alleged "paranormal phenomena" -- such as the alleged actions of fairies -- have been "explained" as the actual consequences of more believable, natural, agencies instead,.


If there were a phenomenon that some might attribute to the paranormal, you and I would be quite certain there was a natural explanation.

.. But as said only if we were convinced that there actually is any object of discourse, rather than empirically empty verbiage – bequeathed on the basis solely of piety and tradition – in the first place. Too often I think that this option simply hasn’t been taken seriously by “skeptics” who sometimes tend to take “the account” seriously, but cavilinstead at the pre-packaged “explanation” which was already on offer.

>and one might be tempted to persist in the indulgence of soul talk by analogy with such cases, but this seems to me to be yet another example of "explaining" something which shouldn't even be the target explanandum in any case.

But you see, I don’t happen to believe in the soul.

To be honest, I rather thought not, but apparently we were just following your rules in tracking the development of a not-believed-in argument just for the hell of it!

tongue

>The real interest should IMHO lie in explaining consciousness rather than in attempting to justify no matter how tenuously any persisting relict belief in antique fictions.


Well, there are electromagnetic theories of consciousness. (Load of hooey if you ask me.)

Yes Will but they wouldn’t in any case be explaining anything interesting since they would only be talking about the (as it were) physical carrier of whatever is going on, mechanistically speaking. (If we are to be conscientiously scientific about the matter then the mechanistic approach is of course the only option.) The situation would resemble – in fact, at the present time, still does – the ragbag yet strangely beautiful appearance of the subject of biology before the insights of Darwin and Wallace were accepted by the general scientific community. For an engineering analogy, imagine being able to describe the goings on inside a nuclear fission reactor in accurate, entity-descriptive detail, but without the assistance of essential, entirely general explanatory theoretical abstractions such as energy!

>Whatever religiously inclined folk might be inclined to accept as some doctrinally given truth should not in any case be allowed to impinge on any scientific claims as to the nature of reality (and vice versa, to be strictly fair). Such beliefs should be treated hermetically, at best to be politely acknowledged as the lawfully permitted outcome of the adherence to belief-systems which are able to provide existential comfort in the face of the physically convincing infinite nothingness which lies beyond the personal deaths of each one of us.

I’m not convinced that this is every religious person’s motive.

Maybe not purely so. More than likely their motives are “in a state of superposition”, but you’ve got to admit that ..

.. it sure comes in handy! (Hence its undeniable past selective advantage within our species, as Richard Dawkins reeadily concedes!)

[ .. Continued .. ]

lan B.
user 10895495
London, GB
Post #: 281

[ .. Continued .. ]

Apologies are due for my having typed the wrong word

shock

during a preceding para:

"However I am observing that the soul is a piece of antiquated phenomenology. It has no more legitimacy within contemporary scientific discourse than do the Ptolemaic crystal spheres, caloric, phlogiston or indeed Daltonian atoms."

That should of course have read:

"However I am observing that the soul is a piece of antiquated ontology."

(Of course, it never has been any sort of phenomenology!)

And now for the continuation of our obligately truncated exchange:

>The holding of such beliefs should I think be treated as a respected right, but their contents should not be taught as facts by the recognised State or State-equivalent educational services.


Calm down, Ian!

Oi! I’m just being the obligatory Nice Guy. I sincerely hold to what I wrote earlier. (On an autobiographical note, I’ve recently met some fundamentalist Christians who I find to be very nice people indeed.)

>OK, that's my politically correct secularisation bit out of the way. I'll conclude by recalling the distinction made by Stephen J. Gould in his demarcation of the so-called Non-Overlapping MAgisteria. Science and religion are both in the truth game, but in such different senses that they really couldn't, even in principle, interfere with each other in any epistemic sense. (For instance, the natural, physical sciences are obliged to pursue the policy of methodological naturalism. I think that few philosophers of science would be inclined to disagree with that claim.)


You still haven’t read Against Method then.

Never from cover to cover I admit. I must locate my decade-shelved copy sometime. However having read a paper on physicalism written by him in, I think, 1968, I can report with confidence that what he then wrote evinced an absolutely dedicated and subtle grasp of the physicalist project. Maybe I’m thick but I would be amazed if the historical record were able to furnish just one successful example of any alternative methodological orientation!

let's be clear, I am not trying to stimulate interest in our exchanges.

Oh I see. Well Andrew must be generally right: I must be jumping the gun too often, but..

.. my (empirically driven!) problem is that a couple of mails back you explicitly declared that intention!




lan B.
user 10895495
London, GB
Post #: 282

Thanks, Andrew:

I strongly believe in the ethos and methods of science. I believe that this world would be a much better place for everyone if many more people understood science and abided by its highest ethics. I can think of no better belief-set for the future of mankind than one which admires and cherishes the Earth and the universe and all life within it, treating human life as the most sacred thing in existence.

I fully second that string of sentiments, except for your final clause. Let’s not forget that during the past 50,000 years or so our magnificent species has successfully consigned to universal Auschwitz several hundred species of mammal, perhaps a couple of thousand species of bird, and large numbers of species belonging to other taxa.

(Whenever I look in the mirror I recognise the signs of advancing decreptitude, rather than dismissing them.)

Of course our development of arbitrarily precisifying languages, and technology, and mathematics, and the sciences, are all unique within the animal kingdom, but let’s not forget that chimpanzees are not only very quick learners and indeed better at-a-glance enumerators than ourselves (!) Furthermore they’re able to devlop and innovate technology, and have different procedures in different locales. That’s called “culture”. Give them another half-million years and the right selective pressures at the right times, and they would easily become as smart as we are .. and as murderous (you can bet).


But the surprising thing about a true scientific ethos is the freedom of thought and expression that it allows. Many strange ideas - even spiritual ideas about the world - can conceivably be true. Purely to illustrate that point, it could be true that there are 10 not 3 dimensions of space and we haven't yet seen the other 7.

It might be true, but on the other hand maybe not. At any rate I hope we’re agreed that superstring theories are not part of science.

If someone comes up with an idea that our universe has been created by a higher intelligence that dwells in all 10 dimensions, and that all our mental activity from birth to death is imprinted in the 10 dimensions in the form of a soul that cannot continue in our humble 3d world but will live on in the 10d world after we die, there is no present way of disproving such an assertion.

Well I appreciate that Feyerabend was advocating an amiably laissez-faire approach, but that’s undeniably stretching the point!

Even Popper (perhaps particularly Popper) does not believe that science operates along the lines of: “Maybe aliens from the corre of Mercury invaded Earth 10,000 years ago and built the long-lost – in fact, utterly undetected – city of Atlantis, and in the absence of contrary evidence we will admit such a hypothesis as a respectable contender.”

The method of Popperian falsificationism only applies to likely contenders, equally evidentially favoured at the time of framing the question as to how to choose – in the state of prior ignorance as to how the empirical picture will shape up sometime in the future – not just any old speculation.

Some commentators are impressed by the credentials of the superstring approach. Some are undeniable bandwagon-jumpers. As said, the point to remember is that this approach is not science until some recognised empirical test procedure comes along. Only then would they stand the possibility of becoming real contenders.


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