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Featured Faith in science?

Discussion in 'Science and Religion' started by Jaiket, Jan 11, 2021.

  1. Jaiket

    Jaiket Well-Known Member
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    The problem of how a subjective world of experience is able to emerge from gooey material in our bodies is still a total mystery. As in, there isn't even one decent guess as to how subjective experience can come from matter as far as I can see.

    If you think about all the biological processes that occur within us they seem to be reducible or explanable in terms of physiological concepts. For example, the nephron is the unit of kidney i.e. one nephron = one bit of kidney (roughly speaking). The nephron does what it does because of its shape, its composition and the surrouding fluid concentrations. You can model and explain how the nephron is able to filter out waste materials using these ideas from physiology. Digestion, muscle contraction, respiration, etc all seem to be explainable in much the same way; we look at the relevant structures and suggest models of action from the physiological concepts.

    So taking our cue from other biological processes and assuming that consciousness is one of those maybe the magic comes from the particular way our brains are arranged in space. But this seems to get us nowhere. Neurons are a very peculiar shape and the agglomeration of neurons in the brain and rest of the nervous system is highly ordered (as in any unordering apparently leads to no consciousness or death). Impulses are carried around quickly by the particular method of cell-to-cell communication. A stimulus from my finger hitting these keys is carried to my brain and from there it whizzes about and fizzes and pops and whatnot and then I feel the keys. Where in that process is the feels?

    There's a whole cascade of action/reaction going on when I see this screen. But none of it seems to imply blueness. There is always a gap.

    Most days I'm confident (almost sure) that at some point, with enough work, we'll make the empirical and conceptual breakthroughs which will get us over the hump towards a science of consciousness.

    Am I excercising faith in science?

    Sorry if this post itself isn't highly ordered, this stuff confuses me no end.
     
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  2. Brickjectivity

    Brickjectivity Veteran Member
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    "Faith is the evidence of things not seen." is a phrase from the Christian NT book Hebrews chapter 10. It means that you have confidence in someone who is faithful. In this case if you trust scientists then you have some faith in their science, yes; however if you are a scientist who understands things then, no. If you understand and can test knowledge then what you have is first hand experience and knowledge, because you can confirm at least part of what you are told.
     
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  3. Polymath257

    Polymath257 Think & Care
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    It is typical of emergent phenomena that there are two different descriptions for the same situation, depending of which 'level' you use for your description.

    As an example, no single atom or molecule has a 'temperature' or a 'pressure'. The atom or molecule has motion, maybe rotation, vibration, but not a pressure or a temperature.

    But a large collection of atoms or molecules, because of their collective motion, does have a temperature and a pressure. Furthermore, the description 'the temperature is 300K' subsumes a LOT of activity on the level of atoms and molecules. It is a high level description of a situation that could be described by all the individual motions of all the atoms in the material. The same goes for pressure. Saying the pressure is 100KPa is a high level description that subsumes a large variety of motions on the atomic and molecular level.

    This is a very simple analogy, but it is indicative of how I see things.

    No neuron is conscious. To speak of neurons is a low level description of what is happening in the brain. No individual neuron 'sees blue'. Instead 'seeing blue' is the high level description of a variety of possible motions at the neural level. The neural processing *is* 'seeing blue', just like the motion of the atoms and molecules *is* the temperature.

    And, I am betting that over time we will get a 'translation key' that allows us to look at neural activity and say 'that was the experience of seeing blue' and 'that other is the experience of hearing C sharp'. it will be the *pattern* of neural activity that *is* 'seeing blue'.

    And, furthermore, we will realize that we don't have just one consciousness. Instead, consciousness happens across the brain with each 'module' doing its part in the collective process of consciousness. That is why destroying parts of the brain will give deficits, but doesn't destroy consciousness itself. As long as *one* consciousness producing module is active, there will be consciousness of what that module does.

    And, further, if a module is destroyed, we don't even *notice* the lack: we are literally never conscious of what that module did. So, having part of the occipital lobe destroyed will not only make one blind. It will make it so you aren't even conscious of the lack of sight for that region.
     
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  4. Jaiket

    Jaiket Well-Known Member
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    So consiousness is identical with neural activity?

    I can get my head around the idea that whenever pattern x arises I experience the smell of coffee. Pattern x is the smell of coffee is so unintuitive that it makes no literal sense at all, to me. Not that this makes it wrong, if things could only be true if they made sense to me the world would have to be pretty simple.

    Do you think subjective experiences could be identical with any other physical processes in the world or just neuronal processes?
     
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  5. shunyadragon

    shunyadragon shunyadragon
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    Your lack of education in science is appalling. Get an education in basic science would help.
     
  6. night912

    night912 Well-Known Member

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    I'll try giving you an analogy in the context of what you are saying.

    Let's look at the written language of English. There's only 26 letters that's available for us to use. But by combining and rearranging those letters, what do we get? An endless amount of ways to communicate.
     
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  7. exchemist

    exchemist Veteran Member

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    I think that is unfair. The question is really about the so-called "hard problem" of consciousness.

    While I have my own views on that, which are very much along the lines of those of @Polymath257 (i.e. emergent phenomena), the "hard problem" of consciousness remains today something that philosophers and scientists argue about, so it cannot be said to be a settled issue.

    I think Massimo Pigliucci talks a lot of sense about this: What Hard Problem? | Issue 99 | Philosophy Now
     
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  8. Altfish

    Altfish Veteran Member

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    It is hard to have 'faith' in science, if you take 'faith' to mean what it does in religious references, ie Belief without evidence.

    Science is about evidence, experiment, checking, re-checking, changing, refining, discarding, etc. Everything that religion isn't
     
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  9. exchemist

    exchemist Veteran Member

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    If you are saying you have faith that one day there will be a scientific explanation of consciousness, you are expressing faith in science, fairly obviously.

    But the scientific explanation may be that there is, in some ways, nothing to explain. So you may not find it satisfying. It seems to me there is a lot of fuss about nothing over consciousness.

    The thing is that science concerns itself with objective observation of nature - or as objective as we can make it - via observations that are reproducible. That means observations that can be repeated by different people in different places and give results that agree. At this level, consciousness can be studied objectively. We can observe how animals behave when conscious, as opposed to being asleep or in a coma, we can observe the characteristic differences in brain activity between the two states, and so on and so forth. So there is already a developing theory of consciousness, at the physical level.

    But what you seem to be asking about is the experience of being conscious. I am reminded of that notorious question: "What is it like to be a bat?" Such a question is utterly meaningless in terms of science. Experience is by nature subjective, rather than objective. So to study it scientifically, one would need some means of rendering experience objective. How?

    It seems to me this is non-issue as far as science is concerned. What it feels like to be conscious is, er, what it feels like.
     
    #9 exchemist, Jan 12, 2021
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2021
  10. stvdv

    stvdv Veteran Member

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    I have faith in Self to determine whether science is useful or not ... I don't have faith in scientists (science), as I don't trust all scientists
     
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  11. exchemist

    exchemist Veteran Member

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    But surely one can (and does) have faith in science, in the sense of believing it has the power to make understandable things that are currently not understood.
     
  12. Heyo

    Heyo Well-Known Member

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    With certain neural activity. A flatworm has neural activity but I think we can agree that it doesn't have consciousness.
    My suspicion is that that what we call consciousness needs a feedback loop. Impuls-reaction models explain reflexive behaviour but not consciousness.
     
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  13. Heyo

    Heyo Well-Known Member

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    Maybe, but you shouldn't. And you don't need to. Science, while not perfect, is the best tool we have to investigate and explain the world around us. We can be confident that if we can't do it with science, we have no better tool to try.
    Consciousness confuses almost everyone.
    That is because we don't have a definition of what consciousness really is. And I think we won't have a single one soon. Each discipline researching consciousness should define it for itself. (And don't listen to the philosophers. Keeping consciousness obscure means job security for them.)
     
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  14. mikkel_the_dane

    mikkel_the_dane Shadow Wolf's Aspie sibling

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    Evidence!!! Or is nothing but your opinion and you don't speak for a "we".
     
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  15. Brian2

    Brian2 Well-Known Member

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    I think that things can be easy for some people who see the universe as a purely physical realm and so science as we know it is the only way to find the answer to consciousness. This unfortunately can lead to answers that are answers simply because they are all that science can find out by studying the brain etc.
     
  16. Altfish

    Altfish Veteran Member

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    Is it faith? As I said the definition of faith is along the line of "Belief without evidence"
    But science is based on evidence.- so it can't be faith
     
  17. shunyadragon

    shunyadragon shunyadragon
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    First, the language and manner of the opening post of the thread did not reflect a knowledge of science. Second a poor use of the concept of faith. An extreme 'arguing from ignorance' does not propose a constructive discussion on the problem of consciousness.

    Third, not unfair at all. I object to what is called the "hard problem" of consciousness. Of course there are unknowns concerning consciousness, but that will always be true concerning the frontiers of science. Your source actually agrees with me.

    "Consciousness as we have been discussing it is a biological process, explained by neurobiological and other cognitive mechanisms, and whose raison d’etre can in principle be accounted for on evolutionary grounds. To be sure, it is still largely mysterious, but (contra Dennett and Churchland) it is no mere illusion (it’s too metabolically expensive, and it clearly does a lot of important cognitive work), and (contra Chalmers, Nagel, etc.) it does not represent a problem of principle for scientific naturalism."

    © Prof. Massimo Pigliucci 2013
     
  18. mikkel_the_dane

    mikkel_the_dane Shadow Wolf's Aspie sibling

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    Well, naturalism is based on faith. And methodological naturalism as one version of science is without evidence, as it is based on unprovable and without evidence axiomatic assumptions, which are beliefs without evidence.
     
  19. Altfish

    Altfish Veteran Member

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    If it is science without evidence; then IT IS NOT SCIENCE
     
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  20. exchemist

    exchemist Veteran Member

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    But there's no evidence that science will be able to solve a problem that is yet to be solved. We are expressing a general faith in the power of the process.
     
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