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June 19, 2009

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Brian,

I have noticed this change in you, where you seem to be reassing your views on oneness quite closely and reverting more and more to the idea that there is a universe that is independent of our brains and perception.

To be honest, the argument for me is why would you ever be so confused as to deny what is simplest? why look for unsupported alternatives? Ockhams razor.

But then again, i have not been steeped in spirutality like most on here have, so I want to try and understand their views. Its almost back to front.

But its more than just religion and god, if you truly support the materialist viewpoint, the more complicated nondualistic beliefs also need to dissapear, since there is no illusion, there is this, but its reality, and it includes a pluraluty of different forms in a complex universe, not just oneness.

Anyway i like the oneness and nonduality stuff as well as all the other beliefs.

Brian,

Yes, yes... and yes.

George,

I agree except for one little thing that I noticed...

You said: "the more complicated nondualistic beliefs"

Well, actually non-duality or non-dualism is not "complicated" at all. Its actually quite the total extreme opposite of being "complicated". Non-duality is also not anything like a belief, although some people do make it into a belief.

You also said: "since there is no illusion, there is this, but its reality, and it includes a pluraluty of different forms in a complex universe, not just oneness."

-- I much agree. And yes, there is no "illusion". So-called illusion is just that... an illusion. Illusion means merely an appearance, but not actually real. So since illusion is not real - meaning it does not exist - then there is nothing to illusion... except for the word "illusion". Also "oneness" is just another word/concept as well. Where is this oneness? Where is it hiding? If it was all just one big "oneness", then this conversation would not be happening. And as we both know, there does exist a universe of incomprehensibly vast multiplicity and varigatedness.


To Church of the Churchless friends and readers,

Today, I was watching, or rather listening to some YouTube videos of various talks and lectures of a special and very dear old personal friend and contemporary of mine, Terence McKenna (who unfortunately is now deceased).

I was listening to Terence speak mostly because I had again been feeling a deep sadness and a loss... in that Terence was not here anymore for me to see and talk and hang out with.

Every now and then I get to thinking about him and his brilliance and his work, about our friendship and my fond memories of him, and about how I miss him deeply.

So anyway, in his memory, here are just a few clips of Terence McKenna I'd like to share with you all on some issues that I thought may be of some interest to folks at this forum. (You can also find other audio and videos of Terence that are well worth wathching and listening to as well, if you look around on YouTube).


Terence McKenna on Institutions:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X33dGpScI84


Terence McKenna on Consciousness & The Brain:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0bFgon_33w


Terence McKenna on Linear Society & Non-Linear Consciousness:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fTu7QhFcewA


Terence McKenna on Science:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fHVnuqn2HtI


Terence Mckenna on Culture is your Operating System:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9c8an2XZ3MU


Terence Mckenna on Reclaiming Your Mind:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARIG-BQRATs

tAo,

I believe nonduality to be very complex, precisely for the discussions we are having in which you are constantly correcting my understanding in subtle ways.

You may assert that its simple, and indeed many profound concept and ideas, are stunning elegant in their simplicity but still take some understanding.

But the other problem with nonduality is the difficulty in defining it, which renders discussions on its existence or lack thereof, somewhat moot.

An ineffable concept has a long history in most religions, it implies the supernatural, indeed an ineffable concept is God personified, if such an entity were to exist. Like God, there is no objective evidence for nonduality, yet both have its adherents, but neither concept will ever sit well with those who want to reason and question.

Will have a look at those utube links, thanks.

tAo,

I just watched a documentary I’d recorded called “2012 The Odyssey” in which they paid tribute to Terence McKenna… "events are speeding up, change is accelerating furiously, we are experiencing a metamorphosis episode in the period of a life species, a gestation process, one form of life is being changed into another"… Just wondering is anyone else experiencing this huge shift in consciousness or is it just little old me here down under? :)

All there is, is this, exactly as it is.

Dear Brian,

Having apparently been "churchless" longer than you have, I could have told you twenty-five (or so) years ago what a big fool you were for following your previous cult attachment. Like various others I occasionally interact with now (most often Christians of some sort or another), you probably would have reacted to me with the same type of horror, contempt, and pity that I still occasionally experience from such "true believers." (Ditto as for my recognition that "awareness" is dual - not non-dual.)

I wish you (and others) continually improving mental health. But I won't rely upon it.

Robert Paul Howard

RPH,

“I wish you (and others) continually improving mental health. But I won't rely upon it.”

--So condescending

Suzanne,

“All there is, is this, exactly as it is.”

--Sounds too fixed. You don’t believe in change, impermanence, is everything black and white, no shades of gray?

--Everything IS in this exact moment but each moment becomes the next.

--Everything is speeding up, moving faster. Technology and global communication is increasing rapidly. Just google 2012 and you will find 190,000,000 results. A lot of people are waking up and starting to see through the control and the dumbing down of the masses. Sure it’s still a minority but with so many people focusing their attention on change there will hopefully be a shift in the collective consciousness… “Hundredth Monkey Effect”.

--We have moved too far from nature and a lot of people still have their heads stuck in the sand. Change is happening right now, big time!

tAo,

Those videos you listed are some great topics. I really like Terence McKenna's work. Some of his ideas were a little strange for me at first but I find his ideas very iridescent. They shed a great deal of light on several of my misconceptions about the mind over the past few months. I wish I knew about him while he was alive. His brother (Dennis McKenna) appears to be continuing on the good work in a little more subdued way.

Jen,

I don't think the way Terence uses the idea of time is the same as a scientist would use it. I do find that the existing models of reality seem to be "eating themselves" in that we are moving to a period of great change. I have no idea if Terence is correct with his I Ching hexagram based "Timewave Zero" theory and the speed up of time to some Eschaton (Omega point) event at 2012 but everything seems to be shifting for me. I think that time in the sense he uses it is more a psychological complexification rather than a scientifically based measurement but don't know if this was his intended meaning or not.

With time going by so much faster, I thought I was just getting older. lol.

Regards,

Jayme,

You say: “I have no idea if Terence is correct with his I Ching hexagram based "Timewave Zero" theory and the speed up of time to some Eschaton (Omega point) event at 2012”.

So interesting how it ties in with the Mayan Calendar and 2012 Prophecy. You might find this interesting – Ian Xel Lungold playlist:

http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=FD2B2B813E10BB93&search_query=ian+lungold

“The Maya civilization is one of the newest of old civilizations. How old exactly we don't really know, recent discoveries shows a link to a much older date then previously accepted. The mainstream thought about old civilizations is that they are primitive and not so highly developed, as we are right know - hence, the principle of evolution. But what if they were not so primitive as we think they were, maybe not so technological developed as we are, but they could certainly be more in touch with earth and life itself.”

Jen,

I'm not sure what to make of this. I think the significance of the 2012 date, astronomically speaking (someone may wish to check me on this) is that the Earth, Sun, and Galactic center come into some form of alignment. This may not have the end-of-times apocalyptic signficance being claimed but it is an interesting event, nonetheless. Supposedly, we are moving into the "Age of Aquarius" but I thought that wasn't for another 150 years or so. Again, I don't know if there would be any relation to some "spiritual" transformation but I definitely do get a sense that our age (whatever that is) is in the process of transformation.

I'll take a look at the vid - thanks. I've been listening to Jay Weidner today to see where his insights lead.

Regards,

All there is, is this, which appears as black and white and shades of grey, which appears as everything and anything; everything is available. "This" might be anything.

Dear Jen,

You are welcome to your opinion(s).

As for me, however, I shall still not rely on the "[c]hange [that] is happening right now..." - not while "a lot of people still have their heads stuck in the sand."

Robert Paul Howard

I agree. "Nature is real, religion is illusion," and yet illusion is natural. So what does that make religion? Reality?

Depends where one likes stop the wheel of conceptual circularity, it seems.

[Phil emailed me this comment, since he had a problem getting it posted. Interesting thoughts, which I'll respond to in a comment of my own -- Brian]

Hi Brian

Enquiring minds seek answers to questions arising from our experience of life. It makes solid sense to start to seek answers through attempting to understand that which we observe. Quickly we uncover limitations of our senses - ie, there is more to be observed than we are able to detect - and so we build tools and devise experiments through which we can infer conclusions.

For reasons not often examined, we assume that which we observe must be understandable to human rational thought, that mathematics can form the mental framework upon which we can model that which is observed.

Language also plays an important role, for we can assign words to concepts, and so when we talk about an atom, we have an understanding of the concept, even if we have not seen an atom, we believe atoms exist.

Brian, your comment about God is valid, but only to a degree. It seems to me that while we may not have seen an atom, there is a broad concept of what is an atom (even if its wrong, its accepted) but while we may not also have seen God, various religions have differing concepts of what is God.

Perhaps its of value to consider the basic elements of the concept of God? May I suggest such concept include a limitless consciousness that brought the observable universe into existence?

If we accept this as a basis of the concept of God, then seek evidence as to whether God exists, we are forced to a number of conclusions:
- universe exists - we can observe it - we are part of it - therefore it either ALWAYS existed OR it was created.

- we are conscious, consciousness exists - we experience it, our consciousness is our awareness of the universe - either consciousness is a highly evolved state of matter - implying that matter came first, consciousness came after - therefore concept of God (above) fails) or consciousness came first, matter came after, tending to support concept of God.

These form two very basic questions resulting from simply observing our world about us.

Now, the interesting part - has science come close to an answer?
At roots of science are some basic axioms, self evident truths, statements that have no proof, and so are fundamental beliefs

For those who are curious about the fundamental belief system of science, Stephen Hawkins book "God created the Integers" is an excellent reference.

Which belief system is correct - belief in axioms or belief in God?
I suggest that any thinking person who looks around them with open, unbiased eyes will be struck with a sense of awe.

And I am left with one question that someone on here may be able to answer - does it matter?

We are currently forced into a belief system of one form or another - does it matter what we call it, or is the experience more important?

Phil

Phil, you raise some interesting questions. Here's some thoughts that you've stimulated in me.

I don't think most people, even scientists, consider that reality can be captured by mathematics. It just happens that, rather astoundingly, many features of the natural world follow laws, or patterns, that can be modeled extremely precisely in mathematical terms.

What's the famous quote by a physicist whose name I've forgotten? Something like, "It seems that God is a mathematician." Our experience of the world, though, doesn't seem at all mathematical -- I've never come across a scientist who denies art, consciousness, morality, ethics, emotions, and everything else that can't be reduced to equations.

Regarding the foundation of the universe, I like how science tries to keep things simple, not adding unnecessary complexity to explanations. (This principle often is called "Occam's Razor" -- cut away what isn't needed to explain something.)

Like you said, it seems that something must have existed eternally for the universe to exist now. How could the universe come into being if there wasn't some sort of pre-existing being to make that possible?

So as you observed, either physical reality always has existed (the simplest explanation), or we can add on another explanation: something metaphysical always has existed which created physical reality.

In either case, something has already existed. Scientists (and me) simply like the simplest explanation. We are aware of physical reality; we're not aware of God, which is just a concept. So why not focus on what is, rather than what is imagined to be?

You seem to equate belief in God with belief in what has been learned about the universe via the scientific method. Actually, they are very different.

Do you really consider that Newton's Laws of Motion, which can be used to send a rocket to the moon, are of the same order of believability as Christianity and the adage "Jesus died for our sins"? (or any other religious conception)

The scientific "belief system" accords wonderfully with the physical world in which we live. We can test scientific theories and see if they match up with direct experience. This can't be done with religious belief systems. So to equate them seems utterly wrong to me, though this is a common claim by true believers.

Ric, I like your thinking. I need more caffeine in my system before I'd be able to respond properly. Brief reply: yes, illusion is real, or we wouldn't be able to recognize it. But seeing illusion as illusion also is real. Guess the bottom line is a smack-down between competing realities -- which is stronger and more macho? I'd say, the least illusory.

Brian,

Paul Dirac may have said something like "God is a Mathematician."

http://quantumlit.blogspot.com/2009/02/mystery-of-math.html

Phil said:

"I suggest that any thinking person who looks around them with open, unbiased eyes will be struck with a sense of awe."

-- This makes sense to me.

Regards,

Dear RPH,

Started me thinking… what can anyone “rely” on, “depend on with full trust or confidence”?

So many theories, opinions, systems of ideas… even trusting one’s own experiences... one needs to observe those very experiences in a critical and discerning manner so as to not be misled.

Cheers

Science's intention is to examine and explain natural phenomena by creating rough models of reality.

It says little if anything about meaning or morality. In this respect, perhaps religion and even more so the ancient mystic traditons of the past are more helpful in giving ppl guidance on how to live their lives or meaning. But one wonder if a secular or humanist moral philosophy would not do the same thing.

for what its worth, interestingly einsteins spiritual beliefs were actually very similar to a mystical monism or budhistic tradition imo. What he did not believe in was the concept of a personal god who would interfere with human destiny's and curb free will with fate, etc.

Jayme,

Dirac sounded like an exceptional mathematician, but a bit kuckoo, one sandwich short of a picnic so to speak.

George - perhaps Dirac was making God in his own image, lol.

" But seeing illusion as illusion also is real" as seeing illusion as illusion also is illusion depending on what one takes as the ground. From our standpoint, both are phenomena, which is to say that any knowledge, any thinking about such things is made up.

The problem as i see it is, what accounts for reality? The news from cognitive science isn't very reassuring as to how we'd know. If we go by Damasio's account we'd have to settle with reality is a "feeling," which is about where we would locate God (that is, by Persinger's experiments with magnets used to distort the E-M field of cortical neurons, specifically the temporal-parietal lobe junction.)

Maybe if we understood what we know as phenomena differently the problem of reality could be better defined. Suppose we were to take phenomena, the knowledge of illusion and reality, at its most basic as just information. Two concepts from Information Theory are helpful here, information and redundancy.

We might characterize reality then as a state of pure information and illusion as a state of pure redundancy. Pure information is characterized by completely random signals, that is, noise, and redundancy by uniformity and repitition. Any message would contain a ratio of these two if it is to have any meaning.

At the extremes, information or reality doesn't make any sense since it is noise, while redundancy or illusion tells us nothing new, nothing we don't already take for granted. The brain processes information, and that makes it a redundancy machine, filtering, selecting attenuating, splitting, amplifying and combining data streams turning noise into messages we call knowledge.

I figure if you want to experience "things as they Truly are" just listen to radio static or a waterfall and if you want to see it watch a TV screen filled with the "snow" when a signal is lost and you'll get a small partial sense of it. That's the whole universe talking to you at once in that frequency band. I have had this experience au natural, no TV, during the visual aura phase of a migraine. Not a comforting religious experience. To my way of thinking that puts the entire mystical experience firmly in the land of redundancy and illusion, things as they truly aren't, just another construct. But then, i'm just imagining all this.

[Here's another comment from Phil, who emailed it to me after he had another problem posting it himself.]

Brian said:

"I don't think most people, even scientists, consider that reality can be captured by mathematics" in response to my comment that "we assume that which we observe must be understandable to human rational thought, that mathematics can form the mental framework upon which we can model that which is observed."

I did not equate "observed" to "reality" and this is an enormous assumption. I also disagree, the Pythagoreans developed their models to explain the observable based upon number theory, then Euclid followed with geometry, and I propose that all peer reviewed science is only accepted if mathematically correct?

Acceptance by scientific community requires mathematical and logical correctness. We would not launch a spaceship to the moon unless the mathematics were correct.

This is fundamental to my comment - for upon our faith in mathematics, comes our confidence in the result, we do launch spaceships and they do arrive at the destination we calculated. Newton's laws appear to work (with some minor corrections courtesy Einstein).

But the underlying mathematics is built upon self evident truths, (Euclids five axioms for example). Despite Godel and his uncertainty theorem, we accept our findings as fact, simply because they work, or appear to work - we observe - we build a model (using mathematics at its core) - we run an experiment - we observe a result that is predicted by the model - our belief is converted to knowledge - we consider it fact and then - it so seems, we convert observed into reality.

This is all fine and dandy, but our model is so limited, as we discover once we make the assumption that it is reality, it is true, and it always has been. Sudden limits appear once we move out of our cozy little local environment and head to the extremes of space and time.

To accommodate these extremes, we build new models, for the very small, we have quantum theories, and for the very large, we have string and M theories. Merging these all together is quite challenging, and our theoreticians are rushing about struggling to pull the edges of these theories into one uniform fabric - Brian - I propose this is far from a simple state of affairs.

Even when these theories are stitched together, what can they say about such topics as

--consciousness, what is it, where did it originate, is it purely physical and evolved?
-- morality (thanks George) does appear to counter the drivers of evolution - survival of the fittest. where does this come from?
-- paradoxes between observed and predicted )Neils Bohr welcomed paradoxes as a point by which the new may be uncovered- there are still plenty of these out there
-- time what is this thing we call time? Science casually assumes some clock beats away OUTSIDE of the universe, setting some framework by which we can measure all the universes events. This is but one of many areas that needs to be tidied away.
-- and the list goes on.

Brian said "either physical reality always has existed (the simplest explanation), or we can add on another explanation."

As noted above, science has no simple answers when taking into account its attempt to explain and model ALL that we have now observed, and it makes no progress to model the appearance of consciousness (I have yet to read a good definition of consciousness).

In summary, science states that matter appeared from some truly spectacular explosion (Big Bang) that may have come from the collapse of another Universe (wow, what an explanation) and that out of the cooled off debris, life and consciousness appeared.

We accept this because science has proved almost accurate for our little forays into the universe. Something existed before the Big Bang, but we do not know what it was.

On the other hand, we have an alternative explanation - Consciousness is not physical, it is not mass/energy. I acknowledge that we have difficulty getting our minds around something that is not matter and is not energy (as we know these terms in physical sense).

Consciousness is not limited by space or time (follows from the first statement) - also not easy to get our minds around, but we have some observation and experience of this - consider our experience of time - when our consciousness is occupied by something interesting, experience of time (remember we are considering that which we observe) is quite different than when we are waiting with nothing to do.

We all experience consciousness, in differing states, it is intimate to each of us, yet we cannot point to it as being part of any Newtonian or Einsteinian theory.

So is it truly more complicated to theorize that consciousness has always been present, that the power of some universal consciousness is sufficient to manifest the physical?

This, while adding little to our understanding of consciousness, builds upon the same unknown to result in a much simpler explanation of the observed. It does not negate or contradict the sciences, but provides a cleaner and simpler large scale theory.

But, in an attempt to cut this comment down to size, I will respond to only one more comment -

Brian said "Do you really consider that Newton's Laws of Motion, which can be used to send a rocket to the moon, are of the same order of believability as Christianity and the adage "Jesus died for our sins"? (or any other religious conception)"

Again, a huge jump to equate consciousness as the forerunner of the universe to religion.

I do not accept doctrines and statements of the many religions. There just may be deep buried clues in there somewhere, but I am not in any way suggesting that Newton laws and alleged statement made by Jesus are on a parallel. To suggest this is to surround my post with smoke - and is same as suggesting my comments about observable are in fact comments about reality.

I suggest the nub of my comment and core between contending ideas is which came first, consciousness or matter. Brian, I would love to hear your response - a simple Ocams razor style explanation as given by science that demonstrates evolution of consciousness, leaving it 'beyond belief' that consciousness could not have existed before matter/energy.

Hi Brian

To add a little bit more:

We have concepts of time, of future of past and of present.

We rely on memory to provide us with a record of the past, it is as it were our recollection of events that have taken place, and exists in memory.

Memory is known to exist in a part of the brain, it is therefore a physical record, it is also known that that part of the brain can be damaged, and we can have complete memory loss.

However, even with complete memory loss, even with no memory at all, not even short term memory, we would still have life and still be conscious, or have consciousness. Memory is not a requirement of consciousness.

The future, according to science, has not yet happened, and so cannot exist in any physical sense. But what about the present?

What is the present, what is its duration in terms of time, a fraction of a second? Its the boundary between past and future, it has no dimension of time, similar to the two dimensionality of the appearance of the line between two colors.

But, it is the present where consciousness exists, or the present is the interaction of consciousness with the physical, at that instantaneous moment we call the present.

So it seems highly unlikely that consciousness can have physical properties, for it exists at the boundary, it is similar to trying to measure the width of the line between two colors, it exists, in that it can be experienced, but it has no physical composition.

Just a thought to bat about a bit!!!!

Phil


phil

Consciousness or matter first?

You need to first define what you mean by 'consciousness'. Is it a type of awareness, associated with a particular lifeform, or something self-aware?

Evolution points to all life descendent from a common ancestor. The earliest life being a unicellular organism that evolved into all other life on the planet.

Time is a measure of universal change. We appear to live in a universe whose states change from one moment to another. The universe is roughly 15 billion years old, the earth 5 billion, simple cells 4 billion, multicellular 1 billion, fish 500 million, the last dinsosaurs 65 million, the great apes 5 million and:
modern humans just 200,000 years ago.

Bacteria consciousness is surely different from plant consciousness, which is diffrent from human consciousness. The level of consciousness depends on the evolved complexity of the associated organism, specifically the brain matter of that organism. Different brains would have different consciousness. Thus, it is matter that gives rise to consciousness.

Modern human brains, and their self-aware conciousness, have only been around for an eye blink and could just as quickly be extinquished by an asteroid or some other natural calamity thats already caused five mass extinctions.

So the universe has matter and empty space, some of this matter makes up complex organims having brains which are consciouss of their surroundings, which further evolved to more complex brains that became conscious of themselves, self-aware. Along with this expanded consciousness came our systems of morality and though that has allowed us to even suppress our more primal evolutionary insticts or desires.

Hi George

I really struggle with your post for it appears to me to be nothing more than a reitteration of generally accepted information, written as fact.

However, your question about definitions is valid, I suggest it is to be aware, higher states of consciousness are aware of more than lower states of consciousness. Self awareness comes into this at some point. Other than awareness, to limit the definition to lifeform types could not be justified, although qualia may vary, the concept of awareness would not.

Phil


lol Phil,

Fair enough, i thought its always good to start with the generally accepted information before wondering off into tangents, where no-one is quite sure where the other person is coming from.

What is qualia in your your own words?
If i'm correct i think it was a termed coined originally by Dan Dennett, but am wondering how you intend using this word.

You seem to suggest that there is some fundamental unit of consciousness, i.e. qualia, that simply exits; yet there is no evidence for this at all.

So if consciousness is simple awareness, do you consider inorganic matter such as rocks or gold or water to possess awareness? If so, what evidence is there that such entities are aware?

If on the other hand, awareness is assumed to be some already pre-exisiting form of ether that pervades the universe, if it is intangible by what mechnism can awareness be aware?

I realise its all a bit scatterbrained at present, but thats how it seems when such general terms like awareness are put out there.

"Something existed before the Big Bang, but we do not know what it was."

How do we know something existed before the Big Bang?
If we dont know what it was, we could not know it existed.
What is north of the north pole?

If time is only an artificial construct of science as you say, then there is no causality, there is no before or after. So there cannot be anything 'before' the big bang by your own reasoning.

But if there is no time, why do our bodies appear to age? There may not be some scientific external clock, but there sure is one thats internal to our cells.

The post above that you classified as merely 'accepted information', may have been so, but it was my reasoned attempt at your earlier question of an explanation as to how consciousness was created from matter.

You on the other hand appear to believe this is incorrect and that consciousness created matter, which is fine, anyone can theorise about anything. But can you provide a clear reasoned explanation to support such a theory in your own words, rather than poking holes in a scattering of scienctific principles you disavow?

George has presented some basic, yet very relevant and sensible points. I quite agree with him. Thanks George.

PS: I'm sorry I just don't have more time today to address this discussion and its various issues. But I will try to continue to follow it, and may be able offer some input later on. Cheerio

Phil, when you say that consciousness isn't physical, this is a belief of yours. There is no evidence for that assertion.

On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence that consciousness is dependent on the physical brain. Medicine recognizes this with the diagnosis of "brain dead." The rest of the body can be "alive," but if a person's brain is dead, so are they -- for all intents and purposes.

If someone is given anesthesia, they lose consciousness. By your conjecture (consciousness is non-physical) this shouldn't happen. Our consciousness should merrily carry on no matter what happens to the body.

Also, consider this objection to your conjecture, which scientists and philosophers often raise: how would it be possible for immaterial consciousness to interact with, or control, physical matter? If the mind is immaterial, how does it cause the brain to do what it does?

Without some sort of causal link between the non-physical and the physical, your hypothesis isn't testable. Or believable.

I don't claim to understand this further objection, but people wiser than me say that the well-founded conservation laws (such as conservation of energy) argue against immaterial consciousness affecting the material world.

This has to do with the notion of energy being added to the universe from outside of the universe, I believe. Such has never been observed, yet this is implied, if not required, by metaphysical hypotheses such as the one you put forward.

I used to believe as you do. Now, I don't. I've come to realize that while I might want consciousness to be immaterial (since I don't want to cease existing when my body dies), it's more important to me to live truthfully than reassuringly.

Meaning, even though a belief appeals to me, I no longer can accept it if there is no evidence for it, or even good arguments for it.

I have to agree with Brian.

I too would like to see how there is a connection between a supposedly non-physical consciousness/awareness (which includes thoughts, feelings, volitions, etc)... and the complex physical and neurological organ that is the brain.

Because there is as yet no evidence that consciousness can and does exist without, or independent from, a living functioning human brain & nervous system.

We all know that when sleep occurs, or even under some drugs, we still have consciousness in a dream state (not the waking state). But in that case, we are still alive - the brain is still alive and functioning. But under a strong anesthesia there is no sense of awareness at all. And also, of course, there is no way for us to tell what is experienced after actual death.

Nevertheless, consciousness (or awareness) may somehow be non-physical and independent of the brain and the body and thus continues after death... however there is just no actual evidence at the present time that can prove that. If it could be proven, it would be instant world headline news.

Sad to say, I have insufficient time in my day to properly respond, however I will try my best to pack as much into a few words (minutes) as possible.

Statement of fact - representation of reality.

These are not equivalent - most statements of fact are special cases of limited conditions of observable reality.

Consider something simple, lets say the boiling point of gold, known to be 3129K. We are all aware of the such indluences as pressure on this value, and the various understood relatiionships between the variables, but consider this question: what is boiling point of 1 atom of gold? 2 atoms, 5 atoms?

Or put another way, how many atoms of gold are required to yeild the fact that it boils at 3129K.

Boiling point of gold is a fact with limitations.

One can go on and take just about every law of science and find it is but a special case.

My point, when we reiterate statements of fact, we have to be aware of the context and limitations of those statements, and use the facts in that context. Its too easy to consider a known fact as being universal, valued anywhere in the universe and or beyond.

George: When we ask a question such as where did that table come from? inplicit in that question is the assumption of pre conditions, we accept that the wood came from a tree that pre existed the table, and so on.

So when we ask where did the universe come from, we are actually asking what existed before the universe? Rational thought does not permit something to come from nothing, indeed, science looks down on such answers, with its basic law of conservation of energy, matter/energy cannot be created or destroyed. Logical conxlusion of this law is that the Universe always existed, or it came out of something of which we do not yet know.

Let me be clear on this, the equivolence of matter and energy is well known e=mc^2). Energy and matter are different aspects of the same. Also it is fundamental to science that matter cannot be created or destroyed (matter implying either the form of energy or matter).

THEREFORE what does the question "what was before the Big Bang? really mean in mind of scientist? If matter and energy is all there is, then before the Big Bang can only be more matter and or energy. Consequently, the answer to the Big Riddle, is that the universe in one of its many incarnations has always existed, always, that time can be projected backwards infinitely. Hence we have the answer :-)

But this does not quite fit the facts hence the continued research into the Big Question. (Brian - is the scientific answer really the most simple? Occam may be turning in his grave!) So George, do you really propose that nothing existed before the Big Bang, hence our most sacred of scientific laws, conservation of energy, is wrong?

Brian - I really must take issue with you - you state " when you say that consciousness isn't physical, this is a belief of yours. "
No, I do not hold this as a belief, my position is speculative and investigative, and, I am reluctant to take any statement as being fact. Science stands on the shoulders of a line of great thinkers, it is all too easy to assume they are all correct and infallable, and that as results of science do work, then we need not question.

It is true, we have put men on the moon, we have built cars and radios, computers and TV's and all as result of our understanding of science as representation of reality. They work, its undeniable. Where it becomes interesting is when one delves down into the basics of the theories upon which science hinges its understanding, even the mathenatics that forms the language of science, the underpinnings are not strong foundations, but undisputed beliefs, now firmly cemented into position due to the weight of evidence.

Such weight in fact that any non conforming evidence is foriced to fit, with adaptations of theory and twisting of facts, pardoxes are shoe horned into the SM or discarded as unproven fringe science. (look at the work of Hal Puthoff and remote viewing conducted for US military - a bit out of the box to say the least!).

The issue I have Brian is that I present some ideas to be 'batted around' to be explored, for constructive comment, an alternative view, valid unless demonstrated unworkable by the evidence of known onservations.

I presumed this blog was for the exchange of ideas, not an Anti RSSB or anti religion group or a pro science, pro convention group. As such, if ideas can be freely presented, and then discussed for their merits by people prepared to leave their prejudices, egos and beliefs at the door, then I would be most pleased to continue to post.

On that note, and apologies if it has offended, I must leave now for work, much as I would like to answer the other points, they will have to wait for another tiime, much as I am bursting to reply to tAo!

Warm regards to all

Phil

Phil, it's true that you presented the idea that consciousness is non-physical as an alternative explanation (to the scientific view). However, the general thrust of your comments certainly is strongly in the direction of believing that your alternative explanation is true.

That is, you don't sound undecided on the issue, open to evidence on either side. Rather, you seem to have mostly made your mind up.

I say this, because you didn't respond to my comments about the obvious connections between the physical brain and consciousness. When the brain is affected, consciousness changes. If consciousness is metaphysical, it's difficult to see how this could happen.

You seem a bit offended that people are challenging your views. But that's why this blog exists: to share ideas and debate them. So far, you merely have presented some beliefs without offering any evidence for them. So next time you comment, give us some specifics about why you consider that consciousness is metaphysical.

How could this be proven? How would someone know that his or her consciousness isn't the product of a physical brain, when each conscious living person obviously has a physical brain?

Further, you have it backward when you say that your alternative explanation is "valid unless demonstrated unworkable by the evidence of known observations." Sorry, Phil, but this isn't the way either science or common sense works -- a fact I keep pointing out.

A theory is proved to be correct by positive evidence. You can't prove that I am not God, or the Cookie Monster, or the reincarnation of Genghis Khan. You can't prove that I'm not looking at a unicorn at the moment, or that fairies aren't dancing outside the window I'm facing as I type.

Neither can I, or anyone else, prove that consciousness is not physical. Or that God does not exist. Or that a billion angels cannot dance on the head of a pin.

Positive evidence for these things has to be provided. This seems to be the root of your frustration with posting comments on this blog. You appear to want people to disprove your conjecture that consciousness isn't physical, while we are waiting for some proof that your hypothesis is true (which I hope it is; but I can't accept a purported truth without evidence).

Hi there!

I found your blog via a search for "spiritual reading list for those who are spiritually lost" in Google.

Thank you for taking the time to do this blog. I've added several of the books you suggest to my reading list.

Peace,
Kim

Brian,

I agree that "Positive evidence for these things has to be provided." Posted by: Brian | June 23, 2009 at 04:32 PM, above

but as Phil pointed out:

"At roots of science are some basic axioms, self evident truths, statements that have no proof, and so are fundamental beliefs" Posted by: Phil | June 21, 2009 at 09:59 AM, above.


In response to Phil/George discussion, I think that the issue of awareness (or consciousness) addresses the reality/illusion topic but it appears that the axioms have not been clearly defined upon which an arguement can be built.

The current theories of consciousness try to localize the definition of consciousness (or awareness) in the brain and nervous system as tAo points out:

"Because there is as yet no evidence that consciousness can and does exist without, or independent from, a living functioning human brain & nervous system." Posted by: tAo | June 22, 2009 at 10:14 PM, above.

Though I agree that consciousness is a physical process - I think this definition is incomplete.

Here is my take on consciousness (or awareness). This definition is hierarchical and I think a single, simple model of consciousness can be applied at each level of complexity within any particular organism leading up to the normally recognized location of consciousness within a brain of some kind. I think each level of consciousness is scientifically quantifiable and testable though perhaps not holistically so. The levels may progress from a singular Self Awareness into a near continuum of conscious states. All these states are unique, though many may be similar.

Here are several proposed axioms of physical being as the most rudimentary recognizable form of awareness:

Reality----------------------------

1. Totality is uniquely Self aware through its creation. (Hierarchical Complexification)

2. Awareness is physical identity and ever changing. (Uniqueness)

3. Awareness occurs through exchange of energy between two existing entities. (Physicality)

4. Awareness is the distinction of self from other within a dualistic field of creation. (Existence)

Unknowable-------------------------

5. The first cause is acausal and unknowable but contains all that is real (known and unknown). (Creation)

6. Totality is indivisible and undifferentiated from creation and reality. (Unity)

The last two axioms 5 and 6 are not real in the sense of factual except as a conceptual artifact out of which existence can be framed. Science can only use axioms 1 through 4 since these compose reality as it exists and can be known.

The arguement proceeds as one of complexification which evenually leads to the mental models through which we are conscious of the universe.

I will cut it here but I think that nature is real and if religion claims to know axioms 5 and 6 as real, it deludes itself because these are not provable as real.

Respects,

Dear Phil,

If you believe that the "people" who comment on this site are "prepared to leave their prejudices, egos and beliefs at the door," then I believe that you are badly mistaken.

Robert Paul Howard

Brian Apologies for presenting myself in a manner not intended. I love critical comment and although my words may appear to some as representing a mind made up, in reality I am very far from any conclusion.

Due to work circumstances, I have far less time than I require to properly respond to all comments, however valid and worthy of response. But thanks for bringing your question back to my attention.

Consciousness is not yet clearly defined let alone understood, so we when we use the term, we must hold in mind that it is not even properly defined. If we equate consciousness with awareness, and by awareness we mean memory of experience (without memory we would not be aware of any past event) then we do observe a correlation between brain and consciousness.

But there are many 'ifs' in the above. Consider the following scenario. A person is given an anaesthetic, becomes unconcsious, has vivid experience of some event, anaesthetic wears off, person regains consciousness but has no memory of the event, and I mean absolutely zero memory.

Such a person would relate an experience (past event from the contents of his memory), and would not claim to have experienced anything. Memory absoutely resides in the brain, I am sure our neurosurgeon members of this blog would be able to tell us which part of the brain (I forget) but memory is key to our ability to describe past experiences our consciousness has undergone, so it is surely no surprise that if we externally influence the memory, we influence our experience of past conscious experiences?

There are further thoughts presented by others in which it is proposed that the brain acts as a filter for the consciousness (a sensible idea, in that we need to filter the masses of sensory information so that quick decisions can be made for survival) If this should be the case, then we can understand how drugs of various halucigenic types, can influence our perceptions.

Change the colour or thicknesses of the glass through which we view the world and we will feel as if either the world is changing or we are changing. That external influences on the brain do affect our senses and our sense of awareness does not imply that consciousness originates and resides in the brain, but does imply that the brain is part of the process of observation, experience and consciousness.

Apologies for not responding to all the many valid comments, but I will try and find time this evening. Also apologies if my comments appear as if I have made up my mind, I have not, far from it, and lastly, I absolutely welcome criticsm and constructive comment, I hope I have raised a few points that will inspire thought and responses.

Phil,

"George: When we ask a question such as where did that table come from? inplicit in that question is the assumption of pre conditions"
-- Very true, and that is why any question should be deconstructed from first principles to try and see what assumptions are being made and if our minds or conditioning are fooling us.

Your question of what came before the big bang is, as you are no doubt aware, a well-discussed one. Like you, I have not seen a convincing scientific answer to this question, which actually accounts for the laws of causality and conservation of energy you mention.

Science does not claim to know everything, it claims knowledge of what is provable. If you know what came before the big bang, give us the proof. If not its just speculation.

Just remember a century ago, no-one had any concept how the universe came into existence. What is incredible though is that about 60 years ago we have a theory of creation (big bang), which fits so perfectly with the evidence that is continually being discovered, so much so that we appear to be able to measure the age of universe with relative accuracy.

Even if the big bang is not the whole story, its a bladdy well proved one. Speculation as to what or who came before and set if off are well beyond the realms of proof and are just that, speculation.

With regards to consciousness, the overwhelming evidence points to matter (evolved brains) producing consciosness (subjective), but there is no evidence suggesting that consciousness created matter.

Robert Paul,

Do you personally know of any human being that does not have an ego?

This is what has always fascinated me about religious folk, the manipulative attempt to bringing non-believers to heel.

But is this not implicit in the whole concept of faith, i.e. not to question. Perhaps that is why all spiritual beliefs in some way look to disavow the ego, the self and the individual.

Not an attack, just a proposition for your consideration or comment.

Just exchanging ideas

Dear George,

No: .......hence my observation to Phil.

And this is further demonstrated (to me) by a couple years of reading - and sometimes commenting on - Brian's blogs. And I see it in the "non-believers" as likewise in the "religious" who might comment here. They both appear (to me) to try to ~manipulatively bring each other to heel~. With only a few rare exceptions, neither much like, or positively respond to, being questioned (or contradicted) about what they state. And each seems to see the "spiritual" [Brian's much hated word] beliefs of others to be unsubstantiated, while not really questioning the real validity of their own starting point(s).

That's why I made my comment.

By the way, I have generally appreciated most (although not all) of your remarks to/on this blog for as long back as 4/23/09 @ 8:27 AM (on Brian's 4/20/09 essay), as well as by my further query (in your favor) on 4/24/09 @ 8:54 AM (on same essay). I have not ever regarded you as: "the worst little scumbag and phony and snake to ever slither and slime your dirty devious way onto this site" (as per a 5/13/09 @ 2:43 AM comment on Brian's 5/11/09 essay [which comment Brian thereafter deleted]).

My memory of this site and its commenters, however, goes back much further than your appearance here.

And I agree that questioning is a good thing to engage in.

Robert Paul Howard

Robert,

I see and respect you have a long history on this site.
lol, i assume those quotes were when everyone was having an RS fight.

May I enquire where you are coming from? Are you religious in any way?

Thanks
George

"Science does not claim to know everything, it claims knowledge of what is provable. If you know what came before the big bang, give us the proof. If not its just speculation."

Science claims that it will be able to know everything one day, through a process of theory proposition, testing, measurement, theory adjustment, and so on, all scrutinzed by peer review.

As George observed, there are not too many persons without ego on this planet, scientists not being among such persons. Ego results in bias (I am right syndrome) and so influences the scientific process. Just look at science historically, its full of statements of the type that we now know it all, or there is not much else to be discovered, followed by repression and even persecution of those that bring something new.

While science has overcome these inbuilt hurdles, the weight of accepted knowledge grows, resulting in an ever greater hurdle to overcome for those who may have something truly new and remarkable to contribute.

It seems I missed something about the Big Bang theory, again George pointing out that it is proven. Perhaps you would be good enough to point me to the proof of inflation, a key component of the Big Bang theory. Has this been proven in some practical experiment? If so, we presumably have demonstrated significantly faster than light capabilities?

Explanations of inflation that obey the light speed limit assume space expands at some phenominal rate, but light is still limited to its speed through space. Again, all rather messy, but, I appear to have missed some importat results if, as you say, Big Bang theory is now proven.

Lastly, I would love to know a bit more about the overwhelming evidence that consciousness has arisen from matter, George, please be good enough to support your statements.

Ending on a question note, would anyone on this blog, significantly change the way they lived their lives, if it became proven, without shadow of doubt, that God existed (or for that matter, proven without shadow of doubt that a God of any form did NOT exist?)

Phil

Phil,


"Science claims that it will be able to know everything one day, through a process of theory proposition, testing, measurement, theory adjustment, and so on, all scrutinzed by peer review."

--Science, or the Scientific Method doesn't make that claim. Someone or a grouping of persons make that claim.


"Ending on a question note, would anyone on this blog, significantly change the way they lived their lives, if it became proven, without shadow of doubt, that God existed (or for that matter, proven without shadow of doubt that a God of any form did NOT exist?)"

---If God was absolutely "proven or not" by whom? Who would do the proving? If such proving did occur, absolutely, I would change from driving a Ford to a Chevrolet pickup truck. It is possible for me to worship the letter "C" and dump my current worship of the letter "F".....


I agree Phil.

As for your last question. Yes, I would change my life if I had absolute proof of God. However, this could not simply be a rational scientific arguement. It must be personal revelation. I think many people have changed their lives after experience of near death.

Respects,

Dear Phil,

Part of your query depends on what the term "God" (or "god," "GOD," "theios," "pan," "One," etc., etc.) is construed to mean. (And some here say that they refuse to "believe" in any such "constructs" or "ideas" anyway.) So, that likewise needs some further exposition as well. I, for example, don't clearly/surely know what you are referring to.

Robert Paul Howard

Phil says:

"Science claims that it will be able to know everything one day, through a process of... "

-- No Phil, that is incorrect. Science does NOT claim that it "will be able to know everything one day". Science does noit say any such thing.

"there are not too many persons without ego on this planet, scientists not being among such persons. Ego results in bias (I am right syndrome) and so influences the scientific process."

-- No again. The "scientific process" does not involve bias due to ego. And this "I am right syndrome" that you speak of... well, as is evident in your comments, you are clearly guilty of that yourself. Seriously Phil, cut out the crap and the bias that YOU are trying to sell here.

"Just look at science historically, its full of statements of the type that we now know it all, or there is not much else to be discovered, followed by repression and even persecution of those that bring something new."

-- It was actually not science and scientific research, but rather narrow-minded religion that was responsible for most of that sort of "repression" and "persecution".

"While science has overcome these inbuilt hurdles, the weight of accepted knowledge grows, resulting in an ever greater hurdle to overcome for those who may have something truly new and remarkable to contribute."

-- No, actually I think its the opposite. Its much easier now to introduce new theories and new supporting data, than it was in earlier years when far less was known and understood about the universe.

"It seems I missed something about the Big Bang theory"

-- I think you may be making up your own conclusions about it that are not part of the theory.

"I would love to know a bit more about the overwhelming evidence that consciousness has arisen from matter"

-- Well there is more evidence that "consciousness has arisen from matter", than there is that matter has arisen from consciousness. And at this point, there is NO evidence of the latter... only mere supposition.

"on a question note, would anyone on this blog, significantly change the way they lived their lives, if it became proven, without shadow of doubt, that God existed (or for that matter, proven without shadow of doubt that a God of any form did NOT exist?)"

-- As RPH rightly noted, it all depends upon what you define as "God". But nevertheless, even without that clarification, for myself, I would have to answer:

No, I would not significantly change the way I live my life (or even change my life a little) if it became proven that God does indeed exist... or, if it became proven that "God in any form" does NOT exist.

In fact, I would not change my life in any way whatsoever, either way. I don't live my life relative to either the presence or the absence of a so-called "God". It would not change the way I live my life one iota. Thats because I am quite content with existence and this so-called 'life'... and whether or not some God exists or does not exist, simply does not enter into it.

In other words, nothing would change, nor should it change. My life is simply about MY own life, not about some supposed "God". If God does exist, then there is nothing I can do about that. And if God does not exist, well there is nothing I can do about that either.

Its really very simple, so I don't see why people are so bent on believing in some supposed God. Things are just the way they are, regardless of what some people believe.


Dear George,

Because you have requested the information (in your 6/24/09 @ 6:58 AM note, above), I shall repeat for you some information which I have spelled out at various earlier times on this blog.

My background is Christian (specifically from the "Methodist" portion of that spectrum), and as a much younger person I seriously engaged in the study of that broad tradition. I have a Master's Degree in Religion (from a secular university), but the primary focus(es) of my studies have generally been on the Bible and its interpretations, Christian history (and its numerous "theologies"), the differing "sects" and "cults" within its broad diversity and history, and topics that have led therefrom - like "psychology," "philosophy," "propaganda," other world "faiths," etc. My interests have likewise gone off - at least to varying degrees - toward "science," "pseudoscience," "sociology," and different areas of "world history."

Because I have been quite serious in my studies of the Bible (and Christianity), I am no longer within the fold of Christian (or "Biblical") believers. I remain, however, "post-Christian" - rather than, for example, "post-RSSB." My general set of personal values, my "morals," and my deportment are all yet quite influenced by my (Christian) personal background. (As I believe to be the case in parallel ways for all others who come to this blog - even though most seem not to have come from "Christian" backgrounds, as I have.) And I contend that it is because I have taken my (Christian) background seriously that I am no longer a Christian.

My interests include the "faiths"/"cults"/"cultures" of others - including the claims for "mysticism" various ones make. And that accounts for my long-term observations of this blog (and its comments [and commenters]). Mostly I see egotism and ill-considered (or - in perhaps a few cases - "well-considered") hypocrisy and/or judgmentalism displayed here. (I do appreciate the occasional exceptions to this trend.)

That is where I am "coming from."

As to whether I am "religious": well, as in parallel to my response to "Phil" (above), that depends on what you mean.

I believe most would consider me to be quite "irreligious" - since I don't agree with the (unquestioned) notions they tend to live their lives/thinking by. Yet I do think that honesty and a rigorous/critical regard toward what others claim (or even what I claim myself) is more valuable than just going along with a crowd.

I learned an Arabic (or possibly Farsi - ?) saying recently: al fikr fuqr, which means: "He who thinks, becomes a heretic." As like with "Dorganism" (sp.?), my "religion" is generally my "faithfully" following my own way. If it might be so construed, some might contend that that is my "religion." I, however, am not sure that that is necessarily the best way to put it.

I hope that satisfies your curiosity to some extent.

Robert Paul Howard

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