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September 11, 2009


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This has to be one of Brians best posts for a long time.
I completely agree with the private / public ground concept.
Even on the so demonstrable public ground area, and even amongst professional scientists, there is often disagreement, even diametrically opposite interpretations, with opposite conclusions about public ground reality being expressed with conviction and force. So it should be of little surprise that private ground experiences so frequently conflict. One of our natural tendencies is to profess the profound belief that we, as individuals, are correct, what we have seen is correct, what we have experienced is fact and so correct. Even if we were to analyse our personal experiences and categorise into private/public territories, our nature would be such that we believe what we have experienced and remain sceptical of the experiences of others. How often do we see the 'you are wrong' comment posted?
The more open response is much more constructive, it is a clear expression of the other persons experience and interpretation. The more clearly thought out expression is much more likely to be considered and even change views and lead to a more correlated understanding of reality (whatever reality may be) than would a clash of experiences fuelled by ego.
An invitation to explore part of another persons private reality would be expected to contain passionate beliefs, after all, we relay on our version of reality for survival. In same way that one enters another persons home and is respectful of its interior, even if we absolutely hate the decor and style, we remain polite and respectful, so we should when treading among another persons belief systems. We can of course express our preferences, politely, or of course, respond to invitation to discuss.
Nice way of looking at this Brian!

Obscrene, I'm glad you liked this post. A few comments on your comment:

It's true that scientists often disagree about the meaning of what is observed on "common ground." But at least there is something to observe. And almost always science comes to a convergence of opinion, as experiments are conducted, conflicting observations tested for validity, and so on.

On "private ground," this isn't possible. This is why religious beliefs, or artistic beliefs, or any other sort of beliefs always remain beliefs. There is no way to come to a joint consensus about what is real when there is no reality that can be jointly observed.

Many of the discussions on this blog relate to this distinction. Like you said, we should be respectful of someone's private beliefs. But often, as I said in this post, people try to claim that a personal experience has some sort of universal validity.

This claim deserves to be questioned, because nobody has the right to claim that new common ground territory has been discovered, or laid bare, without presenting demonstrable evidence that is convincing to other people.

"I feel" or "I believe" are totally appropriate private ground statements that can't really be questioned by other people. However, "I know" needs to have some backup. As you said, some people have an intense personal experience and often then expect that others should accept this experience as reflecting some truth about common ground reality.

"I know I saw Jesus." No, you don't know that. Say, "i believe I saw Jesus." or "I felt that I saw Jesus." Unless you can produce demonstrable evidence of your claim, it has to remain on private ground -- just like a belief that the Beatles are the greatest band ever does. Or that raspberries are the tastiest fruit on Earth.

Surely the statement that the Beatles are the greatest band ever or raspberries are the tastiest fruit on earth are also beliefs and so belong the the private ground territory. Of course, if someone conducts an experiment that records peoples fruit preferences and the majority of the sample select raspberries, there is some hard evidence supporting the claim and the data moves towards the public ground. The immediate problem is that the definitions of tastiest and also possibly of raspberry become critical. Likewise, if a large number of people are asked about their spiritual experiences, and some common experience is discovered, the experience may enter the public ground area. But the commonality in experience is not in itself evidence of a spiritual fact, it is a phenomena that should be explored with an open mind, just like any other phenomena.

What is of interest though is that within an individuals experience of their reality exists both common and private ground experiences, both are real to the individual, in the sense that real means they were experienced. The danger of science is to define real as that which can be proven to exist on common ground, whereas real to the individual is that which he experiences, whether or not physical or emotional or whatever.

As science is mans attempt to understand reality, it is strange that science chooses a more limiting definition of reality, as if to protect its information credibility?

My comments are by nature of general nature, for there are many in realm of science who are willing to explore into those areas that would normally carry penalties such as loss of employment, and is termed fringe science.
Science is not as pure as you may believe, it is highly political, especially at academic level, it is about obtaining funds and publishing papers, it is not about open investigation into reality

"......as if to protect its information credibility?"

---I liked this phrase, that is, the protecting of information credibility, which can apply to belief systems and corrupted scientist. With that said, the need to "protect" information credibility makes me want to giggle.

Now Science has the Scientific Method, and a belief system has the ________ Method. Could someone help me fill in the blank?

Obscrene, I disagree with your latest comment on several fronts.

To say that science is "highly political" and isn't about open investigation in reality is a gross exaggeration, in my view. It goes against the grain of the history of science.

Further, you imply that some other method of truth-seeking isn't highly political, and is a superior open investigation of reality. What would that method be, if it isn't the scientific method? You criticize science, but don't present an alternative.

You also seemingly misunderstand the purpose of science, which I laid out in this post. It isn't to supplant, ignore, or downplay the importance of "private ground," individual experience. Obviously personal experiences are real. Scientists have them, just as we all have them.

But if a personal or private ground experience is to be accepted as "common ground" -- as a truth about objective reality, not just a subjective experience -- that requires demonstrable proof of a public nature. So far, this has been lacking in religion, mysticism, and spirituality.

Mystical experiences are all over the map. Some are similar. But most are highly unique. People from different faiths have widely different experiences. There is very little sign of an underlying objective reality being contacted.

The most compelling "common ground" experience seems to come from the via negativa mystics, those who enter into a state of unknowing, silence, empty consciousness. Which makes sense.

Nothing, emptiness, is going to be pretty similar to everybody. Something, fullness, is going to be filled with experiences founded on beliefs much or all of the time. Christians see jesus in meditation. Guru-worshippers see their guru. This strongly argues against contact with a common ground reality.

I'm not saying that meditation can't lead to a deeper realization of reality. Just that science can't be criticized for not accepting the truthfulness of experiences for which there is no convincing truth evidence.

A big problem is that (using your example) raspberries are objectively real, which allows taste-tasting experiments to be conducted under controlled conditions -- everybody eats the same type and amount of berries, for example.

Thus a subjective experience of taste can be clearly linked to an objective phenomenon, the raspberries. But in the case of religious or mystical experiences of an "inner" or private ground nature, there isn't any observable entity.

If someone says, "I saw God," there is no way to tell whether that person's God even exists as an entity apart from the person's subjective imagination.

So while science can study subjective experiences of art, music, and everything else that is obviously existent, it can't study wholly "private ground" experiences -- except through brain imaging, I suppose, because every experience will have a neurological correlate so long as a person is alive and having physical experiences.

"Science is not as pure as you may believe, it is highly political, especially at academic level, it is about obtaining funds and publishing papers, it is not about open investigation into reality."

---I would suggest, separating the corrupted scientist from Science. Science and the Scientific Method are pure. However, there are corrupted persons, labeled scientist that can bring corruption into a particular field of science. Corruption being the mentioned, "highly political, especially at academic level, it is about obtaining funds and publishing papers" comment.

I would be happy to reveal my identity, but not in public forum. I lecture at a highly respected university in England. We have an education system that was once one of the best in the world, it is now a mere shadow. We teach adult literacy to first year University graduates, we are now setting up a transferrable skills center for PhD students, so they may actually have some value in the real world.
Our research program is based around a check box mentality, its about funding and publications, political correctness and economic survival. Universities are desperately underfunded and economic drivers have long taken over from scientific research.
Roger is absolutely correct, and almost anyone in academia will relate the same sad state, its not that there is corruption, it is individual survival that ensures science follows a specific path.
Interestingly, new unofficial, no secretive, groups are forming within universities in UK, where ideas are exchanged, quiet home meetings are held, where the true spirit of science is explored, away from fear of ridicule and loss of income. In these groups, discussions on topics that would not fall into mainstream science take place.
There is considerable interest in fringe areas within main stream science participants, you just wont find it published anywhere, well not yet.
While published work is not corrupt or wrong, it is a blinkered view of what science secretly understands. Maintain and open view of what you read, a view that accepts that other forces have modified the paper.
Brian, I did not misunderstand your ideas on purpose of science. I note your tendency to read more into responders comments than intended. I am simply pointing out that the output of scientific research from academic world has been highly shaped and manipulated. It simply cannot be trusted, and that, my friend, is a fact, regardless of what you may believe about the credibility of conventional science.

A highly interesting approach to open investigation is being conducted by an offshoot of the University of Swansea. Vic Pope (he had correspondence with Einstein) has taken a fresh stand as a result of being tired with the biasses of conventional science. His approach, a fresh start based only on observation. He has a website, downloadable papers, lots of interest to say. I am not suggesting he is correct or misled, but he is not an individual, but represents a group of thinkers who have stood out with their ideas, (he is retired so has no loss of employment to fear. There are quite a few others, I have had several discussions some while back with Stephen Hawkins, (an intended clue) lets just say that there is some agreement that science as published is not as open and pure as many would like

Obscrene, I'm confused. You use JAP's email address. Previously JAP (you) said he was the director of a pure research company that didn't do academic research. You said:

"You are of course welcome to your opinion about science research, but as director of a pure science research company, I have some knowledge of scientific research (go on tAo, contradict me). While only small company (some 12 employees with PhD's and 26 technicians, engineers and office support staff) we often pursue paths into the totally unknown. We do not have need to publish and so are not driven in the same way as academic research."

Now you say you lecture at a highly respected university in England and are on speaking terms with Stephen Hawking.

Yeah, right. Your credibility is shot. Suggestion: start your fakery over on another blog, where people aren't aware of your games.

Another interesting fact: a guy named "Jim" posted some comments at the end of last month. Then five days later, an "Obscrene" starts leaving comments under that IP address. Quite a coincidence.

Also interesting is that JAP stopped commenting after I challenged him to produce evidence that he really ran a research company. And now you're using JAP's email address and refuse to divulge any details about your academic connections.

Same fakery. Different name. Yawn. So boring.

Is it totally beyond your comprehension that a person may be able to do more than one thing in his life?
I do run a company, but I also lecture, part time, and upon request.

Further, I have been of the opinion that this blog placed value in the content of the comment, not the person behind the comment.
If you only accept comments from those who are prepared to provide identity checks, then please say so, for I suspect many will not be eligible, for most comments here are made by those whose identity is not known.

When posting, it is clearly stated that the e-mail address will not be displayed, so Brian, given these conditions of posting, why have you chosen to reveal my e-mail address in a public forum? This is breach of conditions of TypePad.

Once again, it seems that you find some cheap way to avoid the topic being discussed the moment it falls outside of your liking. I have provided some references, kept within topic and not criticised anyone, yet you have chosen to respond by breaching TypePads rules and turn an interesting debate into a personal attack

Yes, I agree, boring, Brian, very boring.

Thanks for at least removing my e-mail address from your last reply

Absolutely agreed, academic research is driven by desire to get government and industry grants, not by desire to uncover nature of our universe. Look at Climate change, huge political influences to project credible image of future global warming, but reality is closer to an overal global cooling over next ten years.
Dont place too much confidence in published science, it works, true, but is far from the real picture.

Hi Obscene
I am interested in your comments, can you contact me at [email protected]

*Note: Barry, don't waste your time with such frauds.

This guy Obscene just doesn't know when to quit.

What's with this freakin fraud?

Is it a case of Complusive Repetitive Asinine Pathology aka CRAP?

Or is it the Disease of Useless Mental Bullshit aka DUMB?

Is it obscrene, or is it just transparent? ...or is it simply obscenely obvious. [grin]

Another clue:

Obscrene says: "I have had several discussions some while back with Stephen Hawkins, (an intended clue)"

-- An "intended clue" indeed. It's Stephen HawkinG, not "Stephen HawkinS".

So is it a little slippinggggggg on the keypad maybe?

Or more likely a sssssslip of the sssnake'sss ole forked tonguessss?

If Obscrene was an academic and knows Stephen Hawking as he claims, then he wouldn't be likely to spell Hawking as Hawkins. Ya think?

And if my memory is correct, wasn't JAP also none other than "Neut er all"? And ole Neut er all turned out to be some guy named Tony Jonnes who, in several other message boards and profiles elsewhere on the net, identified himself to be residing in Puerto Rico using the same identical e-mail address as Neut.

Ahhh.... the tangled web he doth weave.

JAP said: "as director of a pure science research company, [...] we often pursue paths into the totally unknown."

-- Ahhh yes, "paths into the unknown" indeed. "Unknown" until he becomes known, that is.

JAP said: "We do not have need to publish"

-- But Tony, publish you DID... right on some kinky bi-sexual sex/dating bulletin boards. "Bi" is right... as in bye-bye.

You see Tony, 'you can run but you can't hide'... or rather, you can hide, but you can't run... for very long.

Heh heh heh [bigger grin]

Obscrene now says: "I lecture at a highly respected university in England."

-- Ahhh yes, ole Tony used to hang about England as well.... or so he said in his sex/dating adverts.

But wait folks... there's more:

"I have had several discussions some while back with Stephen Hawkins"

-- Yeah, right. Its Stephen HawkinG, not HawkinS... and btw, Hawking is paralyzed and cannot speak. So like, how is it that Mr Obscrene had some supposed "discussions" with him? Maybe via his electonic voice simulator box? Right.

Brian said: "credibility is shot"
Its more like: hillbilly bird-shot during the day, and hot Puerto Rican nights.

-- Yes fakery, fakery, flim-flam snakery.

Btw Tony, is it "Jonnes", or Jones? Either way, it rhymes with that ole pirate "cross bones".

Brian said: "a guy named "Jim" posted some comments at the end of last month."

-- That wouldn't be like 'Jim Jones' now would it? I thought he had knocked off himself and his entire cult down there in the Islands with a big nasty ole pot of koolaid.

"Then five days later, an "Obscrene" starts leaving comments"

-- Btw, is that Obscrene or Obscene? Or another slip of the forked tounge?

Brian said: "And now you're using JAP's email address"

-- You mean Tony Jonnes address don't you?

"Same fakery."

-- Or flakery.

[another neon cheshire cat grin fading into the carribbean sunset]

Rambling tAo
Thanks for demonstrating how easy it is to blow smoke and avoid the issues that were being sensibly discussed.
I can only assume that you must be retired from American politics, if not, then you missed your calling.
Why make such a fool of yourself on a public forum, you have simply not the slightest idea of who I am, but, should you ever come to England, I will be pleased to meet with you and show you hard evidence of how wrong you are.
I cannot bring my evidence to you, but you are welcome to come see for your self

Wow tAo
What bee got under your bonnet?
Obscrene made a few sensible and intelligent comments and you have torn him to pieces. OK, I have only been following this blog for last few weeks, but why such aggression?

I think it is correct to respect people's subjective private beliefs provided these beliefs do not harm others or are forced on others.

However, it is also surely correct to compare these different belief systems to try evaluate how accurately they respectively reflect reality or truth.

Some postmodern relative culturalists argue that all belief systems are of equal value just different. But mayan treepanning, female circumcision, gender or race discrimination, etc are not of value. They are perpetuated myths which often harm the individual, society and/or others.

If there is not a public debate which objectively tries to compare or establish the accuracy of belief systems against one another, how would a person born into (or conditioned in) a particular belief system be able to understand there are other belief systems to evaluate the world?

Obscrene/JAP. get real (something you don't like to do). I didn't reveal your email address. I just pointed out that it is JAP's email address. And I didn't violate any TypePad policies, nor did I delete your email address from a comment. You post comments under various identities. I just pointed that out, so people can understand that this current persona is one of many, and can't be trusted.

You were the one who discussed supposed details of your identity in your comment, in an attempt to buttress your credentials to speak about the validity of science. It is entirely reasonable for readers of that comment, like me, to question the validity of your own credentials -- especially since you said you wouldn't reveal what university you supposedly teach in, and also, I assume, how you came to be buddies with Stephen Hawking.

Truth is simple. You like to make it complex with false identities and comment game-playing. You've got to expect that others will want to question what sorts of games you're playing on this blog, and what your motivation is.

Barry, "Obscrene" is the new screen name of a troll (Internet disrupter) who has been posting under various identities for quite a while.

It's appropriate on blogs to call out trolls -- because they are out to interfere with normal open discussion of a blog's topics. tAo and I simply have been pointing out Obscrene's tangled identity history, which is entirely appropriate so people are aware of his games.

You seem to be a bit off track with your accusations, well so it seems to me. Had excellent e-mail exchange and SKYPE conversation with Obscrene, his credentials check out OK to me, and I can find his name at the University he lectures. I have no idea about his other work as I have no way of checking except through company website where neither his name or anyone else is shown. Companies House in England show his name or the one he gave me, as director of several companies, but I am not spending money to find out more. For me, he checks out, and for me, his comments made some sense, its your reactions to his comments that seem strange. Why not respond to his comments, they make sense enough and also reflect my experience, so some element of truth in his words exists

Barry, please don't be offended by this question, but we don't know anything about your own credentials. So unless you share the details of Obscrene's background, it still remains in question.

This, unfortunately, is the nature of the Internet -- you could be anyone, even Obscrene pretending to be "Barry." So it's necessary to have demonstrable facts before trusting someone is who they claim they are, which also is the case with religious "experts."

As I said before, if Obscrene simply wants to make comments without supporting his position with claims about his background, that's fine. Then I'll respond to the substance of his comment. But if he claims to be an academic or scientist, and doesn't provide evidence of this, it's fair to question that claim.

Hi Brian
No problem
Can you please direct me to the place where we all present our credentials, I am more than happy to oblige. I would very much like to know who this tao character is as well. great idea that we all know who we are. Do I need a Type Pad account?

Barry, you can share your credentials, or those of Obscrene, in a comment to this post. Or you can email them to me and I'll put them in a comment. Your choice.

Yes, you can also register for a TypePad or TypePad Connect account. This allows you to share various information about yourself. Then, when you post a comment, log in to your TP account first. This allows other people to learn about aspects of your identity that you want to share.

This isn't a must. Some people prefer to post comments anonymously, under an assumed screen name. My point simply has been that if someone claims certain facts about himself or herself, those claims are questionable absent verifiable evidence.

Of course, information in a TypePad account also can't be trusted without verification. People can make up false identities there also, though I don't know how common this is. On the Internet, as in life, some skepticism about people's honesty is warranted.

I am a bit new to blogs so I may be not understanding you. Seems to me that you want credentials before you can accept what people are writing on here, otherwise you suspect their credibility and suspect they may be someone else. I think apart from a very few people, including yourself and myself, nearly everyone uses a screen name. I wrote a comment because I am now just retired and I have nothing to lose by coming forward and writing about what I have seen in academic science. I found much to share with Professor PB (I will use Obscrenes initials, I hope he wont mind) and support his comment he made earlier in this thread. Revealing identities is perfectly OK with me, but, I cannot reveal another persons identity without their permission. (I will ask).
May I ask how many other contributors to this blog have revealed their identity when you so ask? I would like to communicate with others off this blog as I feel we may have much in common. I am sure you maintain a database of identities which you clearly are willing to share (otherwise you would not ask me to post such information to this blog.

Barry, please re-read my comment above. Obviously you didn't understand what I said.

Neither TypePad nor this blog requires people to register before leaving a comment on a blog. There is no database of identities. People are free to share as little or as much about themselves as they want to, via a TypePad or TypePad Connect profile/account.

My point simply is that if someone makes claims about their background in a comment that is supportive of their stance ("I'm a professor of physics, so I know..."), it's reasonable for other people to question their credentials.

"Interesting. Where do you teach? What's your name? Do you have a web site?" and so on. The other person then can decide how to respond. If they want to bolster their credentials, then they should provide supporting information -- just as a car repair company will provide references, details about how long they've been in business, number of Better Business Bureau complaints, and such.

In the case of Obscrene, there is good reason to be wary of his claims, because he has a history of using a string of online identities and has refused in the past to provide evidence that he was a research director of a large science-related company.

So it's entirely appropriate to question his current statements. I'm probably going to write a blog post later today about the interesting connection between being skeptical of a blog commenter's identity/claims, and being equally skeptical of a religious "prophet's" identity/claims.

The two issues really are quite similar, which means that when we exercise appropriate skepticism on this blog regarding comments, were practicing questioning skills that help to sort out fact from fiction in the religious arena.

Why not simply respond to his comment, if his responses become inconsistent, then question his credibility, but in first instance, respond to his comment
Surely it is dialogue that takes priority?

Will science explain human consciousness?

There is speculation of a so-called technoloigical 'singularity' occuring in the next 25 years or so.

Its all futurologist speculation, but highly-informed speculation. Such a singularity is predicted to occur shortly after 'superintelligence' is discovered. Superintelligence being a point where machine intelligence exceeds human intelligence or enhances human intelligence. In other words where technology outstrips biological evolution.

With nanotechnology and AI etc is it not only a matter of time before our human brains are understood to such an accurate degree that they can be mimicked or improved upon.

As such a stage, if machine-intelligence does supercede human intelligence surely the rate of technological innovation will accelerate massively.

Some ppl suggest there have been techonological singularities that have occurred throughout human hisory, which have caused quantum leaps forward in technology, some of these include - human speech, writing, farming, the industrial revolution, the internet, etc.

The question is then whether our brains and their 'wetware' will be understood well enough that subjective consciousness is understood well enough. Could there utlimately be a science of the soul?

They are already imaging the brain's of fruit fly's to such an accurate extent as to try and re-engineer them, some reckon the neuron densities of a fruit fly are finite and not far off those off current IC technology.

From a philosophical viewpoint, if we can rebuild the brain of a fruit fly, why not a human brain? Perhaps one day our conscious will be downloadable onto digital memory or into the memory of some machine or robot who can repair itself and therefore our consciousness will live on into infinity.

This of course will get right up the noses of those who feel man and science are insignficant, but if we are able to create machines with all our knowledge and more, then it truly turns our human exsitence into a strange thing.

Machines could design themselves to live and propagate their knowledge and consciousness into environments in which the human body could not possibly survice. It would learn faster and live longer. It could eventually have such a great knowledge of the laws of the universe that it is able to create biological life itself and indeed new universes.

George, this is indeed fascinating stuff, with interesting philosophical implications. Like, what a "soul" would consist of. Or what "we" consist of.

Like you said, it could eventually be possible to transfer every bit of neurological information in someone's brain into a computer, or some other entity (maybe even another brain).

If I "awake" after such a transfer, wouldn't I feel exactly as much me as I did before? Yes, my bodily/physical situation would have changed -- I wouldn't have one if I was part of a computer now -- but the non-physical sensation of my existence seemingly would be just the same as it was before.

So, which is the real me? Or is there a real me? This can end up pointing toward a Buddhist-like conception of personal existence. There is no enduring "me." Just a collection of memories, sensations, perceptions, and so on that I am aware of and reflect upon and end up calling my "self."

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