Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Mind or Matter?

This is kind of an informal poll to see what you guys think about the recent post on "subjective science." Please comment on the following:

1)Do you believe that human beings have a soul?
2)If the answer to 1) is affirmative, then is that soul eternal?
3)If the answer to 1) is negative, then do you believe that the mind is tied to the body?
4)Has the post "Subjective Science" on this blog helped shape your position on the above questions?



At 1:07 AM, Blogger Codesuidae said...

1. Short answer: no. Long version: The idea of 'soul' has been adjusted many times through history. The Bible distinguishes between body, soul and spirit, with soul being the intellectual and emotional portion of a person. Tracing the etymology of the word back further reveals some other changes in meaning, but I do not think that that is what you mean when you use the word 'soul' in your question. I think what you are asking about is essentially what the Christians mean when they say 'soul', which is, in a nutshell, the whole of a person's mental constitution embodied in an immortal, supernatural substance that continues on after the meat-body dies (regardless of where it goes or does at that point). No, I don't believe this exists. I think people make up crap like that because they are afraid to die and can't handle the idea that their loved ones who die are just plain gone. Poof, like a fart in the wind, vanished. I don't have a problem with that, and have no religion, and no evidence for the existence of such a thing, so I believe that it does not exist.

2. N/A

3. Short answer: No. Long answer: I believe that our minds are currently functions of our bodies. Brain states are identical to mind states. Change the mind and the brain changes. Change the brain and the mind changes. I think it is likely that minds like ours can exist apart from our particular kind of brain, and that in principle it would be possible to convert our particular kind of brain from what it is to something else without loosing or changing the essential nature of the mind, but that kind of stuff is light years beyond our current level of technology. The mind is to the brain as a program is to a computer. The mind/program is kind of an abstracted view of the behaviour of the brain/computer. Materially, they are the same thing, but the important features of the program/mind could, in principle, be sustained by a different material.

4. Short answer: No. Long answer: The article boils down to this; there may be a class of material in this world that has gone unrecognized thus far by mainstream science. This material may interact with what we think of as 'normal' material, and it may play a role in what we call 'consciousness', although it is not itself 'consciousness'. The behaviour of this material may be such that manipulation of our mind-states (and therefore this material that may be related to those states) can result in unexpected interactions with other objects which are also made of this material as well as 'normal' material. These interactions may exhibit characteristics that we think of as 'non local' both spatially and temporally. In much the same way that we intentionally wiggle a stick to knock an apple out of a tree, so too may we intentionally wiggle this material to bump a counting machine the way we desire.

The existence of such a material does not necessarily mean that nothing is objective, nor does it necessarily mean that there is something fundamental about 'consciousness'. That may be true, but it is a big, unjustified leap. For now it just means that we may have discovered another way to poke at the stuff around us that has lots of potential to deepen our understanding of the world, and that we need to carefully figure out how and why it works like it does.

At this point major changes to any belief system would be premature.

At 12:54 AM, Blogger Kyle Vernon said...

Thanks for the comment. I'd also like to point out that the established scientific community was equally dismissive when a young patent clerk named Einstein suggested that matter and energy were in essence the same thing. As far as evidence goes, there is just as much evidence for the mind theory as there is body theory. We can maintain the materialist position until we are blue in the face but it still has NO cogent explanation for such things as the subjective character of experience (see Colin McGinn's "What is it like to be a bat?"), the rise of consciousness, or the results found in the experiments we've posted recently. Furthermore, the assumption that everything is matter seems silly given that I have no experience of matter other than my subjective mental experience. What I suspect is likely the case is that both distinctions are equally invalid, and that the effects we experience as either mind or matter are simply the result of the same thing vibrating at different frequencies. Imagine yourself a character in a video game. Things in your "physical" world seem real to you and you are able to interact with them. From the "meta-physical" perspective, however, you, the universe you inhabit, and the things in that universe are all the same thing... simple instructions in a computer system. To make a distinction between mind and matter in such a universe is silly. I suspect ours is the same.


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