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le_inferno's avatar

Do you think there's a distinction between the brain and the soul?

Asked by le_inferno (6154 points ) May 23rd, 2010

Lately, I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Your consciousness (aka your brain) is you and reality as you know it. Your soul, hypothetically, is the essence of you, the core of your being. It exists apart from your brain. But the way I see it, who you are is largely the sum of your genes (biological) and your experiences (stored in your brain). If your psychology creates your personality, then how can this be distinct from the soul? Can you be a good person with a bad soul, or vice versa? If so, why would God create “bad” souls? It seems strange to damn people from the start. How is it fair to condemn someone who is a bad person because of their brain chemistry?

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138 Answers

tinyfaery's avatar

Yes. The brain is a tangible object. Whether one has a soul or not is completely opinion.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

What @tinyfaery said x2

The soul is more related to the notion of Mind, another intangible agent that is not reducible to physical substance. Yet, I’d doubt very seriously if anyone would claim that the existence of Mind is completely a matter of opinion, unless of course, one denies the capacity for free will.

perspicacious's avatar

The brain is tangible; the soul is not.

cookieman's avatar

Ditto, ditto and ditto.

The “soul” is basically a concept.

Rarebear's avatar

I don’t believe a “soul” really exists. It’s a concept that was made up by humans to make their lives more meaningful. A brain is meat. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gaFZTAOb7IE

the100thmonkey's avatar

It isn’t fair to condemn people for their behaviour given that it’s just a matter of chemistry, which is causally closed.

This is why some people, like Richard Dawkins, for example, argue against the concept of moral responsibility.

le_inferno's avatar

The point of this question is not to lead to the statement of obvious fact. I don’t need anyone to inform me that the soul is abstract and the brain is concrete; that’s not what I meant by “distinction.” I intended to invite the larger discussion about whether or not our brain/our consciousness is all we are, or if there’s something more significant that defines our being. I guess the question alludes to the actual existence or the nature of souls.

Draconess25's avatar

Yes, souls exist. Our mind just gives us the cabability to assess that.

I know many don’t believe in reincarnation, but I was a London pickpocket in my past life. It’s the same soul, but I have a different mind. For example, I think my former self was a dumbass for getting himself hanged. He was too busy screaming “Burn me at the stake! You know you want to hear me scream!”

tinyfaery's avatar

All we are is a result of electrical impulses in the brain. No one can convince me nor prove the existence of a soul.

ETpro's avatar

What people call a soul is the emergent epiphenomenon of self awareness that is entirely dependent on the adequate continued functioning of the brain. So if you mean do I accept dualism, then no.

What most people mean by soul is a supernatural something that animates the self. It is undetectable by any means known to science, untestable, unfalsifiable, and useless to predict anything. It also doesn’t make any logical sense that it would be a God given intelligence that arrives at birth with no intelligence to speak of and has to rely on what the brain learns for all it knows, and that it would immediately forget anything contained in an area of the brain that is removed in surgery or damaged through trauma of by a tumor.

dpworkin's avatar

No one has ever thought about this issue before, and there is no body of literature to refer to. It is not known as Cartesian Dualism, and has not been addressed by Hegel, Kant or Heidegger, nor by any of the existentialist philosophers. So don’t go to the library to do any research to help you understand this better.

gailcalled's avatar

@dpworkin: Now that school’s out, you have time to sharpen your fangs, I note.

DominicX's avatar

@dpworkin

That’s not what this question is asking. It’s asking for the opinions of the users here.

gailcalled's avatar

@DominicX: That is true but the answers to this question tend to be jejune. And the querent asks five separate questions, none of which is are seems to be very precise.

dpworkin's avatar

@DominicX This question is asked once a week, and has become tiresome. Questioners are asked to search to see if they are posting duplicates. This OP obviously failed to do so. I may have phrased my answer in a way which reveals my impatience, but it is a very good answer with much material assistance.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@dpworkin

You left out Spinoza and Leibniz, who, may have expanded the Cartesian philosophy further, straight into downright spiritualism. No?

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@gailcalled You construe gnu into a clue?

dpworkin's avatar

here’s a clue: a flea and a fly in a flue…

Rarebear's avatar

you guys are going to get in SO much trouble.

dpworkin's avatar

Don’t tell on us, Doc.

Rarebear's avatar

is the flea and fly in the flue a Jew?

dpworkin's avatar

you had better not let @jeruba find you using a singular pronoun for a plural antecedent.

Rarebear's avatar

Damn! I usually am the one catching those errors too!

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le_inferno's avatar

@Draconess25 How are you so certain about your past life?

Draconess25's avatar

My two girlfriends & I dreamed about the same three people before we ever met each other.

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le_inferno's avatar

@dpworkin I’m a bore for asking a question about a subject you’ve evidently studied quite a bit? Right. Next time you want to make a schoolyard comeback, try not to contradict yourself.

augustlan's avatar

[mod says] Knock off the personal attacks, people. You all know better.

cookieman's avatar

did I mention I was @augustlan in a past life?

Draconess25's avatar

@cprevite Highly unlikely. Your past life can’t be alive while you are.

mattbrowne's avatar

Yes. To me soul is an abstract spiritual concept, mind an abstract concept for self-aware entities and brain a physical object capable of creating a mind.

Ivan's avatar

Looks like I missed a lot.

These are all excellent questions. If you continue down this line of reasoning, it gets to the point where it’s much simpler to simply conclude that there is no soul. If there is no soul, then we are simply our brains. There’s no need to get tangled up in where the soul fits in, especially if you’re only doing it to stay true to your prior beliefs. Occam’s Razor.

Rarebear's avatar

@Ivan Exactly. Blow off half your head with a 357 magnum and poof! No soul.

dynamic3's avatar

@le_inferno “Can you be a good person with a bad soul, or vice versa?” you answered your own question in your own question. “Your soul, hypothetically, is the essence of you” so surely the logic follows bad actions—> bad essence—> bad soul.

The real question is, if your brain and soul are separate what controls your body and how do the two communicate. cue creepy x-files music Also how do you know everything you are seeing isn’t an illusion illusion illu….sion.

Draconess25's avatar

You can be a good person trying to fix a bad soul, or you can damage a good soul.

dpworkin's avatar

Is there a soul-tailor somewhere who can deal with the damage?

gailcalled's avatar

@dpworkin:Sew, Gabriel, sew.

Draconess25's avatar

@dpworkin <<twitchtwitch>> No…. <<twitch>>

le_inferno's avatar

@dynamic3 I considered that, too. Maybe one’s soul changes with one’s brain, but what if you are bad because of your brain structure? Logically you’d have a bad soul, but that doesn’t seem justified.

gailcalled's avatar

Mephistopheles desired Faust’s soul… not his mind.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Consider Spirit as building blocks. The end result is a Soul.

A spirit of adventure, a spirit of progress, a spirit of sacrifice, all just little bricks in the wall that build the soul of a nation.

Likewise, a spirit of pride, a spirit of selfishness, a spirit of charity, all just little bricks in the wall that build the soul of a person.

janbb's avatar

The problem seems to lie in the conflation of metaphor with reality.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

How so @janbb? I somewhat understand your statement, but I also understand that metaphors are simply another depiction of reality, just like poetry and math can be different types of depictions of the same realities.

The metaphor must be pointing at and referring to something that is real, even if that reality is merely a thought of someones mind.

Somewhat related to what you describe, is the natural tendency for people to personify that which should not be personified… in order to create a pseudo metaphor.

For instance…

The statement: “The problem seems to lie in the conflation of metaphor with reality.”

Suggests that “problems” are real physical entities that can “lie” about in the bottom of a bucket made of conflation. And the material used to construct that conflation bucket is a physical mixture of metaphor and reality.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

There are ten or more people answering this thread. In reality, they are all in at least two separate places at once.

Physically, everyone is currently, at this moment (Monday May 24th 8:42pm Central US time) doing something in their physical lives, be it grocery shopping, having sex, cooking dinner, or committing a crime. Every one of us is doing something other than attending this thread.

But the comments everyone leaves, and the length of this thread, provides a (non physical) platform that acts to represent the Spirit. We are no less all together than if this were a chat room or a conference call. Our individual Spirits are present, together, regardless of where our physical bodies are located.

I avoid using the term “here” because there is no here. This non physical platform doesn’t reside anywhere. I avoid using the term “now” because our nows have come and gone, not to be caught, touched, or held.

now here is nowhere

mattbrowne's avatar

@Ivan and @Rarebear – There is no soul? Well, then there’s no democracy either. It seems that in your simple world only things we can touch physically do exist. Oddly enough, there are plenty of people who believe in democracy.

meagan's avatar

Souls aren’t real.

Rarebear's avatar

@mattbrowne You can do better than that!

There is plenty of empiric evidence for democracy (although I challenge you to find a true democracy). There is no evidence for a soul.

mattbrowne's avatar

Abstract concepts do not necessarily require empiric evidence. They still exist as concepts. Some concepts are based on belief only. One example is God. Another is the soul. We had this discussion before, the existence of these concepts is not a scientific question, and I’m aware that you don’t agree. Science should deal with the concepts of brain and mind.

Rarebear's avatar

@mattbrowne Souls and gods are not abstract concepts. They either exist or they don’t. If they exist, there should be evidence for their existence.

mattbrowne's avatar

We’re going in circles, my friend. Let’s agree that we disagree, shall we ;-)

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Where exactly are these laws of logic we seem so desperate to cling upon?

I’ve never seen or touched them.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

When using the term “Soul Food”, what is being referenced is the unwritten heritage of a culture. It exists, though we cannot touch, smell, or taste it. I smell green beans and bacon, and that’s exactly all I taste. That’s the food part. But the soul part is the intangible methodology of historical palette development, preparation, presentation, seasoning by feel…

In this manner, a soul is experienced, rather than empirically justified.

Who can deny such an essence exists?

My father and I attended a baseball game in the new Busch Stadium. The old one was torn down a few years ago and replaced completely anew. The original statue of Stan Musial still stands, albeit in a completely different location and a completely different stadium.

Now I’ve never seen Stan Musial play myself, but my Father commented that somehow the old statue just didn’t feel right at the new stadium where Stan never played. He literally said, “It doesn’t have the same soul as the original Bush Stadium where Stan played”.

Ivan's avatar

@mattbrowne

That’s a piss-poor argument, and you know it.

Being able to touch something is not my criteria for believing in its existence. All I require is that there is at least some tangible reason for said thing to exist. This question ought to show you that it’s much easier to assume that the soul simply doesn’t exist than to assume it does.

Rarebear's avatar

@mattbrowne No, sorry, I’m not going to “agree to disagree”. You are free to ignore me, but I’m not going to give tacit approval to your position by saying I “agree to disagree.” I say you’re incorrect, plain and simple, and your arguments are weak. @Ivan has it exactly right. You can say, “I abandon science and I believe in the supernatural because I just do and I realize how irrational it is” then I will shrug and say, “Suit yourself.”

le_inferno's avatar

@Rarebear @Ivan What exactly makes you so certain that science can explain everything? Science is only relevant in the observable realm, but no one can determine whether that’s all that exists.
Let’s humor @dpworkin for a moment and consider various philosophies of the mind. From what I can gather, you two seem to fall closest into the category of eliminative materialists, propagating predicate monism. Basically, these people think that as we understand the brain better, words like “believe, desire, think, feel” will become obsolete, because these words refer to entities that don’t actually exist. This thinking is consistent with what you two are arguing, because you contend that nothing exists unless it is proved by science.
However, I personally have issue with this philosophy. I agree more with Anomalous monism, which is a form of Predicate dualism (opposite of eliminative materialism). This maintains that yes, mental states can be explained physically, but some properties are “irreducibly mental.” For example, many beliefs cannot be scientifically verified, and yet they exist. You often can’t determine the truth of what someone says, because beliefs may be confused with desires, or vice versa. The conclusion that this theory makes is that the holism of the mental is nonconvergent and therefore it is anomalous with respect to the physical.

In short, you cannot simply rely on the physical realm as the basis of all understanding.

dpworkin's avatar

Oh, goody, ghosts in the machine.

Ivan's avatar

@le_inferno

“What exactly makes you so certain that science can explain everything?”

Well I’m not certain of anything. The short answer to this question is, well, science has done a pretty damn good job of explaining everything so far, I don’t see any reason to doubt it now. The long answer is probably more intellectually satisfying.

Science rests on the principle that we can understand the universe. In other words, we have the capability to explain things. In order to derive those explanations, we need evidence.

I like to explain it this way: If something exists, it must manifest itself somehow in the physical world; it has to be detectable somehow. If something exists, it must do something. If you’re arguing that something doesn’t do anything, then why believe in it at all? So if something does something (this is getting abstract), then we should be able to te detect it (even if we don’t have the means yet). And if we are able to detect it, then it is within the realm of science.

tl;dr, everything that actually exists is explainable by science (give or take some super abstract concepts that Matt will surely bring up).

“some properties are “irreducibly mental.””

Well, if this argument is anything like the Creationist one that it shares an adverb with, it’s probably pretty poor. When you say that something is “irreducibly complex”, you’re essentially making an argument from ignorance. You’re deriving a conclusion based on the fact that we don’t understand something. It’s not that anything is impossible to explain, it’s just that we haven’t yet figured out how to explain it.

To say that something is “irreducibly _____” is to admit defeat and give up on our efforts to understand it. That’s just no fun at all.

Rarebear's avatar

@le_inferno I’ll boil it down simply for you so you can understand exactly what I’m saying. Either God exists or she doesn’t. Either souls exist or they don’t. Either ghosts exist or they don’t. Anybody who denies that simple duality is just blowing hot air. The scientific proof for the existence of a god may be beyond our current technology, but ultimately, don’t you think that that would be an extremely important scientific finding? If you had some sort of essence that continued on after your brain stopped functioning, don’t you think that that would deserve a Nobel?

People can BELIEVE what they want. But if they believe it in the absence of verifiable data, then it’s a belief based upon faith and irrationality. There’s absolutely nothing different than believing in a soul and believing in the tooth fairy.

le_inferno's avatar

If something exists, it must manifest itself somehow in the physical world; it has to be detectable somehow.
People can BELIEVE what they want. But if they believe it in the absence of verifiable data, then it’s a belief based upon faith and irrationality.

You’re missing the point. My point is that certain mental properties cannot be ascertained. Do you not deny that beliefs, thoughts, desires, and feelings exist? They are not always rational, but they exist. They also cannot always be detected in others, and yet they exist.

Ivan's avatar

“certain mental properties cannot be ascertained.”

You can’t simply assert that something is impossible to understand. Our collective understanding is provisional and fluid.

“Do you not deny that beliefs, thoughts, desires, and feelings exist?”

Well sure they exist, in some form or another. They just aren’t the manifestation of a soul. They can be explained empirically by brain chemistry and whatnot.

dpworkin's avatar

Beliefs, thoughts, feelings and desires can be induced at will by neurologists with probes. This is empirical proof that they are electrochemical artifacts. Sorry, no ghosts in the machine.

le_inferno's avatar

@Ivan I’m not saying they’re the manifestation of the soul, I’m just saying that not everything is detectable. They can be explained, but not predicted, understood, or known.
@dpworkin Inducing them is not the same as being able to detect them.

Ivan's avatar

@le_inferno

“They can be explained, but not predicted, understood, or known.”

Not yet. :)

dpworkin's avatar

Oh, they can be detected as well, by fMRI. In fact, on 60 minutes, not long ago, a neurologist told a reporter what a patient was thinking based on the pattern of brain activity, and when they asked the patient the neurologist had been correct. Where do you get these old fashioned ideas?

mattbrowne's avatar

Sorry guys, but we seem to be having the same discussions about God and transcendence again and again. If you wanna have this debate let me highlight a few arguments once more. All of this is not proof for the existence or non-existence of God or anything else transcending the physical world.

In Popper’s philosophy of science, belief in a supernatural God is outside the natural domain of scientific investigation because all scientific hypotheses must be falsifiable in the natural world.

The Non-overlapping Magisteria view proposed by Stephen J. Gould also holds that the existence of God is irrelevant to and beyond the domain of science.

The cosmological argument argues that there was a “first cause”, or “prime mover” who is identified as God.

The teleological argument argues that the universe’s order and complexity of the natural laws (“Goldilocks Enigma”) are best explained by reference to a creator God.

The first law of thermodynamics states that energy can be transformed, but cannot be created or destroyed. If it cannot be created, the mass of our universe should be zero, which it is not.

The soul is an abstract spiritual concept, symbolizing an incorporeal or eternal part of a human being. In his discussions of rational psychology Immanuel Kant identified the soul as the “I” in the strictest sense and that the existence of inner experience can neither be proved, or disproved. “We cannot prove a priori the immateriality of the soul, but rather only so much: that all properties and actions of the soul cannot be cognized from materiality.” It is from the “I”, or soul, that Kant proposes transcendental rationalization, but cautions that such rationalization can only determine the limits of knowledge if it is to remain practical.

Naturalism is the metaphysical position that nature is all there is, and all basic truths are truths of nature. This means the soul does not exist. This also means God does not exist. Almost all atheists are naturalists. I totally understand that you disagree with my arguments above.

Religious naturalism is an approach to spirituality that is devoid of supernaturalism. It is concerned about the meaning of life and the purpose of the universe. Science is a fundamental, indispensable component of the paradigm of religious naturalism (see my example above regarding the first law of thermodynamics). Non-religious naturalists reject all approaches to spirituality. So again, I totally understand that you disagree with my arguments above. (Source of definitions: Wikipedia)

And if you even disagree that we disagree I guess I’ve got to live with it.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

I have no evidence that the laws of logic exist. Shall I not believe in them?

@Rarebear “But if they believe it in the absence of verifiable data, then it’s a belief based upon faith and irrationality.”

Why are faith and irrationality joined at the hip? I believe with all of my heart that you will reply again on this thread. Is that faith or irrationality?

I don’t believe that you will refuse to reply just to have the satisfaction of proving my faith wrong. I do believe that you will attempt in all good conscious to answer a direct question put to you. I believe this based upon my experiences with you. But where exactly are my experiences with you? Do they exist?

Tell me our experiences together are recorded in the brain if you like. But that’s just a recording of the experience, and not the actual experience itself. Where is the actual experience? And if we cannot point to it, hold it, touch it, see it, or taste it… shall I then accept through lack of empirical data that the experiences never occurred?

dynamic3's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies surely you have evidence that the laws of logic exist through maths, as that is but pure logic. Also the belief that @Rarebear will reply again is just a logical inference based on the nature of the website and the fact you have effectively hailed him with a tag.

dpworkin's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies Sorry, but the world has left you behind. The “actual” experience was only an illusion, but the engram of the memory is real: you can see it, touch it, feel it. Your problem is that wish the experience to have been real, but that is a most naive desire. All we have are memories preceded by assisted hallucinations. Berkeley wasn’t right about everything, but the tree makes not even a whisper.

Rarebear's avatar

@mattbrowne Just to respond to this point:
“Naturalism is the metaphysical position that nature is all there is, and all basic truths are truths of nature. This means the soul does not exist. This also means God does not exist. Almost all atheists are naturalists. I totally understand that you disagree with my arguments above.”

Now you’re missing my point. I’m perfectly willing to accept the existence of a God or a soul, if there is verifiable evidence to show their existence.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

We seem to be using the terms “belief” and “faith” synonymously. I belief @Rarebear will leave a further comment based upon my experiences, and for the very same reasons that @dynamic3 suggests. But I have faith that he will leave a further comment because I want to trust my beliefs.

@dynamic3 “evidence that the laws of logic exist through maths, as that is but pure logic.”

Correct me if I’m mistaken, but isn’t “maths” just a description of “logic”? The scribbles and symbols on a professors chalkboard are merely descriptions of an unseen agent that we call logic, but mathematical descriptions are not necessarily logic in and of themselves. Just as the scribbles and symbols of this comment are just descriptions of my unseen thoughts, but your monitor is not necessarily my thoughts in and of itself.

So where exactly is thought/logic? Certainly not within the chemical reactions of a brain. If that were true, then Homer must still be alive when I read the Iliad.

I suggest, that Homer’s physical body is not alive, and therefor his brain chemistry is unable to be his thoughts. Yet I am capable of knowing his thoughts nonetheless. How?

I suggest that Homer’s spirit is very much in existence, although we cannot touch it. We may however be made aware of it through the process of Symbolic Logic. And that’s why we call it Symbolic Logic. It is a symbol of logic, but it is not logic in and of itself.

@dpworkin “The “actual” experience was only an illusion”

There can only be an illusion, if and only if, an illusion took place. And if an illusion took place, then illusions are a genuine part of reality. The content of the illusion may in fact be deceptive, but the illusion itself is quite real. Where is it? Certainly if the “engram of the memory” is real, then also the event agent which caused the engram of the memory is just as real. And though I agree that the tree did not make a sound unless there be an eardrum present to transduce vibration into electro-chemical reaction, the tree did fall nonetheless, regardless if anyone was around to memorize the event.

dpworkin's avatar

A falling tree is not an experience, it is an event.

gailcalled's avatar

And if you (anyone) are standing under it, it will be both.

mattbrowne's avatar

There is no verifiable evidence to show their existence, just good arguments as mentioned earlier.

Rarebear's avatar

@mattbrowne It’s a question of putting “faith” in irrational belief systems. Let’s put the loaded words “soul” and “god” aside for a moment, and substitute “Bigfoot”. The interwebs are loaded with anecdotal experiences and evidence of Bigfoot. but that doesn’t make Bigfoot any more true. You can have faith that Bigfoot exists, believe it exists, but that doesn’t make it any more true. To me, belief in souls is as irrational as belief in Bigfoot.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Just as there is no verifiable evidence to show the existence of logic. Math (thought/logic) cannot be reduced to the physicality of chalk and slate. The meaning represented by Homer’s Iliad cannot be reduced to the physicality of ink and parchment. There are unseen agents in our lives, and they are not physical things consisting of energy and matter alone.

Meaning, although it may be whatever we make of it, is nonetheless, very real. And thus, if there are certain agents that are non-corporeal elements, then it is not such a conceptual leap to suggest there may be other agents that are non-corporeal elements. Empirical verification is not a 100% reliable mechanism to determine if an agent exists or not.

dpworkin's avatar

Nothing that arrives through the sensorium is 100% reliable. That’s what keeps things interesting.

gailcalled's avatar

No one has mentioned WB Yeats’ take on this debate;

A Dialogue of Self and Soul

It is a complex poem;

Here’s the last stanza: Self is speaking.

“I am content to follow to its source
Every event in action or in thought;
Measure the lot; forgive myself the lot!
When such as I cast out remorse
So great a sweetness flows into the breast
We must laugh and we must sing,
We are blest by everything,
Everything we look upon is blest.”

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

“blest” by who or what?

beautiful lines

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

In the context, does Yeats equate “blest” with beneficial acknowledgment? I suggest he does, in that “Everything we look upon is beneficially acknowledged”, by the Self. Yet he also suggests that “We are blest (beneficially acknowledged) by everything.

If this is so, then Yeats proposes that everything has a capacity to acknowledge. What mechanism could facilitate such a feat other than the spirit or soul of everything?

gailcalled's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies: As I said, it is complex and I don’t have the several hours it would take to write a literary exegesis. Read the entire poem. Some of it is specific to Yeat’s misguided love life.

Since one of his speakers is Soul., Yeats must believe in the concept.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Rarebear – The good arguments I mentioned earlier don’t lead to an irrational belief system. Bad arguments would. Please look at the work of

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Lemaitre

for example. Do you consider him to be an irrational person? One of the great physicists of the early 20th century and also a Catholic priest.

Are you incapable of telling American YECs apart from European Christians?

How do you explain our universe?

Rarebear's avatar

@mattbrowne Rational people can have irrational belief systems.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

An irrational belief system is the very thing that makes a person irrational.

Rarebear's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies I don’t think a person is either rational or irrational, it’s not an either-or. We’re all human and we’re all fallable. For example, an otherwise totally rational person can tell me that they believe in ghosts. That belief is irrational, but they are otherwise rational.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Rarebear – You can’t explain the universe and are not even making an attempt, but insinuate that I’m being irrational here having an irrational belief system.

Let me tell you again: my belief system is very rational.

Rarebear's avatar

@mattbrowne First of all, this question asks about the soul, not the universe. Second of all, if the universe could be fully explained, then there would be no need for science. Third, I’ve told you before and I’ll tell you again I’m perfectly willing to accept the existence of God or souls, or whatever, if there is solid empiric evidence to support the existence. Fourth, I withdraw the word “irrational” as it’s bringing up unintended emotions in both you and @RealEyesRealizeRealLies. I’m not intending it as an insult, and I’m sorry you take it like that. Most people, myself included, have irrational beliefs. For example, despite all reason, if the word “quiet” is used when I’m on call it’s guaranteed I’ll be up all night with phone calls. It’s not a rational belief, but I’m a rational person.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Rarebear – God is a concept and one way to explain the universe. The way I understand this concept is that God is beyond physical reality and outside the domain of science as understood by Popper. I know there are different notions of God such as tribal or personal Gods. To me God is not a person nor is he handling one particular group of human beings.

I also said that to me the soul is an abstract spiritual concept, the mind an abstract concept for self-aware entities and the brain a physical object capable of creating a mind. The idea of a soul does not explain the universe. I have actually never stated that I personally believe in the idea of a soul. I’m actually less sure about it than about God as such. But I’d would argue that they are both transcendent concepts and any acceptance would require a belief beyond the philosophy of naturalism.

I cited how Kant understood the concept of the soul. He identified the soul as the “I” in the strictest sense and that the existence of inner experience can neither be proved, or disproved. “We cannot prove a priori the immateriality of the soul, but rather only so much: that all properties and actions of the soul cannot be cognized from materiality.” It is from the “I”, or soul, that Kant proposes transcendental rationalization, but cautions that such rationalization can only determine the limits of knowledge if it is to remain practical.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@Rarebear

No no, please… I like irrational. Irrational rhymes with dangerous. Chicks dig it!

Rarebear's avatar

@mattbrowne First of all, Kant lived in the 1700s, long before mondern biology. Second, if God beyond physical reality, even if s/he exists, s/he is totally irrelevent. And saying just because we don’t know everything we cannot know everything is a fallacy. Sure, God (and the soul) is a possiblity so prove it scientifically.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Rarebear – Explain the universe.

Rarebear's avatar

@mattbrowne That’s off topic. This question is one about the nature and relationship between the human brain and the soul (which I have already established there is no evidence for). If you want to have a cosmological debate I’ll be happy to engage, just on another question.

And anybody who can claim to explain the universe in a fluther post is fooling themselves.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

First off, I propose that the Soul and the Mind are synonymous. So the Q that concerns me is the relationship between the Brain and the Mind/Soul. And as such, I offer you Dualism to account for Medium and Message relationships. Neither one is reducible to the other.

Rarebear's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies If you want to define the mind/soul as one, that’s fine. But to me, the soul implies something that continues after death. That’s the part that I have a problem with.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Well, since I believe the mind is pure immaterial information, that fits with me fine. For just as we can confidently claim that energy and matter are never destroyed, we have no evidence to support that information may be destroyed either. Yes, we may claim that the medium that expresses it can be changed or damaged, but that does not automatically justify the same assumption for the information it expresses.

For instance, a lost manuscript from a thousand years ago is discovered. It references information that was created long ago. With no medium to express it, we cannot claim to know of that information. But discovering that medium, we know the information. But that information existed nonetheless throughout the entire thousand years it was lost. It was there, regardless if we could detect it or not.

I propose it would still exist even if all the mediums that expressed it were destroyed. We just wouldn’t be able to detect it by purely physical means. But that would certainly help to explain the phenomenon of one monkey cracking a coconut on his continent, somehow leading to all monkeys cracking a coconut on other continents at virtually the same times in history.

It’s not difficult to imagine other scenarios either. Brainwaves existed long before the invention of the electroencephalogram. It would be foolish to suppose they didn’t exist just because we weren’t previously aware of detecting them physically.

Rarebear's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies I’m trying to decide whether to enter into another debate with you on your last post. You up for it?

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Well a discussion might be nice. But I really don’t feel like dragging out all the evidence and having a formal debate right now.

But sure. I’ll start by illustrating the separation of mediums and messages, demonstrating them as two completely separate agents.

Sunday Bloody Sunday is a thought from the mind of Bono. Not the brain of Bono, but the mind of Bono. I claim this because the information represented by SBS cannot be reduced to mere chemical reaction. There is no demonstrable physical mechanistic explanation to account for SBS.

SBS is represented upon a million best selling CDs. Those CDs do not “contain” their own separate and different quantities of information. They instead, all represent the same information. Millions of different mediums from CD, DVD, MP3, TV, Radio, Vinyl, Magnetic Tape, and even Sheet Music and Live Performances… ALL serving to point to one single thought from the mind of Bono.

Therefore, the medium is not the message. And the message of SBS is not reducible to radio waves, binary, or magnetism alone to explain its existence.

Would you not agree then, that there is indeed an immaterial agent called information which is whole unto itself, detached from physicality? Though I do concede, that as humans, we must have a physical medium to express and be aware of such an immaterial agent.

As I’ve often said before, Code is a material lens that allows us to view the immaterial agent of Information. Not so different than an infra-red filter allowing us to view the previously undetected invisible spectrum of infra-red light.

Ivan's avatar

Let’s continue this for several more weeks.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

No need really, this one just got started.

Rarebear's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies I’m one of the few people in the world who can’t stand U2

Okay. Here goes.
“The mind is pure immaterial information”. That doesn’t mean anything to me. Most animals have brains of one kind or another. Does a cat “think”? Does it matter? A cat does what it is evolutionarily has been evolved to do. The reason why we think and can create songs like “Sunday Bloody Sunday” (which I bloody well can’t stand) is that we’ve been evolved to think. Our thinking allowed us to have advantages that allowed for genetic propogation.

“we have no evidence to support that information may be destroyed either”. Sure we do. If I take a sledgehammer and an electromagnet to this computer the information was destroyed.

“But that information existed nonetheless throughout the entire thousand years it was lost. It was there, regardless if we could detect it or not.” Unless someone puts a match to it.

“But that would certainly help to explain the phenomenon of one monkey cracking a coconut on his continent, somehow leading to all monkeys cracking a coconut on other continents at virtually the same times in history.” Let’s assume for the sake of argument that that fact is true, although it’s hasn’t been established as evidence. Let’s talk hypotheticals. You can claim some sort of supernatural reason (souls, energy, mystical information transfer) as the reason why they all started cracking coconuts. Or, you could say that there were similar biological conditions that forced monkeys to develop that particular evolutionary adaptation. Which do you think is more reasonable?

Solidhowie's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies well i think this young lady question is quite different from the other. but this is good stuff too @le_inferno.

(cough)
well let me make one thing clear,you said “if your psychology creates your personality”
hmm..well on my other answer i refer the soul is lay in between our consciousness and subconscious another words soul is also our personality or another word is.. our ways of prospective. My father will never put people in bad soul, father created our soul like a tamagotchi :) is what we are raised into our subconscious to become bad boy if u that wat u referring. but im sure in our life there is always an reset button for our soul system, not getting Brain damage but to start a fresh path:)

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@Solidhowie

It’s the same subject to me, believing as I do that Mind and Soul are synonymous.

@Rarebear

I’m taking a nap to consider your thoughts. read: sleeping on it.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

But before I nap…

@Rarebear said: “If I take a sledgehammer and an electromagnet to this computer the information was destroyed.”

That’s analogous to claiming that destroying a bridge also destroys the other side. I propose the other side is there, even though we have no way of getting to it.

Destroying this thread only destroys the medium used to express my thoughts… my spirit. But having done that, my thought/spirit remains intact, albeit unbeknownst to you. If my thought/spirit remains after this thread is destroyed, by what right may I claim that my thought/spirit does not also remain after my brain is destroyed? We have evidence to suggest that thought/spirit is not dependent upon medium to exist, but only to be detected.

Napping now. Considering the rest of your comment soon.

Rarebear's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies Have a nice nap!
Your bridge analogy is not. If you destroy the bridge, you can always build another bridge. But what has happened is that entropy in the universe has increased, and disorder has increased.

Destroying a hard drive, you’ve taken ordered information and disordered it. There is no way to reconstruct that information unless you laborously put everything back. You can’t just build your hard drive again and all of a sudden be face to face with the information.

Solidhowie's avatar

@Rarebear i have heard this monkey theory before its called the “100 monkey theory” im not sure u if heard of it but its good stuff. its very similar as your coconut cracking. it was actually a true story well there were some islander monkeys that was going into an extinction in japan and these Japaneses scientist came up with this miracle gene number theory, the Japanese believes once a certain a amount of monkeys learns these survival technique a miracle gene number hits and all of the sudden the monkey from the other side of the island knew the techniques so they story goes. the scuentist wanted to save these monkeys by teaching them how to dig yams out of the ground so that it can survive(just like cracking coconuts) after they manage to teach the monkeys on this side of the island. once they got to the other side of the sea, all of the sudden the monkeys on this island started to dig them out too. it was very strange.

dpworkin's avatar

Are you saying that the monkeys gained the knowledge of yam-digging genetically? Because if you are, that is Lamarckian nonsense and never happened.

Solidhowie's avatar

@dpworking, i know i was in complete denial when i heard this,but here is the link.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@Rarebear “That doesn’t mean anything to me.”

That may be so, but that does not mean that the statement is without meaning. It obviously means something to me, for that’s why I said it.

@Rarebear “Does a cat “think”? Does it matter?”

Yes. And not only does it matter to a cat, but it matters to science as well as many cat owners. Communicate with your cat

You will notice that the article is about communication and gestures. I’ve always stated that thinking and consciousness are directly proportional to a life forms ability to use and express language. So a bee is able to think only to the degree that its figure 8 waggle dance allows it to. Same for wolf howls, whale song and bird song. And the cognitive studies department here in St. Louis at Washington University has no less than 70 different language tests to determine a patients conscious awareness and thinking capacity.

@Rarebear “A cat does what it is evolutionarily has been evolved to do. The reason why we think and can create… is that we’ve been evolved to think. Our thinking allowed us to have advantages that allowed for genetic propogation.”

No argument here. I agree with your assessment. But the actual mechanism which allows us to think is the capacity to use language. First with grunts and groans (what I call Universal Holy Languages), and then with spoken word about 30,000 years ago, leading to written word about 7,000 years ago.

@Rarebear “You can claim some sort of supernatural reason (souls, energy, mystical information transfer) as the reason why…”

How many times do I need to repeat myself? I DON’T believe in the supernatural. I don’t believe there is such a thing. A thing is perfectly natural, if and only if, it actually exists in reality. I just don’t limit my realities to what can actually be perceived by human senses or current instrumentation. In fact, doing so would negate the desire for humans to ever create such instrumentation to detect unperceived realities… like brainwaves.

Dear gawd you’ve tangled up a lot of concepts here.

1.) I’ve equated soul with mind. Two different terminologies, one from science, and the other from religion. But they refer to the exact same agent. A mind/soul is perfectly natural, if and only if a mind/soul actually exists. Nothing supernatural about it at all.

2.) Energy is not supernatural.

3.) I’m not sure what you mean by_“mystical information transfer”. Mystical is not the same as _“mysterious”, and there are certainly mysterious information transfers. But they only remain mysterious until the underlying mechanism are discovered.

@Rarebear “Or, you could say that there were similar biological conditions that forced monkeys to develop that particular evolutionary adaptation.”

Of course that’s how it would/could happen, if and only if, it actually happened. But I am not one to suppose that we know everything there is to know about “biological conditions”. We’re still learning. And as such, my past references to “Phantom DNA” should be considered, as well as new discoveries by Wes Warren of Washington Universities Genome Sequencing Center. Did I give you that link?

He’s actually demonstrating …’‘an active involvement of the genome in neural processes’’..., and fascinatingly enough, it specifically deals with language usage.

@Rarebear “If you destroy the bridge, you can always build another bridge. But what has happened is that entropy in the universe has increased, and disorder has increased.”

Yes agreed.

@Rarebear “Destroying a hard drive, you’ve taken ordered information and disordered it.”

I completely disagree. Since information is a separate agent from code, all we can claim is that the code has been disordered. That event does not alter the information presented by the mind which created it whatsoever.

@Rarebear “There is no way to reconstruct that information unless you laborously put everything back.”

Just like a bridge.

@Rarebear “You can’t just build your hard drive again and all of a sudden be face to face with the information.”

Sure you can, just like the bridge.

Keep in mind, that both the bridge and the disk are in rubble. Their physical representations no longer exist. Their physical representations have become entropic. But the essence of meaning behind a bridge is not reducible to the corporeal elements of its construction any more than the essence of meaning represented by a disk can be reduced to electricity and plastic.

I know this is a hard swallow, but this is the truthful reality to me as best as I can express it. Although the bridge fell, it still exists. We can still refer to the original architectural plans and rebuild the exact same essence of meaning into a slightly different physical representation. It may even look identical to the original bridge, but it won’t be the exact same representation. It’s made of different stuff than the original. However, the essence of meaning, or the purpose is completely satisfied by building anew from the original plans. And even if the original plans resided on my destroyed computer disk, the fact remains that new plans may be designed to fulfill the very same essence of meaningful purposenot a different meaningful purpose… but the exact same.

Likewise, I sit here before you using a hard drive that has been rebuilt to fulfill the exact same meaningful purpose as the damaged one it replaced years ago. It may not have all of the exact same codified information, and I’m well sure I’ve forgotten much of it, but that lost code is attainable either from my willingness to go out and get it, or my ability to recall the essence of it from memory.

It’s no different than saying “The sky is blue” in English, Japanese, or Pig Latin. The physical mediums can be changed and altered, but the essence of meaningful purpose is retained.

Rarebear's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies Looks like you had a good nap!

ETpro's avatar

@Rarebear & @Solidhowie Thanks for the discussion of the 100 monkeys. I had heard that story ages ago and was always skeptical of its actuality. Experience has taught me that most things that sound like nonsense actually are. We ought be particularly suspicious of the island-jumping 100th monkey story because we know full well that such a thing has never occurred in an even more intelligent species, human beings.

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies In your example of the 1,000 year old manuscript, say a space alien had visited Earth at that time and revealed secrets that only that one alien knew and that mankind has yet to discover. Then the manuscript of the ancient scribe who spoke with the alien went missing. I agree that, if the manuscript were found today and read, the information is preserved. Even if a match were set to the manuscript back then, and it burned up, the information would still have been with the alien that revealed it to the earthling. But if the alien’s space ship exploded on takeoff and that is what destroyed the manuscript, now those discoveries would be lost, gone, kaput. The truth of them would still exist within the Universe. But since nobody any longer knows them and all media the information was recorded on was hopelessly destroyed, it would no longer qualify as information.

For instance, there is some theory underlying the entire universe. If we fully understood it, and knew everything about the exact state of the Universe at its inception, we could extrapolate forward and predict every causal event in all time. The causes are all here. We just haven’t converted them into information. So I can’t figure out what next week’s Megamillions lottery number will be today. :-(

Rarebear's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies Okay, I’ll do my best here. I’m running out of energy to continue debating the same points. I’m going to skip over to just the salient points that I want to discuss. I apologize for picking and choosing.

“How many times do I need to repeat myself? I DON’T believe in the supernatural.”
No, you just believe there was some sort of creator that created the code of life. But I was actually referring to the monkey example. You implied that there was something that was shared between monkeys that allowed them to all crack coconuts at the same times. I first of all suggested that it would be evolutionary pressure—nothing else. Later I showed how the whole 100 monkeys thing was all bunk.

“I’ve equated soul with mind”. Okay. If you want to call “soul” and “mind” the same thing, I say, whatever. But stick a 357 magnum to your head and pull the trigger—poof. No soul, or mind. Your brain is just meat, and your thinking is just biochemical reactions of that meat.

“Since information is a separate agent from code, all we can claim is that the code has been disordered.” Nope. The hard drive is destroyed. You can put the hard drive in the middle of a thermonuclear explosion and it will dissapate as heat. No information there.

“But the essence of meaning behind a bridge is not reducible to the corporeal elements of its construction” Of course it is. It’s just a bridge.

“However, the essence of meaning, or the purpose is completely satisfied by building anew from the original plans.” There is no essence of meaning of a bridge. It’s just a bridge. Just like my brain is just a brain. There is no “essence of meaning” of my brain. It’s just a hunk of meat. No more, no less.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@ETpro “The truth of them would still exist within the Universe. But since nobody any longer knows them and all media the information was recorded on was hopelessly destroyed, it would no longer qualify as information.”

I may be tempted to agree with you. But only on the grounds of the etymology of the word “information”. That being, thought in-to-form. That’s why I often use the term _“pure information”, as to separate it from it’s physical representation.

But I think you’re beginning to see where I’m coming from with your statement:
“The truth of them…”

The truth of, being the underlying essence of the physical form. This is much closer to my claim that God = Truth = Information. The Greeks called it Quintessence. The fifth essence beyond physical earth, wind, fire, water.

On other forums I am known as QuinticNon, in honor of that Unknowable Fifth Unknown.

So it would seem then we agree, that although the physical representationmay indeed be lost, the True essence of meaning that object (or concept) is nonetheless existent. Yes?

If yes, then where?

@Rarebear

I have no position either way as to whether or not the 100th Monkey principle is fact or fiction. But from your own links, the second article first states:

“The “sudden” acquisition of the behavior actually took four years…”

In evolutionary terms, that is instant.

And then confirms:
“there are some reports of similar behavior on other islands, the observations were made between 1953 and 1967”

And after justly rejecting and trashing Watsons improvisation, then goes on to offer it’s own conjecture as to explain why, committing the very same offense that Watson admitted to.
“The monkeys on other islands could have discovered this simple skill themselves; or researchers or inhabitants of the islands might have taught them; or monkeys from Koshima might have been taken there.”

And from the first article linked, Kawai was asked specifically if the washing occurred on other islands and on the mainland. Kawai responded: “Individual monkeys in other groups or in zoos may have accidentally learned washing behavior…”

Notice they are quick to reject Watson’s conceptual leap, but they fully admit that it has been observed, and then commit the same error as they accuse Watson of by offering their own opinions as to how it must have happened.

The third article has some suspiciously slanted positioning as well, claiming that the washing incidents rose, and then fell again. Fine, but who’s to say the reason why, and if the lesser washing wasn’t because of the very same reasons that it rose?

@Rarebear “You can put the hard drive in the middle of a thermonuclear explosion and it will dissapate as heat. No information there.”

That’s right. There is no information there because the hard drive is not carrying information. It just represents information.

@Rarebear “There is no essence of meaning of a bridge. It’s just a bridge.”

What is the purpose that qualifies it to be called a bridge and not a hammer? How will you illustrate the differences without referring to the essence of meaningful purpose of each object?

ETpro's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies So it would seem then we agree, that although the physical representationmay indeed be lost, the True essence of meaning that object (or concept) is nonetheless existent. Yes? Yes, on that we do agree.

If yes, then where? Well, in the case I outlined, right where the alien first discovered it, or wherever it moved during the course of the years till it was rediscovered by man. But that has nothing to do with there being a soul still in possession of that information unless I allow for belief in things that are unsupported by evidence at hand. I do not, I see that as the slippery slope we climbed up out of to leave the dark ages behind.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Rarebear – You mentioned that you’re happy to engage in a cosmological debate:

http://www.fluther.com/86931/how-do-atheists-explain-the-universe-or-multiverse/

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@ETpro

The point is to acknowledge the existence of an immaterial realm. There is no “where the alien first discovered it”. Essence of Info is beyond a “where”. It does not manifest into our physical realm without a mechanism to manifest it upon. That mechanism is a process of codification… language.

The “ation” in Information, denotes a process. The process of manifesting thought in-to-form. Before that process it had no form to represent its form-lessness. It was, and still is, form-less, and thus, “where” does not apply. Only the medium used to express it had form.

From my earlier comments, you will note that I equate mind and soul as synonymous terms provided by science and religion. But they refer to the exact same immaterial agent.

Are you denying the existence of an immaterial realm? I thought you agreed it existed after acknowledging that physical mediums could be destroyed yet the “Truth OF them” still existed. Was I mistaken?

Point being, that if there indeed exists an immaterial realm, then it is not such a hard swallow to acknowledge the existence of an immaterial mind/soul. I’m actually coming to the position that the immaterial mind/soul IS the immaterial realm. It doesn’t reside there. There is no there. It IS that. It simply IS, and I propose that It IS the True reality, and our physical existence is the illusion.

dpworkin's avatar

Time for you to read the Vedas, and really get the lowdown on this illusion thing.

ETpro's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies The point is to acknowledge the existence of an immaterial realm. There is no “where the alien first discovered it”. Essence of Info is beyond a where

But I do not accept an immaterial world of the soul or spirit or God because I have seen no evidence such a world exists. The circular argument that it is immaterial and thus beyond physical evidence’s reach is exactly the world of superstition I reject. I am most willing to accept an immaterial world if I see evidence of it.

The information we have about the physical universe, things such as the law of gravity, the laws of thermodynamics and such, came from observation of physical entities that do exist. We learned them from observing existence, not from some ethereal, mystical thought transfer. We can argue for a world that is all illusion. We can believe that all truth is contained only in the non-corporeal, mysterious immaterial realm. But the moment we step into that realm, any two of us can set up belief systems that are at once unassailable by any means and completely contradictory to one another. They cannot both be right if information and logic has any meaning whatsoever. We have seen that truth in the clashes of cultural superstitions around the world from the dawn of time till today.

I would love to believe in a soul, and in a God that created the Universe. I would love nothing more than to come to know that God. There is nothing I can imagine enjoying more than the awe and grandeur of understanding I could gain from knowing all the mystery of the Universe. But I suspect that if there were such a being, it would not be beyond that God’s capacity to reveal to us that s/he exists, even though in a realm outside our physical one. I cannot conceive of a God who wants our love, a loving parent, who deliberately cloaks themselves in total invisibility from their children.

Accuse me of anthropomorphizing God if you wish. I am sure that thought will jump to mind. But I suggest that God wanting our love yet setting an uncrossable chasm between us and God’s realm of existence flies in the face of reason. It defies logic. Intuitive psychology tells me that a sentient being wanting the love of another sentient being would not seek it by hiding from the love object. And intuitive psychology, for all its unscientific underpinnings, is an amazingly good tool at predicting the behavior of sentient beings. Better, in fact, than any known scientific tool at predicting movement of objects in an incredibly complex dynamical system.

Shuttle128's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies

If a thought existed at one point in time but all physical representations of that thought have been eliminated, how can anyone say that that thought still exists? There is no physical way to observe it. There is no way to learn it except to come in contact with its physical representation. Once all physical representations of “information” have been eliminated there is no way for that “information” to be recollected.

Ideas come from conditions of discovery. Most information comes from people thinking about the right thing at the right time. The Kutta–Joukowski theorem was discovered at nearly the exact same time by German and Russian aerodynamicists. The turbojet engine was an idea put forward by both British and German scientists at the exact same time. Two individual conceptions of quantum mechanics, found to be equivalent, were developed at roughly the same time. Ideas tend to sprout from available knowledge. When the available knowledge is ripe for developing certain ideas many people can come to the same conclusions independently. I can understand how you might think that information seems otherworldly; however, without the background knowledge that lead to these discoveries, the discoveries would not, and could not, have been made. The “information” associated with them would not, and could not, have existed.

Without knowledge of metallurgy, physics, and mathematics a bridge could not be conceptualized in the first place. The understanding of materials, physics, and mathematics are understandings of how the physical universe behaves. These are extrapolated from observing physical processes. We can rediscover this information because there are physical representations of these processes in real life that we can observe.

If humans developed far into the future, rather than present day, we would never have discovered that the universe is expanding and we would never have discovered that there were other galaxies because the physical phenomena that contain clues about that truth will not be observable in the future. The information about this truth may not exist at some point. If humans are the only sentient species to discover this truth and we die out and all our records are destroyed, there will be no information that the universe is expanding and no physical way to discover this information again.

I’ve of course left out a thing that you might otherwise have gotten after me about: desire. There is no reason to build a bridge if one does not desire to cross the water. There is no reason to think about the cosmos if one does not desire to know about the cosmos. Obviously desire is important in this but desires stem from the physical orientation of the human brain. If no human brains existed, there would be no desire to cross the water. There is no way for human desire to exist without a physical human brain.

What I’m getting at with all this is that information is come about through physical processes and cannot be made without these physical processes. We know things about the world because we’ve experienced them or have code that represents what others have experienced before us. Without these, information cannot exist.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

OK @ETpro I’m going to press you on this. When you earlier said “the truth of them…”, that distinguishes “the truth of them” from “them”, the actual object in question. You illustrated two separate agents. Now it seems you wish to conflate those agents back into one, refusing to acknowledge that “the truth of” is an immaterial property.

If you do not acknowledge the separation of image/object relationships, then you cannot possibly believe in a things like brain waves, electromagnetism or radio waves. None of them can be detected without the proper instrumentation or a physical medium to be expressed upon.

Look at code the same way you would as instrumentation. Code is the instrument (the tool) that humans use to detect the presence of immaterial pure essence of information. It’s no different than the etchings on an electroencephalogram being the tool used to detect brainwaves. One detects and represents the other, but they are not reducible to one another and should not be conflated to be so.

@Shuttle128 “If a thought existed at one point in time but all physical representations of that thought have been eliminated, how can anyone say that that thought still exists? There is no physical way to observe it.”

I completely agree. But since destroying one physical medium does not affect the essence of info, then there is no reason to suppose that destroying all mediums will affect it otherwise. It was only representational. The representation is not the represented. Only our ability to detect the essence of info has been affected. But we have no basis to claim that the thought has been destroyed any more than we can claim that brainwaves are destroyed by forgetting to plug in the electroencephalogram, or that her baby disappeared because the ultrasound machine got coffee spilled on it.

I fear we have lost the ability to discuss the issue effectively.

I’ve tried to come up with a word that describes the non physical immaterial essence of being that I wish to depict.

qualia?
noumena?
essence?

Unfortunately these words have all been debated and twisted by linguists and philosophers over the centuries to sometimes mean physical objects. Even Quintessence refers to a fifth element, and by being an element, it is disqualified to describe the immaterial.

And I don’t think aether works either. For it depicts an immaterial agent that was, is, always existing, rather than an immaterial agent that can be brought into existence, such as a thought from a mind.

@Shuttle128 ”...without the background knowledge that lead to these discoveries, the discoveries would not, and could not, have been made.”

I agree completely. But would you not also agree that the “background knowledge” was gleaned by observing experiential phenomenon and describing it, thereby creating codified information about it?

I’m glad we also agree that it arises from desire. However, since I cannot touch, taste, feel, hear, or smell desire, I must either conclude that desire does not exist, or that desire is an immaterial agent. I plum for the existence of desire as an immaterial agent. Yet I know of no purely physical mechanisms that can account for the creation of an immaterial agent. However I do know of physical mechanisms that can detect immaterial agents and represent them accordingly.

Therefor, I must conclude that the brain is a physical medium that can detect previously existing immaterial agents through the application of a tool such as code to do so. And I also must conclude that the brain may also be used as a physical medium to represent an immaterial mind/soul which in turn accounts for the immaterial desire which is ultimately created by it. The brain is just a mechanism. Not all that different from a processor with receiver/transmitter capabilities. It is the mind/soul that does the thinking, in turn making the lights blink on the machine.

Shuttle128's avatar

Forms would seem to be exactly the word you’re looking for. I understand what you’re getting at, but I don’t agree that when all physical representations of information go away, that it still exists. There is no possible way to confirm either way. An immaterial world that exists independent of physical reality but can affect it requires quite a bit of explanation, while information that exists only in its physical representations requires no more explanation. Occam’s Razor would have us follow the one with less assumptions.

We have no explanation for how an immaterial world might exist or interact with our physical world, and it appears that the use of an immaterial world is superfluous.

Desire is the name we give a state of mind. A state of mind is not an immaterial thing, it is an amalgam of processes in the brain that we classify. This doesn’t mean it’s immaterial.

ETpro's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies We seem once again stuck on the definition of the word, information. Its strictest technical definition is the one I am working to. By that definition, when all the symbols within any sentient brain and all those on physical media are gone, the information is gone. It doesn’t exist in any proven immaterial world. It must be rediscovered.

Also, by that sense, some underlying truths about the physical universe, if not observed at the moment they are true, would be difficult or impossible to derive from future observations. @Shuttle128‘s expanding universe example is a beautiful one, but even things still possible to derive might be almost infinitely difficult to calculate from after even a short passage of time.

Take for instance the behavior of a given subatomic particle in an atom smasher on a given day. To the scientist observing it, given proper instrumentation, it is rather trivial to observe and document. Information produced. But let’s say the scientist had a hangover that day and never showed up. The atom got smashed, but because the observer had gotten smashed too, no observation occurred. No instruments were turned on. No documents were produced. The quark came and went, leaving no record of its state when it was supposed to be observed.

Now imagine the incredible difficulty presented to a scientist 1,000 years in the future trying to understand enough about the causal universe that he could make the calculations required to observe the Universe around him and dial back exactly 1,000 years to predict what that particular quark in that specific atom smasher did at the exact moment of the collision. For all reasonable purposes of discussion, that information is permanently lost even though, if you understood enough about the causal rules that run the Universe, and observed all the particles in it and had a tool of infinite calculating power to process all that data, it might be recreated.

What I can’t see happening is reaching into some immaterial void and just snatching the desired information out.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@Shuttle128 @ETpro

Come on fellas. Shall I reduce your thoughts to these photons firing pixels on my monitor? The physical medium represents, and I have no reason to believe that the brain is the genesis physical medium that actually creates, instead of representing thought. The mechanics of the brain are most similar to the mechanics of my computer. What’s the difference? What capacity does the brain have that would lead you to believe that it can actually create ideas any more than a computer?

@Shuttle128
Yes, I considered the word “forms”. But it seems most counter intuitive and confusing to use the word form to describe the form-less.

@ETpro
I adhere to the Discipline Independent Definition of Information as set forth by UNC School of Information and Library Science.

“This discipline independent definition may be applied to all domains, from physics to epistemology.”

“Information may be defined as the characteristics of the output of a process, these being informative about the process and the input.”

Characteristics OF… but not the actual process itself.

Informative ABOUT but not the actual process itself.

“Models of communication (Shannon), perception, observation, belief, and knowledge are suggested that are consistent with this conceptual framework of information as the value of the output of any process in a hierarchy of processes.”

Value OF but not the actual process itself.

This definition covers all industries and disciplines with equal clarity.
“Topics or definitions provided include information, value, function, argument, process, informative, reversibility, message, channel, inverse functions, representation, perception, belief, knowledge, information loss, perfect information, incomplete information, and misinformation.”

It’s quite a thorough peer reviewed paper with a bibliography ten miles long. It covers Shannon’s model of information and the beginnings of Information Theory. It illustrates the differences between disciplines and effectively bridges the gaps whilst explaining much of the confusion about the misuse of the word information.

It clearly separates the medium from the message.

“Information may be understood as the value attached or instantiated to a characteristic or variable returned by a function or produced by a process.”

Value attached or instantiated to… but not the actual function or process itself.

It uses an effective and logical model of stacked processes, allowing for the numerous interpretations to satisfy their particular industries, yet conform to unity.

“Using the proposed hierarchical model of stacked processes one may model existing ideas about information, including the communication model proposed by Shannon, information as ``thing” or information as ``knowledge.” The information hierarchy provides a satisfactory link between physical processes and consistent ideas about information and higher level mental functions discussed by psychologists and philosophers. This allows information scientists and others to examine information in a uniform way across the breadth of information phenomena, providing a level of precision to some interdisciplinary discussions of information, and serving as a base to which additional limiting assumptions may be added within specific disciplines, such as the concept of ``value” for economic studies of information.”

ETpro's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies Thanks for your definition. I mentioned which one I was using just to be clear on why I could say that in my example of the Alien from 1,000 years ago, the information was lost but the underlying truth it had documented remained. Nothing inconsistent in my statement when using the definition of information I was using.

Even with the broader and quite elegant definition provided by Shannon, the smashed physicist’s information about the pesky quark was unobserved and can’t be recreated by any known process, so it is still kaput whichever definition we accept.

augustlan's avatar

testing

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Oh wow it’s fixed!

Thanks Augustlan!

ETpro's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies Glad to see you able to post. I just left you a comment in the thread on what imagination is, and that thread too has a moderation in it.

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