Tuesday, December 15, 2009

You, Robot

'The hard question, of course, is how we could tell that a robot really was conscious, and not just designed to mimic consciousness. Understanding how the robot had been programmed would provide a clue - did the designers write the code to provide only the appearance of consciousness? If so, we would have no reason to believe that the robot was conscious.'
Hmmm. How do I know you are really conscious? Tentatively, by introspection - I am conscious and you are like me therefore you are conscious. More persuasively, by extrapolating that phrase 'like me' - we are empathetically joined at a fundamental level, I know me by knowing you, not the other, introspective, way round. Neither of these would work with a robot. Assuming we knew it was a robot, we would be aware it was not like us at all so neither introspection nor empathy would work. This would not be helped by examining the software. What would software designed to mimic consciousness look like? We have no idea and the programmer's earnest assurance that his work was designed to produce consciousness would be meaningless. Anyway, what is it about consciousness that provides moral status? This is the gist of the Singer/Sagan article. Very little of what I do is conscious, does that mean that everything else has no moral status?
None of which, for the moment, matters. The development of artificial intelligence remains hopelessly stalled.
'For example, the failure of artificial intelligence to produce successful simulations of routine common sense cognitive competences is notorious, not to say scandalous.'
Jerry Fodor.

36 comments:

  1. Not just robots - the moral status/consciousness question could also be applied to animals. We feel more moral obligation towards dogs and dolphins than we do to sheep, and more towards sheep than mussels. Which opens up the question of degrees of consciousness and therefore moral agency - so maybe with robots we could accord them some degree of moral status, ie. it wouldn't be a zero sum all or nothing.

    But then again this is problematic because we do (or should) apply all-or-nothing to humans - ie. babies and the senile have full human status despite a lower degree of consciousness. Possibly. And then even the animal one is problematic - we didn't always treat dolphins differently to sheep, and the Japanese still might not. Indeed, we didn't always accord full moral status to all races, or women, or the plebs. And in a hundred years time we may well be horrified by the way we treat, ooh, say... rabbits.

    To summarise: no idea.

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  2. I suppose I'd turn this around and ask what does the hardware that creates consciousness look like?

    I can't get over the feeling that consciousness has something to do with randomness or, rather, unpredictability, 'the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings' as Wordsworth might put it. A great deal of human behaviour is entirely predictable. Most of what we do each day has a pattern and the rest isn't out of the ordinary. I'm not going to suddenly start ballroom dance lessons whilst playing the tuba. However, I do have that potential.

    Very slowly crawling through Chaitin's 'Meta Math', I've been trying to get my head around the notion of uncomputability. That is, functions whose behaviour/result is impossible to pre-determine. Chaitin himself talks about the distribution of prime number, which are already 'out there', in a sense, but there's no mathematical way to guess where they'll occur.

    I had wondered if this might be similar to our hardwired souls. It wouldn't mean that they're not in any way impossible to construct mechanically (or in software) but they would be totally unpredictable and give the impression of something that wasn't pre-designed. The 'spark' of consciousness wouldn't be some magical property but a fundamental condition of mathematical uncertainty.

    I demonstrate that I have a soul in certain ways: I have emotions, I express opinions, and I appreciate or create art. Yet these are not expressions of randomness, though they may be very unpredictable in the sense that nobody could have predicted 'Hamlet'. Of course, the infinite number of monkeys could have written it on their infinite number of typewriters but it would impossible to guess where in their infinitely long manuscript the text of Hamlet (along with Macbeth and King Lear and the rest of world literature) would appear.

    So much art produced in the last century conveys a notion of randomness. Yet I think we find so much of it unsatisfactory because great art was always underpinned by structure. And I think that this is where the two issues meet: the human soul perhaps finds a mirror in art. They are structured constructs whose outcome isn't random but perhaps unpredictable. The meaning of a sonnet is somehow 'out there', like a prime number, but there's no way we can anticipate it. Like life itself, it is always going to be a surprise.

    All of which means, as Brit says: I have no idea. I'm struggling with the Chaitin as it is and I've already written too much...

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  3. "I am conscious and you are like me therefore you are conscious. More persuasively, by extrapolating that phrase 'like me' - we are empathetically joined at a fundamental level, I know me by knowing you, not the other, introspective, way round. "

    I don't think this is right. It is quite possible to meet a person whith whom you feel no empathetic (I think you mean 'sympathetic', by the way) connection at all and yet you do not doubt his or her consciousness. Some psychopaths are like this. Also, we do not tend to ddoubt that other animals are conscuious (not when we are with them) but ther consciousness is not 'like us' at all.

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  4. Is there really a question here? If a robot really did mimic consciousness, to a properly human level, and it could express that, wouldn't we start to empathise with it?

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  5. Issue 1.

    Hmmm. How do I know you are really conscious? Tentatively, by introspection - I am conscious and you are like me therefore you are conscious.

    When we get into saying that "You are like me, therefore you have consciousness like me"---and then go a step further to say, "You are less like me than that person over there, so you have less consciousness we do"---we get into the building blocks of prejudice based on race and gender. Who or what we decide is conscious is always just that, a decision. And any criteria from the physical world that we use to determine who has it, or who has it more, is the indication of how we have been prejudicial. The next step is to say that groups of people are less like me because they do not think like me, and so they are less human, and it becomes okay to kill Christians or atheists, for instance, or at least imprison them, or section them off to have poorer living conditions. But back to appearances, if a white man like me is the standard for full consciousness, then a black man is less conscious (note too that the differences are exacerbated in language by not calling the colors peach and brown, but white and black, dramatically (and by lying) keeping the difference of skin color more in mind than would ever be practical, to the point of being a contrived memory device to never forget the difference), an Asian woman certainly is less conscious me, as is a white child, and embryos and animals even less so.

    Issue 2.

    [D]id the designers write the code to provide only the appearance of consciousness? If so, we would have no reason to believe that the robot was conscious.

    Not so. Assume first that consciousness can be produced by manipulating the physical realm, there becomes the possibility that the way to produce consciousness is to fake it till you make it, to give the appearance of consciousness either until, or such that, consciousness occurs. And that's all there is to it.

    Issue 3.

    All there is is consciousness. There is nothing physical anyway.

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  6. I forgot to add:

    Issue 4.

    Our peak experiences take place when we lose ourselves to conscious experience and focus, such that both the physical world an we perceivers seem to disappear.

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  7. Hi Rus

    Your comments in italics:

    When we get into saying that "You are like me, therefore you have consciousness like me"---and then go a step further to
    say, "You are less like me than that person over there, so you have less consciousness we do"---we get into the building
    blocks of prejudice based on race and gender.


    Not so. The guiding factor in how we treat other conscious organisms is empathy, nothing to do with degrees of consciousness. A newborn infant is demonstrably less conscious than me, but I would treat it much more carefully than myself because I am aware of its fragility & its ability to suffer. My consciousness - as far as its own limitations will allow
    - enables me to model how that infant will react, how it must be nurtured in order to become a fully conscious individual
    itself. I have never observed this to be based on race or gender.
    Prejudice arises because of an individual's lack of "intelligence", in its widest possible sense - emotional intelligence perhaps? Such an individual recoils at the unfathomable complexity of the physical world & attempts to simplifiy it into broad categories in order to make a workable model; indeed we all have to ignore some aspects of information we receive in order to go on living. If we can persuade ourselves that a large proportion of the world's population doesn't matter it makes our lives a Hell of a lot easier.

    Who or what we decide is conscious is always just that, a decision. And any criteria from the physical world that we use
    to determine who has it, or who has it more, is the indication of how we have been prejudicial.


    No, as I explained above, prejudice has different roots to observations of the physical world.


    The next step is to say that groups of people are less like me because they do not think like me, and so they are less human, and it becomes okay to kill Christians or atheists, for instance, or at least imprison them, or section them off to have poorer living conditions. But back to appearances, if a white man like me is the standard for full consciousness, then a black man is less conscious (note too that the differences are exacerbated in language by not calling the colors peach and brown, but white and black, dramatically (and by lying) keeping the difference of skin color more in mind than would
    ever be practical, to the point of being a contrived memory device to never forget the difference), an Asian woman certainly is less conscious me, as is a white child, and embryos and animals even less so.


    Same again. And have you never heard of the phrase, much ridiculed but still true, "women & children first?" How many times have men, who might otherwise appear to be rather brutish, gone back into burning buildings to rescue pets?An assertion that our consciousness derives from a metaphysical entity (the soul), that every living organism must
    therefore possess a soul & there is no gradation of souls means that every living thing must perish forthwith, for the simple
    reason that all life consumes other life. We live in a fallen, sub-lunary world & we're stuck with it.

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  8. Hi Traherne,

    But you give examples of where there are not prejudice. I did not say that the whole world is always and despicably prejudiced. Although, I appreciate that you considered just how wide-ranging and ignorant the likeness point could be taken. That you would stretch that far, is not an indication that I communicated that prejudiced stretched that far, but instead a beginning of differentiation, (versus the refutation you attempt). Yes, we coddle infants. But, the degree to which we do not, can be linked to the degree to which we believe there is no consciousness like "our" own.

    Part of war propaganda is to de-humanize the enemy, such that they are lesser people. In the original US Constitution, blacks were designated as 70% human. The quality of consciousness was not to be as respected as a white person's. By the way, this line of thought assumes that the person beating the child or the Jew, or who-or what-have-you, is not a socio-path. This leads into another direction of how and why we mistreat each other, but also how and why we bother to empathize with to the point of caring for others who have consciousnesses like we do.

    Important is that empathy is not outside the point I made, but well-considered and part and parcel with it. Therefore, what I said is nicely supported by the introduction and consideration of empathy--certainly not refuted in any way. But, nor did I say that the only root of prejudice was in appearance, only that it is basic to prejudice.

    You say:

    The guiding factor in how we treat other conscious organisms is empathy, nothing to do with degrees of consciousness.

    Empathy with what? Something which has no consciousness? True empathy assumes that I am placing myself fully into your shoes. If we assume that a droid has no consciousness, then there is nothing to be empathetic with. If we assume that a droid has a consciousness, then we are as empathetic as we put ourselves into its shoes.

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  9. Hi Rus.

    I would contend that your points concerning the US' treatment of certain races is entirely consistent with the idea of a lack of individual empathy, & the convenience thereof. In order to get elected politicians must appeal to the majority, so, even if they themselves possess the wherewithall to empathise, they must reflect the majority view, which is that of an electorate who find life difficult enough as it is without having to concern themselves with sections of the population they can dismiss. This is true of any society.

    Obviously empathy is only one factor involved in human interactions; individual survival is usually high on the agenda. A soldier does not have to lack empathy with his victim in order to kill him.

    I can't understand your droid argument. You may well be a droid. It doesn't really matter to me (except inasmuch as AI seems to be coming on well). If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck & smells like a duck I'll assume it is a duck. Turing rules!!

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  10. I can't understand your droid argument. You may well be a droid. It doesn't really matter to me (except inasmuch as AI seems to be coming on well). If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck & smells like a duck I'll assume it is a duck. Turing rules!!

    Let's look at this differently, then. Let's assume that beings we consider to be conscious like us, really are. But also that beings we do not consider as conscious like us, really are too. Pick you race. Shall we choose the niggers? or how about the more modern desert niggers? How about chinks and dagos? micks, honkies and spics? So much of the struggle for equality has been based on what does not look like us--whom waddles or quacks less like us--that it seems prudent at this point to ask: who or what else ought be considered conscious like us, such that the full force of empathy with all the moral imperative that we can muster behind it, leads to dramatic and important changes in how we treat our fellow ducks.

    Case in point. You said above that a newborn infant is demonstrably less conscious than you. Is that demonstration based on appearance, or physical qualities, waddles and quacks? And if it is true that the infant is not yet tied into the self-consciousness that it will come to, is it more like in the very valuable peak experiences that we have, when consciousness is lost to one of the "higher" modes of being? How would we know? Some things we cannot. Should we make the very political decision to make an infant 70% human? When infants have been abused in infancy, they have carried psychological scars that have impacted their futures tremendously. How conscious aren't they.

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  11. I really can't understand your reasoning here. Why on earth should we choose the list of races you gave as being less conscious? Why not people with big noses? Or small ears? Or under a certain height?

    No, the reason for the list you gave has everything to do with expediency, lack of imagination (an aspect of consciousness) & perceived threat to the individual. Nothing whatsoever to do with consciousness being more or less present - it may be used as an excuse, but bears no more examination than my list.

    My example of a newborn infant is based on what I have observed & my recollections of being a child. Why should you rate a % "humanity rating" to a child? How can you know what it will become? Suppose a child is mentally & physically disabled, how would empathy dictate you treat it? Quite simply, as you would wish to be treated yourself - to make its life as free of pain & as enjoyable as possible.
    As I said previously, I quite understand that empathy is far from the only agency working in our relationships with each other, but as a basis for a moral code I can't see anything better.

    By the way:
    "Will you see the infancy of this sublime and celestial greatness? I
    was a stranger, which at my entrance into the world was saluted and
    surrounded with innumerable joys: my knowledge was divine. I was
    entertained like an angel with the works of God in their splendour and
    glory. Heaven and Earth did sing my Creators praises, and could not
    make more melody to Adam than to me. Certainly Adam in Paradise had
    not more sweet and curious apprehensions of the world than I. All
    appeared new, and strange at first, inexpressibly rare and delightful
    and beautiful. All things were spotless and pure and glorious."

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  12. Hi Traherne,

    I also wanted to address your first paragraph:

    I would contend that your points concerning the US' treatment of certain races is entirely consistent with the idea of a lack of individual empathy, & the convenience thereof. In order to get elected politicians must appeal to the majority, so, even if they themselves possess the wherewithal to empathize, they must reflect the majority view, which is that of an electorate who find life difficult enough as it is without having to concern themselves with sections of the population they can dismiss. This is true of any society.

    We have the sociopathic psychology that does not consider any suffering of others in a daily routine. A 100% psychopath would just as soon kill you as look at you. So there is no hate crime to a sociopath killing a gay person, for instance. We also have the 100% empathetic side, which recognizes all fellow-conscious beings, and fully applies the golden rule in all its beauty to each. In these extreme cases, only the person with 100% empathy is prejudiced. It seems a judgment has been made, whereas the sociopath enters into or moves through no such process of consideration.

    But in between, there are the crimes of passion, the crimes of need, and the crimes of greed--when the mechanism to not behave empathetically gets shut off, and a spouse or a child dies, or a family loses everything. The Christmas lessons we get, from Dickens and Seuss, is that if these people were to be exposed to the full consequences of their actions, the full consciousness of the physical and emotional suffering they have created, they would mend their ways. Mechanistic thinking: "If I beat this person," or "If I take away from this person, such and so result will take place (if the person has any brains at all, that is.)" When such thinking is exposed, in a Christmas sort of way, the Scrooges and Grinches would humanize, as it were, and buy the big turkey in the window for the family they were exploiting.

    On the negative hand, however, if you and I were in the commission of a crime, and you started to feel uneasy about shooting someone who could turn us in, I might encourage you, by saying, "Kill the f--ing faggot." Here's a depiction of the double-crossing japansies: popeye the sailor vs the japanese. Here's another side: Spoken From the Hedgerows by Jorie Graham.

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  13. Hi Traherne,

    Your last comment appeared after my last was written. I am only seeing it now, some time later.

    The per cent human rating derived from the fact that Negroes were considered 70% human under US law. So they could be beaten, for instance. It's all a decision, a judgment call, based on insufficient evidence--and when we are dealing with observations in order to make judgment about consciousness, all physical evidence is insufficient and based on biases. From my childhood, and infancy, I recall consciousness. So I would not make the political determination that something is less conscious that I am as I write this at this particular age. By the way, in the midst of religious experience, consciousness can be heightened, or inflamed as it were, just as with peak experiences it can seem to disappear.

    A decision for prejudice can be made on appearance, on ideology, on someone or thing being considered more of a subconscious "animal" than being human. Just as sometimes we misunderstand that someone who appears to be lovable is not, or not being so--we mistakenly place, for the good or the bad, our empathies. Things aren't always what they appear to be. Assuming you eat meat, do you bring to your full consciousness, that the animal you are eating, was as fully conscious and viable a being as you think you are, and that it most likely suffered more than was necessary to kill it for food, or that it was not necessary to eat it for food, that something else was not only available, but would lessen the suffering in the world? Are you considering all the suffering you create each time you eat meat? Would you, if you were being asked to eat your own child who had been slaughtered, bring the fullness of empathy to mind?

    In fact, it can be soldiers, who through the comradeship that Graham writes of, can also be empathetic to the slaughter they create, thus being able to write poetry such as Wilfred Owen does, and to ceremoniously care for their enemies' bodies with tremendous respect. These are cases of being 100% human, and considering others, not droids, as the same. You have to deny all this in order to minimize someone to being a faggot or a kike or a dike. There is no other way around it. You must either get numb, or suffer from post-traumatic stress from exposure to what you have done to fellow-conscious beings.

    As I said previously, I quite understand that empathy is far from the only agency working in our relationships with each other, but as a basis for a moral code I can't see anything better.

    And your definition of empathy does not include the fully conscious consideration of the fully conscious experience of the other? What have you reduced empathy to?

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  14. If it waddles like a duck and swims like a duck and quacks like a duck and reproduces like a duck I'm happy to accept that it is a duck-like being.

    If and when an alien makes contact unless you have a good reason to think otherwise you are going to accept it as a person with free will and conscionsness. Why not extend the same courtsey to robots / computers when they get to that stage

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  15. Hi Rus

    So tell me, how would you determine if someone you met is a real person with consciousness or a very complex droid?

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  16. "Why not extend the same courtsey to robots / computers when they get to that stage"

    If I smash this robot/computer have I committed murder? Does that mean that if this robot/computer kills a person that it should be given a fair trial before it is turned off?

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  17. Hi Traherne (if that's who you are),

    You may be pleased to know, that I have decided that you are fully conscious. If you aren't, if you're a droid, then my mistake. But, if you are a perceptive being, you can see that this is how I decide who is a fully conscious human being like myself, by my actions, how I have been treating you as if you are.

    Never mind metaphysics, but I do not know if you are one person, a group sharing a single sign-on "traherne", a made-up alias with a contrived personality, whose real name is the scrambled Rene Hart. What if everyone is Bryan Appleyard except for me? I have no clue. In fact, as I reflect, I do not know how old or what gender you are, or would pretend to be.

    If I am wrong, so be it. It is the same mistake I may have been making all my life. I jump at shadows, once in a while, when no one is really there too. And like no one else who I perceive to be in this life, or who has ever supposedly lived, I have never overthrown solipsism either. Once I was married for 15 years, and in the end, had to ask myself if I ever really knew that person: how much of who I loved was from my wishful thinking? But at least I know it has been my own decision to make these leaps, and include what may very well be other people in my life, or at least some of them, or some of you if you are also for real and not a droid. At least I don't confuse the matter further, and base my decisions on contrived possibilities or studies done in the physical realm, compounding the illusion, for the sake of systematic surety.

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  18. Hi Rus

    Just in case you're interested, this is where I'm coming from (I've probably said most of it before anyway). I posted it on a philosophy forum. I'm still awaiting a response .........

    Any comments on the following would be most welcome.

    Several years ago it occurred to me that there was something unsatisfactory about "I think therefore I am".
    It led me to consider what is the bedrock of knowledge? What does a phrase like that actually mean? Eventually I came up with this.
    Whatever it is, it must be certain, it must be something irrefutable, something which cannot be denied. The only thing which fits the bill - as far as I can see - is a statement similar to the following:

    Something is happening.

    It looks obvious, useless & generally unpromising. But it is undeniable. Whether these events are internal - a dream - or external, I cannot tell, but that they are occurring I cannot deny.

    So where do we go from here? Well, considering the two possibilities:

    1) It's a dream. There is only me, the world I apparently inhabited is entirely self-created, including the sensations I have. This is solipsism.

    2)It is not a dream. I am part of a differentiated universe where other objects exist with an existence independent of my own. The sensations I receive are characteristic of these objects & allow me to distinguish between them & form patterns of interaction between themselves & myself. This is objective reality. It is where science (the application of scientific method) begins.

    Since I am a firm believer in 2) I was concerned that it was just that, a belief. I still can't get past that, but I think I've found a "work around", something which makes it irrelevant.
    It is soon demonstrable to myself that this apparent world is not under my conscious control. All sorts of nasty experiences happen to me. Thus, for 1) to be true, there must be a whole part of me over which I have no control. This means I can no longer distinguish between 1) & 2).

    I'm sure this must have been considered before, but I can't find anything. I may well be making some basic error & would be truly grateful if someone would point it out! My sole aim is to understand as much as possible.


    Thing is, having arrived at this point I can at least frame a rationale (essentially scientific) for my actions. Also it soon becomes apparent that complexity will always defeat any predictive model that can be made. Also that I cannot "know" "things in themselves".

    Have you ever considered that we are all part of one "soul"? That we are actually starting to really connect our collective concsiousness through technology - a process that really began with books & has now produced this? That we are creating, blindly, the next stage in our evolution?

    "if the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise".

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  19. Re: the original post about moral status, I do think we should trust our instincts, when in doubt. When you start rationalising about morality you end up with the sort of horrible and obviously wrong conclusions in which Peter Singer specialises.

    ----

    Traherne - you're right that "I think therefore I am" isn't the last thing you can doubt. The real last thing you can doubt it "a thought exists".

    But it's worth remembering that the simplest (Occam's Razor) explanation for the appearance of an objective reality, is that there is an objective reality; and being able to doubt everything except something isn't really a reason to believe that only that thing is real. The curse of Descartes is that Western rationalist philosophy got bogged down for centuries in trying (and failing) to 'build up' reality from cogito ergo sum. I view it as a greta big fun but ultimately pointless parlour game.

    As for Berkelian idealism - Doc Johnson refuted it thus.

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  20. Hi Traherne,

    There are not only two categories. From the point of observation, there are an infinite number of possibilities. It could be that what appears to us to be an objective reality, is projected through us. It could also be that there is a projection screen with some funhouse mirror characteristics, and just you. Or, all of us, and a changeable funhouse projection screen, which our projections are bouncing off of--and either we are the projectors, or God is, or some combination of the case.

    I often think of the physical world as that lowest common denominator which we can mostly all share, that not one of us is fully capable of empathizing with who each other are, each of us being so spiritually different--that the physical world is a comic and tragic degradation. This could be used to explain, for instance why we mistreat each other so, that we are led to believe from objective observation, that we contain each other, when really we are unable to fathom each other to a great degree.

    The dream you suggest for what "constitutes" physical reality does not necessarily indicate solipsism. Upon analysis, solipsism is only one irrefutable possibility. Just as we all watch this screen, we can all be tuned into the same dream. In this sense, other people ideas can have impact on our own perceptions. What breaks down is not the potential for the mechanism that fails, but the metaphor for it, that it is a dream. We aren't used to considering that dreams can be shared. And thus we are ripe for the illusion.

    Let's assume for the moment that there is only a physical reality, and we can pretty much observe everything as it happens from the point of view of our collective ken. Such a system is closed, such that even our perceptive consciousness derives from it. We have not been able to find the mechanism that would create consciousness from physical matter. We also have the compounded problem of trying to explain everything that consciously or mentally or spiritually happens in such a closed physical system, as having somehow derived from the physical world.

    When mystical experiences happen to mystics, they come from outside, such as the dove descending into the heart, and the inside, such as visitations in a dream. They can also come as if stimulated from place, as when something that seems to be a spirit of place and people, is experienced. The latter can cross more into a psychic's realm than a mystics. But we have these spiritual experiences, that if taken at face value, are indicating either some combination or something else entirely, besides that there is only the closed systems of either an objective physical world that we share, or that there is only solipsism. There is also the possibility of open systems.

    Each of us comes up with our own philosophy to follow. We are living in a politically materialistic world. We are grouped and guided together such that we are more and more learning and teaching that there is only the one extreme of possibility, the physical world. This changes our language and our perception through politics. But we each still can choose for ourselves, from the myriad "possibilities" or not decide if we choose not to.

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  21. My favourite Dr. Johnson quote Brit!
    However, much as I detest the Bishop he was right; the sensation of physical pain may simply be part of my dream, as would my apparent death if I jumped under a bus. Personally speaking, it's a gamble too far ...

    Iwas interested in your reference to Occam's razor, I was much taken with it at first - & it is an invaluable tool for hacking a way through a load of philosophical & scientific rubbish - but there's nothing necessary about it, sometimes the more complicated explanation tuns out to be the right one.
    Has it never struck anyone else that Gallileo missed a trick? He could have avoided the fury of the Inquisition, by agreeing that of course the sun goes round the Earth, it's just that the maths is a lot simpler if you do it the other way round!

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  22. You are correct. There are not only two categories. There are as many categories as you want. The point is: which categories are irreducible? The only irreducible category is that of events. The question is then whether this category can be sub-divided in a way which does not introduce continual contradictions & inconsistencies, one which allows the formation of predictive models to best survive these undeniable events.

    I would contend this division is I/Not I.

    As soon as you introduce "us" & "shared" you have made this division. A shared dream requires more than one entity to share it. Actually, I think "vision" is a better word than dream - I understand dream as a vision internal to me, as we all have different dreams, but we can have a collective illusory vision (e.g. a mirage).

    And the fact remains that it does not matter if the physical world is real or a collective illusion.
    It works.
    My toothache may be illusory, but if I go to my imaginary dentist the imaginary pain may be assuaged. I have yet to see anyone fall off a high building without suffering apparent physical damage, usually sufficient to permanently remove all apparent signs of consciousness (although if this consciousness cotinues in some other metaphysical world I cannot say).

    I think there is a fundamental problem here. Metaphysical ideas can only be desribed in physical terms - everything you or I or anyone else has written is physical. It is true we do not yet have a theory of consciousness, we may never acheive an entirely satisfactory one (in fact we never can; all models are necessarily incomplete). However, electrical activity in the brain is always associated with our physical actions, differentiated areas associate with different stimuli & various states of consciousness appear to be associated with different electrical patterns within the brain.

    Here's one for you: are our brains stand alone or networked?

    I have never denied, nor could possibly deny, the existence of some metaphysical world. But as long as I live in an apparent physical world I will live by its apparent rules.

    Wittgenstein was right.

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  23. Sorry, Rus, forgot to say my last reply was intended for you.

    Incidentally, what is your stance on Breatharianism? It seems the only viable option in a world full of ungraduated souls.

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  24. Hi traherne,

    We all play by the physical rules. This is the arena we know that we share. The physical world only works so far, though. Yes, we have physical needs that must be met, like eating today, or at least sooner more than later. But the physical realm does not include our spiritual sides, which is all we know we have for sure. And I say this assuming that there is no solipsism.

    Consider the possibility that we can perceive all that is in the physical world other than whatever we are: spirit. In other words, anything that exists that we are, we cannot have reflected back to us as we perceive. No spirit can enter through our sensory mechanisms. Thus, what we perceive is what is precisely not us. Whenever and each time we look, we can only see people in their bodily "containers", including our own, not in their spirituality.

    We infer spirituality by noting, for instance, that the eyes are windows to the soul--a saying that is meant metaphorically, because if we look closer at the eyes, we find they are extensions of the brains, and when we tear them part we find organic matter. But we don't then say, "Nope, no soul here!"--(unless we killed the person while tearing apart the brain.) Nor do we say that about the brain. The brain may be a degraded reflection, or in this case, what is physically impressed because of us. Even though we have all in our youths considered that maybe there is a parallel between the brain and the mind at every juncture, we need to maintain that they are two very different things, and that the brain can no more represent who you truly are than a clay mask of your face can. And although the brain can keep us busy finding its parallels with thought studies, it is only a theoretical pursuit that everything we are has a corresponding impression in the physical realm, somewhere within, upon, or within the vicinity or of our bodies.

    Within this physical world that we share, the language of the physical is all we can share as well. It is our medium. In no logical way does it preclude the existence of anything else. At no point, however, can it be said that because no spirit is being found in the physical realm that we have decided to observe, that therefore there is no spirit. That would be to become lost in a loop of fallacy.

    Two mystics can hang out and talk about their religious experiences, by saying such things as "Jeez, wasn't it like a dove descending? Did it have a personality? Did you ever have one that lasted hours and hours? What was it like? What do you think of people who contrive them through bodily positioning and meditation? Didn't a light infuse everything around you such that you could see that there is a superactive creative spirit beaming in everything? Isn't there so much more to see than when we are in our mundanity?" The entire attempt to communicate is by using language that is for the most part based in metaphor and simile from our shared physical experience, even amongst mystics. The book of Genesis is not trying to get you to look for a physical Garden of Eden. But smoke some pot, and try to tell someone who never has, how it feels. We don't have scripture for that, but we can ask each other, "Did you get a good buzz?"

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  25. In a very real sense we are all robots.

    One of the most important books of the past 20 years is William Wright's "Born That Way." It has become clear through studies on identical twins, separated as infants and then reunited as adults, that EVERY aspect of ones physical and psychological persona has a demonstrable heritable basis. These studies serve further to support Einstein's lifelong determinism -

    "Everything is determined...by forces over which we have no control,"

    a position with which I concur.

    Nowhere is this more evident than in the intractable positions held with respect to our origins as this and every other forum demonstrate every day.

    Isn't every aspect of the individual organism predetermined by information already present in the fertlized egg from which it develops? Of course it is!

    My cardinal sin was to assume that predetermination also applied to organic evolution. The development of the individual (ontogeny) and the origin of organic diversity (phylogeny) are part of the same organic continuum and are closely related phenomena. Both are irreversible, both involve the loss of potentiality with time, and both terminate, the first with death, the second with extinction.

    "Neither in the one nor in the other is there room for chance."
    Leo Berg, Nomogenesis, page 134.

    All present evidence pleads for a planned phylogeny in which chance played at best a trivial role.

    Furthermore, there is no compelling reason to assume that creative evolution is any longer in progress. We witness and are a part of a climax biota characterized by the complete suspension of the appearance of new kinds of life without a new Genus in two million years and not a new verified species in historical times. In short, organic evolution is finished and has been for quite some time. Those who are unable to understand this are blinded from birth, victims as we all are to the reality which Einstein held to his dying day that everything is determined. Some of us have been luckier than others.

    "Then there are the fanatical atheists whose intolerance is the same as that of the religious fanatics and it springs from the same source...They are creatures who can't hear the music of the spheres."
    Albert Einstein

    "A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five."
    Groucho Marx

    As for Darwin's persistent fantasy for which not a shred of evidence has ever been forthcoming beyond the generation of intraspecifiic varieties and subspecies none of which are incipient species -

    "It is unadvisable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatsoever for believing it to be true.""
    Bertrand Russell

    jadavison.wordpress.com

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  26. What evidence is there that the present situation was planned?

    And what about epigenetics?

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  27. traherne

    What is the evidence that non-living matter spontaneously self assembled into a living, evolving entity even once? That is the only conceivable alternative to a planned phylogeny. In the Law they utilize the doctrine known as the exhaustion of remedies to reach final conclusions. That is all that I am doing and all that William Bateson, Leo Berg, Robert Broom, Reginald C. Punnett, Pierre Grasse and Otto Schindewolf also did to eliminate the Darwinian model. Incidentally, if you read my 2005 paper "A Prescribed Evolutionary Hypothesis," you will find that I present both indirect and direct evidence under those headings in support of my thesis, a thesis I share with several of my sources.

    What I find most revealing is how I am treated as some sort of radical when nothing could be further from the truth. My position is ultra-conservative, accepting nothing that cannot be supported by the testimony of the fossil record and the experimental laboratory. Furthermore, my position is hardly unique as my papers have made abundantly clear. The only contribution that I have made that I can take credit for is my Semi-Meiotic Hypothesis(SMH) which is the cytogenetic mechanism I proposed for speciation in 1984. Everything else derives from my sources, a veritable honor roll of the greatest biologists of the post Darwinian era, not one of whom was an atheist or religious fanatic.

    I am sorry to say that I cannot provide concrete proof of a planned universe, but I can provide a wealth of evidence that there has never been a significant role for chance in any aspect of either ontogeny or phylogeny. If not chance, then what? That is the question that now must be asked.

    Once again I will let another speak for me.

    "To insist, even with Olympian assurance, that life appeared quite by chance and evolved in this fashion, is an unfounded supposition which I believe to be wrong and not in accordance with the facts."
    Pierre Grasse, Evolution of Living Organisms, page 107

    jadavison.wordpress.com

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  28. Dr. Davison

    "What is the evidence that non-living matter spontaneously self assembled into a living, evolving entity even once? That is the only conceivable alternative to a planned phylogeny"

    Incorrect. A process does not have to be planned to be initiated.
    To make a crude analogy, I know roughly what will happen when I knock a glass off a table, but have no idea where the individual pieces will come to rest, what shape they will be etc.

    Sir Fred Hoyle & Chandra Wickramasinghe proposed that, while evolution made sense once DNA appeared, the age of the Universe is orders of magnitude too low to allow a significant probability of spontaneous DNA appearing. They also pointed out that bacteria had interesting properties, some of which are pretty redundant on Earth but useful in deep space. I don't know if anyone's found evidence of extra-galactic bacteria yet, although I believe Sir Fred had found organic compound signatures in gas & dust clouds.

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  29. traherne

    I am sorry that you are unable to accept our collective conclusions about the "causes" of ontogeny and phylogeny, two of the greatest unsolved mysteries in all of science. We are obviously wasting our time here as we always have everywhere else we have surfaced over the past century and a half.

    I do not enter forums to debate. I enter to enlighten. If you choose to challenge our science, I suggest you do it on my weblog where we are all waiting for those who have the courage. So far there have been none. The only requirement is that you will have to divulge your identity. Otherwise you will be publicly identified as anonymous and probably ignored.

    "I have found you an argument but I am not obliged to find you an understanding."
    Samuel Johnson

    Thank you Brian Appleyard for allowing us to present our shared alternative to the most persistent hoax in the history of science.

    jadavison.wordpress.com

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  30. Every evolutionary event from the production of Phyla to species was an instantaneous event in which probability played no role whatsoever. Gradualism, an essential feature of the Darwinian fantasy, is just one more assumption for which not a shred of evidence exists.

    "The first bird hatched from a reptilian egg...We might as well stop looking for the missing links as they never existed."
    Otto Schindewolf

    While the transformation from fish to man took millions of years, it was never gradual. The stepping stones were all planned and all occurred instantaneously. That is OUR position.

    Furthermore, there is no more reason to accept a monophyletic evolution than there is to accept a single creator, especially a male one. They don't call her Mother Nature for nothing.

    "Organisms have developed from tens of thousands of primary forms. i.e, polyphyletically.
    Leo Berg, Nomogenesis, page 406

    "The sole purpose of the male WAS to bring evolution to a screeching halt in every lineage which employed sexual reproduction as its sole means of evolutionary change."
    John A. Davison

    "Every great idea begins as a blasphemy."
    George Bernard Shaw

    jadavison.wordpress.com

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  31. Dr. Davison

    Well, you are not enlightening me very much as you have failed to answer a basic logical flaw in your arguement. That is your prerogative of course, but you can't expect me (or anyone else) to take you seriously when all you offer is a series of assertions & bluster.
    And probability doesn't come into it. All you need is cause & effect.

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  32. traherne

    There is no place for logic in science. There are only facts which we hope one day will be explained.

    I am also not in the least interested in convincing others of our position. Richard Dawkins and Pee Zee Myers are masters at that art and what has it done for them? It has earned them what they have become, intellectual and ethical trash, the enemies of science.

    You my quote me.

    "War, God help me, I love it so."
    George S. Patton

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  33. Who, pray tell, can present cause and effect for a phenomenon no longer in progress? Besides, there never was an exogenous cause for either ontogeny or phylogeny. I thought WE had made that clear.

    "Many recent authors have spoken of EXPERIMENTAL EVOLUTION; there is NO SUCH THING. Evolution, a unique, historical course of events that took place in the past, is not repeatable experimentally and cannot be investigated in that way."
    Otto Schindewolf, Basic Questions in Paleontology, page 3ll, words in caps in italics in the original.

    jadavison.wordpress.com

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  34. "Who, pray tell, can present cause and effect for a phenomenon no longer in progress?"

    No such thing as memory then. Which is odd, because my apparent memory enables me to recognise patterns, using which I can predict the future.
    Still, 'tis all but an illusion.


    "There is no place for logic in science."

    Thank you & goodnight.

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  35. traherne, whoever you are,

    It is obvious that you are unfamiliar with my papers as I have presented many "patterns" which have led me to the same conclusions as my sources that there has never been a role for chance in either ontogeny or phylogeny.

    The one thing I learn here as I have learned everywhere I have presented my thesis is that people believe what they want to believe. You just don't like what WE have to say.

    I have exhausted my influence on this thread so I will let you have the last word as I know that means the world to you.

    jadavison.wordpress.com

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  36. I wouldn't normally post so long after the last preceding comment, but it's important to note that this statement:

    The per cent human rating derived from the fact that Negroes were considered 70% human under US law. So they could be beaten, for instance.

    is completely and utterly false. False in detail and false in whole.

    Having posted at all, I'll also note that the discussion has not dealt with anthropomorphism, tellingly known as the pathetic fallacy. We have all had quite dip and rich emotional relationships with objects we know beyond a doubt not to be conscious: our cars; our favorite t-shirt; our baby's binky, or that thing with the sharp corners that always ends up on the floor to be stepped on as I walk back to bed from the bathroom in the night.

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