Countering the Argument with Thorsten

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Thorsten

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« Reply #15 on: May 18, 2013, 02:55:05 pm »
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We're primarily invoking language games, which I'd like to avoid as much as possible but you tend to hit on those meriting distinction.

No, I don't want to do that at all.

I think the issue is simpler and more fundamental. You have (presumably) been socialized with science, and learned to apply and accept scientific reasoning.

Imagine for a moment you meet someone from a hunter-gatherer culture and talk to him about your mode of truth-finding. When you start talking about statistical analysis, he will tell you something like 'Why should it matter for me if something happens for these other people I don't even know?' If you talk about brain scans, he will tell you 'Why do you trust this machine more than your own senses?' He will look at you strangely and ask 'Can't you feel the spirits of nature?' In short, he comes from a completely different system of thought.

You, being born into science and reasoning from within science, will find it obvious that he goes astray. But he, being born into a spirit-world, will find you equally mentally deficient and regard your inability to feel the spirits as some kind of insanity. For him, science makes no sense whatsoever, he will regard it as some dysfunction of the mind.

Science as seen from within science is self-justifying - but that's just circular reasoning, albeit a bit hard to spot. So is animism from within animism. What you really need to do in order to justify science is to step out of it, try seeing the world from different perspectives, understand how it is conceptualized from different perspectives, and then see where science wins out.

(As a side note, Moenghus the elder is a fictional example of that trap of never leaving one's own perspective. He is in essence a scientist (rational reasoner), finds his own set of rational beliefs quite justified from within his perspective of science, but then completely misses out on the fact that the Gods of Earwa appear to be completely real rather than a figment of people's imagination and that he will  be damned as a result. Kellhus, in contrast, does leave his own perspective (or probably rather is pushed beyond it by the circumfixion).)

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What happens in cases of understanding or, even, imagination? Neural accounts seem to deal with embodied cognition, embodied simulation, or some account of neurons.

Well, I was sort of using 'making sense' in reference to 'truth'  - I readily agree that there is the additional complication that the feeling of 'making sense' as experienced by a mind may or may not correlate with any truth.


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What about language? In the Sapir-Wharf hypothesis (which was primarily asserted by a student of Wharf's), it's suggested that we can't account for the existence of phenomenon for which we do not experience or interact with linguistically (describing) in some way.

I don't buy Sapir-Whorf. I can talk with colleagues all over the world (who come from completely different cultural context) just fine about Quantum Field Theory (which can't really be put in words) and all of this should not work. Poking holes into Sapir-Whorf is not really difficult.

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How about the ways in which language warp our very perception of our environments (seeing more colours or feeling more or less emotions in relation to words in your language, cognition of time and space, or an example Wilshire brought up in chat the other day - which I will find as I'm starting to remember - about language and orientation,

There are lots of urban legends floating around, for instance you may have heard of the alleged timelessness of the Hopi language or the way the Piraha language contradicts universal grammar. I have bothered to read up in detail several of these cases, and it always boiled down to bad research. I am not aware of good evidence that languages would really warp the perception of the physical environment in a significant way. The social environment is a different beast.

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Regardless, your disdain for many of these results seems to come down to inapplicable discussion on the part of the authors

Yes, I think that's what I said previously - I don't doubt that if one does these things, one gets the results quoted, I just doubt that the interpretation attached to them is correct.

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Illusory correlation is almost the quintessential human problem, if we are to be understood in terms of pattern-recognizing machines - we see correlation where there is in fact none.

That's easy to say - how do you know where there is in fact none?  How many correlations do you miss which are in fact there? All you have is a discrepancy between two systems of reasoning where one claims a correlation and the other doesn't. For you, it seem obvious that one of these systems (science) must be correct for the problem at hand, but I don't see this as obvious at all.

Science isn't a fact-producing machinery. There are very, very few scientific results which have survived even 100 years without revision. It used to be 'fact' that the influence of the environment can't possibly inherited by the offspring. Well, now there's epigenetics - turns out that it can after all. It used to be 'fact' that there's an ether in which light propagates. Now we have Quantum Electrodynamics for the job.

Science is a description and predictive-model producing machinery - it does deal with better descriptions and more predictive models, but it doesn't ever deal with facts - assuming something fact may be a pretty dangerous error for a scientist because it means you will never be ready to revise it.

Let me ask a very simple question - can you name anything which you would consider 'real' and compare it with a different thing which you would call 'illusion'? So maybe we can get the definitions from there.
« Last Edit: May 18, 2013, 03:04:52 pm by Thorsten »

What Came Before

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« Reply #16 on: May 18, 2013, 05:46:33 pm »
I have a feeling we're coming to limits of mutually beneficial communication.

You, being born into science and reasoning from within science, will find it obvious that he goes astray. But he, being born into a spirit-world, will find you equally mentally deficient and regard your inability to feel the spirits as some kind of insanity. For him, science makes no sense whatsoever, he will regard it as some dysfunction of the mind.

Science is a tool, right? I don't ultimately ascribe to any tool, for any reason, really. But sooner or later, s/he and I are going to be ignorant of something - perhaps, we'll have the luxury of understanding whether that something coherently satisfies our worldview or it is something we cannot digest/interpret. It seems that worldviews (synonymously languages, perhaps) expressed in smaller, ecological niches, maybe where they've enjoyed a longer pedigree of living, understand those specific environments with a greater degree of accuracy than I do with "science!" but other worldview's (functional explanation for environmental phenomenon?) might not tolerate such digression as "I with science" am able to.

Either way, it misses the point. In both cases, the brain intakes sensory information, that is beyond the sufficient experiences of those sensation - "s/he and I" get enough information to do... A Bestiary of Consciousnesses?... what exactly? Who knows.

Science as seen from within science is self-justifying - but that's just circular reasoning, albeit a bit hard to spot. So is animism from within animism. What you really need to do in order to justify science is to step out of it, try seeing the world from different perspectives, understand how it is conceptualized from different perspectives, and then see where science wins out.

I never invoked "science!"? I offered examples (albeit, without retrieving specific studies and defending those results, in specific) yet you summarily dismissed by suggesting that because you can point out fallacious results in the studies you've been exposed to, and, perhaps, therefore in any other you may encounter.

I attempted a half-assed expression of "science!'s" justification, as concerned by psychology - mathematics (usually, through statistical description) and language (valid linguistic statements) - or neuroscience - imaging studies.

(As a side note, Moenghus the elder is a fictional example of that trap of never leaving one's own perspective. He is in essence a scientist (rational reasoner), finds his own set of rational beliefs quite justified from within his perspective of science, but then completely misses out on the fact that the Gods of Earwa appear to be completely real rather than a figment of people's imagination and that he will  be damned as a result. Kellhus, in contrast, does leave his own perspective (or probably rather is pushed beyond it by the circumfixion).)

Segue noted: In one of the rare instances that Moenghus speaks to affirm knowing more because he is Cishaurim, he readily admits to experiencing their visual revelations, yet that "what lies Outside, Kellhus, is no more than a fractured and distroed reflection of what lies within" (TTT, p460).

I don't think this helps our understanding of BBH.

Well, I was sort of using 'making sense' in reference to 'truth'  - I readily agree that there is the additional complication that the feeling of 'making sense' as experienced by a mind may or may not correlate with any truth.

The philosophic pressure remains your own, Thorsten. I've done what little I could to define "Truth," for our discussion. I asked you before to hazard a distinction when mine felt incomplete and I express that request again.

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I don't buy Sapir-Whorf. I can talk with colleagues all over the world (who come from completely different cultural context) just fine about Quantum Field Theory (which can't really be put in words) and all of this should not work. Poking holes into Sapir-Whorf is not really difficult.

Math could be it's own language (Count Alfred Korzybski, Dr. Richard Bandler, etc)?

There are lots of urban legends floating around, for instance you may have heard of the alleged timelessness of the Hopi language or the way the Piraha language contradicts universal grammar. I have bothered to read up in detail several of these cases, and it always boiled down to bad research. I am not aware of good evidence that languages would really warp the perception of the physical environment in a significant way. The social environment is a different beast.

I could set your sights on decently readable books and research but I've been decried for dropping titles.

I'm here to tease from your rebuttal of the Argument (and your participation in our discussion), a finer, more comprehensible BBH. Nothing more, nothing less.

That's easy to say - how do you know where there is in fact none?  How many correlations do you miss which are in fact there? All you have is a discrepancy between two systems of reasoning where one claims a correlation and the other doesn't. For you, it seem obvious that one of these systems (science) must be correct for the problem at hand, but I don't see this as obvious at all.

Again, not quite sure where you have the idea that I'm thumping "science!". I've offered averages (studies) concerning human behavior in an average of cases and data concerning only a few humans, in regards to neurological dysfunction or degeneration - we've both conceded the fallibility and generalities of statistical description: I wouldn't be immediately talented trying my hand at computation neuroscience, for instance, so I can't offer any better evidence for you.

Let me ask a very simple question - can you name anything which you would consider 'real' and compare it with a different thing which you would call 'illusion'? So maybe we can get the definitions from there.

This an interesting crux because I have basically no interest in nor is it even a necessity that I justify these terms for the sake of our discussion. And it would be a disservice to it, that you tease statements out of my offering an explanation of those distinctions. If you have readily available definitions, by all means, share them.

However, attempting a BBH worldview (which I am certainly not meditatively inclined or interested in attempting to embody):

Let's start from illusion because I'm never sure that real applies.

We experience illusory correlation, indiscriminately, insofar as we are either/both ignorant of their occurrence or where the hard wall of experience doesn't immediately contradict our, otherwise simple, cognitive dissonance.

However, in terms of how our languages, our philosophies, even math to an extent, describe "reality as it exists, necessarily consequent of us, or without us antecedent as it is," we might say those descriptions (which we experience more or less immediately visceral than other articulate abstractions) are an illusion, a misconception, because we don't know what kind of information BB interacts with before our conscious, sufficient, experience. Even in cases of expertise, of conscious learning and practice, individuals render behaviors and their cognitive tools, unconscious, implicit, and part of a system that functions beyond our ability to experience it.

That information could well be redundant - but it might well as shatter the box as we push its thresholds as it may well push the boundaries of scientific falsification.

I apologize again for the instances of perceptible "science!" thumping. It is simply one of likely many possible methodologies, science isn't it's own thing, it's applicable to all these different disciplines, all these different, converging arenas of description, neh?

Again, not sure what's happened in the communicative breakdown here... I appreciate the time you've spent dialoging and look forward to other moments of understanding and clarity?

Callan S.

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« Reply #17 on: May 19, 2013, 12:06:49 am »
It's weird how when science does something like drop a watermelon and a marble in order to show they both fall at the same speed, were all 'okay, we'll just accept that'. But somewhat like they say, the more complicated science gets, the more it seems just another form of magic. And then the questions become 'Why does your magic trump my magic?'

Thorsten

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« Reply #18 on: May 20, 2013, 07:25:21 am »
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I have a feeling we're coming to limits of mutually beneficial communication.

Well, we do seem to get lost somewhere. Admittedly I have a hard time understanding what your position actually is, even re-reading your words I still get contradictory information. In return, I feel quite misunderstood.

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I never invoked "science!"?

But Neil (and hence Bakker) does - that's what all this is about, right?

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I offered examples (albeit, without retrieving specific studies and defending those results, in specific) yet you summarily dismissed by suggesting that because you can point out fallacious results in the studies you've been exposed to, and, perhaps, therefore in any other you may encounter.

I can't recall you posting any specific studies as example here. I gave four examples of studies I dismissed, citing my reason for doing so. You offered interpreted results without telling me how the underlying studies were done, thus denying me any possibility to make up my mind about the study. I apologize, but I don't take such interpretations on faith - I want to be able to judge the full methodology. I will certainly dismiss any other study with similar reasoning errors which I may encounter. I would be happy to discuss with you about any concrete example rather than be forced to make blanket statements.

It occurred to me in the course of the weekend that Akka in the 'White Luck Warrior' actually spells out what is done in Neuropath.

Neil in essence pulls off a conjuring trick. What he can demonstrate in the end is that you can artificially induce alternate states of consciousness. People licking toads, eating mushrooms and inhaling holy smoke have known this for millenia though. If Neil would be a shaman, claiming that alternate states of consciousness are proof of the gods, then everyone would dismiss his results out of hand. But he's a scientist.

By framing all this in science and writing to readers which are socialized within science, Bakker manages something remarkable. By appealing to prior knowledge of the readers, he creates a frame of established fact and illuminates everything in knowledge - and this in turn hides the boundaries of said knowledge and leads to the absence of questions.

In particular, the whole setup distracts from the fact that science has boundaries. For instance, questions like 'Free will' or 'The supernatural' are quite outside of science for the simple reason that it's not possible to formulate a testable hypothesis to prove or disprove the notions. There are no concepts to formulate these properly (I invite you to try if you think differently). It also hides the fact that science is justified from somewhere.

And since the reader has the notion that he knows so much, he fails to realize his ignorance and fails to ask further. Like 'What is actually going on here?'

Suppose for a moment Neil would investigate something we do know properly. Say real-time 3d rendering (because it's a hobby of mine). What we see is the output - we see for instance rainbow reflections on light passing through dew drops rendered on-screen, which prompts the question 'How does this work?'

Now here's Neil investigating 3d rendering. He shows you an IR image of the mainboard where the graphics card is lit up brightly when the rendering runs 'Look, we can identify the centers where it is done!' He asks you to look at the screen, then says: 'Look what I can do!' and waves a magnet in front of the screen - and because it is an old cathode ray screen, the rendered image swirls with the magnet. 'Look what I can do!' - and pulls the red color channel cable from the monitor - and as a result, the image gets a strange yellow-green hue. 'Look what I can do' - and he puts some current to the graphics chip, short-circuiting parts of the fragment-rendering pipeline, and as a result rainbow-colored static fluctuates across the screen. 'I can make you see all these things. It's all the hardware, see!'

But as anyone doing 3d rendering knows, he would completely miss the point. The question is after the algorithm - we're asking the few hundred lines which describe how light interacts with a dew drop in terms of vertices, light vectors, textures, specular highlights and so on. The algorithm is high-level information, it works independent of the realization on GLSL or direct-X, or on an Intel, NVIDIA or ATI chipset. The algorithm is not dependent on a particular low-level realization on a particular graphics card, and you have about zero chance of reverse-engineering from Neil's techniques. The best chance to re-engineer it is to look at the output and try to understand it on the high conceptual level.

Which is to say, I think Neil obtains information, but the information he obtains is completely disconnected from the question he proposes to address. And this would be completely obvious if he wouldn't be a scientist but a shaman so that the applicability boundaries of what he was doing wouldn't be hidden so well.

Which is also to say, I don't think neuroscience claims to 'illusionary I' or 'no free will' will change society in any way. If anything, they will discredit neuroscience, or even worse science in general. People ascribe a high degree of credibilty to science, but not to the point that they'd accept something which contradicts their good and direct experience. 


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It's weird how when science does something like drop a watermelon and a marble in order to show they both fall at the same speed, were all 'okay, we'll just accept that'. But somewhat like they say, the more complicated science gets, the more it seems just another form of magic. And then the questions become 'Why does your magic trump my magic?'

No, that's not so weird if you accept science as a tool.

An ax is a very good tool if you want to cut branches from a trunk. So you might think to apply it further. It still works decently to cut down a small tree. So you might apply it further. It barely works to cut down a large tree. It certainly doesn't work well enough to cut down a whole forest - so at some place, you take a chainsaw or even a harvester vehicle.

But of course, taking the harvester to cut branches from a single tree is extremely cumbersome.

So science is a very good tool (the best, I think) to get your mind around falling watermelons - but as you expand its region of application, it doesn't necessarily stay a good tool (although this is usually assumed).

Consider for instance statistical analysis. If you look into what it actually is, it is a tool to manage your lack of knowledge (if in a medical study the result is that a drug helped 55% of the probands this is equivalent of saying that the researchers have no idea of the causal relationship between the drug and the body, because otherwise they would know in each case - when I drop water melons, I don't answer in 55% of melons will do that, I give you a number when it will reach the ground). So statistics is only useful if you have a controlled lack of knowledge (i.e. an idea of what you do not know) - if you don't, you can still go through all the same motions and get answers, but your results cease to mean anything (apart from 'I don't know'). For instance, it is statistically completely true that a bit less than 50% of all parents who plan on having children will get pregnant. Of course, if you happen to be a man, the implication is not that you should have a fair chance of getting pregnant... so the 50% are mathematically true, but completely miss the point. In this case you can spot it easily, but there are way more subtle cases. And the formalism simply doesn't tell you when it becomes meaningless - so there's no warning from inside statistics.

So if you frame it like 'Why do you think your tool is better for the purpose than my tool?', it is no longer such a mystery, it becomes a valid question.

Callan S.

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« Reply #19 on: May 20, 2013, 08:17:21 am »
I think your treating non rigorous/half assed applications of the tool as a fair representation of the tool.

If you don't think analysis could be conducted any more rigorously than what you know of, okay.

But if you do think it could be conducted more rigorously...why attribute the half assed effort as being science?

Thorsten

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« Reply #20 on: May 20, 2013, 08:32:12 am »
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But if you do think it could be conducted more rigorously...why attribute the half assed effort as being science?

Because Neil (and Bakker) do. I think science isn't applicable to some problems. An ax can be blunt, then it doesn't work well, and you can sharpen it, but it still remains an inadequate tool to cut down a forest.
« Last Edit: May 20, 2013, 12:11:05 pm by Thorsten »

Thorsten

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« Reply #21 on: May 21, 2013, 06:55:20 am »
Have been trying for yet another hour to digest this. This is in essence your response when I asked about real and illusionary.

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For my personal coin, I've subscribed to the thought that unless we're a completely necessary component for the existence of the Multiverse, then Objective-Truth, the state of affairs as they truly are (Reductionism to it's holistic conclusions...) exists outside of a human account in sound. I mean, we more or less exist happily based on how much we maintain our habitable environment, our niche. I'm not necessarily advocating naturalist truth but living, and accounts of it, in more accord with the actual state of the Multiverse seems to have its dividends.


I've always found the German word Umwelt helpful. Basically, we perceive only what we can perceived. Which leaves for the unperceived...
(...)
Let's start from illusion because I'm never sure that real applies.

We experience illusory correlation, indiscriminately, insofar as we are either/both ignorant of their occurrence or where the hard wall of experience doesn't immediately contradict our, otherwise simple, cognitive dissonance.

However, in terms of how our languages, our philosophies, even math to an extent, describe "reality as it exists, necessarily consequent of us, or without us antecedent as it is," we might say those descriptions (which we experience more or less immediately visceral than other articulate abstractions) are an illusion, a misconception, because we don't know what kind of information BB interacts with before our conscious, sufficient, experience. Even in cases of expertise, of conscious learning and practice, individuals render behaviors and their cognitive tools, unconscious, implicit, and part of a system that functions beyond our ability to experience it.

That information could well be redundant - but it might well as shatter the box as we push its thresholds as it may well push the boundaries of scientific falsification.

1) I don't know what your Multiverse is. It is not a well agreed-on concept. I know it from Fantasy literature, Moorcock uses it to characterize all the worlds his eternal hero acts in. Speculative cosmology has a multiverse, creating all possible universes so that one can use the anthropic principle to justify why some things in this universe are as they are. Speculative String Theory generates the landscape with 10^600 different basic gauge theories, all corresponding to possible universes. One interpretation of Quantum Mechanics has the many worlds hypothesis that makes all state amplitudes real, not only the ones projected by a measurement. Multiverse in essence is a buzzword that may mean anything and has been used by almost everyone speculating about physics to mean something completely different.

There's no bit of actual evidence that any of these is true.

2) You seem to distinguish 'reality as is' from 'reality as perceived' here and declare everything which is not 'reality as is' as an illusion.

It seems to me that consciousness is a part of 'reality as it is, being itself' and hence the only part of 'reality as is' we have access to - whatever else we perceive is always reality as perceived. So I would argue that given your definition 'I' is real but incomplete, the rest of the conscious perceptions are 'real' as far as the perception (the qualia) goes but not as far as the object perceived goes, and the 'I' reflected upon by the conscious mind is hence less real than the 'I' being itself.

I don't find the definition particularly useful, because it declares pretty much everything illusionary.

What I find more interesting is the degree of reality we can assign. 'mass' and other physical concepts do not require belief - a rock will kill you when it drops onto your head, regardless if you believe it will or if you are even aware. 'money' or 'police' work only if you are aware of them, understand them and share a common belief, i.e. they are real in quite a different sense. A Beethoven symphony has yet a more complicated degree of reality, because it is a pattern and can jump across many different carriers, from sheets of papers to a DVD to sound waves to the memory of the orchestra members how to perform it - it doesn't require belief, but it requires a key to decode.

Illusions are then things which claim a different category of reality than they are - a  hologram or a mirror may create the illusion of a rock, but the illusion has quite different properties, it cannot kill. Someone dressed up as a police officer may create the illusion of a police force, but will not be able to be backed up. It's not clear to me that something can give the illusion of being a Beethoven symphony.

This is primarily a distinction of usefulness - I recognize that there's very little I can do in absolute terms with reality, so I classify the rest according to degree.

Using such references to 'reality as is', it is quite easy to declare things as 'illusion'. The point is that most people do not realize that the same argument declares everything else an illusion. A clearer statement would be that 'I as self-aware reflected upon' as the same degree of reality as 'grain of sand' or 'SiO2' - i.e. a reflected perception - and a higher degree of reality as 'money' - i.e. a social construction.

3) I have no idea what  Reductionism to it's holistic conclusions... is supposed to mean - reductionism and holism are logically incompatible principles, the sentence is a paradox.

If you mean to imply that reality as it is is paradox, I'm probably with you.

4) I'm not sure what to make of

I've always found the German word Umwelt helpful. Basically, we perceive only what we can perceived. Which leaves for the unperceived...

It seems for a truism and as such trivial. I don't think anyone here means to say that what we see is all there is. I don't even know of anyone who ever wrote that the conscious mind is all there is to the mind. I think it is algorithmically impossible to create any pattern which is aware of all its internal state at once (so even Kellhus must have an unconscious mind). So what does this really argue?

5) You seem to go for some variant of Solipsism - but thats not a scientific proposition.

Even in cases of expertise, of conscious learning and practice, individuals render behaviors and their cognitive tools, unconscious, implicit, and part of a system that functions beyond our ability to experience it.

That information could well be redundant - but it might well as shatter the box as we push its thresholds as it may well push the boundaries of scientific falsification.


Yes. So it could all be wrong - and there is Solipsism that argues precisely that, and it can't be refuted.

The point is, if it's too wrong, science doesn't work.

a) Perception must be a meaningful representation of properties of reality as it is, otherwise science breaks.
b) Decisions between true and false propositions must be free (and refer to reality as is) and not determined by circumstance, otherwise science breaks.

What you can't do is scientifically prove something which implies science doesn't work. You can't falsify something that your falsification method requires to work.

So you can strike all possibilities from Bakker's Bestiary which violate a) or b) as untestable within science. They could still be true, but they're never accessible scientifically.

Conversely, if science works (as Bakker and Neil seem to believe), then some properties of the mind follow necessarily.

Callan S.

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« Reply #22 on: May 21, 2013, 08:21:08 am »
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But if you do think it could be conducted more rigorously...why attribute the half assed effort as being science?

Because Neil (and Bakker) do. I think science isn't applicable to some problems. An ax can be blunt, then it doesn't work well, and you can sharpen it, but it still remains an inadequate tool to cut down a forest.
I don't think that's getting into speculative fiction and trying out the idea - your folding the idea into your axe notion and not entertaining the idea of something that can carpet bomb the forest to hell and back.

When someone says 'What if it's this way?' - it's not really a counter to say 'No, it it's not'. It's just unimaginative.

One might not be utterly convinced - but the only way to utterly convince of a speculation about technology is if Bakker went and invented the brain augmentation technology. Surely to require that is to show no interest in speculation at all?

Thorsten

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« Reply #23 on: May 21, 2013, 09:12:26 am »
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When someone says 'What if it's this way?' - it's not really a counter to say 'No, it it's not'. It's just unimaginative.

Okay, the game here is:

Bakker in the guise of Neil makes a statement about the mind and science in the context of a future version resembling our world. I interpret this as a statement made about the mind in our world, because

a) Bakker doesn't indicate that science works significantly different in the world of Neuropath
b) Bakker refers to experiments done in our world and claims made in our world and
c) the limitations of science as we know it are universal

So I answer to the argument as if someone would have made it for our world.

Since Neuropath is a work of fiction, the author is entirely free to say 'Hey, but in my world it is all different and I am right.'  I concede that point that an author is free to invent a world in which he answers 'What if it's this way?' by 'This comes out'.

If that is Bakker's answer, then logic doesn't really work too well in the world of Neuropath, because self-defeating arguments are somehow okay, but that's not interesting for me.

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One might not be utterly convinced - but the only way to utterly convince of a speculation about technology is if Bakker went and invented the brain augmentation technology. Surely to require that is to show no interest in speculation at all?

You missed the point. Even if a real Neil could demonstrate all which he sets out to do, it would still not prove what he claims it does. He faces a conceptual problem, not a technological one.

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I don't think that's getting into speculative fiction and trying out the idea - your folding the idea into your axe notion and not entertaining the idea of something that can carpet bomb the forest to hell and back.

Which would make it an eminently useless tool to cut branches, illustrating my point yet again.

What I am doing is illustrating the implications of the idea (which Neil doesn't for obvious reasons) - and they're not compatible with the assumptions on which the idea is based. Which is to say, there's a consistency problem. Now, you can chuck out consistency (and modern fiction even does that at times), but then the results get really strange.

In other words, my answer to 'What if it's this way?' is 'Then you're forced to believe at least two mutually exclusive statements to be true.'

Callan S.

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« Reply #24 on: May 22, 2013, 12:01:26 am »
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When someone says 'What if it's this way?' - it's not really a counter to say 'No, it it's not'. It's just unimaginative.

Okay, the game here is:

Bakker in the guise of Neil makes a statement about the mind and science in the context of a future version resembling our world. I interpret this as a statement made about the mind in our world, because

a) Bakker doesn't indicate that science works significantly different in the world of Neuropath
b) Bakker refers to experiments done in our world and claims made in our world and
c) the limitations of science as we know it are universal

So I answer to the argument as if someone would have made it for our world.
All you're doing is trying to argue it isn't speculative fiction, but without saying that.

If you want to argue it's a work of fiction which, perhaps like historical fiction, relies on currently known facts, okay, pitch that.

But if you can't bring yourself to argue it, then it's speculative fiction - but instead you're addressing it exactly as you say - as if someone made an argument for the world as it is.

I would agree his blind brain stuff on TPB is arguing for the world as it is.

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Since Neuropath is a work of fiction, the author is entirely free to say 'Hey, but in my world it is all different and I am right.'  I concede that point that an author is free to invent a world in which he answers 'What if it's this way?' by 'This comes out'.
No, the question of 'What if it's this way?' is aimed at you! It's not the author sitting in a corner asking himself questions and also answering them.

You're disinclined to consider it - so much so you describe the author as just talking with himself. Even though you'd probably take on a fiction that had dragons secreted away around the real world.

Feel free to say 'well, X would have to be the case for it to pan out that way, and even though I don't think X is true, I'll humour it as being the case for awhile...'

I mean, that's what fiction is. Humouring things for awhile.

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One might not be utterly convinced - but the only way to utterly convince of a speculation about technology is if Bakker went and invented the brain augmentation technology. Surely to require that is to show no interest in speculation at all?
You missed the point. Even if a real Neil could demonstrate all which he sets out to do, it would still not prove what he claims it does. He faces a conceptual problem, not a technological one.
From your computer analogy, you seem to think the mind isn't gone on damaged hardware.

I think if someone downloaded the program from damaged hardware and then compared it to the original disks program, you'd find quite a difference.

But you seem to treat the conceptual as one step outside it all - so Neil could demonstrate all which he sets out to do - yet somehow it doesn't demonstrate what he sets out to do. Because conceptual.

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I don't think that's getting into speculative fiction and trying out the idea - your folding the idea into your axe notion and not entertaining the idea of something that can carpet bomb the forest to hell and back.

Which would make it an eminently useless tool to cut branches, illustrating my point yet again.

All you're doing is walking me into a verbal trap - you talk about the axe not being able to cut a forest - I walk into the trap of describing something that can cut a forest. You then say it can't cut a branch - then I walk into an example that does that, which then wont be able to cut a forest?

Your argument seems to be an incapacity to scale - that's it. As if you couldn't have a laser that can be dialed down to remove a branch, or dialed up to obliterate a forest. Or simply precision programmed to remove whatever, ala some of the CAD systems which can, with a plastic bath and a precision laser, create physical prototypes.

It seems your best argument is 'It can't scale'.

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In other words, my answer to 'What if it's this way?' is 'Then you're forced to believe at least two mutually exclusive statements to be true.'
All fiction involves believing both the real world AND the fiction.

As I said before, if you want to say 'well, I don't think X that is described in the book is the case - but I'll humour it is for awhile and consider the ramifications...', fair enough.

Possibly the problem is one of conceit and conclusion being too close/the same. With the dragons in the real world conciet, one might consider, say, a fight between dragons and apache helicopters - that's one conclusion one could draw.

Here with neuropath, the problem is that the conceit - that in regard to the brain and conciousness, certain facts apply, is almost practically the conclusion as well. It's so close to home that it's hard to get conceit and conclusion far away from each other and so allow the reader some 'play room'. It's like saying 'Dragons exist in the real world!!1!' and nothing more - it invites simple rejection from a reader. Whilst bringing up a dragon/apache fight gives a conclusion to humour. But here it's hard to describe - even the chiropractor just seems another psychopath amongst the many weve had in history. It all seems normal.

Thorsten

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« Reply #25 on: May 22, 2013, 06:40:10 am »
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No, the question of 'What if it's this way?' is aimed at you!

Yes, and my answer to that is still 'Then it is not consistent.'

Speculative fiction can still be consistent or inconsistent. I can conceive of a fictional world in which magic exists and society adjusts to it in a plausible way. That'd be consistent. I can conceive of a fictional world in which characters are still in the room after they left the room. That'd be inconsistent. I tend to value consistent fiction higher than inconsistent fiction, because I know how difficult it is to get it consistent.

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But if you can't bring yourself to argue it, then it's speculative fiction - but instead you're addressing it exactly as you say - as if someone made an argument for the world as it is.

Yes, strangely enough, I am doing exactly as I say I am doing :-)

Look, we can treat this as a bit of fiction, then all I can say is 'Hey, it's made up, so it could be anything anyway. Book finished, next please. ' That's not interesting. The interesting thing is to treat it as 'What if all the premises were really true - what would it imply?' In the present case, it's even more interesting because I consider it reasonably plausible that at least some of Neil's experiments could really be done and that they would have the described outcome, so I don't see the premises as quite as fictional as, say, hidden dragons (plausibility comes in degrees, remember?)

It's funny that you'd attest to my lack of imagination, while the position 'Well, it's just fiction.' requires a lot less imagination than to map out the consequences of a world in which all the assumed premises of a story were real.

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You're disinclined to consider it - so much so you describe the author as just talking with himself

Not sure how you imagine books are written, but my writing is essentially me answering a question I posed to myself. I am fairly certain it worked the same way for Bakker - he asked the question 'What if it were this way?' and then worked out the answer for himself and wrote it up.

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From your computer analogy, you seem to think the mind isn't gone on damaged hardware.

I think if someone downloaded the program from damaged hardware and then compared it to the original disks program, you'd find quite a difference.

No, that's not what I said. If I trash a computer, the algorithms which were represented on it are gone. If I blow someone's brain apart, the mind isn't likely to continue. I said that if you want to understand and possibly answer the question posed, i.e. how 3d rendering works or how free will works, looking at the hardware is pointless (because you confuse the specific representation of information with the information itself).

(The difference would be quite relevant if it were possible to copy and store the patterns which make up a mind - then you could destroy a brain, but still have the mind continuing. Whether this is ultimately possible or not depends on the question if the mind has a 'simple' representation in terms of information only, or if there is a missing ingredient like a soul or the quantum nature of the world).

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It seems your best argument is 'It can't scale'.

The ax is a metaphor to illustrate a point, please don't confuse it with a genuine argument. The genuine argument is that science, both in the real world as well as in the world of Neuromancer, is a tool based on certain premises which is justified by certain means. From these premises and means follows a region of applicability outside of which science isn't valid, and in the novel, science is applied outside this region (and so is it in the real world).

On general grounds you can show (math is quite amazing) that every self-consistent and sufficiently complex formal system has just the same problems as science, so the question whether there is a scalable tool is conclusively settled with a 'No- there isn't!'. So formal reasoning can never be complete and self-consistent at the same time, and knowledge of the world obtained by formal reasonings will thus always be a patchwork switching from one system to the next. Please read up on Gödel's incompleteness theorem for the proof - it's really worth understanding, there is an immensely profound insight into the fundamental nature of logical reasoning in there, and it delivers some very substantial insights into the nature of self-referencing problems as well.

The only way to get around this is to invent a fictional world in which logic as we know it doesn't work, and I don't quite think Neuropath does that.

Callan S.

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« Reply #26 on: May 23, 2013, 11:29:33 am »
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Speculative fiction can still be consistent or inconsistent. I can conceive of a fictional world in which magic exists and society adjusts to it in a plausible way. That'd be consistent. I can conceive of a fictional world in which characters are still in the room after they left the room. That'd be inconsistent. I tend to value consistent fiction higher than inconsistent fiction, because I know how difficult it is to get it consistent.
Sounds perfectly fascinating, the idea of someone still in the room after the left the room? I am intrigued and wish to subscribe to your fiction!

Granted sometimes authors just screw up - Dorothy finds some gold braclets in the wizard of oz, but by the end of the book she gets back and...no mention is made. The author just forgot. I've read books where the author gets his time line screwed up with all the scenes from past and present and has a character who is dead just turn up in a scene, all casual like.

But you seem to be treating any apparent inconsistancy as if it HAS to be a mistake. As if any percieved inconsistancy is always an author error.

You're certain this is just author error?

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It's funny that you'd attest to my lack of imagination, while the position 'Well, it's just fiction.' requires a lot less imagination than to map out the consequences of a world in which all the assumed premises of a story were real.
Not when the mapping out is used as a reason to reject the conceit. Eg, 2+2 obviously equals four, therefore this story about someone accepting 2+2=5 just falls down on a number of levels and aught to be rejected...etc.

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Not sure how you imagine books are written, but my writing is essentially me answering a question I posed to myself. I am fairly certain it worked the same way for Bakker - he asked the question 'What if it were this way?' and then worked out the answer for himself and wrote it up.
I'm not sure why one would publicly publish a letter to oneself.

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No, that's not what I said. If I trash a computer, the algorithms which were represented on it are gone. If I blow someone's brain apart, the mind isn't likely to continue. I said that if you want to understand and possibly answer the question posed, i.e. how 3d rendering works or how free will works, looking at the hardware is pointless (because you confuse the specific representation of information with the information itself).

(The difference would be quite relevant if it were possible to copy and store the patterns which make up a mind - then you could destroy a brain, but still have the mind continuing. Whether this is ultimately possible or not depends on the question if the mind has a 'simple' representation in terms of information only, or if there is a missing ingredient like a soul or the quantum nature of the world).
Okay, why is the mind continuing, when you copied and stored the patterns, and ran them - but that's happening over there, on the other side of the room, that you're looking at from over here, behind human eyes? Why is that you continuing, when actually it's over there on the other side of the room?

Perhaps when you don't think you're the robot across the room and instead you are the person who is looking through some human eyes at the robot, you are just confusing the specific representation of information with the information itself?

Or do you think you are the robot across the room? And so have no need of self preservation protocols for your human body? Okay, bring me my torture tools, then...

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On general grounds you can show (math is quite amazing) that every self-consistent and sufficiently complex formal system has just the same problems as science, so the question whether there is a scalable tool is conclusively settled with a 'No- there isn't!'. So formal reasoning can never be complete and self-consistent at the same time, and knowledge of the world obtained by formal reasonings will thus always be a patchwork switching from one system to the next. Please read up on Gödel's incompleteness theorem for the proof - it's really worth understanding, there is an immensely profound insight into the fundamental nature of logical reasoning in there, and it delivers some very substantial insights into the nature of self-referencing problems as well.

I think you've been misslead to think science involves reasoning. Atleast reasoning in the sense of coming to a conclusion, rather than a conclusion coming to it. Do you think scientists reason a conclusion, then run thousands of experiments just for fun, even though they've already come to a conclusion?

Also 'proof' and 'incompleteness theorem' in the one sentence seems a little jarring.
« Last Edit: May 23, 2013, 11:31:19 am by Callan S. »

What Came Before

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« Reply #27 on: May 23, 2013, 11:10:24 pm »
a) Perception must be a meaningful representation of properties of reality as it is, otherwise science breaks.
b) Decisions between true and false propositions must be free (and refer to reality as is) and not determined by circumstance, otherwise science breaks.

Admittedly, I've been distracted by life in the past week, however, I'm not one to waste time coddling perspectives. I do feel I owe some words - I largely think they will be ineffectual in affecting recognition between us, Thorsten.

I apologize, again, for my lack of adequate references (though, I'm not entirely sure what style of referencing you use, as aside guesses I can do little to pursue the four studies, in particular, that you may have been associating your commentary with). Again, my participation was an opportunity to strengthen or weaken BBH and your rebuttal (as I felt your rebuttal lacked a certain amount of evidence) - I do feel I've gotten a better understanding of the philosophic nature of your rebuttal.

a) How does this statement account for much scientific research using advancing technological prosthetics to test hypothesis, which we cannot with our (possibly)fiveish biological sensory perceptions?
b) Could you offer some exposition? Like instances, which you found in my words (apologies for lack of clarity), I find this contextual and lacking coherency based on possible connotations...

Honestly, I think Bakker's arguments, while seeming ultimately pessimistic, take acceptance as a matter of degree. Even if his methodology weren't assumed, Neil-it would still be the Jester, the ultimate Shaman of your example, because of the efficacy with which he might induce any experience, the sum of all, not the some of many.

Are you assuming everything in relation to consciousness-as-experienced as fact?

Truncated [or interrupted, divided, bottlenecked] conscious experience of sensory perception appears as a given to me...?

Where have we diverged?
« Last Edit: May 23, 2013, 11:14:15 pm by Madness »

Thorsten

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« Reply #28 on: May 30, 2013, 07:00:01 am »
@Madness:

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a) Perception must be a meaningful representation of properties of reality as it is, otherwise science breaks.
b) Decisions between true and false propositions must be free (and refer to reality as is) and not determined by circumstance, otherwise science breaks.
How does this statement account for much scientific research using advancing technological prosthetics to test hypothesis, which we cannot with our (possibly)fiveish biological sensory perceptions?

Ultimately it is down to our biological senses. The ATLAS detector takes particle tracks in proton-proton collisions and writes huge amounts of data on tape, over which an analysis is run. But in the end, scientists have to read the result plot from a computer screen with their bare eyes. They have to believe that what appears in their mind correlates with the state of the detector. The whole calibration process of such machines proceeds from the known to the unknown - one first demonstrates that the detector responds to something which one knows as expected, then goes into the unknown. If you follow the chain, you end up by comparing detector readouts with visible particle tracks in a mist chamber.

We can extend and augment the biological senses, but all that requires that we can trust them somewhere. If the perception of the eye could not be assumed to refer to properties of anything real, no detector could ever be calibrated, nor could its data be read and understood.

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b) Decisions between true and false propositions must be free (and refer to reality as is) and not determined by circumstance, otherwise science breaks.
b) Could you offer some exposition? Like instances, which you found in my words (apologies for lack of clarity), I find this contextual and lacking coherency based on possible connotations...

As this is a conceptual point, it's only possible to come up with gedankenexperiments, so it's difficult. But what about this one:

Consider a people D with a very simple deterministic mind which is based on a set of rules. If a member of D classifies the scene as being outside, and if he detects a small, white moving object with fluttering motion in the scene, and if he has ever been told before about how to observe butterflies, he will be convinced that he is observing a butterfly. Now, given this set of rules, he will be convinced to observe a butterfly even if the object he's observing is really a small sheet of paper drifting in the wind, and he will hold to this conviction even if he can clearly see that the object has a rectangular shape rather than a body and wings --- because his mind is determined by circumstances. He has no choice to reconsider his classification, nor would he see any reason to. Many others of his people would readily agree with him, there'd be some who would not, but he would be convinced that they've never been told before how to observe butterflies, and once they would be educated, then they would agree with him.

It is terribly obvious what is going on when observing the problem from outside, having a human mind which is not tied to such simple deterministic rules. But even talking to any members of D, we could not convince them that their conviction to have truly seen a butterfly has really not so much to do with here being a butterfly --- they'd probably argue that we miss the obvious.


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Honestly, I think Bakker's arguments, while seeming ultimately pessimistic, take acceptance as a matter of degree. Even if his methodology weren't assumed, Neil-it would still be the Jester, the ultimate Shaman of your example, because of the efficacy with which he might induce any experience, the sum of all, not the some of many.

I honestly can't even buy into Neil's bare reasoning. Suppose you can show with a suitable machine that you can artificially induce any perception or experience. What this proves is that perceptions and experiences can be deceiving insofar as their cause is determined - under certain circumstances you see an apple where there is no external reality corresponding to the perception, under certain circumstances you can feel causation where there is none, under certain circumstances you feel pleasure where there is damage to your body.

This doesn't prove that there are no real apples, no real causation or no real damage to your body. The ability of a conjurer to pull a rabbit out of a hat doesn't tell me anything about where real rabbits come from.

What Neil reasons is that because a system may deceive, it does deceive, so he goes de-actiavting it. But putting out my eyes because they may be deceiving isn't really such a good idea, because I end up not seeing anything. Neill sort of assumes he can get the illusion machinery of the brain out of the way and then sees things closer to how they really are - but I don't think that works, illusionary perceptions use the same brain structures as real perceptions, getting rid of illusions isn't so easy.

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Are you assuming everything in relation to consciousness-as-experienced as fact?

I tend to be very careful with the word 'fact'. For me, it's a bootstrap process. Things have to be either evident, or justified by something evident, which leads to chains of things depending on other things to be true.

The existence of a conscious observer seeing a scene is evident. The existence of an internal stream of thought, a higher consciousness, is evident. Perceptions of an external world are evident.

These things lead to experiences. I have to assume that the perceptions and experiences are meaningful in relation to the external world, then I can start to built observation and reasoning techniques to infer properties of the external world from my experiences (if I were in the Matrix, I could not do that, I would be much mistaken).

These start out simple - correlating visual and tactile information with my mental picture of the scene - usually works (there it starts going wrong, there are perception illusions where it doesn't - so already at that level I have to be aware that my knowledge of the external world as reflected in the senses is incomplete and flawed). Making predictions based on recurring events (sun will rise tomorrow) - usually works.

Then it gets more complex (with the possibility of more flaws) - math and an axiom system (where again the axioms are taken to be true because they are obvious, not because they can be justified by other means). Consistency conditions that several perspectives must lead to the same result (I'm still not sure if they're real - the higher consciousness has consistency as a necessary condition to exist, but physics does not - so consistency may not be that important in reality as is but in reality as perceived). Science.

All relies on what has come before, and I always trust the lower building blocks more than the higher, because the higher have so much more room for error. Statistical analysis - do you know what probability actually is? Can you explain it? I know perhaps a handful of scientists who really know what it is, although many more can apply the techniques (and even more can't). Detectors - they do go wrong, and in fact experimentalists trust their eyes over the machine and look at actual event displays to see if the detector does what it's supposed to do rather than trust the machine-internal checks. I trust my ability to experience pain much, much more than a brain scan to tell whether I am in pain or not.

You can sometimes get a dissonance - higher-level reasoning contradicting lower level. So then I might dismiss an experience as wrong because of science telling me so - but then the only remaining guiding principle is consistency, I would only want to do that to make my picture of the world more consistent, not less so.

I don't go so much for facts as I go for likelihood - I try to investigate a problem from as many angles as I can, and then see if there is a coherent picture suggesting itself or not.

@Callan S.

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I think you've been misslead to think science involves reasoning. Atleast reasoning in the sense of coming to a conclusion, rather than a conclusion coming to it. Do you think scientists reason a conclusion, then run thousands of experiments just for fun, even though they've already come to a conclusion?

May I gently remind you that I am an academy researcher at a university, and that it's therefore unlikely that I have been misled to think anything wrong referring to how science works?

How do you think experiments are planned? Do you really think people spend a few billions to build an accelerator and detectors just to see what happens? Experiments are done to test hypotheses, which in turn are based on conclusions drawn from past experiments. Of course reasoning features at every stage.

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Also 'proof' and 'incompleteness theorem' in the one sentence seems a little jarring.

Evidently you have not read this up. Your loss - math can actually prove that it is incomplete and that there are true statements not provable by math.

In general: Admittedly I find the line of discussion if Neuropath is fiction bizarre. I may be dumb enough to miss out some experimental facts of neuroscience or psychology, and I am willing to learn, should this prove necessary, but I am not dumb enough to miss the fact that I am discussing a book, There's a whole chain of ideas related to 'willing suspension of disbelief' in discussing fiction - but I feel this gets tedious for me and I won't elaborate.

I am frankly not sure that I want to continue the whole discussion. I've tried to explain my points, I haven't seen anything which I would really recognize as a counter-argument (which may be my bias, or may not) and so I feel I am not really learning anything I haven't known before (which again may be my fault or not). I am not a Bakker fan and have moved to the next book a while ago, and I increasingly start to wonder if I shouldn't be doing something else with my time.

Personally I think Neil (aka Bakker) pulls a conjuring trick, and part of the trick is that the outcome is unpleasant, so if you reject the conclusion, there's always the 'But you only reject it because it is unpleasant.' - which distracts from the fact that the proposition should be evaluated for true/false, not for pleasant/unpleasant, and that there's no correlation. But I think I am done trying to illustrate that trick - if you don't see it by now, then you're either right, or you won't or can't see it.

Callan S.

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« Reply #29 on: May 31, 2013, 12:38:11 am »
From the mindset I'm working from, credibility doesn't mean much at all. It's about, as you say, true/false. Where you work isn't the most relevant factor in determining that. You can dismiss the mindset if you want, as an acceptable part of conversation with me - it is just one mindset out of thousands/millions possible, of course. Just being straight in saying where I'm coming from.

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How do you think experiments are planned? Do you really think people spend a few billions to build an accelerator and detectors just to see what happens?
Yes. If they are attempting to force a certain result, then it's an exercise in confirmation bias. If not forcing a result, then they are just seeing what happens. As far as I can tell it's a binary, either the former or the latter. They might be focusing in a very particular area, with much planning toward focusing on that one are, as to just see what happens, but it's still just to see what happens. As I said, reasoning that forms a conclusion is not involved.

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I've tried to explain my points, I haven't seen anything which I would really recognize as a counter-argument
I think I have. Could you give an example of something that would qualify as a counter point? For myself, I often find in discussions I can say 'Well, if X were the case, I would agree with you'.

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I am not a Bakker fan and have moved to the next book a while ago, and I increasingly start to wonder if I shouldn't be doing something else with my time.
I'm sorry, this comes off as social leverage, blending social with investigation. In social terms it'd be genuinely sad to not see posts from you on the boards, I'm sure we all want to hear from you. But from a clinical investigation level, what you're saying has no relevance, unless it is to leverage concession simply because of potential social disconnection.

I credit you as working from the same principle, and personally grant you some diplomatic immunity (so to speak) so as not to compromise the presentation of your theory (ie, you can be blunt in telling it).

On the merely social side, sometimes things get less interesting to pursue - weve talked and if you've got something else interesting to move on, cool - I would think you'd afford me the capacity to move on as well if I found things to slow down a bit.

Perhaps you just meant it in the social sense - but in such a sense, no need to phrase it in such a way as doing something else with your time. Surely everyones been amicable to some degree and that's worth acknowledging.