You seem to have a lot of good questions charged with what I get the impression is a lot of very intense emotion: anger and/or frustration. Where does that emotion come from? I wish you well in finding the resolution, and in coming to peace with the associated issues.
Some of the answers to questions you seek are in the bible, "God being revealed in his creation", for instance, but I expect they are simply not packaged, styled, and itemized in the way you would like or can accept. Plus, well, as I said in the other reply, our different views hinge on and grow from one's initial faith -- what one has faith in. Latter-day New Agers and others appear to take one strongly self-centered slant. Other people, sometimes, are able to take another, accepting being in a servant-vassel relationship and, even though it is a struggle, accepting God in the central position.
Not that I expect these words to hold much sway, but, I do notice that you select one book or set of books and perspectives (guiding your thoughts and impressions) which have also been handed down from our ancestors. It's an long discussion thread. In addition, given our present global economic, agricultural, and climatic meltdowns spawned on enlightened rationalists' watches, I often think it is a bit pre-mature to claim absolute truth victory for the faith in science and the associated "pure reason" camp. We are still running a mixed system, here, after all. Look around. Not all votes have been cast.
Yet, perhaps these comments are too incendiary for you to bear.
Back on the topic, what account do you give when categorizing our experience in the transitional gaps between a failing scientific worldview and an emerging scientific worldview? ...Or in the process when events unfold creating a new and improved scientific worldview? Do you invoke a "meta-" level of organization or maybe a transcendent math level of organization and give it special extra-natural features?
What does your book say to handle that?
Do you see what I am asking?
It is profoundly tragic that people emerge from our educational system with advanced degrees in science, without any understanding of the long centuries of ignorance and misery due to dogmatic faith that predated the enlightenment, and without any understanding of the value of what reason has given to mankind. I quote from Chapter 11 of my book The Boundaries of Human Knowledge
The greatest revolution in human knowledge that has led to the outstanding
success of the western world has been the adoption of discovered knowledge as
the most reliable path toward the truth. The straightest path toward the truth is by
way of eternal skepticism. In previous cultures, and in religion today, the preferred
path has always been revealed knowledge, especially when it concerns questions
of ultimate truth, such as the existence of God, or the purpose of the universe.
This natural tendency to rely on received knowledge stems from our individual
experiences as children, when we learn that our parents and teachers are the
most reliable sources of knowledge; they always seem to know more than we do.
As we grow to adulthood however, we discover that the experts differ profoundly,
especially on those same primal questions of ultimate truth. There is a strange
'catch-22' in the choice between discovered and revealed knowledge. If God did
exist, and created this universe for our benefit, then His word, as recorded in the
Bible, would indeed be the most reliable source of Truth. But the only evidence for
the existence of God is the Bible, whose reliability itself depends on the existence
But there are deeply troubling aspects of this faith in revealed knowledge. If the
Bible were indeed the word of the creator of the universe, then why does it fail to
mention those profoundly significant truths which have since been discovered by
science? Why is there no mention in the Bible of the fact that our physical bodies
evolved from those of the apes? If evolution were the mechanism chosen by God
to create man, why is this most central fact completely absent from the Holy
Book? Why instead are we told a tale of creation through Adam and Eve, a story
which is totally inconsistent with scientific fact? Why is there no mention in the
Bible of the most profound and earth-shattering fact of the Big Bang? Or of the
countless billions of other galaxies in the universe, each populated by billions of
stars of which our own sun is but one? Or that all matter is composed of positive
and negative particles, whose powerful attraction to each other make up the
physical substance of the universe around us? Or even the basic fact that the
earth rotates under the sky, rather than the other way round as it appears to the
naive observer? Surely these most primal facts of the universe should have been
the first things presented in Genesis. If God does exist, and wishes us to believe
in Him, why does He make himself completely undetectable by scientific means?
Why does He choose to reveal Himself through an ancient manuscript of
questionable origin, full of contradictions, and totally indistinguishable from a
manuscript written by mortals? If God endowed us with a rational mind, why
would he require us to abandon our reason on questions of the greatest
consequence and import? The same argument holds also for the sacred texts of
all other religions and faiths. The very fact that there are multiple mutually
inconsistent faiths is itself proof that no more than one of them can possibly be
true. The profound inconsistencies between discovered and revealed knowledge
cast the most profound doubt on the reliability of revealed knowledge as a path
toward the truth.
Further grounds for suspicion of revealed knowledge as a path towards the truth
can be found by observing the systematic differences between the picture of the
world revealed by religion as contrasted with that revealed by science. Most
religions provide an anthropocentric view of a God who cares deeply about our
individual thoughts and feelings. But the history of scientific discovery has been
characterized by a regular progression of anthrodecentralization, demoting
humans from the central position in the universe under the personal supervision of
God, to lost creatures on the surface of a tiny blip of matter orbiting a very
unremarkable star, among countless billions of stars in an unremarkable galaxy
amongst countless billions of other galaxies as far as the telescopic eye can see.
There is an egocentric, self-aggrandizing aspect to religious belief that suggest an
ulterior motive to the world view that it promulgates, elevating man from a lowly
beast whose existence is a consequence of some cosmic accident, to a noble
supernatural creature who transcends the animal body that he appears to occupy,
and whose existence on this earth plays a vital role in some great cosmic battle of
Another glaring inconsistency in most religious belief is the idea of God as a
perfect being, who advocates love of one's neighbor, self-sacrifice, and altruistic
cooperation, while the entire web of life on this planet, supposedly His creation, is
characterized by an eternal mortal struggle between competing organisms, from
the tiniest microscopic competition between microbes, competition between plants
for sunlight, competition between herbivores for plants, and between predators
and prey, and between different predators for the same pray, desperate struggles
against parasites and diseases, all the way to the violent wars of conquest and
annihilation that have characterized human history since time immemorial. Our
very intelligence and agility and inventiveness are surely a direct product of
countless millennia of armed struggle with our human and animal enemies, as
evidenced by the fact that to this day, the most dramatic technological and
organizational advances are made at the most rapid rate during times of war and
national conflict. We have yet to take account of the full implications of Darwin's
theory of evolution for the nature of our selves, and our place in the world.
If religion is so obviously at odds with the observed facts of the universe, why then
does it continue to this day to hold so many in its sway? Why is it that so many
even in the modern western world hold to some version of religious, spiritual, or
paranormal belief? The answer to that question is manifold; religion serves a
variety of diverse functions that benefit both the individual and society as a whole.
It is only as a path toward real truth that religion is such an abysmal failure.
Thank you for your replies and suggestions.
Where you wrote:
"To me, 'not supernatural' and 'scientifically demonstrable / understandable' are the same thing. So I have a hard time understanding people that distinguish between these two ideas. The idea that something is not understandable (and consequently not reliably fixable / improvable) is just a terrible faithless idea to accept as true - and I see no rational evidence that says we must give up faith and hope and accept any such terrible notion."
I believe the difficulties in understanding arise basically from differences in the object of one's faith. Faith in reason, science or self, or,say, a new age-like sense of faith in self gets or places a person in one perspective. Faith in a particular, "other" spiritual relationship, gets or places one in another perspective. The two perspectives are not equal and thus differences in understanding naturally emerge.
Let's say, for instance that you have 100% of your faith in science accounting for 100% of everything 100% accurately, whereas I have faith that science is a good and periodically changing, helpful approximation of much of our situation and experience, but simply not up to 100% of 100% of everything. Say, just for example that out about ninety levels of organization in the so-called multi-verse, there is yet another impenetrable boundary which influences that which is within the boundary in discernible, yet unknowable and unpredictable ways. Not 100%. Let's say there is strongly repeating stuff, stochastically repeating stuff, and then rare and very very very, rare -- way beyond our regular experience stuff. Benevolent broken symmetries that just appear, but do so in the nick of time, so to speak, facilitating the growth of one individual or of all of humanity out into the so-called cosmos.
It is from that sort of awesome perspective of the creation which the approximate tool of science gives us that reasonable people do not see or agree that 'not supernatural' and 'scientifically demonstrable / understandable' are equal. But, again, this all does go back to what one places in the central position. How we are made, generally, that means self is held by us in the central role and it takes effort -- and a different sort of faith, and usually some awareness/experience of inexplicable events -- to dislodge ourselves from the self-centered position.
The seven or eight major world belief systems generally present different sorts of options on this and the closely related terrain.
Now, perhaps "not supernatural" means "not witchcraft", "not occult", "not paranormal", or Lord knows what else, to different people in the camp and if so, those might be some other silent calls for more specific expressions, or for the outright deletion, as I advocate, of the ambiguous and thus misleading doctrine.
Another perspective to consider on the differences and thus potential difficulties in understanding one perspective from another is in whether one thinks of scientific theories as absolutes (aka strong, absolute faith in science) or as approximate. The facts and history of scientific experience reveal that we use the scientific method as though we are hopping from rock to rock in crossing a stream. A model appears and it is useful and general but then is found lacking and replaced or modified into some other model that is a bit more general... until new anomalies are found.... So, minimally, we're passing through various paradigm transitions -- gaps, discontinuities -- in our travel. At the transition, the old model gives out or rusts away as or after the new model materializes, or both, or several, or none hold during the transition. What then? And from what do ANY of the "scientific" models arise?
So there are different conditions in the transitions. What IS the term for passing through gaps of "not scientific" or "Not natural"?
If you back up a couple of directory levels and move forward one step, over in the "Consciousness is structurally coded" branch I think it is possible and to everyone's advantage to simply put forward the various scientific models and avoid hiding behind the ambiguous, pre-mature and unnecessary "Not supernatural" doctrine.
Think about it.
I like what you have to say about religion. More than any other scientific issue, the nature of the 'soul' seems to be more critical to the core of any religion than anything. Most people try to separate religion from science in their minds. I think not only is this a problem, but the many diverse places people draw the lines of separation, is also problematic. So many people draw the line way too broadly, excluding qualia and everything, and any time it crosses that line, they refuse to even listen to anything about such in a 'la la la la - I"m not going to listen to this' way.
But if we can classify and concisely state just what people think about these issues, precisely state where different people draw the line, why, and so on - and then rigorously and quantitatively measure who is in what camp on all these issues, I think that will be of infinite value - and finally allow much more critical communication - especially between diverse camps.
To me, 'not supernatural' and 'scientifically demonstrable / understandable' are the same thing. So I have a hard time understanding people that distinguish between these two ideas. The idea that something is not understandable (and consequently not reliably fixable / improvable) is just a terrible faithless idea to accept as true - and I see no rational evidence that says we must give up faith and hope and accept any such terrible notion.
There are lots of diverse doctines contained in all these camps:
* scientifically understandable
* perception is representational
* primacy of qualia
and so on. When you break things down into a tree structure, you must decide which one is most important to divide things up at the highest levels. In my opinion, the above ordering is the best order of what is most important.
You've stated some great reasons for why you are interested in starting a new branch, and possibly pushing towards restructuring things. I think it would be great to include concise statements of what your beliefs (in particular in contrast to the current consensus camps) are, and why you think a different structure is better. You could say much of what you've been telling us in the [http://canonizer.com/topic.asp/88/26 Consciousness is structurally coded] camp. That would enable people that are thinking similar to you to find you and your camp, and it would enable us in different camps to better know what your desires are, and better enable us to keep them in mind as we also make judgments about how to improve things to better capture concisely and quantitatively what everyone believes.
Thank you for your feedback and info on "rules of how the change occurs in the canonizer".
There are a couple of points I'd like to make in attempt to clarify my approach and thinking, and in response to your posts.
Firstly, while it may not help at all in persuading you or others to join the newly created alternate main branch of "Consciousness is structurally coded", my slant on the "Not supernatural", comes as being a follower of Jesus Christ. Having trusted in and been changed through faith in the message in the bible and in the supernatural healing power of Jesus Christ, over time I have done enough experiments and observed enough change, in myself and other "believers", to convince me that holding and developing the one particular thought or belief can and does influence cognition, character development and behavior. Thought influences thought; some thoughts more than others. Can I explain or prove Christianity scientifically, to your liking? No, not all that well. Items of faith are extracurricular in that way. That is what the word "faith" is all about.
Secondly, following on one of Steve's suggestions, at the James Randi, site, their FAQ states:
>2.2 What is the definition of "paranormal" in regards to the
> Webster's Online Dictionary defines "paranormal" as "not
> scientifically explainable; supernatural."
If we face facts, presently consciousness is not scientifically explainable and thus it already IS supernatural! I mean, the situation is consciousness is an anomaly, it's not accounted for or seen as an issue within the currently dominant scientific paradigm. We face, therefore, developing an alternate scientific paradigm -- with different tenets and a more general expression -- which also provides some reasonable supports for one or more trial scientific theories descriing the what's and how's of consciousness. Shifting paradigms, seeing the unseen and describing what previously has no description is not a straightforward, rational process. It minimally borders on the supernatural and the extremely rarely repeating (aka, lacking in scientific repeatability; untestable) events.
So, if you catch the drift, agreeing that there is a "natural, scientific description for consciousness", or as Brent wrote about the earlier discussion: 'consciousness is scientifically approachable or testable' seems rational and reasonable enough, particularly among a group with the stated goal of grokking improved scientific theories of consciousness.
Going the next step out to claiming consciousness is not supernatural, when by present dictionary accounts consciousness presently IS supernatural -- lacking a scientific description -- strikes me as coming from a highly energized but highly emotional, irrational place within a person. There are more beliefs supporting that belief.
It might be helpful to unearth those deeper motivations and evaluate whether those motives really apply in this scientific endeavor. If the threat of one or a few people leaving is resting on, say, a deep-seated resentment due to one or more slights or abuses by, say, "religious people", or perhaps a commitment to the tenets of New Age or one of the other major world belief systems, then it seems appropriate to unearth and present that actual underlying belief clearly in the canonizer hierarchy -- to get the categories straight.
Along this line. consider also the natural rule that "for every re-action, there is an equal and opposite action" and then re-consider the sentiment and strength of "Not supernatural". The entire camp statement can be deleted (or revised) with no ill effects, assuming that the actual task, developing an improved scientific theory, is carried forward.
Otherwise or related, Brent, you also included the phrase: "I think it is very likely that very similar POV structures could form underneath the supernatural vs not supernatural main branches".
I would like to point out that it looks to me like you are seeing through the traditional "either/or" binary logic where you are thinking since you already have a "Not supernatural" branch that a competing branch can only be in the "Is supernatural" category. The perspective I hold and which is presented in the camp statement for the alternate main branch of "Consciousness is structurally coded", is the new branch is "NOS - not otherwise specified" with respect to the supernatural. Consider it from a multi-state logic perspective. Also, stating IS/not supernatural, before the development of a preliminarily functional trial theory is simply pre-mature. It's irrelevant. Do the real job first and the characteristic ought to sort out and be self-evident.
I believe the direct route through the woods is to hammer out the new paradigm and the new scientific trial theory of consciousness first: to focus attention on getting the structural coding working first.
As for: "I'm just curious if you would support a camp that stated everything about consciousness is approachable via the scientific method.", I'd generally agree, probably would hedge on the absolute of "everything", but, this seems pretty self-evident if you are aiming at a scientific model.
I'm beginning to get the impression that I sometimes am thinking differently than other people particularly when I reflect on the underlying principle of structured duality supporting an underlying multi-state, or multi-value logic structurally coded system which, for our introductory purposes supports the structural coding we see in the genetics, epi-genetic and now in the 10^20 molecules per second flux of ordered water being created in our respiration sites, coincident with our experience. If you notice, all this structural coding is happening in a moderately coherent and somewhat connected manner at a level of organization, and energy level below and prior to, say, structural coding in the secondary neural/synaptic/dendrite level. Plus the new model is pretty compact with a good information compression ratio.
It would be different to have people agree with the new branch or my specific entry in it. I'd welcome all the agreement I can get. Like you said, Brent, the new branch does open a way for alternate structural codings, I'd see it it as along the neural lines, or the dendritic lines but inheriting the genetic and epi-genetic structural coding cnnections in their own specific ways.
I agree, though, it would be good to have a few more participants.
I agree with Steve Lehar and point out to Ralph Frost that just because "some several billion potential participants are in the "Not not supernatural" camps" doesn't entail that anything supernatural exists.
Wow, this is quite an ambitious proposal, and you are doing things just as I think they should be done. I think people should first attempt to swing the most popular camps in the direction they think they should go, to see what might be possible. You never know till you try. But of course, if even one person objects, as Steve has indicated he does (thanks Steve for pointing this out), they can object to any such proposed changes preventing them.
So, of course, the next plan B action is to do just what you are doing, starting another major branch to compete with this one, concisely stating why you think it is better and what you do believe. If there are any in the current consensus camp that agree with you, hopefully they will speak up now, and commit to supporting you in your effort to make a 'better' POV structure, and point out to the existing camp that if the camp doesn't change, they will likely jump to any new camp. This type of threat possibility should help motivate people to work as hard as possible to reconcile differences to maintain the strength and popularity of unified camps, and not loosing members unless absolutely necessary to truly capture and survey what every last person believes, as minimally, concisely and quantitatively as possible.
I completely agree with you, and indeed hope, that many more people, including all the religious ones, will join a branch such as yours, so we can concisely and quantitatively know just how many people are in your branch verses the current consensus one. You indicate that you agree with representational and real ideas, and I think it is very likely that very similar POV structures could form underneath the supernatural vs not supernatural main branches.
Earlier, we made an attempt to make this highest level branch include 'consciousness is scientifically approachable or testable'. But some people objected to this, so it failed. I'm just curious if you would support a camp that stated everything about consciousness is approachable via the scientific method.
Thanks again for your involvement, and your work to make this survey more comprehensive and concise. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing more people joining your new branch. And as I run into people that believe this way, I'll be sure to encourage them to join and support your effort.
I would object most strongly to removal of the "not supernatural" proviso. Speaking for myself, the pursuit of a scientific, physical, natural explanation for consciousness is exactly what I believe to be the only reliable path to discovering the real truth behind conscious experience.
To claim that consciousness has *ANY* supernatural component whatsoever is to end the search before we have hardly gotten started! Because once we accept a supernatural component, there is no need to search further, the answer has already been "found", and it has been "found" in a hidden dimension of un-reality which can never be proven or disproven, only "believed" (or NOT!).
If science had given in to the *animists* of the last century, who claimed that life itself had an "elan vital", a vital essence beyond scientific scrutiny, then we would never have discovered the biochemical explanation for life. If we had succumbed to the medieval belief that sickness and disease were caused by evil spirits, we would never have discovered germs and viruses. If we had accepted the notion that the heavenly bodies are pushed around the skies by supernatural creatures, we would never have discovered orbital dynamics. Because there would have been no need to search further! The (non-)answer had already been found! And the "answer" is "look no further, there's no point, you won't find anything!"
The outstanding success of the enlightenment, and rational thinking in materialist terms, in solving so many of the deepest, most perplexing mysteries of the universe which had proven so resistant to explanation for centuries, has convinced many of us that a rational, enlightened, scientific explanation will ultimately explain consciousness also, as a physical process taking place in the physical mechanism of the brain.
Just because the majority of humanity, and even a frighteningly large number of scientists, believe in some supernatural nonsense or other, is no reason for us rationalists to abandon our reason just to follow the crowd, especially given the fact that NO supernatural forces or entities, whether Gods or spirits, mental telepathy or telekinesis, have EVER been demonstrated to exist ANYWHERE, despite centuries and centuries of intense effort to prove otherwise.
How do objective, open-minded people "agree" what consciousness is not, prior to working out what consciousness is? What justifies the a-priori denial is the DISMAL FAILURE of centuries of mystical mumbo-jumbo at predicting or explaining ANYTHING, stacked against centuries of the enlightement seemingly finding an explaination for virtually EVERYTHING by the scientific method!
This is not "languishing behind positions, doctrine, and dogma" (!) Quite to the contrary! It is a statement of purpose, that we set out to find a rational scientific materialistic explanation for consciousness, and we will not give up until somebody proves to us beyond a shadow of a doubt that a science cannot explain it.
I contest most vigorously the claim that "some 'supernatural' influences and impinging factors 'obviously' exist". If you can demonstrate the existence of ANY of those "obvious" supernatural influences under rigorous scientific conditions, then you can collect A MILLION DOLLARS from James Randi, whose million dollar challenge has stood for about a decade now, and nobody has collected the money yet!
If this camp goes supernatural on us, I would leave in a big hurry!
I propose the "Not supernatural" element of the so-called "Agreement" be deleted outright, or minimally revised so as to allow positive agreement on "Conscious being natural", or "Consciousness has a moderately rational description" -- which begins to get redundant given the existence of a useful scientific theory...
How do objective, open-minded people "agree" what consciousness is not prior to working out what consciousness is? What justifies the a priori denial?
In addition, thinking ahead, even an improved model or theory of consciousness, once it emerges, will carry it's own weight rationally without needing such artificial or prejudicial subsidies. Try it. Imagine the camp statement is simply deleted. Writers are faced even more with presenting crisp, clear statements and images -- rather than languishing behind positions, doctrine and dogma
The statement, as written, is inaccurate. Some "supernatural" influences and impinging factors obviously exist or weigh in having some bearing on consciousness, content of consciousness, and the history of conscious influences as well as influencing modes and patterns of thought and thinking. As well, a fairly large number of potential canonizer participants - many people - currently have strong relationships within at least one of the world's seven or eight major belief systems.
I suggest that the actual objective tally shows that about 12 canonizer participants are in the "Not supernatural" camp whereas some several billion potential participants are in the "Not not supernatural" camps. And supernaturality, when it comes to presenting an improved trial theory on the rational workings of consciousness, is a red(ness) herring -- it's not relevant except to reveal one camp's fears and insecurities.
Consider it as simple way to make the canonizer inappropriately ineffective -- to block discussion by inserting someone's pet issue in the wrong place.
Toward this end, I have recently started the "Consciousness is structurally coded" alternate main branch which innately supports scientific models that can be described moderately well in clear and rational (or perhaps analog or super-rational) terms. The camp statement speaks of it being "NOS - not otherwise specified, wrt to supernatural". The "structural coding" imagery draws some linkages to the the structural coding in the genetics and the epi-genetics, and, the emerging model where there is persistent multi-value logic structural coding in the 10^20 tetrahedral-like water molecules per second forming at respiration sites within humans. (Rates may be different within other creatures.)
On the surface, I am or might be attracted to the "representational and real" camp or at least toward my sense of those two words. Yet, to me that camp is crouching behind the "Not Supernatural" subsidy or dogma, and within, it seems to hold that neurons and qualia are primary.
Over in the new, rational and scientific "Consciousness is structurally coded" main branch, my vote is currently for (not surprisingly) implementing the dynamic structural coding in the streams of the 10^20 water molecules per second coming in respiration forming the internal analog language.
An alternate "structural coding" apparently is or would be structural coding the neurons or neurons/synapses/dendites, and perhaps making an analogous case for persistent in those processes.
In any event, I'd appreciate hearing others' views on deleting the "Not supernatural" camp.