Re: the meme/brain problem

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Fri 06 Feb 2004 - 00:11:53 GMT

  • Next message: Scott Chase: "Re: the meme/brain problem"

    At 02:24 PM 05/02/04 -0800, Ted wrote:
    > > From: Keith Henson <>


    > But unless you are going to argue for disembodied
    > > spirits, minds are utterly dependent on brains.
    >Take a look at what you're saying here. You've got mind, and you've got
    >brain. That makes two, right?

    Talk about apples and oranges. No. You certainly would not say that about a computer and the OS running on the computer.

    >Yet you somehow have to fit these two things back into one.
    >Far better to avoid creating the two things in the first
    > > The situation is identical
    > > to the OS of a computer. It absolutely has to be running on hardware for
    > > you to interact with it.
    >If we're going to talk in metaphors, a more accurate one would be a coin.
    >That we distinguish "heads" from "tails" doesn't mean we've got two coins.
    >It's one coin viewed from two angles.

    This makes no sense as a metaphor. Different levels. Minds are at a different level from brains. Would it help you understand my viewpoint if I say the underlying hardware could be changed to a silicon simulation of the brain circuits and you could still interact with the same mind? We can't do this with human minds yet, but it doesn't matter to a computer OS if the underlying hardware is Intel or AMD.


    > > That the detailed pattern is different from brain to brain is not enough
    > > prevent us from saying brain A and brain B contain the same meme for (say)
    > > baseball.
    >This is true on insofar as memes are not contained in brains.

    Sure this is what you meant?

    >The important
    >thing is not what's in the brain but what we find when we "flip it over" and
    >view it, from within, as mind. While every brain shows something different,
    >every mind reveals the same meme. Unfortunately, there's no objective way
    >of viewing a mind.

    That's like saying there is no way to objectively view an OS, something that is done every day. Minds are also judged objectively for being sane by medical people and judges and for being smart, deluded and any number of other characteristics.

    >Hence the inevitability of subjectivity and imprecision
    >in memetics and all other human sciences.

    You apply statistics and other ways to measure signals in noise. If the results are still subjective and imprecise, then you are not dealing with science.

    > > >Are you saying that to recall a phone number, you have to somehow "read"
    > > >synaptic patterns in your brain?
    > >
    > > Yes.
    > >
    > > >This would entail knowing the language
    > > >your brain uses, so you would have to know not only English but brainese.
    > >
    > > No because the brain's deep hardware does this far below the level of our
    > > conscious awareness.
    >While this is purely fanciful, even if it were true, it would only push the
    >question back a step. How, then, do you communicate with your brain's deep
    >hardware? Now you have to know deep brainese.

    You really should read _Society of Mind_ by Minsky and _The Social Brain_ by Gazzaniga. You don't even have to know you *have* a brain to communicate with brain hardware.

    >The point is that there's only one of you.

    That's not actually true. It *seems* like there is only one of you, but that "one" has very little idea of all the activity contributing to what seems like a unitary experience. Reading Gazzaniga and Sacks on various brain injuries and experiments will give you an idea of what actually goes on.

    >You don't have to communicate
    >with your brain because you are your brain. Or rather, your brain is you
    >when you're viewed from outside of yourself. Your mind is you when viewed
    >from within yourself.

    This is good enough not to need comment. :-)


    > > I am a hard line materialist.
    >And yet you're an evolutionist, both natural and cultural. Consider the
    >following passage from Alfred North Whitehead:
    >"A thoroughgoing evolutionary philosophy is inconsistent with
    >materialism. The aboriginal stuff, or material, from which a materialistic
    >philosophy starts is incapable of evolution... Evolution, on the
    >materialistic theory, is reduced to the role of being another word for the
    >description of changes of the external relations between portions of matter.
    >There is nothing to evolve, because one set of external relations is as good
    >as any other set... There can merely be change, purposeless and
    >unprogressive. But the whole point of the modern doctrine is the evolution
    >of the complex organisms from antecendent states of less complex organisms.
    >The doctrine cries aloud for a conception of organism as fundamental for
    >nature." (*Science and the Modern World,* ch. 6).

    Just because an author is famous does not prevent him from being seriously confused, wrong or just FOS.

    >It's not matter that evolves but form.

    That's true. In more detail, it is the information contained in the form. In a few dozen generations there is not an original atom left in a population of bacteria.

    >Instead of reducing form to matter,
    >as in the case of machines, we must recognize that living matter is
    >subservient to its form.

    I can't buy that there is any fundamental difference between machines and
    "living matter." If you take a fine enough look at living things, they
    *are* molecular machines.

    >What the matter of your body does is to maintain
    >its form.

    You need to expand on this.

    >Ultimately, evolution is a holistic concept.

    And this.

    Keith Henson.

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