Re: the meme/brain problem

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Sat 07 Feb 2004 - 01:42:38 GMT

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    At 11:21 AM 06/02/04 -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
    > > a computer and the OS running on the computer.
    >Sure you would. The OS is one thing, and the hardware is a second thing,
    >the first thing being dependent on the second.

    Usually a statement "That makes two . . ." means you see two motor cycles. You could also refer to windows and linux as two operating systems. But one hunk of hardware and one OS . . . one of them isn't even a "thing."

    > > > > The situation is identical
    > > > > to the OS of a computer. It absolutely has to be running on hardware
    > > > > 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
    > > >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.
    >In other words, minds are different from brains.

    No argument there, they are differed classes.

    > > 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,
    >Sure we can. We're doing it right now. There's a continual turnover of
    >components in the brain. One protein dissolves and is replaced by another.
    >The brain keeps getting replaced, all the way down to the atomic level, yet
    >we're still here. That's because the point of an organic system is the
    >whole not the parts, the mind not the matter.

    You can't run a human mind on silicon hardware . . . yet.

    > > >The important
    > > >thing is not what's in the brain but what we find when we "flip it over"
    > > >view it, from within, as mind. While every brain shows something
    > > >every mind reveals the same meme. Unfortunately, there's no objective
    > > >of viewing a mind.
    > >
    > > That's like saying there is no way to objectively view an OS, something
    > > that is done every day.
    >Which might suggest that an OS isn't the same as a mind.
    > > Minds are also judged objectively for being sane
    > > by medical people and judges and for being smart, deluded and any number
    > > other characteristics.
    >While psychiatry is about as exact a science of mental illness as you'll
    >ever get,

    You must not be keeping up even casually with this area. MRI and PET scans can distinguish some kinds of mental illness now.

    >there's always an element of subjectivity.

    > > 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.
    >And this goes for the human sciences as well, but the underlying phenomena
    >represented by the statistics is inherently subjective.

    Could you give an example here? I can think of many counter examples.


    > > Reading Gazzaniga and Sacks on various
    > > brain injuries and experiments will give you an idea of what actually goes
    > > on.
    >I'm familiar with Sacks, though I find Ramachandran more intriguing.
    >Fascinating stuff, none of which disproves the existence of a unitary whole
    >that brain activity is geared to maintain.

    In (I think) _The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat_ there is a discussion of a woman who had a stroke. The mental module that keeps a person oriented as to where they are was malfunctioning in her. She was totally convinced that she was at home. As a demonstration of the same effect Gazzaniga demonstrated on a split brain patient, she was asked about this bank of elevators in her line of sight. She confabulated something to the effect that it had cost a fortune to have them installed in her home.

    Point being that we are far less of a whole than you might think.

    > > > > I am a hard line materialist.
    > > >
    > > >And yet you're an evolutionist, both natural and cultural. Consider the
    > > >following passage from Alfred North Whitehead:


    > > >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.
    >Which is exactly what Mr. FOS was saying.

    The last sentence is what I was pointing out, though the whole paragraph is poorly written. Dawkins and Hamilton made the case that evolution does not make sense unless you account for gene based inclusive fitness.

    > > In more detail, it is the information contained in the
    > > form.
    >Again, you're needlessly complexifying the issue. Information *is* form,
    >specifically form that's nonrandom in a given context.
    > > >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.
    >If you take a fine look at living things, you find total disorder, utter

    Where you see randomness, I see DNA duplication machinery that makes one error in 10 exp 12 operations.

    >Just like a gas cloud. According to Boltzmann, the physicist
    >who provided the first account of molecular randomness over a century ago,
    >whatever order we do find in a gas is exactly what we'd expect to find given
    >that some nonrandomness is bound to randomly arise.
    >Any causal chain we're able to trace out in an organism ultimately yields to
    >disorder. There are no long-distance causal chains connecting genes to
    >organ-level structures. You get into a cell, and you find a few rafts of
    >causal coherence on an ocean of randomness. The difference between a
    >machine and a living system is that a machine is founded on molecular
    >stability while a life-form maintains order at the highest levels despite
    >total disorder at the lowest levels. Of course, organisms contain all kinds
    >of machine-like elements. But these function within the context of holistic
    >organization. In machines, form follows matter. In organisms, matter
    >follows form.

    I don't see the distinction. Perhaps it is because I have been aware of general purpose programable utility fog (a future nanotechnology
    "substance") for several years.

    > > >What the matter of your body does is to maintain
    > > >its form.
    > >
    > > You need to expand on this.
    >The first structure to emerge in an embryo is a general body plan, followed
    >by a rough outline of large-scale structures like circulatory and organ

    And *why* does this occur?


    Keith Henson

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