Re: the meme/brain problem

From: Dace (
Date: Mon 09 Feb 2004 - 05:02:12 GMT

  • Next message: Van oost Kenneth: "Re: memes and culture"

    > 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.

    This was Descartes' error. He thought there were two things: consciousness
    (spirit) and body (matter). What he left out was mind, specifically unconscious mind. It turns out the mind is much deeper than we realized, and this is the connecting glue in the body/spirit divide. We are bundles of unconscious memories and associations, and none of this exists in a material state. It's not stuff you put under a microscope, like neurons and synapses. You can't see "five" or "last Tuesday." What you can see is chemicals. There's no mysterious property of "fiveness" or "Tuesdayness" in your brain. To imagine you see these things in brains is to be, well... seeing things. You're hallucinating. They're not there. You're simply not willing or able to be true to your own materialist convictions. Are there mystical properties residing in brain matter or not? Obviously not. Case closed.

    Descartes was wrong on both counts. There's no idealized spirit, no otherwise disembodied consciousness, but there's also no dead matter following purely mechanistic principles in its operations. Instead there's mind, i.e. living order. This singular entity (remember to reduce the entities!) organizes matter as bodies and organs and cells, presumably on the basis of how these structures have always been organized in the past (as there don't seem to be any other options). Because mind organizes the brain like any other organ, and the brain is connected to sense organs, the brain-mind is a centralized center of awareness for the whole body. It makes moment-to-moment decisions based on current conditions and how it has behaved in the past in similar conditions. Thus we have a personal memory on top of body memory. Body and consciousness are just opposite perspectives on the same thing, and that thing is mind.

    > > > >Take a look at what you're saying here. You've got mind, and you've
    > > > >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.
    > >
    > >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
    > hunk of hardware and one OS . . . one of them isn't even a "thing."

    I've got you going in circles again. You know this happens every time. The point is that the active mind of consciousness and the brain are two sides of the same coin, which we know as "mind." But computers don't have this feature. A computer is just one side of this coin, the material side, which is engineered so as to mimic the functions of an actual mind. Even when you plug sensory systems into computers, they don't become conscious, like the brain-mind, because there's no well of mentality organizing its lower functions that it can draw on for its higher functions. Individual mentality is just that-- the individuation of collective unconscious mentality. Computers don't come from mind and so don't develop any conscious mind when you give them eyes and ears.

    > > > Minds are at a
    > > > different level from brains.
    > >
    > >In other words, minds are different from brains.
    > No argument there, they are differed classes.

    That's the problem. Once you're talking about two different things, you can never get them back together again. Seriously. They've been trying it since the 17th century, and it doesn't work.

    Monism... it's the one and only.

    > >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.

    Keith, please. Psychiatry is the medical arm of neuroscience.

    > > > You apply statistics and other ways to measure signals in noise. If
    > > > 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
    > >represented by the statistics is inherently subjective.
    > Could you give an example here? I can think of many counter examples.

    Well, there's like five million, but okay. Let's say 60.23784% of all people who tie the knot are happily married after 5 years. Great. But what, *precisely*, is "happily married?" We know it's something-- that it's not simply arbitrary-- but we can never define it perfectly. So there's a middle ground between exact science and pop culture. Memetics falls in this middle area.

    > 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.

    Point being that we are brains, at least when viewed externally. And when we view ourselves internally, we are conscious minds. What are brain dysfunctions on the outside are pathological mental states on the inside. This doesn't mean consciousness reduces to brain any more than brain to consciousness. You can't reduce a thing to itself. You're confusing perspectives with things.

    > Dawkins and Hamilton made the case that evolution does not
    > make sense unless you account for gene based inclusive fitness.

    According to Darwin, evolution is what happens to organisms. He may have been onto something. Gould argues for multi-levels of evolving structure, much like memes and organizations and societies.

    > >If you take a fine look at living things, you find total disorder, utter
    > >randomness.
    > Where you see randomness, I see DNA duplication machinery that makes one
    > error in 10 exp 12 operations.

    Numerous mechanical processes are at work in organisms. There's also an ocean of chaos in every cell. Molecules in cells behave as randomly as those in clouds of gas. We can have a complete and perfect map of every element in a cell and still have no idea whatsoever what each particular thing is going to do next. Yet we know what happens at the level of the whole. That's because it's being organized systemically, rather than mechanically. The mechanisms floating about like rafts on a raging sea are not exactly in a position to be dictating to the cell what it does. Rather the system makes use of whatever mechanisms it has at its disposal. There's an intelligence at work in the cell, and this intelligence is not encoded in DNA. It's because the DNA "theory" didn't pan out that a genuine biological theory is only just now beginning to be formulated. This has mostly taken the form of mathematical modelling of complex processes, disregarding any pretense at reducing them to particulate elements such as genes.

    > >The first structure to emerge in an embryo is a general body plan,
    > >by a rough outline of large-scale structures like circulatory and organ
    > >systems.
    > And *why* does this occur?

    Exactly. Why would ontogenesis proceed from the top down when it's all supposedly pre-programmed in the nuclei of our cells? What's going on here? How do genes manage to bypass all the levels of structure above them to the very top level-- the whole body-- and then work their way back down? These things are getting more miraculous all the time. The Virgin Mary is going to have to do better than shedding a few tears once in awhile if she expects to keep up.


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