Re: Definition please

From: Dace (
Date: Tue Dec 11 2001 - 19:08:57 GMT

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    Subject: Re: Definition please
    Date: Tue, 11 Dec 2001 11:08:57 -0800
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    > The brain is a bit more complicated than a piano. With 100 billion
    > neurons each with at least 1000 connections compared with a few
    > thousand circuits in an electric piano the brain is at least a few billion
    > times more complicated. If your premise is that something as simple
    > as an electric piano shouldn't be capable of having a mind then I think
    > I would agree with you. However, since the brain is a few billion times
    > more complicated I would place little value on your analogy.

    Do worms have minds? The conscious mind requires only a sense organ, an
    afferent nerve, a central nerve, an efferent nerve, and a muscle. That's
    it. Complexity has nothing to do with it.

    It won't be long before computers attain the same degree of complexity found
    in the human brain. Will they suddenly become conscious just because of a
    few more interconnections?

    It was the sociability of the great apes, not the complexity of their
    brains, that triggered the emergence of reflexive consciousness. Whether
    the issue is mentality, consciousness, or mental self-perception, complexity
    is not the point.

    > Personally, the thing that I have always had trouble with is how a
    > sophisticated organ like the brain has so much trouble adding two
    > three digit numbers together. I wonder more at how consciousness
    > can be so simple and slow when the brain appears to capable of so
    > much more.

    The brain does not add numbers. It regulates the flow of neurotransmitters
    between neurons. Anything else is cerebral superstition. "Numbers" have no
    physical existence. They reside exclusively in our imagination. As
    physical objects, synapses and neurons cannot contain numbers. This is not
    to say that imagination could exist without the activities of neurons and
    synapses. In other words, they facilitate the functions of the mind rather
    than containing them.

    > Joe Dees argues that in fact consciousness does arise because of
    > increased complexity. He has offered a hypothesis that humans are
    > distinct from other animals because our brains have reached a certain
    > level of complexity which results in consciousness.

    I've read his paper. Very informative, though I can't agree with the
    complexity argument.

    > He points out that only humans and a few primates are capable of
    > recognizing their own faces in a mirror as evidence of self-
    > consciousness. Personally, I don't think the mirror test he points to
    > really is an indicator of something as sophisticated as consciousness.
    > I think it points towards a specialized ability to recognize external
    > visual representations which humans are better at.

    That's what I said to him as well.

    > The model test is the better analogy. No primate other than a human
    > is capable of recognizing that a miniaturized model of a room and
    > the placement of objects in it correlates to a real room.

    Fascinating. This would seem to demonstrate that apes, despite their germ
    of mental self-perception, haven't attained the capacity to generalize
    perceptions into abstract ideas.

    What do you make of the hand axe? It appeared abruptly 1.4 million years
    ago in several locations. According to Richard Leakey, this is the earliest
    known object that could not have been created except by people who held in
    their minds an abstract idea of what the tool would look like before they
    started making it. This suggests to me that the mental self-perception in
    the hominid mind was sufficiently developed to allow for minimal abstract

    > I really do not know what creates a consciousness or understand what
    > does and does not have one. Unlike you though, I am sufficiently
    > impressed with the known physical world to accept that a consciousness
    > can arise without resort to a new law of physics.

    David Chalmers, of the University of Arizona, argues convincingly that we'll
    never understand mind and consciousness until we've discovered one or more
    laws of nature currently unknown to us. The late physicist Walter Elsasser
    made a similar point. He argued that biologists needed to stop depending on
    standard physical and chemical principles and approach life the same way
    Newton approached the solar system. Like Sheldrake, Elsasser identified
    memory as the central mystery that could never be explained according to
    conventional physical principles.

    > As I have said before though in the study of memes we should concern
    > ourselves with the existence of a non-genetic evolutionary system. There
    > is nothing about evolution that requires consciousness. Our studies
    > should focus on transmission, variation, and selection of memes.

    Once you cross the line between the self-contained mental universe of
    humanity and the blind workings of the organic realm, there's nothing to
    stop you from descending all the way back to the most elementary bacteria.
    In universalizing the meme, you render it meaningless. It becomes a synonym
    of repetitive behavior. This is no different than the issue of language.
    Yes, animals communicate, but if we call their grunts and squeals language,
    then why not refer to the transmission of chemicals between cells as
    language? I don't deny for a moment that we can learn a great deal about
    memes from birds, but that doesn't mean birds literally have memes. They
    just have what, in the context of human mentality, would constitute memes.


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