Saturday, March 14, 2009

EXPERIENCE

I would really like your feedback on this post. I am making no assumptions here. I am writing simply about my experience. What I imagine is that your experience is very much like mine and I would like to find out from you if this is true or not. Now I am not going to be writing about the content of my experience. I know that the content of my experience is quite a bit different than the content of yours (thank God, or we would all die of boredom) and by content I mean not just the facts and memories that I have experienced, but the attitudes and the beliefs that I have about this experience. No, what I am talking about is a bit more subtle than that. I am talking about the context of my experience; not the experience, but who is experiencing the experience.

Now I realize that we are not a very reflective society, but I am asking that you reflect on my words before you give me feed back. I am not interested in what your biology teacher thinks or what your pastor thinks. I am not interested in your 'researched' answer. I am interested in you searching, not researching. Just ask yourself as you read this post, if this an accurate description of your actual experience, or does your experience differ in some way. Again, not what you have been taught, but what and how you actually experience things. And I know that in our society we are taught by experts, both scientific and religious, not to trust our experience. Scientists tell us that we, as layman, lack the knowledge to understand our experience, and that we must be guided by the latest research; also, that there are many things about our experience that we do not yet know, but that must await future research which may take several generations. Some pastors, rabbis, priests and imams, also tell us that we, as layman, can be easily deceived; that experience can be misunderstood and we can be led down a dangerous path. But again, I am not talking about the content, but the context of experience. I am not talking about anything that can be observed or researched, and I am not talking about any attitude or idea about how to relate to the physical universe. I am simply talking about us, not the content but the context of our experience.


The first thing that I want to say about my experience (and possibly yours) is that I am not my body. I am that which experiences my body. I can move around my body; in fact I can move any place along my brain/nervous system that I choose to. But I am not my brain/nervous system. I am that which is moving around my brain/nervous system. Often I choose where I want to go. If I want to remember something, I go to that part of my brain where I have stored those memories; those memories are stored in a coded system of neural pathways and chemical deposits. When I go there, I translate that code; and those neural pathways and chemical deposits become the memories of what I had previously thought or experienced. If I want to enjoy the taste of something I go to the taste buds in my mouth and the chemical interaction of the food in my mouth and my tastebuds becomes the delicious experience that I was seeking. If I want to feel something pleasurable I go to where my skin is touching that surface and I have a pleasurable experience when I attend to it. Until I get there (and by the way, I am not travelling by bus, my mode of transportation is my attention) all the above are electrical and chemical reactions. It is only when I attend to them that they become an experience of pain or hunger or pleasure or memory.


Now many scientists will tell me that when I feel hunger, it only feels like I am experiencing it in my stomach, and it only feels like I am experiencing tastes in my mouth. That what is really happening, is that those chemical sensations are being translated into electrical patterns and these are travelling to my brain and my brain, at the hunger center, and at the tasting center, is what is really experiencing these sensations. Before I respond to this objection, I would like to discuss vision. The complexity of the eye and the optic nerve have been a hot topic of debate among Darwinian evolutionists and intelligent designers. How could any structure with the exquisite and coherent complexity of a human eye possibly be constructed by the blind, random system of genetic mutations? I am going to quote something here from Michael Behe. Have you heard of him? He is an intelligent designer and a biochemist. Here is his explanation of how we see:


Here is a brief overview of the biochemistry of vision. When light first strikes the retina, a photon interacts with a molecule called 11-cis-retinal, which rearranges within picoseconds to trans-retinal. The change in the shape of retinal forces a change in the shape of the protein, rhodopsin, to which the retinal is tightly bound. The protein's metamorphosis alters its behavior, making it stick to another protein called transducin. Before bumping into activated rhodopsin, transducin had tightly bound a small molecule called GDP. But when transducin interacts with activated rhodopsin, the GDP falls off and a molecule called GTP binds to transducin. (GTP is closely related to, but critically different from, GDP.)
GTP-transducin-activated rhodopsin now binds to a protein called phosphodiesterase, located in the inner membrane of the cell. When attached to activated rhodopsin and its entourage, the phosphodiesterase acquires the ability to chemically cut a molecule called cGMP (a chemical relative of both GDP and GTP). Initially there are a lot of cGMP molecules in the cell, but the phosphodiesterase lowers its concentration, like a pulled plug lowers the water level in a bathtub.

Another membrane protein that binds cGMP is called an ion channel. It acts as a gateway that regulates the number of sodium ions in the cell. Normally the ion channel allows sodium ions to flow into the cell, while a separate protein actively pumps them out again. The dual action of the ion channel and pump keeps the level of sodium ions in the cell within a narrow range. When the amount of cGMP is reduced because of cleavage by the phosphodiesterase, the ion channel closes, causing the cellular concentration of positively charged sodium ions to be reduced. This causes an imbalance of charge across the cell membrane which, finally, causes a current to be transmitted down the optic nerve to the brain. The result, when interpreted by the brain, is vision.

My explanation is just a sketchy overview of the biochemistry of vision. Ultimately, though, this is what it means to "explain" vision.


Pretty complicated, eh? And notice that he says that this is just a 'sketchy' overview of vision. Now I am about to criticize Michael Behe, and in criticizing him I feel a little like a Democrat criticizing President Obama. Obama has enough criticism to deal with at the moment coming at him from the right; he doesn't really need criticism from the left. In the case of Michael Behe, it is not a criticism of left vs. right, or liberal vs. conservative. With regard to Michael Behe, he is taking a daring and heroic stand as a career biochemist and is under a constant barrage of attack from the Darwinist establishment. This is not a criticism from the left vs. the right, but from a spiritual spiritualist, me, criticizing a spiritual materialist, Behe, who is under siege from material materialists, the Darwinian scientific establishment (please see my post MIRACLES).


But I do want you to notice one very important thing about Behe's explanation of vision: although I am sure that all the impressive details of his explanation are accurate, it is NOT an explanation of vision. It is an explanation of how photons of light are translated into electrical impulses in the optic nerve. What about actual seeing? After this entire complex and detailed description of how photons are translated to electrons, all he says regarding vision is the following:


The result, when interpreted by the brain, is vision.


That's it. That is his entire explanation, after all that biochemistry, of how we translate those electrons into our actual experience of sight. To explain the translation of photons to electrons, three incredibly complex paragraphs which is only a 'sketch.' To explain the translation of electrons to the actual experience of vision, four words "interpreted by the brain." Okay, so where? Where is this brain interpretation taking place? Not where the optic neurons are located, but where the translation is located, the organ, the process, that translates the neural electrical patterns to vision?


And the answer, of course, is that there are no such organs or processes, electrical or chemical. When I focus on looking at something it seems like I am looking at it through my eyes, from just behind the retina, at the tip of the optical nerve. It seems that way because it is that way. That is where I experience vision from. That is where I, a non-physical being, am when I see. I see through and at my eyes, I hear through and at my ears (at the tip of the auditory nerve, just behind the cochlia), taste at my taste buds, and touch on my skin. All the endless discussion about an eye evolving by 'itself' makes absolutely no sense. An eye is of no use unless there is an intelligent being looking through that eye; and by intelligent I do not mean intellectual. The purpose of the eye is discernment; to distinguish one thing from another, and most simply, to distinguish what is harmful from what is needed. Intelligence is the ability to read one's environment to be able to distinguish what is needed from what is harmful and to adjust one's behavior correspondingly, or adaptively, so that one's needs can be met and one can survive. I appreciate the dilligent work that has gone into the enormously detailed analysis of the mechanisms of the eye, but what sense does it make without including, in one's understanding, the non-physical being with his or her non-physical intelligence, that is looking through that eye?


So why do I always have this corresponding neural activity in my brain when I am looking at something? Two reasons: The first is that my brain is RECORDING everything that I experience; but the brain is recording what I experience; it is not recording what my brain experiences (the brain, like the rest of my body is matter, and experiences nothing). The second reason, and the reason that I have a brain connected to my consciousness in the first place, is that I use the memories and thoughts and insights that I have recorded in my brain to help me DEFINE my experience. When I see a tree, I see those sensations of green and brown against a blue background, and my brain lets me know, by automatically conjuring associations that I have previously made, that those sensations are called a tree, that it is located in our backyard, and that it needs trimming.


Which brings me to another point. I can be in more than one place along my brain/nervous system at a time. I can be focussed and focussless. I can only focus deeply on one place at a time, but even when I do I am also receiving background information. So I am experiencing something and defining my experience simultaneously. Why do I do that? Because I want to. At a very early age I discovered that I didn't like bunking into things and falling into holes, so I decided, whenever I was moving, to be continually aware and interpreting peripheral visual signals even while I was focussing on something else. But besides peripheral awarenesses, my focus of experience, be it my eyes, ears, nose, mouth, or whatever, become the focal point for a whole raft of defining information and connected thoughts. These associations that I make are guided by the structures of my brain and by my desires; I automatically understand what I am experiencing because of the memories of related experiences that I have had and have recorded in my brain. These definitions allow me to establish and deepen my relationships to the physical world, my society and to other beings.


I am the seer of my sights, the hearer of my sounds, the thinker of my thoughts. I am that which experiences that. My fantastic sensory equipment and my fabulous brain assist me in defining what I am seeing and hearing and thinking, but all of my actual experiencing is not taking place on the physical plane, because I am not part of the physical plane. Matter does not experience anything; and matter does not initiate anything. Matter does not initiate anything because matter does not want to initiate anything. Folks, it's just matter. As amazingly complex and intricate as my eyes and ears and brain are, they are, still, just matter. They neither experience nor initiate. Me, a non-physical being, does that. What about you?


Your comments are most welcome.

22 comments:

Jorgon Gorgon said...

You have not given me any reason to think that experiences are not material.And since I know that information is a materialistic phenomenon, ll you have is assertions to the contrary.

Qualia are made up of organized articles, too.

Matt Chait said...

Jorgon,
Let's not talk about experience as it is described in a text book. Let's talk about your experience. Can you show it to me? Can you measure it? How long is it? How much does it weigh? If it is not in space and time then it is not material, and I can't be any more concrete than that because experience doesn't have any concrete, measurable reality.

You just have to get it; and you will never get it because you are preparing a retort at the very moment that you are reading these words. The truth of what I am saying does not depend on me winning or losing any argument; it does not rise or fall with a clever reason that I can or cannot come up with. It is not out there at all. It is within and closer than your breath.

BeYourself said...

Hi
I don't see any reason to invent something "non-physical" to explain anything about our (or any animals) experience. In the past many "non material" ideas were invented to explain things; the rising sun, fire, plagues, death of the young, evil and on and on. Why not just say that, like the earth going around the sun, we just don't have the perspective to explain many complex things? A natural explanation may or may not come in the next 100 or 1,000 years. That does not in any way argue for a non natural cosmos. It is the many things that were considered supernatural that have come to have natural causes that have lead many of us to just go for the least complicated explanation for what is happening in the world.

Matt Chait said...

Be Yourself:
I’m not sure you get my point. I am not talking about inventing anything. I am not talking about anything outside of yourself. I am talking about your actual experience of being you. Why do you launch into supernatural mythology, when all I ask is that you make an observation, like any good scientist, but instead of observing the external world, that you observe your internal experience. I wasn’t asking you to concoct anything or invent anything. I am talking to you; not to the objection to my post that you are making, but to the ‘you’ that is making the objection. I am not talking about anything that is mythical, far out or complicated. I am talking about the you that is the ground of your being, the context of your experience. I am not talking about my interesting ideas or your interesting ideas. I am talking about the self out of which those ideas come and are expressed. I am not talking about the contents of your consciousness, but you, which is the background, the milieu, out of which all these contents emerge.

If you want to talk about a mythical, invented being, let’s talk about “your brain.” According to the quote in my post “your brain” interprets a pattern of neurons firing electrons as vision, although that process of interpretation is never seen or observed. The brain is not a being. It is matter. It does not interpret, or defend or urge you to do anything. It doesn’t even know you, or care about you. It is matter. This path of neural firings is the same path of firing electrons, with the same voltage, but in other parts of the brain, that fires with a different pattern when you hear something. If you are looking at a sunset there is a pattern of neural firings. If you are enjoying Thanksgiving Dinner, there is a pattern of neural firings. If a Masai warrior is ritually slaughtering a cow, there is a pattern of neural firing. If Richard Dawkins is writing his most sarcastic diatribe against religion, there is a pattern of neural firing. Everything that was ever written, in every language, in every library and everything that was ever experienced by every human being since the beginning of human beings, including sights and sounds and tastes and touches and thoughts and memories, was accompanied by a pattern of neural firing going through basically the same type of neurons and at the same voltage. How do you reconcile the endless, amazing variety and richness of the human experience with the amazing sameness of these firings? Of course they are interpreted, it is just not “your brain” that is doing it. But if you are talking about biology and chemistry you are talking about what is observable, and in studying consciousness, these neuronal firings are as far as science can go. Your conscious experience cannot be observed by anyone other than yourself. It is not in space and time and neither are you. Biology will never get beyond the interface of the physical (neuronal firings and patterns of electrons) to reach your actual experience because biology deals only with what is observable; with the equipment that life uses, but not with life itself.

Also you confuse what is natural with what is observable. Is love natural? I think so; but where is it? What about intelligence? Is it natural? Of course it is, but you cannot see it directly, you can only see the results of it. What about gravity? That’s about as natural as you can get, but have you seen it recently? The same, of course, is true of life itself. You can clearly see when a living being is responsive and is experiencing the world around it moment to moment by the way those reactions affect its body; and you can see how that living being imbues that same body with purpose. You can also see how, when a living being leaves a body, the body remains but the purposefulness and responsiveness is gone. But you cannot see life itself, by itself.

You are looking for the least complicated explanations. My explanation is very simple. It does not require calculus or advanced statistics. It does not require graduate degrees and years of research. It simply requires search. And once you get it, many things about your life will fall into place in a very simple and uncomplicated way.

Anonymous said...

Jesus is smiling down on all of you as you tangle with each other over the same issues as the pharisees during His visit to our reality level over 2,000 years ago.

Find Faith in Him, Nurture It, Share It; Love Your Neighbor as Yourself, Give Him Thanks, Love Your Neighbor Even More Everyday and then await His Coming - Because someday, someday, He Will Come and Have a Chat With You.

Matt Chait said...

Anonymous,

I don’t mind Jesus smiling down on me. It’s you smiling down on me that I find a little annoying.

If I had to align myself with either the aristocratic Sadducees or the democratic Pharisees, I would choose the Pharisees. That aside, my understanding of God is beyond sectarianism. God is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. God is diminished when she/he is understood as being of either sex, as having a body or occupying a particular place in space and time. We are all an inextricable part of God; we just realize this truth at different levels.

Why do you think Jesus hasn’t come yet? While you are waiting for the Second Coming, I have some suggestions for you to occupy your time during that wait; suggestions that may even hasten His arrival (please read my post MIRACLES). Thanks.

Rudy Davis said...

Hi Matt, I am a huge fan and I "get it" when you write that "We are not our bodies." We are not the atomic structure that makes up our bodies but we are the beings that experience the vessel that is our bodies. The challenge I run into when conveying this idea to others (usually atheists) is they cling to ideas like "Existence exists." or "Anything outside the observable universe requires faith and they refuse to believe in the tooth fairy as well." They refuse to consider that there is something outside this physical universe wherein our soul resides and uses our bodies to experience this earthly existence. I have learned new ways to consider this earth from your writings and I am sincerely grateful. Thanks Matt!

Rudy Davis said...

Awww man, I had like my whole comment typed out and the screen closed for some weird reason and I lost it all. Ughhh, oh well. Second attempt. Matt, I am a huge fan. I learn from your writings that "We are not our bodies." I get it.

The atomic structure of our bodies do not desire, love, or feel emotions. How can protons, neutrons, electrons WANT to do anything? The challenge I run into when I try to convey this idea to others (usually atheists) is that they refuse to believe that anything can exist outside the observable universe. They try to explain away love and desire as chemical reactions in the brain.

They refuse to accept that our soul is not a part of the atomic structure of our bodies in this universe. They box themselves into a limited form of thinking that is reinforced by our higher learning institutions. In my opinion, this gives rise to the the advancement of atheism. If one is an atheist and believes this life is all their is and that
there is no hereafter, then your entire focus on this earth is to get as much material things or happiness as you can while you are alive.

Atheists will more likely take advantage of their brothers when they believe that they will not
get caught when compared with a god-fearing person. I always ask atheists, "Do you agree that an atheist is more likely in general to commit a crime if believes that he will not get caught as compared to someone who believes there is a hereafter and we are accountable for our morals and ethics in this world in the afterlife?" Now ask yourself, doesn't all criminals who commit crime almost always believe they will not get caught. The point is that atheism leads to a significant decline in the moral and ethical ways to go about living. That is why I have concerns regarding living in a society dominated by atheism. Have you ever seen any atheists hospitals, atheists shelters for the homeless, etc....?

Atheists do not have an internal moral compass that comes from the belief of being accountable in an after-life. They think this life is all there is so they live to maximize their own life with no regard for the future even sacrificing morals and ethics to
get ahead. Of course not all atheists are criminals but the underlying atheistic foundation leads to doing whatever is necessary in this life to obtain one's personal desires and goals with no regard for being accountable after death.

When Richard Dawkins writes "Science flies men to the moon, Religion flies men into buildings.", I am so disgusted by his statement. How can people who purport to hold reason and knowledge as their guides not see the hypocrisy of that statement. In any event, I like your writings Matt. They really make me think about life in a new way.

Please note that when I refer to atheism above, I am not intending to imply that people who are not atheists believe in a God. My intention in focusing on atheist is that atheists do not believe in any afterlife and that is the root of the problem that I have with atheism in general.

Matt Chait said...

Rudy,

You wrote:

"The atomic structure of our bodies do not desire, love, or feel emotions. How can protons, neutrons, electrons WANT to do anything? The challenge I run into when I try to convey this idea to others (usually atheists) is that they refuse to believe that anything can exist outside the observable universe. They try to explain away love and desire as chemical reactions in the brain.

They refuse to accept that our soul is not a part of the atomic structure of our bodies in this universe. They box themselves into a limited form of thinking that is reinforced by our higher learning institutions."

Oh, yeah. I feel you brother. Every time I write a post it is in the hope that some materialists will read it and see the light, but I fail much more often than I succeed and it sounds like the same is true for you. Maybe there is a time when people are ready to get it and you can't force that time; but you can't stop putting it out there either. Here's a few things that you might try on your friends:

1. How do they experience their desires? If they want to look out the window do they have to hang around and wait until their brain feels like looking out the window and then they slavishly follow? If I asked them if they wanted ten dollars would they have to wait to see what their brain wanted before they said "yes"? The reason, and I want to say the obvious reason, but I guess it's only obvious once you get it, that the brain lights up, that these neurons fire in particular areas, is because YOU WANT them to fire. The brain is serving you. You are not serving the brain. Desire begins with you. Desire is what sends the signal that fires up the neurons that you need to be fired to realize your desire. YOU, not 'YOUR BRAIN,' is the beginning of your experience.

2. I cannot believe how hard it is for some people to distinguish between an electron or a chemical and the way we 'experience' that electron or chemical. Did they ever consider that when they are looking at a sunset there is a flow of electrons and chemical deposits in the brain and when they are in a fist fight there is a flow of electrons and chemical deposits in the brain. And these flows of electrons are the same electrons at the same voltage and these chemical deposits are the same chemicals whether it is a Texan looking at the sunset or an Azerbaijani or a Masai warrior. And it is the same flow of electrons at the same voltage if these people were looking or fighting in 2009, in 1009 or in 2009BC. Every thought that every human being has ever had, every sight and smell and taste and touch has been accompanied by the same flow of electrons and combinations of the same chemical deposits. How do your friends reconcile the enormous disparity between the endless amazing variety of our experience
and the remarkable sameness of these biological reactions? You experience the world in all its richness and variety through your sense organs directly. The brain RECORDS that experience in a way so that when YOU are confronted with a similar experience, the information that YOU gathered from the last experience and the feelings that YOU had in the last experience are available to you again. In this way your equipment, the brain, allows you to define and deepen your relationships with your environment and your fellow beings. But the brain records YOUR experience, it does not record the brain's experience. And YOU, not your brains, interpret those chemicals and electrons back into your remembered knowledge and experience. You have no physical organs of interpretation in the brain or anywhere else. You are doing that and you are doing that non-physically. YOU, not 'YOUR BRAIN' is the end of your experience.

3. Astrophysicists, not wild eyed religious fanatics, but astrophysicists, currently believe that at least 94% of the universe is not observable. And they are only talking about the neutrino plane. Einstein predicted that there were at least nine or ten planes that are subtler than the neutrino plane and that probably never would be observed. Where could these planes be? They are everywhere. They intersect the entire universe. Nothing impedes them since they have no positive or negative charge and since they have no mass, they are not thwarted by the solidity of any object. Now the last time I looked our planet, earth, was part of the universe, and our bodies, too, are part of that physical universe. So where could all these invisible planes be within our bodies? Could love, desire, thoughts (not the related electrical and chemical processes but the thoughts themselves) and memories, all of which can be communicated to others, but none of which can be observed directly by anyone other than yourself and none of which can be weighed or measured, are these the non-physical planes that Einstein was alluding to? Whether they are or not, we are way past the point in our 'scientific' knowledge to scoff at the idea of the 'unobservable.'

Good luck and thanks for your continued support.

Rudy Davis said...

Hi Matt, I recently got into a discourse with another youtuber on a prior atheism video I made and believe it or not she is an atheist blind chick. Her youtube site is

http://www.youtube.com/user/Atheistblindchick

She requested that I make a video of the argument for man's soul. I am in the process of doing just that and hopefully will have it uploaded to youtube in the next 12 hours or so. Not that you would be interested, but my youtube channel is

http://www.youtube.com/user/LoneStar1776

It's a very political channel and I am not sure my topics would interest you at all.

I am writing you this to let you know that I am going to give credit for the argument to you. It is sincerely not my intention to steal your work and make it my own. I am a huge fan and I will make it clear that the argument is yours, not mine.

In any event, I can tell she is a very devout atheist. Her website claims she is a fourth generation atheist and proud of it. She has a bit of Richard Dawkins in her as well. I sense that she is an honest independent thinker and I am interested in where this discourse will lead. I made it clear that it is not my intention to win a victory but to have a civil discourse between people of differing viewpoints.

Anyways, just FYI Matt. Take care, man!

Rudy Davis said...

Hi Matt,

My youtube videos of your arguments are below. FYI only. Please forgive me as I am not a professional movie maker. I am only interested in truth.

1/3 We are not our bodies (A reasoned argument for man's soul)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UpehtGXPiRk&feature=channel_page

2/3 Contemplating the Unobservable
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ivazx6RERv8&feature=channel_page

3/3 We are not our bodies (A reasoned argument for man's soul)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=auTcoGz9Mv0&feature=channel_page

Matt Chait said...

Rudy,

Good work! You might also mention that experiment that I refer to in the blog where you stay absolutely still and move your attention to different parts of your body and notice what body sensations are there; and then ask yourself, if you were absolutely still, then what was moving when you went from one part of your body to another. The obvious conclusion is, if no thing was moving and you were moving, then you are not a thing.
This may work very powerfully on a blind person.

Is it just a coincidence that you made these videos on Easter Sunday, which, for me, is about the resurrection of the soul?

Keep up the good work.

Matt

Rudy Davis said...

Hi Matt,

It's up to you whether you want to post these comments publicly. I want to keep you in the loop, nonetheless.




*** Comment back from ABC *******

I have seen your videos, and I still have some research to do on your concept of dualism and on the scientific views on this. I have a pretty good understanding of where science is on this, but I don't want to just make unsupported claims. As for me being offended, I am not offended by your viewpoint, what does offend me a little is the fact that you have no supporting evidence. I think it is rather important to have supporting evidence for any position you hold... We'll talk soon. Take care.

*** Reply from rudy ***********

Hello ABC,

I hope you are doing well and your migraine is gone. Believe it or not, I too have had bad headaches recently. lol Go figure. Below is some additional thoughts for you to consider. I hope you will.

I do not reject science. I consider science the trustworthy sword of truth for man. I do not consider science a prize for atheism to claim over those that have faith in their own soul. The recent video by thunderfoot does exactly that. Even though I completely support science and the scientific method, I do not put science up as my God. Science is a tool to be subservient to man, not the other way around.

I have placed two additional arguments and analogies for you to consider below.

New argument:

Now we can do a little experiment at this juncture to reinforce the idea of the power of your focus. Sit in a very relaxed position, in a way that you could conceivably fall asleep. Now close your eyes and focus on a spot in your body where you are experiencing a little tension. Good. Now move to another spot where you are experiencing tension; and, finally, a third spot. (As a side note, when you were moving from your toe to your finger to lower back, what was it that was moving? If you were absolutely still, then nothing was moving, and certainly not your brain, which doesn't move at all. If you and your focus were moving and no thing was moving, then the only conclusion is that you and your focus are no thing. If you have not been too heavily inculcated in the materialist beliefs of our society to accept the simple conclusions of this experiment you should need no further proof that you are essentially spiritual and not physical. Now you may say, "that's not you; that's your nervous system." It is true that at each point where you are focussing you are at some place along your nervous system, but that doesn't mean that you are your nervous system. You are that which experiences and focusses on different points of your nervous system. By your tortured logic, if I was driving north on the San Diego Freeway, and was in San Diego at 10am, was passing Los Angeles at 12 noon and reached the San Francisco exit at 6pm; that would mean that I must be the San Diego Freeway!) But, getting back to the original purpose of this experiment: Focus on one of these spots of tension and try to melt that tension simply with your attention. It's important for the purpose of this experiment that you are not moving or doing anything muscularly. Try to describe that sensation of tension. How big does it seem to be? Does it seem to weigh anything? What does it seem to be made out of? Rope, or steel or electricity? As you continue to describe it, just will it to diminish and keep noticing how it gets smaller and lighter until it disappears or almost disappears. The longer that you stay with it the more success you will have.

Summary: You stay absolutely still and move your attention to different parts of your body and notice what body sensations are there; and then ask yourself, if you were absolutely still, then what was moving when you went from one part of your body to another. The obvious conclusion is, if no thing was moving and you were moving, then you are not a thing.

New argument:

Atheism trying to describe a baseball game without including the players:

A cork and rubber ball covered in cowhide flies through the air about sixty
feet where it comes into contact with a rapidly revolving stick. The ball
bounces off the stick in many different trajectories and eventually finds its
way to a leather glove. The ball then flings itself from the glove to another
leather glove in the vicinity of a white canvas square.

All of this is true, in a way, but the entire point is missed. The ball, the bat and the bases are not playing baseball. They are the equipment that the players use. It is the players not the equipment that are actually playing the game.

Take care ABC,
Rudy

Rudy Davis said...

Hey Matt,

I just had to share that the dialogue with other youtubers on my video titled "Atheism is destructive to society" coupled with your arguments of man's soul has driven home the follow point to me. The point is that we need a new word in the English language to discern the difference between a person who reject the eternalness of his/her own soul versus the rejection of God. I personally do not reject either God or man's soul, but it is my belief that the rejection of an eternal soul of man that is "toxic" as you put it. Thanks again Matt! If even one atheist reconsiders the eternalness of his/her soul, this all is worth the time. Thanks again!

Rudy said...

Hey Matt,

I am only sending this as FYI. She made a good video as I expected but I have some thoughts on a counter response. This is a most fascinating subject! lol

We are our Brains
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iPmEuiQqxMQ&feature=channel_page

Most of her arguments on dualism stem from fiddling with the brain by using 1) pills, 2) impulses, 3) damaging the brain, 4) removing parts of the brain and 5) Phineas Gage.

The baseball analogy where the soul uses the brain to express desire in this earthly world addresses all 4 of those scenarios in my view. If you effect the equipment of the soul, you effect the output of the soul/brain combination. If you externally force the pathway of a particular emotion to fire, it is not surprising to see the body exhibit the emotion.

Also personality is not the same as soul. She brought up split personalities. Personality is just an outwardly expression of the soul but not the soul. People with split personalities simply may have a problem with the equipment in the brain that reflects personalities. Imagine someone smiling outwardly at a party but is heartbroken and lonely inside. The soul is feeling heartbroken but the personality is opposite.

It's 3 am and I need to sleep. But I think she missed the point completely about the "origination" of desire. Brains do not "originate" any desire, they respond to it. The "sameness" issue was not addressed either compared to our rich experience.

In any event, I think I will be re-reading your articles for my response. lol

Take care Matt! Good night.

Rudy said...

Just a couple thoughts before I head off for work. I don't mean to keep annoying you with my silly emails but this was a new thought about physicalism and I wanted to share.

1) If physicalism is true and we are completely governed by the physical processes that effect our brain, then there can be no such thing as free will. But we do have free will, so there must be something more to the physical processes ongoing inside our brain.

2. Also the potential evil of using physicalism to espouse prejudice against the mentally ill is abhorrent to me.

Rudy said...

Hi Matt,

She responded, I responded. The saga continues. I wanted you to know this as I mention your name to give credit.


1/2 Dualism
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQWBede_gfU&feature=channel_page

2/2 Dualism
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xs5cx3jhE_I&feature=channel_page

We Are Our Brains
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iPmEuiQqxMQ&feature=response_watch

Soul or Brain
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LuPeB55KncY&feature=response_watch

Matt Chait said...

Rudy,
Thanks. I tried to respond to her video. I even joined YOUTUBE in order to do that, but they rejected my response because it was longer than 500 words. I cannot summarize all my thoughts into a sound bite. But here is my response and if you find some way of communicating this to her please do:

I just watched your video "We Are Our Brains" on my computer screen. I was affected by it, just as I am affected by whatever it is that I view on my computer screen. In what way I was affected is not important at this moment. The point is that whatever I watch, be it exciting or dull, intelligent or idiotic, beautiful or ugly, it affects me. Yet I AM NOT MY COMPUTER SCREEN. Even if I watch it all day and night, I am not my screen, I am that which is watching and experiencing my screen. Without me, everything on my screen is a meaningless jumble of firing pixels.

My brain is my internal computer screen. It is made up of firing neurons rather than firing pixels. The electron flows and chemical deposits of firing neurons are just that, electrons and chemicals until they are translated into the experience of thoughts and ideas and colors and sounds and tastes and touches that is the content of our lives.

Why do our brains light up in different areas? Because they feel like it? No! Matter does not experience anything or initiate anything. It is matter. Your speech center neurons fire because YOU WANT to say something. Your memory center neurons fire because YOU WANT to remember something. Your brain is your servant. It allows you to define your experience of the world and it allows you to express your desires in the world. But the brain, itself, neither initiates nor experiences anything. I am sorry if I get a little impatient. Once you understand what I am talking about, once you get it, it is so painfully obvious that it is difficult to deal with all the materialist ways that you have been taught to arm yourself against this simple realization.

Keep in mind that I have not used the word soul. I am avoiding that word because it obviously brings up a whole raft of anti-religious sentiments. I am not talking about the soul. I am talking about YOU.

When you try to remember something, but cannot quite, and experience some frustration, who is being frustrated? Is it you or your brain? You are trying to locate where you placed the appropriate neurons, but cannot. You are the rememberer. You are the thinker. You are the listener. You don't have to wait for this to be discovered in fifty years in a research lab. It won't be. No one will win a Nobel Prize for this discovery. This knowledge is the product of search, not research. It is a realization based not on any beliefs, but on simple, quiet inner observation.
Peace.

Daniel said...

Hey there.
I'm a "Materialistic Atheist" in that I only think that physical things "exist".
I find "substance dualism" to be incoherent.
I also agree with you to a degree.
I think that if we observe our first person experience, it doesn't neatly reduce into material things/events.

What I want to do here is to lay out my position, and then you can pinpoint where it is that you agree or disagree.


In Meditation, Descartes observed his mind from the first person perspective and found that we had experience of physical things within space and time, but the experiences themselves were not spacial things.
Most arguments against reductive physicalism seem to be of this vein. They take a first person observation of the mind and just note that a physical concept just doesn't match.
And I agree.

This led Descartes to his "substance dualism", that mind was of a different kind of "substance" to physical bodies.
This is where I think he went wrong.
After noticing that mind was of a different kind of concept to physical things, he started giving it physical types of properties like "substance" and "causation" which kind of contradicted the separation he made in the first place.
All the arguments against dualism are based around the relationship between mind and body.
They claim that for the mind and body to be connected the way they are, they need to be of the same type.
Even a physicalist-dualism like emergentism gets criticised in this way.

So we have arguments from dualists that observe mind from the first person and see that physical conception doesn't match, and we have physicalist arguments that observe that there is interaction between mind and body, and claim this interaction necessitates that both be physical.


I agree with the dualists that concepts of mind differ from physical concepts.
I also agree with physicalists that everything the exists is physical.
Every physical event has a physical cause.
The world can described purely in terms of physical events with physical causes.
Human action and behaviour is completely determined through physical causes and biological processes etc.


Anyhow, I think that an accurate understanding of the mind needs to meet both the first person observations of the dualists and the metaphysical correctness of the physicalists.
My personal theory is that they are rooted in different forms of expression.
Sometimes we use language to describe the world around us.
Concepts within that use of language have the space-time structure with physical cause an effect.
We also use language for other purposes than just describing the world around us.
Expressing beliefs and desires are important for interaction, making sense of our own actions as well as others.
Talking about experience and feelings seem to serve the purpose of making sense of personality rather than describe a physical scene.

Because we developed these concepts to a different purpose, they also follow different rules.
That's why the space-time structure with strictly deterministic cause and effect that we have for describing the world doesn't necessarily apply to our concepts of mind.
So when we talk of mental concepts like experience, belief and desire, we are talking about something very different to physical things that exist within space and time.


So where do the two meet?
Sometimes the two different types of language overlap, can be used to refer to the same event.
We could say "Johnny threw the ball in anger" where use a concept of personal identity of a person doing something with emotion.
Alternatively we could describe that situation in purely physical terms, where "Johnny" is a collection of organs, bones and muscles, that the "throwing" is a movement of said parts and that the "anger" involved particular state of brain/physiology.
It's events like these where our languages of physical description and of mind overlap, which is where the two connect.


So I've laid out my position to you.
My aim is to make sense of the mind in a way that respects first person observation without crazy metaphysics.
I'll be interested to see where you agree and disagree.

Matt Chait said...

Daniel,
Thanks for your input. I'll try to answer your questions succintly, but if you read more of my blog, a lot of it discusses these issues in more detail. Look at the post 'Self vs. Sense of Self' and 'Yin, Yang and Beyong.'

"Descartes observed his mind from the first person perspective......"
What I am talking about, and I hope you don't think this is a 'crazy metaphysical concept' is one step closer than what Descartes was describing. He was talking about the mind as if it was something outside of himself, something that he could observe. He looked out at the world and saw two different types of phenomenon. One seemed very real but was subjective and ephemeral, and the other seemed more distant and unemotional but seemed, perhaps, more real because it was measurable. But what I am talking about is not 'what Descartes was observing' but the Descartes that was 'doing the observing.' When you talk about 'your mind' you are creating a concept outside of yourself. I am talking about the self, which is not an object or a concept, but is the 'context' within which you experience all objects; physical, mental and emotional. I am not talking about your mind. I am talking about YOU, which is not a 'that' but is a 'that which experiences that.'

Again, this you is not a concept and cannot be measured or observed or even compared with anything else except, and here is the crazy metaphysical concept, God. All beings, and by beings I mean not physical bodies but the non-physical context that is served by bodies and that expresses its desires and intentions through bodies; and experiences the world through bodies; in other words living beings as opposed to corpses or inanimate objects; all these beings are aspects of God and are a part of God, although the extent to which they realize that (Self-realization) varies widely. For many reasons the word God has become less palatable to contemporary ears than, say, Cosmic Consciousness, but whatever word you use it means the same thing, or non-thing. The truth is that all the different beings that look out at the world along side you are the same One Being, just focussed on different aspects of creation. The realization of this Self is the goal of mysticism, meditation, chanting, yoga, repetitive prayers and a host of other spiritual activities. The idea is to stop, or slow down the 'mind' so that you stop focusing on the things that you are thinking about and just experience your Self. This is not a delusion. This is the realest experience you will ever have. And in that moment of realization, you understand that there really is no separation between your YOU and anybody else's YOU. That the world of separation is a game we play and reality is Oneness.

"I also agree with physicalists that everything the exists is physical.
Every physical event has a physical cause."

Well, you may be in agreement with physicalists, but you are not in agreement with physicists. Physicists, the modern ones at least, now agree that at least 94% of the world is not visible. And this is only the neutrino plane. Another physicist, by the name of Albert Einstein, predicted that there were at least nine or ten other planes, even subtler than the neutrino plane, and some containing no mass whatsoever. These non-physical planes would, like the neutrino plane, have no charge and be able to penetrate every nook and cranny of the universe including, of course, our own bodies. Is love, desire, will and consciousness part of this non-physical plane that Einstein spoke about? Does every physical event have a physical cause? Suppose you traveled to an uninhabited planet. If you had enough chemical, geological and astronomical information, you could probably give a reasonable explanation in terms of the interplay of natural physical laws, for every physical phenomena that you found on this planet. But then suppose that you stumbled upon a table, a telephone and a refrigerator. How could you possibly explain their appearance there except as the result of some being. Beings, at least human beings, create tables and telephones and refrigerators because they WANT to create tables and telephones and refrigerators. Their DESIRE to create these things enables them to harness energy to OVERCOME the natural, physical laws and create something that could not possibly be the result of simply the interplay of gravity and electromagnetism. This is true of every human made artifact and creation. It was done because someone WANTED it done. And every thing you volitionally do, you do because you want to. You, a non-physical being, at every moment, translates your non-physical desires into physical behavior by firing the appropriate neurons that start the physical processes that allow you to do what YOU WANT to do. Regarding all man made things and all human voluntary behavior, intention and desire are not part of a world separate from human artifacts and behavior, but are always the non-physical ORIGIN of these artifacts and behavior.

Regarding life itself, evolution attempts to explain its origin in purely physical terms. But the more we study the complexity of life, even and especially at the cellular level, and the more we know about the conditions of early earth, the more absurd this simplistic explanation seems. I can't go into it all here, but please read my posts on 'EVOLUTION,' 'SELFISH GENES AND REPLICATORS' and the 'ORIGIN OF LIFE.' I will soon be publishing a new post called 'LIFE' which details this absurdity even further.

With the inanimate world it may be a little harder to see beyond physical causes because science has done such a good job in describing cause and effect up to a point. Science bogs down when it tries to tackle original causes; when it tries to explain how whole systems of cause and effect were put in place in the first place. Physicists search for causal sub atomic particles and talk about things originating with a Big Bang. But the way they even deduce that there was a Big Bang is by studying a whole series of absolutely precise and inviolable physical laws and assuming that these laws were in place without any modification from the beginning of time. Okay. But what is the origin of these laws? Do the laws themselves have any physical reality or can we only measure them by their effect on matter? What is gravity apart from the matter that it effects? What is electromagnetism apart from electrons and protons? And yet, even by physicists theories, these laws preceded matter; matter grew out of the interplay of these laws. So what are these laws if they have so much power but no physicality? Physical laws are exactly like man made laws. Our laws are purely a function of agreement. The power of man made laws exists by agreement; we decided that this is the way that we wanted people in our society to behave. And now I have to bring in one 'crazy metaphysical concept' that you forewarned me about, but what can I do? In the same way that our social laws are a result of our intention to have a certain kind of society; so physical laws are the result of God's intention to have a certain kind of universe.

So I am not really rehashing Western ideas of dualism. I am talking about Eastern ideas of monistic dualism; which means that Oneness, or Infinity, or God, bifurcates into a dualtiy, into yin and yang, into space and time, into matter and energy, etc. But consciousness, or the Self, is not part of the duality. Consciousness, whether you realize it or not, is part of the Oneness and is non-dual.

Daniel said...

"Again, this you is not a concept and cannot be measured or observed or even compared with anything else except, and here is the crazy metaphysical concept, God. All beings, and by beings I mean not physical bodies but the non-physical context that is served by bodies and that expresses its desires and intentions through bodies; and experiences the world through bodies; in other words living beings as opposed to corpses or inanimate objects; all these beings are aspects of God and are a part of God, although the extent to which they realize that (Self-realization) varies widely. For many reasons the word God has become less palatable to contemporary ears than, say, Cosmic Consciousness, but whatever word you use it means the same thing, or non-thing. The truth is that all the different beings that look out at the world along side you are the same One Being, just focussed on different aspects of creation. The realization of this Self is the goal of mysticism, meditation, chanting, yoga, repetitive prayers and a host of other spiritual activities. The idea is to stop, or slow down the 'mind' so that you stop focusing on the things that you are thinking about and just experience your Self. This is not a delusion. This is the realest experience you will ever have. And in that moment of realization, you understand that there really is no separation between your YOU and anybody else's YOU. That the world of separation is a game we play and reality is Oneness."

Alright. Here I can more or less agree.
When we look at the world, we see more than just the "physical things".
They're painted within the context within our human experience.
This is where I think that religion/spirituality/mysticism can have some significance and validity as it can reveal much to us about how we see the world and radically alter our first person perspective of it.

Where I disagree is when religious/spiritual philosophy starts making claims about the physical world and we see that you kind of veer that way yourself in the next paragraph:

"Another physicist, by the name of Albert Einstein, predicted that there were at least nine or ten other planes, even subtler than the neutrino plane, and some containing no mass whatsoever. These non-physical planes would, like the neutrino plane, have no charge and be able to penetrate every nook and cranny of the universe including, of course, our own bodies. Is love, desire, will and consciousness part of this non-physical plane that Einstein spoke about?"
I'm going to say no.
Love, desire, consciousness - trying to put them into this "non-physical plane" doesn't make sense and there's no need to either.
I could argue that there's strong evidence that connects our physical bodies to our minds (e.g. brain damage and drug usage)
I could argue that there's no evidence for significant interactions between physical bodies and these "non-physical" planes.
But I'll go one further.

You seem to be pushing to give "consciousness" and "desire" these "non-physical existences". Why?
It's as if they need to have a physical-style of existence to be relevant.
They have more place as in the "context" of our experience rather than as "existing" as "content".



Your need to give these "contextual concepts" an "existence" seems to be leading you towards pseudo science.
Not that I know your research and understanding of physics and biology, but your words make it sound like you are attacking a strawman.
That is, you have your own simplistic ideas of what physics and biology says, and it's these simplistic ideas of yours that your are attacking, not the actual facts of physics and biology.
The bit about laws in particular was just plain word play.


Like I said, I think spirituality is significant when seeing the world through our human context, but all too often people feel that these spiritual concepts need to appear in the content also.
From that point, their "spirituality" demands delusion from them.

Matt Chait said...

"They're painted within the context within our human experience.
This is where I think that religion/spirituality/mysticism can have some significance and validity as it can reveal much to us about how we see the world and radically alter our first person perspective of it."



What I think you are saying, Daniel, is that there is a physical world out there and we ‘paint’ it by our perspective; and by understanding religion and perhaps other cultural values we can remove the distortions to our perceptions and see the ‘real’ physical world. I am saying something very different. What I am saying is that there is no ‘real’ physical world out there, that what you perceive is a product not just of religious and social prejudices but a product of the biological structures of your eyes, brain, nervous system and other sensory organs.

The more we study and strip away veneers, the more we see there is no solidity to the seemingly solid physical world. Even atoms and sub-atomic particles are force fields and the more we examine them, the more the seemingly solid tiny particles within these force fields dissolve into tinier force fields connecting even tinier particles. There is no end to this. Ultimately, all there is are forces interacting, and the forces have no material bases; they are just laws; which means that they behave that way because someone or some One decided that this interaction of forces would create a physical world.

"I could argue that there's strong evidence that connects our physical bodies to our minds (e.g. brain damage and drug usage)"

Yes, the way we perceive is affected by brain damage and drug usage. It is also affected by everything we eat, and by the cultural messages that we have received, by our belief system and by all our past experiences. But, regardless of brain damage or drug usage, it is still the same YOU that is looking out through these filters. The filter gets cloudier or clearer or changes color, but the YOU that is looking out never changes. The ‘real’ world is YOU, which is consciousness; the changing world, the world of illusion is the physical world. And, they are not at all separate. We create the physical world to have an experience of separation, to have this specific, defined experience. But the reality is Oneness, and the realest moments of our lives are when we, for a second, pierce this veil of separation and experience Oneness with another person, an activity, an environment, or with the entire universe. Those are always the ‘realest’ moments of our lives, when the material world of separation disappears.