Monday, January 10, 2005

Belief Without Proof : Evidence and the World - #9 - Consciousness Exists

LawPundit does not limit itself to the legal field. There are all kinds of laws and beliefs in this world beyond "law" itself and also encompassing the laws of the physical sciences and the humanities. Interestingly, much of what we believe in science is not based on evidence but rather on intuition or guesswork.



The highly acclaimed Edge Foundation has 120 prominent minds commenting on John Brockman's question: "WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IS TRUE EVEN THOUGH YOU CANNOT PROVE IT?"



We comment on these comments by 120 prominent minds: This is #9.



Belief Without Proof : Evidence and the World - #9 - Consciousness Exists



DANIEL GILBERT, a psychologist at Harvard University, believes that consciousness exists and he has not "the slightest doubt that everyone I know has an inner life, a subjective experience, a sense of self, that is very much like mine."



We agree. Is not the entire organization of our human world based upon this oft unstated belief?

Belief Without Proof : Evidence and the World - #8 - Birds have Dialects

LawPundit does not limit itself to the legal field. There are all kinds of laws and beliefs in this world beyond "law" itself and also encompassing the laws of the physical sciences and the humanities. Interestingly, much of what we believe in science is not based on evidence but rather on intuition or guesswork.



The highly acclaimed Edge Foundation has 120 prominent minds commenting on John Brockman's question: "WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IS TRUE EVEN THOUGH YOU CANNOT PROVE IT?"



We comment on these comments by 120 prominent minds: This is #8.



Belief Without Proof : Evidence and the World - #8 - Birds have Dialects



GEORGE B. DYSON, science Historian and author of Project Orion: The True Story of the Atomic Spaceship believes that birds not only have dialects, but that the borders of these dialects may be similar to the language dialect borders of humans.



We agree. Influences of environment and climate impose themselves upon human language, such as the north to south shift of "p" to "pf" to "f", so why should this be any different for birds, or any other animal for that matter?



A master of the hunt who recently passed away and who we knew in England had 80 hounds (do not say "dogs"), each of whom responded unfailingly to their particular name. Only people who have not worked with animals entertain strange notions about them and think that animals have no understanding of language, including some human terms, especially their names. Of course, they have their "own" language too, and just as the appearance of animals varies with geographic location, so also will their animal language expression vary with that same location.

Belief Without Proof : Evidence and the World - #6 & #7 - Consciousness is Based on Language

LawPundit does not limit itself to the legal field. There are all kinds of laws and beliefs in this world beyond "law" itself and also encompassing the laws of the physical sciences and the humanities. Interestingly, much of what we believe in science is not based on evidence but rather on intuition or guesswork.



The highly acclaimed Edge Foundation has 120 prominent minds commenting on John Brockman's question: "WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IS TRUE EVEN THOUGH YOU CANNOT PROVE IT?"



We comment on these comments by 120 prominent minds: This is #6 & #7.



Belief Without Proof : Evidence and the World - #6 & #7 - Consciousness is Based on Language (Calvin, Dennett)



WILLIAM CALVIN, neurobiologist, University of Washington and author of A Brief History of the Mind: From Apes to Intellect and Beyond and DANIEL C. DENNETT, philosopher, Tufts University and author of Freedom Evolves believe that consciousness is based on language, in the case of Calvin, that consciousness is structured intellect with good quality control, especially in preschoolers, and in the case of Dennet, that human language is a necessary precondition to consciousness.



We definitely disagree.



Although language surely plays a great part in structuring modern consciousness, we must ask the chicken and egg question: Which came first - language or human consciousness? We would argue that human consciousness gave origin to language and not vice versa. Language could not have originated in a vacuum. Hence, language develops in concert with consciousness.



Indeed, as a parent having seen the development of an infant from day one, it would appear to us that it is the human consciousness of an infant which permits him or her to learn a language in the first place. It is a different consciousness which prohibits animals from learning that same human language. This does not mean that animals have no consciousness, but rather that this consciousness is not human.



Furthermore, as someone who has seen first hand a human being recovering from a brain operation over time, it is quite clear that individual human consciousness is based on a sense of individual identity, which is a function of memory and recognition. A person recovering from brain surgery can for a time not know who he or she is and also not recognize close loved ones, even when the language facility is still clearly present. One can speak like a human, but still have human consciousness greatly impaired.



The corollary theory to those of Calvin and Dennett would be that the most verbally language-adept humans would have an elevated consciousness over their fellows, a theory which would be negated by a deaf-mute painter and which is also simply negated by experience. Many people have been taught a human language and still have remained primitive brutes. Just view the daily news of events. Other people have been nerds at language, for example Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton (via Shark Blog), but have demonstrated exceptional "human" abilities.



We would argue that language can be used to structure existing human consciousness - that, yes. But that human consciousness must be there to begin with, which we think is a function of genetics and the way the universe works, and not just of the acquisition of language.

Belief Without Proof : Evidence and the World - #5 - Our Universe is not Unique

LawPundit does not limit itself to the legal field. There are all kinds of laws and beliefs in this world beyond "law" itself and also encompassing the laws of the physical sciences and the humanities. Interestingly, much of what we believe in science is not based on evidence but rather on intuition or guesswork.



The highly acclaimed Edge Foundation has 120 prominent minds commenting on John Brockman's question: "WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IS TRUE EVEN THOUGH YOU CANNOT PROVE IT?"



We comment on these comments by 120 prominent minds: This is #5.



Belief Without Proof : Evidence and the World - #5 - Our Universe is not Unique



LAWRENCE KRAUSS, physicist at Case Western Reserve University and author of Atom, believes that our universe is not unique, writing:



"At every instant there may be many universes being born, and others dying....I nevertheless find it satisfying to think that it is likely that not only are we not located in a particularly special place in our universe, but that our universe itself may be relatively insignificant on a larger cosmic scale."



What else can we say. We agree. Except that we would add that each of us is a part of the larger universe and that the essence of the universe is IN US. We are not outside looking inside. We are inside looking inside. Whatever the universe is made up of, so are we too. For us, that is the ultimate comfort and the ultimate root of religious faith. The universe (seen as all of existence) probably has no center and no end, so that the center is where we make it. Perhaps that is one motivation for living and one beauty of each individual life. We were born (as matter) in the stars and to there shall we return, as the ancient Pharaohs long ago believed.

Belief Without Proof : Evidence and the World - #4 - Progress

LawPundit does not limit itself to the legal field. There are all kinds of laws and beliefs in this world beyond "law" itself and also encompassing the laws of the physical sciences and the humanities. Interestingly, much of what we believe in science is not based on evidence but rather on intuition or guesswork.



The highly acclaimed Edge Foundation has 120 prominent minds commenting on John Brockman's question: "WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IS TRUE EVEN THOUGH YOU CANNOT PROVE IT?"



We comment on these comments by 120 prominent minds: This is #4.



Belief Without Proof : Evidence and the World - #4 - Progress



NEIL GERSHENFELD, physicist at MIT and author of When Things Start to Think believes that there is such a thing as "Progress". Neil says that the belief in progress is a "leap of faith" and that technology has left us with mixed blessings.



We think that a belief in progress is a matter also of definition. If we plug the term "progress" into Google as "define:progress", the resulting definitions contain a number of similar but yet different concepts for a definition of progress, terms such as advancement, improvement, betterment, growth, movement forward and development.



Obviously, if we insist on a definition of progress which includes a qualitative evaluation of the state of things at any given point in time in man's history, believing in progress as "betterment" or "improvement" is sometimes difficult. A man sitting at his computer might believe in progress. A man holding a weapon on a field of war may have his doubts.



On the other hand, since everything in nature is either in the process of growth or decay, a definition of progress which encompasses the concept of growth will surely find many advocates. Indeed, perhaps progress is always a combination of growth AND decay, i.e. something along the lines of two steps forward and one step backward.



The idea of "moving forward" coincides in my view with a vision of time as a one-directional vector. We may not know where we are going, but we are moving...indeed, we have no choice but to move.

Belief Without Proof : Evidence and the World - #3 - Animals have Feelings

LawPundit does not limit itself to the legal field. There are all kinds of laws and beliefs in this world beyond "law" itself and also encompassing the laws of the physical sciences and the humanities. Interestingly, much of what we believe in science is not based on evidence but rather on intuition or guesswork.



The highly acclaimed Edge Foundation has 120 prominent minds commenting on John Brockman's question: "WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IS TRUE EVEN THOUGH YOU CANNOT PROVE IT?"



We comment on these comments by 120 prominent minds: This is #3.



Belief Without Proof : Evidence and the World - #3 - Animals have Feelings



JOSEPH LEDOUX, Neuroscientist, New York University, and author of The Synaptic Self, believes that animals have feelings and other states of consciousness.



Most anyone who has household pets will vouch for the fact that animals have feelings. We find it rather remarkable that people ever came to the idea that they do not. Perhaps the feelings are not the same as experienced by humans, but they are feelings nevertheless - or have you never had a cat turn its back on you, or purr on your lap?

Belief Without Proof : Evidence and the World - #2 - Mental processes outside the body?

LawPundit does not limit itself to the legal field. There are all kinds of laws and beliefs in this world beyond "law" itself and also encompassing the laws of the physical sciences and the humanities. Interestingly, much of what we believe in science is not based on evidence but rather on intuition or guesswork.



The highly acclaimed Edge Foundation has 120 prominent minds commenting on John Brockman's question: "WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IS TRUE EVEN THOUGH YOU CANNOT PROVE IT?"



We comment on these comments by 120 prominent minds: This is #2.



Belief Without Proof : Evidence and the World - #2 - Mental processes outside the body?



STEPHEN KOSSLYN, Psychologist, Harvard University and Author of Wet Mind: The New Cognitive Neuroscience asks whether mental processes can have an out-of-body existence.



Kosslyn has stated that "the mind is what the brain does" and notes that much of what the brain does is an interaction with the brains of others, something that he calls the use of Social Prosthetic Systems (SPSs). The brain is essentially "extending" itself beyond the limitations of the body in which it is found.



A good example which we might use to illustrate Kosslyn's idea would be the value of blogging to blog readers, where "other people's brains come to serve as extensions of your own brain."



More drastic out-of-body experiences have been documented for the brain in patients with neurological problems and are seen as body-cognition disorders, perhaps localized in the angular gyrus of the brain. Abnormalities in the symmetry of the angular gyrus have also been linked to schizophrenia.



Of course, Kosslyn is much more interested in the projection of the brain (in the mind of its owner) into the outer world and interacting outside of itself, something we each do every day, for example, in putting our thoughts into action, or even in simply conversing.



Belief Without Proof : Evidence and the World - #1 - String Theory in Physics

LawPundit does not limit itself to the legal field. There are all kinds of laws and beliefs in this world beyond "law" itself and also encompassing the laws of the physical sciences and the humanities. Interestingly, much of what we believe in science is not based on evidence but rather on intuition or guesswork.



The highly acclaimed Edge Foundation has 120 prominent minds commenting on John Brockman's question: "WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IS TRUE EVEN THOUGH YOU CANNOT PROVE IT?"



We comment on these comments by 120 prominent minds: This is #1.



Belief Without Proof : Evidence and the World - #1 - String Theory in Physics



PHILIP W. ANDERSON, Physicist and Nobel laureate, Princeton University, regards string theory to be "a futile exercise as physics". The Wikipedia writes:



"String theory, as with any current theory of quantum gravity, is unverifiable, and therefore it is also unfalsifiable."



And therein lies part of the problem. That of course is no standard of proof. In "real science" we have to look to evidentiary probabilities.



In view of our own theory that the universe is the manifestation of the principle that a single dimension can not exist (a principle manifesting itself at any measured relation or "point" in space), we also find "string theory" to be a rather improbable, if also possibly mathematically useful concept. We see string theory as a modern version of epicycles in physics: i.e. a convoluted theory of simple events which the theoreticians can otherwise not explain except by conceptional mathematical tricks and contortions.



Robbert Dijkgraaf has a good short and simple summary of string theory (with graphics at that site):



"String theory is based on the (deceptively simple) premise that at Planckian scales, where the quantum effects of gravity are strong, particles are actually one-dimensional extended objects. Just as a particle that moves through spacetime sweeps out a curve (the worldline) [a] string will sweep out a surface (the world-sheet). In contrast with particle theories, string theory is highly constrained in the choice of interactions, supersymmetries and gauge groups. In fact, all the usual particles emerge as excitations of the string and the interactions are simply given by the geometric splitting and joining of these strings: In this way the usual Feynman diagrams of quantum field theory are generalized by arbitrary Riemann surfaces. Much recent interest has been focused on D-branes. A D-brane is a submanifold of space-time with the property that strings can end or begin on it." [emphasis added]



What are the main logical problems with string theory (alleged physical laws) from our point of view?



a. Perceived physical reality in physics is always a function of the system of measurement. Measurements are by definition relations presupposing frames of reference to be measured by some sort of "measurement ruler". Thus, "measured" reality is 1) a function of the frames of reference chosen for the relationships being measured (for example, particles, waves or "strings") and 2) the means of measurement (motion, inertia, velocity, weight, dimension, extension, contraction, etc.)



Let us take a simple example. The weight of a human being weighing 200 pounds on Earth is a weight of only 33 pounds on the Moon, for the same physical entity, for the same atoms and molecules. Weight depends upon gravity. So what are we weighing? Our weight is only the measure of a relationship, it is not an absolute measurement.



Furthermore, our measurement rulers have limitations. If a velocity which were the square of the speed of light existed, how would we measure it? Indeed, how could we identify it (which is nearly the same thing)? At the level of subatomic quantum physics, the physicists labor under the limitation that their conclusions are mathematically and theoretically derived, but can currently not be proven under a microscope or by other physical means because the "posited" particles are simply too small. Theoretical physics has become, more or less, pure theoretical mathematics.



As for any choice of physical frames of reference, we need not stick to particles, waves or strings, but we can even imagine the universe as consisting not of strings but of an infinite number of invisible extensible and contractible vibrating rubber bands (dimensioned from infinitely small to infinitely large). Essential to the understanding of physical reality is the understanding that our measure of a thing (any frame of reference) is not the thing itself, but only our measure of that thing. Accordingly, many measurement "models" of reality are possible. Strings are simply one such model. This measurement should not be confused with the reality.



b. String theory has another critical drawback. We can either try to measure the whole or its parts but we can not measure both things at the same time, much as we can not measure the position and movement of an object simultaneously. Strictly seen, a moving train is in motion and never fully "stopped" at any given point on the tracks. In the physically measurable universe, also in the world of subatomic particles, everything is everywhere in motion and we thus measure "appearances" rather than the actual "reality".



String theory tries to get around this problem by posing a frame of reference which "cheats". Under string theory, we see neither the fixed position of the locomotive at some small segment on its journey nor the pace of its entire course of journey from start (S) to finish (F) at a given or varied velocity, depending on the terrain. Rather, we view the entire trip of the locomotive as one blurred photo "string" from start to destination, i.e. as an alleged extended one-dimensional photographic panorama. We thus artificially merge the concepts of position and movement at the subatomic scale. Perhaps such a merger is useful in physics and mathematics for those who grapple with these problems every day for a living, but it surely does not describe the actual reality of what goes on between S and F above and in what time reference.



c. Strings are said to be one-dimensional, which is already a significant logical flaw in string theory. "Stringers" beg the question by saying a string is a one-dimensional "extended" object, which is impossible. A world of one dimension A (a single dimension) is impossible to perceive. A world of two dimensions A (the thing) and B (the extension) is similarly impossible of perception without a world C in-between the extended "ends" of the string. A world of three dimensions A, B and C is also impossible to perceive since it would be static and unmoving and hence not discernable to us. Only when A B and C change relations with respect to one another do we get any kind of physical perceived reality and that dimension four D is Time. Time is our measurement of a change of relations in the systems we measure. Spatial orientations of three-dimensional space are merely applications of A, B and C above, plus the added and necessary element of D, Time.



String theorists would be more honest in not assuming without proof an impossible "one-dimensional EXTENDED object" but rather in sticking to a normal three-dimensional object whose extension in space and time the mathematical formulas treat as negligible, or more correctly, as currently difficult to measure or compute.



Based on the above arguments, only a four-dimensional universe can be perceived. No other universe is possible. Additional alleged dimensions (counting in the dozens in string theory) are convenient artificial mathematical fictions. Modern physics is adding epicycles, much as the ancients created non-existent epicycles to explain the movement of heavenly bodies in what they erroneously viewed to be a geocentric universe:



"If you have a bad design (such as trying to work out the motion of planets on paper while constrained by dogma to pretend that the sun moves more than the earth), and if you then find you keep having to add more bad design to add features to that design, then you are 'Adding Epicycles'."



Indeed, this basic dimensional flaw is recognized for string theory by stringers themselves, who currently presuppose dozens of "string theory" epicycles, which in and of themselves, are evidence of "bad design". As written at Superstring Theory:



"The final question for making a string theory should be: can I do quantum mechanics sensibly? For bosonic strings, this question is only answered in the affirmative if the spacetime dimensions number 26. For superstrings we can whittle it down to 10. How we get down to the four spacetime dimensions we observe in our world is another story."



Applied to string theory, if A is the string, then you still have to account for B, C and D, and that is going to prove difficult for the stringers, until they recognize that each string is merely the extension A-B-C at a subatomic level, and vibrated (changed in their relations) by D, Time. We'll bet you a rubber band.



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