Evolution and Teleology

Discussion in 'Human Science' started by Canute, Feb 25, 2003.

  1. Canute Registered Senior Member

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    It is generally assumed by science that the physical world is causally closed, in other words that consciousness has no causal effect on human behaviour, and that 'intentional' human action is an illusion caused by physically deterministic (mindless) processes in the brain. In other words that there is no such thing as free will.

    However if mind is caused by brain then all states of consciousness have a neural correlate, a matching brain state. In this case how is it possible to distinguish between conscious intentional action and mindless physical cause and effect? They would both look exactly the same.

    If it is not possible to distinguish between them then on what grounds can evolutionists be so sure that conscious choice and purposeful (teleological) action have no role in the evolution of species?
     
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  3. spookz Banned Banned

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    it seems that eventually all of a humans actions will be categorised and made to correspond to their respective neural correlates. what is not explained why these objective processes should give rise to subjective experiences. neuroscience offers the explanation that after a particular kind and level of neural activity occurs and is maintained, consciousness results! i maintain that consciouness is a fundamental force in the universe. like space-time and mass

    i also want to point out aspects of consciousness that are explained relatively easily. some of these are

    * the ability to discriminate, categorize, and react to
    environmental stimuli;
    * the integration of information by a cognitive system;
    * the reportability of mental states;
    * the ability of a system to access its own internal states;
    * the focus of attention;
    * the deliberate control of behavior;
    * the difference between wakefulness and sleep. (chalmers)

    the ability to do this does not require a consciousness that "subjectively experiences" in the typical sense. they seem to be merely objective processes. it appears that computers now can handle some of these tasks to varying degrees of complexity. if consciousness is purely a mechanistic process, we can look forward to ai freaking out just like we humans do.

    current scientific viewpoints on consciousness seems practically schizophrenic. either the whole phenomenon is denied to exist or is magically created by neurons high on speed! these are probably the same fucking scientists that hold that the lesser animals are not capable of thought! fuck them again! allahu akbar i will have my revenge! narrow minded bastards!



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  5. Frencheneesz Amazing Member Registered Senior Member

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    Um, is it just me or does the causality (that is what you meant by causally right?) of the human mind have nothing to do with evolution..
     
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  7. Canute Registered Senior Member

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    Spookz - "current scientific viewpoints on consciousness seems practically schizophrenic. either the whole phenomenon is denied to exist or is magically created by neurons high on speed! these are probably the same fucking scientists that hold that the lesser animals are not capable of thought! fuck them again! allahu akbar i will have my revenge! narrow minded bastards!"

    Very well said and I couldn't agree more. Physicalism is a matter of faith not evidence and it's pathetic that science is taking so long to own up to this when so many great philosophers and scientists have pointed this out, (although there are signs...).

    Frencheneesz- "Um, is it just me or does the causality (that is what you meant by causally right?) of the human mind have nothing to do with evolution."

    Well, many people think it does not, on the basis that the human mind is not causal. The jury is out on this for the moment so no, it's not just you. However it's not me (nor spookz by the look of it). If consciousness is causal then it is the most important causal factor in our behaviour, and thus our evolution.
     
  8. paulsamuel Registered Senior Member

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    reply

    There appears to be a couple of philisophical questions in your post.

    One; a very old argument between the monists and the dualists, are we 2 things (mind and body, or body and soul as the theologians would ask) or are mind and body one thing.

    Two; a reductionist argument (given the interactions at the molecular level predictions can be made about the individual, i.e. determinism) vs. emergentism, where the whole is more than the sum of the parts.

    evolution of species is independent of these arguments. speciation occurs through geographic isolation and evolution of reproductive isolating mechanisms. gradually, isolated populations become more and more different.

    It is amazing how little we know of our own brains and its physical relationship to our consciousness. The little progress made in face of the amazing advances in the biological sciences, makes me think that the approaches and the questions asked are not the correct ones. I think science is stuck between looking at molecualr levels of neurotransmitters and the black boxes of behavioral science. There needs to be a different approach either between these two levels or from an entirely different field.

    For example, I would like to know what are the structural changes in a brain due to experience and memory? Can these changes be reproduced (can memories be induced by sculpting the brain, that is by arranging the neurons in such a way as to simulate the experience or memory of it)? There was an experiment done on Planaria where the Planaria were trained to respond to a light cue during feeding. The Planaria were then cut up into pieces and allowed to regenerate. The regerated pieces maintained the learned training (a significant response vs. untrained Planaria) and there was no significant difference between trained Planaria regenerated from head pieces vs. those regenerated from non-head pieces. I'm not sure I understand why these experiments were not followed-up.

    The implications are staggering. If consciosness and memories reside in the physical structure of the brain, then we could recreate an individual's life and experiences and memories from an amorphous, cultured brain.
     
  9. Dinosaur Rational Skeptic Valued Senior Member

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    While some might believe the above, I do not think there is any view on this subject accepted by a majority of the thinkers who ponder such questions.
     
  10. Canute Registered Senior Member

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    Re: reply

    That's putting it mildy.

    Evolution of species happen because creatures do things (or appear to do things) in order to survive. The question remains why they bother.

    Quite agree.

    No account of brain functioning will explain experience. No physical or computational description of brain activity can account for consciousness in general nor its different aspects.

    They were probably treated as anomalous, as of course they are from certain entrenched perspectives.
     
  11. Canute Registered Senior Member

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    The idea that consciousness is causal is considered to breach well accepted scientific laws. Thus science does not accept the notion of free will or intentional action. As you say many people would disagree (me included) however Darwinian evolutionary theorists expressly (and forcefully) reject consciousness as a cause of behaviour.
     
  12. Dinosaur Rational Skeptic Valued Senior Member

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    Canute:
    From what I have read, consciousness and free will are outside the scope of what I normally think of as science. These seem to be philosophical issues due to a lack of hard evidence and good experimental methodology.

    You are undoubtedly correct about evolutionary theorists rejecting consciousness as effecting evolution, but I did not think they had a lot to say about consciousness as a cause of behavior. They claim than behavior which results in reproductive success tends to cause a larger population of those exhibiting the behavior, but I did not think they paid much attention to the cause of the behavior.

    There is still argument about whether consciousness is a necessary part of the evolution of intelligence, a byproduct of intelligence, or a mere accident due to the complexity of a human brain. I do not think there is consensus on what animals (if any) have consciousness. I personally vote definitely for other primates, especially the chimpanzee. I also think a low level of consciousness exists in most mammals.
     
  13. Canute Registered Senior Member

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    I agree that consciousness and freewill are outside the scope of science as currently defined. However they should not be and I feel that science is beginning to think the same, led by the philosophers. In fact of course it doesn't matter what it's outside the scope of, it needs to be covered by any explanation of the world.

    You're right that not much attention is paid to the causes of behaviour which affect evolution (in other words all behaviour). This is odd, since most people are like yourself, and believe that consciousness exists. Or do you think it exists but is non-causal?
     
  14. paulsamuel Registered Senior Member

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    Re: Re: reply

    Again, a couple things going on here. First, it's not survival but reproduction which determines fitness. I suspect that many individuals in many species can have behaviors giving them extrememly long lives (longer even than reproducing individuals), however, without reproduction, survival is meaningless evolutionarily. Also, evolution is not entirely adaptationist. There is random and neutral evolution as well, which can also result in speciation during geographic isolation. Finally, the process of natural selection does not preclude free will and need not be deterministic. Those individuals with heritible traits that facilitate reproductive sucess will increase in abundance. Those individuals without these traits will decrease.

    This is an assumption on your part. It could very well be that consciousness, experience, and memory have physical and structural components in the brain. We just don't know yet, however you COULD be right.

    That's possible, but many biology text books mention the experiment and normally anomolous results are not mentioned so widely.
     
  15. paulsamuel Registered Senior Member

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    882
    reply to Canute

    What we need to do is to define concsiousness. From bacteria to humans, what is "being concsious?"

    Once defined, we can assess whether science can even address the issue.
    Science can only address issues that are testable, predictable and (most importantly) falsifiable. If we can't falsify whether consciousness even exists, then science is not equipped to examine it. It turns into the realm of metaphysics and ontology.
     
  16. paulsamuel Registered Senior Member

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  17. Canute Registered Senior Member

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    Re: Re: Re: reply

    I wonder where that 'survival of the fittest' phrase came form. Reproduction does not determine fitness, fitness (which includes fitness to survive long enough to reproduce lots) affects reproductive success which affects transmission of genes. Current Darwinian evolutionary does not admit the causal effect of consciousness. For a complete and forceful (and patronising) exposition of this view try Dennett 'Darwin's Dangerous Idea', in which the 'dangerous idea' is that human evolution happens without any input from consciousness.

    It may well be that mind is a pointless excrescence of the brain. However this does not alter the fact that 'red' is not an experience that is ever going to be explained by science. Knowing its neural correlate, should it be possible to ever do so, would tell us nothing of what the owner of those neurons is experiencing, and we would only have his or her subjective and conscious explanation of what is being experienced, no scientific evidence at all.

    OK. I was being gratuitously sceptical.
     
  18. Neville Registered Senior Member

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    I think it's hard to say. I used to have trouble with the concept of free will because it is impossible for us to know whether something was predestined or not, however this is free will in another context.

    What kind of physical determinism Canute?? You mean as in a person is hungry and looks for food to stay alive, or do you simply mean that the physical world determines what we do??
     
  19. Canute Registered Senior Member

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    Re: reply to Canute

    I regard consciousness as being experience. This is woolly but a common definition when dressed up a bit. Also common is the idea that whatever consciousness is there is always 'something that it is like' to be conscious.

    Science cannot address it. This is why it hasn't for the last few hundred years, why behaviourism was so popular, why the effect of the observer in QM is considered such a mystery etc. However consciousness research is becoming respectable at last so perhaps science will begin to dismantle its boundaries. In the end it hardly matters. If science cannot explain it does not follow that it does not have an explanation. Science, metaphysics, ontology, whatever, are all the same thing in the final analysis.
     
  20. Canute Registered Senior Member

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    Re: reply

    Thanks.
     
  21. Canute Registered Senior Member

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    The latter, of which the former is commonly considered an example.
     
  22. Neville Registered Senior Member

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    Yeah good point. Isn't it just that our consciousness is considered to be the most advanced known?! Surely if worms were the most advanced there is (i.e. if humans, dogs etc didnt exist) then their consciousness must still be considered a consciousness?

    So you werent looking at it from the view that from the big bang there was just particles, elements if you like, and it is only chain reactions between these elements that form planets, water and then the growth of life, from which we are part of (are made of!), and it is still therefore only chain reactions between these elements, particles, chemicals that is causing existence. It is this that led to life and it was this that began before us yet we still have no control over it.

    (Someone else did a thread on this quite a while ago)

    To summarize, the universe is a series of chain reactions which we are merely just a part of. Our bodies are a dwelling for some of these chemical reactions.

    P.S - Wasn't you was it?

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    Last edited: Mar 4, 2003
  23. Canute Registered Senior Member

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    Our minds are the most advanced on this planet (probably) if you define 'advanced' as complex (muddled?). However it is not clear what it might mean to call a consciousness advanced. There is no way of comparing them. And as yet no way of measuring what is conscious and what is not.

    Definitely not. However you're right that it is the traditional scientific deterministic view.
     

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