Is there a scientific theory that explains the quality of pain in terms of the physical universe?

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by Speakpigeon, Dec 19, 2018.


Is there is a scientific theory that explains the quality of pain in terms of the physical universe?

Poll closed Jan 18, 2019.
  1. Yes

  2. No

  3. I'm not sure either way.

    0 vote(s)
  4. The question doesn't make sense.

  1. Truck Captain Stumpy The Right Honourable Reverend Truck Captain Valued Senior Member

    well, as explained in the rest of the post and links: pain is a subjective experience and there is no objective means to measure it (to date)
    we can measure limited aspects of pain in a person

    however, the primary reason I marked "The question doesn't make sense" is that I don't believe the term "the quality of pain" makes sense as you don't state if the quality refers to either the level of pain, the psychological measurement of pain, the physiological measurement of pain or the impact said pain has on the subject or it's lifestyle.

    If you've included all of that then it's too vague of a statement and it should have been left to "pain" rather than adding an adverb "quality". So, IMHO, the term isn't specific enough unless you wish to argue a point of philosophy, which is different than a discussion from science.
    well, are you wanting a scientific theory of pain or a philosophical one?

    there seems to be an oft-used reference for the definition of pain that I can't find a copy of
    "Pain: definition and properties of the unit for sensory reception"

    but there are other definitions, such as the 1952 study by J. Allan Walters "Pain and Suffering"

    the medical dictionary I have is similar to the free medical dictionary online
    so, even in the scientific literature you can see that there are subjective qualities of pain and an attempt to measure it. The studies are ongoing, but here is a decent read called "New Perspectives on the Definition of Pain"

    so from what I can tell, pain is not only a subjective percieved sensation but it is actual stimulus, or overstimulus, of specific type neurons for the purpose of eliciting emotional or physical responses for actual or potential injury to the body.

    all of the above links and references, and in my previous post, discuss the scientific theories of pain and their foundation, and some include that there is a subjective aspect to pain, but I don't think there is a singular specific all-encompassing Theory as there isn't even a way to objectively measure pain (to date).
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  3. Speakpigeon Valued Senior Member

    So, judging from what you say here, the question did make enough good sense to you that you could answer it without difficulty.
    So, your considered assessment is that the expression "the quality of pain" makes no sense?
    Look here what the word "quality" means:
    This just says that the quality of pain is just the inherent or distinguishing characteristic of pain. If that doesn't make sense, then little else does.
    As the expression I used, "the quality of pain", signalled clearly, the word "quality" just refers to pain itself. Nothing that is not obvious.
    And I think that it is also pretty obvious to all of us that the only distinguishing characteristic of pain we know of is that it is painful. Tell me if that still makes no sense to you.
    I didn't wish to argue anything. I wished to get an answer to my question. The question is about the quality of pain, which we all know is that pain is painful. There's no other defining quality to pain.
    Please, don't make stuff up. I didn't say I wanted a scientific theory. I asked a simple question and the answer is either YES, NO, or I DON'T KNOW
    That's explicitly not a definition of pain. The definition is said here to be that of "the unit for sensory reception".
    And we already have dictionaries to give us good definition of the word "pain".
    Isn't that good enough?
    The definition of pain here is that it is an unpleasant feeling. Nothing a dictionary couldn't tell you.
    There's nothing in there that says they are attempting to measure the quality of pain.
    No, what it says here as to what pain is is that pain is an unpleasant feeling. You know pain as such. You certainly don't know pain as something which is conveyed to the brain by sensory neurons. People already knew pain well before we got to discover sensory neurons.
    Whatever measures are even conceivable for now are measures not of pain itself but measures of the intensity of pain. That's all there is to it. However, I didn't ask about intensity, I asked specifically about the quality of pain, i.e. painfulness, as we subjectively experience it whenever we are in pain.
    We all know that. We all understand that. I child does.
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  5. spidergoat Liddle' Dick Tater Valued Senior Member

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  7. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Objective correlation, independent of the subject, between the quality of the pain and medically significant physical facts.
    That's not true. There are many different qualities of pain - ache and burn, sharp and dull, etc.
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  8. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    This may be of interest;

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    Figure 1. Receptor Classification by Cell Type. Receptor cell types can be classified on the basis of their structure. Sensory neurons can have either (a) free nerve endings or (b) encapsulated endings. Photoreceptors in the eyes, such as rod cells, are examples of (c) specialized receptor cells. These cells release neurotransmitters onto a bipolar cell, which then synapses with the optic nerve neurons.

    Please note the serialized microtubules which transport the information.
    It appears that all conscious and even subconscious experiences require "microtubules", a remarkable little biological computer.

    In the case of light, when the light is too intense for the microtubules, it results in an "overload" and that translates to "pain" in the conscious part of the brain.

    Hameroff speaks of quantum "bings" in the microtubules as an experiential shift in states.
    When the "bing" is a "bang", pain ensues.
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2018
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  9. Speakpigeon Valued Senior Member

    From the linked article:
    Erwin Schrödinger, a theoretical physicist and one of the leading pioneers of quantum mechanics, also published in the areas of colorimetry and color perception. In several of his philosophical writings, he defends the notion that qualia are not physical.
    "The sensation of colour cannot be accounted for by the physicist's objective picture of light-waves. Could the physiologist account for it, if he had fuller knowledge than he has of the processes in the retina and the nervous processes set up by them in the optical nerve bundles and in the brain? I do not think so."​
  10. Truck Captain Stumpy The Right Honourable Reverend Truck Captain Valued Senior Member

    It could be worded better. And there are different distinguishing characteristics of pain than just "painful" as noted in the above links/references
    read in context. no one said you wished to argue anything. thanks
    except that mentioned above, and to reiterate, pain is more than just a sensation (also noted above re: perception)

    1- it is what the dictionary is telling you
    2- you asked for "An inherent or distinguishing characteristic; a property" of pain, which is specified in the medical dicitonary with references to establish the justification of the definition

    I'm not making stuff up, and I asked you a specific question (which was directly indicated by the question mark at the end of the sentence you quoted). for starters, you're posting this in the following thread: Home Forums > Science > General Science & Technology
    but you're asking for an opinion about a topic that includes subjectivity. There are different aspects to it that require subjectivity and I wanted to clarify your request to focus on a particular aspect or direction to take the reply. I would simply ignore further inquiries if you wanted to discuss the philosophical side of the equation as it's irrelevant being entirely subjective to the individual.
    taken into context with the other studies, it's relevant to the overall picture of the "inherent or distinguishing characteristic; a property" of pain.
    moreover, it references specific studies that are relevant to the "inherent or distinguishing characteristic; a property" of pain, like Von Korff, et. al. or Merskey and Bogduk, which is why I suggested it to you.

    if you're making this statement then what you want to discuss is the philosophical meaning of pain, which is subjective.

    Feel free to continue and perhaps request your question thread be moved to a more suitable location.
  11. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    Apparently you still haven't watched Stuart Hameroff, or you would understand the process.

    Normally I would provide the link, but in view of your less than agreeable attitude, I'll leave you in your ignorance.
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  12. Speakpigeon Valued Senior Member

    Not between quality and physical facts. Between physical facts and reports from the subject. There is no objective characterisation of the painful quality of pain as we experience it.
    Sure, but these are just qualities of different kinds of pain. The one quality that distinguishes pain from non-pain is that only pain is painful.
    Again, we all know that.
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2018
  13. Speakpigeon Valued Senior Member

    I asked a simple question, whether there was a scientific theory that explained the quality of pain in terms of the physical universe.
    And the answer is either YES, NO, or I DON'T KNOW
    And that's clearly a question to be answered by people interested in science.
  14. Truck Captain Stumpy The Right Honourable Reverend Truck Captain Valued Senior Member

    trying to be as specific as possible:

    it doesn't matter if "People already knew pain well before we got to discover sensory neurons" as that doesn't define the Scientific Theory of the "inherent or distinguishing characteristic; a property" of pain, it only allows for a subjective interpretation of what pain is, which is philosphical and not scientific, hence my statement.

    the answer cannot be objective if subjectivity is involved. - as a Theory, you want objectivity, not subjectivity.

    so, your original question is answered best with Yes and No, as we have most of the basic origins of what pain is and how it works, but we don't have clear objective data on how to measure it or it's intensity considering the complexity of the issue. Moreover, that is very generally speaking and doesn't include aspects of pain which you've ignored or made circular arguments against (
  15. billvon Valued Senior Member

    Yes. Pain is a survival advantage to organisms. Therefore it is retained by evolution.

    Next question?
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  16. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Between physical facts of one kind and physical facts of another, as reported by the observers and witnesses of them.
    There are several - sharp and dull, ache and burn, for example. They are reported by the observers of the pain (who else?).
    There are even numerical scales of intensity useful in various circumstances - something fairly difficult to establish with any sensory perception.
  17. Speakpigeon Valued Senior Member

    The scientific method makes the distinction between subjective facts and objective facts. Objective facts are only objective to the extent that we agree on them. In effect, they are only objective for all individuals who agree with each other as to the reality of the fact. Subjective facts are events that are apparently only ever experienced by one subject. They can be reported but while the report may become an objective fact, what is reported remains a subjective fact.
    So scientists can observe a subject report on his subjective experience. Such reports can become objective facts to the extent that scientists agree that several such reports have been observed that confirm each other, even though each report event will usually be witnessed by only one observer, and as such will be itself a subjective fact. Still, these reports now accepted as objective allow for correlation. But the correlation, to the extent that it is itself an objective fact, remains a correlation between objective facts, namely, reports by subjects, as validated as objective facts by several observers agreeing among themselves. So objective correlation is only possible, in this process, between objective facts, for instance reports on the perceived intensity of pain, or on the quality of the type of pain, or indeed on the painful quality of what is experienced by the subject, for example "painful" or "not painful". And ultimately, what may well get to be explained are objective facts. And then, the scientific explanation merely consists in the objective correlation of objective facts.
    The systems only works, apparently because each observer is capable of correlating between facts of his own subjective experience. But even that may be illusory. But even if that's the situation, correlation done by one observer is inherently subjective. Correlation only becomes objective as a result of being accepted as such by several individuals agreeing among themselves, and in the process, whatever is correlated can only be objective, such as the subjects' reports.
    Qualities such as the sharpness or dullness of pain are subjective facts and as such facts only for the subject experiencing them. The scientist observing the subject's report never get to observe the sharpness or dullness of pain as experienced by the subject. So, any correlation admitted by scientists will only be correlation between the objective facts of subjects' reports.
  18. Speakpigeon Valued Senior Member

    That's no explanation of the quality of pain, which is the painful quality of pain, as subjectively experienced by the person in pain.
    What natural selection and evolution explain are the objective properties of pain.
    That's good enough for all practical purposes except when it comes to answering my question.
    Any other answer you might think of?
  19. Speakpigeon Valued Senior Member

    Yes it matters because it allows us to understand that pain is a phenomenon people know outside any scientific consideration of it. A situation which is fundamentally different from our knowledge of sensory neurons. And it allows to debunk whatever some here try to present as science.
    First, your claim here is falsified by the evidence. Subjectivity is always involved. All human individuals are subjects. Yet, we all accept there are objective facts and theories of objective facts. Yet, these can only be based on subjective facts as reported by individuals, scientists included.
    Second, all scientific theories are theories of objective facts. Yet, we all get to agree on objective facts on the basis of whatever subjective facts we know, scientists included.
    The real difficulty is that I am asking for any scientific theory of a particular kind of subjective fact, namely, the painful quality of pain as subjectively experienced by the subject in pain. That's the question and it makes perfect sense, contrary to your opinion. That's the question and I'm not interested in any scientific theory that would explain the objective properties of pain. To be honest, I don't need anyone here to know whatever there is on the subject. He you can't answer it, don't answer at all and don't answer a question I didn't ask.
    Any answer which is both yes and no can only demonstrates you are responding to two different questions. There's just one question, so make up your mind: yes or no?
    As to form, if you want to respond to what I say, you have to quote the bit you are responding to. Less than that just doesn't work. If you can't bother, please abstain.
  20. Truck Captain Stumpy The Right Honourable Reverend Truck Captain Valued Senior Member

    sorry, but that is nonsensical, IMHO.
    The existence of something before it's investigated by science doesn't mean it's "outside any scientific consideration of it". It simply means that no scientific data existed, therefore only speculative subjective musings or philosophical ponderings are possible until data can be recorded, investigated and validated.
    this leads to a philosophical musing on the topic and is irrelevant, as is your above argument about objectivity to Ice ( )

    so, as I noted above, you want to play philosopher and argue about semantics and the definitions used in the scientific principles.

    You go ahead and argue your philosophy that is irrelevant to the topic with yourself or some other philosopher who seeks attention.
    that is not science, nor is it objective, nor does it comply with the scientific principles, therefore it can't be part of your Theory you seek.

    or it demonstrates your ignorance on the topic and the vague nature of the question, which will lead you to a false dichotomy, where you will state something like
    Just because you're ignorant of the data doesn't mean you can narrow the conclusions to an either/or (or Yes/No) statement, especially when there is still investigation into the topic as well as considerable data you're ignoring for the sake of your personal agenda or beliefs, as noted by your insistence on dragging your philosophical musings into the discourse.
    Ok, so... if I quote you and reply to you, it's not quoting you and responding to the bit enough for you?


    You introduce irrelevant data to a complex issue for the sake of philosophical debate or musing in a science thread with a specific scientific Theory request, and you've ignored relevant data from disparate posters who tend to heavily debate (or even dislike) each other but are actually validating each others posts, and you're perhaps assigning false claims to posters out of ignorance or refusal to actually check your facts...

    at this point, you're trolling and baiting.
  21. Gawdzilla Sama Valued Senior Member

    Why does the pain scale only go to ten?
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  22. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    No more so than other such observations, routine in many fields.
    Again: the quality of pain is in many cases an intersubjectively verifiable fact, observed as many other disease symptoms are (dizziness, fatigue, double vision, nausea, thirst, numbness, etc), observed as many other scientific facts are (the sensory reports of multiple witnesses including trained scientists, recorded and classified).
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  23. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    In some surveys it goes to seven. It's more usefully accurate that way, sometimes.
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