Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Andrei Imagine there's no Heaven

"it's easy if you try"

Well Stephen Hawking has tried and he has succeeded.
You had a health scare and spent time in hospital in 2009. What, if anything, do you fear about death?

I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I'm not afraid of death, but I'm in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first. I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.
Imagine that!

29 comment(s):

Jeremy Harris said...

He's absolutely right but he seems to imply the ridiculous position that the brain is the same thing as the mind, two provably distinct entities.

Andrei said...

If the position that the brain is the same thing as the mind is ridiculous, Jeremy, then why can't the former proposition, ie that there is no Heaven, be just as ridiculous?

leftrightout said...

because, silly, the proposition that there is a heaven is rediculous.

Where is heaven?

Why is heaven? Who's there?

How did they get there?

What do they do all day? After all, there's no free will, and you lot keep banging on that we need free will to live a full life.

Will we all just be puppets in heaven?

As the bumber sticker says "Stephen Hawking Said it. I Believe It. That Settles It."

Psycho Milt said...

...he seems to imply the ridiculous position that the brain is the same thing as the mind...

That would indeed be ridiculous, but he doesn't imply it. He's saying your mind is highly, extremely... hell, vanishingly unlikely to continue existing beyond the death of the brain that hosts it, just like your software doesn't magically keep running somewhere when you shut your computer down. Anyone imagining things might be otherwise has some serious explaining to do, and the explaining that's been offered so far by various religions is not only unsupported by the available evidence, it's not even particularly plausible.

Andrei said...

Your computer doesn't have a soul PM and your computer most certainly doesn't have free will, although at times it may seem that way when it is being difficult.

The brain computer analogy falls over on these points.

Psycho Milt said...

The analogy is one of physical systems that support the existence of abstract entities. Without the physical mechanism, there's nothing to support the abstract entity's continued existence. This applies to the human mind in its brain as much as it does to software in a computer, and is as far as the analogy goes. It's not intended to equate the mind with software.

We know that the mind exists via nerve activity in the brain - so, lose the brain and what then sustains the mind in existence? Hawking, being a scientist, wants something a little more evidence-based than "take God's word for it" and so should any other scientist.

Jeremy Harris said...

If the position that the brain is the same thing as the mind is ridiculous, Jeremy, then why can't the former proposition, ie that there is no Heaven, be just as ridiculous?

That is exactly what I am saying, heaven and the existence of our souls is a faith based proposition, Hawking is absolutely right that his brain will stop working when he dies but that doesn't for a second answer the question of whether his mind/spirit/soul will continue.

Those attempting to compare the brain and mind to a computer and software require an almost purposeful ignorance at this point in study of the mind.

Hawking has lost the plot over the last few years, claiming that because of the law of gravity the Universe will create itself, will leave a blot on his body of work.

leftrightout said...

That is exactly what I am saying, heaven and the existence of our souls is a faith based proposition, Hawking is absolutely right that his brain will stop working when he dies but that doesn't for a second answer the question of whether his mind/spirit/soul will continue.

Then can you answer the question of how the mind will continue to work when the brain is dead?

Just askin'

Jeremy Harris said...

Let me answer your question with a quote from an atheist and a question:

Why should a bunch of atoms have thinking ability? Why should I, even as I write now, be able to reflect on what I am doing and why should you, even as you read now, be able to ponder my points, agreeing or disagreeing, with pleasure or pain, deciding to refute me or deciding that I am just not worth the effort? No one certainly not the Darwinian as such, seems to have any answer to this... The point is that there is no scientific answer.

Michael Ruse


The real question is: How can one explain the existence of the mind (and by extension the soul/spirit) at all?

You often seem to forget LRO that I'm a former atheist who studied science and reached the conclusions that God exists and Jesus was exactly who he said he was, after years of consideration. The things that have happened in my life since I became a Christian leave absolutely no doubt in my mind. I've been where you are, believed the same tripe you do and I did so so I could run away from the reality of God, do what I wanted while believing it ultimately didn't matter.

David Winter said...

Jeremey, can you provide your the proof that the mind and the brain are 'provably distinct entities'?

Psycho Milt said...

The real question is: How can one explain the existence of the mind (and by extension the soul/spirit) at all?

No, it isn't. As a scientist, Hawking asks himself what we have evidence for. Well, we have a shitload of evidence that the mind is a construct of neural activity in the brain, and we have a sum total of 0 evidence that the mind is somehow independent of the brain and can continue in existence once the brain dies. So he doesn't see any reason to assume his mind will continue in existence after his death - maybe it will, but there's no reason to assume so. If you've studied science as you claim, this concept will not be a foreign one to you.

ZenTiger said...

If I get a chance I'll get back to this thread on Friday - it's interesting philosophically speaking.

The computer software analogy is very flawed for example, and more so that it simply reflects the pre-supposed "facts" that exclude any other quite reasonable possibilities.

A bit like the poorly considered "I think, therefore I am" statement of Descartes. I'm not surprised we end up here with the belief that man is merely a biological computer/machine

David Winter said...

Right, the only people I've ever heard seriously claim that the mind is software running the on the brain's hardware are dualist - who need to magic up some kind of interaction between the physical brain and the supernatural mind.

Jeremy Harris said...

No there isn't lots of evidence that the mind is a construct of the brain and I'll happily provide plenty of quotes from atheists attesting to this, also there have been experiments demonstrating the duality of the brain and mind - it's why in my very first post I said they are provably distinct.

If you've studied science as you claim, this concept will not be a foreign one to you.

My point is that Hawking - and so many other scientists are trying to use science to do something science cannot - and is not capable of doing - proving or disproving philosphical and theological questions. We can infer things about the Supernatural from the Natural but we cannot prove or disprove the existence of God. The mind is an indicator, as are the origins of the Universe, origins of life, etc, etc, which to me - when examined without me wanting to believe God didn't exist - pointed quite clearly to the fingerprints of a creator. Ultimately though it is a faith based decision for the Christian, Agnostic or Atheist. I've lived all three - I know which is the truth.

Psycho Milt said...

No there isn't lots of evidence that the mind is a construct of the brain...

Really? We can tell that by the fact that physical injuries or chemical changes in the brain have absolutely no effect on the functioning of the mind, perhaps? Please - if you drink a lot of alcohol at some point, just humour me and accept my view that your mind consists of activity in your brain, don't try driving your car.


The computer software analogy is very flawed...

Like I said, the computer/software analogy is about an abstract entity that relies on a physical mechanism to sustain it, it's not attempting to compare the mind to software.

ZenTiger said...

entity that relies on a [single] physical mechanism to sustain it,

And yet even in that realm, it is possible to move the data to other machines, to network, to connect to multiple computers, to use multiple machines etc, once those concepts were invented and then actualised, every-one now goes "oh, but of course"

David Winter said...

also there have been experiments demonstrating the duality of the brain and mind

So show us one. I don't care about quotes, I'd like to see the evidence you think proves your point.

ZenTiger said...

Imagine we live in a 2D world (like a piece of paper), and some-one theorizes there could be a third dimension.

Preposterous, they say, because their entire reality is the one page. Even a 3D drawing on the page is soon shown to be a "trick" and only adds to the proof there is nothing outside of their known realm of existence, based on proof from the known realm of existence.

Then again, perhaps it's better they think that way argue some flat pagers...

Matthew said...

Let's try another analogy with respect to the mind and brain. One one hand we have the statement that the mind cannot exist without the brain; that the mind is a contruct of neural activity in the brain. On the other hand we have the idea that the mind exists independently of the brain.

With this second idea, one comes up with the challenge that how can we prove the mind actually exists, and various ideas have been expressed in that direction.

Pursuing that for a little while let's throw in this scenario:

Matthew: ZenTiger, does your brain exist?
ZenTiger: yes
Matthew: prove it
...
PM, David: this proof is yours to provide, if you so choose.

Psycho Milt said...

this proof is yours to provide, if you so choose.

I choose not to engage with sophistry.

Imagine we live in a 2D world (like a piece of paper), and some-one theorizes there could be a third dimension.

It's possible our knowledge of the universe is lacking something that, when we discover it, might suggest that the mind is actually independent of a physical carrier and continues to exist in this presently imperceivable dimension after the loss of its physical carrier removes it from the realm we can currently perceive. Thing is, we haven't discovered anything to support that scenario, so Hawking can hardly be blamed for not presenting it as likely.

David Winter said...

I have to say, Zen and Matthew, you guys sound a lot like the 1st year philosophy students and my hall of residence who would stay up late talking about how "you couldn't know anything man".

Jeremy made a very strong statement, and I'd like to see the evidence for it. I'm still waiting...

ZenTiger said...

Just the opposite David. I hinted earlier when I disagreed with Descartes "I think therefore I am". He could have said "I sneeze, therefore I am" for all the philosophical posturing he went through doubting his existence (but stopping for dinner because he's hungry).

I haven't had time to properly talk about my position, so I think confusion is easy (sorry), but wanted to keep the debate going until I had more time.

Another half snippet then - When dealing with the realm of science, one always has to come back to facts, evidence etc. It's just that that approach doesn't always suit all of life's questions.

For example, when I declare to my wife I love her, she could ask for evidence, and all sorts of evidence might result in satisfying some level of inquiry but ultimately may not answer the question that could be believed (or disbelieved) on a far deeper level.

As for Jeremy, if he made a strong statement, he can defend it as he wishes. Why do you expect me to provide the proof?

Regs, Zen

Jeremy Harris said...

Sorry David,

I haven't been online for a few days. The first experiments that come to mind (pun sadly intended) are those carried out by Wilder Penfield, the father of modern neurosurgery, at Princeton University.

He would electrically stimulate the motor cortex to move limbs and ask the subject to keep those same limbs still. The patient would use one arm to try and stop the other moving, the patients nonphysical reality (their mind) fought against their electrically stimulated brain.

About this Penfield said, "To expect the highest brain mechanism or any set of reflexes, however complicated, to carry out what the mind does, and thus perform all the functions of the mind, is quite absurd... What a thrill it is, then, to discover that the scientist, too, can legitimately believe in the existence of the spirit".

Jeremy Harris said...

It's possible our knowledge of the universe is lacking something that, when we discover it, might suggest that the mind is actually independent of a physical carrier and continues to exist in this presently imperceivable dimension after the loss of its physical carrier removes it from the realm we can currently perceive.

It's not that we are lacking a little something, we lack knowledge on how the overwhelming majority of the Universe works, the issues arising from the big bang, the constraints on our knowledge due to the speed of light, the origins of life, the validity of string theory, etc. etc. even if we come up with the answer to all these question we still would have only answers to 4.6% of the puzzle as we currently understand it. Dark Energy and Dark Matter make up over 95% of the Universe and to be blunt scientists have almost no clue on either of them, especially Dark Energy which seems to contravene the law of gravity.

So for Hawking to discount the mind - body problem means we shouldn't debate how Dark Energy works, we know it exists, like we know the mind exists, there are massive flaws in the idea the mind is simply a product of the brain, there are massive flaws in all our ideas about Dark Energy. But we keep studying and debating until we come to the truth - even if atheists don't like what it implies.

David Winter said...

Jeremy.

Perhaps you should move from the first thing you think of to the best evidence for your claim:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19423830

Matthew said...

No, there's no sophistry in that statement.

The fact is, you can't prove your brain exists. Yes, you can say you think and produce language that is evidence of that thinking. You can even show someone else you are self-aware. But you can't prove your brain physically exists. All you can produce is plausible evidence that it is, not it itself.

Proof, you say, lies in the fact you can't see or observe the mind (or God for that matter). yet plenty of rantional people see the evidence for the existence of the mind (and God) and they are not nutters in the same way that you are not a nutter.

You say

Without the physical mechanism, there's nothing to support the abstract entity's continued existence.

which clearly requires a physical reality to make your point valid yet you yourself don't require a physical reality to prove the existence of your brain; you merely require evidence that it does. So does everyone else!

Psycho Milt said...

See David Winter's comment above re 1st-year philolosophy students.

Matthew said...

PM, of course I read that first! I am well aware that he is playing the person, not the ball.

Thank you for your response, however brief, but see my comment above re evidence for the brain.

Psycho Milt said...

And that was my response to it. You've offered the first-year philosophy students' "you couldn't know anything, man" re the brain and seem to be assuming this demonstrates that it's as reasonable to assume the mind requires no physical carrier as it is to assume such a thing as a brain exists. If that's not sophistry, it's almost inconceivable naivety.

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