Sunday, February 4, 2018

Universal Consciousness - Destroyed Some More

One of the most prevalent arguments used to support the belief in a Universal Consciousness - a vaguely defined form of new-age religious deism - is the argument from Quantum Physics.  Frauds like Deepshit Choke-Ya are fond of making claims along the lines that quantum physics proves that the nature of reality is controlled by Consciousness or some shit.  Well, I am here to tell you that Quantum Physics has absolutely nothing to say on the subject of consciousness, and definitely does not support the nonsense notion of a universal consciousness.

Nobody knows what anyone really means by "universal consciousness" other than it is a kind of non-denominational substitute for gods or goddesses - universal magical powerful agencies that, like, do shit and stuff.  Allegedly.  But we do have a really good idea of what quantum physics is, which I will attempt to convey to you now.

Quantum physics (more properly Quantum Mechanics or QM) is a mathematical method of making very precise predictions about subatomic particles, their properties, their behavior, and their interactions.  The most important tool of QM is the Schroedinger Wave Equation (SWE), the solutions to which correspond to valid physical configurations of matter, energy, momentum, spin, and a number of other fundamental quantum numbers (i.e. quantitized physical values).  If you're not solving the Schroedinger Wave Equation, then you, my friend, are not "studying" Quantum Physics.

QM does make some astonishing predictions about the behavior of subatomic particles, however.  Less well known is the fact that QM makes some very boring predictions about every-day-sized objects.  QM predicts and requires that everyday objects like baseballs and people must behave exactly according to Newtonian mechanics.  That's right - QM says Newton was right!

Also, in QM an electron may go backwards in time as a positron.  But you, my friend, are not a single subatomic particle.  You are a thermodynamic Process involving large numbers of interacting particles, and as such YOU may only proceed forwards in time.  And you can also never enter a black hole either, except by having all your atoms ripped apart in the process.  So don't go getting any ideas.  This shit applies to individual subatomic particles only and to nothing else.

Among the more astonishing predictions made by QM is that a single particle can appear to be in several places at once.  This is not actually so, but it is a consequence of an interpretation of QM which insists on maintaining the fiction of particles as actual objects.  In reality, particles are merely conceptual collections of quantum numbers - energy, charge, momentum, spin etc - which must all follow rules of interactions that proceed from solutions to the SWE.  For example, energy may only enter or leave the electromagnetic field in whole quanta for a given wavelength of light.  Thus a photon (a quanta of light) is a very useful fiction, since it helps us keep track of energy and momentum being put into or removed from electromagnetism through interactions with matter.

When the object-permanence stumbling block is removed, then the prediction about propagating quanta being in more than one place at a time becomes less astonishing, and is actually what one would expect.   The famous two-slit experiment demonstrates that light actually does propagate in the form of waves, and also proves that electromagnetic energy is also quantitized.  The electromagnetic wave passes through both slits while a quanta of energy from the e/m field is deposited on a screen at a specific point on the other side.  No actual little ball of light called a "photon" magically passed through two places at once.  A photon does not exist in-transit.  It only "exists" at the point of production and again at the point of absorption (i.e. during any interaction) as an accounting fiction for keeping track of energy and other quantum numbers which must be conserved.

Another astonishing "prediction" of QM relates to the Observer Effect.  There is no Observer Effect.  Let me be clear on that.  The "Observer Effect" obtained its name from a mis-translation of a German research paper and is nothing more interesting than the fact that particles are affected by their interactions with other particles.  Duh!

The requirement that energy, momentum and other physical values must be quantitized has the effect that no measurement can ever be made without radically interfering with a particle, if not actually destroying the particle and turning is parts into something else.  Any measurement made on a particle requires that some form of particle interaction take place, and no interaction takes place without there being an effect on the particles involved.  Therefore the "Observer Effect" is really the interaction-measurement effect.

While philosophers wrongly argue that there can be no Observation without a Mind to do the observing, they missed the point that most interactions take place without any measurements being carried out; and most measurements are made without anyone even looking at or being aware of the data.  I guess they never heard of data acquisition electronics which operate just fine without human intervention.  The interaction-measurement effect therefore does not in any way imply or rely on the existence of a Mind.  Therefore the unsupported extension of this concept to the idea that Consciousness keeps the universe together is based on error and is completely wrong.  As Wolfgang Pauli would have said, "That's so far from being right, it's not even wrong!"  Meaning that there is no way to even fix the notion to make it a less wrong notion.

QM is only spooky and mysterious when one attempts to interpret it using overly-simplistic concepts like particles as little objects that bounce around like billiard balls.  A particle is not an object, but a collection of quantum numbers tied together by events and interactions.  They are mathematical, accounting objects, not little beads or pellets of matter.  When physicists properly think of them like this, then we do not have to invent outrageous and confusing analogies to the everyday world in order to understand or explain them, and fraudulent con-men cannot claim that modern physics empirically supports their new-age religion scams.

Universal Consciousness - Destroyed

In 1994, Nobel Laureate Francis Crick published a landmark book called The Astonishing Hypothesis in which he urged the scientific community to begin regarding human consciousness as a valid subject of scientific investigation. Until that point, the vast majority of people including scientists (myself included) felt that there was something not quite biological, physical, or scientifically reducible about human consciousness; or at least that this would always be an intractable problem.

Since that time, enormous advances in neuroscience have occurred, assisted by previously unimagined new capabilities in imaging technology and the computer technology that enables them. It is now mainstream, well-supported scientific consensus that consciousness is entirely biological in origin.

A specifically "conscious" part of the brain has never been identified, but consciousness is clearly exclusively associated with brain activity observed via fMRI.  There are also these things called drugs which, when you put them in your brain, alter consciousness and make you think and feel differently, almost like you're a different person.  Also it is well known that if the brain becomes injured, the way you think and feel and even your personality can completely change.  Finally, if the brain breaks down and stops, like, brainalyzing or whatever, then you aren't conscious at all anymore.

It is clear from all evidence that without a brain, there is no consciousness, even if scientists can't agree on exactly what consciousness is.   But an understanding is gradually emerging that consciousness may not be quite what we thought it was - an entity or an algorithm of some kind - but rather that it is really just a deep pile of competences layered upon one another from which the sense of being a Person emerges. As those competences are removed one by one, so fades the sense of Self and consciousness. Therefore it is less useful to ask, "what is consciousness?" and instead investigate neuro-biological competence, including the interesting question of what is required for Moral Competence.

Ants have about 250,000 neurons, and you can make them run around crazy by poking sticks at them. That is something they are competent at doing.  Dogs have about 2.2 billion neurons, and they can count to three, but they also eat their own poops. Humans have about 86 billion neurons - not just the ones that can do calculus, but also including the ones that purchase whole life insurance and are dumb.  It is therefore clearly not just the number of neurons, but how they are connected and how they function.  In other words, the brain requires conditioning in order to have high levels of competence and therefore consciousness.

As an aside, we might wonder what would happen if we had a lot more neurons.  Would we be super-duper intelligent?  Would we develop, like, telekinesis or something?  Well, elephants have about 250 billion neurons, about 3 times what we have.  While they have pretty good memory, they evidently do not posses the power of telekinesis, or even the power of instagram.  Although some of them are known to be exceptional artists.

So, we find that there is no single part of the brain that is "the consciousness." There are, however, specific parts, circuits, networks etc that are responsible for individual competencies.  Consciousness is what emerges when all these competencies are combined, and consciousness is a kind of measure of the number and diversity of our competencies.

Neither is there any sharp line between conscious and not conscious. Lots of neurons = lots of neural competence; a few neurons = a few competencies; zero neurons = zero competence. Ants have fewer competencies than dogs, which have fewer than humans. Plants have a few limited competencies, and so might possibly be regarded as having a minimal degree of consciousness, even though they have no actual neurons.  They do have some specialized cells called bundle sheath cells that behave somewhat like neurons.

Rocks have no competencies whatsoever, no internal functions or organized structure other than random crystallization grain structures, and are therefore in no way conscious at all by any measure or definition. Some may argue for the consciousness of ecosystems, but only to the extent that living systems have evolved any identifiable competencies.  But there is absolutely no question of there being anything remotely like a "universal" consciousness in the sense of rocks or other inanimate objects being self-aware or having feelings or opinions.

Only the highest levels of competence endow a very few mammal species (notably humans) with a competence for self-awareness and the level of consciousness we associate with that sense of Self. Why did other species not get that even with far more evolutionary time under their belts?  Well, they evidently did not need that particular competence for survival, or small evolutionary steps in that direction were of no advantage to them. Only humans are so physically regressive and degraded that we could only survive by being super aware, individual, and clever.

As early as 200,000 years ago, humans were basically physically as we are now, including our 86 billion neurons.  If 190,000 years wasn't enough for us to invent Porsches and Breguet wrist-watches and Apple eye-phones, then what was so special about the last 10,000 years?

Software.  It took a while, but once the ecosystem of human brains had become fertile enough ground for a new form of evolution to start taking place, bits and pieces of a new operating system began falling into place using a kind of fitness-for-survival driving force.  Social orders developed, and our brains gained that competence.  Language developed, and again 86 billion neurons were sufficiently large to accommodate languages.  Crafts developed, using language as a stepping stone so that skills could be transmitted virally.  Technologies developed which benefited success-driven software evolution by creating more human brains to infect.  These include agriculture and animal husbandry, larger social structures, writing, fighting, money, irrigation, housing, clothing, etc.  All these ideas form the suite of thinking tools that we use to think about ourselves - in other words, to be conscious.

Can there be consciousness without a brain? If you imagine seeing a ghost (that isn't actually there because you're hallucinating which is something brains are very competent at doing) and that ghost visibly has zero neurons in total because it's invisible and floating in the air, then what are the chances that the ghost is a conscious being that is super intelligent and has also magic ghost powers?

Zero. The answer is zero probability, to infinity decimal places.  If there are no functioning neurons (a necessary but insufficient condition), then there is no functional competence and hence zero consciousness.

"But what if the ghost has Ghost Neurons? Huh?"

Ok - you exponentially amp up the improbability of this nonsense by suggesting that it requires the further existence an even more improbable thing.

Sure - why not.

So - do these ghost neurons of yours also use ghost chemical neurotransmitters? What are they? How do they work? What are they made of? Can you murder a ghost by spraying lysol on it? Do your ghost neurons produce electrical impulses using actual electrical charge? Or is it some kind of never-before-detected form of ghost electricity? What keeps these ghost neurons together in a body? Ghost velcro? What is the source of the ghost neuron's energy? Does the ghost have a respiratory and circulatory system as well? Or does it run on ghost batteries?

Keep in mind that every time you have to propose some stop-gap ad-hoc new thing to keep the hypothesis from unraveling, you exponentially increase the improbability that some thing exists which has never been observed (actually, positively observed to not be there) and which would require the invalidation of mountains of established fact. And don't try hiding in the gaps of scientific knowledge - these are small and dwindling. The Argument from Ignorance is basically, "you don't know some minor detail, therefore vast swathes of my imaginary nonsense are proved conclusively." Can we hold you to that when that knowledge gap is eventually filled?  Or will you continually move the goalposts?

You've heard of Occam's Razor? Well - get ready for Newton's Flaming Laser Sword of Truth. It's just like Occam's razor, but way more dangerous and devastating to bullshit. It works like this. Anyone who asserts the existence of a Mind in the absence of a Brain is under the obligation to produce logical observable consequences of that assertion. If they fail to do so, the assertion must be dismissed as effectively proven false.

One such potential observable consequence of the existence of Mind without Brain is that dead people should be able to pass real information to the living. Also, that new, real, and accurate information should be able to be received by prophecy alone.

Unfortunately, no real, accurate, specific information has ever been received from the dead or from prophecy, at a rate distinguishable from random chance. All practitioners of "talking to the dead" have been proven to be frauds who use mere parlor tricks, and their "information" is so nonspecific it has become a generic cliche'.  "Does anyone in the room have, perhaps, an elderly relative who has died?"  Um, no - we're all AI robots here.

Also, no prophecy has ever produced reliable new information (not previously known), and "prophets" almost universally miss a lot of really important and obvious stuff. "Prophets" are also almost always known to be frauds and criminals, and are therefore most untrustworthy in the first place.

This state of affairs must be regarded as powerful positive evidence in condemning the notion of Mind without Brain. No brain, no mind. Of that we can be absolutely certain.