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Thread: Is the sun conscious?

  1. #16
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    It is good to be aware of what we think is goofy. Then ask why we think something is goofy or not.

    I agree with you that the Earth is not flat. One can perhaps guess that by looking at the stars circling us and seeing that other planets seem round enough. But to ask whether something is conscious or not is not so easy to decide. One has to look at the objective measurements of the object and from that wonder if the object has a subjectivity of any sort. The only reality we know for sure that has a subjectivity is ourselves because we can experience our own subjectivity.

    One way to look at the objective measurements is to ask if there is anything that appears "random". Now it may be random because we don't know what determines its behavior yet. However, it may be random because it is making choices. Randomness would be one way subjective consciousness appears in objective data especially randomness that is not uniform, that is, not like flipping dice.

    You're asking a good question about the level of consciousness of an electron and a mosquito. Sheldrake asked something similar with regards to how conscious the sun is with respect to us. I think the mosquito would have a more complicated level of consciousness than an electron because it is a more complicated self-organizing object. However, one can quickly reach a conclusion that the electron is conscious if one interprets quantum indeterminiism ("randomness") as making choices. Admittedly this is precisely why there are so many interpretations of quantum physics. They all want to get around the idea that the electron made a choice. Some of those interpretations are pretty bizarre such as many worlds.

    So it goes back to what one finds goofy. I find it less goofy to think the electron made a choice (that is, the electron is conscious) than to believe in parallel universes or many worlds.

    Some people today think that perhaps sometime in the future an AI computer will be conscious. Is that a goofy idea or not? And what motivates one to think of it as goofy or not. In my case, I would say that because the computer is not making a choice, evidenced by it having a programming, that it is not conscious.

  2. #17
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    There was a time before LitNet, by God, when some type of support for a notion such as the sun is conscious was obligatory. NO more. Now just make the proposal, and if no one disproves it within twenty-four hours, why, the sun must be conscious.

    Nothing compelling is being offered in support of a conscious sun, in my opinion.

    As for machines becoming conscious, I still like the idea of "asymptotically close," that I developed last semester on the subject.

    Once two items become asymptotically close, they are indistinguishable and their labels arbitrary.

    Most natural examples would be too close to call quantitatively. In the case of machines becoming conscious, would we be seeking a quantitative difference or a qualitative one?

    If two outputs are repeatedly indistinguishable, then what exactly would enable us to say that one of them is conscious and the other not?

    I am pretty sure Yeats is referring to God by the word emperor. But then the hammered gold and gold enameling requires some sunlight to keep a drowsy emperor awake.

    * * * * *

    Of the two scenarios I have devised (Universe with a beginning and universe with no beginning) only the second one is the natural environment for being that "just is," as you say, and needs no reason for existence. The two scenarios work completely differently and produce different phenomena. Something going eternally backward must precede all causation by necessity, and of course, there can be no First Cause, in this case, since eternity has no beginning.

  3. #18
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    I agree that the two scenarios of a universe with a beginning and one without would show different phenomena. Because one can't see further back than the cosmic microwave background, a bit under 14 billion years, the first scenario is likely the case. One might be able to see further with better tools to detect gravitational waves. If a choice was made to start the universe, I don't think it would require a reason. However, if no choice was involved, then one needs a reason or an explanation.

    We don't know scientifically what underlies the objective data we measure. That we can model that data and get good results allows us to make predictions, but having a model does not mean the model is what underlies the objective data. Any conclusion about what reality really is would come from a philosophic argument or assumption, not a scientific one. Furthermore, in the case of AI robots they are far better than we are at doing things. Hence, they aren't modeling us. Besides we really don't want these robots making choices. We want them to obey our choices. We don't want them to be conscious.

    If the objective data shows randomness, it is not modeling that random data to say that what produces it is conscious. It is a philosophic interpretation of that randomness.

  4. #19
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    I was thinking about why a particular real choice (sometimes called a “free choice”) does not have a reason or complete explanation for why it was made. If it had a reason, that reason would diminish the freedom of the choice.

    A reason is a way to explain what happens in terms of something else. If one can give a complete reason for everything then we have determinism. More often all we know is what is likely to happen, but not exactly what will happen.

    If we asked an electron to state its position or momentum we get an answer, or a measurement. If we could give a reason for that particular result then we would have an explanation for that particular result which would contradict quantum physics because all we can know is the likelihood for a particular result.

    Consider on the other hand the pseudo-choices, or artificial choices, made by an AI robot. If we wanted we could trace through the programming, the stimuli the robot received, the weights obtained for each node in its artificial neural network and give a complete reason for why the robot made that particular choice. I could imagine test code existing to collect all that information to make sure the robot is functioning correctly.

    A robot offers no mystery although after it is tested we don’t care to know how it made the artificial choice. It may look like it made a real choice, but these test traces, were they turned on to collect the information, would prove otherwise.

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    The idea of the sun being conscious comes from panpsychism and is also intended to be a challenge to some panpsychists who see consciousness everywhere but as more primitive than our own. We occupy a rather special place in these panpsychist viewpoints.

    Is there a phenomenon that we can point to that is larger than we are individually and yet is also conscious? Our species might be one. Or the planets and stars. Or social mood.

    In trying to get a clearer understanding of what panpsychism is I’m rereading some of the articles in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Mind, in particular, Howard Robinson’s “Idealism” and William Seager’s “Panpsychism”.

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    Terminology related to panpsychism

    William Seager’s chapter, “Panpsychism”, is a useful introduction to the terminology of panpsychism and it contains references.

    Seager refers to “mentality” rather than “mind”, but the key idea of panpsychism is that mentality is (1) ontologically “fundamental”, meaning it cannot be reduced to something more basic, and (2) it is “ubiquitous”--everywhere.

    This is not Descartes’ “substance dualism”. Cartesian mentality is fundamental but it is not ubiquitous. Mentality gets attached dualistically to what is not mental and, I suspect, there could be forms of mentality that are not attached to any unconscious matter.

    It is also not physicalism (or materialism). Physicalism is almost the opposite of panpsychism. The physicalist believes that unconscious matter is both fundamental and ubiquitous and mentality “emerges” from the non-mental in mysterious ways.

    The opposite of physicalism would be a form of idealism where mentality is both fundamental and ubiquitous and whatever is unconscious emerges from mentality. That is, the unconscious can be reduced everywhere to the mental. Most panpsychists do not go this far. They believe there is some unconscious fundamental reality, but this idealism would be a form of panpsychism.
    Last edited by YesNo; 11-06-2017 at 03:33 AM.

  7. #22
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    Here is a YouTube video of William Seager. Toward the end he mentions rejecting “scientific realism” implying that science only provides useful models of the universe.

    That is how I see scientific activity. Philosophy talks about reality. Science talks about models that lead to good predictions. Its models cannot be assumed to be reality just because they are internally consistent.

    Something like this has already happened to mathematics in the 19th century when multiple consistent geometries were discovered. Mathematical realism would have assumed that the Euclidean geometry was reality. Now Euclidean geometry is one model among many. I assume there are still mathematical realists, but they would limit mathematics to what is finite spoiling a lot of the fun that Cantor’s transfinite arithmetic provided. Of course, if one doesn’t care if the theory is real or not, then it doesn’t matter. It just needs to lead to consistent results.


  8. #23
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    I’ve found another survey of panpsychism by David Skrbina from Seager’s references that looks more complete, “Panpsychism in the West”: http://www.geocities.ws/john_russey/...st_Skrbina.pdf

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    Limits of panpsychism

    I suspect most of the panpsychics today are atheists. A belief in physicalism (unconscious matter as the only fundamental reality) combined with the hard problem of consciousness, which is not a belief but our lived experience, is no longer appealing for them. Consciousness in a rudimentary way has to be everywhere so consciousness is not emerging.

    This does solve the problem of the origin of consciousness but there is still a problem. How did the consciousness of an atom become the consciousness of a human being--or of the sun, if it is conscious? There is still an emergence problem even if one accepts panpsychism.

    The basic problem is one of synthesis. One can analyse something into component parts (or atoms), but how does one go back from atoms to that more complicated something? How does one go from whatever consciousness atoms have to human consciousness? The hard problem of consciousness returns even with panpsychism.

    It is not enough to assume that atoms are conscious in some way. One has to also find a mechanism of emergence to get to more complicated forms of consciousness even assuming panpsychism.

    In mathematics this works easily. Take an integer. One can analyze that integer into a unique prime factorization. Those factors are the atoms of the integer. If one wants to go back to the integer the emergence mechanism is called “multiplication”. The process is (1) reductionistic and (2) deterministic. That doesn’t seem to be the way nature works. Nature is more top down than bottom up. The most advanced consciousness has to be there from the start.

  10. #25
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    In David Skrbina’s “Panpsychism in the West”, http://www.geocities.ws/john_russey/...st_Skrbina.pdf, he mentions that “mass/energy monism” comes from our scientific culture (page 6).

    I hadn’t thought of this as a monism before. There are many fundamental quantum particles or realities and they don’t all merge into one. Also mass and energy are measured attributes of reality. I don’t know to what extent they are reality.

    But Skrbina’s concept does help clarify something about new age philosophies. I keep hearing them talk about “energy” and how everything is energy. That seemed incorrect, because energy is unconscious and they are talking about consciousness. Now I see why. Even though they are new age, their perspective is still part of the physicalist worldview.

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    Do Laws of Nature Exist?

    Gregory Matloff uses Parenego’s Discontinuity as a way to show that stars may be making choices: http://www.gregmatloff.com/Edge%20Sc...tloff-ES29.pdf That could justify that the Sun is also conscious. What it would challenge is not only Einstein’s Gravitation Theory, but also Moffat’s Modified Gravity. Both of these theories try to describe “laws of nature”. But if stars are making choices (within certain constraints) all one would have are probabilistic physical theories or models. The models may work accurately enough for our purposes, but fail when other stellar choices are measured.

    That makes me ask myself if laws of nature exist at all?

    What I understand by a law of nature is a mathematical description of a deterministic process that is valid at any time and everywhere.

    Given quantum physics, we know that there are no laws of nature for an individual quantum particle because its behavior is not deterministic. For groups of quantum particles there is a probability wave function that allows predictions to be made. Does that undermine the existence of laws of nature in general?

    If we relax the requirement of determinism on a law of nature but only require that the probabilistic patterns remain true at any time and everywhere, is that even true? How would we know? For example, did the speed of light always and everywhere have the same value as we measure it today on Earth? Or does its speed “evolve” with the universe?

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