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Thread: Is the sun conscious?

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    Is the sun conscious?

    Rupert Sheldrake raises the question of whether the sun is conscious in the following YouTube video. I plan to look into this more by discussing his comments and references in this thread. I hope this will lead to some insights about philosophy and science.


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    Around 10:20 in the video is this description of consciousness: “The function of our consciousness is to choose among possibilities.”

    The linking of consciousness and choice I think is critical. To show that consciousness is not present one has to show that choice is not possible. To show that our consciousness is a delusion and can be “eliminated” (as in “eliminative materialism”: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eliminative_materialism ) one has to show that we do not have free will. This means we can be completely modeled by deterministic/random machines. Those machines can then act as us. It is possible that eliminative materialism may itself be “eliminated” depending on whether social mood thinks we have free will or not since whether something is eliminated or not seems to be a collective-subjective assessment of its value not an empirical argument.

    Alternatives to eliminative materialism are reductive materialism and revisionary materialism, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revisionary_materialism

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    He just rolls around heaven all day.

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    There can be no applications of this theory until it advances materialism. How is that for irony?

    I would also remind you of one of your own strongest values--not to confuse a model with reality. If a model of a conscious universe can eventually be more useful and practical than the old materialistic view, that still would not prove the universe is conscious, but just that the model works better for purposes we may find in the future.

    Currently, the usefulness of the idea is about on a par with the usefulness of a statement of intelligent design. Treating matter as conscious may have no scientific applications whatsoever. For that, the good old materialistic approach might remain the mainstay of scientific progress. Sheldrake's approach seems much more philosophical than scientific. Some of his scientific experiments on animal psychology gave interesting but arguable results. One can easily get the feeling that he is a believer already, looking for evidence to support his beliefs, rather than a neutral, objective investigator. The type of things he investigates are difficult to get a good measure on, if not impossible. The intuition that we are being stared at or observed is one such thing he investigated.

    I am not trying to refute Sheldrake, just applying some brakes to his wagon. His beliefs have a significant area of intersection with my own. But I mention what he didn't--that we ourselves are sense organs of God. I believe mosquitoes and amoebae are, too. Even God needs a way of doing things. Matter allows as much consciousness through as the form permits. The human brain permits more consciousness to pass into than a piece of granite, an amoeba or a mosquito. A difference of forms.

    By the word God, I mean the Original Consciousness which I believe holds the universe together through the power of imagination.

    Without experiencing fear, God would remain ignorant of the experience, and the same for all experiences. God must have a way of concealing its own immortality from conscious bits of itself for the purpose of experiences it could not otherwise feel, and we are it, or at least part of it. Immortality could get awfully boring without a very extensive playground for the OC. God had to have a reason for creating everything, and Love does not fit the bill for rational thinking. There was nothing to love yet.

    I have come to the conclusion that God created the Universe to fill the idle hours of immortality. Rather than try to kill itself, God figured out a way of experiencing death without dying, since outright death itself may have been impossible for the OC. That it might have the single limitation of being unable to die, satisfies the reason for creation and ourselves. You and I would not just sit there in the gloom of immortality, but try to make something of it, even if it was just poetry. The universe is God's poetry spoken into existence. The works of God are so advanced even the characters within them fully believe themselves to be alive, as much as the form permits, that is. I have every confidence that a mosquito's musings on its own existence do not rise anywhere near our own level of self awareness.

    If God had no beginning, God has always been at it. In that case, we on earth would not be the first or the only life forms created for the benefit of God's experience. We ourselves can too easily imagine a multiplicity of experience types for which we would be useless vessels, and senses we do not have, for this to be the case.

    Another limitation God may have placed upon itself is in knowing our future. Let's face it, if God knows the details of our future then we have no free will. For if God knows the future, then it is predestined. The only way for humans to have free will is for God not to know our futures. No way around it. We might still have something asymptotically close to free will, but it would nonetheless be a mere approximation of the ideal thing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by desiresjab View Post
    There can be no applications of this theory until it advances materialism. How is that for irony?
    It is not just Sheldrake who thinks the sun might be conscious. Greg Matloff in March of this year summarized his view of stars having volition and and hence being conscious in “Stellar Consciousness: Can Panpsychism Emerge as an Observational Science?”: http://www.gregmatloff.com/Edge%20Sc...tloff-ES29.pdf

    Quote Originally Posted by desiresjab View Post
    I would also remind you of one of your own strongest values--not to confuse a model with reality. If a model of a conscious universe can eventually be more useful and practical than the old materialistic view, that still would not prove the universe is conscious, but just that the model works better for purposes we may find in the future.
    I agree. The scientist creates a model that allows predictions to be made. If the predictions are not better than chance, the model has no value. The philosopher asks about reality and takes into account evidence where predictions seem to work whether that is from predicting where one will find a planet or a psychic doing remote seeing.

    Quote Originally Posted by desiresjab View Post
    Currently, the usefulness of the idea is about on a par with the usefulness of a statement of intelligent design. Treating matter as conscious may have no scientific applications whatsoever. For that, the good old materialistic approach might remain the mainstay of scientific progress. Sheldrake's approach seems much more philosophical than scientific. Some of his scientific experiments on animal psychology gave interesting but arguable results. One can easily get the feeling that he is a believer already, looking for evidence to support his beliefs, rather than a neutral, objective investigator. The type of things he investigates are difficult to get a good measure on, if not impossible. The intuition that we are being stared at or observed is one such thing he investigated.
    We are all believers in our viewpoints. That is a good thing. We would not find out anything if we were not motivated to argue for positions we believe to be true. The neutral, rational, Spock-like observer is not a normal human being.

    Quote Originally Posted by desiresjab View Post
    I am not trying to refute Sheldrake, just applying some brakes to his wagon. His beliefs have a significant area of intersection with my own. But I mention what he didn't--that we ourselves are sense organs of God. I believe mosquitoes and amoebae are, too. Even God needs a way of doing things. Matter allows as much consciousness through as the form permits. The human brain permits more consciousness to pass into than a piece of granite, an amoeba or a mosquito. A difference of forms.

    By the word God, I mean the Original Consciousness which I believe holds the universe together through the power of imagination.

    Without experiencing fear, God would remain ignorant of the experience, and the same for all experiences. God must have a way of concealing its own immortality from conscious bits of itself for the purpose of experiences it could not otherwise feel, and we are it, or at least part of it. Immortality could get awfully boring without a very extensive playground for the OC. God had to have a reason for creating everything, and Love does not fit the bill for rational thinking. There was nothing to love yet.

    I have come to the conclusion that God created the Universe to fill the idle hours of immortality. Rather than try to kill itself, God figured out a way of experiencing death without dying, since outright death itself may have been impossible for the OC. That it might have the single limitation of being unable to die, satisfies the reason for creation and ourselves. You and I would not just sit there in the gloom of immortality, but try to make something of it, even if it was just poetry. The universe is God's poetry spoken into existence. The works of God are so advanced even the characters within them fully believe themselves to be alive, as much as the form permits, that is. I have every confidence that a mosquito's musings on its own existence do not rise anywhere near our own level of self awareness.

    If God had no beginning, God has always been at it. In that case, we on earth would not be the first or the only life forms created for the benefit of God's experience. We ourselves can too easily imagine a multiplicity of experience types for which we would be useless vessels, and senses we do not have, for this to be the case.
    Our views of God are similar. I hadn’t thought of God needing to create the universe because He could not kill himself, but that is an interesting idea. I assume there are many universes and all of them have life because ours is limited and infinity is not.

    Quote Originally Posted by desiresjab View Post
    Another limitation God may have placed upon itself is in knowing our future. Let's face it, if God knows the details of our future then we have no free will. For if God knows the future, then it is predestined. The only way for humans to have free will is for God not to know our futures. No way around it. We might still have something asymptotically close to free will, but it would nonetheless be a mere approximation of the ideal thing.
    The thing about “knowing” is interesting. We differ slightly here. We assume the universe is deterministic because our models are mathematical. Even if we are limited to approximations, we assume the universe is random. What is the opposite of a deterministic-random universe that would appear like the one we have? It would be a universe where there are agents able to make choices but in only limited ways. This is what I think panpsychism is trying to describe even when atheists are promoting it. If the choices of these agents in a panpsychist universe are “free” they cannot be predicted--that is, “known” even by God--prior to the choice being made.

    So I can see this God knowing everything there is to know, but a free choice is not something that is knowable prior to that choice being made. Once the choice has been made, it can be known what the choice was. One gets both God’s omniscience and the freedom of various kinds of agents within the universe.

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    After reading Gregory Matloff’s summary of his research http://www.gregmatloff.com/Edge%20Sc...tloff-ES29.pdf I am left with the following thoughts:

    1) The idea that cooler (red) stars circle the galaxy faster than hotter (blue) stars, or Parenago’s Discontinuity, adds a twist that any future gravity theory will have to take into account. This should be confirmed or falsified next year.

    2) Could there be self-organization below the molecular level?

    3) Matloff’s prediction of the possibility of very advanced computers being conscious if they can take advantage of this molecular self-organization puzzles me. Computers, and even tables and chairs, are now conscious at the molecular level if panpsychism is true, but that consciousness is not what AI expects it to be. The advanced computer would have to allow self-organization implying intentionality and goal setting to get beyond that molecular consciousness. It could not be a deterministic-random machine as computers are today.

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    Not being able to find dark matter raises questions about the validity of Einstein’s gravitational theory. Galaxies and clusters of galaxies are rotating too fast to remain stable without some other source of mass that is not evident.

    The alternative gravitation theory, Moffat’s modified gravity, seems to fit the data. There is at least another gravitation theory that one can fall back on, but I wonder if Moffat’s theory fits Parenago’s Discontinuity. I didn’t see a reference to it in “Reinventing Gravity”.

    Moffat and Einstein have one thing in common: neither of them suspect that stars are conscious unlike Matloff.

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    By coincidence, I've just found some old Chicago Readers while cleaning, and one had a Straight Dope column on this very subject.

    http://www.straightdope.com/columns/...e-is-conscious
    You must be the change you wish to see in the world. -- Mahatma Gandhi

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    That Reader article is right on topic, Calidore. Matloff's article is recent (last March) although this stellar consciousness concept goes back several years. I agree with Cecil Adams when he comments about "vacuum fluctuation". It is another way of saying "abracadabra". As soon as I hear the term used in an argument pretty much anything follows.

    By the way, back in the early 70s when I was living in Hyde Park and I wanted to grow my own coffee, I sent a letter to the Reader asking if that was even possible. They published it! Apparently, it is possible, but like a lot of possible things not worth doing.

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