Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Quanta Magazine Continues to Be Friendly Towards My Posts

Quanta Magazine has been friendly towards my posts on its digital magazine blog. I recently posted a comment on Quanta Magazine's article "A New Physics Theory of Life" a story based on a paper from Jeremy England of MIT...which was a follow-up and a continuation of a 'thread' that I'd began earlier in another comment on the same post (which I've discussed here).

This is what I wrote:

"The rearrangement, I’m afraid, is not really so much the one described in England’s paper, where atoms spontaneously find new, stable states with each other to dissipate energy, it is the rearrangement of old theories in a preexisting matrix, intent on assailing an insurmountable wall. They purport to find a new order or form, and yet they still suffer the same problem of attempting to show how matter can break physical laws by a process akin to “unscrambling eggs”, which we know is physically impossible. And perhaps more importantly, how will it be possible to find a ‘new’ theory, or to think about the problem in a new way, when the only permissible opinions on the subject are filtered through the same kinds of traditional, academic sources? For example, I cannot publish in a pre-publication archive such as unless I am sponsored by another author. So that practice keeps, potentially, many contrary findings and/or results out of this debate.
There is a concept, that given great amounts of time, and plenty of iterations (countless), it is possible for matter to self organize and become animate. To me that is the same kind of thinking that could be used to justify perpetual energy. “It will work, if only given enough time.” There is a not so subtle assumption, that the same might be achievable for the 2nd law as the first. The question “is this violating the 2nd law” is not really answered here, but the concept (based on the equations) is that it may be possible given “enough time and iterations.” And yet, just like the 1st law, we realize it isn’t possible to make more energy than we consume, nor is it possible for inanimate matter to violate a diffusion gradient or the passive flow of heat. These laws can’t be broken with more iterations or more time. A new perspective is needed on this intractable problem.”


I wasn't sure if they would post it, as it completely disappeared. However, after I sent an inquiry (below) reappeared on the page.

Dear Quanta Magazine Editor,

Would you please kindly return the comment (to my email provided) I made that was apparently deleted from this feed approximately an hour ago? I would like to know, specifically which parts were not acceptable for posting.

Thank you,

Matthew Kosak

We can't in principal, make devices which will violate the known thermodynamic laws. So why would we expect differently of our equations? Should it be possible to express a formula that will demonstrate, theoretically, how a process might work against these laws? England's paper, but also many others which are working with nonlinear thermodynamics and the dissipative states originally proposed by Prigogine, are attempting to show how real, physical processes, i.e. those possibly similar to the ones that might have originated early life, might have worked. They might even be equations that can in theory be tested in the lab." But usually a device" must follow or operate according to what the theory states. So the analogy to the perpetual energy machine or to an energy making device, is still relevant. It doesn't matter if you have an equation that states it is possible to make energy with enough iterations or time, it still isn't possible. So there are still many unanswered questions.


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

I Challenge A Determinist's Worldview On Edge: Is It Science?

Determinism, as defined by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy as "the idea that every event is necessitated by antecedent events and conditions together with the laws of nature."

 So, other than being a philosophy, is it an actual science? Meaning is it supported by scientific evidence? Regarding this very point, I responded to an Edge contributor on his own web site .You can read the blogger's initial letter over on the Edge site ("") I responded to. But for space I won't reproduce it here. Apparently Edge is a place for "scientists, philosophers, and public intellectuals." Yes, I'm responding to the leading minds over on Edge, a think tank organized by John Brockman. This was my first discussion with one of them, and how did I do? Deleted and blocked that's how I did! So that's how scientists do it now. If they don't like your arguments they delete them!
I won't apologize for questioning the veracity or scientific credibility of someone's statements they are making in public if they are wrong. If you are claiming that two and two are five, I would hope that I'm not the only one calling this out. It is one thing to have an opinion or to state a personal philosophy, but that's not the issue here. What is at issue is to make what I believe are non scientific or unsupportable claims based on what is clearly an opinion, and calling it "science." It is more egregious when the claim is made by someone apparently from academia. This is a situation where the real issue is not just the theory, it is the claim that there is evidence for the theory. I believe the same standard would be applied to anyone writing a paper in a journal, claiming to have evidence for an alleged "scientific position", when in fact they do not. I have not found "scientific" papers that present evidence for this philosophy, and I doubt that there are any of the sort.
So more importantly my purpose is to advocate my own position, and a theory, that determinism is itself disprovable as a worldview, at least in terms of any kind of science. How? That is explained here. But if determinism is so "widespread and accepted" as its advocates seem to believe, then the ramifications are obviously profound if this is true- since it is regarding the nature of free will, the self and consciousness, but also real world interpretations of various real brain studies. Determinists have seized on much of this data and seem absolutely convinced that brain scanning i.e. MRI imaging that shows how the brain functions, is somehow smoking gun evidence that the brain is in fact being controlled without our knowledge.

Here was my first response to the blogger's ""Edge article.

"This is incorrect on so many points I'm not sure where to even start. It's surprising that this position is accepted without much contention. If it's considered in the realm of a scientific hypothesis it should be testable and it should have proof or evidence to back it up that's a little better than what's given here. Let's take the purported real world examples or implications of this theory, that choosing a flavor of ice cream is somehow 'not a choice.' If it wasn't a choice, then you are claiming this is a pre-determined outcome, since no other flavor was a possibility. But, we have no idea what physics to identify that made this outcome 100% certain!
The other example, of MRI studies: which are the basis presumably to claim that something else is controlling the brain and not the brain itself, which is unfounded (what other brain is controlling the brain? Are we to infer that they can predict that someone will reflexively grab an apple, before the apple falls? It takes a single brain study out of context to support the contention that every action we make is controlled by genes and envirtonment. What genes are pulling the strings to make one walk across the road? Genes don't operate that quickly. The claim that it isn't pre-determinism is going to automatically disqualify it as a scientific theory of any sort, since it, determinism in fact never makes a prediction that can be tested. Grab your life vests, the SS Determinist is going down."

Note that I said "this position" obviously addressing a theory and nothing whatsoever to do with a personal point. And yet here's the Edge article author's, response:
"First of all, your answer is rude to the host, so lay off the snark. Second of all, your “arguments” hold no water. The science behind the lack of conscious decisions include not only the predictability of MRI studies, which gets better and better (and farther and farther in advance) as technology improves. Plus there is all the evidence that we have in favor of determinism in science. Further, there are all the experiments, detailed in Wegner’s book, where you can delude people into thinking they’re consciously controlling a cursor when they’re not, and similar experiments, as well as the confabulations in which brain manipulations cause involuntary motions that people later pretend they intended. Plus all the psychological experiments in which you can manipulate people’s behavior in profound ways by trivial changes in their environment...Isn’t that enough science for you? Right now we can predict right versus left choices with crude brain scanning at about 65% accuracy, well before people claim they’ve made the choice. Just think how much better we could do if we had better ways to monitor the brain. [...Determinism certainly does make predictions that can be tested, as with the Libet experiments and their successors in which the prediction (fulfilled) is that we can predict with statistically significant results which way someone will decide before they’re conscious of deciding it. You sound like some kind of ghost-in-the-machine libertarian, since you reject determinism. Regardless, your answer is not only uninformed but rude, and is not in the least convincing to me. And as for the last sentence, you should simply apologize. Or go to some other website where you can be incoherent and snarky without penalty. Your main mistake is saying that because we can’t yet predict human behavior completely, it is inherently unpredictable. Of course that would hold for all of physics a couple of hundred years ago."

I guess he didn't like being challenged. Here is my response to his response, (in quotes below), which he blocked from his blog, so I'll reproduce it here. Why did the Edge contributor, delete my response from his blog?

"And in each of those scientific papers that you cite [above], there is a scientific hypothesis within them which assumes, by its de facto existence, that a number of alternatives are/were possible in the experiment. Possibilities and unexpected results. These papers do not arrogantly decree that their subjects had no choice, in the outcomes that were presumably tested, and I doubt their authors would make such a claim either, (to your point that the scientific majority supports determinism). But if they are doing research' on a subject, any subject, in which there are no possible outcomes available, what kind of 'research' is this? Are scientists who do statistics, silently agreeing with determinism, or are they actually accepting that unknowns will always be present, in fact more present than 'knowns?' Citing more papers of journals is not going to convince me that humans are not capable of completely unexpected responses, a reality of the 'real' world."

Keep in mind that the basis of this deterministic worldview is that all events are 100% predetermined by causal factors. In reality, according to determinists, there is zero uncertainty in how any event incluing human decision making came about. The uncertainty, they claim is illusory. Hence, my other point:
Furthemore, what kind of science is being done when the experimenters have already pre-supposed that they know the outcomes of their experiments? Scientists doing work with pre-known outcomes, and nothing to learn, teach or prove? Is this the end of science?
The more we investigate how the human mind works, the more questions it will produce, not less.
He needs to knock off the claims that we don't have any choice about our decisions, and that our free will (which is only defined as theoretical options) is an illusion, IF he can't or won't identify the physics of how that might actually be possible. His claim that science has shown no physical distinction between the mind and the brain, is a strawman argument, because "mind" is really not defined scientifically anywhere. Reductionists have long assumed that the brain is made of atoms, but this in no way demonstrates determinism, nor does that fact alone,(that it's atoms), begin to explain consciousness. But there are too many problems with the "100% certainty theory", of determinism, to even get into.
If we presume that his evidence of determinism is MRI data and the other psychology studies, then the other mistake he's making, is assuming that determinism only applies to humans, or even that it is only relevant to psychology. The theory is much more fundamental to causality. Which he doesn't seem to grasp. Predetermined outcomes aren't specific to antecedent events that just involve human beings. They must predict outcomes of other events or things. He's claiming that I'm somehow holding determinism to an unfair level of precision, (his last paragraph), but show me one chemical or physics law that is not hypothetically testable? The answer: All of these real sciences do, but determinism does not. Determinism operates on the implicit assumption that everything in principal, is knowable. As if there are laws essentially governing the unknown, and they just haven't been found yet. But that basic assumption was challenged with the double slit experiment (Thomas Young, and later,""). According to the famous physicist, Richard Feynman, even the prediction of the position of a single electron is impossible (book three in Feynman's lecture series). Is that so complex, one small electron?
Determinism is just the hindsighted notion that a theory might in theory exist. At the very least, I'm asking determinists to come up with a real science theory like other scientists. Is that too much to ask?

That being said, I won't be apologizing for challenging this blogger on his "scientific claims". If it's true that determinism is already accepted by a majority of scientists, that would be unfortunate, not grounds for celebration in my opinion, because they've been duped and that's "a bad" for science. It's also unfortunate that he blocked my response, but that tells me that maybe he's worried I might make his "science" look bad. And we wouldn't want that happening.

So I think I'll end with this. A question. Is determinism really being accepted as science? If it's not, then why would Roy Baumeister, a psychologist from Florida, debate the topic of free will vs determinism at the SPSP Great Debate? And why are there all these studies showing determinism is harmful?(See Vohs et al.) Determinism is becoming the catchword for "science" whereas duality and combatibilism are catchwords for a bunch of other ideas not considered supportable by physics. One obvious consequence of determinism is that it dehumanizes medicine. It's much easier to treat a "robot" in which morality doesn't actually exist, than it is to treat a human being and follow ethical practices. It seems that most professionals don't entirely understand the arguments for it, it's complex, and delude themselves into thinking that it is undeniable fact and must be rationalized into a "free will illusion" that is necessary for "doing culture." Yes they are searching for explanations or justifications in the mind for free will, but not because they're convinced it is physically defensible. They've bought into the "you believe in laws of physics or you don't" duality argument. So possibly there are consequences to not going along with the "thought leaders", who are promoting determinism so aggressively. They are made to look foolish and "non-science based" and worse, that they're challenging determinist dogma. But what if determinism is wrong? And what if it can't pass the Hypothesis Test? These are the more important issues, and I'm absolutely convinced I'm right, which would be a big deal.
As for my response to the Edge author- We know that determinism isn't really making any predictions, that's clear, because the other claims he is making in Edge, the egregious ones, that everything in science is in principal, predetermined. So it's misleading to state that determinism is doing the work that's leading to the MRI studies and other data, when it's 100% incongruous with science. The Edge author's claim that "duality is dead", and that mind and brain are no longer valid distinctions, as "proved by science", stems directly from determinism theory, not data. The Edge author demanded that I apologize for challenging his views, but he's go it all backwards. He should be apologizing for his bad science.

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Author note: This article was mysteriously lost from my other blog at Wordpress, it vanished! so I am reproducing it here.

More Lunacy Regarding the "Self" Illusion

It seems that every time the determinists begin to tackle the problem of consciousness and the self, they run aground (on their own science) and it's usually in exactly the same way, it just "appears" to be different. And the self illusion" appears to be of a different science than some of the other books, (about free will) but in actuality, it is based on the same fundamental premise(s): determinism and also experiments of Libet and others done in the 1980's. What appears to be a hard science based dismissal of the self is really nothing more than reworking of this familiar territory.

It starts off well enough, with some very high brow credentials.
I would assume, based on what is claimed in the book, that these are credentials that should help make this all go down much easier. I recall a scene from "The King's Speech" where the king, (Colin Firth's character) is telling his speech therapist /psychologist that he's already had expert opinions on his problem. His therapist quips "they're idiots." The king replies "but they went to Oxford." To which the therapist replies "..makes it official then." It's good to keep an open mind about reality, and not be too trusting of what 'experts' tell us.
Here is a quote from the interview in "Psychology Today" with Bruce Hood, author of "The Self Illusion" book:

"Interviewer: "In what sense is the self an illusion?
Hood: For me, an illusion is a subjective experience that is not what it seems. Illusions are experiences in the mind, but they are not out there in nature. Rather, they are events generated by the brain. Most of us have an experience of a self. I certainly have one, and I do not doubt that others do as well – an autonomous individual with a coherent identity and sense of free will. But that experience is an illusion – it does not exist independently of the person having the experience.."

Here is the problem with that premise. I have a basic problem wth any premise that is simply not true. He seems to believe he has "evidence" that the self is an illusion, which he likens to holograms. But is the self really like a hologram or an illusion, a real illusion? Let's consider that for a moment.
The hologram or 3D image appears to be real to us, and yet it isn't. That's its appeal. That's why they're fun. But obviously, we know that the image isn't real. Why is that statement true? That's an important non trivial question to think about. A: Because we can test it. For one thing, try putting your hand through the "real" surface of the hologram. See, nothing touches! Just like magic. We know that a 3D hologram is not a real 3D object for very simple reasons. But there are other ways of course to test whether or not a 3D image produced by a trick of the eye or really the brain (how it processes images with confocal vision) is actually a real object. This is not too fine a point. I believe either the author isn't grasping this physical distinction or is not being authentic about it, for the purposes of making his case that the self is an illusion.
So, even if we know nothing about neuroscience, we can say at the very least that we, ourselves or "the self" are healthy and fully functitoning because of a healthy mind and body? Correct? But we can also say with a high degree of confidence that that is not an illusion like the illusion of a K diagram or a 3D hologram.
Simplified analogies are a way of teaching complex scientific principles. But his analogy, the one he's making is rather hostile and highly inaccurate. An illusion isn't physically real, in the sense that it occupies actual space, it is made by the brain. But even by their own definition and models, the self is a projection of biological effects. It is as real as anything. But the result of this analogy would be to say that the self is not even biolgically determined. Calling it an "illusion" is a semantic oversimplification.
Let's think about this for a moment. (And if you're uncertain of your self's existence, in this exercise, perhaps you can borrow someone else's). So if the self is an illusion, then what is real? Are trees, and houses, and dogs real? , what he's really defining here as "self" is the so called problem of will or free volition. Not the physical "self" made by a mind or a projection of the mind's activities. That's ultimately what he's claiming is the non real part, the illusion as he calls it. So that arguemnt goes back to the experiments of Libet and others like them, and it goes back to determinism.
In reality, the science he's claiming to back up the claims from his scientific book is actually not so solid. The studies of Libet are rife with uncertainties, and there are a plethora of unanswered questions about their validity, but as I've stated before, determinism itself is a theory with other problems and triggers (which we've explored before). What is at issue here is that this is not what it seems really, not a book "based on scientific research" but an unabashed flogging of the underlying deterministic agenda. The self is illusion, just like "I" and "me" are illusions, is straight out of the determinists play book. I for one have never seen an "I" wandering about, so does that mean "we" doesn't exist?
But the real error in the science is that no science is ever claimed. There isn't a hypothesis, or position claimed. And that is in many ways, the first rule of science- you state clearly what it is you're attempting to prove.
This argument that he uses to annihilate the self premise is a trick, and I'll give you examples of how this fallacious argument works. I can tell you that I think a certain food is good. Maybe it's a favorite of mine. But, can I physically show you what 'good' is? No. Does that mean that it isn't good? If I claim it's my favorite food, I also cannot show what this means physically. But this doesn't change the fact. We have to establish what "favorite" even means in terms of a parameter, a comparison, a mathematical model, that can be valid. Sometimes even this model is wrong, and possibly it can't be evaluated. That is the most glaring issue I have with the science of the book "The Self Illusion." The author does not attempt to evaluate the problem in terms that might actually be justifiable. Instead he embarks on a stratagem to erode and annihilate these definitions, thus creating the illusion that it doesn't exist.
So don't worry. No one can prove you don't 'like' chocolate, just because the word "like" doesn't physically exist, any more than they can prove that the self is an illusion, just because there isn't any scientifically provable or agreed to definition of what consciousness is.

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