View Full Version here: : Philosophy of Science

18-03-2011, 11:00 AM
This comment from Neurologicablog, the blog of Steven Novella, a neurosurgeon in the US. Thought this may be of interest to some here.



18-03-2011, 11:27 AM
Without the current philosophical principles of Science, we'd all be back to deluding ourselves.

Replace it ? … With what ?

Criticism is easy .. creating alternatives is difficult, so the critics are left standing when this is asked of them.

What we have, is not perfect ... but its better than the null alternative.


Brian W
19-03-2011, 02:51 PM
Chew on this thought... science can only get the answers that it can ask the questions for.

Seems to me that before you can have science you must have someone thinking about a whole bunch of what ifs.

Without philosophy science would quickly come to a standstill.

Certainly philosophy cannot answer all of the questions but neither can science ask all of the questions. Either one dies without the other


21-03-2011, 12:52 PM
I agree ... I ask a lot of "what ifs";).

I also think it is important to ask the right questions with no expectation as to what answer you would like. It seems once a "theory" gains some sort of recognition the questions thereafter lead to a particular desired result.


21-03-2011, 01:38 PM
When ever I see a slight at Dawkins I smell a right wing religious nut posing as 'whatever their reality can think of'!

I ask you how many sewerage systems. potable water distribution systems and transport systems kept philisophers in the much needed fuel of alcohol and coffee and narcissistic self importance.

Just the term post modernist is a philosophical construct of ignorant twits that define the Universe as they want it to be. It just does not work!

Sorry the philosophers may have had some say when there was stuff all empirical knowledge. They should stick to arguing about how many angels can dance on a pin.

Unless philosophy is firmly gounded with emperical knowledge it is meaningless drivel!


21-03-2011, 03:03 PM
Yep, gotta agree wholeheartedly with Bert! :thumbsup: 'Philosophers' aren't going to break any new ground in science in this day and age. The notion that they can is a sad symptom of the mistrust and ignorance of science that prevails in the paranoid world of the web, LOL, and demeans the capabilities of scientists at the cutting edge IMO.

Cheers -

Brian W
21-03-2011, 03:55 PM
Let me try this... math teaches you about math, chemistry about chemistry, physics about physics etc. etc. etc..

Philosophy is the only area that teaches how to think.

Unless I am terribly mistaken the better the thinking the better the science.

Therefore philosophy and science are very much interdependent.


21-03-2011, 04:08 PM
I have to withdraw my earlier statement it looks like this bloke could be kosher as a sceptic.

He could be pandering to the nutters in the states? I dont know! These nutters have a combined IQ of a bean bag! I don't know they could have!

My alarm bells ring when anyone uses philosophy to argue with emperical scientific fact.

He does waffle a bit defending the idiocy of philosophy that comes before science. Then decries post modernism which is a child of this stunted thinking. His mistake was that there is any relationship between science and philosophy apart from an overlap.

I could go on and on and on ...


21-03-2011, 04:45 PM
I just read a few of his respondents and it looks like they are intelligent and educated. Of course this means nothing when you are correct and ignorant and follow Glenn Beck!

21-03-2011, 05:08 PM
Philosophy is how to think, quite correct.

It is about arguement thus

that animal has four legs
dogs are animals with four legs
therefore it is a dog!

Logical but can be totally wrong!

Humans are based on an instinctive reaction to situations. By the time you logically infer an animal is about to eat you, you are dead.
The converse is true when you are hunting or fishing.

Polititicians know about this instinctive fear and greed and use it in every election!


21-03-2011, 05:20 PM
Gotta laugh at this quote:

Perhaps Hawking agrees with this, also.


21-03-2011, 11:36 PM
Can anybody give me an example in the last 50 years where Philosophy of Science has contributed in a positive way? I think it has in fact done the extact opposite providing oxygen to the antiscience flames.

Brian W
22-03-2011, 12:18 AM
It is not within the last 50 years and others may disagree that is the philosophy of science but when Einstein and some of his co-workers attempted to have the bomb -not- dropped for moral / ethical grounds this to me is a stand based upon philosophical grounds which has had, at least in my life, a positive impact.


22-03-2011, 07:22 AM
Yes Ken;

I think all science presents dilemmas which almost certainly fall into the domain of 'Philosophy'. Who actually works those dilemmas is an interesting question. In many cases, it is the scientists themselves, which I see as a good thing. This being because they have a better grasp of the issues and what they represent.

I suppose overall, it is the general media, public opinion and ultimately, the political process which debate the issues and wrangle them to some sort of (usually) uneasy conclusions. Leaders in theses fields have also emerged from the 'mire'.

Examples would be: stem cell research, global warming, nuclear power proliferation, etc.

The philosophical tenets which have guided the scientific process which I feel, are extremely sound, solid foundations and have brought us to where we are today, have stood the test of time. As Bert mentions, this is because they were firmly rooted in empirical knowledge which hardened them for the way ahead. More recently, guys like Popper, Hempel, Oppenheim have all progressed thinking in recent science, largely by promoting debate and dedicating their brilliant minds to the cause.

I think we have to accept that at times, science will be dragging philosophy along sometimes and at others times, it might be vice versa.

Tis a symbiotic relationship, I think .. just as Brian pointed out in his earlier post.


22-03-2011, 12:06 PM
Hi all,

So what is philosophy? One definition is "the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality and existence."
Another is "the study of the theoretical basis of a particular branch of knowledge".
And the context must often associated with philosophy, "a standpoint or belief held by a person that guides their behaviour".

Philosophy isn't just restricted to stances on ethics and morality.
Philosophy is also the study of what constitutes logical reasoning.
e.g. if A implies B and B implies C, then A implies C? But if A implies B then does B necessarily imply A?
I will come back to the latter later.
Philosophy also asks what is sufficient evidence to substantiate a position. A particular viewpoint may not be provable in the strict sense but what evidence is there to support this conclusion. Example, a belief such as atheism.

Philosophy examines the rules of logic and asks such questions as what it means for a proposition to be true.
Philosophy examines the relationship between logic and mathematics.
In mathematics the rules of step-wise logic lead to definitive proof of theorems. However, in mathematics there are assertions (axioms) that are considered self-evident e.g. if a = b then a+c = b+c. These assertions are used in the proofs of theorems. It was the hope of early mathematicians that all mathematics could be derived from a set of basic axioms. Godel showed that non-trivial systems are incomplete i.e. that there are always statements that cannot be proved from the axioms within the system.

In science, we have the scientific method.
Experiment and observation lead to a hypothesis, which is formalised into a model or set of mathematical relationships.
The model is then used to make testable predictions, which confirm the assumptions of the model.
Continued observations may lend more credence to the hypothesis and elevate it to the status of a theory.

It must be understood that in science indisputable proof is not possible.
In mathematics such proof is possible but in science "proof" depends on continued supportive evidence.
In the end, I have a theory T which predicts I will get data D.
My observations confirm data D within some confidence limit. Therefore, I conclude T is correct. But how logical is that?
I go back to the question "if A implies B then does B necessarily imply A"?
Thus, the scientific method is certainly open to philosophical discussion.
One may believe that a theory accurately describes the real universe but there is no way of verifying this. Data is incapable of proving theories, it can only lend more credence to a theory. In fact, as history shows, there is a very real possibility that some of our models are entirely wrong, despite their perceived agreement with observations.

Inductively, scientists extrapolate theories to apply in any part of the universe. The cosmological principle is NOT a provable scientific fact. There is no way I can observe every part of the universe. In science we cannot prove that a law will apply in every part of the universe in the same way. However, for the sake of progress, I can assume that it does until an exception is found.

Finally, what is the criteria of validation, the point of acceptance, of a hypothesis as a theory? How many observations validate a theory?
Theories in science are not absolute truths. They invariably change and they continue to evolve into something wider.
I would argue that a scientific position is really just a weigh-up of all the evidence at hand. Is that science or philosophy, or both?

Regards, Rob

22-03-2011, 12:53 PM
That is exactly the problem!

Idiots who claim they were ahead of the Physicists AFTER THE EVENT!

The Catholic Church clings to the BIG Bang as if they invented it.

Let me define science 'we only believe in emperical evidence' and if the evidence changes we will change our minds.

Philosophy is full of wacky ideas without any basis in reality.

Splitting hairs about evidence is superfluous.

The final point of validation is what works! Bert

22-03-2011, 02:28 PM
Great post Rob.

That encapsulates it all for me, also.

How a Hypothesis turns into a theory is a bit of a mystery for me, also. Some theories start off as theories, from the outset. This would be because they would be defined around an explanation for why certain laws and facts exist, that can be tested to determine its accuracy. A hypothesis starts off as a more tentative statement and can ultimately end up as a Law or a Theory. These definitions all come straight from scientific philosophy. I have no idea how science could exist without such definitions. All thanks to the past Masters of Scientific Philosophy …

How much evidence is enough evidence .. that is the biggy for me. (I'm a huge skeptic, methinks …). How do I define the acceptance criteria ?

More importantly, how do scientists define it ? What is the process ? Peer review ? :question:


22-03-2011, 11:02 PM
I will admit that philosophers await the dawn, as the fact the Sun rises every morning has not yet been proved!
Contesting the bleeding obvious is not the mark of rational people.


23-03-2011, 09:59 AM
I guess so, Bert.

Fraudulent scientific behaviour aside, I guess the final 'end game' amongst scientists gets played out when the arguments become no longer rational and 'reasonable'. (This sometimes takes a long time !)

Not so at the science-meeting-the-public interface, however.

The 'trial by media' played out under public scrutiny goes on ad-nauseum, or so it seems. This one turned up, just this morning (as an example … and yes, off-topic … apologies for that, but I couldn't resist it):
Distrust of climate science due to lack of media literacy: researcher (http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-03-distrust-climate-science-due-lack.html)
(Released by: Caren Cooper, a research associate who works on 'citizen science projects', at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, in a Forum article in the March issue of BioScience magazine … I'm only posting it, as an aside).

This researcher seems to think media studies will sort it all out for the generally, scientifically illiterate public !!

A threat to Science and Scientific Philosophy?

… or is that what we do here … 'Citizen Science' ?? :question:


23-03-2011, 10:32 AM
2 cent's worth from me. (Hi everyone, first time I've posted)

The problem with some philosophy of science is that it seems to fail to recognise that science is fundamentally a practical activity. Scientists go out and look at actual events in the real world and try to come up with descriptions and models of these events. Even a theoretical physicist is really engaged in this activity.

So a philosophy of science is good and useful where it addresses things like scientific ethics, or the difference between models and reality, or why the scientific method works.

Where it stops being good and useful (to science at any rate) is when philosophers (or people with a brief undergraduate exposure to philosophy) stop treating science as a practical activity and require it to be a perfect and unassailable description of the Truth. Typically this seems to involve things like:
- expecting science to 'prove' things like maths does (which fails to understand what mathematical proof is)
- expecting science to demonstrate that there is an external reality (science, like everyone else, is simply satisfied that there is one)
- expecting that science never gets things wrong (a large part of the point of science is getting things wrong).

Ulitimately, the test of science is whether it works, not whether philosophers are satisfied with it. I'd suggest that the best test of science is its child (who is often mistaken for science itself), technology. When the planes stay up in the air, we know our science is mostly right.


24-03-2011, 02:47 PM
So, this may be a deviation from the pure Philosophical bases of Science, but I am not at all sure of the overlaps/parallels with other Philosophies.

It may sound risky, but if we keep an open mind, a lot may come of it.

We have a couple of Buddhist Astronomers at IIS and I, for one, can see that parts of Buddhism aren't necessarily religious. These aspects are pure philosophy. So, with regards to the mainstream scientific process (Hypothesis, Theorisation, Empiricism, etc) and topics like the Universe, time, the search for exo-life etc, I'd like to explore some areas of commonality or disconnect.

For example: The Cosmological Principle is a working assumption which states that observers on Earth do not occupy a restrictive, unusual or privileged location within the universe as a whole, judged as observers of the physical phenomena produced by uniform and universal laws of physics.

In mainstream science, this principle contains implicit qualifications and testable consequences. First the observer doesn't have to be human and also, "looks the same" doesn't have to mean structures, necessarily. The testable consequences are homogeneity and isotropy.

So the original idea came from pure thought.

So, from our declared Buddhist Astronomers, do they share and accept this example of a fundamental of cosmology ? How are their views moderated by other beliefs ? Are there more common (or conflicting) areas of science which repeatedly come up for them ?


24-03-2011, 03:02 PM
One aspect of Buddhism I particulary like was said to me by a local Buddhist Nun. Don't believe it because I or the Buddha said it but take it and test it within yourself and if it feels right then start to act on it if not put it aside and leave it or look at it every now and then to see if your understanding of it has changed. It seems to me a very scientific approach to what is being taught it doesn't have to be excepted or else.

24-03-2011, 03:35 PM
I guess its the "test it within yourself, and if it feels right" part where things differ a from science. The point about science is that it intentionally disconnects us from what "feels right", the assumption being that we can be deceived and that we all see things differently.

Interesting that this then contrasts with the Cosmology Principle, which re-establishes that all things look the same, from whatever place the observing is done .. the difference being of course, that the observation should be able to be repeated under the same conditions, by anyone so they can see it for themselves.

"Leaving it or look at it every now and then, to see if your understanding of it has changed", sounds like a change process to me ! The change process is more rigorous in science. Although, as Bert mentioned .. things change if they're bleedingly obvious ! :lol: (Which re-introduces what Warren mentions .. the human aspect ! :) )


24-03-2011, 03:45 PM
So Warren;

Does Buddhist philosophy influence thinking on the possibility of exo-life topic?


24-03-2011, 03:56 PM
I must disagree with your argument about things looking the same from different locations or perspectives just look at a chair with your eyes than look at it with a electron microscope. Completely different it could be a different object. A chair is only a chair because that's our persception of it we see it and say that is a chair. We say it is static and unchanging when in fact the chair is never the same from one instant to the next it is changing as we look at it never the same as it was. That is we believe that our things are permanent objects which is why we get upset when they change (ie BREAK) ATTACHMENT BRINGS PAIN and Suffering. People don't see the impermanance of our possesions.

CHANGE (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/change.html)

24-03-2011, 03:58 PM
The belief is that we are reborn after death and it doesn't nessasarily mean we have to be born on earth. But this is only a belief.

24-03-2011, 04:17 PM
Now this is a provocative question from me, but I simply can't resist:
What exactly is reborn?
Our memories (which actually determine at least the part of what we are - that elusive "ME") are gone after death.. because they are recorded somehow in our brains (synapses, or on molecular level.. we still don't know the details, it is certainly not a flash drive ;), but consequences of loosing memory are the same in both cases). And when our brains decay or after it is eaten by worms... it's gone.
So how do we know we are reborn, when the memory of previous life is gone?
Or, even if we are indeed reborn.. does it really matter ?.. if we can't access those past memories in future life? How can anyone prove the "new" person/entity is actually the "old" one ??

24-03-2011, 04:20 PM
Ok .. perhaps a more formalised statement of the Cosmological Principle is needed:

This would seem to answer the changing perspectives on the chair (ie: naked eye vs electron microscope). Its catered for in the 'viewed on the same scale' qualification.

There's something about pattern recognition in your words, also.

Statistical analysis of models in science make use of statistics to formalise the 'level of significance' in order to be able to demonstrate whether the pattern is significant, or not.

As used in statistics, "significant" does not mean important or meaningful, as it does in everyday speech.


24-03-2011, 04:22 PM
It is called the Mind Stream and the memories are there and when we become more enlightened we can remember them but after death you do remember them and make choices for future lives. I am hardley qualified to discuss this with any clarity and it is a very difficult subject.

24-03-2011, 04:26 PM
Well, how do you remember them after death? With what?

24-03-2011, 04:26 PM
At the quantum level, information is always preserved.

Even as something dives into a Black Hole.

The information remains but it will most likely be re-ordered.

It can be retrieved however.
They proved it mathematically, and they've just verified it experimentally (see the recent No hiding Theorem Confirmed thread (http://www.iceinspace.com.au/forum/showthread.php?t=72760) !)


24-03-2011, 04:31 PM
Well, that is true on quantum level... And that is mathematics.
In practice (and in macro-world) however, reality can be different - and it is, most of the time.

When HD in my computer dies, that's it. I have to go and buy a new one.
And the computer I have after this unfortunate event is not the same one - unless I had a complete backup.

24-03-2011, 04:36 PM
Well I can't answer that because I am not enlightened enough but I will be sure to answer that when if I know as long as we are both still in contact:D

24-03-2011, 04:36 PM
Yep .. if the information was originally assembled by a Complex or Chaotic process (like a human brain), it would seem that it would not necessarily be able to be re-assembled in the same way (theoretically). But the intrinsic information still remains.

PS: In the thread I referenced, the news was that they'd verified it experimentally .. so its not just theoretical mathematics we're talkin' 'bout here ..its real ! (Maybe not for complex matter, however .. they were dealing with paired electron or photon spins I think).

24-03-2011, 04:53 PM
on Backup disk - provided it was an image.
However, what's lost is everything between backup and actual fault.
And that information is really lost.. unless we travel in time to retrieve it ;)

Yep, I am aware of this..
Entanglement, right?

24-03-2011, 05:13 PM
I think the order has been lost, which does convey recognisable, (to the owner), information, (ie: if it has been 'corrupted'). But in the corruption process, electron spins of the material on the disk have only been changed … not lost. If enough is known about the corruption process, it can be retrieved. Presumably from the electron's entangled pair, elsewhere in the Universe. It doesn't hide anywhere .. its still there .. you just have to know enough to retrieve it (?)
My answer may be a little inaccurate .. but the principle holds .. information is NEVER lost, according to QM.

Think so .. its been a while since I opened the thread.


24-03-2011, 06:26 PM
Entanglement means your existence let alone your conciousness is just a blip in time of an arrangement of atoms etc. that is a tiny part of the whole Universe. Of course it is important to you. You are about as relevant to the Universe as the fleeting virtual particle pairs that appear out of nowhere and dissapear again.

Just enjoy it while you can! The information is not lost it just adds to the quality of entanglement so your DNA and Mitochondria have more to cling to too survive the next cycle of rebirth and life.


24-03-2011, 08:13 PM
Bert, I feel better now :thumbsup:;)

24-03-2011, 08:58 PM
It is quite scary Bojan but your supposedly immutable DNA can be modified by your environment. You then pass on this modified DNA. It can go down through generations.
You inherit your Mitochondria from your mother. This again is the energy source of your cells and is not passed on genetically but is part of the egg your mother supplies.


24-03-2011, 09:35 PM
Yep, I know ...
However, you are talking about about hardware... and I am talking about software - and that part is unique and can't be passed on (at least, I think it can't.. or I can't see the way for this to be passed on).
But, as you said, it doesn't matter..
It's just this lousy Melbourne weather that is painting my thoughts in black.. ;)

I think I'll have a beer now (Guinness, of course).. :cheers: and to bed.. tomorrow I have to go to work....

25-03-2011, 08:48 AM
Perhaps it is not so much to do with memories and more to do with a rebirth of a similar internal structure. The same or similar DNA and use of the brain and similar capacity for thought. If an entity that was similarly created to one before it, perhaps this would have influence on its eventual thought processes and feelings, which parts of the brain are most active and therefore shape the new form.

Could it not be possible that if rebirth occurs that (if they were reborn human or a similar "intellectual" being) their thoughts and feelings, opinions and beliefs could be similar to the life before it? So if by chance two people met in the Universe, the new form and a human from the form's previous existence, would they recognise the familiar characteristics of this new being?

Completely philosophical and contemplative I know and only what my thought process eventually came up with but I just thought I would share a different possibility to this discussion.

Thanks :)

25-03-2011, 10:10 AM
Hmm … you mean like parents imprinting their own values, beliefs and philosophies upon their offspring ?

Yep … its real … it happens … and it can be really annoying for the offspring!
As Bert would say, (apologies here Bert .. couldn't resist it … just having some fun), its all about the survival of those selfish 'genes, (and the thinking which emerges from them), … survival of the fittest ones ! The ones best suited to adapt to the battle for survival in present-day environments, will be the ultimate winners !

The offspring go on to be influenced by the environmental conditions of their generation .. and ultimately, selectively ignore some of the values of the previous generation ... because the environment has changed.
Different thinking is required to survive (again) !

So, Bojan: Why is it so important for the software to be an exact duplicate and for the information to be preserved precisely ?

(Be careful to not let that Guinness take out too much of it, either. ;) :) )


25-03-2011, 10:22 AM
About something carrying over from previous lives. How can we explain child prodigies who can play instruments or do mathimatics or whatever at 4 or 5 years of age to a skill level it would normally take decades to achieve. Where did it come from:question:.

25-03-2011, 11:22 AM
Well, I am trying to define what "ME" ("myself", my person etcetera) exactly is (since I am atheist/agnostic, I don't want to use the term "soul" here.. I don't know what that is anyway).

So, the only acceptable way for me to be "me" again in some other place and time is to make exact copy of all my memories and other critical components of "me".. and even then the outcome may not be guaranteed, of course.

In my life I had couple of surgeries when I was knocked out by anaesthesia..
The experience was perfectly expected, logical and consistent with what I said before - one instant I was still on the table waiting for consciousness to go away, the next one I am in intensive care room. There was no sense of discontinuity - but objectively there was a time gap, of course.
In all those cases, the software and information was preserved 100% (well, minus those parts of hardware that were removed during the surgeries.. but they were not needed/wanted anyway)

And, of course, very similar thing may happen after too many Guinnesses :P (not that it ever happened to me)

It seems this is very much OT already .. so I'd better stop with my personal musings :screwy: and concentrate on work... or the original topic of this thread ;)

25-03-2011, 12:36 PM
I disagree that your musings are off topic ! They are right on the mark for a Philosophy thread, (as far as I'm concerned).

To the best of my knowledge, they still don't know why anaesthesia has the effect you describe. And the reason is: that no-one has really worked out what consciousness (or sentience) is. Anaesthesia reverses whatever it is.

"Acceptable" would suggest you have your own criteria.
What if you already exist somewhere else, but you just don't know it, (nor ever will) ?
.. or, what if you are the copy, and the original thinks the same about you ?

Parallel Universe Hypotheses, cater for these kinds of thoughts, and there's heaps of physical bases underpinning these ideas. Its not as impossible as your beliefs might lead you to think.

… or, (as I suspect you are prone to believe), what if there is no other Bojan ?

My point is that trying to force a conclusion to an 'open-ender' in science, limits one's thinking and invariably prematurely closes off other options which might be real. (Eg: my favourite .. exo-life … trying to force a 'yes' or 'no' is unproductive and can lead away from reality).

It also assumes that the individual already knows all of mankind's accumulated knowledge, thus far in our existence !

And shuts off all there is which we know that we don't know …
… and all there is that we don't know that we don't know !
.. which is the majority of all knowledge, (& information), there is in the Universe !

…Way too limiting from my perspective.


25-03-2011, 02:41 PM
I have often wondered about this myself. I think there is more to human consciousness than science would like to go into because it may lead to a path they despise. One documentary the BBC did called the "The Day I died (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WNbdUEqDB-k)" had a very interesting case about a lady called Pam Reynolds that might show our consciousness my survive after death. Its the best case they have so far for a NDE.

Philosophy has been big part of human evolution though the ages look at what the ancients did in Puma Punku they did all this without science they didn't have the wheel, mathematics or cad computer programs. Someone must of had a philosophical moment to pull it off. Where did this knowledge or idea come from it had to come from somewhere in their consciousness. science is science and is black or white, but human consciousness is an endless grey area. We are all made of the same stuff as the universe. Including stuff we haven't found yet, stuff we still don't understand and it goes all the way down to the quantum level, and is the quantum level really the lowest level??

When you take a step back and look at human consciousness, forget about what we are behind the labels we like to give ourselves, you have to admit it doesn't really fit in with the big-bang to conscious man evolutionary approach. there is more to evolution of human consciousness than science can see with the five senses we have. maybe we are evolving a so called "sixth scene" and the only way we can explain it at our level is with "religious views and ideas" it might not be the right meaning but its a phenomena that's not going any were soon because people feel it in their consciousness so its a real phenomena like love and hate ect.

I would love to have an open discussion with people interested in the "meaning of life" A lot of people are into astronomy because they want to know where they fit in the universe what is our role here and why?. If anyone would like to continue more on this topic PM me and we can share ideas. Its a shame it cant be an open discussion for everyone to see and learn new ideas and has to be done behind closed walls. but hey that's the ego in consciousness for you some people haven't evolved to that level yet or cant see or don't want to see. Mother nature has forced us evolve with a consciousness mind all we need to know now is why???? because so far all it dose is generate conflict with our conscious ideas and views and not in harmony like the rest of nature so far found.

25-03-2011, 03:03 PM
You don' have to know what consciousness is to know why anaesthesia has its effects. The way I see it is simple: it blocks the acquisition of data from outside world (by stopping the CPU clock (or whatever this is in brains) and there is no more memory storage during that time.
Obviously, what the computer might "perceive" (after restarting the clock) is instant change of environment, but the sense of time passage will not be there (because for it, there was no passage of time - because nothing was recorded during the time clock was inactive.

I know, I am stressing the analogy with computers ad nauseaum.. But computers are the simple but common enough information systems we use in everyday life, and I think it is a good analogy for start.

Well, I have to start with something... but I am not saying the criteria is not going to be changed...
About copies of "me"..
If a copy can exist without me being aware of it, that means it is not "ME", this is someone else then..
And this is definitely true because the experience of that copy from the moment of its "creation" is different from mine.. and it may even not be aware of "me" (In theory I may be watching while it was created from the other room through the one-way mirror). It IS different person (or, different information system - because the content of memory is already different).

On the contrary, in this discussion I actually I tried to use the method "Reductio ad absurdum".
In other words, I am trying to see if I will hit the contradiction at the end, which will/may point into other direction.
So, actually, my mind is open :) (I think)

Or perhaps I just have read too many SF novels :P :eyepop:

25-03-2011, 03:22 PM
Isn't that the driving force of science :rofl:

25-03-2011, 06:23 PM
Yes, sometimes it certainly is :thumbsup:

25-03-2011, 08:20 PM
Not necessarily Craig though I'm certain our experiences have been shaped by our parents from an early age and therefore the function of the mind swayed by what they believe but there comes a point where we become an independent being. The DNA carried down through birth would of course have an influence on a person but that is more genetic and physical and perhaps not so much to do with the mind philosophically.

What I meant by my statement is that if a person were to somehow lose all memory of themselves and everything else that had happened in their lives, characteristics still remain that make them who they are, no matter if they don't know themselves. "Gut feeling" for instance or certain integral morals and emotions that shape a person, all come from the brain and the way in which it is used. Is the person more likely to think with the left hemisphere of the brain or right. Are these differences programmed at birth or are they shaped by experience?

If they are shaped by experience then I suppose rebirth would indeed be like starting again from scratch, with no physical stimuli to shape who "they" become but if it is shaped by the formation of the brain in the womb, then it seems a possibility that if a person were reborn with similar or the same physical characteristics (perhaps with exterior changes) then their brain would produce the same reactions to emotion, thought and processes.

I hope this makes some form of sense and that I'm not rambling for nothing. I am enjoying this discussion thoroughly. It is great to talk with such intelligent people about such thought provoking things.


25-03-2011, 08:26 PM
I know that if people were shaped by their upbring I would be a completely different person now than what I am. My parents were strictly right in their politics and didn't have time for gays or people of different colour. So if I don't follow my parents beliefs WHY NOT:question:

25-03-2011, 09:31 PM
Because you are different :D.

26-03-2011, 06:49 AM
Bojan .. I am not at all convinced of your assertion here.
For example, you just defined what consciousness is (for you) in order to explain why anaesthesia works ! Ie you define consciousness to be:

.. in order for your explanation to make sense, as to ‘why’ it works.

There are many different definitions of consciousness applicable to many different fields of study, and the same applies when discussing the specific subject of anaesthesia.

For example: protein targets for anaesthetics have been partly identified.
This requires a molecular/sub molecular definition of what causes consciousness at this level, ie: presumably, “the protein targets”, in order for the explanation of ‘why’ it has an effect, to make sense.

Further, its interesting that the exact nature of general anaesthetic-protein interactions still remains a mystery. I maintain that its not until they understand the interactions, that consciousness will achieve some clarity of definition in the study of anaesthesia.

I think the ‘why’ questions in science, require a much deeper understanding of the ‘what’.

Another example: if there were such a thing as anti-gravity, then I think you’d have to explain exactly the gravity mechanism, before you could explain why the anti-gravity mechanism effects gravity in the way it does.

You’ve got me thinking very deeply about this and I’m going to have to do a lot more, before I’m convinced. (I'm open to more inputs .. but for the sake of not dragging the thread down, I'll do this quietly on my own … fascinating !).

26-03-2011, 07:12 AM
But the mind is also a function of physiology, and DNA as well as a bunch of complex processes, built your brain.
It is scientific fact that DNA can be altered by the environment.
There is an inescapable duality about physiology and environmental changes.
Where it starts and finishes … is the mystery ..

Both - depends on which aspect.

We all produce the same primal reactions to emotions. That part is instinctive. How we display them, is an entirely different matter as this is more a function of behaviour .. and behaviours are easily modified, hence the variations you observe.
We a re called 'Human Beings' … and that might mean that we can 'Be' anything we want !

You're welcome. Gee, I hope I'm not included in the intelligent category … we need some more instinctiveness around here. :)
Good to see you at the Science Forum !

26-03-2011, 07:15 AM
I used to think this too Warren.

But the more honest I got with myself, the more of my parents I could see in me.
The more I denied it … the more like them I became.
(Hilarious .. isn't it ?)

26-03-2011, 07:29 AM
The only thing I got from my parents is my taste in music ABBA and I look like my mum in a masculine way of course:P It is harder to say with my mum as she died when I was 13 but I remember enough to know that we had very different views on things. And I have checked my honesty on this and it holds true.:D

26-03-2011, 07:37 AM
Perhaps the characteristic you acquired from your Mum was your ability to have very different views on things … :question:

26-03-2011, 07:41 AM
Could be :question:

26-03-2011, 08:16 AM
I guess having started this thread I should add something to it.

Craig, what you have said above is quite an interesting subject. "We all produce the same primal reactions to emotions." This is true at the very base of the response, but then there is variation in intensity of response (how much hormone is released to stimulate a response such as the "fright, flight" response). The degree of variation in this response is somewhat genetically pre-programmed into us. For example, in my case that initial release of hormones that lead to fright/flight is strong. I suspect that this may be a contributing factor to my very fast reflexes. Of course, I may be wrong in that too. Correlation does not necessarily mean causation; something we have a great deal of trouble getting medical quacks like homeopaths to understand.

But additionally there is emotional learning which is a function of the amygdala, a very primitive part of the brain. In this context primitive means that this would have been one of the first parts of the brain to evolve, which makes sense because this is a necessary survival response. Emotional learning occurs when an event happens (lion chases primitive man across savannah) and the amygdala begins to store this kind of event as a memory. As repeated events happen, the memory becomes stronger until eventually fear may be produced simply by thinking about lions.

The really curious thing to me is instinct. How does a dog who has never seen a snake seem to instinctively know that snakes are dangerous and either to be avoided or attacked and killed? How can information like this be inherited? :screwy:

Warren, this from Wikipedia may interest you, although I suspect you probably already know that this sort of thing occurs:
Buddhist monks who do compassion meditation have been shown to modulate their amygdala, along with their temporoparietal junction and insula, during their practice.


26-03-2011, 08:47 AM
Hi Stuart,

I have had a very small hint of this while Meditating though in no way to the level of the monks mentioned and I usually can control my reactions to events much better than I could before I started practising Buddhism.

26-03-2011, 09:10 AM

Mate, that's really cool that you can achieve even the level you do. You may note that I am rather anti-quackery like homeopaths, but meditation is definitely an effective "alternative" treatment and as such is therefore not "alternative". Since it works, it therefore becomes genuine/mainstream.


26-03-2011, 12:13 PM
Evolution by natural selection !
Those earlier forebears of dogs who did not possess the instinct for running from snakes, became extinct themselves .. didn't reproduce … end of that line of genetically inherited traits !

How the original forebears possessed the instinct to run in the first place, may have been:

(i) a result of them being bitten once but not dying. They learned from the experience, (which may be even more primitive than the run away instinct), and passed it onto their offspring by example, or;

(ii) the original run away instinct was a mutation in the original forebears' genes, (and so was purely genetic), and thus was onpassed to the offspring.

26-03-2011, 03:53 PM
This may be grossly off topic but Stuart started the 'instinct' discussion (and he originated the thread), and its highly interesting .. so take a look at this ..
Study examines how brain corrects perceptual errors (http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-03-brain-perceptual-errors.html)
An interesting article about how the brain recalibrates itself in milliseconds, in order to predict based on instinctive memory.

But the very last paragraphs are fascinating …

and here is the punchline …

Pretty basic research .. and they're still finding out paradoxes coming from a very primitive part of our brains.

Learning ability seems to override just about all of our higher and lower brain functions.

We are all learnin' machines !! 'Go with the flow .. bro ..!!.. '
Amazing stuff.

26-03-2011, 07:50 PM
I must disagree :)
I defined consciousness (or memory part of it) from behavioural point of view. I don't need to know technical details of the process - this is for the further study. For high-level analysis (as a start), it is crude but I think id describes well what is happening (or not happening) when being unconscious.. From majority of texts I have read on the subject (and personal experience) , memory (short term) is the vital part of consciousness.. long term memory is less important but without it, you are dealing with very crippled entity (intellect).
All this I didn't pulled out of sleeve for the occasion... As you yourself said, it is fascinating (I hope I understood you correctly here) proposition, I was thinking about it for years, and this is what crystallised after years of (occasional of course) thinking about the subject.
I don't fool myself with hope that I will ever reach the bottom of it ;)

27-03-2011, 07:34 AM
That's OK .. I'm no expert on this .. which is why I'm running for cover on this one … I need more input … (ie: I need to read more on it before commenting further :) )

Yep. I see this … and it conflicts with something else deep inside me .. I don't know what, just yet. ;) :)

Absolutely fascinating, isn't it ?
The associations are so clear, (as you mention), but the cause is so elusive!
What a classic !

Good onya. :thumbsup: I have a feeling I'm on the same path ! :lol: :)
Cheers & Rgds

27-03-2011, 01:18 PM
Without memory you may as well not exist as you are then an automaton. Bojan is quite correct.

My thinking of inherited and environment is that the two are mixed beyond separation. It is YOU uniquely!

I can see behavioral traits of my father and mother in me at about the same level as I can see human traits in my dog! I just happen to look abit like both of them.

We are learning machines as Craig put it as I get the information how to work my phone from my nephews and nieces or any other twelve year old!


27-03-2011, 04:58 PM
I have had it said to me:

"That the hardest thing of all for a human to see .. is that which resides as closely to oneself, as one's own face".

Think about it for a minute .. if reflections, photos, etc didn't exist, how would you know what you looked like ?

We rely on others to tell us about how we present in the real world.
(Meaning the way our behaviours & identity, impress upon others, who live outside of our own little bubble of personal identity).

We see ourselves through a bunch of filters, built up by past experiences, which obscure who we are, in the real world.

We basically don't know the difference between ourselves … and a hole in the ground !

Hilarious, isn't it ?


28-03-2011, 02:03 AM
I went thru same experience that Bojan describes. One second on operating table and then complete blank until I woke up in recovery ward. To me – what we are is a sum of our past memories. If someone was able to clone me during my operation and transfer all of my past memories to my clone, if we woke up in different recovery rooms – from the moment we experience different reality we would become separate entities. Meaning that if at any time our experience of reality would differ, we could not be same entity. I find Bojans analogy of our identity and the computers very fitting. After all, possibly closest simulations of our entities – artificial intelligence may be some time in the future created by using computer.
Some people are musing in this tread about inherited abilities of the children – I would like to hear what do you think about notions of “racial or genetic memory”

28-03-2011, 07:25 AM

That's an interesting point regarding the anaesthesia experience. As a veterinarian I obviously anaesthetise and also euthanase animals on a regular basis. It never ceases to amaze me, even after 25 years, how they are "there one instant" and "gone" the next. At what point is this dog alive and then dead? How do you define dead. Clinical death is defined as when I can detect no heart beat, no breathing and no responses. And yet about a minute after that you will sometimes see what are called agonal breaths. Obviously there is still a stimulus from somewhere to cause this to happen. And what a fine line do we walk when we anaesthetise an animal? How much further (or how little) do we have to go to go from anaesthesia to death? I have described anaesthesia as making your patient almost dead and then bringing them back.

I had an anaesthetic myself several years back which was quite interesting. I was lying on the table talking to the anaesthetist and surgeon. The anaesthetist said he was about to inject propofol, the anaesthetic agent. As he slowly injected it, I seemed to rise up off the table, but all of the people around me stayed where they were. I started to giggle. He stopped injecting and I came back down to the table. He said "It's good stuff isn't it?" I said yeah. He then injected the last bit and.....I awoke in recovery thinking about where is that line between consciousness and unconsciousness.

For those who may be concerned about anaesthesia, the death rate under anaesthesia in a 20-40 year old person with no underlying health problem is 1 in 40 000. So if your anaesthetist says he/she has done 39 999 anaesthetics since their last death, then you should come back tomorrow.

Short term memories are, if the same event or the same bit of learning happens repeatedly, gradually changed in the amygdala into long term memories which I think are then stored in a different part of the brain.