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Author Topic: The Brain as an Interface to the Body
skillery
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Misery is not a sign of God's love. It's a sign of living in the real world. Adam and Eve made the choice to live in the real world, and misery is the consequence. It's not such a bad deal; we learn by being miserable. In Candyland we learn nothing.
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Amka
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Steve,

You and I share such a basically different perspective that it is nearly impossible to communicate how I can believe this. So that you can understand. Believing that death is the end, all suffering in this short life is unacceptable to you and God should not have inflicted it upon us.

I believe we existed before we were born and there never was a point where we didn't exist. I believe we will continue to exist after we die and will never cease to exist.

So for me, how miniscule is this life, in that great, infinite span? In that perspective, the young boy suffered but an instant. The pain will be behind us, but what we DID with that pain will always be with us. Did we wallow in it, allow ourselves to be overcome? Or did we push ourselves as much as possible and overcome it?

The horrible things that happen are not the direct result of God's love but the result of us living in a mortal and imperfect sphere where we must meet up with challenges, sometimes extreme. It is the result of our own choice to live in this sphere in order to gain experience. I believe we had an idea, abstract as it was, of what we were in for.

For me, the boy died, painfully and alone, but he is with God now and the pain is gone. For you, the boy simply ceased to exist, painfully and alone.

In my perspective, death is not the horrible thing to be avoided. Death is the next step, entered into sometimes painfully and sometimes peacefully.

There will never be anything so horrible that it proves to me that God doesn't exist and doesn't love. It is not merely religion that has taught me this. I have my own experience. I am not blind to the suffereing, nor have I not experienced it. I simply carry a different perspective.

Perhaps an analogy will help: When strength training, pain is an expected part of the process. If I stop the program because of the pain, my muscles will weaken and I will become less healthy. Which is better for me? To avoid the pain, or overcome my fear of it?

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pooka
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I'll paraphrase something said by Jack Nicholson's character in "As Good As It Gets" "You're not pissed that you had it so bad, you pissed that so many other people had it so good". This probably described me at my low point in recovering from the death of my son. I could maybe get why my child had died, but not why I should be happy that anyone else experienced miracles. But you don't think I'm going to parade the answer for a cynic such as yourself? You won't listen to me anyway. [Razz]
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Xaposert
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quote:
If one wants to believe in God & Soul, then fine--go ahead by all means. But any statements that "God is this", or "the Soul does that" are theoretical at best, and misleading at worst.
Again, I disagree. The soul may be within the sphere of things we can investigate.

As I told John earlier:
quote:
For one thing, if Amka is suggeting that the soul has some sort of effect on how the body acts and makes the body do things that the same body would not have done had there been no soul, then scientific study should be able to see this at some point. If no such effects exist, then how can we believe the soul is fused with the body in the way Amka is suggesting?

Furthermore, I would argue that philosophical analysis, along with the simple observation that we experience life, has ALREADY proven that the soul must exist (for the reasons I gave briefly earlier.) This would depend on how you define "soul" though. (I define it as our conscious self - that which experiences things.)


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Boothby171
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Pooka,

I didn't know.

I apologize for using an example that hit so close to home.

I am punching myself in the head even now.

.

.

I'll write more later (with renewed respect), but work calls. I do want to apologize, though.

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pooka
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Okay [Smile] P.S. Besides, it wasn't in a well. Don't most deaths involve feces anyway? But I still don't know if I can put the answer in words for you. So much for no thought without language.

[ April 19, 2004, 04:08 PM: Message edited by: pooka ]

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beverly
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So many people can't believe in a God that allows suffering. Not a loving God, anyway.

Steve, I have been reading OSC's book "The Worthing Chronicle". I don't know if you have read it, but it deals with this very tender subject. Thousands of worlds are protected by near-omniscient super-humans from experiencing any pain. Their lives go on peacefully with no real fear or regret.

Then, suddenly, that protection ceases. People die and suffer, all the more since they have never learned how to protect themselves. These super-humans have made a conscious decision to allow this to happen. They are still aware of all the pain suffered, all the horrible consequences. They have the power to stop it. And they choose not to. Why would they make that decision? OSC investigates this idea in the book as well as many other things. I recommend it.

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Pod
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Um, no offense Pooka, but what the hell are you talking about?

I keep saying i DON'T believe that figuring out the brain is impossible.

If i did believe that i wouldn't be a cognitive scientist!

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Richard Berg
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quote:
If it is so obvious that computers are more powerful than the brain, why don't we have a computer brain yet?
I never said anything like this! Scroll back to where I reentered the thread -- everything from then to now addressed what I first thought was a piece of pure hyperbole regarding organic storage. I addressed "power" only when refuting a secondary claim that solving certain complex problems (vision, language, locomotion) required 10+ orders of magnitude more space than every other problem we've come across.

FWIW, even that silly 100TB figure isn't in Google's class. Now to something interesting...

Pod, I've read Penrose, Hofstadter, Lucas, etc. and I'm far from convinced that Godel incompleteness is a roadblock for AI. The theory that models intelligence as theorem-proving was pretty much discarded by the late '70s as one that shed fascinatingly little light on the main dialectics of philosophy of computation: meaning/mechanism, syntax/semantics...

Even aside from these important theorems, we have to establish some basics before we start talking past each other. I think bringing up Godel is a red herring similar to bringing up Turing's Halting problem. The brain-apologists will look at this limitation imposed on computers and immediately claim themselves superior. But do they really believe a brain is immune to Turing's criticism? Maybe so on principle, but in practice can anyone volunteer to solve the Halting problem themselves? I wouldn't want to be first in line. Back to Godel, I think it's even more wrongheaded to suggest a human can "see" the "inherent truth" in a Godel statement -- not only because we lack the quasi-spiritual ability, but because there's no such thing.

Note: I think much of what McCarthy, Chalmers, Maudlin, and the rest of that crowd say is equally stupid.

(edit) In hopes of keeping at least some of us on a philosophical bent, I'll list some other important dialectics: [what it means to be] abstract/concrete, static/dynamic, one/many (cardinality). The essential one -- meaning/mechanism -- was already mentioned, but important enough to be repeated. It represents the computational equivalent to the mind/body problem in metaphysics.

[ April 19, 2004, 06:44 PM: Message edited by: Richard Berg ]

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Boothby171
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quote:
The soul may be within the sphere of things we can investigate
Then for Gods' sakes, man; start investigating!

Humankind has thought that souls existed for how many thousands of years, now? And all we have is a couple of photographs with blurry pictures of the Captain and Tenille in the background, and a strange rustling noise in the kitchen/attic/basement which disappears when we get near it? That, and some self-serving greedy charlatan SOB in a ribbed turtleneck on the Fox network at 2:00 am, claiming to be able to speak to your dearly departed ones (he's got his own ring in hell, thank you very much!).

We've thought that atoms existed since the Greeks, and now we not only know that they exist, but we can rationally discuss smaller and smaller components of those atoms.

Why has soul-science lagged so far behind? It's not for lack of funds. I seem to recall John L ripping some poor schmuck an entirely new one for claiming that various religious organizations weren't sponsoring enough scientific research. If finding the soul was so important, you'd think that building one less multi-million dollar temple would allow you to start funding such a project.

Oh, wait--there's one study: that famous double-blind study on the effect of prayer. Anybody ever follow up on that? Plus, let's agree not to get into the debate as to why God (who knows all, and is perfect) would be swayed, apparently, to change his mind as to whether a person will get better or not, based on how many others are requesting it.

But maybe there's a reason no one's really researching the existence of the soul. Maybe it's the same reason no one's researching the existence of invisible pink unicorns, either.

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Amka
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Steve,

The existance of a soul has a meaningful impact on how we view life. The existance of a pink unicorn has about as much impact as the existance of the duck-billed platypus.

People HAVE been contemplating and discussing the issue of the existance of a soul for thousands of years. Just because we've discovered the existance of atoms, an idea which came after the soul, doesn't mean we can't discover the existance of the soul. It may very well be far more difficult and involve science more advanced than what we have today. This is a very valid response. There are many theories out there that have in the past been unprovable simple because the technology didn't exist, and there are theories right now that we cannot prove because the technology doesn't exist.

The particular little trick of athiests to pull some silly imaginary creature into the argument and give it the same weight irritates me because it completely ignores the consequences of the existance of those things and the depth of discussion and seriousness that intelligent minds have applied to the concepts when it tries to put them on the same level. It serves only the ego of the athiest and does not move the discussion forward.

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Dagonee
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quote:
Plus, let's agree not to get into the debate as to why God (who knows all, and is perfect) would be swayed, apparently, to change his mind as to whether a person will get better or not, based on how many others are requesting it.
Oh my. You've uncovered the flaw that no one notice for 2000 years of Christianity! Let's give him the philosophy medal for saving us from our ignorance.

Dagonee

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skillery
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If we accept Joseph Smith's assertion that spirit is made of refined matter, then all we've got to do to prove the existence of spirits is to find a way to detect that matter.

But science has found ways to detect almost every kind of matter imaginable, and none of it was spirit.

Personally, I think to prove the existence of spirits we need to revive the long-disproved theories regarding the existence of the aether. That would get lots of laughs. However, if one could prove that in addition to north/south, plus/minus, and up/down polarization of matter, that there is also light/dark polarization…

Should I run and hide now?

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Richard Berg
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Did Smith give any indication what he meant by "refined?" That could help...
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John L
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quote:
Hint: repeated arguments ad hominem don't make you look good
Disagreeing with leading researchers in CS makes you look ignorant.

The plain truth is that current technology, at its basis, cannot momic the human brain. Period. When thechnology advances and we have hardware that can hold more than two states and store memory in a finite manner (as opposed to the as-yet-unreached limit of the brain), then we can talk accurate speculation. It doesn't exist, and insisting it does is just stupid.

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skillery
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D&C 132:7-8

"There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes;"

"We cannot see it; but when our bodies are purified we shall see that it is all matter."

D&C 93:29

"Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be."

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skillery
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History of the Church, Volume 6, page 310:

"The mind or the intelligence which man possesses is co-eternal with God himself."

I would also like to point out what Joseph Smith wrote, recorded on page 308 and 309 of the same volume:

"Element had an existence from the time He had. The pure principles of element are principles which can never be destroyed; they may be organized and re-organized, but not destroyed. They had no beginning and can have no end."

I don't know if that means that Mormons don't believe in the "big bang."

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pooka
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Pod:
quote:
We don't know how the brain works. It's -pointless- to speculate how much it can store. We don't know, we don't have any way of knowing.
The brain is an extremely complicated device, it doesn't just store data, thus, we can't even say how much neuronal matter is dedicated to storage, and in what fashion.

Sorry I misinterpreted this as you not knowing how the brain works. Since all your later statements indicated you figure you at least know better than everyone else here.

Mormons who believe in a 6x24 hour creation very often exclude the big bang, as you call it. Many link it with Nietzche's concept of an eternally recurring deterministic universe. But there is no reason you "can't" accept the theory. I think as long as something explains the facts, it has a good run at being the truth. But science isn't about truth, it is about the most valid argument.

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Richard Berg
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I've claimed (agreed from the start, actually) that the differences in underlying topology make direct comparisons invalid (although we do have enough information to discard complete fallacies like the 100TB remark). Even if you wanted to continue on this level, an attempt to justify your claim that parallel information cannot be represented digitally would be in order, but I've seen nothing of the sort. As such, I've asked for examples of things that humans can remember that digital logic cannot, keeping in mind my many qualifiers that have gone undisputed. One will do.

I'd say shifting from arguments ad hominem to arguments from authority, when you fail to engage the subject directly, shows ignorance. Lifting dubious quotes from Google and then basing your [non-]argument on obviously spurious "facts" shows ignorance. Refusing to either refute my positions (without strawmen like "momic the human brain" with implications beyond storage that mislead the reader), or provide evidence for your position, shows ignorance.

But as O'Reilly says, we'll let the audience decide.

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Richard Berg
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Skillery, obviously that doesn't help much. It sounds somewhat compatible with the notion of subatomic particles carrying intelligence a la philotes, but I don't think even a liberal reading can make terms like "refine" and "purify" mean "blast into bits." Who knows.

Has there yet been a claim of where in the brain the spirit/body interaction takes place? Or somewhat equivalently, at what point in the chemical reactions? I admit to only skimming the religion-infused posts...

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pooka
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Who is the audience?

I haven't made a claim. I specifically did not say accupuncture meridians. I think someone was saying something about hormones, but I don't know if they know a lot about biochemistry.

Actually, there was a book by a General Surgeon. The Wisdom of the Body where he was hailing the human spirit. I quit reading that one. I guess he was talking about how the organism seems to have a will to live that is separate from what I would normally think of as free will.

As far as cognition goes, I believe there is a point beneath any discernible chemical or electrical activity where meaning will still evade scientists. But that is merely my belief. I don't know if it will ever be possible to observe quantum states in a living brain, which would be the point I am referring to. I don't know whether I would find animal analogy applicable at that point, as I believe humans have a degree of consciousness that animals do not.

So I guess that opens a new topic: Is pooka too dismissive of the intellect of animals?

[ April 19, 2004, 10:51 PM: Message edited by: pooka ]

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Dagonee
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If anyone wants some interesting reading on this, try Roger Penrose's THE LARGE, THE SMALL AND THE HUMAN MIND. The interesting part of his ideas (to me, anyway) is that he considers consciousness deterministic (i.e., solely dependent on the physical and subject to its laws) but non-computable.

Dagonee

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mackillian
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That's what the dolphins tell me.
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pooka
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Dag, I think I've tried on every page to point up the disharmony between the physics of gravity and quantum physics. But I am loathe to press the point since my most current knowledge comes from educational TV. And not only "The Elegant Universe". I saw a series back in the 80's that was still rather optimistic about unifying the theories of force. I don't know, to me their graphical representations of the quantum layer did look like the fabric of space.

Edit: mack is back!
So where is the white matter and the gray matter boundary?

[ April 19, 2004, 11:24 PM: Message edited by: pooka ]

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Dagonee
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pooka, you'll not I didn't attempt to convey his theory or give any opinion on its possible validity. Because I doubt anyone could say something about it that won't result in vicious disagreement. I mean, Stephen Hawking disagrees with him, but for very different reasons than the other two experts.

Not touching. Just putting it out there for the world to judge.

Dagonee

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mackillian
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There isn't a boundary. The cerebral cortex IS gray matter--densely packed neuron cell bodies and dendrites. White matter is a bunch of myelinated (insulated) axons--the spinal cord is "white matter"--and up through the brain stem.
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pooka
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Richard: I don't think the 10 terabytes was advanced as definitive, just a scenario that would give a sense for the scale. But there have been supercomputers with multiple terabytes for years. (Just saying it's not so much, not insisting that they should be able to think.)
The 256 degrees of synaptic contact was obviously a hypothetical.

So, mack, I think my question about whether somatic and autonomic nerves root (or reverse branch) back into the spinal cord hadn't been answered yet. What about reflexes?

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mackillian
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pooka: I'll have to answer that tomorrow. I'm too pissed off to really think about it right now (and no, not at you).
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Richard Berg
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Pooka, I was talking to John. Please know for future reference that I don't get snotty until someone asks for it [Smile]

I'm glad you brought up meaning vs. chemistry. This is the hardest and most important question. Is there meaning there intrinsically, or only because we are able to interpret it? If the latter, does that work for any group of observers (human or not)? Neither building really cool computers nor figuring out brain interactions is going to answer questions like these to our satisfaction.

On external readings...Penrose comes off as rather fanciful and defensive. I touched on this when I defended Godel from John's overgeneralizations earlier, but we can revisit him if there's some subtopic you find interesting.

What part of the quantum vs. relativity information did you find relevant? (I'm not going to criticize the pop-sci literature ATM -- not because it doesn't deserve it, but because there's nothing better to link to; the position of more educated sources is largely "we have no idea.")

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Xaposert
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quote:
Why has soul-science lagged so far behind? It's not for lack of funds.
Well, in the field of science there is not much research into souls because science isn't equipped to study it. That might change, but it it hasn't yet. It's the field of philosophy that has made strides in studying the soul (as philosophy DOES have more of the tools needed.) But you can't expect philosophy to move as quickly as science because, unlike science, it can't just point to repeatable experiments to prove things. Things must be carefully analyzed and debated over decades or centuries, unfortunately.
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MrSquicky
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mack,
You've been doing a great job. Mind if I take over for a little bit? Tag me in baby, I'm ready to go.

pooka,
I've never been terribly interested in the biological basis of behavior (BBBiology as it's called), so don't quote me on this, but I'm pretty sure reflexes, despite being largely autonomic in execution, are generally considered part of the somatic nervous system. Of course, that depends on exactly what kinds of reflexing you're talking about.

I think mack filled in the basics for what I'm going to say. If I use a term or concept that is unfamiliar, be sure to point it out and I'll clarify.

The kind of stereotypical reflex arc is the sensory nerve to afferent interneuron to the spinal cord then immediately back out on an efferent interneuron to a muscular nerve. While the sensation may travel up the spinal cord as sensation to be processed in the brain, the reflex arc doesn't involve this and generally comes out faster. That's why you pull your hand away before you realize that something is hot.

There are other reflexes that control the funcioning of internal organs and not muscular reponses. For example, the Mamalian diving reflex, where a shock of extremely cold water to a person's face can trigger a massive activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, thus putting the body into a sort of dratic slow down.

skillery,
You asked a little while ago about brain storage. Leto (John L) answered with a lot of hostility and a generous helping of poor information, as is his wont. Seriously John, where did you get the information that neurons store memory in the nuclei? That's utter BS. If you're going to bitch about people not knowing things, you really should actually know the basics of the field before jumping in with fists flailing.

Anyway, skillz, it's important to realize that the brain and a computer store information much differently. A computer relies on on/off states of either magnetized little bits of stuff or a flow/no-flow of electricity. The brain doesn't have the option of that sort of permenant store, but it does have a much more complex way of doing things. Nerves store information and govern actions based on a complex set of interconnections between themselves. It's not the nerve cells themselves, but rather the network that they form that allows the complexities of life.

Mack talked about how the nerve impulse travels down on cell and is transferred to another cell, but she hadn't yet gotten into how the nervous systems acts as a network. At either end of a nerve cell, there can be many, many branches off for (at the in end) receiving neurotransmitters or (at the out end) setting off neurotransmitters. In many cells, there are literally hundreds of these branches (called dendrites at the receiving end and terminal endings - yeah, I know, it's redundantly unecessary - at the transmitting ones). Each one of those dendrites or terminal endings can be tasked to a separate nerve cell, or some of them can affect the same cell, or they can even branch back onto the same cell that sent them, so a cell firing shoots a message out some of its endings onto its dendrites.

Now, mack covered this, but I'm going to restate it because it's really important to understand it. When an impulse hits a dendrite, bits of neurotransmitter are packed up in vesicles and shoved out into the synaptic cleft where the vesicles burst and they travel across the gap. When they reach the other side, they attach themselves to specialized receptors and cause changes in the post-synaptic nerve cell. The changes can either be activating the cell, thus bringing it closer firing or crossing the threshold and making it fire or depressing the cell, thus moving it further away from firing.

So, in some cases, you'll have a nerve cell linked multiple times to another nerve cell and some of these links are excititory and some of them are inhibitory. Freaky, isn't it. That's actually works because the can be modulated based on context.

Now, a nerve can only fire or not fire. That's the only information it can carry. There's no "this is pain-firing" and a separate "this is pleasure-firing". To carry that information, you need different nerve paths. A cell in the pain pathway, however, can either be transmitting it's information leading to a sensation of pain, or it can be not transmitting, leading to the absence of a perception of pain.

Also, that post-synapitc cell that we were talking about that's getting contradictory messages from the other cell is also getting messages from all these other cells as well. As I said, there can be literally hundreds of other cells pinging away it. In most complex pathways, there will need to be multiple cells exiting another cell before it will fire. So, the pain path cell might itself fire, but the next cell in the pain path might be being inhibited by a bunch of other cells or at least not being stimulated enough to fire, and the nerve impulse will end there and there will be no perception of pain.

A possible problem with the all-or-none law of nerve firing is that it doesn't seem to account for stimuli of different intensities, unless you're going to have a bunch of largely redundant pathways all hitting the target at the same time. Instead of using such a wasteful system, our nervous system uses temporal summation. It's how often in a period of time that a neuron fires that determines how intense a stimulus is perceived. This is achieved by a neat little process that happens in a neuron after it fires. There's a period of time where it can't fire again no matter what, called the refractory period. After that, there's a period where the cell is harder to get to fire that eventually diminishes when it gets back to its resting state. So, instead of hitting it with 10 thingies, for a while you need 15, then 14, then 13, etc. until it gets back to 10.

Another factor to consider is the different chemical states that there can be. The body sends messages by nerve impulses but it also uses hormones generally traveling through the blood stream to send other messages. In various ways, these chemicals can alter how the neurotransmitter stuff works. So in the case above, where we had the contradictory exciting and inhibiting messages, let's say they are being carried by different neurotransmitter. If we introduce a chemical to, let's say, block the majority of sites where one of the neurotransmitters binds to the post-synaptic cell, then it's influence is going to be blockes as well. Or let's say the chemical makes the one NT to be cleaned up sooner than it normally would be while the other one will hang around longer (that's the reuptake inhibitor in Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors or SSRI's) than the one message is going to hang around longer than the other one.

It's amazing how much complexity that these arangements can make possible in even a very simple insect or something. For example, the stereotyped walking behavoir or many species (our own included, to a certain extent) is due to Central Pattern Generators or CPGs. These are more or less perpetual motion mechaines made up of neurons. Once they get started from the outside, they cells in the pattern stimulate themelves in a circle, with each part of the circle bringing out a different part of the walking cycle. Dump say a fear hormone into the mix, and the cycling is sped up, leading to faster motion.

Anyway, that's the very basics of how neurons work in a networked fashion. I would like to point out that, from my perspective, I'd characterize my knowledge of that side of psychology as me knowing a very little bit. There's an immense body of knowledge that I just don't know about nor am particulary interested in. I just know the basics.

---

Oh, and I wanted to throw out another neat piece of information. A nerve cell that fires, barring other changes, becomes infitessimily more likely to fire again. Over time, this results in a process called long term potentiation, by which an often used nerve path way sort of becomes smoother, more likely to fire at lower stimulations. I haven't really studying this out at all, but I think that the possibilties for things springing from this are kind of neat.

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fugu13
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To reiterate for Richard, Godel's incompleteness theorem poses no problem at all for AI. Hofstadter himself explained why in one of his books.

The part/consequence of Godel's theorem that people think "causes problems" for machines is the idea that one can feed a machine a problem which is the equivalent of "this machine cannot prove this statement true". Which is true, but can never be proven true by the machine (for certain limited definitions of proof).

However, I dare any person to prove the statement (or an equivalent one) "[your name] cannot prove this statement true". Equally impossible. So Godels incompleteness theorem is, in this way, no more or less a barrier to machines than to people.

[ April 20, 2004, 01:52 AM: Message edited by: fugu13 ]

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pooka
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quote:
Nerves store information and govern actions based on a complex set of interconnections between themselves.
I thought this is what John L said. I missed the memories stored in nuclei part. There are some people who believe that memories are stored in all kinds of neural nuclei, and not just the brain. My husband does neuromuscular massage, and while he doesn't do emotional release work, it is fairly common. To him that just seems beyond his scope of practice. edit: In his case, neuromuscular means he works on resetting the proprioceptors.

I do think there are some value in correlations between muscles and organs according to the accupuncture meridian system. But I tend to view these as a physiology/anatomy correlation, and don't jump readily to the emotional judgements. I find emotional release kind of annoying when it's not what I'm looking for.

P.S. I also don't think that if a church funded spiritual research and had result supporting its existence, that anyone would take them seriously. So that sounds like kind of a waste of tithes. To me.

[ April 20, 2004, 12:23 PM: Message edited by: pooka ]

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mackillian
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Squick--awesome. [Smile]

I'll throw in some posts about emotion, memory, and behavior later today.

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Boothby171
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Apologies for my trollishness. I've got to work at correcting that aspect of myself & my supposed debating skillz.

Amka,

But what if the God a perticular person has chosen is not the true God. What is "Person X" has chosen to believe in a God that does not exist. What if it's some other God that exists.

What if "Person X" is a Jew, or a Jehovah's Witness, or a Muslim, or you? What if none of us have it right?

Everyone thinks that their own way is right--that they belong to the "One True Church" (or, in my case, the "One True Un-Church.") Whatever scientific test we're proposing here would need to be able to discriminate among different possible types of God and Spirit. What if you can have spirit, but there is no central intelligence and mechanism of action for God?

Ami, I realize that the existence/non-existence of a human soul has an immense impact on my life. That's why I spend so much damned time looking for it, and why I get so pissed off when no one has any idea what it is, or how to find/detect it. I've been having this debate since at least High-School, and I feel that I've been pretty open and fair about it. I'll listen to Lewis, and to what's-his-name trying to prove Darwin a fool, and challenge my beliefs at every opportunity. I acknowledge that I think there's something "inside me" that's more than just a series of wonderfully complicated chemical reactions. But I can't put a name to it, and I can't seem to just wrap it up in the concept of Soul, and God, and all that. What if it's just "awareness?" What if we have memory--maybe better, maybe worse than the other animals in the universe--coupled with a stronger sense of "self-awareness?" There may be no individual, innate "self" (Steve as different from Ami on some core level), but only my memories instead of yours, being reviewed by some kernel of awareness that all animals possess in varying degrees.

Again, when I watched the chemical processes in my mother's brain falter--and with them her personality--this last interpretation was really driven home. We are meat. But we are aware. That makes us semi-unique on the planet. It makes humankind, as a species, worth preserving and advancing.

But God and the Soul either have nothing to do with it, or do not need to have anything to do with it to give it its innate value.

Xaos,

Philosophy gives us the language to discuss things, but has it ever proven anything? It allows us to construct things (such as political systems), and as it gets a touch more scientific (the study of logic, for instance) it helps us with the physical sciences. It's certainly part of the path towards knowledge, but I believe that it always winds up deferring to the physical sciences for the last 100 feet or so.

[This rant has been reviewed for snarkiness: 0 snark content]

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Boothby171
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Pooka,

Do you think that if the Vatican could prove the existence of the human soul, and back it up with multiple experiments and double-blind studies, that it would just be rejected out-of-hand?

Something else is inolved, then...

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John L
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quote:
You asked a little while ago about brain storage. Leto (John L) answered with a lot of hostility and a generous helping of poor information, as is his wont. Seriously John, where did you get the information that neurons store memory in the nuclei? That's utter BS. If you're going to bitch about people not knowing things, you really should actually know the basics of the field before jumping in with fists flailing.
You pretentious little prick (you can insult, so can I), I never said we store our memories in the nuclei. I said that the information in just the chromatin of a single cell's nucleus is more than an easily measurable amount (say, so many gigabytes). I said that the complexity level goes up from there, and that when it comes to actual memory storage, the complexity level is so high that to compare it to the "on/off" of binary data storage is completely stupid.

Do yourself a favor and stop assuming before you try to insult me, jerk, and definitely stop putting words into my mouth.

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Boothby171
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Whew! Thank God I swore off being a Troll! (Just in time, too!)
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Mike
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I think something obvious needs to be said: a human brain is not a digital computer. A digital computer is not a human brain. Both a brain and a computer can do similar things. The intersection of their functionalities is non-empty. There are things that computers do much better than brains (e.g. accurate numerical calculations with large datasets, tireless repetition of simple tasks without increased chance of error); likewise, there are things that brains do much better than computers (e.g. recognizing faces, communicating through natural language, playing go, being "creative").

How much raw memory capacity is available to either a human brain or a digital computer is really irrelevant, since we know in both cases the answer is "enough". So let's stop beating each other up about it. 'K? [Smile]

Carry on, then.

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Boothby171
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Mike,

Actually, the answer varies between "Almost enough," and "Never enough," but--as you said--let's continue!

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MrSquicky
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Leto,
Your decriptions of "facts" on this thread have been a mixture of some facts, some assertions of highly debating theories as fact, and some egregious BS that I can only assume you've made up because you've certainly never gotten it from a reliable source. As I've said before, I'd never dream that it was possible for you to either admit you were wrong or even act responsibily, but I think that it's important that people understand how unworthy of trust you are.

You want to play the bully and make up for your ignorance with bluster, that's fine. Go do it somewhere else, or at least choose a topic that I don't know anything about. We don't need you if you're going to be like this, and, as much as this may suprise you, I'm not at all intimidated by you.

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Mike
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ssywak -- good point! [Big Grin]
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John L
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You say I'm spouting BS, and yet the only example you give is completely misquoting me and putting words in my mouth. Really classy, Squick.
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Bob the Lawyer
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I don’t understand why people have been going into such detail about the nervous system and ignoring things like the limbic system and the differences between things like short term memory, working memory and long term memory. You know, things like how they’re formed, how one becomes the other, etc. Basically, why people aren’t answering the questions about the brain and rather are going into big long spiels about the inner workings of nerves when you really don’t need to understand how reflexes work to get a basic understanding of how memory storage works.

I assumed it was just a pissing contest. Hell, I know I answered pooka’s questions because a) she asked and b) I got to look smart. But at least I’m honest about my motivations [Wink]

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Amka
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Steve,

You are entirely right. I may be wrong. I don't think you were in the church calling discussion before, but I detailed how I came to the conclusion to believe in God.

quote:
The BIG answer is that there is no logical resolution.

That is what I learned from Tom.

I crawled all the way back through my assumptions and realized that I could never KNOW this in my life. I would have to die first.

Therefore, there must be a leap of faith.

So I prayed:

I don't know if you exist, but my concept of you is good. I believe the concept of a good and caring God is more beautiful than the concept of no God. So, I want to believe in you. I'll follow you, regardless of your existance. Take this offering and perfect my understanding, if you can, please. Fill in the gaps of my weakness. Help me do good despite myself.

There was little comfort in this, knowing that I must act without knowing, and risk weakness. But this is my truth. It is not rational because by nature, it cannot be.

So this is the other truth: Rationality is cold and meaningless without faith and wonder, compassion and love.

So far, for me, the LDS church is the only one that provides for people living and believing in another religion to still have a good outcome in the afterlife, other than eastern religions that believe in reincarnation - a concept I cannot reconcile with other reasonings, and religions based on "whatever you believe will come true" which I find silly and self aggrandizing.

I cannot give you more than the fact that I weighed my options, I took into consideration my experience and concepts I'd learned from others (all sorts) and made a decision. But I can say that once I made that leap of faith, looking at the world that way made a lot of sense. Logically everything fits, and it feels right in my heart.

But what if I'm wrong?

Then either there is a God that cares only that we did our best with what we had, still the God I believe in but perhaps not as LDS describe him, or there is an exclusive God. I cannot really believe in the morality of an exclusive God. In that case, there would probably always be something I'd done wrong. I choose simply to ignore that possibility since I'd be doomed no matter what.

Or there is no God. And what have I lost by believing? Nothing. Not even a departure from the truth because I am very much aware that my belief is an act of faith, not knowledge. But I will have gained much. I will have had a peace through this life and hopefully served others because I was inspired by the concept of a living God such that my ultimate contribution is better to the human race with my belief in God than without.

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pooka
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But if there is no God and there is reincarnation, I will have to come back as something highly unpleasant. At least if I were to die at this stage in life. I'm LDS but I don't accept Pascal's wager. I only take it on faith that I wouldn't be better off as a dope dealer. But I'm fairly narcissistic.
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skillery
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I've been giving more thought to the LDS concept of the spirit and came up with the following:

D&C 29:31,32 - God created all things both temporal and spiritual.

D&C 77:2 - Temporal things created in the likeness of spiritual things.

When the scripture says "likeness" we might venture so far as to assume: "likeness," right down to the cellular level. After all, there are single-celled animals, and supposedly they have spirits and were created spiritually first.

We might also expect to find the same types of organs, structures, and functions within the spirit body that we find in the temporal body.

When this thread was launched I thought to downgrade the importance of the temporal brain, thinking that surely the brain could not be the repository of so many memories, and almost certainly the brain couldn't be the root of intelligence. But from the many learned posts we've enjoyed in this thread, it becomes apparent to me that downgrading the brain was my mistake.

Based on my interpretation of the above scriptures, the spirit also has a brain, and our temporal brains are patterned after it. Both brains would then have roughly analogous capabilities within their respective spheres of operation.

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mackillian
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BtL, I answered them because I was trying to provide a basis for science in this thread instead of people going off half cocked on misinformation.
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Xaposert
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quote:
Philosophy gives us the language to discuss things, but has it ever proven anything? It allows us to construct things (such as political systems), and as it gets a touch more scientific (the study of logic, for instance) it helps us with the physical sciences. It's certainly part of the path towards knowledge, but I believe that it always winds up deferring to the physical sciences for the last 100 feet or so.
That is a tricky question because of philosophy's rather unique desire to question every possible assumption. Whereas most other fields have starting assumptions from which to base proofs upon and frame debates, philosophy does not, except perhaps for logic itself. As a result, although I think philosophy does prove things, there is tends to always be someone there to question the premises of the proof ad infinitum. For instance, I think philosophy has proven (as far as your typical proof for something can go) that we exist - despite the fact that some still doubt it.

Aside from things like that, there's also more practical philosophical proofs that have spun off into various fields. (Whenever philosophy becomes practical, this seems to happen.) The field of mathematics, for instance, originated as a set of philosophical proofs that became their own field once the proofs became widely accepted and studied.

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Boothby171
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Xaos,

Maybe I've proven my point by overdefining it.

If I claim that only the physical sciences can prove the physical things, and that the natural sciences cannot (help me here--do I have the original meanings correct?), and every time natural philosophy proves something physical, then it becomes a branch of the physical sciences...well, then I really haven't said anything at all.

BTW, in checking some of this philosophical stuff out, I stumbled across this site:

http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/philosophy

and

http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/metaphysics

[ April 20, 2004, 04:47 PM: Message edited by: ssywak ]

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