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Thread: How does belief affect reality?

  1. #1 How does belief affect reality? 
    Forum Radioactive Isotope mitchellmckain's Avatar
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    I believe that the answer to this question goes right to the heart of the difference between science and religion. By restricting itself to seeing the world through this filter of objective (observer independent) observation, you basically force the world to fit into this activity of the observer studying that which is apart from himself. This is unavoidable because if the observer interacts with what he observes then the nature and character of the observer becomes relelvant in what is observed and that means it is no longer observer independent - it means that the observation proceedure will obtain different results depending on who does it, and when that happens science does not recognize any evidence upon which it can draw conclusions.

    This does not mean that science does not recognize these limitations, or even that it does not draw conclusions from it. Quantum physics is certainly one of the most familiar examples to me, where it is recognized that the act of measurement not only alters what is being measured but tends to even create the very thing being measured. Examples of how science has to navigate around this limitation in many fields of science shows just how unavoidably real it is. And I think this is how a scientist can perceive a serious flaw in the naturalist presumption that what science describes is all that is real.

    Certainly psychologists have come to realize how belief affects perception, and this is one of the things that shows just how important this objectifying technique of science can be in understanding the world, for it allows us to go beyond the limitations of our belief to discover things about the world that we could never have imagined. Modern medical science has to constantly confront and navigate around the placebo effect by using control groups in the test of a possible cure for disease. Thus there is absolutely no denying that belief effects what we observe - it is scientific fact, thus my question is not whether belief affects reality, but how?

    Simple logic suggest that what this limitation of the methodology of science is going to affect most is when the subject of our observation is closer to the observer himself. So it is no accident that the two examples above are medicine and psychology. But what I want to do is to look at is the serious flaw involved in trying to force self-examination to fit into the scientifc activity of the observer studying that which is apart from himself. The apparent contradiction is quite obvious. But just try to imagine what this says about some of the typical situations in life where we are forced to examine ourselves.

    For example, consider the question of love. Do you love this person? The question is not avoidable because it involves some rather important decisions about how you will live your life? But can you answer such a question by examining yourself as if you were a bug under a microscope. When people do try this, they usually fail - it is a senario examined by quite a number of books and films. The critical element that this approach usually misses is the answer to the question, do you want to love this person? There is dissonance between answering such a question and the usual standard of scientific objectification, where what what you observe should not depend on what you want to be the case.

    What I am getting at here is that the question of how belief affects reality, must make a clear distinction between things which you have no control over and those things which are very much subject to your own decisions. Now I am not saying that everything can be neatly categorized in one or the other, our health for example is one of the things where the two intimately interact. On the other hand, even within the question of health the distinction is there. The body requires the function of the heart and kidneys in order to continue living. If these fail and are not replaced then you will die, and all the wanting it to be otherwise will not change this. On the other hand, doctors see all the time, how the desire to live plays a critical role in whether their patients survive.

    Now the reason I believe that all this ties into the nature of religion, is because religion very much imposes upon our perception of reality, beliefs about the way things should be. It constantly confronts us with the question what we want to be case, particularly what kind of person we want to be? It studies the question of how our choices and our beliefs effect the living of our lives - not only the choices of the individual but the choices of society. And thus I believe that within religion, in addition its arbitrary cultural baggage, there is a reservour of experience about the answers to such questions. It is fustration about the difficulty in distinguishing between these two that often causes people to abandon it altogether.

    The point here is that for all its usefulness and truthfulness, science is not the be all and end all of human life. It is not simply enough to understand the world around us. We have to decide what to do with that understanding. We have to decide how we are going to live our lives. And that is not something that science can answer because it is not simply a question of what is, but also a question of what we want to be the case. We are not just observers looking at life as if it were something apart from ourselves. We are participants and what we decide to do (and to believe) has an enormous impact on the kind of life we are going to experience. Indeed there are some new age religions which have tried throw out all the cultural and doctrinal baggage in order to focus on this role of religion exclusively (such as the church of religious science). However one thing that should be clear, is that not everyone is going to answer the question of, what we want to be the case, in same way, and the result is that diversity in the area of religion is just going to be a reality that we have to accept and one that I hope we can learn to embrace.


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    I can't find a damn thing there to disagree with.

    But I think belief to you (a Christian) must be something above and apart from nature. To me, it's just a complication of physical reality. It's mechanical, in the brain, direct consequence of nature and not free at all. I actually suspect consciousness may be so crude as impulses literally folding back upon themselves in the convoluted frontal lobes.

    So belief may affect reality but, finally, belief is reality.

    A pessimist would think this terrible and dangerous, cruel, etc. However the whole truth is we do contain love and delight and visions of flowering meadows just as inextricable from our beings as lungs and blood. And the best we can do is accept it and run with it. The whole quirky contradictory package.

    We try not to trip ourselves up but of course we will. We make things complicated.


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    Forum Radioactive Isotope mitchellmckain's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    But I think belief to you (a Christian) must be something above and apart from nature. To me, it's just a complication of physical reality. It's mechanical, in the brain, direct consequence of nature and not free at all. I actually suspect consciousness may be so crude as impulses literally folding back upon themselves in the convoluted frontal lobes.
    I am not sure what you mean by your first sentence, but I think your box labeled Christian must be a smallish affair and one in which I cannot be found. I believe in a completely physical mind in which beliefs are physical dynamic structures. And by the way, in case we haven't discussed this before, what I mean be the word "physical" is probabably very close to what you mean by the word "natural".

    However, our disagreement is found in your use of the word "mechanical" because as a part of the mind, a belief is a part of a living organism, and thus I would never use the word "mechanical" to describe it in any way. This is far more than any Christian/non-Christian divide because from my point of view, your thinking with its mechanical conceptions, has more in common with the thinking of most Christians, and their idea of life as a product of design by a divine watchmaker.



    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    So belief may affect reality but, finally, belief is reality.

    A pessimist would think this terrible and dangerous, cruel, etc. However the whole truth is we do contain love and delight and visions of flowering meadows just as inextricable from our beings as lungs and blood. And the best we can do is accept it and run with it. The whole quirky contradictory package.
    I find your attempt to express yourself here to be a failure. Making an equivalence between two thing which are obviously different is one of the most meaningless thing you can say if you don't add some explanation.

    A chair is software.

    Dogs are volcanic.

    Peanuts are politics.

    Is this fun poetry? What?

    ADDITION:

    Oh I think I maybe I get what you are trying to say. You are talking about the mind-body problem. How can a thing of the mind affect things made out of matter? You are basically giving the physicalist solution that the things of the mind are as physical as anything else and so they naturally interact according to the laws of physics. Since my solution to the mind-body problem is same - the physicalist solution - this is something we agree on.

    Where we probably differ, and this explains your peculiar terminology (conflating the words reality and physical), is that you embrace physicalism universally where in my case this is only the solution to the mind-body problem, for I certainly do not think that everything is physical. For me that is the height of absurdity because for me that which is physical is defined by the ability of science to examine it, and so absolute physicalism would be equivalent to a claim that science has no limitations but can discover the truth about everything.
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    Hmm, maybe I'm not understanding what your trying to convey here. I don't think that belief affects reality at all, merely our perception of reality.

    From the example given of the placebo, what exactly takes place out of reality here?
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    Forum Radioactive Isotope mitchellmckain's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by portcontrol7
    Hmm, maybe I'm not understanding what your trying to convey here. I don't think that belief affects reality at all, merely our perception of reality.
    So our perception is not something which is real? Is that a kind of dualism between real and unreal? Is your analysis of the mind-body problem, that only the body is real and the mind, with all of its beliefs, thoughts, and perceptions are not real? That does sort of remove the need for an explanation of how the two interact, I admit, but I wonder what your definition of "real" might be?



    Quote Originally Posted by portcontrol7
    From the example given of the placebo, what exactly takes place out of reality here?
    I haven't the slightest idea you are talking about. How can something take place "out of reality"?

    Or maybe you just don't know what the placebo effect is. Well that is when you give someone something that they believe is a cure for some physical ailment and suddenly their problem seems to get a whole lot better. This effect is very real and it why tests of a proposed cure or treatment is considered meaningless unless its effects are compared to a control group that only thinks that they are getting the cure or treatment.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mitchellmckain
    Quote Originally Posted by portcontrol7
    Hmm, maybe I'm not understanding what your trying to convey here. I don't think that belief affects reality at all, merely our perception of reality.
    So our perception is not something which is real? Is that a kind of dualism between real and unreal? Is your analysis of the mind-body problem, that only the body is real and the mind, with all of its beliefs, thoughts, and perceptions are not real? That does sort of remove the need for an explanation of how the two interact, I admit, but I wonder what your definition of "real" might be?
    Of course belief is part of our individual perception of reality, but obviously my perception and yours are different. Neither can inherently claim to be better equipped to explain external reality which is indifferent to our perceptions.

    Quote Originally Posted by mitchellmckain
    Quote Originally Posted by portcontrol7
    From the example given of the placebo, what exactly takes place out of reality here?
    I haven't the slightest idea you are talking about. How can something take place "out of reality"?

    Or maybe you just don't know what the placebo effect is. Well that is when you give someone something that they believe is a cure for some physical ailment and suddenly their problem seems to get a whole lot better. This effect is very real and it why tests of a proposed cure or treatment is considered meaningless unless its effects are compared to a control group that only thinks that they are getting the cure or treatment.
    Yes, I'm aware of the placebo effect. That's what I was trying to ask what you mean when you refer to the effect belief has upon reality.

    Quote Originally Posted by mitchellmckain
    Modern medical science has to constantly confront and navigate around the placebo effect by using control groups in the test of a possible cure for disease. Thus there is absolutely no denying that belief effects what we observe - it is scientific fact, thus my question is not whether belief affects reality, but how?
    My problem here is the statement that belief effects what we observe. I don't think this is true. It effects out interpretation of what we observe. To say otherwise is to say that spoons can be bent by mental force for example.

    Quantum physics is perhaps the most dominant example of us waiting to catch up to what we observe, we don't know how to interpret it fully from my limited understanding of it, and from what I understand I'm not alone in this regard.

    So Mitchell you are not saying that belief has an effect on external things, merely that it effects our interpretation of things?
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    Quote Originally Posted by mitchellmckain
    Thus there is absolutely no denying that belief effects what we observe
    I guess what I'm not understanding here is this statement. Belief does NOT affect what we observe from my understanding, it affects our interpretation of what we observe.
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    A belief can affect an outcome, e.g. I win the race because I believe I can win.
    A belief cannot affect reality, e.g. The earth is millions of years old even I believe the earth is six thousand years old.
    That an observation can affect the condition of the observed object is a scientific finding. It does not say anything about belief affecting reality.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mitchellmckain
    I would never use the word "mechanical" to describe (the mind)
    Just my way of stressing the concreteness of even this dynamic and elusive thing.

    Quote Originally Posted by mitchellmckain
    I certainly do not think that everything is physical. For me that is the height of absurdity because for me that which is physical is defined by the ability of science to examine it, and so absolute physicalism would be equivalent to a claim that science has no limitations but can discover the truth about everything.
    We both see science is limited but draw different conclusions.

    Since you've already presumed science independent of the physical ("physical is defined by the ability of science to examine it") those things science can't grasp can't be physical, e.g. science itself. Looks like circular reasoning to me.

    Meanwhile, I'm not surprised science can't examine some things. Science, being physical, has limitations - a mirror can't reflect itself, a box can't contain itself, etc. The blind spots just confirm science's entanglement.

    When I say everything is physical I really mean it! That is a meaningful statement. For example nothing (not even science) gets a full, objective view.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Since you've already presumed science independent of the physical ("physical is defined by the ability of science to examine it") those things science can't grasp can't be physical, e.g. science itself. Looks like circular reasoning to me.
    I don't see any relationship between "science independent of the physical" and "physical is defined by the ability of science to examine it", unless you mean that you think that science must presume physicalism which is so obviously nonsense that I cannot see how you could suggest such a thing. Let me remind you that science was created by religious people who in no way shape or form believed that all things were physical, but simply saw the value seeking explanations for things apart from God. Instead what I think has happened is a gradual clarification of what was a successful methodology for science and then the realization that this methodology was selective of physical explanations.

    Circularity is something that can only be applied to an argument not a definition. So I suppose, quite typical of the atheist expecting a proof of anything he doesn't want to believe in, you tried to reformulate what I was saying into some strawman argument that you could shoot down. Well I suppose I can congratulate you for your fine shooting, but I would remind you that it is your own clay pigeons you are shooting down. There is no circularity in what I say, because there is no pretention of proof. The existence of spiritual things is basic premise. And from that premise a world view that would be rationally consistent with science must draw certain conclusions about the nature of the spiritual.

    So you see, I do not presume that the things that science cannot grasp can't be physical. That is incorrect and backwards. I assert is that those things which are spiritual (non-physical) are beyond the grasp of science, because the very things that the scientific method filters out are things with the characteristics which distinguish them from that which is physical. Your prejudices may see it as looking for a place where spiritual things can hide, but that it is simply prejudice on your part because it is just plain absurd to fault an effort to understand what characterics spiritual things must have in order to be consistent with science. It is your prejudice which is flawed in making the invalid supposition that science somehow supports your own philosophical conclusions when it does not in fact support your philosophical conclusions any more than mine.

    The only question is whether these implications are consistent with what is meant by the spiritual and it very much seems to me that they are. For example, the implication that the spiritual is not something that can be manipulated by impersonal forces resonates quite deeply with religious traditions. It makes perfect sense that spiritual things are what they are by virtue of their own nature alone and that any relationship they have to things outside of themselves must come from within as part of their own nature. Put quite simply, the implication is that spiritual things are a law unto themselves. By contrast, physical things are all what they are by virtue of the mathematical relationships that bind them to all other physical things, for they are all parts of a single mathematical structure of space-time. Since the very method and goal of science is to ferret out these (usually mathematical) relationships that connect them in a verifiable manner, science can only recognize things that are a part of those relationships.



    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    When I say everything is physical I really mean it! That is a meaningful statement. For example nothing (not even science) gets a full, objective view.
    Oh don't get me wrong I would not deny the logical consistency of physicalism (or metaphysical naturalism as I sometimes call it), but I would certainly deny that it has any presumptive superiority over competing metaphysical choices. So I certainly would not claim that my objections contitute any kind of disproof but freely admit that they are only an accounting for my own preferences.
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    I think you're mixing up what is real and what the mind perceives as real. Realism is static in that it can't change. Realism is what occurs in the universe without the need to perceive it. I wouldn't call a mirage real, I would call it someones false perception of reality.
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    Quote Originally Posted by portcontrol7
    My problem here is the statement that belief effects what we observe. I don't think this is true. It effects out interpretation of what we observe.

    I guess what I'm not understanding here is this statement. Belief does NOT affect what we observe from my understanding, it affects our interpretation of what we observe.
    Patients in the control group report improvements in their health. That is our observation. Our explanation for this observation is the placebo effect, and that means that we know that this is a purely a result of the fact that they believe they have been given a cure or treatment. Thus the beliefs of these patients have indeed effected what we observe. If you want to go all metaphysical on us and try to say that their beliefs did not actually do anything you go ahead, but plenty of other people believe otherwise and neither their beliefs nor yours have anything to do with the science.


    Quote Originally Posted by portcontrol7
    To say otherwise is to say that spoons can be bent by mental force for example.
    Nonsense. Are you imagining slippery slopes sliding down to what you think represents a horrific conclusion? LOL. You really ought to avoid this kind slippery slope thinking since it is blatantly irrational. There is no equivalence or slippery slope in this whatsoever. But I must say that I don't find this possibility quite so terrifying as you seem to. LOL.


    Quote Originally Posted by portcontrol7
    So Mitchell you are not saying that belief has an effect on external things, merely that it effects our interpretation of things?
    This was already adequately covered in the OP. Shall I quote it for you?

    "What I am getting at here is that the question of how belief affects reality, must make a clear distinction between things which you have no control over and those things which are very much subject to your own decisions. Now I am not saying that everything can be neatly categorized in one or the other, our health for example is one of the things where the two intimately interact. On the other hand, even within the question of health the distinction is there. The body requires the function of the heart and kidneys in order to continue living. If these fail and are not replaced then you will die, and all the wanting it to be otherwise will not change this. On the other hand, doctors see all the time, how the desire to live plays a critical role in whether their patients survive."

    Thus if by "external things" you mean "things beyond our control" then I believe I have already said what you say in your first phrase. But since you seem to need some further clarification, I will say that I certainly would not, for example, claim that our beliefs affect the result of a quantum measurement in any repeatable manner. But your second phrase goes too far. Belief does not ONLY affect our interpretations of things, but perhaps you can say that the main reason for this is that our world full of these things call "people" whose beliefs affect their perceptions which in turn affect what they do.


    Quote Originally Posted by portcontrol7
    Quantum physics is perhaps the most dominant example of us waiting to catch up to what we observe, we don't know how to interpret it fully from my limited understanding of it, and from what I understand I'm not alone in this regard.
    I haven't a clue as to what you are trying to say here, UNLESS it is simply that you do not understand much about quantum physics and therefore cannot draw any conclusions about it.


    Quote Originally Posted by BumFluff
    I think you're mixing up what is real and what the mind perceives as real. Realism is static in that it can't change. Realism is what occurs in the universe without the need to perceive it. I wouldn't call a mirage real, I would call it someones false perception of reality.
    Whereas I think you are mixing up a great more, for your words are ambiguous and improperly used. "Realism" refers to a very large number of trends in different fields such as art, law, and philosophy - look it up on the internet. I consider myself a critical realist, for example, and I am a very strong critic and opponent of idealism, which I think would contradict one possible translation of your first statement. But anyway lets try to make some sense of your second two statements, and we can start by substituting "what is real" for the word "realism".

    1)"What is real is static in that it can't change."
    No that doesn't really help at all, unless you are following some ancient Greek philosopher in claiming that all change and motion is an illusion? Or I suppose you could be some sort of religious mystic that believes that only some unchanging God that you believe in is real. Is that it?

    Some people might say the following
    "What is true is static in that it can't change."
    Is that what you meant?


    2)"What is real is what occurs in the universe without the need to perceive it."
    Hmmm... Now this makes a little more sense, but consider this rephrase:
    "What is real is what occurs in the universe without any consideration of how it is perceived."
    Is that what you mean?
    OK............but now the questions is where do people and their perceptions fit into this? Are they not real? But if the perceptual process is real then the beliefs of these people who are perceiving are in fact affecting something that is real.



    Quote Originally Posted by BumFluff
    I wouldn't call a mirage real, I would call it someones false perception of reality.
    Whereas I would call a mirage VERY real - it is an optical effect related to the phenomenon of total internal reflection. In my "book", you don't get any more real than that. But I suppose what you really mean is that if we imagine some imbecile who sees a mirage and thinks that he is walking towards water, then all that water he is walking towards is not real. OK, now let me see if I can guess what you think this has to do with what I have been talking about..... The imaginary imbecile's belief that he is walking towards water does not change the fact that there is no water there.... Have I got that right?

    Well my response is that my understanding of physics mean that I do not see water where the imbecile does see water and I do not walk towards the unreachable mirage thinking that I will find water there. On the other hand where I might just give up and die the imbecile persisting in his mistaken belief may actually find water and survive. Belief does affect reality, because the observer is a part of reality.
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    MM, that's a lot to digest.

    *flustered*

    I'll illustrate what I mean about everything being physical.

    So I go buy my daily crack rock and smoke it (yeah, as if). I have a wonderful spiritual experience, kinda like BumFluff's mirage. Is the experience physical? Yes: any psychiatrist knows what's happening there, chemically in my brain. The wonderful spiritual experience could be duplicated by some other compounds, just as my leg could jerk by doctor's rubber mallet, or voluntary impulse, or a shot of adrenaline, etc. It's living tissue and it's physical. "Spiritual" is a function of living tissue in certain circumstances.

    So I'm an inventive scientist and instead of doing my own thinking I build this crazy retro science engine out of vacuum tubes in my friend William's metal shop. And it works! Can you imagine it? I'll bet you can. And it's solid clunking physical, input and output. The "science" is a function of the machine. The machine doesn't conjure science or channel science; science simply begins when I switch the machine on, and science ends when I pull the plug. It is perfectly reasonable to build a lot of machines with this same program, so they all perform the same science. That does not make the science function any less physical.

    I never expected you MM to share this view, and really wasn't setting up a strawman in my previous post.

    I'm pretty sure you do hold some things apart from (AKA above) this physical world I've described. Like God and free will and in some respects mind I guess. Please tell us explicitly what and how.
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    Using the example of the placebo effect to illustrate belief has control over reality is fallacious. The mind may have some effect over the body it inhabits, but that does not extend past the body, as Mitchell would have us believe.

    Come up with an example of how beliefs affect reality, other than someone acting on their beliefs or the beliefs affect that which is not internal to the body.

    And yes, Mitchell, science is the be all. Sorry to deflate your Christian beliefs.

    One thing always bugs me, Mitch, how is that we should embrace the diversity of religion when religion is supposed to be based on absolutes?

    And if religion imposes on the perception of reality, how does it then affect reality?
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    Mitchell,

    I think my statement on Quantum Physics was very clear, that we are not able to understand it, it contradicts our prior understanding of how physics function, and that we are still waiting for our understanding to catch up to what we observe.

    This is also true of the Placebo affect, in that we don't fully understand it. On the surface, it appears that belief is affecting the recovery of patients. This can be powerful but we just don't understand its functioning. Whatever the case, it's a purely physical process from belief to some form of endorphin release or whatever is going on in there. Of course this is an internal process not to be extrapolated irresponsibly into a statement that "belief affects reality".

    These are two examples of a gap in our understanding, not any kind of evidence in some greater truth beyond our reach.
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    I am quite aware what realism means. If you'll look it up on dictionary.com you'll see this meaning "The attribute of accepting the facts of life and favoring practicality and literal truth". But regardless of your attempted tearing apart of the words of my post I think you basically got the idea. My point is that the perception of reality as one sees it and true reality is often different. In my saying that reality is static I mean that it can't change, yes. Reality is what reality is and someones perception of that reality can either be wrong or correct, however it is still just a perception of that reality.
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    Bumfluff you're talking about illusion, about true vs. false.

    I'm pretty sure the "real" in this debate is concrete vs. abstract.
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    I would like to suggest that the trouble that a lot of people are having with the topic is an interpretation of it that goes something like this:

    "Does the belief about a particular thing have an effect on the reality of that particular thing?"

    Considering such a question about things in general, the answer is no because for most things it is certainly not the case that your belief about it has any effect on the reality of the thing itself. However what my topic is getting at is that this is not true of everything because we must distinguish those things that we have no control over from those things that we do. Thus it is not quite true, for example, to say that our beliefs about our health have absolutely no impact on the reality of our health, and the placebo effect is an example of this.

    Others here seem to be having some trouble because they fear that some kind of magic is being advocated and feel that they have to "nip that in the bud" (LOL), urging us to expect some sort of scientific explanation of these things. Well I am advocating no such thing and I certainly do expect a sientific explanation for most things but I think I have shown why expecting a scientific explanation of absolutely everything may be a little overly optimistic.

    As for quantum physics, there is a big difference between expecting that science will eventually find an explanation for things that it has no explanation for yet, and willfully refusing to accept the conclusions of science itself that something will never have a "scientific explanation". I believe that the latter is the case in quantum physics. So far all the judgments of the scientific method - experimental tests of properly formulated hypotheses have been against hidden variable theory and in favor of the Copenhagen interpretation. Fringe physcists have continued to stubbornly look for a way around these conclusions but in this not only has their prejudice begun to resemble the pseudo-scientific activities of the ID proponents, but they have been forced by the facts to contradict other major elements of scientific orthodoxy in order continue it. It is a bit pathetic. Nevertheless after nearly a hundred years, such efforts have come to nothing, and the Copenhagen interpretation remains the unchallenged understanding of quantum theory by the scientific community. And it is with delight and the most condescending amusement that I can admire the faith of those who continue to hope that this will undone for its similarity to the faith of those believing that the theory of evolution can be disproven is quite striking.
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    Thus it is not quite true, for example, to say that our beliefs about our health have absolutely no impact on the reality of our health, and the placebo effect is an example of this.
    So the topic should be -Belief can have an effect on a certain outcome (especially human behavior). When you say the reality of our health you really mean the condition of our health.
    Let us be clear on the term of reality you are using here. It looks more like possible outcomes to me.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mitchellmckain

    Others here seem to be having some trouble because they fear that some kind of magic is being advocated and feel that they have to "nip that in the bud" (LOL)
    Very nice Mitchell! Are you not a proponent of magic? Please tell us how magic and God are different?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    I'm pretty sure you do hold some things apart from (AKA above) this physical world I've described. Like God and free will and in some respects mind I guess. Please tell us explicitly what and how.
    Come on MM lay your cards on the table. The mind card and free will card if you please. We may save God for another debate. :wink:
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    I'm pretty sure you do hold some things apart from (AKA above) this physical world I've described. Like God and free will and in some respects mind I guess. Please tell us explicitly what and how.
    Come on MM lay your cards on the table. The mind card and free will card if you please. We may save God for another debate. :wink:
    Give me a straight question and I will give you a straight answer.

    As it is I am uncertain what this has to do with the topic of this thread beyond what we already discussed earlier in this thread (Posted: Sat Jul 26, 2008 5:34 pm) where we both agreed on the physicalist solution to the mind-body problem. I mean that provides an explanation that being a part of physical reality itself the mind can interact with other physical things and thus beliefs as part of this physical mind can affect the rest of physical reality in the usual manner that one physical thing effects another.

    If you are just fishing for an explanation of how my other beliefs fit into this, I would suggest you take a look at a discussion started between Q and myself which I will put together right here for your convenience...
    Q: As a physicist, can you describe the mechanism that allows interaction between the physical and the "spiritual?"

    Me: As a physicist, no, I cannot. As a physicist I must stick with what is confirmed as objectively observed (observer independent). I use the term spiritual for that which is non-physical which by my definition is that which is filtered out by this method that science uses to ensure that its observations are objective.

    Therefore I can only describe this mechanism by first assuming that such non-physical things are real, but then as a philosopher with some familiarity with physics I can explain this partly physical process by which such an interaction occurs.

    In my metaphysics (i.e my theory of the nature of reality), the non-physical or spiritual are also forms of energy but these differ from the physical in two ways. The first is that physical forms of energy are actually all parts of a single form of energy which is the whole multidimensional space-time structure that is the physical universe, but spiritual forms of energy are not a part of this structure at all. The second is that physical forms of energy have these quantitative characteristics that spiritual forms of energy do not have.

    Q: The spiritual is a form of energy, but not any form of energy that has been observed; ie. not part of the space-time structure or specific in characteristic. Correct?

    Me: I would not say that it is not observed but only that not being a part of the multidimensional space-time (mathematical) structure they are not observed in a manner gets through that filter of science that accepts only what is observer independent and not in a manner that is ammenable to a consistent mathematical description. Nor would I say that they are not specific in characteristics but only that they are not of a quantitative nature - these are not the same thing, though I do understand that to you these may seem closely related, especially if you presume as most metaphysical naturalists do, that the particulate nature of the physical world is the only reality there is.

    Moving on. One of the most basic parts of this multidimensional space-time mathematical structure, which is the basis of physical law, is that the energy of physical forms is bound by a rule of quantity which we call the conservation of energy (and momentum). But this law is only absolute on a macroscopic scale of space-time because of the uncertainty principle in quantum physics. The uncertainty principles of dE x dt ~ h (Planck's constant) and dp x dx ~ h are actually closely related since E (energy) and p (momentum) as well as t (time) and x (distance) are actually components of the 4 vectors (E,p) and (t,x). Anyway the point is that this most fundamental law of physics binding energy and momentum to definite unchanging quantites has a space-time window in which exceptions can ocurr. This means that energy which is not a part of this conserved quantity (spiritual forms of energy) can interact with that which is (physical forms of energy) as long as it occurs in small enough intervals of space and time. This does not allow such non-conserved non-physical forms of energy to add to the energy or momentum of the physical world on a larger scale but it DOES allow them to change the course of events (in a very subtle manner).

    Q: Yes, but tread carefully over conservation of energy and momentum as you continue, making sure to address them as you go. I'm interested in hearing the 'exceptions' as well, as I'm not aware of any energies that wouldn't be part of the conserved quantity.

    Me: I don't know what you mean by your first statement. The discovery of quantum physics is that the laws of conservation of energy and momentum are only observed on the larger (non-quantum) scale of space time. This is what those uncertainty principles (dE dt ~ h and dp dx ~ h) mean. dE represent the energy that can appear out of nowhere and dt represent the time during which this energy can remain in existence. To understand one example of how this plays a role in modern physics do some reading (like in Wikipedia) on the topic of vacuum fluctuations (an effect of which is Hawking radiation), but it plays a rather general role in quantum field theory allowing Feynman diagrams (part of the calculation of the strengths of particle interations) that violate conservation of energy-momentum. This does not contradict the usual conservation of energy-momentum because the energy which appears out of nowhere does not last but disappears again with a short period of time, inversely proportional to the amount of energy involved: dt ~ h/dE.

    What caution is necessary at this point is to say that despite the scientific/physics issues being disucussed here, the main postulate I am proposing, that these quantum scale energy conservation violations represent interaction with non-physical energy is not in any way shape or form any kind of physics or science. If the Copenhagen Interpretations of quantum physics (and the Everett Many Worlds Interpretation really changes nothing either) is correct then these events are fundamentally random and unpredictable, meaning what particular thing happens cannot be assigned any physical cause, for any such cause would be a hidden variable theory and this has been disproven by the failure Bell's inequality. Now certainly you can argue that a fringe minority of physicists continue to dispute this and continue to seek some way to restore physical determinism in a non-local formulation, but so far such attempts have yielded nothing, and all the judgements of the scientific method are in favor of the Copenhagen interpretation. But this lack of a physical cause for the details in some events leaves the way open for a philosopher or theologian to suggest the possibility for the role of non-physical causes in these events.

    Q: Are you saying that energy conservation can be violated at the quantum scale, or only appear to be violated? The energy is still conserved, is it not?

    Me: The classical law of conservation of energy is actually violated. This means that quantum physics reformulates this classical law to allow these exceptions in very short periods of time.

    Energy is conserved in the long run but not in the short run. In very small periods of time energy can appear from nowhere as if there is a bank somewhere that physical processes can go to in order to get short term loans. In the case of vacuum fluctuations, particle and antiparticle appear out of nothing then annihilate and the energy vanishes back into the nothingness it came from. In the case of Hawking radiation it is the black hole that eventually pays back the energy loan by losing mass even though nothing is supposed to be able to escape from the black hole.

    In 1944 Erwin Schrodinger wrote a tiny little book called "What is life?" In this book this famous quantum physicist makes the argument that quantum physics can have no impact on the process of life. However science at that time was just on the verge of discovering that scientists had made an enormous systematic oversight in the way it had been handling the more difficult mathematical problems that it routinely faces. This discovery would blow Schrodinger's argument out of the water. It is an interesting story because it was simutaneously discovered in many different branches of science from efforts to discover why mathematical calculations were failing to predict actual phenomena in many case. The culprit turned out to be the routine practice of getting solutions to non-linear equations by means of linear approximations. It was discovered that the non-linear equations had properties that the linear approximations did not. This was the birth of the science of chaos.

    In linear equations small perturbations remain small and thus if they are random they will average out and have no effect on large scale phenomena. This was exactly the argument that Schrodinger used in his little book. But non-linear equations can amplify some small perturbations while damping out the others so that the perturbations do not average out and the large scale phenomena ends up being determined by the most insignificant happenings. This is the nature of so called butterfly effect, which says that the nonlinear equations governing the weather can amplify the movement of a single butterfly ignoring the movements of all the other butterflies so that what that one butterfly does ends up determining the weather patterns a week later on the other side of the world. A scientist by the name of Illya Prigogine managed to prove that the initial conditions of a system governed by nonlinear equations might actually have to be specified to an infinite degree of precision before the results could be predictable. But this means that quantum phenomena and events can no longer be ruled as insignificant in large scale phenomena when non-linear equations are involved.

    The connection to life is made by a wonderful book by Erich Jantsch titled "The Self Organizing Universe" who shows how the properties non-linear equations provides the basis for self-organizing phenomenon in far from equillibrium systems. The book is a must read for anyone considering the possiblity of abiogenesis, for the book makes a very good case that the non-linear equations governing the behavior of many physcial systems naturally leads to type of self-organizing phenomenon that could lead to the development of life. I have become convinced that the development of life is such a self organizing phenomena that develops toward increasing non-linearity for it is by this process that such systems achieves the characteristic behavior of living things of acting independent of its environment. This increasing non-linearlity exploits a process of amplifying of quantum indeterminacy in order to provide the driving force of "evolution" (the progressive development of life from even before there was any RNA or DNA) and which is therefore the essense of life itself. What drives this development of life (and thus evolution) is a creative or upredictable response to environmental change known in the theory of evolution as variation.

    The next step is to consider some rather fundamental but widespread misconcpetions concerning the theory of evolution itself. These are important because when corrected they profoundly change ones understanding of the nature of the process of life in general.

    Q: If the misconceptions are for the purpose of discussion, please feel free, but if they are for my enlightenment, don't worry about it, unless of course, you wish to enlighten some of our peeps, like Dayton, for example, who really needs to understand those misconceptions.

    Me: Well the kind of misconception about evolution that I am talking about is not the sort that Dayton or a creationist might have causing them to refute it, but the sort of misconception that an atheist might have. I came accross this in as study of mutagenesis where I discovered that damage to our DNA was something that was ocurring all time but that we have, even bacteria have a very efficient system of repairing all that damage. And then I found out that in studies of mutations in bacteria occurring as a result of damage from ultra-violet radiation, something very unusual was ocurring. A special molecule made by the bacterial would find and cover the damage to protect that damage to their DNA done by the radiation from their own DNA repair mechanism. When I read this, it became quite apparent that all those popular explanations of evolution that describe variation as coming from damage and mistakes were completely incorrect.

    The point is that there is nothing accidental about the variation that drives evolution but that one part of the evolution of life is the development of inventive ways to create this variation. From a scientific point of view this is important because it means that this variation is NOT purely random but under the controls of the organism and the natural selection process to make sure that the types of variation produced are more likely to be productive rather than destructive. From this point of view, I think we can even see a correlation between periods in the history of evolution with an explosive generation of new diversity with the development of some new technique for introducing variations (that are more likely to be productive) into the genetic code. I believe that the development of sexual reproduction was one of the most important of these.

    Anyway from the philosophical perspective, the point is that evolution is not something that simply happens to living things but something that living things do intentionally, and that creativity is part of the essential nature of life itself, which can ultimately be seen as deriving from this nonlinear amplification of quantum indeterminacy. Furthermore this is a nature of living things that goes beyond merely being a source of genetic variation but is part of this non-linear process by which self-organizing phenomena occurs in general. This is important because it means you can have a development of life in physical processes in other ways than the biological one based on the evolution of the genetic code. This is important in the next step, which is to see how the human mind can be another example of such a self-organizing physical phenomena, ocurring in the interaction and processing of information in the human brain.
    Do you want me to continue this explanation?

    For a comprehensive discussion of the mind-body problem which includes a discusion of spirit as well you can read this: http://www.astahost.com/mind-body-problem-t17057.html

    For a more general discussion of the relationship between science and religion based on John Polkinghorne's book "Exploring Reality", you can read this: http://www.astahost.com/john-polking...ty-t17626.html
    See my physics of spaceflight simulator at http://www.relspace.astahost.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by mitchellmckain
    If you are just fishing for an explanation of how my other beliefs fit into this, I would suggest you take a look at a discussion started between Q and myself which I will put together right here for your convenience...
    Sorry Mitchell, by all means, continue here so as to not distract from that other thread.
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    Great, thanks. Now I can connect the dots.

    I think you're allowing for a ghost in the machine. Computer analogy, this is like a low-level daemon running invisibly to high-level software (user level). The daemon's ...will... does express into higher levels, though only by indirect means. In humans, that could be covertly affecting behaviour by affecting belief.
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    Quote Originally Posted by (Q)
    Sorry Mitchell, by all means, continue here so as to not distract from that other thread.
    Ok so the idea is that I think the information processing in the brain, in the form of electrochemical signals, form a self-organizing non-linear system which can be considered alive. This living organism which we call the mind is non-biological in the sense that it is based on an inheritance of information via human communication and thus quite apart from the usual biological method of information storage and processing using DNA and RNA. It is also non-biological in the sense that its organizational structures are of a completely different nature, for instead of the organs that the body has, or the organelles that the cell has, the organizational structures of the mind are things like concepts, beliefs and the mental aspects of personality.

    The fact that the means of information inheritance used by the mind allows aquired characteristics (aquired concepts and beliefs) to be passed from one generation to the other is one of the reasons that human mental life develops and learns at a far faster rate. This and other measures of life as a quantitative thing such as creativity and awareness suggest that the life process going on in the mind is far more intense than in any other example of life. And since I believe that this amplification of quantum events is central to this whole process of life and to these characteristics that life has, then this means that it is in the human mind where we will find this kind of nonlinear amplification going on more than anywhere else.

    But of course all this means is that IF there are non-physical (or spiritual) forms of energy and IF the uncertainty principle provides a space-time window through which the spiritual interacts with the physical, THEN it is in human mental life where we would find the greatest interaction between physical and spiritual going on. HOWEVER, even if this is the case, I do not see how the evidence can support the idea that the spirit acts like some kind of puppet master controlling the human body. It is the mind that controls the body and even though the mind is in many ways an independent living organism, it is still a completely physical thing, just like the body.

    So if anyone wants me to continue, the next question to consider is, if the spirit doesn't control the body like some puppeteer, then what exactly does it do?
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    Quote Originally Posted by mitchellmckain

    So if anyone wants me to continue, the next question to consider is, if the spirit doesn't control the body like some puppeteer, then what exactly does it do?
    Please do, fascinating stuff here.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mitchellmckain
    continue
    Yes please.
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    Well to understand what the spirit does, or at least, what all this implies that it does, we have to focus in on what role this amplification of quantum events plays in the development of a living organism - what does this have to do with the process of life anyway? It has been my intimation that this plays some key role in what I have been saying are characteristic elements of life: learning, creativity and awareness. Well the direct connection I make is to creativity and it is only through this that it plays a role in learning. I believe that there is also a connection to awareness but only in the most indirect and subtle way that will take some explaining. However in the explanation of the connection to creativity and learning, we lay an indispensible foundation for this and so it is this that I must explain first.

    By and large, especially on the larger scales of space and time, the course of events in this universe is pretty determinstic, following mathematical laws, with small fluctuations averaging out and having no effect on the course of large scale events. But the key fact here is that it is quantum physics which shows that this physical determinism is not absolute and it is this amplification of quantum events that makes this a tangible reality in the phenomenon of life. What you have to understand is that a quantum measurement which the failure of Bell's inequality shows has no physical determination of its result (no hidden variables), is itself an amplification phenomenon. It must be. For the only way that macroscopic creatures like us can observe (directly or indirectly it doesn't matter) the results of such a measurement is if the behavior of this quantum sized thing somehow effects the behavior of massive numbers of particles because it is the behavior of massive numbers of particles which our perception of things must consist of. Whether it is an LED or a needle on a dial, the way in which the result of our measurement is conveyed to us must be via the movement of a very large number of particles. The smallest needle you can imagine would have at least a billion billion atoms and the smallest LED is powered by at least a hundred million billion electrons per second.

    What the amplification of quantum events provide to the process of life is many possible courses of events INDEPENDENT of environmental conditions. The phenomenon by which linear equations provide many possible directions for actions and development of life is well known in chaos science by the name of bifurcation. This is a feature of the nonlinear mathematics which is perfectly deterministic in our computer calculations only because we control the initial conditions absolutely. But in the real world there is no initial conditions specified to the required infinite degree of precision that is not going to involve quantum events. That means that this bifurcation phenomenon has the same amplification that we find in a quantum measurement and is thus just as lacking in an actual physical cause as they are.

    In any case my point is that it is via the bifurcation phenomena amplifying quantum events that living organism can display a vast range of possible actions independent of any determination by environmental conditions. This is the basis for a creativity or diversity in its behavior that provides a foundation for the learning process because the most basic learning process is one of trial and error. This is after all how evolution works - it is by trying many different things that a species finds things (i.e. genetic changes) that are advantageous to their survival. I am suggesting that the human mind as a living organism works essentially in the same way improved of course by techniques which are themselves learned and passed on through inheritance both mental and biological.

    Anyway the next task, assuming you are still with me, have no questions or objections, and are still interested, is the rather more challenging explanation of how this could possibly have anything to do with awareness which I am sure you will be happy to hear, also involves the role of the spirit in all of this.
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    Yes, I want to learn the ways of this force and become a jedi like my father.




    Really, it's all plausible so far...
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    Will this explanation address how belief affects reality?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Yes, I want to learn the ways of this force and become a jedi like my father.
    LOL LOL LOL


    Quote Originally Posted by prasit
    Will this explanation address how belief affects reality?
    I believe that has already been addressed. A belief is simply a dynamic structure of information processing in the physical living organism called the mind. Thus as a complete physical thing a belief affects other physical things in the usual manner according to the laws of physics.

    I would not exclude the possibility of something supernatural or spiritual but I really don't know anything about that, and I would certainly be skeptical about any claims that such things can be relied upon regardless of the belief (or gullability if you prefer) of the person involved.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mitchellmckain
    possibility of something supernatural or spiritual but I really don't know anything about that
    We've already got quantum events amplified like a software random seed that helps determine bets a poker AI might place. From quanta to creativity, and you promise awareness and spirit tied to it too. That's darn near supernatural.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Quote Originally Posted by mitchellmckain
    possibility of something supernatural or spiritual but I really don't know anything about that
    We've already got quantum events amplified like a software random seed that helps determine bets a poker AI might place. From quanta to creativity, and you promise awareness and spirit tied to it too. That's darn near supernatural.
    I have promised to explain how spirit, if it exists, could be tied to awareness and thus it is only a philosophical possibility which I am explaining. Furthermore that is not the same thing as claiming that belief affects reality in a supernatural manner via spirit. However if we believe that spirit exists and that spirit can interact with the physical in the space-time window I have mentioned then that does suggest that spirit might affect reality in such a manner.

    However since I have never experienced any such thing, I would not make any claims in that regard. Furthermore, what I am certain of is that any such claims could never be established by the scientific method, in which case you can very reasonably claim that any such "ocurrences" are merely coincidence and guillability. It is kind of like the way that quantum tunneling and the non-local EPR effect although exceeding the speed of light could never actually be used for any actual communication, because the only thing that is going faster than the speed of light is simply a correlation between events which are completely random.


    P.S. I have a lot of grading to do today as well as other things so I won't be able to continue my explanation until much later this evening or tomorrow.
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    Mitch wrote
    A belief is simply a dynamic structure of information processing in the physical living organism called the mind. Thus as a complete physical thing a belief affects other physical things in the usual manner according to the laws of physics.
    But then it is a no-brainer. Like, How does hunger affect food consumption?
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    Quote Originally Posted by prasit
    Mitch wrote
    A belief is simply a dynamic structure of information processing in the physical living organism called the mind. Thus as a complete physical thing a belief affects other physical things in the usual manner according to the laws of physics.
    But then it is a no-brainer. Like, How does hunger affect food consumption?
    Yes the physicalist solution to the mind-body problem makes the question of how these two interact a "no-brainer" indeed. But although you and I may agree on this solution, it is hardly universal.


    And now to continue:


    Up to this point I have only shown that if spiritual forms of energy exist as I have defined them then there is a space-time window through with they could interact with physical forms of energy, and that if that is the case then we have every reason to see the most significant impact on macroscopic events in the behavior of living things and especially in the human mind. The connections I have drawn between the amplifications of quantum events and capabilities for creativity and learning in living things proves nothing about this at all. From the scientific perspective this can simply be considered a resourceful use by living things of the fundamental randomness in quantum events. It is only the option of a philosopher or theologian to suggest that spirit has anything to do with this at all.

    Despite all the advances that psychology has made in understanding human perception many feel that there is still a puzzle in the human experience of awareness (sometimes refered to as consciousness) that is not understood. In philosophy existentialism has spent considerable thought on this puzzling aspect which it calls "intentionality" which it describes as a subject of awareness focused an object of awareness. But I think the fact that, this puts the real puzzle a little out of focus, is demonstrated by way some describe this as "about-ness", for it seems clear to me that this is something that things with no awareness at all are capable of. A book can be about trees and an equation (like KE = .5 m v^2) can be about a relationship between energy, mass and velocity. Perhaps it can be argued that this "about-ness" can only exist as a product of living things, but I still think it is missing the central puzzle, which is not in the objectification part of intentiality but in the subjectification -- in the "I-ness" as it were.

    Even though I think it is incorrect, we can imagine life evolving as a purely mechanical process by which a genetic code develops and certain portions of that code can be said to be about various parts of the organism's biological processes. So the real question of awareness is where does this experience of self come from. I know that we have something in the mind which we call a self concept, but the existentialist will say that this is necessarily an object of awareness and would thus make a distinction between this self that we can be aware of and this other aspect of self that is the subject of awareness. So when we program an AI with software constructs representing itself in pretty much the same way a concept of self plays a role in our thought processes, we do not generally think that this is going to make the AI aware or gives it the same experience of self that we have.

    Of course saying that we have a soul or spirit does not explain any of this any more than saying that this is some kind of illusion - I would say that both are cop outs that explain nothing. But you may ask whether I can criticize unless I can do better. Well I think I can, and I think that in the process of doing so I will make it clear why saying we have a soul or spirit certainly doesn't do it. I will explain more but an important part of what I am suggesting is that this experience of self in awareness is actually a direct consequence or part of the experience of free will which I believe, put in its simplest terms, can be identified as an experience of ownership because this is the real meaning of the "I-ness" in a statement. "I think" means a more than simply that there is thinking going on, for what the "I-ness" add to this is that these thought events which are ocurring are somehow mine.

    .......................preview.................... .....

    All this is taking a bit longer that I expected and is even resulting in longer and longer posts as I try to make more progress, but surely you must understand why I see the need for considerable caution when explaining this to such a critical audience. It is not because I am trying to convince you of anything for I intend to be abundantly clear where there is no proof for what I am saying. But in the process of thinking how to explain this without error means that I must take the time to build up the rational for what I am saying. That is part of it anyway. Another reason is because I set for myself the task of explaining how this plays a role in awareness, which is naturally a rather difficult thing to do considering just how much it has puzzled so many people. Thus since I expect you are growing impatient, I think I had better skip ahead and just give a brief answer to the question I posed earlier as a kind of preview of where this is all going. This may also provoke questions and make this more like a discussion than the lecture it has mostly been up until now.

    The question I am talking about is, if the spirit doesn't control the body like some puppeteer, then what exactly does it do? Well first of all, I only see this interaction with the spirit as occuring in special events represented in chaos science by these bifurcation events and named in human consciousness as choices. It is a two way interaction that has effects on both sides. The spirit acquires form, definition, and identity while the living organism acquires this sense of ownership that is responsible for these experiences of free will, responsibility, self and awareness. The objective of my explanation is to show that there are logical paradoxes in the idea of free-will that can only be resolved in an idea of self that is involved in a process of becoming. Perhaps this can work to some degree with some physical locus of the self that is doing this becoming, except for the fact that some nonstandard ideas of causality are involved and for me at least this seems to work a little better conceptually with this idea of an interaction with something outside of physical space and time. But I do not imagine that this is insurmountable such that a belief in spirit is nessessary for a belief that human beings have free-will.
    See my physics of spaceflight simulator at http://www.relspace.astahost.com

    I now have a blog too: http://astahost.blogspot.com/
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