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Links With Your Coffee - Sunday


  • The soul? It may all be in your mind - The Boston Globe
    Everything you think you know about the soul is wrong.

    So says Yale psychologist Paul Bloom, who researches why people are religious. Bloom has written that humans are "natural dualists," seeing our physical bodies as separate from our supposedly nonphysical minds and souls. It's a legacy in part of the great French philosopher René Descartes, a religious man who believed our thoughts survived the death of our brains, says Bloom.

    The problem, Bloom believes, is that this dualism is inaccurate. Brain science increasingly shows that "the qualities of mental life that we associate with souls" - memory, self-control, decision-making - "are purely corporeal; they emerge from biochemical processes in the brain," he wrote in a 2004 piece for The New York Times. That holds for morality, too; work he has done with Yale colleague Karen Winn shows that babies have some understanding of right and wrong even before they learn to speak. Our physical brain, in short, is our soul.

  • Barack Obama and Joe Biden: The Change We Need | Welcome - Login / Signup

    It's easy, you can help Barack Obama become our next president.

  • Rosa Brooks: Thinking conservatives are the MIAs of the Republican party - Salt Lake Tribune
    Liberals haven't had so much fun in decades.

    Aside from the dwindling size of our 401(k)s, life is treating us well. True, we're heading into a major recession. But that's OK: That just presents us with new opportunities to Do Good.

    And while we wait for President Obama to bring us New Deal 2.0, we'll also get a few giggles out of watching the Bush administration preside over the nationalization of the nation's financial sector. (Tip: Practice saying ''social democracy.'' Also, practice saying ''Told ya so!'' with compassion.)

    Maybe most fun of all, we're getting to watch a steady procession of rats leaving the sinking GOP ship.

    One by one, the nation's more reputable conservatives have been edging away from the Republican presidential ticket. It started with John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate. Thinking conservatives - as of a couple of months ago, there were still a few left - were distinctly underwhelmed.

  • Cartoons—By Mr. Fish (Harper's Magazine)

  • Ivebeenreadinglately: Pages and pages and pages . . .
    I'm far more of a reader than a writer, but I think a reader feels it no less: there's always so much unread, let alone all that deserves to be read again, and with each passing day there's less time available to us.

    That's true of all life's pursuits, of course. But reading seems particularly susceptible to that sense of Sisyphean challenge: we have only so much time in life to make friends, too--but our unmade friends don't loom over us, neatly ordered on shelves, when we settle in with a novel each night. And once our attention is drawn to the unread books on our shelves, it can't help but move on to the unread books beyond them, the ones they drew on, the ones they influenced, the ones they scorned and wrote against.


  • The Satirical Political Report - An Offbeat Look at the Hot-Button Issues of the Day » A Theory to ‘Explain’ Michele Bachmann

    Be sure to follow the link to TPM

  • ActBlue — Elwyn Tinklenberg, MN-06

    If you find the previous story of Michele Bachmann distrubing you can do something about it, support her opponent. It is apparently a close race so any money you can spare could rid our country of one more right-wing nutjob.

  • Fallacy Abuse



The problem for mental materialists is will. When I raise my hand, or even simply have the thought, "I have a soul," what is the first act in this event? Modern psychologists like Bloom say it's corporeal, such as a synapse firing in my brain that leads to a thought or the movement of my hand. However, this necessarily leads to determinism. It is assigning all activity's origins to a disaffected group of cells. Of course physical processes are part of all mental acts, but are they the agent of CAUSE? If not, what is?

I was thinking about this recently so it's nice to see this topic come up. I don't claim to understand an existence, but I also think there is no soul. I attribute the concept of the soul to our species will to survive.

I do not believe that mental acts alone are the cause of actions. I think that we need to be thought of in smaller bits. Everyone and everything is made up of atoms. While I have not completely thought out my logic on this, I think that the interaction of "our" atoms with every atom they come into contact is the cause for what we do.

That is to say, I am who I am because during my life time the atoms that make up me have interacted with atoms in the environment. If I were to interact with different atoms I expect I would not be me.

I don't know if that makes any sense at all, but it was something I had been thinking about. If anyone knows of any reading that might talk about this, I would be interested in knowing about it.

Of course there is no soul. It's ancient mysticism directly alongside belief in gods. I thought we around here were already fully on board with this.

Some dualists wouldn't call it a "soul", but a "mind." It's perfectly possible to be an atheist, as well as reject any notion of afterlife, and disagree w/ Bloom.

Yeah, but your basis for disagreement (dualism) has never had any real support, whereas materialism is perfectly feasible, maybe even likely, and in full accordance with physical laws.

Our actions can just be the result of interacting particles. Determinism as proposed by most philosophers is not what comes out of it. While the particles obey laws, NOBODY, not even G-O-D, can predict what will happen next for two reasons. One, any calculation of more than two particles gets geometrically (hope that's the right term) more complex, and two, there is this thing called the Uncertainty Principle.

(My reply was for kwoog above, somehow it didn't go into the thread.)

How is the mind different from the physical brain?

The mind is the thought, "I enjoy this sunset" or "I hate my father for beating my mother." The brain is a group of physical cells performing physical actions and chemical reactions that allow those thoughts to exist. Again, these things are not different, if you give up your will and embrace determinism. Ie, every act you've ever done was in a certain sense physically inevitable. But if you think you have will and some control over the mind (perhaps not total control), then the mind and the physical brain are quite, quite different. This is my response to Andyo, that on the contrary, there is only ludicrous "support" that all mental life STARTS with a physical, necessary, unmotivated operation of cells. On the other hand, I can think of no more obvious suggestion (to the point that it needs no support) that right now, at this moment, I can either remain seated, or I can stand up. And whether I do so or not is as yet undetermined... and will be resolved by my will. Not a not a cell crossing a synapse.

Ah, Andyo is correct in his second paragraph. Determinism isn't the only possible consequence of materialists... there is also complete and total randomness/uncertainty. I.e, we have no control over our acts at all AND they have no inherent structure to them whatsoever. This seems much less tenable than determinism, to say the least.

So, what part of our group of atoms creates the Observer of Quantum Physics?

I don't like any definition of the 'soul' I've seen, but consider the evolutionary benefit such a device would engender.

There have been some odd observations made. A kid born in India describing the members of his family, in Iowa. Brothers and sister accurately described. His doubting parents fly with him to Iowa to find that family lost a boy the year before the subject was born.

Many unexplainable events like this exist, and things like telepathy could explain it as well.

Back on the Quantum Physics tip and determinism: if the Observer is Us, and we tend to influence the final direction of an observed electron, then isn't our desire altering the universe in a nearly god-like way?

Is that not the definition of praying? Could the Observer not be the 'soul'?

It is a rabbit hole to be sure.

... if the Observer is Us, and we tend to influence the final direction of an observed electron, then isn't our desire altering the universe in a nearly god-like way?

What does our "desire" have to do with our "influence". Before an observation - say, of the direction of spin of an electron - we can express as much "desire" as we want, but we'll still exert no influence on the observation. The probabilities that we record for a large number of such observations will be in accord with the predictions of quantum mechanical equations. Where are our god-like qualities in all of this?

Many unexplainable events like this exist, and things like telepathy could explain it as well.

Where is that article about the frequency of miraculous coincidence?

Do you know how many boys are born in India, how many families in Iowa lose a child in a given year?

The chances that such an event could be embellished to make it seem even more inaccurate?

Odds of it being produced by an unmeasurable, unrepeatable magic seems very low, somewhere around 0%.

When I raise my hand, or even simply have the thought, "I have a soul," what is the first act in this event?

What is the first act when a plant leaf turns towards the sun or a jelly fish pushes out a jet of water to move itself forward?

A good question. I think it's obvious that for the plant it is purely a physical process, as it is biologically necessary that the plant would go towards the sun.

An animal that seems to be able to exert choice, yet is much less cognizant, presents a harder question. I admit I don't know the answer. Again, I am not advocating a disembodied, spirit identity that is our "true" selves, and is breathed into our physical forms by God, the Father. I am simply stating my views about materialism and its logical consequences (determinism). And I am rejecting this logical consequence. I think it is possible that despite being able to identify the physical activities of the brain and its cellular level processes, we have not scratched the surface of how consciousness really works.

Christ- Piss!


Wills within wills, it (p)raises more quests than ants.

"I (p)raise my hand"

To be called on, I'm no king of the(p)hilosophers, I fret about lutes, but I think "the Will" is akin to the expression of an equation in Descartes-fly-on=the-wall-geometry, an analogy, however crude, quantum theory will give way to "qualum" theory, Democrisy (a-toms, a-bombs) to Pytho-forensics, an equation to an, an equalion etc. The connections to shapes, sounds, etc. are NOT what you think, a forking dualism may be, something to do with Euclid's fifth postulate, the one about parallel lines never meeting, ...meeting "at infinity". (According to the sages Hua Yen and Ho Pi) Infinity is closer than you think. The language of those who would toss babies around from spear point to spear point is not yet enough evolved (an ad homonym, granted, well...),

"What is the first act"

In a circle, torus, of nested homunculi? An image out of that loopy Hofstadter book an image of a circle-jer... lap-sit:

Geodesy. One good prime mover? One... is the intersection of many which are the intersections of many more, which are.. crucify me, Dionysus!

"Many unexplainable events" have been explained and then some, by science, which all religion, magic etc. alchemy to chemistry, nuclear physics, e.g., evolves into.

"a religious man who believed our thoughts survived the death of our brains"

The brain/thoughts "survives" in the space time, THE place and time of its place and time, redundantly obvious, a time machine could go back and "see" it alive there in all its aliveness, NOT elsewhere, unless, but for, parallel (Euclid...) alternate multiverses...

The sages often meditate on the big bang-let of Now/here out of Nowhere.

Black, blank, la Brea. Fourier's mutually cancelling sinewavicles.

"unrepeatable magi". Magi. How I love the Tar, on which one plays not merely the philosopher's tone, but the golden ratio itself, which, if the sea, the C, be blue, if the the C be blue, IS golden, the ratio is golden (in C key, it falls between A and Ab). Is it magi-c? Or Whitehead-in-the-clouds eternal objectivity?

Pythagoras is to _____ as Archimedes is to Newton/Leibniz?

O magnam mysterium! In other words,

Your in golden urine.

I used to quit reading Stravinsky in disgust because of his attacks on "materialism", but there is something Potemkin bourgeois (since the economic cusp, Potemkin villainous,) about the atomic materialism. It sets up a false choice, do you believe in the front of things, or do they have a back too? Turn 'em around and the "back" is in the front. Stravinsky was a religioso nut, but.. tips of icebergs exist, yes, but so does the other part, I take it for granted that "materialists" see it. No more. There is a serious lack, an optical illusion is mistaken for absolute "the way it is". Much worry-wartism results. Oh, sigh, things are not as you would have it, you don't know enough. Pythagoras showed that everything is made not of water, much less air, fire, Platonic solids, etc., but out of "numbers" which I suppose you interpret as "anaesthetics" (they make you numb). Wrong!

Were "there" a material, a "substance", one must have, be all about "substance" (!), it would have been the "luminiferous aether". Robert Laughlin laughably still entertains this idea, ironically, his.... "idealism". Think of Fourier's sine waves adding up to ....pulse waves, pusicles, ... holicles? These are the nonanaesthetic, the "aesthetic" numbers of the Pythagorean mysteries. Galileo and his Dad are famous for reviving the "faith". And also, stupidly, dismissing Universal gravitation as mystical nonsense. Embrace the mystery! You see the shadows, believe they are not MERELY shadows. Or create a bogus "controversy". Darwin's next species, phylum, is waiting in the wings, in the person of, well,!


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