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What will skeptics accept as "evidence"?

Discuss PseudoSkeptics and their Fallacies. Share strategies for debating them.

Re: What will skeptics accept as "evidence"?

Postby Arouet » 19 Nov 2010, 06:21

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Re: What will skeptics accept as "evidence"?

Postby derrida » 19 Nov 2010, 10:06

yep.. then again
is skeptics the ones that cant handle the truth
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Re: What will skeptics accept as "evidence"?

Postby Arouet » 19 Nov 2010, 10:39

I'm beginning to wonder if Scepcop even knows about any parapsychological studies. I'm pretty sure I've seen him mention Ganzfeld studies in other threads, but maybe, despite this being a "scientific" committee to evaluate pseudo-skeptical criticism of the paranormal, he's not terribly familiar with the scientific literature that actually is trying to prove the existence of the paranormal. He can't seem to come up with any study he finds convincing, let alone say why he finds it convincing.
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Re: What will skeptics accept as "evidence"?

Postby ProfWag » 20 Nov 2010, 04:42

Arouet wrote:I'm beginning to wonder if Scepcop even knows about any parapsychological studies. I'm pretty sure I've seen him mention Ganzfeld studies in other threads, but maybe, despite this being a "scientific" committee to evaluate pseudo-skeptical criticism of the paranormal, he's not terribly familiar with the scientific literature that actually is trying to prove the existence of the paranormal. He can't seem to come up with any study he finds convincing, let alone say why he finds it convincing.

I've been on here for 15 months with over 2200 posts so I think I may be qualified to form an opinion on this forum. Let's look at the name vertically:
SCIENTIFIC-- No. There has been nothing remotely close to science on this board. Some good opinions, but unfortunately, the administrator doesn't appear to understand replication or generally accepted scientific principles.
COMMITTEE-- There are some names on the home page that is called the committee, but unfortunately, none of them ever post.
EVALUATE-- Okay, this is done a bit, but only to negatively evaluate skeptics. Believers are free to post whatever the hell they want.
PSEUDOSKEPTICAL-- Pretty much a made up word. Mr. Wu has his opinion on what a pseudo-skeptic is, but most of what I have seen presented from skeptics are usually valid arguments and nothing "pseudo" about them.
CRITICISM--Oh yea, lots of that going on, especially towards James Randi and other skeptics.
PARANORMAL-- All one has to do is look. There are 22 different topics in this forum. The Administrator has 25% of his posts under 9/11 Conspiracies. Nothing paranormal about conspiracy theories, is there? As such, in this poster's eyes anyway, the administrator is more concerned with posting youtube videos about 9/11 than seriously discussing the paranormal.
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Re: What will skeptics accept as "evidence"?

Postby Arouet » 20 Nov 2010, 05:01

ProfWag wrote:Nothing paranormal about conspiracy theories, is there? As such, in this poster's eyes anyway, the administrator is more concerned with posting youtube videos about 9/11 than seriously discussing the paranormal.


Well, since the lizard people are behind the consipiracies, I would think it would fit under paranormal. Right?
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Re: What will skeptics accept as "evidence"?

Postby ProfWag » 20 Nov 2010, 18:30

Arouet wrote:Well, since the lizard people are behind the consipiracies, I would think it would fit under paranormal. Right?

I'm pretty confident my ex-wife was a lizard considering how cold-blooded she was.
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Re: What will skeptics accept as "evidence"?

Postby Jackal » 21 Nov 2010, 23:56

ProfWag wrote:I've been on here for 15 months with over 2200 posts so I think I may be qualified to form an opinion on this forum. Let's look at the name vertically:
SCIENTIFIC-- No. There has been nothing remotely close to science on this board. Some good opinions, but unfortunately, the administrator doesn't appear to understand replication or generally accepted scientific principles.
COMMITTEE-- There are some names on the home page that is called the committee, but unfortunately, none of them ever post.
EVALUATE-- Okay, this is done a bit, but only to negatively evaluate skeptics. Believers are free to post whatever the hell they want.
PSEUDOSKEPTICAL-- Pretty much a made up word. Mr. Wu has his opinion on what a pseudo-skeptic is, but most of what I have seen presented from skeptics are usually valid arguments and nothing "pseudo" about them.
CRITICISM--Oh yea, lots of that going on, especially towards James Randi and other skeptics.
PARANORMAL-- All one has to do is look. There are 22 different topics in this forum. The Administrator has 25% of his posts under 9/11 Conspiracies. Nothing paranormal about conspiracy theories, is there? As such, in this poster's eyes anyway, the administrator is more concerned with posting youtube videos about 9/11 than seriously discussing the paranormal.

It's true that it Scepcop may have chosen a name for the forum which is too pompous-sounding and which incorrectly describes this forum. I agree that if Scepcop wants to invoke the name "science," then he needs to live up to it.

Scepcop is a friend of mine, but I don't think that he knows too much about science. Perhaps this site should be called "opinions about the paranormal" or "discussions about the paranormal" instead.

Arouet wrote:You don't need to trust the person making the argument. You don't need to pay any attention to the person at all. Just focus on the argument itself, which should stand and fall on its own merits. When we focus on the person we tend to lose our objectivity. I haven't been arguing with Scepcop, for example, because I just don't like him - I don't know him. I'll agree with him if I agree with him, and will disagree with him if I disagree. I look at his arguments as they are presented, and respond correspondingly.

Most accounts of the paranormal do involve at least one subjective element, so most of it relies basically on eye-witness testimony. Yes, eye-witness testimony is often unreliable, but it would be incorrect to say that all witness testimony is garbage. And in the case of witness testimony, trusting the person is the key thing.

If a healthy, experienced Air Force pilot says that he saw a UFO, then that has more credibility than if someone unfamiliar with aircraft and aerial phenomena says that they saw a UFO. Here there isn't any complicated argument to make: a person just says that saw something. All you can do is try to find out whether the witness is credible and try to rule out other explanations.

Arouet wrote:A skeptic should strive to be non-biased, and should be called out if not. A skeptical critique should try and look at the evidence objectively - but that means, yes, dismissing any argument based on faith.

However, skeptics believe things based on faith all the time. For example, if I told you that I ate a fish taco yesterday, you would probably believe me without demanding to see any evidence, such as a videotape of me eating the fish taco next to a copy of that day's newspaper. But you would be wrong to believe me because I live in a country where fish tacos are not available.

Arouet wrote:The thing is, skeptics are quite comfortable with not knowing.

But this "not knowing" is not "not knowing" or being without an opinion or bias. This "not knowing" is basically sticking to a western materialistic worldview and seeing anything which violates this paradigm as "BS." So a skeptic's supposed reservation of judgement is not really so passive at all, but is actually an active defense.

ProfWag wrote:So, to sum up your statement "PseudoSkeptics are always saying, 'There's no evidence for any paranormal or psychic phenomena' no matter how much evidence is shown to them." is NOT what we say. Skeptics say there is no PROOF for any paranormal or psychic phenomena, not that there is no EVIDENCE.

But most skeptics are so dismissive of any evidence for the paranormal that they don't even consider it as something which even deserves the label "evidence." I'm not saying that this attitude is held by those skeptics on this board, but certainly many skeptics elsewhere have this attitude.

Arouet wrote:The big problem with parapsychology is that you have a very small community and tiny body of work.

In the scientific community, yes, that's true. But practioners and meditation masters from different religions have written much about their experiences and observations of the paranormal. Scientists have very little experience with the paranormal by comparison, so I trust people who dedicated their lives to studying the mind through meditation much more.
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Re: What will skeptics accept as "evidence"?

Postby Craig Browning » 22 Nov 2010, 05:46

In the scientific community, yes, that's true. But practitioners and meditation masters from different religions have written much about their experiences and observations of the paranormal. Scientists have very little experience with the paranormal by comparison, so I trust people who dedicated their lives to studying the mind through meditation much more.

I wanted to single this out because it has a great deal of truth built into it, more than is apparent at first glance.

Firstly, I feel that it near impossible for those of the "approved of" scientific mind-set to "properly" research, study, etc. most any aspect of the paranormal but in particular, the spiritually oriented side of such things with an honestly "objective" point of view. By their very nature this sort seems to already have their mind made up on many such things and too, the lack the "connection" to such things that has been proven the backbone behind them... what gives them validity.

In absolutely hundreds of parables and even historic records, we know that "not everyone is qualified to see and experience such things. . ." Not everyone, for an example, obtains that mystical level of "enlightenment" known as "Buddha" or "the Christ" or even "Saint". While there are many deluded souls that think they are "psychic" because they learned how to do Numerology or read the Cards, the greater truth is, very few people actually move beyond the "carnal" levels of awareness-based practice and fewer yet, obtain genuine pneumatic (Mastery) levels in such skill.

I know that "scientists" for the most part, have honest reasons for clinging to the views they have a propensity to hold to. I am likewise aware of the fact that there are "scientists" within the framework of parapsychology and related research arenas who are just as guilty for "protecting" and "proving" psi and doing so with a similar mind-set prejudice. But there is one other factor that few in this debate ever weigh; the fact that some folks are born with a penchant towards the logical, tactile and mechanical and others with a propensity for things more etheric, surreal and fantastic. Not only is this a proven fact within nature but we can go so far as to solicit science's own discoveries when it comes to physiology and body chemistry within this and that individual and how it leads one type of person to be an emphatic believer and another to be a staunch cynic.

Where's the valid answer?

Hard to say... I still believe that those standing on either side of the issue will, in time, come into the center and thus, discover mutual agreement based on known "truths" set within both camps. But hey, that's just a high-minded idea that's been around for about 5,000 years or so... :lol:
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Re: What will skeptics accept as "evidence"?

Postby Arouet » 22 Nov 2010, 08:27

Jackal wrote: Most accounts of the paranormal do involve at least one subjective element, so most of it relies basically on eye-witness testimony. Yes, eye-witness testimony is often unreliable, but it would be incorrect to say that all witness testimony is garbage. And in the case of witness testimony, trusting the person is the key thing.


Well, yes and no. Eye-witness testimony is not necessarily garbage. But it is generally weak evidence. It must be treated exceptionally cautiously. The way I view it is that it can be a launching point for further investigation, but rarely should it be the entire body of evidence.

As for trust - it's not about that. We're ALL terrible eye-witnesses, or at least the vast majority of us. There's a book that came out recently about it, from the scientific point of view. I can try and dig it up if you're interested.

If a healthy, experienced Air Force pilot says that he saw a UFO, then that has more credibility than if someone unfamiliar with aircraft and aerial phenomena says that they saw a UFO. Here there isn't any complicated argument to make: a person just says that saw something. All you can do is try to find out whether the witness is credible and try to rule out other explanations.


It's not about whether the person is being truthful -frankly, most of the time these people are being truthful. The question is not whether they saw something, but what they saw. And the argument is not: I can't figure out what it is so it must be alien, for example - that's called the argument from ignorance. We need more than the eyewitness account. There are millions of people who would swear that Sai Baba walked through the air, or materialises jewels. In Baba's case we can test him. With UFO's its a lot harder.

However, skeptics believe things based on faith all the time. For example, if I told you that I ate a fish taco yesterday, you would probably believe me without demanding to see any evidence, such as a videotape of me eating the fish taco next to a copy of that day's newspaper. But you would be wrong to believe me because I live in a country where fish tacos are not available.


That's not faith, its pragmatism. My reply more accurately would be: i have no reason to disbelieve you. Life would be too exhausting if we demanded reliable evidence for absolutely everything. So there is a low threshold for what you ate for dinner, because it has high prior plausibility and generally there is no reason to lie about it. That's not the case if you said that you just levitated in your living room.

But this "not knowing" is not "not knowing" or being without an opinion or bias. This "not knowing" is basically sticking to a western materialistic worldview and seeing anything which violates this paradigm as "BS." So a skeptic's supposed reservation of judgement is not really so passive at all, but is actually an active defense.


Well, you may call this biased, but I don't see it that way. First of all, I don't even know what "matarialism" means. Very few people, outside of a philosophy class, do. It's a philosophical term that the vast majority of people have not given much thought. I think of things more simply: if something is possible, then there is an explanation for it. It "fits" so to speak. We have a certain understanding of how the world works. This view is constantly evolving. I have no problem believing in psi, or ghosts, or whatever, but the evidence must be there. And it must "fit" somehow, even if we don't currently understand the mechanism. i also know that human beings (all of us) are easily misled or deluded, and we often misinterpret things. I also know that we have certain natural biases such as seeing patterns where there are none, etc

But most skeptics are so dismissive of any evidence for the paranormal that they don't even consider it as something which even deserves the label "evidence." I'm not saying that this attitude is held by those skeptics on this board, but certainly many skeptics elsewhere have this attitude.


I agree that there are people who have this attitude, but there are also plenty of skeptics who delve into these things. Just like there are proponents such as Craig who study deeply, and others who watch Silvia Brown and are amazed at her powers. These generalizing arguments are distractions. Especially on internet forums - let's just focus on the arguments in front of us!

In the scientific community, yes, that's true. But practioners and meditation masters from different religions have written much about their experiences and observations of the paranormal. Scientists have very little experience with the paranormal by comparison, so I trust people who dedicated their lives to studying the mind through meditation much more.


I'm not sure how true this is. There has been considerable study of the effects of meditation. Scientists know quite well just how amazing the human brain is and that it is capable of extroadinary experiences. The only difference is how we interpret those experiences. But the more science learns, the less mystical these things become. They are no less awesome just because they are brain based. That's what I don't get - people somehow think an experience is less amazing if it is brain based rather than as the result of some supernatural force. I'm not sure why!
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Re: What will skeptics accept as "evidence"?

Postby Twain Shakespeare » 22 Nov 2010, 16:11

Arouet, I loved that last post. If you ever compliment my reasoning, or even just my prose, I will treasure it.

You said, "the evidence must be there. And it must "fit" somehow, even if we don't currently understand the mechanism."
My problem, and the main difference I have perceived between us, is that you are immensely more pragmatic about what is a fit, whereas I find the best models I can make are often about as useful as a map of coal and oil fields would be in a weather report.

This next thought was provoked by Craig's last comment on "the lack of connection to the spiritual" or "carnal focus" (I paraphrase) of some people. I have spoken before of the Hindu and Chinese view that different forms of spirituality are appropriate to different people, or to one person over the course of life. On a more fundamental level...

I may have read this in Mailer or Burroughs or Ginsberg or some other equally discreditable source, but I have read that Bayer tested heroin extensively in house, and found it completely safe and non-addictive.
Extensive studies since then have shown that a particular personality type, the highly focused analytical types, are immune to the lure of Horse.
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Re: What will skeptics accept as "evidence"?

Postby Twain Shakespeare » 22 Nov 2010, 16:49

By the way, on the subject of what evidence would it take to convince a skeptic, I accept the "paranormal" already, because I have had inexplicable experiences, so I am not a "skeptic" in the Psicop sense, but ...
the fundamental reason for my skepticism was being told by idiots that what I thought was incorrect, and what I experienced didn't happen.
My skepticism has surpassed Hume's. My null hypothesis is that we are chimpanzees deluded by languages so false to the senses that we lie as easily as we believe (Hell of a Freudian typo there. I had thought I was writng "breathe"!)
What would convince me this null is wrong?
Anecdotal evidence would not suffice to change that null, since anecdotal evidence is the strongest evidence for its truth. You all know the kinds of things people believe, and how we come to our beliefs and defend them.
The only thing I can think of off hand I would regard as "scientific evidence" against that null would be something so clear I would also have to regard as indisputably demonstrated fact.
The only hypothetical example I can describe would be if humans successfully communicated intelligently with a non-human mentality, and then continued the discourse. In quantum mechanical terms, I won't believe this humanity is self-aware until I know experientially it has seen itself through other eyes, and been so observed.
There may be other ways I could be convinced. I did once delude myself into believing a diva was YHWH.
As I said, I accept the paranormal already, because I have had inexplicable experiences, so I am not a skeptic in the Psicop sense.
I am already convinced, experientially, that information is awareness, and it is "real". This fits with my experience of human consciousness as I perceive it from other angles no better than a photon can be a wave, but I suppose all is relative in a quantum universe.
"What's so Funny about Peace, Love, and Understanding?"
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Re: What will skeptics accept as "evidence"?

Postby ProfWag » 22 Nov 2010, 20:27

Great discussion! Glad to see there can still be mature debate and information sharing without name calling and pointing fingers.
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Re: What will skeptics accept as "evidence"?

Postby Jackal » 23 Nov 2010, 03:26

Arouet wrote:It's not about whether the person is being truthful -frankly, most of the time these people are being truthful. The question is not whether they saw something, but what they saw. And the argument is not: I can't figure out what it is so it must be alien, for example - that's called the argument from ignorance. We need more than the eyewitness account.

Maybe it would be ignorant to say in these situations that it is 100% likely that the observed object was a UFO, but when most ordinary explanations are ruled out (the pilot being on drugs, weather phenomena, secret military aircraft, etc.) and it appears like the craft was maneuvering in ways which are currently impossible for human-built space crafts, then I don't think it's ignorant to say that it might very well have been a UFO.

Arouet wrote:Well, you may call this biased, but I don't see it that way. First of all, I don't even know what "matarialism" means.

Because it's so ever-present that no one even bothers to question it. The main thing is that "materialism" is the belief that physical objects and particles are the most important things and that the mind is just a secondary thing which was created by the physical (in contrast to Buddhist philosophy which states that the mind can exist independently of the body and that the mind is the most important thing).

Arouet wrote:I'm not sure how true this is. There has been considerable study of the effects of meditation. Scientists know quite well just how amazing the human brain is and that it is capable of extroadinary experiences. The only difference is how we interpret those experiences. But the more science learns, the less mystical these things become. They are no less awesome just because they are brain based. That's what I don't get - people somehow think an experience is less amazing if it is brain based rather than as the result of some supernatural force. I'm not sure why!

No. Scientists have only recently scratched the surface of what the human mind is capable of.

There are many secret types of meditations which scientists have never studied and are not even aware of.

Scientists don't have any adequate theories for consciousness. They theorize that the brain creates all mental events, but this is more like a religious belief. It's true that neurological events precede some thoughts or perceptions, but it's quite a leap to say that every mental experience is preceded by a neurological event. That's just faith at the moment.

Scientists can't even accurately model an entire cockroach brain and you are listening to their theories about consciousness? Scientists are very clever, but they are just amateurs in this area.

The brain is an amazing physical object, but people should also be open to the idea that the mind has still more amazing non-physical aspects.
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Re: What will skeptics accept as "evidence"?

Postby Arouet » 23 Nov 2010, 05:38

Jackal wrote:
Maybe it would be ignorant to say in these situations that it is 100% likely that the observed object was a UFO, but when most ordinary explanations are ruled out (the pilot being on drugs, weather phenomena, secret military aircraft, etc.) and it appears like the craft was maneuvering in ways which are currently impossible for human-built space crafts, then I don't think it's ignorant to say that it might very well have been a UFO.


I wasn't saying it was "ignorant", but that it was using the "argument from ignorance" which is a type of logical fallacy. You can look it up on wiki.

There's nothing wrong with saying it might be an alien space craft, but we should be very cautious in assigning a high degree of probability to that, especially when the only evidence is: we can't figure out what that is.

Arouet wrote:Well, you may call this biased, but I don't see it that way. First of all, I don't even know what "matarialism" means.

Because it's so ever-present that no one even bothers to question it. The main thing is that "materialism" is the belief that physical objects and particles are the most important things and that the mind is just a secondary thing which was created by the physical (in contrast to Buddhist philosophy which states that the mind can exist independently of the body and that the mind is the most important thing). [/quote]

I don't think that's the definition of materialism. But I'm not sure what you mean by "important": I consider my mind to be very important, no matter what its made of. I do believe that my mind is most likely a product of my brain and body, rather than some external thing. I'm open to evidence that its not. To date, I haven't come across evidence that I would consider to be convincing. Not all buddhists believe that the mind can exist separately from the body.

No. Scientists have only recently scratched the surface of what the human mind is capable of.

There are many secret types of meditations which scientists have never studied and are not even aware of.


Ok, so we should study them!

Scientists don't have any adequate theories for consciousness. They theorize that the brain creates all mental events, but this is more like a religious belief. It's true that neurological events precede some thoughts or perceptions, but it's quite a leap to say that every mental experience is preceded by a neurological event. That's just faith at the moment.


It's not like religious belief. And while scientists have not quite figured out consciousness, they are making steady progress. There is a lot of work being done in this area. What we have is an extraordinarily complex organ which is linked to most body functions. We understand quite a bit about the brain and how it works. We know that consciousness develops with the brain. Beings with less developed brains have less developed consciousness. Our closest relatives, the higher primates, have greater consciousnesses. We can see consciousness emerge in young children. My two year old daughter, the other week, for example, identified herself for the first time as "I". It's actually quite facinating to see consciousness develop in kids. We see the emergent concsiousness grow as the brain grows. We know if we damage the brain we can fundamentally alter a person's personality, or memories, etc. I'm no scientists and can only give a poor explanation of all of this. But there is plenty of evidence suggestive that consciousness is an emergent property of the brain. There is some evidence that its not. But IMO, this evidence is weaker. I'm open to be convinced, but the science has to get stronger.

As for the scientists, I'm patient. Studies continue, knowledge advances.

Scientists can't even accurately model an entire cockroach brain and you are listening to their theories about consciousness? Scientists are very clever, but they are just amateurs in this area.


LOL at "can't even". The stuff they are doing is amazing! It is not a slight against the scientific method that every conceivable question has not been solved or that we haven't created fully conscious artificial intelligent in 2010. The progress has been stunning of the last century or two. The brain is incredibly complex. Here, take a look at this (which I currently have as my screensaver (looks great on tile)

Image

It's from this article: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 734808%2C0 those are just mouse neurons and synapses!

The brain is an amazing physical object, but people should also be open to the idea that the mind has still more amazing non-physical aspects.


I'm open to it. Just bring on the evidence!
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Re: What will skeptics accept as "evidence"?

Postby Jackal » 23 Nov 2010, 22:41

Arouet wrote:I don't think that's the definition of materialism.

"In philosophy, the theory of materialism holds that the only thing that exists is matter; that all things are composed of material and all phenomena (including consciousness) are the result of material interactions. In other words, matter is the only substance."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Materialism

Arouet wrote:Not all buddhists believe that the mind can exist separately from the body.

No one who is a real Buddhist doesn't believe this. Buddhism is based on the Four Noble Truths. Karma and rebirth are a main feature of the Four Noble Truths. Rebirth implies that the mind can exist independently from the body. People who just go to meditation classes, but leave all their western assumptions unchanged are not real Buddhists.

Some Christians also start wars, and that is not very Christian.

Arouet wrote:We know that consciousness develops with the brain.

In order to make that statement meaningful, you need to first have a good definition of consciousness and this is always a slippery thing to try and do. Perhaps on an internet forum, this definition doesn't matter so much because we generally know what we mean, but for scientists who are trying to understand it, the definition itself in an important question.

Some NDE experiences when the brain and heart are no longer functioning provide evidence that the mind can function without the brain.

Arouet wrote:We know that consciousness develops with the brain. Beings with less developed brains have less developed consciousness. Our closest relatives, the higher primates, have greater consciousnesses.

That's still relying on the assumption that the brain creates the mind. Buddhists would say that the mind is attracted to the embryo of an appropriate type of being. Which being is "appropriate" depends on the state of the mind.

Arouet wrote:My two year old daughter, the other week, for example, identified herself for the first time as "I".

In the west, we celebrate this narrow, self-centered ego-awareness. In Buddhism, it's the root of ignorance and blinds us from the most vast, unlimited aspects of our minds.

Arouet wrote:
Jackal wrote:Scientists can't even accurately model an entire cockroach brain and you are listening to their theories about consciousness? Scientists are very clever, but they are just amateurs in this area.


LOL at "can't even". The stuff they are doing is amazing! It is not a slight against the scientific method that every conceivable question has not been solved or that we haven't created fully conscious artificial intelligent in 2010.

Yes, scientists have learned many amazing things, and I'm not putting down what they've already discovered, but you have to walk before you can run.

If they don't even have a complete understanding of an insect's brain, then they aren't yet ready to speculate about physical causes of consciousness. They just have guesses which fit their current assumptions.
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