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Mar. 18 2010 - 8:46 pm | 49,334 views | 2 recommendations | 63 comments

Does the moon exist if there are no sentient beings to look at it?

In my last True/Slant post I explained why it is that quantum effects do not apply to the macro world because of the size difference between sub-atomic particles and (say) chemical reactions inside the neurons in your head, concluding:

During the debate Deepak claimed that the moon is nothing more than a soup of teaming quantum uncertainty. No. Subatomic particles may be altered when they are observed, but the moon is there even if no one looks at it.

Deepak wrote a thoughtful response to this blog (on his Blackberry while running on a treadmill with his agile thumbs no less!):

When you see an object, the moon being the example you chose, your eyes are not really “seeing” the moon. Your eyes are responding to photons that follow all the rules of wave-particle duality. The electro-chemical reaction in your rods and cones sends an electrical current to your brain, an action potential that goes to your occipital cortex where it is registered as a particular intensity and pattern of electrical firings in your synaptic networks. No image entered your eyes, no image enters your neural networks. Yet you see the moon in your consciousness. There was no moon till it was an experience in your consciousness. Your brain is not registering pictures of the moon. It is sensing a digital on-off code of photons or waves of electricity (same thing) The collapse of wave function that creates the moon is in your consciousness (that has no location because its non local) The moon exists in consciousness—no consciousness, no moon—just a sluggishly expanding wave function in a superposition of possibilities. All happens within consciousness and nowhere else. In fact, the sluggishly expanding possibility wave function is also within consciousness. The same principle applies to any macro object including your own body. That’s why I said on Larry King that you are not in your body, the body is in you. You are not in the world, the world is in you. You are not in your mind (thoughts are possibility waves till experienced in consciousness) the mind is in you. This “you” of course is not a person. It is what Stuart Hameroff (whom you quoted in your blog as generating heat but not light—alas they are the same thing—light and heat:)) says  in an upcoming interview: “I think  a fundamental field of protoconscious experience has been embedded all along—since the big bang—in the (quantum realm) and that biology evolved and adapted in order to access it and maximize the qualities and potentials implicit within it—this could be the basic fabric of the universe.” Take care.

Shermer:

I agree with nearly everything you say here, except that the moon would exist even if there were no humans to observe it. If all life on earth were instantly eradicated by a rogue asteroid, the moon would continue on its merry way about what would be left of the shattered earth. In fact, even if there were no life anywhere in the cosmos, all those galaxies of stars would still be there. Do you disagree with that position? That reality exists separate from us observers? Otherwise, wouldn’t that just be solipsism?

Deepak:

I disagree. Let’s take a simpler example. Let’s say your looking at a rose, a beautiful red one. What does it look like to a honey bee? The honey bee has no receptors for the usual wave lengths of light that you and I sense. It responds to ultraviolet so I don’t know what the experience of a rose to a honey bee but it has some experience, it is drawn to the flower and in fact makes honey out of it. What about a bat who can perhaps sense it as the echo of ultrasound. I don’t know what that experience is like either because I’m not a bat. What about a chameleon whose eyeballs swivel on 2 different axes? I can’t even remotely imagine what that object looks like to a chameleon. There are innumerable species who because of the nature of their sensory apparatus have a different experience of that rose. The senses do not see a rose. They register electricity! The neurons do not see a rose, they sense ionic shifts. What is the real look of the rose? There is no such thing! It depends on whose looking and also the instruments of observation—in this case the instrument of observation is the nervous system. (Of course that’s where you and I differ because you say you are your nervous system and I say you are the user of your nervous system.) Who is looking? A non-material observer. What is it looking at? It is looking at possibility waves that collapse as space time events in its own consciousness. That non-local observer is a single observer in all these different observations. Schroedinger: “Consciousness is a singular that has no plural.” You are the eyes of the universe looking at itself as a rose or the moon! Rumi: “Let the waters settle and you will see stars and the moon mirrored in your own being.” Every sentient biological entity is a singular consciousness looking at itself as a particular object. The observer and observed are the same being. The history of the cosmos is a history that is conceived in a particular way as if we were there or other biological organisms were there to observe it. But just as you cannot have an electrical current without a +ve and -ve terminal in place, you can’t have an object unless there is consciousness and a collapse of wave function to create that experience. There is now also a field called “time symmetric quantum mechanics” that says that information from the future fills in the indeterminacies of the present.” In other words the universe evolves teleologically.

Okay, Deepak, I think I understand the core of our disagreement: you are placing epistemology over ontology—how we know reality over reality itself. I think this is a result of your metaphysics and the worldview with which you begin. Since I privilege ontology over epistemology—reality over how we know reality—my conclusions will inevitably be different from your own.

On Larry King you stated: “There are traditions that say the in-body experience is a socially induced collective hallucination. We do not exist in the body. The body exists in us. We do not exist in the world. The world exists in us.” I wrote in my True/Slant blog that I didn’t understand this. Now I think I do after reading you more carefully. For you, the first-person “I” perspective is primary. As in your example with the rose, without rods and cones to transduce the photons of light bouncing off the rose into neuronal action potentials that register in a visual cortex, there is no rose. Of course, I could just as easily argue that without the rose there would be no photons to transduce into action potentials to register on a visual cortex.

So…which is the right perspective: reality first or I/self first? Reality takes precedence over self. Why? Here is one answer. Look at this photograph of the 36-inch Crossley reflecting telescope at the Lick Observatory, which I visited the day before our Caltech debate. It was through this telescope that the mysterious spiral nebulae were first imaged well enough for astronomers to conclude that they represent “island universes” (galaxies) far away from our own galaxy, and are not developing solar systems within the Milky Way. But the “imaged” nebulae did not register on anyone’s retina (or visual cortex): it was imaged on a spectrographic plate—a machine, not a brain. And those photons would register in that machine even if every human on earth disappeared that night.


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  1. collapse expand

    This is a debate I’ve had at least 10 times in my life, only counting serious, in depth discussions. Every one was with a friend, so we could really get into it without too much risk of hurt feelings or it turning into (nothing but) a shouting match. Not a single one of those discussions/arguments left with a clear ‘winner’, that is, where either one of us felt the other had made a really convincing case.

    I’m convinced at this point that this particular argument will never cease to exist, at least not until humans fundamentally change in some way. The reason being that it is a ‘chicken and egg’ problem: Without reality, what is there to sense; without sense, what do we call reality? We must be sensing reality, because otherwise we (as a species) would never have survived this long; but that only means we have a ‘good enough’ proxy for reality, and only for those things that we are required to model for survival.

    While I (obviously) still find the debate intriguing, I personally find myself unable to really participate wholeheartedly in this kind of thing anymore because, as you noted, two people discussing this are really approaching the problem from two very different sets of assumptions.

    I’d make a prediction, based on my own previous experience, that even to your photographic plate example there is a ‘valid’ response, which will be something along the lines of “your brain is just interpreting the photographic plate now” or a hybrid of that plus the “quantum mechanics observer” (the source of so many discussions… would I could go back in time and erase that first use of “observer” and replace it with “measuring apparatus”.)

    Distilled, you can never resolve any argument about what people see when people, as a class, do not exist because you’ve wandered off into pure philosophy territory (apologies to the philosophers in the room). And that is what is being argued, because the definition of “what exists” was set as “what is observable” at some point prior to or as a basic assumption in the debate.

    It is a bit macabre, but I offered several of my friends the opportunity to test their theory by letting me throw a rock at them with both our eyes closed. I’ve yet to be taken up on my offer. As I already said, it didn’t ‘win’ the argument, but at least we could get back to our beers :)

  2. collapse expand

    We know, with absolute certainty, that the moon existed for billions of years before there were any humans- indeed, any life at all- to look at it. Kinda shoots a hole in Dr. Chopra’s argument. (These tree-falling-in-the-forest arguments work better if the tree remains hypothetical.)

    I have a great deal of respect, and no contempt at all, for mysticism- but that putting perception of reality over the fact of reality, is a fundamental error that many mystics make. I suppose that that’s because it offers the mystic the comforting and empowering illusion that an alteration of the mystic’s consiousness effects a real change in reality itself. That isn’t what I got out of my reading of Rumi- in fact, I got the opposite. Mystical practice is not meant to change the world, it is meant to change the mystic.

    • collapse expand

      In defense of Deepak, it is due more to the nature of how the mind experiences the world afresh, as it acquires deeper appreciation of reality, and not because “it offers the mystic the comforting and empowering illusion” that your “fundamental error” is made.

      In other words, Deepak is merely lacking the direct experience that will satisfactorily integrate the two seemingly contradictory experiences (reality and perception of reality) and so end up with a deeper and more satisfying understanding of reality.

      For I am willing to wager a lot that Deepak at an earlier time in his life, did believe that the Moon is an actual external object of independent existence?

      Now, although I am sure that so-called mysticism is meaningless ideology that isn’t worth the letters that make up the word, I do love your last sentence. lol

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  3. collapse expand

    Mr. Shermer,

    One of my favorite quotes on this topic is fromt he philosopher Bertrand Russell; “The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution”. This is the problem both you and Mr. Chopra face, each of has posed the question in a way does not allow for a solution. You have each framed the debate as if it were a geometry proof which might be begun with “first principles” and proven or disproven while sitting at desk.

    I will pose the question in a different fashion. Go outside and look at the moon (well it is a new moon at the moment so you cannot actually do it right now, but you can try it later). Look away and then look back. Did the moon vanish while you were looking away? Is it in any measurable way different? The answers are of course no. Is there any evidence collected by anybody to suggest that the moon changes or disappears when it is not observed? No. So why would we suppose that it does?

    I suppose the parry here is that it only appears not to change or vanish to all available sense and investigations. The riposte follows with but it “really” does vanish (or cease to exist or turn pink or whatever) but for all practical purposes it does not appear to vanish.

    For me the discussion ends here. How do we know what “really” happens if it can never be observed. More to the point what difference does it make? If in every possible practical way the moon acts as if it exists without our observations, then then it does. The existence of some “real” reality we can never know is both an untestable hypothesis and of no significance.

    Here is the real proof of the pudding. When ever Mr. Chopra gives a public speech, he is given a check (an honorarium) by the event organizers for some amount of money. Mr. Chopra never says “This check only exists when I see it. It is not really real. I don’t need to cash”. He cashes it every single time. Further, he hires accountants to balance his banking accounts to make sure all of his real money is where it properly belongs. When he stop cashing those checks because he does not believe that they are real, then we can discuss the moon. If honoraria are real, so is the moon.

  4. collapse expand

    I find Chopra’s view of the world rather narcissistic. It’s fine to debate, theoretically, about trees falling in woods with no one there to observe them, but that’s a simple philosophical game not a useful tool for understanding our universe.

    If there were a wave function to collapse there must be alternatives. Either the moon is there or…what? It’s an elephant? It’s not there? It’s square? If there were a wave function to collapse, there must be alternative outcomes with some predictable probability. Obstructed views and clouds aside we have a multitude of ways to observe the moon and it persists in its existence for all observers with the tools with which to observe it. And even if someone were unable to see the moon, they can experience the moons pull on the oceans, they could, theoretically, touch the moon. Photos taken in a multitude of ways from a multitude of angles all produce the same results.

    The universe does not require our consciousness to exist and one need only grasp the scope of the universe to realize how very rediculous this theory is. Unlike the application of these concepts in the quantum world, these theories do nothing to advance our understanding of the macro universe. It doesn’t help us predict outcomes, it doesn’t help us create new technology, it’s simply rhetorical games meant to advance untestable and unsubstantiated claims to supernatural and paranormal fluff.

    • collapse expand

      The world may exist independent of an individual consciousness; but there MUST BE consciousness to verify the actual and complete extent of the world? Otherwise, how knows the world for sure? lol

      This is the perspective that Deepak is trying to get at, but is struggling.
      And this kind of knowledge DOES advance our understanding of the macro world’!
      In fact, without this kind of knowledge of consciousness, the ‘macro world’ or micro world or whatever would never be completely and comprehensively known!

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  5. collapse expand

    I would suggest the moon does exist because it is composed of matter that has the property to reflect photons which may be detected by us and mechanical devices. How these photons are represented and interpreted by us, lizards, insects or mechanical devices may differ.

    Humans may not recognize a lizard or butterfly moon, nor does an infrared moon look exactly like the moon humans observe. But the moon must exist because it has deflected the normal path of photons back to the observer or detection instrument.

    In the metaphysical sense, one could assume there is more than one moon in orbit around the Earth. Single star solar systems are deemed to be rare in the observed universe so we could assume even our star is paired with another, we just have not detected these “unseen” objects yet, even with sophisticated instrumentation. So how does one prove it to exist?

    We believe certain matter does exist because we can observe and measure it or by how it affects detectable and measurable matter, not by how we perceive it.

  6. collapse expand

    Deepak, I still love you, guy; but you are so wrong about one of my favorite objects, the Magnificent Moon. lol

    I suggest that instead of going on TV to embarrass yourself further, you could get back to deepening the experience and knowledge you got from MMY. They do, in time, clear up any cloudy consciousness.

    Shermer when “Reality takes precedence (appears to) over self”, we call such a state Ignorance, of self. It is delusional to believe that self is not part and parcel of reality.
    Deepack is wrong because of an even simpler reason than you try to give. He clearly contradicts himself.

  7. collapse expand

    I’m in reality. That’s where me is happening. I don’t understand how it makes sense to talk about reality and me as though they’re two separate things.

    I would surely never see a bullet fired at my head from a gun; contra Deepak that would surely be no defense from the reality of it crashing through my skull! It has a reality perfectly manifest all on its own, regardless of its interactions with my senses.

    Vision is a pretty easy sense with which to play these games of quantum indeterminacy. I wonder why it is that people like Deepak, for whom quantum mechanics serves as pseudoscientific support for magic and mysticism, completely ignore the senses of touch, taste, and smell? Is it because it’s a lot harder to talk about the “collapsing wave state” of a punch in the face?

  8. collapse expand

    So great to read you! Beautifully done. Thank you!

  9. collapse expand

    It’s a beautiful argument you are having. So nice to see it again using the most up-to-date science!

    ;-) It also brings to mind my advertising copywriter days when I functioned within the understanding that: Perception Is Reality. The message I wrote about an object I was trying to sell would change with each targeted audience. But the object itself never changed. And whether my copy, or someone else’s copy (my senses, or someone else’s) brought it to the awareness of others made no difference. The object exists. It is itself no matter how or when or by whom it is portrayed or perceived. To take the position that something exists only as it is perceived is denying its existence as itself. If a person had no senses — could not see, or feel, or smell, or taste — the object would exist. If ten million people each perceived the object in a unique way, the object would exist. So to me the question really is: Is there any way to know the object as only itself?

  10. collapse expand

    Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
    If you mean “chicken egg,” the answer must be obvious.

    If a tree falls in the woods and no one hears it, does it make a sound?
    “Hears” assumes a “hearer.” “Sound” may be about hearing, or it may be about percussions and wave actions. In at least one answer — yes it makes a sound even if no one hears that sound.

    We’re mesmerized by language we become too familiar with, and that’s part of what’s going on here. Focus on ontology of some sort and the vocabulary there, and you forget the epistemological assumptions that undergird that ontology. Focus on epistemology too much and you forget to go from “How do we know anything at all” back to “What can we know about this stuff right here?”

    Both sides seem to want to rely upon reason as the ultimate ground for their respective claims. That’s a fine objective, but Kant was right — reason only works on experience. He got that from Hume, saw the end game of that — the question above about the “same moon” or whether it disappeared when you weren’t looking would likely have been answered by Hume with, “You’ll never really know” — and tried to stabilize things. Kant wrote about the role of reason and perception in experience, wrote about antinomy, and we could all do with a refresher course on that, and Hume, regularly.

    I understand skepticism much the way Stanley Cavell set it out. Skepticism isn’t a theoretical position, but a critical element of other theoretical positions that always need reminders of the limits of human knowledge. We can know an awful lot about the external world, others in that world, and our self, but we can’t know everything. That’s as true of Chopak and his crowd as it is of me or you.

    (Pyrrho seems to have figured that out a couple millenia ago, and said, “Shoot for ataraxia.” I think he was right, even if I have my doubts…)

    If we fail to recognize that there are limits to knowledge, refuse to be “checked” by the possibility that those limits aren’t just for now but maybe forever and are our own limits as well as the limits of others, we risk living illusions just as surely as those we say are shilling illusions. We risk tragedy; nothing’s uglier than folks who think they finally know it all.

    Chopra seems bound to a religious vision — however much science and pseudoscience he would package that in — predicated on transcending the limits mentioned here. That’s precisely what I most mistrust about such approaches to the problems of human existence. Despite the language, it srikes me as “cheap ontology” backed with the sketchiest of epistemologies. I suspect such a view would find sympathy here.

    Here’s where I lose that. Pyrrho was right, Hume was right, Cavell was right, and they were all right about the same thing. EVERYTHING needs to be approached with the same healthy skepticism, and that especially includes too easy assertions about what we can know with certainty anytime we’re talking outside the realm of necessity we find in math or logic. I find such assertions more and more common in popular discussions of science and its methods.

    I think Chopra’s wrong, but not particularly for the reasons Shermer and others mention. I think Shermer’s wrong (though I think it may be a result of rhetorical excess), but for few if any of the reasons Chopak might offer.

    It was said above that such discussions will go on forever. Probably. That may be because what we still don’t know about the grounds for either side of the argument, but a big chunk of it’s because we haven’t quite figured out how to talk about such issues with enough clarity. It sounds corny, but a little humility on all sides might be in order. We forget to approach such questions with the sort of caution they merit. I think we should work on that.

  11. collapse expand

    Sometimes commons sense has to take hold. If it looks like a moon, acts like a moon, and we land a space ship on it and bring samples back..it’s a sure bet that it exists….

    And as to Jean Houston’s comment “and God said..I sent you.” When God actually decides to talk to us in some definable and factual way….I’m sure most of us will deny that it is actually an hallucination, and follow It like zombies!

    It still falls back to seemingly intelligent people making up scenarios about a subject no one can validate….”faith belief.”

    Interesting, but frustating!

  12. collapse expand

    I generally agree with your point of view over Deepak’s, but I love that this discussion gets into the paradox of subjectivity. Deepak points to this when he explains that he cannot conceive of how a bee perceives because it has radically different sensory instrumentation, yet he allows that it perceives, so in a sense he credits it with a certain subjectivity of its own.

    Deepak seems to privilege “I” (himself) over all things – the observer in a way creates the universe and all reality – the observer is the observed. At the same time he spreads this idea encouraging each of us to privilege our own self – our own “I”-dentity – as the the ultimate BEING. This seems to conflict. If the whole universe is within YOU how can it be within ME, too? Or is there a distinct, complete, legitimate universe within each observer?

    This weird conflict seems to drive you to privilege “reality” over your-self. You see yourself as an object within a larger persistent context – a stable, single universe that does not depend on you.

    Anyway – however you or Deepak see it, what interests me is the bee… and the telescope. Both reflect what they “see” – but the bee makes choices based on what it “sees,” while the telescope simply records what it sees as a kind of prosthetic eye-extension – it leaves all choices up to the user.

    We grant “subjectivity” to the bee but not the telescope because the bee chooses what to observe and makes its own decisions based on those observations. The telescope does not.

    A robot can observe and make decisions based on what is “sees.” At what point – I wonder – does a robot experience subjectivity?

    It’s a difficult question because it is impossible to *know* how anything other than “I” experiences subjectivity.

    • collapse expand

      Robots experience subjectivity at the point where robots (like androids) begin to dream of electric sheep. (Phillip K. Dick thanks you for that set up.)

      I’m not sure if when we speak of “experiencing subjectivity” we’re not taking up the sort of semantic ascent that takes us farther and farther away from understanding subjectivity.

      For example, “It’s raining” becomes “‘It’s raining’ is true.” We add more layers when we talk about the truth of judgments about truth, climb a few more rungs up the ladder. We climb so far away from the original proposition we start to think we need some elaborate device to get back.

      Soon enough someone has found “THE” device to unlock a problem that shouldn’t even exist. We’re told we might have one of our own such devices for a reasonable fee.

      We wind up in the peculiar position of trying to understand immediate experience — our own subjectivity — from what’s bound to be a more and more impersonal perspective. We come to look at subjectivity, likely best understood by a deeply engaged personal perspective, by adopting the most impersonal method we can find.

      The result is someone like Chopra telling us what it’s like to be a bee. Rather than realizing (a la Thomas Nagel) that all we could ever do is maybe imagine what it would be like to be a human subject trapped in a bee’s body, we find ourselves taking up the whole “be the bee” thing as a serious question rather than recognizing it as a pseudoquestion.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  13. collapse expand

    Chopra confuses the different way individuals perceive objects (the honey bee sees in the ultraviolet, bats see with ultrasound etc) with whether the objects actually exist or not.  (Or as you put it so well, he’s favoring epistemology over ontology.)  It’s worth deconstructing how he equivocates and tries to confuse his audience – for example:

    “When you see an object, the moon being the example you chose, your eyes are not really “seeing” the moon. Your eyes are responding to photons that follow all the rules of wave-particle duality.”

    Of course, whether you are really “seeing” the moon, depends on your definition of “seeing.”  If by “seeing” you mean that your eyes are responding to the photons hitting your eyes (etc), then yes you really are “seeing” the moon.  (And those photons wouldn’t be there to hit your eyes if the Moon didn’t actually exist.)  Chopra wants to imply that “seeing” means something different.  (Although he never defines what his version of “seeing” the Moon would actually be.)  It’s pure sophistry.  He obfuscates and tries to make this meaningless wording sound profound, by talking quantum mechanics (that’s the “wave-particle duality” wording). 

    This is standard Chopra – add some babble about quantum mechanics to make drivel sound like (to some) profundity.  But it’s still drivel, and you’re right to call it woo.

  14. collapse expand

    I tend to agree with Deepak. Does a song exist when nobody listens to it or is it just a probability? I guess it depends on what you mean by ’song’. If you mean the notes written on a music sheet, then yes, it exists, but is it really the same as the song we can hear? Don’t we just use the same word for things that are ontologically different?

  15. collapse expand

    Being an excellent doctor and a man of science all his life, it should be reasonable to conclude that there was a time when Deepak did hold the common view that the Moon has existence independent of consciousness?

    So what is Deepak really trying to get at?
    What is he trying/struggling to express; but is confusing the ish out of everyone, including himself? lol

    It is a fact that the Moon has existence independent of INDIVIDUAL consciousness. This is most likely the experience of Chopra as a young man studying the science of medicine. And it is the conclusion of every ordinary citizen.

    What has changed a ‘little’ for Chropa is the expansion of his consciousness, and a more intimate understanding of himself and of reality.
    However, as they say, ‘a little knowledge is a dangerous thing’. lol

    For while it is true that the Moon has existence independent of an INDIVIDUAL’S mind/consciousness, the Moon CANNOT have existence independent of the entire Field of Consciousness!

    This last point (Moon cannot have existence independent of the entire Field of Consciousness) is Correct Knowledge, and is the goal Chropa is trying/struggling to get at and explain.

    • collapse expand

      The capitalization here doesn’t change the nature of the claims made. Why is the claim in question “Correct”? On what grounds, by what standards, is it judged “Knowledge”? Reasoned inference? Empirical finding? Intuition? Revelation?

      As to the claim itself and its central term — What’s the ontological status of some Field of Consciousness separable from some embodied consciousness? What is that “Field” that it can exist independently? Does it, indeed, exist independently? If not, how is it differentiated from individual consciousness? If so, how does it intersect embodied consciousness?

      If claims about Correct Knowledge and a Field of Consciousness are religious in nature that’s fine with me, but a little “truth in advertising” would be nice. If on the other hand they are terms/concepts that can stand with the best and strongest claims of science and philosophy, then they are of tremendous importance and deserve all the support that can be mustered.

      Typing “Correct Knowledge” or “Field of Consciousness” doesn’t support the claims so presented. It only shows your shift key is working. I’d like more, if it’s there.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        Considering that there doesn’t seem to be common/shared ‘empirical evidence’/experience, then the ’standard’ we will rely on here is ‘reasoned Inference’.

        The argument goes like this: If the existence of the Moon at every moment is to be true and valid without a doubt, then there must be consciousness to validate that continuous existence.

        Otherwise, how could the Moon’s existence be known without a doubt? Without, say, its existence be considered as collective imagination, created within individual minds, which is exactly what most everyone is rejecting from Deepak?

        It is to be noted that any knowledge outside of Direct Experience/Direct Experiment IS NOT complete knowledge.

        Since the individual is not empirically validating the existence of the Moon at every moment of the Moon’s existence, it is through memory and Inferential Knowledge (second hand knowledge) that the individual mind/consciousness comes to conclude that the Moon has independent existence outside of his mind/consciousness?

        harry

        That Inferential Knowledge may be good for philosophical mind games and the like; but in its incompleteness, it lacks the oomph of a Direct Experience/Direct Experiment.

        And that is why Consciousness must be with the Moon at every moment of its existence and validate that existence without a doubt! Any other form of knowledge about the Moon’s continuous existence engenders doubt.

        Consciousness is knowingness, awareness, the opposite of unconsciousness.

        And the relationship of the Field of Consciousness to individual/embodied consciousness, is analogous to the relationship between the entire Field of Matter and an individual body, which is merely a subset of the Matter Field.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
        • collapse expand

          You are using semantics to play logical games. “Known without a doubt” is not a scientific statement, it’s a colloquialism. You have no evidence that the moon doesn’t exist without consciousness. The presumption that it doesn’t exist and is something other is a greater leap than the assumption that it does.

          Just because you cannot fathom the universe without consciousness doesn’t make it true. There were people who could not fathom a universe in which the sun was a giant ball of fire at the center of our solar system.

          In response to another comment. See in context »
          • collapse expand

            How can the world be fathomed without consciousness? By the use of imagination.
            Your ‘fathom’ obviously means ‘imagine’, having no reality to it.

            A world without consciousness cannot exist; because what then would know such a world to be real and not just of the imagination?

            I used the term ‘known without a doubt’ in order to draw the attention to knowledge that is most direct; because inferential knowledge is merely ’second hand knowledge’. It is indirect knowledge.

            Accepting that the Moon exists, even while not directly being experienced, is based on inference on ’second hand knowledge’.
            It is still valid knowledge; but it does not have the oomph of direct experience.

            So to think that one can fathom a ‘world without consciousness’ is merely of the imagination. It is not valid knowledge of any kind and could not be prove to be true — existing independent of the imagination!

            In response to another comment. See in context »
        • collapse expand

          Interesting, maybe, but a couple of points.

          “True” and “valid” are, strictly speaking, two different things. Validity properly refers to the structure of a deductive argument and may or may not have anything to do with the truth or falsity of propositions that make up that argument.

          That’s no “mind game,” unless you want to call logic (and maybe by implication, mathematics) “mind games.”

          The reliance on reasoned inference is fine, but sooner or later the rubber, as they say, must hit the road. At that point the validity — the internal, formal consistency of the argument — needs some empirical findings to support that argument. Such empirical data both answers questions about the truth of premisses in the argument AND whether the argument is to remain something dreamed in an armchair or something that can be taken from the study, to the street.

          What you provide here doesn’t even need a moon. It only needs the idea of a moon. Your argument sacrifices relevance for coherence. Coherence is a necessary part of any argument, but it’s never a sufficient reason to accept the argument.

          What you provide here is finally Berkeley’s sort of empiricism — there are things apart from consciousness but they rely upon some consciousness for existence. “To be is to be perceived.”

          The problem (among many) arises when we ask what happens to stuff when no one’s looking at it. You’re (rather questionable) distinction here betwee consciousness and unconsciousness raises just that problem. Marnie (below) mentions “a universe without consciousness,” but we needn’t go that far. What about the universe, or at least those parts of it, that we don’t now know about?

          How would what you claim explain what happens when we look at something expecting one sort of behavior (say another moon, around another planet within our solar system) and it acts in some other way? We had “consciousness” of it, and a particular sort of consciousness; who or what was looking at it first, or harder, and thinking of it differently, and so powerfully as to override our own expectations as drawn from our own consciousness?

          Isn’t it simpler — following Occam’s Razor or the Principle of Parsimony, take your pick — to say that we were wrong, and that we know that now because of a thing that exists apart from what we know of it and even whether we know it or not?

          You have to postulate, sooner rather than later, some Absolute Consciousness. For Berkeley, a bishop in a Christian church, that was no problem. He said all along that that’s just what he expected to find at “the bottom” of things. No mind game, just intellectual integrity and full exposition of presumptions.

          I don’t buy the analogy that ties individual consciousness and Field of Consciousness to Field of Matter and an individual body. It’s the validity of the argument — and analogies are always weak, and never meet standards of validity — claiming a Field of Consciousness and Individual Consciousness that I question. Changing terms isn’t an adequate defense.

          There’s matter, and sometimes for the very best reasons we focus on some bit or other of that matter. We don’t, however, say it’s something other than matter. Talk about fields strike me in two ways — first as a distraction meant to take us away from the problems of the argument in question, second as an attempt to borrow credence from, by adopting some of the terms while ignoring the definitions of, scientific terms.

          This leads me — off point but it’s something I can’t but wonder — to ask why it is that religiously minded folks aren’t happy enough with what they believe revealed to them that they can avoid the sort of grasping for outside support that leads to these ridiculous category mistakes?

          You want to talk about an Absolute Mind, and call it whatever you like, that should be just fine. It’s fine with me, anyway, as long as you avoid human sacrifice. And I don’t mean that as analogy — I mean laid upon an alter with heart cut out human sacrifice. Let’s not call it scientifically or philosophically sound, though.

          Okay, take the philosophical sound thing if you like, but remember that once stepped into that ring you have to follow the rules of that game. You haven’t.

          In response to another comment. See in context »
          • collapse expand

            OK, Harry
            We see that you have a similar issue as Marnie

            “It’s the validity of the argument — and analogies are always weak, and never meet standards of validity — claiming a Field of Consciousness and Individual Consciousness that I question.”

            First of all, an analogy isn’t meant to be part of the argument, per se; it is merely using a somewhat similar principle, as exist in the object being analogized, to ‘point’ the mind in the direction where it might find the understanding.

            I fully appreciate that Consciousness as a ‘field’ is hard to grasp; mainly because the individual mind has been ‘programmed’ by habit to know only ‘narrow’ individual consciousness. The other reason that Consciousness as a boundless field is difficult for individual intellect to handle is that the the individual intellect itself is a subset of Consciousness. And it is near impossible for a mere subset to comprehend the entire set.

            So, until the individual consciousness can leave its moorings in a narrow mind and recognize itself to be merely a subset of an entire Field of Consciousness, let’s play this game:
            Imagine Consciousness to be a boundless field, then maybe you can also imagine how the Moon could be always known to exist for sure? Known with more than Inference — second knowledge?

            As you correctly and beautifully stated,
            “The reliance on reasoned inference is fine, but sooner or later the rubber, as they say, must hit the road. At that point the validity — the internal, formal consistency of the argument — needs some empirical findings to support that argument.”

            So your ‘rubber’ ALSO must hit the road for you and Marnie to prove conclusively that the world can exist without Consciousness, yes?

            My proof for the Field of Consciousness, and the fact that the world without Consciousness is mere fantasy, of the imagination, would only require that the individual comes to know/experience the source of his consciousness, a state that cannot be ‘reached’ by the limited/individual intellect.

            We can state with confidence that a world without Consciousness is merely an imaginary one; because if such a world could be real, then the ‘rubber will have to meet the road’ with Consciousness to validate the reality of such a world.

            By the way, Harry, I would have you know that you are far and away more religious than I. lol
            I will even wager that I am about the least religious on this board. You just can’t imagine how much I actually hate religious ideologies, which waste mind space and confine unfortunate minds to generations of ignorance!

            Your scientific superstition is a form of religion (that’s why I stated that you are more religious than I) because your BELIEF in Modern Science to deliver valid knowledge of self and of the world, is way beyond its capacity to deliver.

            In response to another comment. See in context »
  16. collapse expand

    But Michael- without human consciousness observing, there would be neither island universes nor spectographic plates registering photons. What you call telescope would be whatever it appears to be in relationship to ants, flies or other sentient beings perceiving it through their nervous system.

  17. collapse expand

    The more I read Deepak Chopra’s comments and thoughts, the more I realize he’s just a self-serving, third-world, BS artist like Dinesh D’Souza. Evidently neither of them has the slightest idea of the difference between a fact and an opinion.

    The third-world is full of bozos like these two. They are examples of what keeps the third-world third-world.

  18. collapse expand

    @agnim I’m unable to reply directly to your last reply to me so I’ll just post a new coment

    You said

    How can the world be fathomed without consciousness?

    Indeed fathoming needs consciousness, but you are confusing what humans need to perceive the world with what the world needs to be in existence.

    You also said

    A world without consciousness cannot exist; because what then would know such a world to be real and not just of the imagination?

    In your formula, the universe is less than the human consciousness, ceasing to exist without the conscious mind to perceive it. Somehow, we exist outside of what we exist within. Beyond the sheer local hoops one must go through to image that — which in itself isn’t a total dismissal of the theory — there is absolutely no evidence for this theory which makes it every bit as (in)valid as a theory that tiny monkeys draw everything we see or we are all just some giant being’s computer program. There are lots of outlandish and untestable and equally valid theories of the universe but none of them are science.

    You also said:

    I used the term ‘known without a doubt’ in order to draw the attention to knowledge that is most direct; because inferential knowledge is merely ’second hand knowledge’. It is indirect knowledge.

    Your entire theory is “inferential.” Nothing you say can be tested, confirmed or disputed. None of it is based on direct experience. It has absolutely no power to expand human understanding. The reason why QM is effective when studying the micro world is that it allows scientists to make predictions and run tests and better understand light. Your theory simply serves to make people feel more important in the universe. It’s simply religion.

    Science doesn’t speak in absolutes (individuals might but the body of work at large doesn’t.) What science allows us to do is determine what, with our scope of understanding, is happening in the world around us. We make a prediction test it and retest it and we try to build off of what we learn. When we have a solid foundation we can learn more than what one person could discover from scratch on his own. A scientific theory must be testable repeatable, and most importantly, falsifiable. You must be able to say, in a scientific theory, “I would know my theory is false if…”

    You have already decided what you think is true and you care not a wit that reality has never shown you any evidence to support it, yet you claim with absolute certainty that your theory is right. Thinking like that, just like thinking the earth is the center of the universe, will never advance human understanding and is useless in helping us understand the world around us.

    • collapse expand

      Marnie MacLean
      You are misunderstanding what is being written; because you are misrepresenting my statement about ‘consciousness’ as one about human consciousness.
      If I wanted to write ‘human consciousness’, I could have done that myself?

      There is the ‘Field of Consciousness’, of which the human/human partakes, of which individual consciousness is merely a subset.
      When I’m referring to subset of consciousness, I will then use individual consciousness or ‘human consciousness’ or dog consciousness, etc.

      I’ve already agreed from my first post that the Moon has existence outside of ‘individual consciousness’ — human or wolf or whatever subset of consciousness you like.

      I’m going to capitalize Consciousness to make clear that I mean the entire ‘Field of Consciousness’ and not just a subset of Consciouseness.

      Yes my so-called ‘theory is inferential’; what else could we have across cyberspace?

      In any event, you too can have the ‘direct experience’ that will test and prove the ‘theory’ to be based in reality, by coming to know the source of your own individual consciousness.

      Now, if you say that you can ‘fathom a world without consciousness” (of any sort?), then the question arises: How would you decide if your ‘fathoming’ is of the imagination or substantive?

      For you see, Marnie, when you ‘fathom’, that fathoming is taking place within your individual mind/consciousness.
      Now that which is ‘fathomed’ within the individual mind/consciousness are of two fundamental kinds: Those that are purely of the imagination and those fathoming that do have substance to them, those that have existence independent of your individual fathoming.

      So from your fathoming, you are left to prove that your fathoming is not merely of the imagination, but substantive.

      Direct experience (the world actually ‘hitting’ your faculties of perception) is needed to determine conclusively that your fathoming of a world without consciousness is not merely of the overactive imagination.

      And that is why I’m stating that if the world could exist without Consciousness, without any consciousness, then what would determine if such a ‘fathomed’ world is with or without substance?

      If the world is real then Direct Experience of or with Consciousness MUST validate the reality.
      Otherwise, such a world would be only of the imagination.

      Yes I’m using Inference (second hand knowledge); because it is about the next best path to Valid Knowledge outside of Direct Experience.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        Indeed, I do and will continue not to grasp your point because your point continues to require that I believe in some untestable theory and vague undefined concepts like “field of consciousness”.

        To the best I can deduce, you either believe that if all life disappeared nothing would exist or you believe there is some uber entity or power that encompasses all conscious things. Either way, I don’t have any evidence for this and neither do you. It is, in short, faith.

        You have stated:

        And that is why I’m stating that if the world could exist without Consciousness, without any consciousness, then what would determine if such a ‘fathomed’ world is with or without substance?

        To me, this is the height of arrogance. This is creationism and geocentricism in another form. This is the idea that “we” (however you define consciousness) are the center of the universe and everything relates to us. If that is what brings meaning into your life, that is fine, but it’s not science and trying to justify it by bastardizing quantum mechanics or any other scientific theories, only serves to diminish the value of your argument.

        Until you provide a real test that can actually be executed, (not a theoretical argument that if you turned off all consciousness you’d be able to prove or disprove a theory) you cannot argue your point as anything other than religion or philosophy.

        How would you disprove your idea of “fields of consciousness”? You personally? What is your test to prove or disprove your theory that would eliminate the personal bias you have to believe it’s true? If there is no test that could be done that could allow you to disprove the idea, it is not a scientific theory and is as valid as “god did it.”

        You’ve also said:

        I’ve already agreed from my first post that the Moon has existence outside of ‘individual consciousness’ — human or wolf or whatever subset of consciousness you like.

        If you believe the moon exists regardless of consciousness then I don’t understand any of your other arguments. You play with language and you spin lovely stories but if the question is “Does the moon exist if there are no sentient beings to look at it.” And your answer is yes, then why argue that it also doesn’t?

        Finally, you say:

        Yes I’m using Inference (second hand knowledge); because it is about the next best path to Valid Knowledge outside of Direct Experience.

        You have essentially argued against yourself here. You lambaste science for it’s myriad ways of proving the moon is there because you claim it is “inferred” and yet you agree that this is all you are able to do as well. When offered two theories, one that is backed up by the whole of written human history throughout the world and continues to be confirmed by moon landings and telescopes and satellites, against armchair philosophy that cannot be tested, guess which one has great weight?
        Not all conclusions are equal and alas, you fail to offer anything that might serve to bolster your argument.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
  19. collapse expand

    “And those photons would register in that machine even if every human on earth disappeared that night.”

    Prove it. Empirically.

  20. collapse expand

    Michael Shermer wrote: “Okay, Deepak, I think I understand the core of our disagreement: you are placing epistemology over ontology—how we know reality over reality itself. I think this is a result of your METAPHYSICS and the worldview with which you begin. Since I privilege ontology over epistemology—reality over how we know reality—my conclusions will inevitably be different from your own.”

    Deepak is a real piece of work. I think I can help clarify things, though, by presenting my own, personal, definition of ‘metaphysics’…

    “The blind leading the stupid into the unknown, on a quest for the unfathomable.”

    Whenever I proffer that definition, I am inevitably confronted by someone who takes metaphysics way too seriously (like Chopra), who (very huffily) challenges me with something like: “So… what does that make you, then… blind, or stupid?”

    I’ve got a stock answer for that: “Well… since I consider myself to be a teacher and a student… intellectual honesty compels me to admit that I am BOTH… blind AND stupid. But here’s the thing… we’re ALL blind and stupid. The difference, though, is that I KNOW I’m blind and stupid, whereas you are oblivious. Since I am conscious of my blindness and stupidity, I am able to take them into account… which leaves me with something of an advantage.”

    • collapse expand

      Dear Duckphup,

      It is really wonderful that you know that the individual human mind is in your words blind and stupid. Some wisdom traditions call it neurotic :) It is hard to accept, but true- as small people we just are not capable of understanding the wholeness of this fantastic universe.

      But… there is another way to explore our universe, through direct knowing and not through the bits and pieces put together by our limited personal mind. If you are indeed an honest teacher and student, you will have to leave your intellect behind now that you have seen its limits, and discover what you are capable of knowing on a level deeper than that.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  21. collapse expand

    In response to the agnim post of 3/23:

    Analogy as example, as an “inviation to understand,” is fine. Set that beside no more than mere assertion, though, and what’s left is some vague invitation to “come fly with me.”

    That’s what we have here, as you invite me to let my mind “leave its moorings.” You haven’t established that there are such “moorings” to be left. You merely assert that that’s the case. Mere assertion, attached to recapitulations of earlier assertions cased in slightly new vocabulary, won’t do. I readily acknowledge the limits of knowledge and know that some of those limits are down to the nature of human consciousness. Why should I accept the limits, the “moorings,” you describe (so vaguely) when all you offer is your assertion that they exist?

    You ask me (and marnie) where our “rubber hits the road.” As I’ve said, I don’t see how your asssertions about how external objects rely for their existence upon some consciousness can be supported by anything other than those claims resting on earlier, unacknowledged assumptions on your part. I don’t see how your account of the role of consciousness, of any type, can account for discovery.

    The planet Neptune was discovered in the mid-1800s, and by mathematical calculations later confirmed by direct observation. The Kuiper Belt wasn’t discovered until the 1990s. Since the early 1990s, over 280 extrasolar planets have been discovered. Cells were first observed in the 17th century, and the same holds true of microbes. Viruses weren’t discovered until 1898. Of even more recent vintage is the discovery of bacterial life around hydrothermal vents in deep ocean, where we’d assumed no life was possible because no sunlight reaches those depths.

    By your standards for the role of consciousness, I don’t see how any of that (and much, much more) could be explained except in these terms — those things listed didn’t exist until they were observed, perceived, brought before consciousness. To escape the absurdity of such a claim by saying that they existed prior to our discovery, within some impersonal “Field of Consciousness,” means there has to have been some other consciousness that “held” them until we could get there.

    The postulation of such a consciousness could not but rest in some revelation since by your own standards individual consciousness can’t grasp that larger “Field” except to humbly acknowledge (at the insistance of others, more conscious than poor me) its existence. You might plead defense in Kantian terms and call it a “reasonable postulate,” but that’s certainly not what you’ve done so far. The basis for your mistake seems a common one — you’ve confused the objects of consciousness with consciousness itself.

    To say that the reason I hold this is because of some “false consciousness” — as you do when you say the reason I can’t see “the big picture” is because I can access only a thin slice of it — doesn’t advance your argument. All it does is say, to me and others, “You just don’t get it.” No, we don’t, and you haven’t helped a bit. If we don’t “have it,” then give it to us, and try to base your explanation on something more veridical than “What I have in my mind right now.”

    I may indeed be more religious than you, but it’s not because I worship at The First Church of Science is Just Way Awesome. I don’t expect science to do everything you seem to think “the Field of Consciousness” can do, for instance. In fact I agree with marnie and so many others when they say that science at its best resists any sort of absolute that could ever turn into a church.

    More to the point — such statements on your part strike me as thoughtless at best and derogatory at worst, and in either case examples of all too common fallacies. I raised the idea of religion as a viable alternative. You threw it back as some form of tu quoque. It’s an attempt — vain, I’ll add — to “poison the well,” the worst form of argumentum ad hominem. It’s no more than a shot at sliding past the harder work of answering my objections in favor of dismissing those objections based on my supposed religiosity.

    My suspicion, based in what you’ve written so far, is that you hate “religious ideologies” and any orthodoxies found there for the same reason you so casually dismiss the orthodoxies of science or philosophy. You seem to find them all too demanding, and too insistant that mere assertion offers no grounds for acceptance of claims about something as essential to human understanding as the ontological status of the world around us and the limits of human abilities to grasp that status.

    The burden of proof for an assertion like those you make — about the nature of the world, the nature of human consciousness, the assertion that some consciousness exists apart from human consciousness yet gives rise to and shapes human consciousness — these assertions, as yours, give you the burden of proof.

    You fail to meet that burden, opting instead for mere assertion and denigration. This leads me to think that you don’t take any of these questions as seriously as I, and others here, clearly take them.

    Has it struck you yet that all the claims you make about my inability to grasp the “Field of Consciousness,” because of my inherent limitations, must apply equally well to you? You claim that this Field exists, at least for those of us still stumbling through the dark and, in Wm. James’ words, “gnawing the file,” if not outside than at least apart from our individual consciousness. I must assume that means any individual consciousness, including at least at one time your own.

    How would you say you managed to so effectively dodge the bullet, escape the traps of maya? Revelation? Ancient Hindu texts? And you’d still insist that’s not a religious claim?

    • collapse expand

      Harry, Harry,
      I did not state or even implied that “external objects rely for their existence upon some consciousness”. You are way ahead of me on that one, buddy. lol

      What I stated (or meant to state if there was confusion) is that ‘external objects’ can only be authenticated conclusively by ’some Consciousness’ (not necessarily any particular individual/subset of Consciousness).

      Now, let’s get back to a point of agreement — that beautiful and correct statement you made last time. And we hope that Marnie also agrees with your statement; because in that case, I can ‘kill two birds with one stone’.

      Here again is your statement, Harry,
      “The reliance on reasoned inference is fine, but sooner or later the rubber, as they say, must hit the road. At that point the validity — the internal, formal consistency of the argument — needs some empirical findings to support that argument.”

      We are going to use that statement of yours as a point of reference, and see if you will tolerate its meaning and implications; or you are going to abandon it because I also agree with it. lol

      The meaning and implication of your statement above, Harry, is that Empirical knowledge trumps Inferential Knowledge, yes?
      And Inferential Knowledge is kind of ‘lower grade’, ‘lower standard’, yes?
      And the ‘rubber really hits the road with Empirical Knowledge, yes?

      So let’s apply your correct standard to knowledge of the Moon.

      When you are directly observing the Moon, that is Empirical Knowledge.

      And when you are not observing the Moon, because you turn away or the Moon is on the other side of the planet, or the Moon was here before you got here, say, then the knowledge that the Moon is still in existence, while not being observed by you, is Inferential Knowledge, yes?
      (You are relying on memory and other events/history/features in the environment to infer that the Moon would still be in existence.)

      So while out of direct observation, you are using Inference, a ‘lower grade’ of knowledge, to determine that the Moon is still in existence?

      Now, Harry, if you agree with the above, then I could stop right here, and reasonably claim that your statement is making my point: The only way that the Moon can be known to exist conclusively and for the entirety of its existence, is for the ‘rubber to hit the road’, is for the Moon to be directly experienced by some Consciousness (not necessarily individual consciousness); because it is only by direct experience that it can be truly said of knowledge of any object, that ‘the tire hits the road’.

      Every other knowledge besides Direct Experience/Empirical Knowledge is ‘lower grade’, is subject to ignorance/delusion and even collective delusion, as in the case where we observe the Sun ‘rises’ in the East ‘moves’ to mid-heaven and ’sets’ in the West. This is a Sun that never moves relative to us; but minds have been and will be deluded for countless generations into concluding that the Sun ‘moves’ relative to the Earth, on account of the limitations of the senses.

      Like you and many here, Harry, I have also concluded that the Moon existed for maybe billions of years.
      However unlike you, I know that the ‘rubber has to hit the road’ for that knowledge of the long and continuous existence of the Moon not to be merely ‘lower grade’ knowledge.

      That is where reality of Consciousness as boundless continuum enters the picture; because we know that our individual consciousness is not sufficient and competent to be authenticating the Moon’s existence for it entire lifetime.

      Now, Harry, you can take the position, as some here have, that there are some things that we will never know. I don’t.
      You could also say that the continuous and long lasting existence of the Moon can never be known conclusively by a human consciousness; and leave it at that. However, I’m a bit more ambitious.
      I refuse to sell myself short. lol

      Instead, I take the more ‘humble’ position that the present state of my limited (but ever-growing) mind/consciousness is not now in a position to be the final arbiter on what I could really know in the long run. lol
      And maybe there just might be a way to crank up the level of consciousness, so that it can be more comprehensive. There actually has always been a way.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        And we hope that Marnie also agrees with your statement; because in that case, I can ‘kill two birds with one stone’.

        I’m afraid this bird is still alive and kicking.

        Your rather long explanation, in short, discusses what we can know for certain. True scientists don’t talk in certainty. Evolution is our best explanation to date for how life as we know it exists in its current state and in previous states. It’s as close to certain as any theory can be. That said, if another solution comes along that is better, that will be embraced instead. However, evolution doesn’t cease to happen if no one is observing it just as evolution appears to have happened long before we had any ability to conceive of it.

        If you agree the moon exists, and you have stated that you do, then it exists regardless of the conscious observation of it, and I think Harry has touched on this in previous posts. Just because there may be no conscious being observing the far reaches of the universe, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist and if/when conscious beings are able to view these far reaches, it will have the same existence status it had moments before.

        Instead, I take the more ‘humble’ position that the present state of my limited (but ever-growing) mind/consciousness is not now in a position to be the final arbiter on what I could really know in the long run. lol

        It doesn’t strike me as terribly humble to feel that the universe needs my presence to have reality. The universe as we know it, existed before any known conscious beings. The solar system existed before any known conscious beings. If it turns out we are the only planet with sentient beings in our universe, the universe will still exist when the earth is no longer.

        If your core point is that humans can never be 100% sure of anything, I agree and that is the core of what the sciences are about. If you can disprove the laws of thermodynamics, it’ll be shake the foundation of physics but if you can do so, the laws will be rewritten. That doesn’t change how the world works, just how we test and understand it. That is, whatever laws there are, dictating thermodynamics, existed before we observed them and will continue after. If your point is that; that humans can never be certain of anything, then you are confusing what we can know with what is real. The moon isn’t dependent on us, if it is there it is there.

        However, if your feeling is that the moon’s existences is a wave function that can collapse in at least two ways, every time the moon is viewed, you need to back that up with more than armchair philosophy. If you feel that consciousness is required for anything else to exist, you need to back that up with a testable theory.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
        • collapse expand

          Marnie states,

          “If your core point is that humans can never be 100% sure of anything, I agree and that is the core of what the sciences are about.”

          My ‘point’ would be the complete opposite, Marnie.
          I know that the sphere of objective science is limited to the sphere of the senses, and the senses can only deliver direct knowledge about a sliver of reality.
          That is why wiser minds do not bound themselves to the limited and limiting objective science.

          What the wiser minds do is question if consciousness can be ‘increased’, so as to make known the ‘outer reaches’ of reality, beyond the senses.kjjk
          For if consciousness could be increased, say, to infinity, Marnie, then everything could be known 100%?

          Now think about it: How can one of limited consciousness rule on a 100% of what can be known for sure?
          If, say, one is exhibiting some value less than 100% of consciousness potential (considering that individual consciousness is always increasing) it is only delusion that would cause one to believe that one can rule on what is possible for the complete 100% of consciousness potential, yes?

          And again, no, I’m not now stating or implying “that consciousness is required for anything else to exist”.

          The point is that only Consciousness can determine for sure that the Moon is real and has been continuously real since its birth.
          And again, I don’t necessarily mean individual consciousness.
          Although I can very well understand why the mind might want to play prison guard, there is no need to imprison consciousness to this individual or that.

          Consciousness is boundless; and individual minds merely partake of different measure, different subset of Consciousness. It is a possibility to consider or imagine; because, contrary to your believe, such a possibility can help in a more complete understanding of one’s own consciousness and of the entire Universe, from conception to conclusion.

          It is because Consciousness is known to be boundless, why 100% of reality can be known and validated for sure, why the continuous existence of the Moon can be known for sure.
          We can believe that reality cannot be known with 100% surety; but there is absolutely no reason to take such a belief to a religious level.

          Inferential knowledge (second hand knowledge) which is generally used to conclude the Moon’s continuous existence, is not enough to authenticate the reality/continuous existence of the Moon. The Moon must be open to Consciousness at all times. Otherwise the knowledge is suspect; because it is inferential.

          Although Inferential Knowledge has validity, it is of a lesser quality than Direct Observation.
          Inferential Knowledge carries with it the grit of ignorance/delusion/imagination.
          And only Direct Experience can ‘purify’ Inferential Knowledge, by removing the grit.

          Now, I understand your believing that reality cannot be 100% known? From that I have to conclude that you have the maximum amount of consciousness possible; and that is why you could be so ’sure’ of what can and cannot be known 100%. lol

          In response to another comment. See in context »
          • collapse expand

            You have, referred to yourself, repeatedly as a “wiser mind.” Interesting from an individual who claimed to be ‘humble’ in a previous post.

            But let’s go ahead and look at some of what you’ve said so that I may repeat points you’ve declined to address.

            Now think about it: How can one of limited consciousness rule on a 100% of what can be known for sure?

            This is a repeat of what I’ve said before, science and science minded people do not speak in absolutes. They, instead, try to find ways to confirm conclusions with tests that minimize or eliminate biases and that can be repeated by other people and built off of to make further discoveries.

            What the wiser minds do is question if consciousness can be ‘increased’, so as to make known the ‘outer reaches’ of reality, beyond the senses.

            We already make discoveries outside the reaches of our senses, which is why we can photograph infrared and electrons. But what you are talking about is making stuff up. That’s it. You have defined some magic consciousness that you cannot test or even define and that will never help us discover new planets, cure diseases, treat disorders, preserve wildlife habitats, or make any other advances to better anything’s or anyone’s life. It does, however, make you repeat people’s name in condescending ways and tell them you are smarter than they.

            Although I can very well understand why the mind might want to play prison guard, there is no need to imprison consciousness to this individual or that…Consciousness is boundless; and individual minds merely partake of different measure, different subset of Consciousness.

            More magical and unsubstantiated statements. If you can provide some proof or evidence we can talk. Just saying it doesn’t make it true.

            We can believe that reality cannot be known with 100% surety; but there is absolutely no reason to take such a belief to a religious level.

            I actually laughed out loud at that. All the claims you’ve made are a type of spiritual belief. Look at what you say soon after:

            The Moon must be open to Consciousness at all times. Otherwise the knowledge is suspect; because it is inferential.

            The moon mustn’t be anything. It is or it isn’t. It was before consciousness existed or it wasn’t.

            Now, I understand your believing that reality cannot be 100% known? From that I have to conclude that you have the maximum amount of consciousness possible; and that is why you could be so ’sure’ of what can and cannot be known 100%. lol

            So you are saying there is a consciousness that is everywhere and all pervasive, but you are privy to it because you came up with the idea to believe in it and I want some evidence for it so no dice for me. Did consciousness also die on a cross for our sins? Just wondering.

            In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        “…Empirical knowledge trumps Inferential Knowledge, yes?”
        No. It doesn’t. I never made that claim. I could never make that claim, would never agree with such an assertion. This is partly because I deny the false dilemma it offers (and with one “side” being a strawman, too, well done), but mostly because I understand knowledge as based in warrant and justification, either or both of which might rely on empirical or “inferential” data.

        “When you are directly observing the Moon, that is Empirical Knowledge.”
        Yes, by the simplest possible reduction, and leaving out all thoughts, theories, and motivations for looking at it in the first place, and ignoring any linguistic questions as well. So, in a really simple, child-like, practically childish sort of way, yes.

        “So while out of direct observation, you are using inference, a ‘lower grade’ of knowledge, to determine that the Moon is still in existence?”
        No, and again only partly because I don’t accept your description of either inference or what is going on when we look at the moon OR when we try to know what the moon is when it is out of our direct line of sight. It follows that I say again, here, that your distinctions covering inference and empirical data are specious.
        You’re acting as though the only observation was by me, in my arm chair, in my study, gazing through the window and saying, “Ah, the Moon.” Sometime later, I say, “Hey, where’s that Moon?” I have friends I trust, just two time zones over. I have a phone. They have cameras. I feel pretty sure that if on the other side of the world NO ONE saw the moon in some acceptably equal timeframe, major media outlets would cover that. With pictures.

        “Now, Harry, if you agree with the above…”
        I don’t agree with the above, and I suspect you already know that or you’d have resisted once again trotting out the useless string of simple assertions that follow.

        This string leads to a statement that begins, “That is where reality of Consciousness as boundless continuum …,” and I’d stop you right there. That claim doesn’t at all follow from anything you’ve written here or anywhere else in this thread. It’s not even a well-structured abductive argument, much less any stronger form by which your case might be made. Give all the “conclusion indicators” you want — “Then it must be that…,” etc. — you give no argument that would lead to a conclusion.

        You started with poisoning the well, and you’ve now moved onto to the condescension of “Harry, Harry” (one more and I’d have thought you were channelling Reagan) and a load of emoticons. I think this gives me some room.

        Let me be frank, if a bit brusque. I don’t deny the worth of your argument in support of your claims because I’ve yet to see an argument for what you claim. It’s not that you’ve made a really bad argument and failed to support your case. It’s that you’ve provided no argument at all, and that your case rests on the merest assertion.

        For whatever reason only you could know — if you know — you assume that what you say has greater worth than what any reasonable person who doesn’t know you from “BOO” would ever give your claims. I haven’t accepted “Because I said so” since I was about 6 years old, and even before then I didn’t like it. “Because Mr. Chopra, a famous guy, says so” just fancies up the same appeal to authority, with a touch of the bandwagon thrown in.

        If I were to try on my own to lay out what might make your case, I think it would take the form of a classic argument from design for the existence of God. All I have to do is equivocate on “consciousness,” as you already have (punctuation doesn’t hide that, or change that)and I think I could do it. I wouldn’t convince myself of the claims’ worth, but know it or not that’s the heart of your case, here.

        You say you’re own grasping toward knowledge is ambitious, and it’s clear that you’re optimistic about the chances of your success. Good for you. I think your ambition may have led you up the garden path, but hey — I like optimistic people.

        Optimism certainly isn’t anything denied empiricists, or rationalists, or even the most skeptical versions of such thinkers. Folks don’t fall for the crap that used to pass unremarked, and that’s good news. You do not, however, get to just make up whatever you need to fill in the gaps in knowledge, even if you think it’s just for now until some certainty comes along. That stuff can get stuck there, and we tend to come to love our shortcuts and even to hope for that blaze of light that shows us the True Way, and that such a Way will include the very stopgaps we really meant to get around to changing at some point.

        I suspect from your last paragraph you think that’s already happened for one of us in this conversation.

        In any case, it’s clear to me that nothing I say will change your mind. I’m sure you think the same of me, but you’re wrong. If you have something to put about that is compelling, and persuasive, I’d love to see it. I won’t even ask of you why you haven’t laid that out until now. Until that revelation from you I have no more to ask, or add. I’ll just say thanks for playing, and I’ll seeya round the ashram…

        (And anyone who thinks I’m insulting Hinduism with that last crack is out of their mind.)

        In response to another comment. See in context »
        • collapse expand

          Gosh, Harry! For a while, I thought we had something going; but it seems like you are now disavowing the meaning/implications of your earlier statement, which made good sense. A pity.

          Why not then clarify exactly what you are trying to get at with your ‘rubber meets the road’ comment, in comparing Inferential Knowledge & Empirical Knowledge?

          Here it is again:

          “The reliance on reasoned inference is fine, but sooner or later the rubber, as they say, must hit the road. At that point the validity — the internal, formal consistency of the argument — needs some empirical findings to support that argument.”

          Knowledge of an object can be acquired by “reasoned inference”, yes?
          And knowledge can also be acquired by direct observation — empirical knowledge?
          And those two different kinds of knowldge do not carry the same oomph for the knower? They do not have equal impact on the mind/consciousness of the knower.

          I thought that was what you realized when you made what I considered a correct and beautiful the statement?
          Maybe I was just imagining your degree of understanding of the distinction between Direct Experience and Inferential Knowledge?

          Now if you really think that the distinction is ’specious’ between, say, the taste of an apple (empirical knowledge), and using ‘reasoned inference’ to conclude that an apple is sweet, then we have an epistemological problem.

          If you think that the distinction is not significant between using the tools of inference (mathematics) to first ‘locate’ your Neptune and then verifying its actual existence by directly observing Neptune with a scope, then we have an epistemological problem.

          If you think that they carry the same oomph, your direct observation of the Moon and the reporting of Moon’s existence by your ‘trusting’ friend on the other side of the planet (when the Moon is out of your sight) then we have an epistemological problem.

          Knowledge via Direct Experience is where ‘the rubber meets the road’.
          With Inferential Knowledge, the wheels may be spinning crazy ‘fine’; but it is yet to ‘hit the road’.
          I really really thought that was the point you were making/implying by your statement.

          Anyway, since you agree that direct observation of the Moon is empirical knowledge, that could be our point of reference.

          See, Harry, there can be more meaningful accomplishments if we can proceed from some common ground, yes? Even if that ground is ‘child-like’, it is fine; because even children can be taught the truth about reality and direct observation of the Moon.

          And by the way, it is better not to read emotions into blips on a computer screen; because any emotion on feels (positive/negative) can only be his own.
          Saying ‘Harry Harry’ had nothing to do with ‘condescension’ from my side.
          Some people like their name; and I was merely saying a name I thought you might like. lol
          See, I never felt that your last comment was a dig at hinduism, whatever hinduism is suppose to mean. In fact, I thought it was comical.

          In response to another comment. See in context »
          • collapse expand

            I don’t deny or retract what I said earlier about the connections between reason and experience.

            I say here, again, that you didn’t — and clearly still don’t — understand what I said. Why that’s the case I neither know nor care.

            The rest on offer is more of what’s already been dished up, more of what Jeremy Bentham called “nonsense on stilts.” It’s a mishmash of informal fallacies, and I’m tired of it.

            Say what you want, believe what you will. I no longer care.

            In response to another comment. See in context »
  22. collapse expand

    The ontological perspective says “The moon is there, when we don’t look, because that is how objective reality behaves.”

    The epistomological argument says that the best (simplest, best fitting the observations etc.) model is the one where the moon is there when we don’t look.

    Chopra’s argument has nothing to with epistomology. It is just nonsense, with his usual pseudo- quantum mechics thrown in.

  23. collapse expand

    Some days ago I was reading Rand’s “Philosophy: who needs it?”, and really that’s what this is all about, as you said, Deepak places “epistemology over ontology”. As Rand wrote:
    [...]The basic metaphysical issue that lies at the root of any system of philosophy [is] the primacy of existence or the primacy of consciousness.
    The primacy of existence (of reality) is the axiom that existence exists, i.e., that the universe exists independent of consciousness (of any consciousness), that things are what they are, that they possess a specific nature, an identity. The epistemological corollary is the axiom that consciousness is the faculty of perceiving that which exists—and that man gains knowledge of reality by looking outward. The rejection of these axioms represents a reversal: the primacy of consciousness—the notion that the universe has no independent existence, that it is the product of a consciousness (either human or divine or both). The epistemological corollary is the notion that man gains knowledge of reality by looking inward (either at his own consciousness or at the revelations it receives from another, superior consciousness).”
    And maybe I’m wrong, because I don’t really know anything about quantum pysics, but I relate Deepak’s discourse with this other passage, this one about Kant’s phylosophy:
    “The technique is as follows: if you want to propagate an outrageous evil idea (based on traditionally accepted doctrines), your conclusion must be brazenly clear, but your proof unintelligible. Your proof must be so tangled a mess that it will paralyze a reader’s critical faculty—a mess of evasions, equivocations, obfuscations, circumlocutions, non-sequiturs, endless sentences leading nowhere, irrelevant side issues, clauses, sub-clauses and sub-sub-clauses, a meticulously lengthy proving of the obvious, and big chunks of the arbitrary thrown in as self-evident, erudite references to sciences, to pseudo-sciences, to the never-to-be-sciences, to the untraceable and the unprovable—all of it resting on a zero: the absence of definitions.”

    • collapse expand

      Yes, you are ‘wrong’, if you really believe that Chopra wants “to propagate an outrageous evil idea”.
      Chopra’s error is to confuse the capacity of an individual subset of Consciousness with that of the entire field of Consciousness.

      If Kant had the position that Chopra had, then your belief could be closer to the truth.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  24. collapse expand

    It’s not that complicated. And it’s certainly not metaphysics–it’s physics. Without consciousness, there’s nothing to differentiate the moon from anything else. So without consciousness, the moon does not exist.

    • collapse expand

      What is the physics part of your argument?

      You’re basically saying that without the human concept of the moon, the moon doesn’t exist. It’s fairly easy to see that this is false.

      Let me ask you this: If you accept that at one stage in the history of the universe there were no human beings or any (sentient) beings alive, at least in the physical world, did the universe exist? Is the human conciousness only thing keeping this universe in existance?

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  25. collapse expand

    To Harry and Marnie, I have to agree with “Agnim” and also with “Deepak Chopra”…What Agnim has been trying to tell both of you (Harry,Marnie) is what he is talking about is an actual scientific theory called “Biocentrism”…
    actually the theory is called “The Biocentric Universe” the theory was proposed in 2007 by well known and very well respected American Biologist Dr.Robert Lanza, Dr.Robert Lanza has published a book on this very same theory entitled “Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe by Bob Berman and Robert Lanza (Paperback – May 18, 2010)”

    This book deals with the very same things which “Agnim” has been talking about in this thread. ( Harry and Marnie ) have both been stubborn and refused to listen to Agnim.,Since Harry and Marnie refuse to listen to Agnim, you can now both order the book from Amazon and you can read about it. Deepak is getting alot of his knowledge from this book. Deepak happens to be a close friend of Dr.Robert Lanza, the author of this book, so Deepak isn’t so far off base as alot of you are thinking. So, (Harry and Marnie,)instead of arguing and criticizing “Agnim”, please order the book and read for yourselves,read what “Agnim” has been trying to tell you. It’s an actual scientific theory and “Agnim” happens to know what he is talking about. The book supports and backs up “Agnim” 1000%

  26. collapse expand

    To alot of posters on this threead, mainly I am referring to 3 posters but this information is for anyone on this thread. ( Agnim,Harry,Marnie) I have been reading the comments and the back and forth bickering and arguing and criticizing between these 3 particular posters with some interest. “Agnim” has spent alot of time discussing and trying to tell (Harry,Marnie) his views. Both (Harry and Marnie ) have been stubbornly refusing to listen to Agnim or to acknowledge what he has been saying. This is unfortunate for Harry and Marnie. I have to side with “Agnim” he happens to know what he is talking about.and so does Deepak Chopra. in 2007, well known and very highly respected in all science circles,American Biologist,Dr.Robert Lanza,who is the founder and president of Advanced Cell Technology Inc.,Dr.Robert Lanza is a professor and specialist in embryonic stem cell research and he is an expert in the field of quantum mechanics. In 2007 Dr.Robert Lanza proposed a theory called “Biocentrism”, and he has published a book called ” Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe by Bob Berman and Robert Lanza (Paperback – May 18, 2010)”…this book deals with the topic of this thread. and with consciousness and the universe.As it turns out,the book supports and backs up “Agnim” 1000%..you can also watch a video of Dr.Robert Lanza on YouTube…just enter his name at the top.

    Order the book and read it. learn something new and open your mind instead of fighting and arguing and criticizing each other

  27. collapse expand

    Mr. McMahon,

    Since nothing can travel faster than the speed of light, I question your statement that “without consciousness, the moon does not exist.”

    Since it takes light approximately one and a half seconds to travel from the moon to Earth, the moon had to physically exist BEFORE you became “conscious” of the fact. Because the speed of light is finite, the image of the moon (and the moon itself) must be at least one and a half seconds “old” when you became conscious of it (saw it).

    You could say the same thing about the sun. Since light takes eight minutes to travel the 93 million miles from the sun to Earth, the sun must have “existed” at least eight minutes BEFORE you became “conscious” of it.

    In other words, light can’t make the trip from the moon to earth or even across a room instantaneously. That “delay” in the transmission of time and reality clearly proves that (in this instance) the moon exists prior (and thus separately) from your consciousness of it.

    I welcome your comments. Thanks.

  28. collapse expand

    Einstein would be most upset at this discourse, as Relativity theory was to be applied to far more than scientific observation. In other words, despite the obvious brilliance of both Schermer and Deepak, no meaningful exchange took place due to a lack of relative intellectual platform.
    Clearly, both Deepak and Shermer are correct, but speaking from radically different points of view. Thus their assertions are relative to irreconcilable origins.
    The moon, or any other object, does not depend upon the observer for its existence. Conversely, the assignment of the moon’s name and meaning are utterly dependent upon the observer, and so would have no name and no meaning without said observer.
    This is an age-old problem with human observation in general, and can be boiled down to two large schools of thought. The first, Deepak’s assertion, can be described as the spiritual means of observing and classifying the universe. This point of view is utterly personal, and important in that it is the only point of view which we as individuals truly “know”. The second, Shermer’s assertion, can be described as the scientific means of classifying and observing the universe. This point of view strives to be completely empirical, and therefor removable from one’s personal point of view.
    It is important to consider a universe in which both points of view are equally correct.

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    About Me

    Dr. Shermer is the Founding Publisher of Skeptic magazine and editor of Skeptic.com, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, and an Adjunct Professor at Claremont Graduate University. His latest book is The Mind of the Market, on evolutionary economics. His last book was Why Darwin Matters: Evolution and the Case Against Intelligent Design, and he is also the author of The Science of Good and Evil and of Why People Believe Weird Things. He received his B.A. in psychology from Pepperdine University, M.A. in experimental psychology from California State University, Fullerton, and his Ph.D. in the history of science from Claremont Graduate University (1991). He was a college professor for 20 years, and since his creation of Skeptic magazine he has appeared on such shows as The Colbert Report, 20/20, Dateline, Charlie Rose, and Larry King Live (but, proudly, never Jerry Springer!).

    See my profile »
    Followers: 180
    Contributor Since: November 2009