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Science

Do Particles Have Consciousness? (qz.com) 498

An anonymous reader quotes Quartz: Consciousness permeates reality. Rather than being just a unique feature of human subjective experience, it's the foundation of the universe, present in every particle and all physical matter. This sounds like easily-dismissible bunkum, but as traditional attempts to explain consciousness continue to fail, the "panpsychist" view is increasingly being taken seriously by credible philosophers, neuroscientists, and physicists, including figures such as neuroscientist Christof Koch and physicist Roger Penrose...

"Physical science tells us a lot less about the nature of matter than we tend to assume," says Philip Goff, a philosophy professor at Central European University in Budapest, Hungary. "Arthur Eddington" -- the English scientist who experimentally confirmed Einstein's theory of general relativity in the early 20th century -- "argued there's a gap in our picture of the universe. We know what matter does but not what it is. We can put consciousness into this gap"...

An alternative panpsychist perspective holds that, rather than individual particles holding consciousness and coming together, the universe as a whole is conscious. This, says Goff, isn't the same as believing the universe is a unified divine being; it's more like seeing it as a "cosmic mess." Nevertheless, it does reflect a perspective that the world is a top-down creation, where every individual thing is derived from the universe, rather than a bottom-up version where objects are built from the smallest particles. Goff believes quantum entanglement -- the finding that certain particles behave as a single unified system even when they're separated by such immense distances there can't be a causal signal between them -- suggests the universe functions as a fundamental whole rather than a collection of discrete parts. Such theories sound incredible, and perhaps they are. But then again, so is every other possible theory that explains consciousness.

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Do Particles Have Consciousness?

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  • by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Sunday January 28, 2018 @12:35PM (#56020795)
    • by taiwanjohn ( 103839 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @01:07PM (#56021011)

      Depends on the definition of consciousness, doesn't it? AFAIK we still don't really understand that yet in ourselves, so answering the same question for the universe seems a bit premature at this point. That said, here is the one snippet from the fine summary that actually rings true to me, or at least potentially true:

      Goff believes quantum entanglement -- the finding that certain particles behave as a single unified system even when they're separated by such immense distances there can't be a causal signal between them -- suggests the universe functions as a fundamental whole rather than a collection of discrete parts.

      Whether that counts as consciousness or not is anybody's guess. What is perhaps more accessible to study is our human propensity for seeking consciousness... or rather, attributing consciousness to natural phenomena. Talk about "first world problems"... this is like a cargo cult for our technologically advanced society.

      • Quantum entanglement is real, but also seems to be really temporary, most of the time. Think about all the effort going into building quantum computers, which require quantum entanglements to be maintained in order to work. All long-lasting entanglements seem to require very special and very rare circumstances, compared to most environments in the Universe.
        • Presumably, quantum entanglements are not conduits for information signaling, rather they are signals themselves...?

          Note: I'm not a strong proponent of this theory, but I do find it intriguing.

          • >Presumably, quantum entanglements are not conduits for information signaling

            Entanglement is exactly a conduit for transmitting information. It just isn't a conduit for transmitting it faster than light. The entangled particle is subject to the same speed limit. You can interrogate it instantly, but you had to wait for it to arrive first.

            • You can interrogate it instantly, but you had to wait for it to arrive first.

              And you still can't do anything useful with that information until you hear back from the other measurer.

      • Re:The law says NO! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Smallpond ( 221300 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @02:03PM (#56021423) Homepage Journal

        This argument seems to be: quantum entaglement is weird, and consciousness is weird, so they must be related somehow.

        • Oh FFS (Score:5, Insightful)

          by fyngyrz ( 762201 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @04:09PM (#56022269) Homepage Journal

          This sounds like easily-dismissible bunkum

          That's because it is easily-dismissible bunkum.

          We don't know what consciousness is with any certainty at all, other than many animals seem to exhibit what most of us would agree upon as calling "consciousness."

          It's at least wildly premature (and very likely completely absurd) to decide that it is now a component of the inanimate.

          The thinking here — and I'm being very generous with the term — is so muddy as to be utterly opaque and pointless.

    • is that murder, with the eggheads as accomplices?

    • What the law says doesn't matter (see what I did there?), because the science is settled:

      Particles cause Global Warming, and they don't even have a bad conscience about doing so.

  • No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Wrath0fb0b ( 302444 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @12:37PM (#56020803)

    Seriously, are we out of real scientific problems to study?

    • We aren't out of science, but on the other hand we are also not out of bongs to hit. While this is the case, questions like this will still be asked.

  • Is consciousness a binary thing (either you have it or you don't), or is consciousness a spectrum of varying levels of consciousness?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      I've never understand why people even believe in "consciousness". All there is is ever greater amounts of input that can be analyzed by a neurological network to form an output. We just have a more sophisticated version than the other great apes. And because neanderthals and probably other similar species died out, it's hard to understand different degradations close to our capacities.

      Think about an artificial neural network. Each time you add a layer you improve the quality of the output, all other thin
      • by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @01:06PM (#56020997) Journal

        I've never understand why people even believe in "consciousness"

        Because we each know that we individually have consciousness.

        It's a thing, a not very well deifned thing, but a thing nonetheless. No reason to believe it' unique to hu-mons though.

        We don't even have free will.

        Don't we? Before saying we don't have it, would you mind defining what on earth free will is meant to be?

      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        If we do not have free will, wouldn't that imply that it is wrong to punish people for their crimes? What if we have suffering but not free will?

        • If we do not have free will, wouldn't that imply that it is wrong to punish people for their crimes? What if we have suffering but not free will?

          If we don't have free will then it isn't wrong to punish you, either.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by gweihir ( 88907 )

          Nobody with actual understanding claims humans do not have free will. What is claimed (and rightfully so) is that many decisions are not made using free will. But claiming the absence of free will just shows that the person making that claim lacks in intelligence.

          • I knew you were going to say that.

          • by Altrag ( 195300 )

            You're not thinking fundamentally enough. The "free will" argument with regard to physics comes from the idea of a deterministic universe: If every particle's present and future is exactly determined by its history, then that also includes the particles in our brains and bodies and therefore anything we say or do can be interpreted as a result of our particles having no choice as their path was determined at the time of the big bang, and 14 billion years of banging around led us to kill that poor woman wh

        • Of course you're right. But humans animals respond to incentives. So we should minimize punishment and have it only to ensure a deterrent effect and consider other methods of ensuring law and order that are more humane.
      • Think about an artificial neural network. Each time you add a layer you improve the quality of the output, all other things held constant.
        Plain wrong.
        NNs don't work that way. And for most problems there is an 'optimal' amount of layers/neurons ... increasing the amount of neurons or layers change nothing.

      • by gweihir ( 88907 )

        So much ignorance and stupidity in one single posting. Impressive. Just strengthens my point that physicalist are merely another stupid fundamentalist religious group that cannot see what is real.

    • If we define consciousness as something like "ability to respond to inputs", yeah, we can go from humans down to bacteria and thermostats. Is that insightful? Maybe philosophically, but what's the scientific merit? Does this statement have any predictive power?
  • by hyphnos ( 2876657 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @12:41PM (#56020823)
    Seriously - uh we don't understand consciousness so it must be in particles. No probably not. Someday we will understand it and we won't think it's the universe or particles but an emergent property of complex systems not some semi-religious drivel relegating us to handwaving about "things beyond our understanding".
  • by Improv ( 2467 ) <pgunn01@gmail.com> on Sunday January 28, 2018 @12:43PM (#56020827) Homepage Journal

    So many weasel phrases. "increasingly being taken seriously by credible" . Nope. It's a fringe view, and for good reason. Pure speculation, a kind of god of the gaps, no mechanism proposed, no explanatory or predictive power.

  • So if the idea is that complex consciousness (animals, humans) derive from the consciousness of the mass of aggregated simple particles, I would think that an understanding of biological processes related to childhood development, adulthood, and then aging would seem to deny that theory. Our consciousness does not change enough over time such that it would reflect our aggregated mass and changes in the individual particles we have over our lives as our cells die-off and are replaced.

    • So if the idea is that complex consciousness (animals, humans) derive from the consciousness of the mass of aggregated simple particles

      and if that's the case, then why aren't the other things conscious ? Like chairs or trees, or my left buttock ?

  • by najajomo ( 4890785 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @12:50PM (#56020879)
    "Consciousness permeates reality. Rather than being just a unique feature of human subjective experience, it's the foundation of the universe, present in every particle and all physical matter. This sounds like easily-dismissible bunkum, but as traditional attempts to explain consciousness continue to fail"

    Total bokum, consciousness is an emergent property of physical processes in the brain. As in a sufficiently powerful computer can create simulated entities moving about within it. No need to invoke some non corporal essence to explain the behavior of such entities.
    • > consciousness is an emergent property of physical processes in the brain

      Interesting theory, can you explain how it is falsifiable?

      • by ph0rk ( 118461 )
        The beauty of emergence is that it isn't falsifiable.

        (So, total crap).
      • "Interesting theory, can you explain how it is falsifiable?"

        Well, if I remove your brain you'll lose the ability to post to slashdot :]
        • That is a statement, or even an axiom, but not a prove.
          Now go and remove his brain ...

          How long do we wait for his posts to conclude he will never ever post again?

  • as a physicist... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Goldsmith ( 561202 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @12:51PM (#56020891)

    The nature of consciousness is a very interesting problem to study. The question in the headline is not asked seriously, but for a purpose in the larger discussion.

    Pay attention to what the scientists involved in the discussion are talking about (and ignore the philosophers... they need to learn some more math and quantum mechanics). Is the universe deterministic? How many independent decision makers can co-exist simultaneously? In physics, we understand the bounds of these questions, but can't answer them yet. The concept of particles as independent actors is an extension of allowing multiple interacting consciousnesses to an absurd limit. It's presented by physicists as a mathematically impossible situation, to demonstrate that there will be some limit or law on what can be conscious. Having one consciousness in the universe is appealing to the way physicists think.

    • What for me is interesting is the monkey wrench quantum entanglement adds to the equation. It implies information exchange but defies distance and energy exchange physics. Indeed quantum entanglement between particles could be an explanation for self awareness beyond neural synaptic activity. Here on slashdot we think mostly of how electrons work in circuits. Thinking only about how timed circuits instantiate an action defies understand how the activity of awareness can be initiated. The ultimate classical
      • by gweihir ( 88907 )

        Quantum entanglement does not imply information exchange. Read up on the Physics sometime.

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      Having one consciousness in the universe is appealing to the way physicists think.

      Indeed. And then you have that for every question there is an explanation that simple, elegant, clear and wrong. Seems to be what happened here. These people are intellectually _lazy_.

    • Some questions are so very insipid physicists should have nothing to do with them; let's not make a laughing stock out of the field. Let's leave unverifiable fantasies to fiction writers and theologians.

  • Hello, credible philosophers. Please note that The Force, from Star Wars, is a fictional device meant to play a role in entertaining the audience. It's not actually a thing.
  • Ender's Game Series (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AnotherAnonymousUser ( 972204 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @12:59PM (#56020947)
    Orson Scott Card actually dug into this a bit in the later part of the Ender's series with the philotic twining and aiuas as the fundamental core of the universe, that particles essentially willed themselves into existence in an increasingly hierarchical way, and that they could be called into existence by others. Base matter was a certain kind of aiua possessed of a will that could bond and bind energy into a material form, while consciousness was an aiua that could govern and rule over other aiuas. That theory always seemed to resonate a bit well as a universal kind of spirituality intertwined with physics. In any case, it made for great reading.
    • by shess ( 31691 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @02:42PM (#56021715) Homepage

      Orson Scott Card actually dug into this a bit in the later part of the Ender's series with the philotic twining and aiuas as the fundamental core of the universe, that particles essentially willed themselves into existence in an increasingly hierarchical way, and that they could be called into existence by others. Base matter was a certain kind of aiua possessed of a will that could bond and bind energy into a material form, while consciousness was an aiua that could govern and rule over other aiuas. That theory always seemed to resonate a bit well as a universal kind of spirituality intertwined with physics. In any case, it made for great reading.

      I think you're speaking of a mythical fourth book in the Ender's series, which was never written because Card lost his mind. Same kind of thing as the Matrix sequels and the Star Wars Christmas Special, the universe acts to prevent certain outcomes from occurring.

  • Correction (Score:5, Insightful)

    by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @12:59PM (#56020951) Journal

    "...the "panpsychist" view is increasingly being taken seriously by soon to be considered less-credible philosophers, neuroscientists, and physicists, including figures such as neuroscientist Christof Koch and physicist Roger Penrose.."

    From the article:
    "Consciousness is a fundamental feature of physical matter; every single particle in existence has an âoeunimaginably simpleâ form of consciousness, says Goff. These particles then come together to form more complex forms of consciousness, such as humansâ(TM) subjective experiences."
    Logically the larger the object, the "more" consciousness it has. A 200t pile of sand would be "more conscious" than a person or a dog?

    Essentially, they can't explain how consciousness arises from physics, so they claim all the constituent parts 'have consciousness'. Just admit you don't know something and then try to figure it out; handwavy intellectual caulking slobbed into whatever gaps exist in your understanding don't make it smooth: it simply shows you're lazy.

    It seems a pretty long, awkward, and torturous way to just desperately try to avoid actually calling it animism and religion.

    • Re:Correction (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ByteSlicer ( 735276 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @01:46PM (#56021323)

      Essentially, they can't explain how consciousness arises from physics, so they claim all the constituent parts 'have consciousness'.

      A few thousand years ago, people could not explain fire, so they imagined it contained elemental particles [wikipedia.org] of fire. Who needs modern physics anyway?

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      Essentially, they can't explain how consciousness arises from physics, so they claim all the constituent parts 'have consciousness'. Just admit you don't know something and then try to figure it out; handwavy intellectual caulking slobbed into whatever gaps exist in your understanding don't make it smooth: it simply shows you're lazy.

      It seems a pretty long, awkward, and torturous way to just desperately try to avoid actually calling it animism and religion.

      Could not agree more. The only value that this nonsense has is confirming that Physics still has no clue what consciousness is and that those claiming they know it are just full of it. Incidentally, the same is true for intelligence, but that is harder to see.

  • by CaptainDork ( 3678879 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @01:03PM (#56020981)

    ... is Dolly Particles and she has a theme park and big tits and stuff.

  • I believe this was settled already last year, when it was decided that we were almost certainly living in a simulation of a universe. Sheesh.
    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      Indeed. That was another nice demonstration how very wrong people that actually should know better can be. Sure, it is a possible model, but the "proof" for the probability was as incompetent and disconnected as it gets. Reminded me of a certain type of "proof" for the existence of "God" that is about similarly stupid.

  • Just because we haven't yet figured out things like consciousness, doesn't mean you should allow yourself to say "fuck it" and fall back on the ages-old flaw in the human brain that looks for simple one-line 'explanations' for complex concepts, and in essence say "god did it" -- and that, in essence, is what this is. It's a cop-out, and I find it to be intellectually reprehensible. Anyone who calls themselves a 'scientist' but espouses opinions like this, under the auspices of them being a 'scientist', is r
    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      You are not any better than those you look down on. Yes, they are stupid and are going into baseless mystic "explanations". But the actual Scientific state-of-the-art is that we have no clue what consciousness (and intelligence) is and there are no Scientific reasons to believe we will find out. Science has never managed to accurately describe anything even remotely comparable and hence there is no precedent. Postulating "we will find out" is just mysticism that ascribes unlimited power to Science.

  • Kinda (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Bongo ( 13261 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @01:13PM (#56021057)

    First, the materialist view demands that whatever consciousness is, it must merely emerge from matter. For various reasons, this materialist position runs into brick walls and is a dead end. This is Descartes’ point: if you are faced with consciousness and matter, and are wondering which one might be the illusory one, you are going to have to pick matter as the illusory one. All the materialist positions run into this simple fact, that if you just close your eyes and wonder what is truly real, all you can say is that you are existing, you have a sence of existing, and that experience would not be present without your consciousness - - meanwhile, what arises in your awareness, lights and souds, you cannot know if they are real or a dream or the matrix or whatever - - every night we wake from dreams which we had no idea at the time were merely dreams, as they felt real whist you were dreaming (and sometimes you notice and have a lucid dream) so who is to say what you will decide about this life, should you wake up to a higher level after you leave this body? Nobody knows, but the problem remains, a consistent world with physical laws is no guarantee that this world of matter is the true reality, and after all, mathematics is extremely rigorous and consistent and yet all in the mind, so the mind can generate extremely complex and rigorous phenomena yet 100% mind-stuff - - meanwhile, you are always certain of consciousness - - even at night dreaming, you have proof of consciousness - - so consciousness would win, if you had to pick one. So what to do? We cannot pick materialist beliefs. The answer is that consciousness and matter are both real, forever. Trying to explain one in terns of the other always causes problems.

    • All the materialist positions run into this simple fact

      If there was such a simple and valid argument that could undermine the materialist position, there wouldn't be so many materialists. Apparently, the argument is less convincing than you think it is.

      should you wake up to a higher level after you leave this body

      We have never seen any sign that this is possible. Your theory is running into a brick wall here.

      • by gweihir ( 88907 )

        All the materialist positions run into this simple fact

        If there was such a simple and valid argument that could undermine the materialist position, there wouldn't be so many materialists. Apparently, the argument is less convincing than you think it is.

        And fail. Materialism is just a surrogate for religion to a certain type of person. They are about as ignorant and inaccessible to rational arguments as the religious ones.

    • if you are faced with consciousness and matter, and are wondering which one might be the illusory one

      Well, there's your problem. You're starting out with a bad premise. A false dichotomy. Why does what we describe as consciousness have to be anything other than an adequately complex feature of physical processes (as seen in such things as a suitably complex neurological system, as we have)?

      But, no. People who desperately need a subject for that term paper they're righting for their wackadoo professor, or who need clicks on their blog, or simply don't have the intellectual courage to admit that they're

      • by Bongo ( 13261 )

        Well, your premise runs into the problem that it actually says nothing.

        Using words “emergent” and “complexity” actually say nothing.

        HOW does it emerge? HOW DOES MATTER BECOME QUALIA?

        And why would complexity have anything to do with that? HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT AN ANT IS NOT SENTIENT?

        I emphasise those two points, excuse the caps.

        I am all for throwing away thousands of years of religious dogma. But materialism has also become a dogma. Most “smart” people get round it by si

  • by drolli ( 522659 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @01:15PM (#56021073) Journal

    Sorry. I really have enough of this. As somebody who worked for 10 years in Quantum Science (experimental), I already know that when the word consciousness appears in a physics context, 5 lines later there will a reference to entanglement.

    Let me express that *obviously* most physicists are unhappy with Quantum Mechanics and Kopenhagen Interpretation not being emergent from a known appropriately local theory of the universe, but this frustration should not lead to shit like this.

    Let me state my view on this:

    * Entanglement does not allow to transmit information fast than light

    * In the meantime, we understand the observer/measurement problem much better than let's say 30 years ago. It is acceptable for people being educate before 1981-1990 in quantum mechanics not to have knowledge about dephasing by a coupled bath, but this doesn't make it good science to push everything which we don't understand to consciousness

    * We can calculate decoherence rates of quantum states for given coupling strengths and temperatures. These rates are, in aqueous solution quite high, which clearly expresses that information processing in the brain will not happen by quantum processes which can not be described by reaction rates of molecules/ions.

    * Assuming that particles have consciousness is not a scientific theory, since it is not falsifiable. (All the particles in your experiment *wanted* to fly that way today, and the day before and the day before, but maybe they change their mind)

    * Experiments like mind-matter unification project and other tests of esoteric theories going in this direction never showed any result beyond what could be expected.

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      Indeed. There is no way to even begin explaining consciousness based on Physics as known today. Claiming differently as a scientist is just completely unethical and irresponsible. The actual state of things is that we have no clue what is going on with regards to consciousness and it is important to make that absolutely clear. This nonsense just opens the door for religion and devalues Science. That is not good at all.

  • by Xenolith0 ( 808358 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @01:16PM (#56021079) Homepage

    "Wes then says that from looking at the warp equations he thinks time and space and thought are all one thing. This surprises the assistant, who tells him never to say such a thing again "in a world that's not ready for it.""

    The last quote should really be: "Shut Up, Wesley!".

    http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/... [wikia.com]

  • Stop being so credulous.

  • Delenn: "Then I will tell you a great secret, Captain. Perhaps the greatest of all time. The molecules of your body are the same molecules that make up this station, and the nebula outside, that burn inside the stars themselves. We are starstuff. We are the universe made manifest, trying to figure itself out. And as we have both learned, sometimes the universe requires a change of perspective."

  • If you want the answer, just ask a particle.
  • by Northdot ( 1585317 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @01:45PM (#56021315)

    If you expand the definition of Consciousness to absurd lengths (anything that interacts with anything else), then any conclusions you draw will be meaningless.

  • Rupert Sheldrake has a theory of morphic resonance. He used rats who's task was to learn to escape from a specially constructed tank of water by swimming to one of two gangways that led out of the water. Successive generations of rats leaned how to escape the water in far less time than the first generation of rats. His theory is that the knowledge of how to escape the tank was somehow carried from generation to generation. https://www.sheldrake.org/abou... [sheldrake.org]
  • ... that arises when people desperate for an explanation do not have even nearly enough data to form one. Hence boundless speculation ensues that has no value as an actual explanation. Look for example also to religion and the average ridiculous urban myth.

    The sane thing is to accept that we have no clue what consciousness is. Also, incidentally, we have no clue what intelligence is, we can only somewhat describe its effects. This is harder to see, but a dive into the relevant research makes it amply clear.

  • ..we ARE particles.. and we have consciousness... so yes.
  • The assertion means nothing unless consciousness is defined in an objectively testable manner. If it is, then you can test to see whether it's true or not.

    People making assertions about "consciousness" generally handwave and say "you know what I mean", whereas actually you only "sort of" know what they mean, and if you're going to make this kind of assertion, details are significant.

    It's worth noting that this is from a philosophy professor addressing the "hard problem of consciousness" which is usually eq

  • We can't teach religion in schools, intelligent design failed to bypass that, so lets come up with another explanation of "god" so we can push that on everyone.
  • All these articles and discussions have a feeling of attempts to explain how electromagnetic waves propagate. We do not know so there must be Luminiferous Aether!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

  • This is the idea in some of Philip Pullman's books [wikipedia.org]; that dust (some kind of new particle), which permeates the universe, is somehow responsible for conciousness. The books are fantasy aimed at kids, but are a fun read.

    As for panpsychist, an interesting idea ... can we please have some theories that make predictions that we can test.

  • So particles have "small amount of consciousness" and by putting them together you get more organized forms?

    The same way multiple noise generators would produce a coherent music?

    And rules of entropy?

    This is so wrong on some many levels.

  • by az-saguaro ( 1231754 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @04:17PM (#56022305)

    The responses here to this article not surprisingly run the gamut from hokum and bunk to contemplative science and philosophy. This is to be expected because this is a speculative subject for which there is no patent answer, so one can assess or react to it in any number of legitimate and respectable ways, from doctrinaire belief to dismissive skepticism. There are however a few points worth considering before adopting too strong of an opinion either way.

    1) The world has always been full of charlatans and phony philosophers promulgating ridiculous beliefs meant to beguile and defraud the intellectually weak and unwary, purveyors of fud (fear-uncertainty-doubt), self-serving false prophets who seek power or recognition through the intimidation of retarded ideas. Any sensible person who is not cognizant of that reality of history and human nature risks succumbing to the worst nightmares that mankind has ever produced. Thus, kudos to the skeptics who keep us honest and prevent intellectual derailments.

    2) However, the universe is also full of rich wonders awaiting our discovery. We only know what we know today because of the efforts and insights of scientists and philosophers before us, and we in turn are the intellectual stepping stones to the generations that follow. Unanswered questions seek their solutions, and we, the stewards of finding and preserving new knowledge, must not become complacent with what we already know, but must seek the new knowledge that awaits around the corner of the next experiment or observation. Thus, kudos to those dreamers and believers with the enthusiasm to seek the answers to the next question.

    Consider the evolution of discovery in human society up until this point. Flip a wall switch and we can see at night without first gathering wood and rubbing two sticks together. Would that not have seemed like magic to a neolithic citizen? We can talk to each other around the world in real time, audio, video, and data. Even Marconi and Morse, who could have understood the technologies perfectly well, would probably have marveled where we have come since their innovations, yet for much of history prior to them, such technologies would have been magic, the work of god or the devil. People in the times of Cleopatra, Constantine, and Charlemagne might have explained flying machines and human flight as the work of divine endowment, yet we hop planes as easily as a chariot, and even the Montgolfier and Wright brothers would have marveled at the pictures that come to use from Jupiter, Saturn, and Pluto. Our science was the magic and mysticism of prior generations. There is a vast universe of unknown knowledge that awaits discovery, so we must keep open eyes and minds not to overlook what to future generations might seem so obvious.

    Even when an idea, a postulate, a hypothesis, a theory proves to be wrong, just a fantasy, it may often light the way to real discovery. We debase the alchemists of prior times because they are perceived as being on a fool’s quest to transform base metals. Yet in their times, they did not know that gold could not be made by simple mixing and stirring of common items. We only know that because they discovered and proved that for us smug people from the future. While they never found the philosopher’s stone and the secret of transformation, they discovered the properties of materials and chemistry. Our modern chemical sciences and technologies were not born in an intellectual big bang at the end of the 18th century. They are the formalization of vast chemical and metallurgical knowledge gained by empiricism and limited scientific experimentation garnered over millenia before.

    Copernicus was not successful because of a metaphysical epiphany, but because, trying to first work the numbers from the church doctrine point of view, he could not account for the motion of the planets. he was brave enough to buck society and take a fresh look. How many meritorious grants from promising post docs have been buried because t

  • by manu0601 ( 2221348 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @08:22PM (#56023609)
    Here is a simple experiment about consciousness: every night, sleep turns your body into a huge bunch of non conscious particles. How does that fit with panconsciousness?

I bet the human brain is a kludge. -- Marvin Minsky

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