Biological basis for Consciousness?

Question of the Day, Sept 8-9 2015, biological basis of Consciousness?

What is the biological basis of consciousness?
Here is a link that may assist:

Hi FOS and Jeff and others

I like the fountain analogy for biology generally, but not what you have both taken from it.

To me, our physical form is much more like a fountain than a statue.

It is the flow of energy and matter than maintains our form.

So energy and matter are both like aspects of water to the form of the fountain (pressure and mass).

And the pipes and nozzles are like the DNA and the processes derived from it, the complexes of proteins and fats and sugars and histones and all the other many classes of chemicals that make up the amazingly complex interacting layers of systems and boundaries and information and information processing that seems to make us what we are.

Turn off the water (deprive a human of the essentials of life, food, shelter, air, water, freedom, social interaction, culture, the will to question), there is no fountain (consciousness).

Break the plumbing (and any of the many biological systems that give form to the fountain, cells, blood vessels, heart, liver, etc, and most important brain), there is no fountain (consciousness).

The paper on the biological basis for intelligence is an introduction.

A far more interesting introduction from my perspective is the interview of Marvin Minsky by Ray Kurzweil.

In this interview the leader of the biggest team currently involved in AI research interviews the person whom Asimov judged to be the smartest human being living, who also happens to be a professor of physics and psychology and interested in the subject of intelligence.

I have been interested in biology for over 55 years.

I started subscribing to scientific journals on the subject 46 years ago. I have probably averaged a couple of hours a day reading on the subject during that time, and a similar period contemplating the implications and relationships of that which I had read. I have spent a few thousand hours testing various hypotheses.

My understanding is not common or main-stream.

I am not particularly interested in having the agreement of others, I am much more interested in what observation and contemplating indicate is most probable.

And I do make real effort to communicate the essential forms of the results of my explorations, even if I cannot possibly indicate the paths of those explorations in detail (it takes me about a thousand times longer to write or speak something than it does to think it).

So I am clear, beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, that our consciousness is an emergent set of properties of a very complex set of processes involving biology and culture and logic and algorithm in a matrix that has both lawful and random elements that can give the impression of hard causality at some levels yet retains the ability for real individual choice at other levels.

I am clear that for all our knowledge of biology, the real complexity of the biological systems is likely to be such that we will still be learning subtle and interesting and important things about ourselves in a thousand years time, even given the rapid exponential development of information and knowledge.

It does in fact seem to be the case that the more we know, the more we know we don’t know, and the less certain we become about some things.

This does seem to be a logical requirement of the exploration of any infinity.

Heisenberg demonstrated that perfect knowledge of anything in reality is impossible. At the smallest scales, the more we know about position, the less we know of momentum, and vice versa. So all knowledge of reality is constrained to probabilities at this lowest of levels, and on all levels above (though the degree of uncertainty in large collections can be very small – well below normal errors of measurement).

Goedel demonstrated that even the realm of pure logic is incomplete, in the sense that there are truths about a system that cannot be proven even if all initial considerations are known.

Then we have Wolfram, who has demonstrated infinite classes of ways of interpreting and understanding and modelling and computation and algorithm more generally.

And now we have the experimental engineering approach to Artificial Intelligence, which is demonstrating clearly that all knowledge is essentially heuristic (useful “rules of thumb” that work most of the time).

It seems that the substructure of the universe within which we find ourselves, while finite, does in fact support an infinite set of the possible (which set seems to contain a potentially infinite set of infinite sets). Thus there appears to be no end to both knowledge and uncertainty.

It seems that our physical brains, while finite and bounded, allow us to model systems that are neither finite nor bounded (though we may only ever investigate a finite set of instances of the members of any infinite set in any finite time).

So it is clear to me, beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, that the biological basis of consciousness is in part the result of evolution by natural selection working over about 4 billion years delivering the bodies and brains we have.

And part of that process has been the recursive application of evolution to the new levels of mimetics (the patterns of behaviour and thought passed through culture and interaction), by analogues of much the same mechanisms as we see in the chemical evolution of bodies and ecosystems. And this process can be recursively more abstract within individuals – though symbolic communication of abstracts is difficult to achieve or judge the effectiveness of.

And the role of cooperation in the evolution of complex systems was exposed by the work of Robert Axelrod and others in the 60s and was well known in the communities interested in the mathematics and logic of evolution by the early 70s.

It is accurate to characterise all major new levels of complexity in life as the emergence of new levels of cooperation stabilised by attendant strategies to prevent cheating (and there is often a great deal of resistance by cheats to the emergence of such stabilising strategies – at all levels – which can send one into infinite regress if taken too far, and it does need to be taken quite a long way!).

So yes – a biological basis to consciousness, and the patterns of consciousness, and the possibilities of consciousness seem, beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, to have the potential for infinite creativity and interest and diversity (at any level or set of levels).

[followed by]

Was going along OK with him until 14 minutes in when he made started making false claims about science and scientists.
Science, at its best, is a process of asking questions, coming up with possible explanations, designing experiments to distinguish which of the explanations under consideration is most probable.
Science is ultimately based in a balance of probabilities.
Science at its best acknowledges that all we have is models, and models are never the thing being modelled.
Models have utility in particular contexts.
In this sense, science doesn’t deal in “Truth”, it deals in best guesses given available evidence sets.

Spira claims that there is an assumption of matter, but that no scientist has ever seen matter.
That is just so wrong on so many levels.

The best hypotheses around at present incorporate aspects of Hiesenberg uncertainty (we cannot ever know reality perfectly), with Einsteinian relativity (matter and energy are different forms of the same “stuff” and the illusion of time seems to be a function of the “light”/energy aspect of that stuff) and the quantum nature of the very small (that stuff is not as localised as classical mechanics assumes, but is rather “smeared out” in probability distributions across whatever it is that gives us this objective reality we find ourselves in {which our best experiments to date indicate appears to be at least an 11 dimensional something}). And to a good first order approximation, all that complexity can be usefully approximated at everyday scales with the ideas of matter and energy.

His dismissal of matter as the “eating habits of the Loch Ness monster” is at best a self serving put-down of something he doesn’t understand, and a worst a calculated psychological ploy to divide and rule. In a very real sense it is the very lowest form of communication, a way of creating community by putting up a false image of another group, then vilifying it. It is entirely equivalent to how Goebbels propagandised and vilified the Jews in Nazi Germany.

At that point, my respect for him went down many notches.

Out of my respect for you, I continued to listen.

He next started on the “Hard Problem of consciousness – how can consciousness be derived from matter?”
He made the claim that it is a “pseudo question”, a “non-existent question”.

He then states “we have no idea what matter is, yet we ask how consciousness is derived from it, do you have to be an astrophysicist to notice the contradiction there.”
That statement is just so intellectually dishonest.

Perhaps he actually believes it, I don’t know. From the micro-movements of face I suspect he is at some level actually aware of his dishonesty, and is actually deliberately deceiving others for personal gain at that level.

And I will elaborate on this distinction because it is crucial to understanding anything about science or logic.
It is not equivalent to take the statement of a scientist that “we do not know all details of the fundamental structure of this stuff we call matter and energy”, and turn that into “we have no idea what matter is”.
We have a great many very useful sets of knowledge about matter and energy, at different scales and in different contexts.

Artists can know the properties of matter in terms of types of clay, and its properties with respect to types of firing and types of glazes, or the subtleties of pigments on canvas reflecting light.
Engineers can understand the properties of metals to create jet engines, or sky scrapers, or cars that can run for hundreds of thousands of miles without breakdown.
We can understand the properties of matter to a scale that allows us to make computers, that operate in logical predictable fashion with error rates that are tiny, less than one in a trillion trillion operations (we have petaflop computers that have run for years, and self driving cars that have done hundreds of thousands of miles without accident).

So while we are truthful, and acknowledge that there is uncertainty in all models, that is not at all the same thing as saying that models have no utility.

Of course our models have utility, at particular scales and in particular contexts.

All children start from simple models, simple ideas, mostly binaries – light/dark, heavy/light, hot/cold, from which we develop ever more complex and subtle models of this “reality” within which we find ourselves, including the nature of this experience of being we call consciousness.

We have very strong sets of evidence about the nature of consciousness, if people are actually prepared to look at them. Lots of work on the nature of brain. Lots of work on the pathologies of brains (both genetic and accident or disease based) and many experiments at many levels.

The modelling tools we now have available based on our ability to use computers and algorithms to make models give some of us practical experience in the realm of abstracting from abstractions using computer based models as both tools and experience sets to build our intuitive abilities.
So Spira is just simply wrong. He is telling falsehoods. I strongly suspect (but cannot prove) that he is doing so deliberately for personal gain, and it is just possible that he may not be consciously aware of the fact.

At 17:24 he goes off down another logical dead end. He is doing exactly what he is critiquing – making assumptions without supporting evidence and in the face of vast evidence sets.

At that point – I stopped watching.
Nothing that man says can have any credibility based upon the sets of assumptions he has established at this point.

It is clear to me, that yes, we have the experience of consciousness we have.
It is clear to me that this “field of consciousness” that we each seem to experience (I have mine and it seems likely that others have their’s), is a software model of reality created by our subconscious brains that becomes the existential world for our software awareness running on the squishy hardware that is a human brain.
And it is such an amazingly complex set of systems.
We understand a few dozen of the major subsystems to levels that allow approximation in models to accuracies of well over 90%. Within 14 years it seems very likely that we will have sufficient understanding of the systems that we will be able to model a human being sufficiently well that human beings will not be able to reliably distinguish between the model and another human. And this says more about the inability of humans to make clear distinctions than it does about our ability to model all aspects of being human. I suspect that we will be learning new aspects about what makes us what we are for a very long time, and much of that will be too subtle for even the best experts to notice in practical conversation (we are each that variable in practice – for a host of different reasons).

So no – Spira’s ideas have been falsified, beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt.
The tools he is using are very similar in form to those used by any propagandist trying to create in and out groups for the purpose of control and power.

If he was willing to engage in debate of the questions, in exploration of assumptions, models, algorithms, evidence, experience, interpretive schema then I would do so.
And I very much doubt he would be interested. If he is honest, then he obviously has not looked at science at any depth and any in depth enquiry will most probably destroy the current foundation of his belief structure (which will be difficult for him), and if he is dishonest, then he is not going to engage in question or debate with integrity and will most likely resort to tools that attack the man rather than the question.


[followed by]

Hi Judy

We don’t disagree that everyone seems to be essentially the same sort of consciousness.
We don’t disagree that everyone seems to be far more complex than most are aware of even the possibility of.
We don’t disagree that consciousness exists in a context that is not reality itself directly.

Where Spira and I part company is in the a number of ontological areas.
History has demonstrated by some horrific examples that children deprived of language and culture fail to develop many of what we would normally associate as human attributes. In Spira’s terminology one might say that their “field of consciousness” is very different, if existent at all in the worst cases.

Thus it seems clear that interaction in reality is required for this “field of consciousness” to develop.

I can watch other people sleep.
I can train my subconscious to accurately measure the passage of time as measured by clocks.
I can ask other people if they observed me sleeping, and I can access my own observations both of clocks and of my subconscious “clock” upon waking and find agreement that my awareness was absent for a period of time.

From experience in reality I learn of things that are hard and soft.
I find I can safely run into water, but running into trees results in pain and broken teeth and bleeding nose and face.
Years of such experience teach me that some aspects of reality have real consequences.

It is powerful to avoid stepping off the pavement in front of buses if one wishes to live.
It seems similarly powerful to stay out of the way of bullets, knives, bombs and other devices of war.

About 38 years ago I had one friend who was so convinced of the power of consciousness to create reality that he was certain he could communicate after death. He told me with absolute confidence that he would communicate with me, and the next day killed himself. No communications have been forthcoming.

I have been a farmer and a gardener and a fisherman and a hunter. I have killed millions of other plants and animals for food. I know how difficult it can be to grow the plants or animals you want to eat, when other plants and animals want to eat them too.

I have stood on mountain tops and tried with every aspect of my will to fly, with no effect.
I have trained as a pilot, and have over 500 hours experience flying powered and unpowered, fixed and rotor wing aircraft, over mountains, plains, rivers, lakes and oceans (flew 400 miles over ocean to the Chatham Islands one day – that requires a certain trust in technology, it is a long way to swim).

So we have clear evidence that acquiring language requires interaction with other entities, yet he then goes on to try and use language to somehow invalidate that evidence set. That seems fundamentally, ontologically dishonest.

I get that we have the field of experience that we have, and the best model that I have for that at present is the model of a software entity experiencing a software model of reality.
I have mountains of evidence, from physiology, neuro-chemistry, cybernetics, modelling theory and practice to support that model.

I have lots of evidence for models.
I have lots of evidence for evolution.
I have lots of evidence for simple systems working together to create more complex systems, with new levels of emergent properties resulting from such cooperation. I see it over and over and over again in the levels of systems that seem clearly to be part of the so very complex entities that we seem to be.

So yes – we have this amazing “experiential field” of awareness.
Yes it can feel infinite.
Yes it has capabilities that are far beyond our powers of conscious reason, and when one is able to abstract systems, one can deal with individual instances at the level of detail, and then have some beginnings of an idea of how billions or trillions of such systems might work together to produce something.
Computers are great at that.
I can write short patterns of symbols that could keep a computer working for the rest of eternity, without delivering a result.
Abstraction upon abstraction upon abstraction, ….
I have gone to twelve levels.
I have difficulty communicating what seems to me to be a simple two level abstraction – stuff I was doing over 50 years ago.
I rarely go past 3 levels these days. Doing so can be fun but it takes me so far from any beginnings of an ability to communicate with others, that I have chosen to forgo that pleasure (as I have chosen to forgo the pleasures of alcohol, sugar, meat, chocolate etc as part of a survival probability function). I do these things because I see that by doing so some far greater long term benefit is possible (not guaranteed, and possible- and that possibility is worth everything). Choosing how, when, where to apply my meagre resources, that is a far more subtle and difficult set of choices.

And Spira is using arguments that are ontologically dishonest – though few would be able to challenge him on it.
And for a host of reasons, they are very effective – that is why propaganda works as it does.

You like his model.
I see his model as without basis, and him as a fraud and a charlatan – perhaps an honest fool, and quite possibly a deeply cynical exploiter of humanity for personal gain (like many other civil and religious leaders in history).

[followed by]

Hi Judi

I know that we can do some amazing things by loosening the cultural restrictions on what we believe possible.

I am aware that experiential reality (as distinct from physical reality) exists in the “conscious field”.

And guns only have meaning if physical reality has primacy.
Guns do kill people.
Consciousness does not have primacy.

It really is that simple in a very real sense.

[followed by]

Hi Jeff, Deb, Judi, et al

Yeah it is nice to “get my teeth into” something that I’ve been thinking about for over 50 years.
And I love the way the different perspectives of others spark different chains of relationships in my understandings – that is part of the beauty of conversation over contemplation.
Thanks too to Bhatta for the question, and I see a whole new batch coming, and one is crucial to this and all discussions – the idea of sanity. To me, in so far as sanity is defined by social agreement, it is vastly over rated. I can align that there are certain things that can be demanded by society (such as respect for the life and liberty of all individuals) and that is about it. Beyond that, sanity is simply a notion of social control that we need to get past as soon as possible.

Once one begins to investigate and understand the infinity of the possible, then one must accept the necessary infinite diversity that must logically result. That demands an acceptance and a tolerance that is not common in existent cultures (so such cultures must go, they no longer pass the test of minimum standards of respect for life and liberty).

And at the same time, we must all acknowledge that all of our histories contain such cultures – no one is inherently more special than anyone else, we are just at different stages of levels of possible development is all. We must all start from relatively simple ideas. There is no other logical possibility.
Where we take development from that simplicity is the real question.

@ Jeff – your comment about balls is particularly relevant at present. We have two large dogs, a lab and a lab-mastiff cross, that often tear tennis balls to pieces (we buy them packets of tennis balls at the $2 shop periodically). We also have a visiting Hungarian Vizsla pup, that is pure wriggle, that is just a bit too energetic for our 11 year old Lab-Mastiff, but about right for the younger Lab. So our house is even more chaotic than usual – which is saying something.
As I write our small lounge has three large dogs (two of whom are chaotically energetic) and two people, and our deck has several hundred sparrows feeding.
The SW gale is blowing again. When it struck last evening it was amazing. It went from calm to a steady 40 knots gusting 70 knots in about 4 seconds flat. The air was filled with branches and leaves for a couple of minutes, and the house shook and rattled. The rattling continued all night to a lessening degree.

Right now the gale has eased back to about 20-30 knots, and the view has changed. The mountains no longer have their pristine white coats of snow, the wind has blasted it from the south facing slopes, so now they look more “muddy” in appearance.
Back to subject.

Ailsa prefers the version “If a man is standing in a forest, and there is no woman present, is he still wrong?” to which she shouts “YES!” and we both laugh.
It is an old question, and points to the classical lack of distinction between reality and our experiential model thereof, and the confusions that result.

It is now clear, beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, what actually happens.

If a tree falls in a forest, there are waves of energy created, that fade with distance (as they must due to increasing surface area of the sphere of their expansion with time and absorption by various surfaces along the way). These phenomena, are what, if heard by a human ear, produce the effects in the model of reality in the brain that is attached to that ear that are then “heard” by the software entity (consciousness) that is living in (existent within) that model (field of consciousness) in that brain.

This is now beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt the basic structure of what we are.
The detail of the complexity of the systems involved that create both the model and the software entity within it are far less well understood. And they are becoming far better understood. A great deal of money is going into building that understanding right now – several billion dollars worth of the most powerful intellectual talent on the planet this year alone – mostly at Google under the guidance of Ray Kurzweil, and also elsewhere in about a dozen other major centres and a couple of hundred minor ones.
It is an amazing topic. Vast literature. Vast amounts of discussion and activity – experiments and algorithms.

@Judi, Deb et al
This framework of understanding explains why it is so easy and common to feel that consciousness is primary. It explains in detail how that illusion is created. It is much the same thing as looking up at that sun and saying – look – there it is, it is plain and obvious that the sun goes around the world, it is what we see.
Thinking that consciousness is primary is exactly analogous to thinking that the earth is the centre of the universe. It is the simple logical first explanation. It is how it seems. It does look like the sun goes around the earth. It is in fact what we see.

It is just that now we know that is not how it is.
We have actually put people and cameras in space. We can now see in real time, that the earth is a spinning ball and we are on its surface and we see the sun going around us because it is us that is spinning, not the sun.

In exactly analogous fashion, we can now put instruments in place that show us that consciousness is an artefact of biology.
And experientially, it doesn’t seem that way.
And just as experientially, we see the sun going around us, but intellectually we can now see that it is us that is spinning and creating the illusion, so too it is now possible to see, beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, that it is biology that gives rise to the environment within which consciousness exists.

And Galileo and others were persecuted for their heresy in speaking that the earth was not the centre of the universe when it was publicly known and agreed to be so.

So too are those who first see new and more accurate schema always seen as wrong by the necessary vast majority still thinking in the modes that previously had agreement.

It is a logical necessity that it be so.

I accepted that the evidence for the earth simply being one ball of rock amongst many was overwhelming over 50 years ago (about 54 years ago).
Same for consciousness (though 50 years ago the uncertainty was much higher than it is now, today my level of uncertainty is way less than one part in a billion, back then it was still several percent).

I have lost count of the number of paradigms I am away from that first step on the path I have travelled these last 50 years.

For me, the old saying “one cannot derive an ought from an is” is just so obviously false, and yet I see people who should know better (people with PhDs in the subject) still holding it as a tenet.

I see a vast multi dimensional landscape of possible modes of understanding, and I can see why people settle into the valleys in that landscape that they do. And I have my intellectual aircraft that let me fly across landscapes, and my other modes of transport that let me explore new worlds, new dimensions of modes of understanding and interpretation of this experience called life.

And I am one human being, in a specific human brain, in a specific place on a specific planet spinning around a specific sun in a specific galaxy in a specific universe. I am that I am, as we all are that we are, both alike and different, both constrained and empowered by the distinctions and concepts we have and use.

And this ability to communicate, to use analogy to give the hint of something intensely personal to others is an amazing tool.

I am not constrained by the agreement of others. I enjoy it when it happens, and it is not a significant attractor in the space of the strategic topologies that give an approximation (the best available approximation) to what I am.

This is the best I can do to communicate.
Be as you are – a mixture of history and will and questioning that is highly contextually variable.

And if you are interested, in what it actually is that most influences what we are, then I strongly recommend a path similar to my own in general form. And it is not a social path. It is a path so far from the social norms that often it will feel that those who do listen to you do so from a hundred feet away, while at your back is a thundering waterfall. So they see my lips move, and hear occasional words, and very little of what I try to convey gets through. And I know that, and accept that, and it is how it must be, and there is still sadness and loneliness that is present (as a necessary part of my humanity).

In part I long for the communion of shared understanding, and I know that it is highly unlikely that such things will be common.

So deep breaths, keep on keeping on (do what it takes to keep on breathing – that above all else). Sharing what time remains between exploration and communication (such as each are).

[followed by {added 12/9/15}]

Hi Deb & FOS

Exactly FOS – Ailsa has a wicked sense of humour, often doing second level abstracts in her punch lines.

There are some understandings that I would love to be able to share, but have not yet found a way – with anyone.
There are a couple of things that seem to be really useful, irrespective of whatever else interests.

One is the idea that all understanding builds from the simple to the more complex and subtle. Most people over 30 have no problem with that – it makes perfect sense.

However, very few people apply it to the idea of truth itself. Most hang onto the idea of being right like to lose it means death.

It seems that the single greatest source of conflict is the very notion of truth.

The ancients accepted it as real.
They had no idea that truth is just one of the many simple binaries that we must start out learning and believing.

If one starts with that idea, and one studies reality, then one gets to Heisenberg, and the fundamental uncertainty in reality, that deals a mortal blow to the idea of Truth in respect to anything real.

Most who go into theoretical physics manage to hang onto the idea of Truth, they don’t tend to look too closely at the experimental results, they tend to be more attached to their logics and equations, and provided the observations are close enough, they hang onto the Truth of their models, rather than looking more closely at reality.

There are not many who manage to make the full transition from truth to probability.
There are even fewer who see QM as probability, who see the fundamental randomness beneath the probability functions.

It seems that this languaging software reflective self aware entity that is us is birthed in a declaration in language, which declaration is directly a result of having a valuation binary like right and wrong. Those simple ideas are necessary for our beginning, and it is powerful to get beyond them as quickly as possible.

Possibility seems to be infinite.

There cannot be a simple dividing line in an infinity that is a hard demarcation between good and bad. One must accept the probability of error in all things. Not doing so gives us the sorts of schisms we see in most religions, as sects form as each group sees their particular difference in possibility as “The One True Way”. Such truth has a fundamental attractiveness to the earliest patterns in our neural networks, it gives us a certain comfort that is very deep, and very difficult to break free of.

So getting beyond truth, and getting really comfortable with uncertainty at every level is not easy, and it does seem to be required if we are to get any sort of long term security.

[followed by]

Hi Deb, Judi, FOS et al

Communication can be very difficult when terms are defined so differently.

@Judi, I admit I had not considered the perspective of truth being defined as “living in the unknown”. It almost seems a kind of “new speak”.

I recall about 16 years ago my son wanting to go to the “New Life Centre” church with one of his school friends. I took them down, and agreed to go and get them afterwards. When I got down there these two young Americans were still preaching. They were literally shouting at these young teenagers that they would burn in hell if they deviated the tiniest bit from the interpretation of truth being given by these preachers.
I experienced an anger rising within me. The absence of compassion or understanding in those guys, the raw naked power they were using on those kids, seemed to me to be the worst kind of child abuse. The only thought that managed to restrain me from doing physical and intellectual violence against those two was the thought of the physical retribution that the bullies in the room would bring against my son in the school grounds.
It was not one of my higher moments (at any level).
I see it repeated daily to varying degrees in many environments.
That sort of “Truth” is intolerant to diversity at any level.
I see it at so many levels of politics, of bureaucracies, of educational institutions, of defence and police forces.
To me it is the anathema of science.

For me, science is, at its heart, a willingness to question everything, and a willingness to give the universe (not beliefs or logic or culture or dogma at any level) the last say on what seems to be so.

In this sense, science applies equally as well to the subjective as it does to the objective, though the methods and tool sets vary a little.

And I can see so many levels at which confusion may occur, because for most people their experience of science at school is most likely of the same sort of dogmatic truth that I saw coming from those young preachers at the New Life Centre, coming from their school science teachers.
Unfortunately, our educational systems are not designed to teach people to question.

The fundamental structural design of our educational systems is to teach obedience, hierarchy, dominance, and to break coherent thought, and to produce compliant factory workers (at whatever level). Some select few manage to survive it, for any of a complex set of reasons.

Independent thought is not really measurable or quantifiable. If it is truly independent and novel, then there is by definition no known test that can distinguish it from nonsense. Some cultures honour those that are really different. Unfortunately our culture isn’t one of those.
My first teacher told my parents I was retarded, a social basket case.
To her, independent thought was simply incomprehensible, particularly in one so young, and there is a very real sense in which that must be so.

My favourite lecturer was Peter Molan – whose teaching style perfectly matched my learning style. I learned so much from Peter, but we agreed on so little. Even 20 years on when he came to my 40th birthday party, our interpretive schema were so vastly different. I learned so much about the specifics of biochemistry from him, yet we shared very little in terms of the abstracted implicit relationships between those specifics.

Strangely John Morton was the Professor I most loved and admired. John was a devout Christian, and he focussed on the messages of Christ, rather than any dogma, universality, compassion, tolerance, helping others. Those values I could completely align with. John was also the greatest classical scholar I have ever met. He read about 40 languages, spoke about a dozen fluently. He had walked the entire pacific coast over a 40 year period, Antarctica, New Zealand, Australia, PNG, Asia, Japan, Korea, Kamchatka, Alaska, Canada, USA, Mexico, Isthmus, Peru, Chile, Argentina. An amazing guy. Walking anywhere with John was always an educational experience. Our prime interpretive schema were very different, and we shared sufficient values that there was a great deal of respect between us.

So I have a deep dislike and distrust of the notion of truth, and an almost pathological distrust of Truth.

I find confidence so much more friendly – at every level. Confidence always brings along uncertainty. Sometimes uncertainty is waiting vigilantly “in the wings”, and at other times it is sitting confidently at the head of the table. And it is always there, where-ever there may be.

So yeah – I can understand a distrust of the science of dogma, and I have such great love and respect for the science of eternal questioning and eternal uncertainty, that I can perhaps be a little over protective at times 😉

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see
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2 Responses to Biological basis for Consciousness?

  1. Pingback: Biological basis for Consciousness? [continuing conversation from last post] | Ted Howard NZ's Blog

  2. Pingback: Nature of Consciousness | Ted Howard NZ's Blog

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