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brain (fwd)

cmspecht at acsu.buffalo.edu cmspecht at acsu.buffalo.edu
Fri May 9 15:40:48 EST 1997

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 9 May 1997 22:14:39 +0200 (MET DST)
From: Eugene Leitl <Eugene.Leitl at lrz.uni-muenchen.de>
To: cmspecht at acsu.buffalo.edu
Cc: neuro <neur-sci at dl.ac.uk>
Subject: Re: brain

On Fri, 9 May 1997 cmspecht at acsu.buffalo.edu wrote:

> the question of whether or not we are deterministic is not meaningles.  i
> can immediately think of two reasons why:
> 1)	a fundamental basis of many religious beliefs is that we have
> 	the capacity to make many decisions about our behavior

I thought we were discussing (neuro)science here, not religion. These 
domains obviously do not overlap at all.
> (and if that isn't enough),
> 2)	if you happen to study the brain (experimentally) you have to set
> 	any notions of free will aside (at least in your laboratory) - 
> 	for  one cannot suppose to understand the workings of the mind or
> 	any behavior if it is not physical and measurable.
> intuitively, it is very difficult to think that our behavior is completely

Funny, I thought most science was profoundly counterintuitive. Should 
neuroscience be different?

> mechanistic.  however, there is not a single documented case of a
> non-physical (i.e. anti matter (free will if it did not have a physical
> function as a neural outcome)) event conclusively determining a physical
> event.  and yet there are a gazillion examples where physical events have
> been shown to cause the non-physical.

Ignoring spiritualism, I actually thougth the free will to be a nonissue. 

I cannot even predict the outcome of a simple cellular automaton at t+1024 
without going through all the tedia of simulating it. Who cares if a 
physical system is deterministic at the superstring level, if I cannot 
use this to predict diddlysquat. Ever worse, as I am not God, I cannot 
read the system state at t without destroying it, and I have no clue 
about the true Hamiltonian. Wondering about free will is the least of my 
worries in this case.

> the question is NOT a simple one, whether quantum mechanics is the law or
> is not.  so far, it cannnot ultimately explain consciousness.

In a scientific frame of refenence, there is no "consciousness". So far 
there is no evidence of "consciousness" to be a nonphysical process. So 
the question is, is QM adequate to explain all physical processes? Of 
course not. Relativity and QM are known to be unresolvable. We still lack 

Must we resort to Holy Grail science to explain (away) cognition, 
however? Computational physics has made good progress with simplifications, 
as has computational neuroscience. I see no evidence for the turning of 
the tide.
> i would suggest to the original poster that this is more a question dealt
> with by the philosophers (not that this precludes, by any means, a
> scientist from attempting to understand it).

Philosophy != science. I thought we had ample evidence from the history, 
about insight-gaining properties of philosophy (or, better, lack 

> for some good, well-written work on the latest
> scientific/cognitive/philosophical view (called cognitive revolution or
> the mentalistic paradigm), i would suggest a book of essays by johnathan
> searle (philosopher) entitled "minds, brains and science," or the late
> writings on the subject (and experimental work in the visual system) by
> francis crick.
> colleen specht
> [ gene's blather snipped ]


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