Monthly Archives: March 2014

Limits of Scans


What is it when we see life happening,  and when we’re happening to it?

How does the mind look?

When it’s watching nature?

What are those thoughts?

When we’re alone?

Can they be put someplace, neatly categorized?

Or do we see eternity? Perhaps not in stars but in a nebulous scan?

Is there a point where the mind keeps moving untrackable and undefinable?

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“Cosmic Conciousness”- Is It Science?


Some might be familiar with the “Cosmic Consciousness.” These are ideas popularized by Deepak Chopra. I’ve excerpted a dialogue between Rick Archer ,who does video interviews for “Buddha at the gas pump” and his guest Menas Kafatos, a Quantum Physicist from MIT. I’ve not heard these ideas before in this detail. Dr. Kafatos is direct and non technical. I believe that this really might represent a new kind of science, fundamentally diverging from what is considered “science.” For more of the interview it can be seen here.


[Rick Archer-Interviewer] “Let’s start…there are critics who say that physics/ consciousness parallels are metaphorical not actual, but since then there have been physics drawing parallels between physics and spirituality.” Eg science non duality conferences..

[Menas Kafatos-] “They don’t correspond 1:1. Consciousness if it is the underlying reality, the stuff so to speak, that the universe is made of, it is not physical. There fore if you’re coming up with phsycial theories you have limits…and what we’re hinting at in studies is there’s this generalized complimentarity, the relation between the consciousness and the physical, if consciousness is primary then you can’t expect that physics will be identical to it…I don’t think we can come up with phyiscs theories to prove consciousness.”

[Dr Kafatos] “When I say physical, (that is) anything in space and time. If outside this it’s non physical. Certainly consciousness, it can be outside space and time, so it is primary. My view is that it emerges from deeper layers. Consciousness is the awareness of existence… And that cannot be put into physics. “

Someone might say the universe is based on mathematics (as Max Stegmer might hold]..but then someone might say well, where is that math, where is it residing (some kind of platonic realm)? It is both , inside the mind and beyond the consciousness.

The main point here is that the universe or Reality (with a capital R) is made of complementary entities that seem to not be identical to eachother and if you try to make them non identical to eachother then you have problems, and of course the most classic example is the wave particle duality or wave particle complimentarity..So the universe is made of the appearance of opposites..which are however, complimentary, all springing out from consciousness, which itself is the awareness of being. That’s the best I can do..”


Aside from “Reality with a capital ‘R'” the first part sounds rather tame. But then he starts to describe at about 9:44 “three principles” and these are “Complimentarity, “Recursion..what you see here also occurs somewhere else.”., and “Sentience which is “creative interaction.” He goes further to state, “I would not derive physics from consciousness or consciousness from physics..”

I quote the mini bio for Dr Kafatos provided on the same page:

“Dr. Menas Kafatos is The Fletcher Jones Endowed Professor of Computational Physics and Director of Excellence at Chapman University. He received his B.A. in Physics from Cornell University in 1967 and his Ph.D. in Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1972. After postdoctoral work at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, he joined George Mason University and was University Professor of Interdisciplinary Sciences there from 1984-2008. He has authored and co-authored numerous books including The Conscious Universe, The Non-local Universe and Principles of Integrative Science. He is a recipient of the Rustum Roy Award from the Chopra Foundation, which “honors individuals whose devotion and commitment to their passion for finding answers in their field is matched only by their commitment to humanity” and the IEEE Orange County Chapter — Outstanding Leadership and Professional Service Award. He has been interviewed numerous times by national and international TV networks, newspapers and radio programs.”……


One thing that can be said for the discussion is that it does not gloss over the issue of consciousness, a problem that particle and atom models of the brain and mind fall short of. And in many ways is presumed to fall within these existing models “in theory.” It is not so much a theory about consciousness, as apparently a theory that explores it. And I believe it heavily derives its ideas from wave particle duality concept, but it is using this conceptually, not physically. I noted that Dr Kafatos described it as “a single reality” and yet I believe they’ve confused even this notion as he went on to describe “physical” terms that are apparently heavily dependent upon one’s perception. And at the very least, duality or non-identicalness of consciousness and physical (time-space) would imply two distinct realities not one. However, it seems then that this theory, “Cosmic Consciousness” for lack of a better term, is yet another worldview that diverges drastically from models that might pass the “Hypothesis Test.”


*I’ve updated this post, as I’ve recently became aware of some new information that I believe is relevant to the question I raised earlier: whether or not “Cosmic Consciousness” the worldview discussed by Kafatos, and others, is considered to be science. It’s not an easy question to pin down, obviously. And as if to make it even more difficult, Deepak Chopra posted on his twitter site the following: “..Cosmic consciousness is not supported by science, it is (based on) a leap of faith.” I’ve paraphrased it slightly, but that’s what it said. Insert theatrical pause. So if “cosmic consciousness” isn’t considered a theory based in science, then what is Kafatos talking about over there in the video? Why the interview, as though it is something theoretical in quantum physics? And Dr Kafatos is a quantum physicist currently teaching at Chapman University. In all honesty, the real question now that I would ask of Chopra or Kafatos, is this: do they believe this is science? And if it isn’t then why is Kafatos talking in such great detail about “wave particle duality” and the “quantum science” behind it?


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Coffee Is A Lens


Coffee is a lens

that let’s me peer into history

I smell the past


It let’s me look into it

I smell burning hills, wood

Something sharp, like…


And the earth.

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Bike Ride-March


Ready to head down.

full moon out.

Star peeking through a tall pine.


Spring’s close.

Birds and the sound of the creek-

The only company.



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Putting Science To The Test

I’ve posted here before on the issue of whether or not determinism theory is actual science. And by determinism we’re referring more to the theoretical kind, known as predeterminism, with its implications that “Free Will”- a set of options, whatever they may be, are not really options, nor are they choices, but are predetermined outcomes of the physical laws. And these are “physical laws”  working cohesively in some way, or if you’d prefer, nature. But this notion does not really apply just to free will per se, in theory it would apply to any system. Realistically, however, most of predeterminism’s traction, naturally comes from its application to the free will debate, that’s where the heat is, as most people do not normally consider if a ball “knows” where it’s going or makes a choice in colliding with a wall, but the idea that we might not decide what we’re doing does make people stop.

Well, a prominent neuroscientist has recently raised the bar. He’s so confident of his scientific position that he’s issued a challenge to the science community to prove him wrong, and if he’s reversed on his position? He will recant and pay out $20,000 cash to the winner. If you merely wrote something close, a good argument, but not enough to change his opinion, the prize would be $2,000. Still not bad haul for a 1000 word essay.

Here is the Moral Landscape Challenge statement from Sam Harris (below)

“Morality and values depend on the existence of conscious minds—and specifically on the fact that such minds can experience various forms of well-being and suffering in this universe. Conscious minds and their states are natural phenomena, fully constrained by the laws of the universe (whatever these turn out to be in the end). Therefore, questions of morality and values must have right and wrong answers that  fall within the purview of science (in principle, if not in practice). Consequently, some people and cultures will be right (to a greater or lesser degree), and some will be wrong, with respect to what they deem important in life.”

The statement above purports to describe a system, “conscious mind” and something about that system having “states” and exhibiting “natural phenomena.” But other than that is highly vague in terms of actually describing something that can be physically understood as a theory. [And by theory we mean really in the scientific sense of something that is not at the whim of someone’s opinion, but has hard structure that is verifiable.] Ultimately, the neuroscientists’ “Moral Landscape Challenge” premise rests on and is essentially a rewording of, the theory of determinism which I responded to before. It gets all of its power from the premise that “natural laws” are dictating actions. (Crucially, the proof of an alternative force or system, proving something outside nature, is not critical in arguing against it!)

But is determinism science? And again, this is regarding the non-free will form or predeterminism, not determinism as applied to falling bodies in gravitational fields. (Though they are used interchangeably, pre-determinism is the version of the theory we’re speaking of since it is the theory which purports to make a prediction, i.e. that all events or states are somehow set in advance.) If we agree that such a theory would probably apply not only on earth, but “cosmically”, it has rather broad implications. And is this question not more broadly applicable to what science is, or isn’t? How is science doing in this case? In my view, it is in a way a litmus test. Consider it this way. Theories don’t just come about by themselves. They are championed by people. Determinism, true or false, is a paradigm, a product of the system and so are the proponents of it. Their positions are the products of curricula purportedly based in determinism.

It’s their choice to take stock in this theory of determinism and to support its aims and conclusions. Not anyone else’s. It’s their choice to claim or to not claim that it is science, and yet take care to not be too specific about ever actually describing a scientific claim such that it can be formally tested. If it’s not possible to prove it, or any other physical theory, that means there isn’t science to back it. It doesn’t imply that it might be true. Evidence against is in some cases, no evidence FOR. That was to some degree, the basis of my “Hypothesis Test” objection which I already submitted to another Determinist on his web site. It is also their choice to reject evidence against their theories and to ignore them. But is this in the best interest of science?

The determinists claim is essentially that you or I do not cause our actions, “we” don’t make our selections, whatever they might be, these choices are somehow made elsewhere. And the supposed experimental examples they provide for the source of this causality are by necessity (of their hypothesis), outside the body. One determinist I challenged on his own web site, claims that neurological studies prove that this is true, because individuals, subjects/patients can be “manipulated” by the researchers to do things against their will. Does this really sound ethical?

Here is  Tuft’s professor Daniel Dennet’s review of Harris’ book “Free Will” which is very long so I’ve quoted a good paragraph that not only sums up the central aspect of debate, it sums up the causality aspect of the science argument, that can be made for and against determinism:

“The first parting of opinion on free will is between compatibilists and incompatibilists. The latter say (with “common sense” and a tradition going back more than two millennia) that free will is incompatible with determinism, the scientific thesis that there are causes for everything that happens. Incompatibilists hold that unless there are “random swerves”[1] that disrupt the iron chains of physical causation, none of our decisions or choices can be truly free. Being caused means not being free—what could be more obvious?  The compatibilists deny this; they have argued, for centuries if not millennia, that once you understand what free will really is (and must be, to sustain our sense of moral responsibility), you will see that free will can live comfortably with determinism—if determinism is what science eventually settles on.”

On close inspection, some of these claims of determinists or non-compatibilists are eye openers. “What? We don’t control ourselves?” There is no “I”?! That is probably why “Free Will” has garnered so much interest as a book. That, and the fact that it is claimed to be an outcome or non-outcome of strict scientific review. But the above paragraph, supposedly a critique of Harris’ thesis, also contains in it some loaded wording. Notice how free will is defined in a moralistic sense- not phyiscally, so it’s getting away from a causal definition of it. Certainly from any experimentally testable definition of it. And if you call a determinist on some of these claims, be prepared for a ready onslaught of counter examples, to your examples, which rapidly turns into a battle of words. And begs the question: How were battles of words ever settled? In philosophy, maybe never. But in science, you are supposed to present a valid model, either theoretical or actual, that can be evaluated independently. The invention of real science was the day when pure argument no longer had as much weight. Recall the story of the youth who listened the philosophers argue about the number of teeth in a horses mouth, and suggested alternatively, that they actually go and find a horse and count them? You have to watch the arguments of the people who flog this theory, they throw the book of argumentive tricks at you. But you can get around those, in theory, by asking for evidence. And science, our fact finding tool, should normally necessitate this evidence.

So what determinists are essentially saying is that the causes of our thoughts are ultimately outside the body, thus we are not truly in control of our choices but are marionettes to certain physical laws, those would be the “iron chains of physical causation” referenced above. The claim that causation of behavior is outside the body is fundamental to the rejection of “free will.” But this claim defies rationality.

Establishing causation, the causative source of something- say a behavior in nature, is a central aspect of science. But aside from saying that there are “laws of physics” or “natural phenomenon”at work,  there aren’t any specifics given in the scientist’s “Moral Landscape Challenge” statement above, for the supposed alternative causes of human behaviors. Sure, environment gives us inputs, it must, but is going down a list of each of these examples going to provide evidence of causation, the rock solid kind that is proof? How do we know which ones are the ones? And there’s something else we’ll notice in the listing of explanations for determinism, they’re all, every single one, in past tense. Why would they be all mentioned in the past tense? It’s good question I’ll leave you for discussion. You can’t seem to get a Determinist to put his money down, Las Vegas style, about a future prediction.

The real irony is that determinism theory is centered around causality, explaining how one thing leads to another, and  yet the causality issue is entirely overlooked. Causality, in the scientific sense of it, is not just about looking back and saying “So, that’s how it happened.” It can’t be. It is about looking forwards. Or ideally, it is looking both forwards and backwards. Since it must be true both in a hypothetical case ( in the past or a thought experiment, or in a real test case). So there are basic problems with the methodology here that Determinists base their papers and books upon, either by choice or possibly the lack thereof, maybe they didn’t have a choice in it? Causality is not established, (nor is mechanism for action) which is yet another basis of any scientific theory. That is the basis of a hypothesis, even ones that haven’t been confirmed. So first and foremost, it is science methodology that is at issue here, not the specifics of any interpretation of any specific outcomes or specific experiments. And I’ll say it again, evidence against, and very strong evidence, sometimes takes the form of no evidence, FOR. The challenge should be to the theorist, to come up with a valid theory that meets the criteria of science, not to issue “challenges” to the public to vote and “prove” it by popular opinion.


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I Challenge A Determinist’s Worldview On Edge: Is It Science?

Determinism, as defined by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy as “the idea that every event is necessitated by antecedent events and conditions together with the laws of nature.”

So, other than being a philosophy, is it an actual science? Meaning is it supported by scientific evidence? Regarding this very point, I responded to an Edge contributor on his own web site .You can read the blogger’s initial letter over in the Edge article (“ I responded to. But for space I won’t reproduce it here. Apparently Edge is a place for “scientists, philosophers, and public intellectuals.” Yes, I’m responding to the leading minds over on Edge, a think tank organized by John Brockman. This was my first discussion with one of them, and how did I do? Deleted and blocked that’s how I did! So that’s how scientists do it now. If they don’t like your arguments they delete them!

I won’t apologize for questioning the veracity or scientific credibility of someone’s statements they are making in public if they are wrong. If you are claiming that two and two are five, I would hope that I’m not the only one calling this out. It is one thing to have an opinion or to state a personal philosophy, but that’s not the issue here. What is at issue is to make what I believe are non scientific or unsupportable claims based on what is clearly an opinion, and calling it “science.” It is more egregious when the claim is made by someone apparently from academia. This is a situation where the real issue is not just the theory, it is the claim that there is evidence for the theory. I believe the same standard would be applied to anyone writing a paper in a journal, claiming to have evidence for an alleged “scientific position”, when in fact they do not. I have not found “scientific” papers that present evidence for this philosophy, and I doubt that there are any of the sort.

So more importantly my purpose is to advocate my own position, and a theory, that determinism is itself disprovable as a worldview, at least in terms of any kind of science. How? That is explained here. But if determinism is so “widespread and accepted” as its advocates seem to believe, then the ramifications are obviously profound if this is true- since it is regarding the nature of free will, the self and consciousness, but also real world interpretations of various real brain studies. Determinists have seized on much of this data and seem absolutely convinced that brain scanning i.e. MRI imaging that shows how the brain functions, is somehow smoking gun evidence that the brain is in fact being controlled without our knowledge.

Here was my first response to the blogger’s “ article.

“This is incorrect on so many points I’m not sure where to even start. It’s surprising that this position is accepted without much contention. If it’s considered in the realm of a scientific hypothesis it should be testable and it should have proof or evidence to back it up that’s a little better than what’s given here. Let’s take the purported real world examples or implications of this theory, that choosing a flavor of ice cream is somehow ‘not a choice.’ If it wasn’t a choice, then you are claiming this is a pre-determined outcome, since no other flavor was a possibility. But, we have no idea what physics to identify that made this outcome 100% certain! The other example, of MRI studies: which are the basis presumably to claim that something else is controlling the brain and not the brain itself, which is unfounded (what other brain is controlling the brain? Are we to infer that they can predict that someone will reflexively grab an apple, before the apple falls? It takes a single brain study out of context to support the contention that every action we make is controlled by genes and envirtonment. What genes are pulling the strings to make one walk across the road? Genes don’t operate that quickly. The claim that it isn’t pre-determinism is going to automatically disqualify it as a scientific theory of any sort, since it, determinism in fact never makes a prediction that can be tested. Grab your life vests, the SS Determinist is going down.”

Note that I said “this position” obviously addressing a theory and nothing whatsoever to do with a personal point. And yet here’s the Edge article author’s, response:

“First of all, your answer is rude to the host, so lay off the snark. Second of all, your “arguments” hold no water. The science behind the lack of conscious decisions include not only the predictability of MRI studies, which gets better and better (and farther and farther in advance) as technology improves. Plus there is all the evidence that we have in favor of determinism in science. Further, there are all the experiments, detailed in Wegner’s book, where you can delude people into thinking they’re consciously controlling a cursor when they’re not, and similar experiments, as well as the confabulations in which brain manipulations cause involuntary motions that people later pretend they intended. Plus all the psychological experiments in which you can manipulate people’s behavior in profound ways by trivial changes in their environment…Isn’t that enough science for you? Right now we can predict right versus left choices with crude brain scanning at about 65% accuracy, well before people claim they’ve made the choice. Just think how much better we could do if we had better ways to monitor the brain. […Determinism certainly does make predictions that can be tested, as with the Libet experiments and their successors in which the prediction (fulfilled) is that we can predict with statistically significant results which way someone will decide before they’re conscious of deciding it. You sound like some kind of ghost-in-the-machine libertarian, since you reject determinism. Regardless, your answer is not only uninformed but rude, and is not in the least convincing to me. And as for the last sentence, you should simply apologize. Or go to some other website where you can be incoherent and snarky without penalty. Your main mistake is saying that because we can’t yet predict human behavior completely, it is inherently unpredictable. Of course that would hold for all of physics a couple of hundred years ago.”

I guess he didn’t like being challenged. Here is my response to his response, (in quotes below), which he blocked from his blog, so I’ll reproduce it here. Why did the Edge contributor, delete my response from his blog?

“And in each of those scientific papers that you cite [above], there is a scientific hypothesis within them which assumes, by its de facto existence, that a number of alternatives are/were possible in the experiment. Possibilities and unexpected results. These papers do not arrogantly decree that their subjects had no choice, in the outcomes that were presumably tested, and I doubt their authors would make such a claim either, (to your point that the scientific majority supports determinism). But if they are doing research’ on a subject, any subject, in which there are no possible outcomes available, what kind of ‘research’ is this? Are scientists who do statistics, silently agreeing with determinism, or are they actually accepting that unknowns will always be present, in fact more present than ‘knowns?’ Citing more papers of journals is not going to convince me that humans are not capable of completely unexpected responses, a reality of the ‘real’ world.”

Keep in mind that the basis of this deterministic worldview is that all events are 100% predetermined by causal factors. In reality, according to determinists, there is zero uncertainty in how any event incluing human decision making came about. The uncertainty, they claim is illusory. Hence, my other point:

Furthemore, what kind of science is being done when the experimenters have already pre-supposed that they know the outcomes of their experiments? Scientists doing work with pre-known outcomes, and nothing to learn, teach or prove? Is this the end of science?

The more we investigate how the human mind works, the more questions it will produce, not less.

He needs to knock off the claims that we don’t have any choice about our decisions, and that our free will (which is only defined as theoretical options) is an illusion, IF he can’t or won’t identify the physics of how that might actually be possible. His claim that science has shown no physical distinction between the mind and the brain, is a strawman argument, because “mind” is really not defined scientifically anywhere. Reductionists have long assumed that the brain is made of atoms, but this in no way demonstrates determinism, nor does that fact alone,(that it’s atoms), begin to explain consciousness. But there are too many problems with the “100% certainty theory”, of determinism, to even get into.

If we presume that his evidence of determinism is MRI data and the other psychology studies, then the other mistake he’s making, is assuming that determinism only applies to humans, or even that it is only relevant to psychology. The theory is much more fundamental to causality. Which he doesn’t seem to grasp. Predetermined outcomes aren’t specific to antecedent events that just involve human beings. They must predict outcomes of other events or things. He’s claiming that I’m somehow holding determinism to an unfair level of precision, (his last paragraph), but show me one chemical or physics law that is not hypothetically testable? The answer: All of these real sciences do, but determinism does not. Determinism operates on the implicit assumption that everything in principal, is knowable. As if there are laws essentially governing the unknown, and they just haven’t been found yet. But that basic assumption was challenged with the double slit experiment (Thomas Young, and later,”“). According to the famous physicist, Richard Feynman, even the prediction of the position of a single electron is impossible (book three in Feynman’s lecture series). Is that so complex, one small electron?

Determinism is just the hindsighted notion that a theory might in theory exist. At the very least, I’m asking determinists to come up with a real science theory like other scientists. Is that too much to ask?

That being said, I won’t be apologizing for challenging this blogger on his “scientific claims”. If it’s true that determinism is already accepted by a majority of scientists, that would be unfortunate, not grounds for celebration in my opinion, because they’ve been duped and that’s “a bad” for science. It’s also unfortunate that he blocked my response, but that tells me that maybe he’s worried I might make his “science” look bad. And we wouldn’t want that happening.

So I think I’ll end with this. A question. Is determinism really being accepted as science? If it’s not, then why would Roy Baumeister, a psychologist from Florida, debate the topic of free will vs determinism at the SPSP Great Debate? And why are there all these studies showing determinism is harmful?(See Vohs et al.) Determinism is becoming the catchword for “science” whereas duality and combatibilism are catchwords for a bunch of other ideas not considered supportable by physics. One obvious consequence of determinism is that it dehumanizes medicine. It’s much easier to treat a “robot” in which morality doesn’t actually exist, than it is to treat a human being and follow ethical practices. It seems that most professionals don’t entirely understand the arguments for it, it’s complex, and delude themselves into thinking that it is undeniable fact and must be rationalized into a “free will illusion” that is necessary for “doing culture.” Yes they are searching for explanations or justifications in the mind for free will, but not because they’re convinced it is physically defensible. They’ve bought into the “you believe in laws of physics or you don’t” duality argument. So possibly there are consequences to not going along with the “thought leaders”, who are promoting determinism so aggressively. They are made to look foolish and “non-science based” and worse, that they’re challenging determinist dogma. But what if determinism is wrong? And what if it can’t pass the Hypothesis Test? These are the more important issues, and I’m absolutely convinced I’m right, which would be a big deal.

As for my response to the Edge author- We know that determinism isn’t really making any predictions, that’s clear, because the other claims he is making in Edge, the egregious ones, that everything in science is in principal, predetermined. So it’s misleading to state that determinism is doing the work that’s leading to the MRI studies and other data, when it’s 100% incongruous with science. The Edge author’s claim that “duality is dead”, and that mind and brain are no longer valid distinctions, as “proved by science”, stems directly from determinism theory, not data. The Edge author demanded that I apologize for challenging his views, but he’s go it all backwards. He should be apologizing for his bad science.

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Author’s note: This article was mysteriously lost from this blog at WordPress, it vanished! so I am reproducing it here.

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