The Whole Brain Emulation Roadmap
Posted 30 Oct 2008 at 18:47 UTC by steve
The Future of Humanity Institute,
a multidisciplinary research institute at the University of Oxford, has
produced a detailed roadmap document describing the areas of scientific
research that will be needed to develop real technology for uploading
the human mind as software. The Whole Brain Emulation
Roadmap (PDF format) also goes into the philosophical assumptions
and implications of the project and even considers the economic impact
of success. The 130 page document was prepared by Anders Sandberg, Nick
Bostrom and a workshop of researchers who gathered at Oxford last
every area of cognitive science, the document details what we know, what
we don't know yet, and the best guess at what problems we'll run into in
the process of developing whole brain emulation technology. If you're
not familiar with the idea of mind uploading from science fiction or
transhumanism, a good starting place is the Mind Uploading Home
Page or the Wikipedia Mind
Uploading article. Basically, the idea is a human could upload their
mind from their short-lived meat brain to perpetual storage in some type
of computer or other brain emulating machine. The uploaded mind might
then exist either in a virtual world or, eventually, transferred to some
type of android or other humanoid robot body.
This obviously begs the age-old question of: Is our biology (Meat Brains) the extent of our inner being? Actually, I suppose this is mostly a modern question, so I'll retract that modifier.
If the answer is yes, and there is no, as yet unidentified, aspect of our being beyond the physical allowing complete representation in a physical system such as a computer, then such a model could be and must be recognized as a full human. But somehow I doubt that most people would accept their passed parents in computer form after this downloading technology is operational. The memories might be there but I'm wondering if we would detect something missing.
Here is where physical science meets the metaphysical but I'm afraid that most scientists are not open to the idea that the other side should be considered. Yet anyway. It seems like a reasonable explanation to me that there could be a realm we are missing - not dissimilar to scientists using dark energy to explain the observations of an expanding universe.
I propose that humans are not simply a collection of cells even though our memories are stored as physical neural connections and weights. I don't pretend to know what the part is we're missing, but hope to someday.
Actually it is an age old question. Back in the day, the answer was
something called Cartesian Dualism, which suggested that our minds were
made up of
two parts. One part was real, physical material. The other part was
supernatural stuff, or as Cory Doctrow recently described it, ghostly
Jesusite-235. Over time, a mounting number of logical problem, including
causal interaction and conservation of energy, caused the
idea to go the way of the flat Earth and phlogiston (though
recently some people have been trying to revive it on religious
Modern ideas still allow for what's called property dualism or predicate
dualism, while still maintaining that the brain itself is actually made
of only real material. But modern dualists, like Searle,
usually invent other names for their ideas. He
thinks the brain is made up of meat + quantum effects. Others believe
it's meat + electromagnetic field effects. There's a lot of argument
over whether there's even a need for any of sort of +whatever. Dennett,
for example, makes a pretty convincing argument that there's no need for
quantum or electromagetic effects to explain what the brain does.
In the end, though, as long the +whatever effects are knowable and
don't do anything a Turing machine can't do, the mind upload folks think
they can handle it. It's all pure speculation on their part at this
point, of course. Uploading c. elegan "minds" is a good start
but doesn't prove much.
I agree some people would believe an uploaded mind was no longer
"real" in some sense but I'd be willing to bet those same people would
probably reject the idea of a robot with an AI mind or even a
biological alien mind. If you remember the movie Robot Stories from 2004,
one of the stories was about the ethical dilemma associated with mind
It's definitely a fascinating area though. I think the recent
advanced in connectomics plus the
growing computation power available for brain simulations may
provide some definitive answers within in our lifetimes.
If you don't mind me asking, do you think the components of a human are only physical/meat/cells?
If so, what would account for us feeling like we are independent intellectual and moral agents inside a human body?
It might seem like an flippant question, but actually our every action and motivation are based on it. We have to be intellectually honest and carry this reasoning to its logical conclusions - and there are many that are bizarre.
If we are only cells, then we are selfish hypocrites for pulling up a carrot for food while we expect humans to respect human lives. As you know, carrots are complex cellular systems too. This is a real moral conflict.
If we are only cells, and skin cells are equal to brain cells, then loosing an arm would technically make us less.
If we decide our brain programming constitutes the bulk of our being and value, then uploading that data would create a duplicate entity of equal value. But then, would this only apply to a complete upload? What if we uploaded 50% or 1% or .0000000000000001%. In other words, if I type one of my memories into a computer, is that computer now .00000000000000001% the same as a human?
How do you divide body and spirit or spirit and soul or soul and person or person and personality and personality and emotion.
These are all things I don't know for sure, nor do I believe anyone does. Obviously we can guess at them and make up our own opinions on the matter, but none of us are the "all being" that knows for sure.
Therefore I could make up any old crazy idea and it would be very hard to disprove other than sneering at it with a crazy face until most people agree that it has to be an absurd idea.
Personally, I believe we are more than just plain cells working like metal gears that create a being. I believe we are more. I believe there is a spiritual side of us that makes us aware of things that perhaps other certain animals do not have and maybe even some humans do not have. Can I explain it? No. Is it tangible? No. Can I show you? Probably not. When we die does our Spirit (or Soul) leave and go to heaven or hell? I think so, but there again that's something that people have pondered for ages. You either have belief/faith it in or not.
If we are just meat space then we really have some great complexity for doing what we do! And if so, then scientists should be able to recreate to a 'T' a real human being or a robotic simulation. What if you could suck out the intelligence of someone's brain and make a copy of Mom? Which mom would be mom; the original one or the copied one? If we are just a cup of dirt and water mixed together and somehow just became a human then why do morals matter? Murderers would just be sending cups of dirt and water back to the earth.
It comes down to what is Life? Is life just meat space animation or is life something that originates outside of meat space like it was given by God? If you only look with physical eyes, all you'll see is the physical. It's sort of like a Frog trying to tell tadpoles about the land. Tadpoles don't get it but perhaps someday they will. I believe it is something more than just meat space, but that is just my belief. Take it or leave it.
I think everyone whether they believe that life is more than meat space or not should at least hope that there is something more than just living and dieing and trying to strive to stay alive. Seems sort of meaningless to believe that. I think life has more purpose than that and I believe that if you believe that there's more then it would make me think if you came to that conclusion that there's more then you'd want to figure out what that more is. Otherwise, there's nothing more to see here so just move along.
Qualia and minds, posted 1 Nov 2008 at 19:59 UTC by steve »
Forgive me for rambling on about this but consciousness and mind body
stuff has always been fascinating to me. :)
> If you don't mind me asking, do you think the components of
> a human are only physical/meat/cells?
Yes, my current view is that all the working components that make up any
animal, including humans, are made of real material or interactions
of those materials. That makes me a
materialist. While you didn't ask, I'll go ahead and say that think both
AI and mind uploading are at least possible in the sense that we haven't
found any technical reason that prevents them. But we don't know
anywhere near enough about how the mind works to say for sure. My gut
feeling is that AI is pretty close while mind uploading is a lot further
> If so, what would account for us feeling like we are independent
> intellectual and moral agents inside a human body?
I'm not sure I understand your question. There are several things you
If you actually mean what makes you feel a certain way, feeling and
emotion are beginning to be fairly well understood at this point and are
created by biochemical and neurological states in the brain.
If you mean what makes you believe a particular thing, I don't have
an answer for you. It would be great to have a debug port on the human
brain where you could get a logic dump that would diagnose where certain
beliefs came from in a particular person.
I suspect what you're really asking is where do qualia come from.
This is the fundamental problem non-physicalists pose to physicalists.
What is it that gives us the feeling of being aware that we exist? What
gives reality the "raw feel" that it has? Why does pain feel like it
hurts? Why does the
color red seem red and not blue? The whole qualia thing seems so removed
sense of reality or practical use that the question never really
bothered me but some people take it quite seriously.
Daniel Dennett has devoted considerable effort to analyzing this
question and the associated arguments (the inverted spectrum argument,
the zombie arguments, etc.). His conclusion is that the question is
broken - that the very way it's asked prevents any possible answer
through either empirical or introspective observation. He thinks qualia
simply don't exist. This has always seemed the most reasonable answer to
Marvin Minsky thinks the question of qualia is a confusion of
complexity with simplicity. A complex arrangement of mental states
result in us "feeling" a certain way and then we want to find some
magically simple explanation of that "feeling" other than the complex
arrangement of mental states that caused it.
> It might seem like an flippant question, but actually our
> every action and motivation are based on it.
Not flippant at all. If it's qualia you're talking about, it's one of
most fundamental debates in philosophy of the mind these days. I don't
agree with you, however, that it's significant to the average person.
I'd say very few people ever bother to
think about this sort of thing, much less plan actions around their view
of it or feel motivated by it.
> If we are only cells, and skin cells are equal to brain
> cells, then loosing an arm would technically make us ess.
I have no idea what you mean there, sorry! :)
I'd agree you'd be changed if you lost a limb. You'd have less mass,
you'd have fewer degrees of freedom, your biochemistry changes, you'd
have physical and mental changes. But that sort of thing goes on all the
time to a lesser extent anyway, so is it that big of deal? Maybe not.
> If we decide our brain programming constitutes the bulk of
> our being and value, then uploading that data would create a
> duplicate entity of equal value. But then, would this only apply
> to a complete upload? What if we uploaded 50% or 1% or
> 0000000000000001%. In other words, if I type one of my
> memories into a computer, is that computer now
> .00000000000000001% the same as a human?
I think everyone would agree the mind is more than just the brain or
the brain's programming, more than just a list of memories. Adding or
losing a few memories doesn't affect your status as a conscious thinking
entity now, so there's no reason to think it would affect the status of
conscious entities existing in mediums other than meat.
You may not realize quite how much goes into making up our
mental states. Our mind is far more than a box full of memories.
Emotions, for example, are largely biochemical. A large part of the
brain is a sort of state machine monitoring the perceptual states of
your body. Without your meat body, you'd be a completely different
person. Any upload process would have to account for the biochemical
side of things if the resulting entity was to be anything like
the original. As an aside, you
may remember the Christian philosopher C. S. Lewis, who noted how
different humans were likely to be in a non-corporeal form after death
without their bodies - they'd have totally different behavior without
the physical inputs from the body that make up so much the personality
and behavior. So this too is not really a new idea.
Re: Souls, posted 1 Nov 2008 at 20:28 UTC by steve »
I think there's a tendency for some people to see cognitive science
as an attack on religion because they carry what I think is an outdated
souls are an operational component of the brain or the mind.
Cartesian Dualism assumed the soul was a part of the mind
and that it interfaced to the physical brain through the pineal gland,
somehow interacting causally with brain matter and exchanging real
information with the brain. This is no longer thought to be likely (or
even possible if the law of physics have any bearing on the matter). But
it's important to note that the correctness or falseness of Cartesian
Dualism or materialism is orthagonal to the issue of whether or not
humans, or any creatures, have a soul in any religious sense.
If Cartesian Dualism is false, it just means that the soul is not an
operational component of the mind. Most original religious documents are
extremely vague on what a soul is and what it does. I'm not aware of any
that claim it's part of the human mind. So finding out the brain can do
what it does without needed a supply of ghostly Jesusite-235
shouldn't endanger any mainstream religious views. It just
provides concrete reasons why certain interpretations of religious ideas
Since souls in a religious sense are non-material anyway, science has
no way of making any determination about them one way or another. It's
someone suggests a non-material soul is acting in time and space on real
material that science could potentially falsify the idea. This is much
like the idea that evil spirits caused sickness. That belief was fine
until science showed us bacteria and viruses and medicine. That didn't
mean anyone's base religion was wrong, just that a few ideas they built
on top of it were wrong. After a little recalibration, most religions
recovered and kept going. The same is true today of cognitive science or
even evolution. Given a little time to adjust, I think religion will
recover and continue along no worse for the wear.
And as long as souls stay in religion-space, they're free to do what they
they exist as a sort of supernatural backup device, essentially doing
the same thing in the supernatural world that the folks working on mind
uploads want to do in the material world? That would
> That makes me a materialist.
This is what I'd like to discuss because I believe it is near the top of
the list of ultimate questions of the universe. The materialist view point
creates so many conflicts for daily living, but beyond that I believe
it's probably wrong - by faith of course.
If I'm wrong it doesn't ultimately matter, if you're wrong it does.
Maybe we can at least agree on this simple idea.
> I don't agree with you, however, that it's significant to the
Oh, I think you might be missing something there.
This question affects how the majority of humans live, how they value
their lives, the
lives of others, etc.
> ...stuff has always been fascinating to me.
I'm with ya on that, but not only for a desire to understand how
the physical part of my brain works, but also because I think it's likely
there is something beyond that which leads to the metaphysical.
I have no idea what it is.
Sadly, to many think these areas are off limits for this type of discussion,
I think they are paramount.
> I suspect what you're really asking is...What is it that gives us
the feeling of being aware that we exist?
This is what I'm asking.
> If we are only cells, and skin cells are equal to brain
> cells, then loosing an arm would technically make us ess.
I have no idea what you mean there, sorry! :)
Ok, I think this is our disconnect. I am searching for understanding
between us more
than agreement. Let's try to understand each other, then we can decide
agree or disagree. Follow my reasoning and tell me where it is flawed...
If we are only the physical, and the same as animals: Are you a
If not, and you find no logical conflict with eating animals against
then there should be no problem eating a human against their will?
I'm not trying to be silly, I'm trying to take the physicalists point of
view to its logical conclusions.
Belief systems result in action or they are impotent.
Potatoes contain complex cellular life, and we eat them. If you make a
asparagus and a cow because the cow can retain memories, etc, please
admit that that value
system is your own arbitrary creation.
Let's try more examples: If you donate a kidney to me, are you still
If I receive your kidney, am I'm more of you or me? If only the
physical matters, then we
must speak in these terms. Most humans believe that you are still fully
you if you
loose your legs in an accident. I mean FULLY - worthy of respect, life,
> I think there's a tendency for some people to see cognitive
science as an attack on religion...
You might not have thought of the position of the religious: That
people in cognitive science
appear to think those that believe in a creator are attacking them.
> If we are only the physical, and the same as animals: Are you a
> vegetarian? If not, and you find no logical conflict with eating
> animals against their will, then there should be no problem
> eating a human against their will?
I think this may be getting a bit far afield from the original subject
of dualism. Whether the mind is dualistic in nature and the origin of
moral values are two different subjects.
The best fMRI evidence to date suggests that the brain contains a number
of moral centers (harm, fairness, group loyalty, authority, and purity).
Each has a specific survival advantage to an individual, a species, or
both. In higher mammals
such as primates, there's a 'do-no-harm'
instinct that would
normally prevent harm to a conspecific; unless some other moral
instinct overrides it, such as the desire for
justice out of loyalty
to a group or authority figure. Our brains are also loaded
mirror neurons that make eating one of our own kind seem pretty weird
to us. The combination suggests that
killing and eating things completely unlike us (a vegtable)
should be disagreeable to almost no one; killing and eating things
somewhat like us (other species of animals) should be
disagreeable to a few of us; and eating our own species should
be disagreeable to almost all of us.
This stuff is present at birth but not exactly hardwired. It can be changed
over time. At the cultural level, memes affect the weighting of these
moral centers of the brain. For example weightings provided by the rule
sets in the Bible's old testament allow eating a cow but not a pig. Or a
vegatarian meme may come along and reset the weightings to make eating any
animal seem immoral. Memes that convey advantages and reinforce the
natural moral centers (e.g. do unto others...) tend to survive. Memes
that do not convey advantages (such as cannibalism) tend not to survive
The nature of the brain makes it unlikely that someone can simply invent
an arbitrary set of moral rules and actually live by them. Those who
can, such as serial killers, are usually considered to have a mental
There's an excellent article by Steven Pinker that we mentioned earlier
this year in a post called "the moral instinct
explained" that summarizes what we know about morals and how it was
discovered. There's also a very interesting article on morality and
religion over at the Edge: Moral
Psychology and the Misunderstanding of Religion
Again, though, this is a separate issue from dualism. From the evidence
available so far, morality appears to be something happening in the
brain. If you want morality to come from the supernatural realm, while
still remaining consistent with reality, the vector
would have to be via the moral coding provided by religious revelations
such as the Bible, not via
direct interaction from a non-material part of the mind.
If humans are solely material, they have no more or less value than a carrot - they are no different than a rock. Simple reasoning skills are all that's needed to conclude this. Our belief system shapes our moral values, how we act, and our hopes/dreams.
If you _won't_ tell me where my reasoning is flawed, I'm forced to conclude you find it compelling, yet conflicting with your current ideas, but wish to avoid addressing it.
If you _can't_ tell me where it's flawed, I can accept that as a intellectually honest position.
MRI, posted 3 Nov 2008 at 15:42 UTC by Rog-a-matic »
Concerning the issue of MRI scans locating parts of the brain that get triggered during certain thoughts - fear, compassion, love, loyalty, etc: that does not preclude the brain from being affected by an unseen force.
If an unseen force does indeed compete for action of our physical bodies, we should expect it to begin physically with neural firings. We may not agree whether this force exists or not, but we should at least be able to agree with this statement. Can we?
I'm not saying some of these feelings are not purely physical, just that an MRI doesn't show their ultimate source. Usage of the MRI to prove a purely physical human, would be like measuring muscle twitches and concluding that it was the source of someone punching out another person.
If I'm right, we will ultimately find this interface area where part of the contribution to a neural firing sequence begin from some unseen place, not just a self-contained circular loop of firings. It might be a realm where we aren't fluent yet. Such realms have be discovered in the past and we would be arrogant to suggest we've found them all. Agreed?
> If you _won't_ tell me where my reasoning is flawed, I'm forced to
> conclude you find it compelling, yet conflicting with your current
> ideas, but wish to avoid addressing it.
I don't know for sure what your reasoning is, or for that matter what
position is. I think your position is that Cartesian Dualism is true and
that the non-material part of the brain is equivalent to the soul
described in Christian religion. I disagree with both points of that. On
the first point, there's empirical evidence that suggests to me that
Cartesian Dualism is not possible. Maybe some part of physical science is
wrong or misunderstood and Cartesian Dualism is possible. I think that's
about as likely as learning that the earth is really flat. On the second
part (non-material part of the mind = xtian soul), I don't think the
mind has a supernatural component, so I obviously can't equate it with
On your value question, I simple don't follow you. I don't place value
on humans (or carrots) because of the components (real or supernatural)
of which they're made. I value a carrot because it tastes good. I value a
person because they seem to have intent, feelings, and consciousness. I
suppose I don't understand what you mean by value in this context. I
assume it's a specialized religious meaning that I'm not familiar with.
If you want to offer a simple definition of it, I'll take another shot
Otherwise, all I can really say is that your position as I currently
it seems incoherent to me.
Re: MRI, posted 3 Nov 2008 at 17:06 UTC by steve »
> Concerning the issue of MRI scans ... that does not preclude
> the brain from being affected by an unseen force.
Correct. What you're looking for are the arguments against Cartesian
Dualism which are mentioned earlier in this thread: causal interaction and
conservation of energy. Though to be clear, those are arguments against
interaction with supernatural forces, not unseen forces.
> If an unseen force does indeed compete for action of our
> physical bodies, we should expect it to begin physically
> with neural firings. We may not agree whether this force
> exists or not, but we should at least be able to agree
> with this statement. Can we?
No. How can you make a statement about unknowable things from the
religious realm and expect them to be accepted without any evidence?
physical dualists haven't come up with an accepted explanation for how
quantum fluxuations or
electromagetic fields could affect neurons, so I don't see why religious
claims should have a lower burden of proof. Why shouldn't magical
forces affect neurotransmitter levels or biochemical reactions in other
parts of the body? Why neural firings? I suspect you (or someone you
view as an authority) made this idea up with no other reason than that
it sounded good to you. Much like Descartes' idea that the soul
the brain through the pineal gland, or older ideas that demons and other
spirits could push our meat bodies themselves around.
> If I'm right, we will ultimately find this interface area where part of
> the contribution to a neural firing sequence begin from some unseen
> place, not just a self-contained circular loop of firings. It might be a
> realm where we aren't fluent yet. Such realms have be discovered in the
> past and we would be arrogant to suggest we've found them all. Agreed?
No, sorry. I don't believe there has been any previous case where
science has discovered a supernatural component affecting the material
world. There's a high probability of disappointment if you
assume cognitive science will be the exception. On the upside, your idea
is at least falsifiable, so it's approaching something resembling a
hypothesis. If scientists are able to replicate what brains do in some
other medium, such as a computer simulation, it will demonstrate that
your idea is false. Actually, to get the thread back to where it
started, if the mind upload folks succeed, that will make an effective
way of falsifying your hypothesis as well. If you're right, neither brain
simulation, mind uploading, nor hard AI should be possible.
I was describing your value statements about carrots to someone at
lunch today and
they immediately recognized them. I was pointed to something called the
"Unity Argument" that creationists use as
an argument against
evolution. It's an argument I've never run across before. Using this
argument to support Cartesian Dualism instead of
creationism may be novel. From what I can find online, your use of the
word value means something along the lines of "moral usefulness to
God", so it's no wonder I was confused, that's not a usage of the
word value you run into in everyday life. I still can't claim to
grok fully what it's supposed to mean but I think I get the general
I found a fairly good explanation of the unity argument in a document
Arguments of Evolution and Creationism (Google cache). The
argument starts with the assumption that humans have an extra high moral
value because they're mystically unified (thus the unity argument)
to God in some way that only works if their ancestors were created
directly by God through a supernatural event. (I could find no
why that should be or even
who came up with this idea). From there, the argument goes like
- If evolution is true, humans would have no special moral value
- Humans have a special moral value (see opening assumption)
- Therefore evolution must be false
Presumably, you've adapted the creationist's Unity Argument like so:
- If Cartesian Dualism is false, humans lack a soul
- If humans lack a soul, they have no special moral value
- Humans have a special moral value (see opening assumption)
- Therefore, Cartesian Dualism must be true
This still sounds a little weird to me, but it does seem more
coherent than anything I could make of your statements
definitions of value, so I'm inclined to think I'm closer to
understanding what your point about carrots and humans is supposed to
be. It seems to me this boils down to "if we assume that X is false,
then X must be false" so I'm not sure it's even a valid argument for or
against anything to begin with.
But, assuming this is really what you're arguing, I'll start by
repeating that even if Cartesian Dualism is proven false, there's no
reason to give up on the religious idea of a soul, just the idea that
it's an operational part of the mind. So I'd say the first step in your
reasoning is logically flawed. If Cartesian Dualism is false, maybe your
soul just does something other than what you've previously assumed. The
second step and opening assumption seem equally flawed. Maybe the
"special moral worth" you're concerned about humans having over carrots
has nothing to do with souls. Maybe it was installed by some other means
- maybe it's conferred automatically on anything with consciousness,
maybe it's the result of actions a person takes, maybe it's the result
of any of a hundred other possibilities.
In general though, I find it more interesting to take the facts
revealed by science and see what conclusions we can draw from them. This
sounds a lot like you want to start with a religious conclusion and
determine the validity of science based on how well it fits your
Me probably being what one would call religious, yes, I pray to God. That would infer an interaction outward between the physical to the supernatural realm. Whether what I do, whether verbally, or silently in my head, could cause something on the "other side" to twitch (spiritually of course), then one must think that such direction of interaction could go the opposite direction also. We pray, hence, we expect God hears our prayers, hence, we expect or at least hope that God, who would be a spiritual being, will in turn do something back to our physical realm in answer to that prayer. Now us beings, or at least some of us, think that we are more than just meat space beings but multi-reality beings in that we are part material world and part spiritual and perhaps all of that makes us a poor little soul. No I don't know all the mechanics of that or if I even have it all figured out - I don't and I certainly don't claim to know. But, if we are more than just physical, one would think that prayers would somehow transcend beyond the mere physical and somehow go higher than the ceiling to a place that eye has not seen nor ear has heard nor finger has touched. That, what I will call, outward reaching communication would be the prayer. What would that thing be of the inward coming response thing from spiritual to physical you, what would that be? Now, definitely there are different denominations and different religions and such and everyone has to figure it out for themselves on how all this works. But some think that they hear God's voice, others call that crazy talk, others believe they get some sort of warm feeling, and others simply believe that God doesn't talk to people in this current age, and others don't believe in that sort of communication at all, and other think perhaps omens or symbolic stuff or something I haven't thought of. Some think that the Spiritual world might just be like the wind, where you see the effect of grass swaying on the wind, but you can't see it, you can't smell it, you can't scientifically prove it, but intuitively, you know from the signs and signals you get of the world that you somehow feel it and that there are good and bad spiritual things and it would be naivety not to at least ponder if it could be so. Like how do you get a computer to compute that? Or how do you get a mechanical sensor to sense that? Or how go you get a robot to point at that or rub against that or where do you draw that line where white fades enough to become black? Some intangible things like that the physical world just can't touch. The very world to some came from a big bang whereas others say the big bang doesn't and can't explain it. Scientists even have their doubts many times and have tough times trying to explain things and recalculate and rehypothesize and still us religious nuts can't possibly be right because even though we scientists weren't right, we keep correcting ourselves so we're closer to being right. Again, just more intangibles. Just as religion tries to reach for an explanation, science does too and both sides seem to scoff at each other when it seems both are just trying to understand it all and both sides at times gets it completely wrong and completely right in certain situations. Both of us have to at times fall back and regroup and try to make sense of it all. Still, I don't think with all we know, religion and science, neither side could possibly know it all and both sides I believe still has a lot to learn from each other. I think neither side can possibly say they have it for sure when we all have finite brains. On the religious side of things, there's a mild argument about when the rapture will take place. One side says pretrib another says posttrib but both still say it's going to happen. I think we're all on a quest for knowledge and even though I don't always agree with atheist, I'm still interested in hearing their arguments as I would hope that my arguments don't fall on deaf ears also. I guess it is getting late when I start getting all philosophical like this. It's like even though we are on separate shores, we both are after the similar finding out the truth. Good night and I hope the Good Spirit finds you and me and sets us all straight on all things concerning wisdom and knowledge and truth. Ooo that's all mystical and such, isn't it! Whereas you might say, I hope that you'll put away your spirit nonsense and come to the there's only material and nothing else wisdom. I'll disagree with that and I'll lay up to my Spiritual self to say hi to you whenever (and hopefully not soon) that you cross over. ;-) Whereas you might say, nothing happens after you die, you're just gone. Me, I still hope to see my brother again someday. I miss him a lot! It comes down to a belief argument. What do you believe?
wow, posted 4 Nov 2008 at 20:30 UTC by steve »
That paragraph was so long it made my brain swirl! :)
I sort of talk like that too! I never could figure out a good use for paragraph separation. I mean blank lines are a waste and make the posts unnecessarily long! I'mthinkingofgettingridofspacestoo! ;-) AND, I THINK I"LL GO BACK TO JUST USING ALL UPPER CASE SCREAMING AGAIN TOO! ;-) It really saves on bits! $-)
I knew I'd be facing a 'Flat Earth' statement eventually. Discussions like this often degrade to this point, sadly.
My reasoning was as clear and concise as I am capable of making it.
If we can't even agree that an unseen and undiscovered force can be considered as a possible explanation for neural firings, then it makes no sense to go further.
You said you reject that because there is no evidence. Using this reasoning, you have to REJECT considering other ideas in the same situation such as the dark energy/universe expansion issue I mentioned.
My side is often called closed minded, but there is closed mindedness on both sides, and I would propose more so on my opponent's.
I am not seeking agreement, only understanding of our disagreement.
Actually, what I said was that I'm not willing to accept (without
evidence) your claim that we should expect supernatural forces to affect
humans by diddling with neural firings in the brain, as opposed to some
other mechanism. And I offered examples of other mechanisms that have
been proposed by other religious people. I think Descartes' explanation
is just as plausible as yours for a vector of supernatural influence in
While I don't believe any of them will turn out to be factual, if
you come up with some empirical, testable evidence that yours or any of
them are real, bring it on. But
there's a difference between being open minded and confusing
science with religion. I think that's at the root of our disagreement.
The bible says that in Jesus' time that people asked for a sign from God and or they wanted God revealed to them. Jesus wouldn't ablidge them and only told them of the sign of Jonah being in the whale for 3 days and 3 nights. They didn't get it. After the healing of a blind man the Pharasees said that they can see. Jesus said that because they say they can see they are still dead in their sins. These people were in serious need of salvation and they didn't even know it. There's plenty of "not getting it" in the Bible.
All throughout the Bible, people don't understand that there's a greater spiritual world around them. The Gnostics thought that they knew all there was to know, yet they left God out of that equation. The Bible says seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you. It also says that without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
God is a person, not a machine. Perhaps you put a prayer in and therefore expect a sign back. He may not even respond to that. So how do you test for God? You likely have to do it His way rather than your way. You probably won't accept this, but what if God "talks" to certain people like prophets in the Old Testament, but gives no indication at all to others like me or you. Will you have no faith at all that He exists because you never heard God speak directly to you? I mean the airforce makes stealth aircraft that can't be found on radar, what if God never wants to be found by those He doesn't want to reveal Himself to? Does that mean He doesn't exist? Science is still finding out new particles and new things. Does that mean they didn't exist before.
We look back to the 1800s and think people back then were stupid. Hospitals used to think that doctors didn't need to wash their hands after examining a dead person. The Bible, in Abraham's time already said to do so and had even has given a recipe to make up an anti-bacterial soap and procedure for doing so even holding their hands up to the sun to kill other bacteria. How would he know to do that? Perhaps other things in the Bible such as circumcision on the 8th day where babies have the most vitamin K is just a coincidence? What does circumcision get you? Apparently lots of health benefits but that's not why they did it or did they even know that it would. God told Abraham to do it and reaped the benefits when he obeyed. When someone had Leprosy the Israelites quarantined them outside the city. At the time people thought it was cruel! Up to that time the people thought Leprosy was inherited. Today we know Leprosy is caused by bacteria. How did Abraham know to quarantine them? It was new and radical and a hard decision. Was this radical on the whim change of procedures or a radical religious law imparted by God for the time? In contrast, at the time the Egyptians were putting Donkey dung on wounds as a salve and wondering why people were getting lock jaw. God told Abraham if he followed His ways and did none of the things that the Egyptians did that he'd have "none of these diseases" that the Egyptians had. Incredible as it may seem the weird things that God told Abraham to do like burying their own waste and washing hygiene are just being explained in contemporary times. There's lots of stuff. Why did God say not to eat from a pot that has meat and cheese cooked together? Again, scientists found bad enzymes that get created. There's some freaky weird stuff in there some of which still has yet to be explained. Either Abraham was way ahead of his time or what the Bible says is all a just a big coincidence, or He was crazy or it never happened, whatever you want to say. Pause for a moment and ponder this stuff and don't just brush off this evidence as nothing. This stuff Abraham did was nothing short of miraculous!
But hey, the Bible has plenty of evidence that demands a verdict if you just need evidence. There again people have debated and argued the Bible for ages and it won't stop now. The Bible says the very environment around you proves there is a God. However, Scientists say it all came from a big bang (although they are debating that again). Where did the big bang come from? They don't know. Where did God come for that matter? Who knows. Again, at some point it comes down to your religion, faith, belief, whatever you call it. Whether that faith be Science faith, or Christianity faith, or whatever faith, it's still your system of belief and what you hold to. Everyone can believe whatever they want, but there is only one real truth. We each just have to figure it out from the evidence that is presented to us for ourselves and hope we have it right?
Of course, if you every start believing there there exists a holy God, then you have to see yourself as Isaiah did as broken and undone and wonder how do you get yourself right or fixed with God. That's where Jesus comes in by sacrificing himself on a cross to take away sin that if you only believe in his salvation then you can be saved. Again, with God, it comes down to faith aka belief. This is something beyond science.
Look, I put paragraph breaks in! Yee!
With having said all of that above, my guess, (and again, this is my guess), is that we are both physical and spiritual. My guess is that science may come to the point of copying a human brain and perhaps even getting a robot to work with that artificial brain. However, the other side of the human equation that I believe to be spiritual, I doubt that science will ever detect it or for that matter (pun not intended) recreate it.
That being said, would a robot go to heaven. The body goes into the ground but the spirit goes to heaven. So if the robot never had a spirit, what is there to go to heaven.
Sad Poor robot.
Again, that's just my guess and musings. I hope you enjoyed.
Thanks, paragraph breaks help a lot. :)
No one is asking God for evidence of his existence here. No one here is
claiming God doesn't exist (certainly not me). No one here is claiming
humans don't have souls. Those are all unknowable things that have to be
believed on faith.
This is part of the fundamental disagreement Roger and I were just
pondering. You and Roger seem to think cognitive research is a religious
rather than scientific field. Even more confusing to me, you both seem
to value non-canonical religious ideas from random sources and canonical
religious tenets of the bible equally. The idea you're arguing for is
not the biblical
claim that humans have immortal souls (which no one here has
disputed) but the claims of people
like Descarte that souls are an operational component of the human
at best, you seem to be conflating the two issues for reasons I don't
far as I know, no mainstream religion has canonized Descarte's writing
as holy inspired scripture. So it baffles me why you and Roger seem to
think a threat to Cartesian Dualism is a threat to christianity. Why
can't humans have souls as described in the bible and yet those souls
not be an operational part of the brain as Descarte believed? Surely God
could have invented a soul that was consistent with the
basic laws of His universe?
> The idea you're arguing for is not the biblical claim that
humans have immortal souls (which no one here has disputed) but the
claims of people like Descarte that souls are an operational component
of the human brain. Or, at best, you seem to be conflating the two
issues for reasons I don't understand.
Don't confuse canon with my opinion or what I personally believe.
Everyone has their own personal opinions and I don't necessarily agree
with some Christian denominations so I can just tell you what I
personally believe. I apologize that my arguments don't seem to make
sense in that respect.
Yep, I feel
it's a gray matter (pun intended) of somewhere between. Yes, I believe
that people have a meatspace part and a spiritual part and in my
nomenclature I call the two together a soul. I believe that spiritual
part DOES affect the meatspace part somehow. That is not the same
opinion as other religious guys perhaps so no it's probably not
Speaking of canonical, if you get 5 people in a room, you'll get 6 at
least slightly different views on this topic so I doubt there's much
agreement to create a so-called "canonical view" of this topic.
> So it baffles me why you and Roger seem to think a threat to
Cartesian Dualism is a threat to christianity.
I thought I argued above that you might be able to create a robot from
copying a human brain that might actually work. I don't think it's a
threat to Christianity. I think that there are two parts, body and
spirit, and I don't know if they work completely independently or
whether they continually affect each other. I'd like to think the
latter but I don't feel threatened by it. It's something fun to ponder
but not something to get hot under the collar over.
It would be interesting if such a robot was made from a christian minded
person, would it continue to work just like the original person wanting
to go to church, seek God or follow after spiritual things, or would if
it behaves completely different being meatspace only and ignore
spiritual things. This is a purely philosophical question but it would
be a fun an interesting test.
> Why can't humans have souls as described in the bible and
yet those souls not be an operational part of the brain as Descarte
They probably could or they probably could not. I know, that's a lame
answer, but I don't know if there is an answer. I feel I've made up my
it but there's always still doubt and it could go either way. I don't
know of any denomination
that has in its articles of faith which describes which human parts is
parts of a person, body, soul and spirit, but perhaps there are some
churches out there that might. I've probably heard all the various
views, though. There's the egg analogy view where you have the yolk is
the meatspace stuff, and white stuff is the spiritual stuff and the
whole egg makes the soul of a person. That's probably what I believe
most. To where you have meatspace, some sort of in-between space soul,
and some spiritual space stuff. There's the thought that Soul and
Spirit are basically the same thing. One view is that we are like a
laptop computer with electronic chips in the meatspace and the executing
software is the spirit. I sort of believe that too. (perhaps this is
what you really believe?). And there's probably other muck that people
The bible talks about His word is able to divide Soul and Spirit so they
are likely two different things although the Bible doesn't go into
detail what they are so there's no real explanation. So it's anyone's
guess. In any case probably most of the christians you ask will say
that there is a spiritual component to a person that becomes active or
alive when you get saved and somehow that part interacts with God. One
verse in the Bible says, "God is a spirit and they that worship Him must
worship Him in spirit and in truth." So from a Biblical perspective
(and perhaps it is probably therefore should be canonical) would be that
there is a fleshy meatspace part and a spiritual part that is active as
parts of a person. So again, I don't know of a denomination that
specifically spells it out but from a Biblical teaching perspective it
seems that it is assumed. Another part of the Bible explains about the
dry bones where bodies will be reassembled and then be given life again
as if they are two separate parts, body & spirit. Adam when he was
created, was first created in meatspace and then God breathed "life"
into him, again two separate components. In the milleneal time, the
Bible talks about those living in heaven in spiritual bodies will come
back to earth to live in physical bodies. The Bible also talks about
death where the body goes back to the earth and the spirit goes back to
God who gave it. So again, the Bible talks about a person having two
separate parts. (I'm talking from a Biblical perspective obviously).
Which seems to suggest that besides meatspace stuff that there's some
other component that gives us life or animates us somehow. There's
plenty of mystery when talking about spiritual stuff because we are in
fleshly bodies and the spiritual stuff is foreign to us so we can only
make best-guesses at what we can understand with our meatspace mind as
the two don't seem to communicate very well.
> As far as I know, no mainstream religion has canonized
Descarte's writing as holy inspired scripture.
The actual cannon, ie: the Bible, will not likely be modified by any
church to add any more books to it due to the statement in Revelation to
not add or take away (even though the statement was probably just
talking about the book of Revelation rather than the entire bible). So
if anything perhaps a church might add it to their articles of faith but
not to anything labeled as part of the Inspired Holy Bible.
> Surely God could have invented a soul that was consistent
with the basic laws of His universe?
Couldn't God have also invented a soul with both flesh and a spirit as
the Bible teaches? Even though, as a Christian I really try to explain
what I can in the physical sciences and I shun mystical nonsense stuff
as bunk, there's still some things that I believe such as God, the
afterlife, and spiritual things, which agreed is pure faith. These
things when applied
to a soul would suggest to me that people are more than meatspace only.
My guess is that the supernatural, whether it be one's own spirit or
other spiritual influences does have influence on the meatspace person.
Would those same influences work on a robot. A robot wouldn't have a
personal spirit applied as those are only given by God. Would angels,
demons, or God have influence? I'd think so. So perhaps a robot can
function in the meatspace to mimick a human, but in my opinion there
would be some component that would still be missing but it may be close
enough that it would at least pass any stringent Turing type tests and
could pass off as the person that was copied. Since, in my opinion, it
would still be missing that spiritual component, I would still consider
it not "wholly human" and would be skeptical of it.
If a robot acts close enough to a human we will proabably use them but
never consider them as humans. I don't know if I can be any more clear
on what my opinion is. I'd love to see someone make a robot from a
copied brain and see what it does! It may surprise us all! Again, I
can't put my finger on it what
it really means to be human with body and spirit, so does it really
matter? Probably not. ...and so then this whole argument floats off
into space. See, there it goes... bye bye argument...
Your comment on the difference between body, soul, spirit being
ill-defined in the Bible got me interested, so I Googled on
"doctrine of the soul" to see if anyone had actually tried to sort out
the religious side of things, at least within Christianity. I found an
interesting old book called, not surprisingly, "Doctrine
of the Soul" (1873, Charles L. Ives).
About half the book is devoted to the bible-verse-fu that Christians
use to argue with each other but the remainder is pretty interesting.
The author's conclusion is that the Bible uses the word soul to "denote
matter (emphasis mine) organized so as to be susceptible to
life". This definition is perfectly consistent with modern science and
at odds with the
Cartesian Dualism you're defending. Interestingly, he goes on to say,
"If this be materialism, so be it. It is the materialism of the Bible
and rests on an authority which man can not assail."
The soul, according
to his interpretation has nothing to do with immortality or the
spiritual world at all. He says that no where in the Bible can you find
a claim that the soul is a separate thing from the material body or that
it is immortal.
He claims the idea of a separate, immortal soul is just a popular
misconception (to which I have to admit
I was subject to myself). He proposes that God "keeps
for [man] his life in remembrance" - so God does his own supernatural
backup of your
consciousness allowing Him to restore it in a new body later as needed.
This neatly gets around the conservation of energy problem that Cartesian
Dualism runs into.
His interpretation of the spirit is that it's used to describe the
state of being alive. Matter that is alive is said to "have spirit",
when matter is dead, the "spirit has left it". But the spirit had no
actual function. As far as
I can tell it's just used a synonym for the word life.
Another interesting point he makes is that all animals, not just
humans, are described by the bible as souls. So the claim that a human
has more "value" (Roger's definition) than, say, an ant, because the human
has a soul and the ant doesn't, could be considered heretical. The
primary religious difference between them, he says, is that God has
promised resurrection (restoring from His supernatural
backup of consciousness) for the human but not for the ant. He doesn't
comment on whether carrots have souls. Roger
may have the upper hand on
that one using his definition of value but I still think carrots are
bible-verse-fu that Christians use to argue with each
Giggle. That's so true!
"If this be materialism, so be it. It is the materialism of the
Bible and rests on an authority which man can not assail."
It certainly is an interesting view. I still don't agree with it but I
do ponder it some.
The Bible basically says that all humans are eternal beings and when you
die, your spirit self will live in one of two spiritual places not of
meatspace: heaven or hell. Now the question would be is when does that
spirit self become alive? I'd say it's at the point of salvation but
this man is saying it is at the time of death? I don't agree.
Another interesting point he makes is that all animals, not
just humans, are described by the bible as souls.
Interesting. I didn't know the bible called animals souls but I
wouldn't have too much of a problem with that if it were true. It of
course does bring up some age-old questions. Do all dogs go to heaven?
know. It would make you wonder just what does go to heaven. I mean, do
ants, fleas and termites go to heaven? We will be drowning in pests up
there! I'd really hope not or at least that they go to dog heaven and
not a human heaven. ;-) I know heaven and hell are both big places
capable of holding many "souls".
I agree that a soul must be the person part but I believe it to include not
only the fleshy part but the spirit part also. But that would
be my opinion as the body,soul,spirit thing is a mystery to me still.
It is a very interesting study you did and interesting that you found
someone religious that agrees with your material only point of view. I
too am enjoying this study.
The material view does not allow for the fleshy part of a man and the
spiritual part of a man to exist at the same time? That seems to be
contrary to Bible teaching so still I'd have to disagree. If the spirit
does exist at the same time, which I believe it does, then it's just a
matter of knowing do the two parts interact in some distinguishable way.
I believe it does but again, I have not proof of that that I can show
you other than the Bible verses I have provided before.
Here's some interesting bible-verse-fu for you!:
For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit
within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the
Spirit of God.
We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from
God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.
This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in
words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.
The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the
Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand
them, because they are spiritually discerned.
The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is
not subject to any man's judgment:
"For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?" But
we have the mind of Christ.
it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a
natural body, there is also a spiritual body.
So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last
Adam, a life-giving spirit.
The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the
The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven.
As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the
man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven.
And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we
bear the likeness of the man from heaven.
I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the
kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
I posted a new story today on the brain mechanisms responsible for the
human feeling that other human (and human-like) creatures are special,
Dum inter robots sumus,
colamus humanitatem. I wonder if the feelings Roger was describing
in which he places higher moral values on humans than on carrots is a
religious interpretation of the interpersonal interface described in the
paper? They sound very similar.