Monday, March 24, 2014

The Apologetic Proof Paradox

Anti-Mormon critics argue from at least two different positions. 

1)- asking Mormons to support their claims with evidence.

2)- proposing deductive arguments which ostensibly show that LDS beliefs or claims are false.

These positions are both fine on their own. The problem is, anti-Mormons conflate the two. 

To illustrate with a fictitious example, an anti-Mormon might say, "we have proof Joseph Smith lied, because he told one person that he 'has never eaten fish,' but told another person that he 'has eaten fish.' These statements can't both be true!"  That is a deductive argument, and is easily countered by observing that Joseph may have eaten fish between making the first and second statement. But if you point this out, the switch takes place. The anti-Mormon now says, "you don't have any evidence to support your claim that Joseph Smith ate fish. We have evidence for our claims, while the Mormons are making claims without evidence." Of course, we don't need any evidence that Joseph Smith ate fish, as we have already refuted their deductive argument - by presenting a plausible alternative to their argument's conclusion. In other words, their argument is now reduced to, "we think Joseph Smith lied, but we can't prove it." 

Unfortunately, it seems to me that many LDS apologists don't realize the deductive nature of the anti-Mormon arguments, and therefore feel they must only "fight fact with fact," and never mention anything that isn't documented. For instance, in the fish illustration, an apologist might think, "well, they have documentation on their side, showing that Joseph did make those statements, so I must therefore find documentation that Joseph Smith ate fish." This is a fallacy.  

Of course, LDS apologists can provide evidence to support their points, and that evidence can demonstrate increased plausibility and likelihood, however that evidence is not necessary in order to demonstrate that an anti-Mormon argument is flawed. Unfortunately, when people see the apologist presenting evidence, they can get confused and think the apologist needs to prove his point is true in order to counter the anti-Mormon argument. 

Moreover, anti-Mormons often invoke Occam's Razor - in an inapt defense of deductive argument. For instance, in the context of the fish fallacy illustration, they might say, "we already know Joseph Smith was a liar, so by using Occam's Razor we can confidently say he was lying about this too." If you disagree with their premise (i.e. that Joseph Smith was a liar), they often will try to prove that the premise is true by moving on to other examples of Joseph Smith allegedly lying - never returning to the original argument or admitting it was flawed. 

Now let's look at a real example of a flawed anti-Mormon argument, and my response to it. Notice that I defend my point with evidence, which strengthens my point but which may lead some to the false belief that my point is only relevant if it is proven - when in fact my point exposes a flaw in the anti-Mormon argument, even without being proven and even while including speculation. 
    Argument: Joseph Smith said that a roll, which we now refer to as the "Tshemmin roll," contained the writings of Joseph of Egypt. We now know it does not contain any writings of the sort, so Joseph Smith was either deluded or lying.  
     Response: As my friends and readers know, I like to question things - exploring new ideas and trying not to take anything for granted.
     One example is the belief that Joseph Smith said that his papyrus collection contained both a book of Abraham and a Book of Joseph.
     The reason this sort of information is important is because it sets the tone for how we interpret other facts. For instance, the theory that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Abraham from papyrus which is now missing takes a hit if Joseph claimed there were two separate rolls for Abraham and Joseph- because that would mean two rolls are missing which need to be accounted for, not just one - which makes the theory less plausible.
     Alternatively, the missing papyrus theory would be bolstered if Joseph Smith was referring to only one document. This would allow for the possibility that Abraham had written a book and then Joseph of Egypt redacted a small part of Abraham's book, and the small redacted version is what ended up in Joseph Smith's papyri. From that small redacted version, Joseph Smith could then have restored the full Book of Abraham - the book written as Joseph Smith said, "by his own hand."
     If that's what Joseph Smith was talking about, then it could go a long way toward solving the Book of Abraham puzzle. A small redacted excerpt could more easily have fit on the missing end of the Hor papyrus scroll.
     So let's explore the possibility.      

     There is little evidence that Joseph Smith personally said that Abraham's writings were on one roll and Joseph's writings were on a separate roll. For one thing, Joseph Smith was not keeping a journal at the time of his alleged statement. It's easy to see how if Joseph Smith said something about the papyri containing the writings of "Abraham and Joseph," people could assume he meant that the writings of the two Patriarchs were on separate rolls (since we tend to perhaps think of scripture in terms of each prophet having his own separate book).
     In the context of my theory, one possibility is that Joseph of Egypt put together a few things Abraham had said about the Egyptians, for the purpose of talking with Pharaoh about Abraham's time in Egypt and about Egyptian history. 
     This would seem to square with a statement from Parley P. Pratt:

The record is now in course of translation by the means of the Urim and Thummim, and proves to be a record written partly by the father of the faithful, Abraham, and finished by Joseph when in Egypt.

     Pratt is talking about a single record which both men (Abraham and Joseph of Egypt) contributed to, and the wording of Pratt's statement is consistent with the redaction idea. This would account for why Joseph Smith never really talked about the contribution from Joseph of Egypt, due to the fact that Joseph Smith restored the original Book of Abraham, the one written by Abraham's own hand, not the redacted excerpt passed down perhaps in the extra space on the Hor roll. 
     We only have one account of Joseph Smith mentioning a connection between Joseph of Egypt and the papyri, a statement made soon after the purchase of the papyri. This one statement attributed to Joseph Smith reads:

… with W. W. Phelps and Oliver Cowdery as scribes, I commenced the translation of some of the characters or hieroglyphics, and much to our joy found that one of the rolls contained the writings of Abraham, another the writings of Joseph of Egypt

     This quote is from History of the Church, which was written in a first-person style as if Joseph was himself speaking, but was actually a compilation of statements which were primarily written by others. 
     Howard C. Searle explains:

Although little of the subsequent history was dictated or written by the Prophet himself, writers used his diaries where available and retained the first-person narrative style throughout.

      Although unfamiliar to us today, this first-person editing practice for compiled materials was quite common and acceptable at the time. Historian Michael D. Quinn observes:

Our present standards concerning plagiarizing, footnoting, and editorial adherence to the original manuscript did not begin to penetrate even professional historical writing in American until nearly fifty years after the original composition and editing of Joseph Smith's history, and were not generally reflected in non-professional histories until long after B.H. Roberts prepared the second edition of that history in 1900. 

     So, the quote attributed to Joseph actually appears to have come years later from W.W. Phelps, which means the quote reflects only his understanding of the situation and his memory of what Joseph said. Unfortunately, it was a complex situation. And Joseph's method of translation does not require us to assume that he was even looking at the rolls of papyrus or explaining to his scribes which roll(s) he was talking about when he identified that the papyrus contains the writings of Abraham and Joseph. Moreover, the account from Phelps could also be tainted by the public perception about the rolls as it developed over the intervening years. In any event, Phelps does not inform us of anything Joseph himself actually said, and instead Phelps gives his own account wherein he chooses to talk about the scribes, and takes liberties such as the phrase "much to our joy," etc. 
     In a letter to William Frye, Oliver is known to have made a statement describing his understanding of the Book of Joseph. In the history of the Church, this statement was also wrongly attributed in first person to Joseph.
     The letter written by Cowdery states in part:

The inner end of the same roll (Joseph's record) presents a representation of the judgment. At one view you behold the Savior seated upon His throne, crowned and holding the scepter of righteousness and power, before whom also, are assembled, the twelve tribes of Israel, the nations, languages and tongues of the earth, the kingdoms of the world over which Satan is represented as reigning, Michael the Archangel, holding the key of the bottomless pit, and at the same time the devil as being chained and shut up in the bottomless pit.

      It's not surprising that Oliver took occasion to “study it out in his own mind,” in accordance with the commandment which had been given specifically to him in D&C 9:8. In no way does Oliver attribute this information to Joseph Smith, or claim that it was an actual translation. Rather, Cowdery states that it is self-evident: “The evidence is apparent upon the face, that they were written by persons acquainted with the history of the Creation, the fall of man, and more or less of the correct ideas of the notions of the Deity.”
     Cowdery's letter was printed in The Messenger and Advocate, of which Cowdery was editor, and, accordingly, I believe that's where the rumor of the roll of Joseph started. Cowdery plainly believed the Tshemmin roll was doctrinally significant, and since the writings of Abraham were being translated from the other roll, it would be reasonable to deduce (in Cowdery' s shoes) that the Tshemmin roll contained the “writings of Joseph” which Joseph Smith had evidently said something about. Again, I believe Joseph most likely said something about the papyri containing the writings of both Abraham and Joseph, but we have no way of knowing what his exact phraseology was.
     Some people may still choose to assume that Joseph Smith said the Tshemmin roll contained the writings of Joseph of Egypt. But if Joseph Smith was on trial, there would be no direct evidence to make that case. The only people who are known to have claimed that the Tshemmin roll contained the writings of Joseph of Egypt are people who would have had no personal means of knowing.
     These people can't be witnesses to any particular roll being the Book of Joseph, or being a record of anything else, unless they had the ability to translate. And the only one who did claim to have that ability, Joseph Smith, appears silent on the matter except for a quote which is attributed to him in a history known for routinely attributing statements to him which he did not make.
     One might wonder, if a misconception existed then why didn't Joseph correct the misconception? Well, if he became aware of the problem, then perhaps he did correct it – at least to anyone asking him about it in person.. But the question is when or if he became aware of the problem. He had a lot happening in his life.
     Did anyone ever ask him to clarify? I don't know that they saw any need. Once Joseph said something to the effect of finding the writings of Joseph and Abraham, and people could see for themselves that there were two rolls, the people could have seen that as sufficient grounds for their assumption, and then Oliver's publication of the letter, with those two words, “Joseph's record,” solidified the assumption.
     But wouldn't it have come up frequently in conversation? Not if Joseph only talked about the Book of Abraham. It's easy to say that everyone should have gotten together and talked about every conceivable misunderstanding and gotten them all cleared up, but that's hindsight - how many misunderstandings took place which were in fact cleared up, but we don't know about because they were cleared up before anyone wrote about them?
     Perhaps there is information of which I am unaware, but I see no reason to assume that Joseph Smith associated the Tshemmin roll with Joseph of Egypt.
Thus we see that a flawed anti-Mormon argument can be effectively refuted by pointing out plausible yet unproven possibilities which contradict the premises and/or conclusion of the anti-Mormon argument. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Intelligent Design

It should go without saying that God is able to influence the material world, including lifeforms, any way He so chooses. If God were to make Himself objectively known to the world, He would instantly become the best scientific explanation for many unknown issues, like the question of how life began.

Unfortunately, some people seem to feel that science has taken a side on God. This is simply not the case. Science says nothing about God - and that means science does not declare that the "truth" about existence must exclude God. God is not a scientific concept, but that has everything to do with the limitations of science, and nothing to do with the probability of God.

This post however is not about God. This post is intended to dispel the myth that science has ruled out the idea of guided evolution (i.e. the possibility that intelligence played a role in the formation of life). This is relevant to God in the sense that one can fully accept science and also accept and entertain ideas related to God governing the particles of existence. And there may be evidence that certain features of existence are only explainable by either appealing to extremely unlikely scenarios, or to invoking fundamentally different paradigms.

Science - real science - should be open to discussing and ascertaining those instances.

The relevance here to the LDS Church is in simply demonstrating the fact that science is not capable of challenging or contradicting religious ideas - but, importantly, religious ideas can at times coincide with areas where science has difficulty reaching plausible solutions.

Unguided evolution may in the end be adequate to explain everything in biology. I don't know. But it is certainly true that it can explain some things better than it can explain other things. The question is, how "much" better can it explain some things than other things?

Standard definitions of Intelligent Design are similar to this accepted one: "The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause."

Evidence supporting this purported theory, like all inductive evidence, is a matter of probability. One might therefore expect debate over the theory to center on robust mathematical analysis.

Unfortunately, one would be mistaken. Rather than fostering rigorous debate over the potential merits of intelligent design (ID), some scientists have refused to "dignify" ID with a response.

Bruce Alberts, while in his formal capacity as President of the National Academy of Sciences, stated, "Because 'Intelligent Design' theories are based on supernatural explanations, they can have nothing to do with science." Many voices of the scientific establishment have similarly echoed such sentiments. Nevertheless, Alberts' statement is puzzling for two reasons.

First, the only "explanation" relied on by ID is "intelligent cause," as seen in the definition of Intelligent Design above. Therefore, Alberts is either saying "intelligent cause" is necessarily a supernatural explanation, or he is rejecting the definition of Intelligent Design and attacking a straw man. So we must assume he is referring to intelligent cause. But how can intelligent cause not be recognized by science when science itself is the product of intelligent cause? Alberts seems to be confusing "supernatural" with artificial.

Second, even if one believes that "intelligent cause" is necessarily supernatural, most scientists are more than eager to test claims of the supernatural and are eager to assert that supernatural claims can indeed be tested by science. The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) boasts a long list of distinguished scientists as present and past fellows (including noted antagonists of Intelligent Design, Richard Dawkins and Eugenie Scott), and devotes itself to such "scientific inquiry." Particularly of note is that any "scientific test" of psychic abilities is inherently open to the possibility that the psychic may actually possess supernatural abilities. Indeed, CSI explicitly states as part of its mission that it "Does not reject claims on a priori grounds, antecedent to inquiry, but examines them objectively and carefully."

In other words, the CSI considers valid the possibility of scientifically inferring supernatural powers through probability-based scientific testing of psychic claims.

Alberts no doubt is a brilliant man. But he and other scientists seem to be looking for reasons to avoid discussing the potential merits of ID as a theory. Or, possibly, they may believe they can read the minds of ID proponents and thereby discern a hidden meaning intended in the words "intelligent cause" - in which case they may want to contact the CSI and arrange to have their supernatural ability tested.

If these scientists had lived hundreds of years ago and heard someone hypothesize that unseen creatures were causing disease, these scientists may very well have claimed that the one making the hypothesis was appealing to ghosts and monsters. They may have declared that science ought not to dignify such a hypothesis with a response. Nevertheless, as we now know, the hypothesis would have been correct.

One can only conclude at this point that there is no actual debate. One side offers arguments while the other side makes claims while refusing to engage in dialogue. So let us examine each of these claims and debunk them one by one in hopes of eliciting a response and driving some intellectual curiosity concerning the discussion of ID.

  Claim: "Science only looks for natural explanations"

What is nature?

When we think of nature, we think of life. But can science show that life is natural, as opposed to artificial (intelligence caused)? Science does a great job documenting the nature "of" life, but that is not the same as showing that life itself is "of nature," however one might define "nature."

For instance, science observes that life "reproduces." But this does not make life natural. For the same reason, we would not consider flying saucers to be natural by documenting observations about their nature. If flying saucers were to descend into earth's atmosphere, extract natural minerals from the earth and use those minerals to make parts and assemble additional flying saucers, and science documented all of this, that would not make the flying saucers natural. The observation of life existing and reproducing makes for interesting world history, but the existence of life cannot be assumed to be natural.

If everything in existence is natural, then intelligent cause is also natural. If, alternatively, science acknowledges some things in existence as natural and some things as artificial, then science acknowledges artificial as well as natural explanations. Either way, intelligent cause is a scientific explanation.

  Claim: "A designer would have to be even more complex and improbable than its design"

First, the raw natural complexity of the designer is unknown and is only one piece of the equation. Humans 10,000 years ago were just as "complex" and intelligent as we are. But they didn't design much of anything compared with our technology, because intelligence requires tools and knowledge in order to design. Tools and knowledge are separate factors from raw individual complexity.

Second, to assume that a designer would be more improbable than the probability of the designed item arising through means other than design, is to assume that the circumstances by which the designer came to be were hostile to the designer's existence. However, we do not know the circumstances by which a designer would have come into existence, and, therefore, cannot assess the probability of it happening. There is no reason to assume that even if the designer is far more complicated than the designed item that it would have been more difficult for the designer to come into being than for the designed item.

Third, the central implication of the claim is that the existence of the designer must be more improbable than is the existence of the designed items arising without the aid of the designer. But this is contradicted by the very people making the claim. Opponents of Intelligent Design will readily acknowledge that a modern computer could never arise naturally. Yet these same people assert that the designers of the computer did arise naturally. Therefore, they are asserting that the existence of the designer is more probable than is the existence of the design.

  Claim: "When ID proponents say 'designer,' they are referring to God"

A police captain may personally believe that a particular person started a fire. But when detectives determine the cause of the fire to be arson (intelligent design), their theory has nothing to do with and does not rely on the captain's personal belief. And when the captain holds a press conference referring to "the arsonist" he is not injecting his personal beliefs or making reference to the individual he believes started the fire.

So, no. ID is not "referring" to God. Those who happen to believe in God may suspect their God is the designer. But that is not a matter of ID theory. The fact that one that is omnipotent and omniscient would be capable of design does not mean that one who designs is necessarily omnipotent or omniscient. This is logic 101. ID does not throw away the possibility, but good science is not about throwing away possibilities.

  Claim: "Evidence for evolution is overwhelming"

The concept of life evolving does not contradict ID. Many ID proponents believe in both, viewing ID as a mechanism for some instances of evolution.

  Claim: "A designer had nowhere to come from" 

We live on a tiny rock floating around. We base our ever-evolving scientific understanding of existence on a short period of observations made from this limited vantage point. Why would anyone suppose that we have a complete enough view of reality to rule out other designers?

Does science say we should impose limitations on where things may have "come from?" Consider a child raised on an isolated desert island by his grandmother, who lived just long enough to teach the boy to care for himself, then died. As the boy grows older and considers his existence, should he believe that the island is all that exists, since it is all he can see and all he has ever known? Or is it more logical for him to suppose that his scope of existence is limited? Is it logical for him to suppose that the number of things that exist that he has not encountered is likely to exceed the number of things that exist that he has encountered?

If the boy creates a theory that other people exist - and other animals, resources, and technology that he has never encountered, is it a scientific theory? Or does science insist that the boy only acknowledge the existence of things to which he has been exposed? Is the boy supposed to explain his existence using only what is on the island? At what point is it OK for the boy to say "the island is insufficient; there has to be something more?" At what point is such a statement scientific?

  Claim: "Very little money is spent on research for ID"

How much money did Einstein spend on relativity research?

  Claim: "A judge declared ID is not science"

Is the government an authority over science? No. The government creates institutions to foster networking and categorizing, but science is a matter of individual thought. "Science" did not think up the laws of Newton. Newton did.

The judge essentially ruled that the public may not set its own curriculum at a local level, at least on this issue. Since the judge is not an authority on science, opponents of ID are committing a logical fallacy in appealing to his authority.

  Claim: "Knowledge of a designer is necessary before it can be a scientific explanation"

Science does accept that unknown designers can exist.

Consider the words of Carl Sagan in his universally acclaimed scientific treatise on the "Quest for Extraterrestrial Intelligence" - which led to millions of dollars in science funding:

"It is easy to create an interstellar radio message which can be recognized as emanating unambiguously from intelligent beings. A modulated signal ("beep," "beep-beep," ) comprising the numbers 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 1 7, 19, 23, 29, 31, for example, consists exclusively of the first 12 prime numbers-that is, numbers that can be divided only by 1, or by themselves. A signal of this kind, based on a simple mathematical concept, could only have a biological origin. No prior agreement between the transmitting and receiving civilizations, and no precautions against Earth chauvinism, are required to make this clear.

"Such a message would be an announcement or beacon signal, indicating the presence of an advanced civilization but communicating very little about its nature..."

Clearly, prior knowledge of a potential designer is not necessary to identify the existence of design, at least not by accepted scientific standards anyway.

One scientific discipline devotes itself to ascertaining whether rocks are actually artifacts. Based on such things as angles of fracture too improbable for nature to have made, scientists can determine that someone used a rock as a prehistoric tool. Prehistoric man is a good candidate. Now suppose we were to find such artifacts on Mars. Relying only on rocks with fractures, and using the same standard of design inference accepted in the mainstream of science, we would be able to infer intelligent design - with no knowledge of the designer.

  Claim: "Nature can create complex things, like snowflakes"

Inference of ID is not about complexity, but probability and artificiality.

The argument that nature can create whatever is in question falls apart when one is forced to compare probabilities. For instance, if someone is presented two snowflakes and told one of them was designed and the other was not, and their life depended on determining which one was natural and which was artificial, it would be a random toss-up. But if the person is presented a finely chiseled statue and an ordinary rock and told one is designed and the other is just a rock, it would not be a random toss-up. They would favor the statue over the rock. They would not maintain that the fractures in the statue are just a naturally caused coincidence. But they would be forced to concede that the statue is more likely to have been designed than the ordinary rock. In conceding this, they admit that probabilities are not equal in nature.

  Claim: "To accept design is to give up looking for other explanations"

As a matter of science, that is not true. The search for new and better theories never ends. Accepting design as the best explanation does not mean we will never find an even better explanation.

  Claim: "Probability is irrelevant after something has happened"

Scientific evidence (inductive evidence) is always about probability. This includes things that have already happened, and evolutionary science relies on probabilities for things which happened in the distant past. If we throw away probabilities of things that "already happened," we have to throw away evidence for evolution.

For instance, consider endogenous retrovirus (erv) evidence for a common ancestor between humans and chimpanzees. Humans and chimps have ervs in the same places in their DNA. This is often cited as strong scientific evidence. However, if probabilities of past events are irrelevant, one could argue that this correllation in DNA may have simply been a coincidence. Human DNA could have mutated on its own in such a fashion as to give the impression of a retrovirus, without a retrovirus having ever actually implanted itself. But does science treat both possibilities equally? No. That's because probabilities for events which have already happened are still relevant.

  Claim: "Intelligent Design is not testable"

You have to understand how ID theory works. It uses a set of standards defining how science infers design. Science has always inferred design but previously did so in an intuitive, arbitrary fashion. ID sets an objective standard. The validity of the standard can be tested by confirming through independent means whether a given thing was intelligently designed. For instance, a set of several dozen large rocks on a beach in the shape of "Rescue Me Please" would receive a "positive" from ID. If we confirm that a person did indeed intelligently lay the rocks in that design, it is inductive evidence confirming ID.

ID can be falsified by showing a better explanation. Someone might propose that waves tossed rocks around the beach and they ended up in that alignment. One would have to show that the probability of waves doing that is better. Waves themselves are probable, but waves putting the rocks in a formation which generates information is not probable.

Whether the standards proposed by ID are accurate or need tweaking and adjustment remains to be seen. But adjustments are not new to science. It's certainly an endeavor which should be encouraged and debated.

  Claim: "Behe's mousetrap analogy fails"

Michael Behe has defended his mousetrap analogy, but whether or not the mousetrap analogy has flaws when applied practically is irrelevant. The mousetrap and irreducible complexity are simple illustrations to help people understand a larger principle. Evolution without design would require not only direct but also indirect pathways. Behe argues that indirect pathways are improbable coincidences.

In a direct pathway to a complex function, the mechanism starts with a simpler version of the function and improves it. Natural selection weeds out unproductive changes that occur to the mechanism, and preserves productive changes.

In an indirect pathway, a highly specialized mechanism for a function is built in the background of whatever else might be going on in the organism. In other words, as the mechanism is being built it does not serve the function that it will serve when it is complete. The more proteins which are necessary and the more precise their placement, the bigger the coincidence it is. Natural selection does not weed out unproductive changes or preserve positive changes to the mechanism under construction, except by coincidence (further coincidence).

Some have proposed that "scaffolding" takes away the problem. Scaffolding means that other mechanisms are in place to perform the function until the highly specialized mechanism is complete. The scaffolding solution is only an illusion however, as scaffolding in no way changes the coincidental nature of the construction of the highly specialized mechanism.

Others have proposed that parts of the mechanism may have their own functions and therefore are preserved by natural selection. However, this does nothing to change the coincidental nature of the construction of the highly specialized mechanism.

Even without adding up the math, we intuitively realize that indirect pathways are improbable. This is why Richard Dawkins started with light sensitivity when he proposed a very nice pathway for the evolution of the eye. From there, he proposed a series of additions with each one improving the function of the light sensitivity until finally the organism had a highly specialized sight mechanism. If Dawkins had proposed that light sensitivity was the last step instead of the first step, it would have been a terrible explanation. He may have tried to temper the problem by proposing that as the eye was built, the individual parts of the eye served functions other than sight, but even if he could think of such functions, the coincidental nature of the construction of the eye would be evident for all to see.

What Behe has shown is that some mechanisms do not have the luxury of putting the function first the way Dawkins did with the eye. Critics have no choice but to use indirect pathways and claim disingenuously that the indirect pathway is no less probable than a direct pathway would have been.

  Claim: "Ken Miller refutes ID"

Ken Miller doesn't understand ID. What Miller calls "the heart and the soul of the intelligent design movement" is actually a total misrepresentation of the ID argument.

Miller put up a quote from Behe which read:

"An irreducibly complex system cannot be produced directly by numerous, successive, slight modifications of a precursor system, because any precursor to an irreducibly complex system that is missing a part is by definition nonfunctional."

Miller read the quote aloud, but he substituted the words "the way that evolution works" in place of the word "directly." Apparently he thought his phrase was inter-changeable with "directly."

Do you see what Miller did wrong? He did not understand that Behe was only addressing the relationship between direct pathways and the definition of irreducible complexity. Miller was so confused that he went on to propose an indirect pathway, thinking he was disproving Behe's statement about direct pathways.

Miller also failed to understand Behe's use of the word "nonfunctional."

Despite the fact that Behe specifically put the word "nonfunctional" in the context of the definition of IC (meaning Behe was referring to the "primary function" of the whole), Miller insisted on ignoring the definition and pretending that Behe was claiming that individual parts of an IC system can't have any function of their own of any kind.

So Miller falsely claims that "if irreducible complexity is right, then the parts of these machines should be absolutely useless."

  Claim: "ID proponents are trying to advance religion"

Opponents of ID can't find anything religious in ID, so they point out that many proponents of ID believe God is the designer. And certainly, that is a religious belief. Also, some ID proponents try to use ID as part of a strategy to convince people of their religious beliefs. Certainly, that is a religious strategy. But neither of those things are descriptions of ID itself. They are descriptions of what people are doing with ID.

But we can say the same about evolution.

Richard Dawkins, one of the most famous and accepted advocates of evolution in the science community, uses common descent as part of a strategy to advance atheism. Does that mean the theory of common descent is pro-atheism?

Sir Isaac Newton, the founder of modern science, wanted to use his scientific advances to convince men to believe in God. Does that mean Newton's laws themselves are religious?

Newton's exact words were:

"When I wrote my treatise about our systeme I had an eye upon such Principles as might work with considering men for the beleife of a Deity and nothing can rejoyce me more then to find it usefull for that purpose." (Letter to Richard Bentley, a supporter of Newton's who wrote papers arguing that Newton's theory was evidence of God)

  Final Thought

How great is the probability divide between possibilities of different things evolving? I don't know. But that's the point. Science is supposed to attempt to generate answers to such things. But too many scientists are not even willing to treat this question as though it exists at all. Apparently they are concerned that any answer to the question will lend credibility to Intelligent Design. But that's a personal pet peeve of theirs. Science does not need personal pet peeves but objective scholarship.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Mind-Body Problem (Consciousness) And LDS Theology

     A certain teenage boy lives alone on an island. He doesn't remember how he got there, but in fact he was raised until the age of three by a loving grandmother. She sought refuge from a nation in the chaos of a violent war, and came to the island to wait it out until a better life was possible for her grandchild.
     She taught him to eat vegetation, which was plentiful on the island. 
     Sadly, dementia soon set it. One day she left and never made it back. 
     This bright young man lives a very simple life. Despite the limited resources available to him, he is very contemplative. He doesn't remember his grandmother, however he has a faint memory of being loved.
     As a curious and logical youth, he learns more about his surroundings each day. He experiments, using trial and error, and at times a fairly scientific approach. He has learned to make and use tools, and has built a home. He even raises fish in a pen, for food. 
     He often wonders about where he came from and what the meaning of life is.
     While feeding his fish, he suddenly realizes something. If the fish have little babies, maybe he too was once a baby. Just as fish have parents, maybe he too had parents.
     This thought excites him. Deep inside, his faint memory of being loved stirs in his sub-conscious. The thought just rings true to him!
     After a couple weeks pass, the initial excitement starts to fade and gives way to doubt. If he had parents, he reasons, then where did they come from? Did they fall from the sky like rain? Did they come from the ocean, like the fish? Both of those possibilities seem ridiculous. Why isn't there any evidence that they ever lived on the island? And so, he concludes, the existence of parents would only complicate matters with more unanswered questions. Did they have parents too? And did their parents also have parents, and so on? On the island, this young man has learned to trust his limitations. He has learned to only believe - to only trust - what he sees. And he doesn't see parents.
     Still, that nudging feeling of having been loved is in his heart. He pushes it aside, not knowing what it is - yet knowing that he can't trust “feelings.”
     At this same time, the long war – that he knows nothing about – has ended. His father, who had been unable to come see him, is soon to arrive and greet his son with open arms. Every single day, the father had tried to reach his son through a hand-crank military radio. The boy had a similar radio, with a generator, but he knew not what it was. Even as a young child, he had never seen his grandmother use it, because her arthritic hands could not crank the handle. It had never occurred to him that it could be useful for anything other than a tool to grind and crush – a natural item, like the rocks.
     If only he had not limited himself to the possibilities of what he could see with his eyes, he could have been in touch with his father the entire time. At first it may have been difficult to remember language and understand what his father was saying, but the seeds of communicating with his father had been planted in him when he was very young. Over time he would have grown in his ability to understand and communicate, and he would have known love once more.
What Holds Us Back

     A number of doubts hold people back from talking with our Father in Heaven. But there is no logical reason to avoid God.
     In this blog, Mormon Puzzle Pieces, I show through a number of examples that people who exercise simple faith are proven right in the end. Some of these examples concern issues which others have allowed to torment them, but if they had simply exercised simple faith, they would have been spared a great deal of heartache. This blog vindicates and validates simple faith.
     As with the parable of the boy on the island, we are in no position to make assumptions about the “grand scheme of things” - and we should not assume that our secular, earthly understanding of reality constitutes anything of lasting, deep significance. 
     I write this blog with the intention of addressing the different needs of different people who might be reading it. Some people may have needed only to read a single post before being satisfied. I have structured this blog in a way that hopefully allows each reader to delve as deep as they personally need to delve in order to ultimately be satisfied that it is OK for them to trust God and exercise simple faith. There is still much to come on this blog.  
     Because, the only real barrier to simple faith is the reluctance to trust God. Let me assure you, God loves you beyond anything you are able to imagine. You are precious, so precious to Him. You can know this, you can feel this love if you will turn yourself over to it. You can know God as I know God. You can learn all things. The adversary works hard at persuading us to stay away from God's promise that we, through the power of the Holy Ghost, can know the truth of all things.
     The only way to know truth is to know God.
     Much of the confusion stirred-up by the adversary results from the limitations people place on their understanding of reality. They look for truth externally, without realizing they are confining themselves to the a single dimension of thought, which is only a tiny slice of reality, like an ostrich with its head in the sand that doesn't understand its self-imposed limitations. Empirical observation is a box. Or, to put it another way, we can only physically sense certain things. Our physical senses are walls, or limits to our observation. What exists outside those senses is infinitely more magnificent than what exists within their reach.
     What you see is only a narrow dimension of what exists and is real. You can't, from that, hope to discover the grand scale of true existence. And it's not reasonable to expect that you've found reality in that which automatically presented itself to you as a thing called “life.”
     To appreciate the fallacy of trusting your external senses, you must understand the mind-body problem and its implications.
     Let's start from the beginning. Here's what I have to say about the mind-body problem: if there is a problem, we should attempt to resolve it.

The Framework

     What then is the problem of which we speak? I would define the mind-body problem as: "The difficulty of determining what the relationship is between mind and body."
     In order to appreciate this problem, I think we must understand what is meant by “mind,” what is meant by “body,” and we must explain our reasons for claiming that a relationship exists between the two.
     I'll start with mind. By “mind,” I mean “that which has the capacity to experience and/or be aware.” Now, I should elaborate on what that means. By mentioning both “experience” and “awareness,” I do mean to imply that those two words are not exactly synonyms. I use the two words to describe different categories of conscious experience (“conscious,” meaning that which is only ascertain-ably existent to a distinct entity): respectively, “active experience” and “passive experience.” Active experience is the feeling of a given experience, while passive experience is the feeling of observing a given experience.
     To illustrate the distinction, suppose we were to create a mind, whatever that might be.
     Incidentally, the semantics involved here are tricky because I don't want to make any unwarranted assumptions about mind – so, it might be more appropriate to say “some mind” rather than “a mind,” or perhaps I should even just say “mind.” I ask the reader to indulge me in my use of the phrase “a mind,” realizing that I don't mean to imply that there is any specific quantity of mind.
     Returning to my illustration, in this scenario we were just about to create “a mind.” Now suppose that as soon as we create it, we somehow cause it to experience "the thing we call orgasm." I am using orgasm as an example not to be crude but because it is a unique and distinct experience which we can perhaps discuss with some degree of objectivity.
     When the orgasm experience stops, and assuming there is no other experience in play, the mind will presumably no longer be having any experience and will have no awareness of the fact that the experience which we caused it to have even took place. In fact, it will have no awareness of anything.
     But now suppose that we cause the mind to experience something different than the first experience. This second experience is a memory of the first experience (i.e. – it is a memory of the orgasm experience).
     This memory will not be the actual orgasm experience, but will make the mind aware of it. Thus we see that there is a distinction between experience of the sensation and awareness of the sensation. Of course, the mind we created is still not aware of anything else and will have no context in which to understand or even begin to interpret the memory, or to name it or to think about it or anything like that, but it will still be aware of the sensation itself, as long as it is experiencing the memory.
     The reader at this point might wonder if I am making an unwarranted assumption about the continuity of mind. After all, perhaps mind is not something which persists from moment to moment but instead only exists for a flash and then a new mind may appear like a new frame on a movie reel. The reader would be justified in raising this possibility, however the possibility in no way compromises the distinction I have drawn between active and passive experience. I illustrated that distinction with a scenario which did not factor in every possibility, but the mind we create in the scenario could just as easily be a series of minds which lead into each other, and the description I provide would still apply to each of those individually.
     Now that we see a distinction between experience and awareness, we might ask if the mind can be aware of something and experience it at the same time (simultaneous passive and active experience). I believe so. For instance, as I sit here writing this, I feel a fan blowing on me and it feels quite comfortable. Up until a few moments ago, I wasn't aware of the experience but I was still experiencing it and enjoying the feeling of the air blowing on me. But now I am both experiencing it and aware of it. I only became aware of the experience once I started taking note of my surroundings in order to find a suitable example to use.
     Another question we might consider is whether a mind must be aware of its own self. On analysis, I don't see how this could be a legitimate requirement for any measure of mind. Being aware of its own self would require that a mind experience reason and experience context. These experiences are perhaps several orders of magnitude beyond a straight-forward experience like feeling orgasm. A distinction might be drawn between an elaborate experience and less elaborate experience, but if something which is alleged to be  “mind” can experience orgasm or any other experience then I maintain the "thing" in question is indeed mind, as alleged.
     There's also the issue of knowledge. Does the mind we created “know” about orgasm since it experiences and is aware of orgasm? That depends on what is meant by knowledge. I think awareness/experience and knowledge are necessarily different things. This is because knowledge is stored and thus can exist without being experienced, and even when it is being experienced it is not the same as the experience but rather a cue to an experience. It is a stored cue. For instance, the memory of orgasm that caused the mind to feel a passive experience of orgasm, would be knowledge. But knowledge like that is not always being experienced. When knowledge is experienced, mind is aware of whatever the knowledge cues it to be aware of, but when knowledge is not being experienced, mind is not aware of what that knowledge would cue it to be aware of.
     Perhaps when we speak of mind knowing things, we are really trying to speak about the context in which mind experiences a thing. Context is itself experience, just additional experience. For instance, if mind only experiences orgasm and experiences nothing else, it has no context for the experience and thus no way to “know” what orgasm “is.” The mind does not associate it with anything. In contrast, we associate orgasm with genitalia and sex because that is additional context in which we experience orgasm. The actual orgasm experience itself is independent of those things even if those things lead up to conditions which cue the experience, and if other experiences are at the same time.
     For our purposes here, knowledge is simply a classification system for memory. In turn, when memory is experienced, it cues awareness of particular experience(s).
     From here, we can build upon what we have discussed and describe “thought.” If knowledge is classification of memories which cue experience, thought is classification, exploration and manipulation of current active and passive experience. Thought also controls and determines knowledge. Thought can explore and draw upon memories, can prompt additional memories to be created, can imagine (create deliberate awareness of) different contexts and possibilities, and create concepts. A concept is a memory which cues a particular combination of experiences (both active and passive experiences) and identifies that combination as being a “thing.” Cuing concepts allows thought to communicate with itself, or compare ideas and combine concepts into even more elaborate concepts. An idea is a thought combination that is still being refined, while a belief is an idea which has become somewhat fixed.
     Perhaps one wonders if knowledge as I have defined it is related to reality. After all, we generally think of knowledge as being things that we “know” to be real.
     There are two types of knowledge here (“here” meaning “for present purposes”). The knowledge we have discussed is a record of and for experience (or cuing experience). The only thing we can absolutely know to be real is our experience. Our thoughts and concepts and beliefs about experience may or may not be reflective of ultimate reality, but the experience itself is real and cannot logically be anything other than real. So this type of knowledge can be classified as knowledge of real things (i.e. – experiences that are absolutely real).
     The other knowledge is knowledge of what is logically true. Unlike the first knowledge, this knowledge relies on logic. For instance, 2+2=4 may or may not be real (outside our own experience of it) but it is true, to the best of our logical abilities. In contrast, a dream experience may be very real but it may not be true.
     Using logic, we have reason to believe that other things exist that we don't absolutely know exist.  We can infer from the fact that experience exists that other experience exists outside our own experience; because our experience establishes that “experience can exist” and since experience can exist, it is possible that more experience exists outside our own experience and there is no way to determine the likelihood of it existing.
     The existence of mind is both real and true. Experience is felt, therefore experience exists and therefore mind both really and truly exists (since mind is simply whatever feels the experience, even if one believes mind is synonymous with the experience itself).
     Let's move on to body now. The things we've discussed will still tie-in.
     Body is a logical inference, drawn from interpretation of mind experiences. Those mind experiences which cause us to infer the existence of body, are real. If they are also true and if our interpretation of them reflects that truth, then the inference of body is also true. Our understanding of body may yet be mistaken, in many ways, but the inference of body is contingent on the truth of mind experience.
     In other words, we experience such things as sights and sounds, from which our thoughts recognize patterns and distinctions which allow us to infer the existence of objects. One such object is “body.” This is a particularly strong inference from mind experience, because we experience so much which correlates with the body object. For instance, when we infer from sight experience that body is contacting another object, we simultaneously experience an additional feeling which we call touch.
     The evidence goes even deeper than that, as inferred movements of the body actually correlate with experiences we have that we call “desires.” For instance, a mind might have an “itch experience” which corresponds (corresponds, assuming one would have learned this from past correlations) with a particular area of the inferred body, at which point one might experience desire for a “scratch experience” on the inferred area of the itch, and one might think such a scratch experience could result by fingernails digging slightly into the area – then, as one desires for that to happen, one experiences a feeling of what we call “choice” and an inferred hand moves to “scratch the itch.” These types of experiences are so abundant that the movements of the inferred body may even be seen as a potentially outward manifestation of mind.
     That is essentially why we believe that mind and body have a relationship. We at least know they have a relationship in that body is an inference from mind experience, and we also believe they have a relationship because the inferred body strongly correlates with a wide variety of that which mind experiences.

My Solution To The Problem

     A correlation could be infinitely strong and yet it would still only be a correlation. This does not mean that correlations are useless, it only means that they are not any more useful than they are. This is obvious, but important.
     The fact that correlations indicate a relationship between body and mind does not indicate that brain creates mind or that brain is synonymous with mind. It does indicate that brain cues experience. Not necessarily all experience, but experience. And unless experience and mind are the same, there is a distinction between the two: experience is what mind feels, mind is what feels.
     But, what is the relationship between experience and mind? Could experience and mind be the same? One problem with this possibility is that different experiences are felt at the same time, they come, go and overlap. So to say that mind is the experience itself is seemingly to say each experience is a different mind. This is a serious problem. Even the movie reel analogy mentioned earlier, in which different minds flash temporarily like frames of a movie – fails to account for how the different experiences are able to come together into a single unified experience moment by moment.
     I propose however that there is an answer to this problem, if we think of experience as a description of a mind's state. Instead of a movie, if we think of mind as a balloon, we could say it is moldable into different forms - experiences – and that the cuing of experiences is akin to pressing on the balloon which in turn alters the shape of the whole balloon (not just the area that is pressed). Each shape that the balloon can take is a different experience. Cuing different combinations of experiences results in a different shape being molded. The outer balloon is like active experience – it is actually being stretched and molded. The inner balloon – the substance inside - is like passive experience – it experiences the shape of the balloon but does not actually experience the stretching. 
     Of course that's just an analogy, but the analogy could apply whether mind and experience are the same thing or are different things, and thus it tentatively resolves the particular issue of how brain could cue experience - and not mind - even if mind and experience are same.
     This leads into my answer to the mind-body problem. I propose that brain cues experience in mind through use of a language. In this sense, brain patterns are a “living language” - algorithmic functions which communicate to mind, cuing experiences within it. More specifically, a spirit of man exists which serves as an intermediary between mind (the “intelligence” called by the Ancient Egyptians a “ba”) and body, allowing these to communicate back and forth. Mind has a passive role, and relies on spirit, which cues experience in mind and then discerns a nuanced reaction of either approval or disapproval from mind. Thus mind reacts to the language of the brain, by offering various levels of resistance to each experience cued, which in turn affects brain algorithms which determine nervous signals sent throughout the body resulting in actions and behaviors on the part of the body. And that is, I propose, the relationship between mind and body.
Mind – God Hypothesis

     Though the body has access to mind, through the language of brain patterns, that access is very limited. Our mind has infinite capacity to experience, and the body only taps into a tiny sliver of that, even when the body is influenced by intense chemical stimuli. When the veil spoken of in LDS theology is lifted from the spirit, it then has greater access to mind. However, the access of the spirit is still limited.
     God, on the other hand, has pure access to our mind. He, through the Holy Ghost, communicates pure knowledge to it. Earlier, we discussed two types of knowledge, and those are the types accessible by the mind-body connection. The purest type of knowledge is a third type of knowledge, the direct connection of mind and God to each other. This knowledge does not rely on our logic or on our experience of events, but is God granting us direct knowledge in our mind. This is how we may know all things, and this is how we may know the truth of his gospel on the earth. Thus it is extremely important that we not choose to ignore this channel of communication. Instead, we should do all we can to welcome and invite the spirit of God into our hearts – our minds - and only then can we have simple faith.


Question: How could a being so complex as God exist?

     First, the idea of “complexity” is based on the idea of limitations. In our world, we see limitations abounding. But there's no need to assume that the existence of God requires the overcoming of obstacles. If we were proposing that God is a product of the circumstances under which we find ourselves, that would be one thing. But that is not what we are proposing.

Question: How could brain patterns be a language?

     I'm proposing that the brain acts as a filter through which the mind receives information gathered by the body. Our spirit interprets the brain patterns, and then conveys the meaning to mind. In turn, mind reacts to the meaning. The spirit interprets the reaction of mind and conveys it back to the brain through patterns which cause the brain to take certain actions (similar by analogy to pressing a button on a train door. When you press the button, you aren't "telling" the door to open. Instead, you are initiating a chain of events which culminates in the opening of the door). Based on how the spirit influences the brain's patterns, the brain follow algorithms causing the muscles and other tissues of the body to move.
     To put it a slightly different way: Although the brain and mind communicate back and forth, their roles are very different. Mind experiences meaning, but the brain for its part merely follows set protocols similar to algorithms, without having understanding. So, mind creates patterns within the brain which prompt algorithmic chain reactions in brain, while brain creates certain patterns which the spirit recognizes and conveys to the mind, and the mind then experiences that meaning.
     To delve deeper into this, let's talk about how language works.
     Words do not actually contain information about the thing they are used to refer to. A word is like a finger that points toward something, beckoning the observer to see the thing for himself. In fact, we generally learn words by having a thing "pointed out" to us in conjunction with hearing or seeing a word. After an association like that is made between a word and a thing, the word does not become a representation of the thing, but becomes by proxy the pointing finger which triggers our memory of the thing. The meaning of a word is equal to the effect it has on someone, the experience it triggers.
     A representation of a thing, in contrast, mimics the actual experience someone has when exposed to the thing. Representations and words are both proxies, but whereas a word is a proxy of a "pointing" instrument, a representation is a proxy of the actual thing. Representations and words are not mutually exclusive, however. Something can at once be both a representation and a word, if a representation is used as a word within a language. But anything can be used as a word if it has a sound or shape which can be either written or spoken. In fact, a representation of one thing can be used as a word which points to a different thing, although linguistically it can only be one at a time. For instance, a circle could be a representation of a planet but could be used instead as the English word "o," a variant of "oh," which can point to emphasis, emotion or to show that something is understood.
     The order of words tells us how to arrange the information so as to understand the meaning of the entire message. Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs did this with representations as well as words.
     In what I am proposing, the patterns spirit recognizes are similar to words rather than representations. Representations would be problematic for at least two reasons.
     First, the “domino effect” of data which leads to those brain patterns undergoes fundamental transformations, making it impossible for the end pattern in the brain to be a representation of the original thing. For instance, the pattern of photons which we associate with the color "red" is not re-created at all in the final patterns ending up in the brain. In other words, the initial photon pattern affects the nerves and causes them to create electric/chemical patterns, but those patterns are fundamentally different from the photon pattern and never get translated back into the photon pattern but only undergo further transformations as they reach the brain and prompt algorithmic reactions which do not resemble the original photon pattern at all. Of course, this is only a problem if one is arguing that the sensation of "red" we experience is a reflection of an actual color which exists outside of us.
     The second problem, which is even more significant, is the inability of a physical pattern to contain information about what the color red is supposed to "look like." We have the same problem in the English language. We can't describe experience, we can only empathize based on our own understanding which comes not from anyone else's description but from our own experience of memories of our past experience. A brain pattern about the color red does not actually contain any information about the color, but only cues the experience within mind.
     Physical patterns are behavioral, not meaningful. This is true even of representations used in human languages, like the Egyptian hieroglyphs, since the representations are only proxies, and even then they are proxies of data patterns and not proxies of actual meaning. So, they are quite far removed from actual meaning.
     Words and representations in language each end where nervous system begins. At that point, they trigger different data patterns that end up triggering algorithmic reactions in brain that do not resemble the original word or representation.
     Using the color red again, to illustrate the behavioral rather than meaningful nature of physical patterns, try to imagine a pattern which can communicate the experience we call "red" to someone who has never had the experience of red. In other words, imagine you have access to endless supplies of every type of particle and you can arrange as many as you want into any permutation you want, with the particles moving however you want. The question would then be, would you be able to arrange them in a fashion which would contain information about what the color red looks like? No, you could not. This goes to show that the meaning is only in mind, not in physical patterns of the brain.
     Even without understanding meaning, the brain can still prioritize and combine patterns according to algorithm. A large part of this is probably pattern recognition. In other words, the brain looks for patterns which match or closely approximate set templates of sensory data, then places the patterns under general headings where they are associated with existing patterns which then become activated - perhaps "tree" or "flower" for instance. The brain constantly looks for patterns, sometimes seeing them in chaos. For example, recognizing a cloud in the sky as a "face" or other object, even though the brain does not itself experience any meaning any does this as a behavior only. In fact, the tendency of the brain to classify patterns as things which they cannot actually be (like classifying the cloud as a face) is consistent with the idea that the brain is following a preset algorithm rather than relying on actual understanding of meaning. Perhaps the first time it happens, the brain simultaneously classifies the pattern as a cloud and a face, so the mind experiences it as both a face and a cloud and perhaps changes the brain's algorithm to in the future classify such patterns in a new category: “clouds shaped like objects.”
     Gyms take advantage of pattern recognition by filling the walls with mirrors. Even though people know the walls have mirrors on them, their brains still tell them the room is more spacious than it actually is. Pattern recognition is responsible for many optical illusions.
     The relationship between mind and brain could be compared to a computer user and a computer. Computers turn programming into behavior, while users derive meaning. A conscious programmer and a conscious end user can understand the significance of the behavior - but the computing process itself does not understand, and the program which the computing process is running likewise does not. When computers communicate with each other, they alter each others behavior but do not create understanding of meaning. If a computer user says that a computer either understands or doesn't understand something, they are anthropomorphizing the computer, probably for convenience, while actually referring to the ability of the computer to acquire/exchange data and alter behavior, rather than an ability to experience actual meaning.

Question: Why not just say that “conscious mind” is the brain?

     This can be one of the most difficult concepts to grasp for people who have not had an epiphany concerning their own internal existence. Many people are outwardly inclined in their thinking, focusing on external stimuli rather than an internal world. Because of this, some people will not be able to understand the problem of consciousness. However, I can try to explain to the best of my abilities. 

First: Consciousness

     We know about consciousness (thought and feeling) through direct individual observation of it. However, the way it manifests itself to us is fundamentally different from the way anything else manifests to us. Things generally manifest themselves to our senses and we perceive them as objects. Through our senses we also perceive different states of the objects (e.g. objects can be either hot or cold, etc). We experiment with objects to make more thorough observations of them, and we infer the existence of forces which act on the objects in reliable fashion. Therefore, all these things manifest themselves to us as part of a collective network of interacting forces and objects. But consciousness does not manifest itself to us as part of that network.
     Because consciousness is so subjective, one may need to slow down and pay attention to how consciousness is manifesting itself. It does not manifest itself as an object or as something made of physical substance, but as the experiencing - sensing, thinking and feeling - of and about other manifestations. For instance, a feeling does not exist on its own but is experienced "by" someone - a conscious mind.
     Since we only know about consciousness because it manifests itself to us, we need to accept it on the terms in which it manifests itself to us. We need to accept it on its own terms. Just like we do, for example, with space. Space manifests itself as distance between particles. We accept it on those terms. We don't try to say that it must be made out of matter or energy. We don't understand it, other than to say that it is not "nothing" and that it has dimensions, so we don't presume to know it except on its own terms. It's a matter of being objective rather than forcing the unknown into the structure of the known.
     Some people might be tempted to dismiss my proposals because they see in them supernatural implications for consciousness. However, my proposal does not attempt to explain consciousness, but merely acknowledges that consciousness exists. The implications about consciousness stem from consciousness itself, not from my proposal.
     The confusion results from a false default. The criticism portrays my proposal as making unwarranted assumptions, when in fact the criticism is based on the unwillingness of my proposal to make an unwarranted assumption, which is that consciousness is a physical object. In other words, my proposal refuses to artificially force consciousness into an existing framework.
     The fact is, consciousness is not objectively observable. This is why experiments involving consciousness rely on the testimony of real-time witnesses to subjective observation of consciousness, rather than using objective observation of thoughts and feelings. In other words, there is no objective observation of thoughts and feelings. We can objectively observe particle patterns in the brain, which are reliably correlated with consciousness, but we cannot objectively observe the actual conscious experience. It just does not manifest to us that way.
     We say an observation is objective if it can be independently observed by different subjective witnesses. But we cannot witness each others thoughts, and therefore they are subjective and not objective. One is forced to admit that consciousness is not objectively observable, so for anyone to insist that a my proposal relating to consciousness must treat consciousness as an objectively observed phenomenon is simply not coherent.
     Understandably, the concept of consciousness is very vague. One does not even need to have consciousness pointed out to them or details explained about it in order to experience consciousness. For instance, a newborn child tasting his mother's milk may have no concept of what is happening but is nevertheless having a conscious experience. It is precisely this elusive yet ever-present nature of consciousness which should give anyone pause before discounting the significance of its nature.

Second: Brain

A brain consists of cells contained in two different hemispheres and further divided into different sections. What one may define as a brain "pattern" doesn't need to be defined in terms of a single cell or combination of cells, but could be defined as any physical pattern, whether stationary or in transmission within the brain. This includes any combination of: the physical form of a cell, the placement, type, number and combination of receptors on a cell, the concentration and type of molecules in and between cells, organelles within a cell, suppression status of individual genes, and anything else one wishes to consider.
     Science has not determined any causative explanation with respect to thought and feeling, as they relate to brain patterns. Only correlations have been made, with the nature of the connection being unknown.
     The fact is, the existence of thought cannot be logically inferred through analysis of the brain. People attribute thought to brain because they see a need to attribute it to something. Even though we do not see consciousness, some people insist that it must come from something they do see, so they attribute it to the brain. But if we were examined objectively, the examiners would never claim that particles moving around in our bodies and brains constitute anything other than particles moving around in our bodies and brains. The evidence simply does not warrant or justify that claim.
     But, knowing that consciousness exists,my proposal extends naturally from the fact that the nervous system serves as a linguistic instrument. The nervous system relays electric/chemical patterns, with different patterns resulting from different external stimuli which the nerves have been exposed to.
     When different patterns arrive at the brain they effect the brain differently by setting off different algorithmic chain reactions among the brain cells, which causes different patterns within the brain to transition (oscillate, shift or otherwise move). Each cell can be activated different ways, depending on the neurotransmitter levels and combination of neurotransmitters which are activating it. Such activation of brain patterns does not explain conscious thought or feeling, but lends itself easily to my proposal, which states that the algorithmic chain reactions culminate in the production of brain patterns which, by analogy, can be seen as letters or characters in a language. These patterns can also be accessed by the consciousness at a later time, as they are stored in areas of the brain and kept as what we call "memories." The actions of the consciousness in turn set off different algorithmic reactions within brain which lead to a response from brain in the form of more language patterns, which the consciousness then responds to, and so on, resulting in back-and-forth communication, with the brain answering to the consciousness and supplying it with the data it requests and enacting its orders with respect to actions to be taken by the body.
     The two hemispheres of the brain can be seen as having a role analogous to the two eyes. Each eye has a different perspective. When perspectives are combined, it enables perception of depth. Similarly each hemisphere of the brain has separate algorithms for processing, categorizing and construing data. They process information independently then share each "view" with the other, adding "depth" to the data and creating a composite view which the brains then present to the consciousness. The algorithms responsible for this are preset but change over time, conforming to the preferences and choices of the mind.

Statement of the problem:

     The idea of a conscious mind being the same as a brain, or what I call the conventional hypothesis, has fatal flaws. It is not an explanation, only an ambiguous and hopeful deference to future discovery. Its flaws run deep enough as to render the hypothesis logically indefensible, without ad hoc redefinition by arbitrarily claiming consciousness as a property of brain matter by definition.
     Even if we ignore the issue of consciousness itself, the conventional hypothesis still can't explain information, because the hypothesis has no one to observe the information. Neurons (brain cells) impact each other, but no neuron in actually "looking at" any other neuron, and has no way of knowing that other neurons exist and that those neurons are the source of, and responsible for providing it with, the neurotransmitters which stimulate its receptors. It likewise doesn't know that the chemicals it sends out are absorbed by other neurons. It doesn't know that it is even itself a neuron. It indeed doesn't even know anything; according to conventional thinking, it just consists of particles moving around in the path of least resistance. As a cell, it just reacts as it is stimulated. No meaning is created. No conscious thought is created. When a group of neurons form a pattern, it is as though they are fans in a football stadium, each holding a piece of a picture. They can't see the picture themselves; it has to be viewed from the outside.
     Moreover, since conventional thinking about the brain dictates that particles simply move around in the path of least resistance, as opposed to being meaningfully guided by an unseen power like a spirit, this means the conventional hypothesis does not allow consciousness to act. This is because, according to the conventional hypothesis, consciousness is synonymous with the physical particles themselves as they are moving in the path of least physical resistance. So, a pattern of particles, however large or small, which allegedly constitutes a "conscious experience," has no way of expressing to anyone or anything that it is a conscious experience. This raises the question then, of how the brain would know that conscious experiences exist. From the outside, the alleged conscious experience is only particles wandering around in the path of least resistance. How do we reconcile this with the fact that science relies entirely on the ability of subjects to identify their own consciousness – that is, when science correlates the conscious states with brain activity. How does the subject being interviewed, or more particularly the brain of the subject, identify its conscious states, or even know about the existence of those conscious states at all?
     Even if a conscious experience could somehow effect its surroundings in a unique way, how could it effect its surrounding in a way which would make known that it is a conscious experience, especially with consciousness being such a difficult concept to explain and with the "conscious experience" pattern having virtually no tools at its disposal with which to do the explaining? Any unusual behavior on the part of the pattern, such as emitting radiation, would affect the brain but would communicate nothing about its experience as a conscious thought or feeling. And that is being generous, as it allows the conscious experience to have attributes which are not provided it as a pattern of particles wandering in the path of least resistance.
     How is it that we talk about conscious experience? Not only that, we act on conscious experiences. It's sort of a "you can't have your cake and eat it too" reality. You can't say a conscious experience is only a pattern of particles and then also say that as a conscious experience it has the ability to control how the particles move and how the particles affect their surroundings.
     This would be the case with all consciously experienced thoughts and feelings. For instance, the conventional hypothesis would have to say that the pleasure associated with food has nothing to do with why people eat it. The patterns which develop in the brain when food is eaten could only by coincidence double as taste experiences – even though the taste experiences would have no bearing on any action. For example, if eating cake caused extreme pain rather than pleasure, people would still eat it the same as they do now. Because if one accepts the premise that conscious experience is just a pattern of particles in the brain, one would have to believe that we eat cake because of some complex cause and effect chain reaction or learned behavior which boils down to particles moving in the path of least resistance. The fact that cake does taste good and is enjoyed on special occasions would be merely a coincidence and would not even be known about.
     So the very fact that we know the cake tastes good proves that the movement of particles is affected by more than their physical interaction. Something else is enabling us to talk about conscious experience. The brain is only a vehicle through which that is transferred to the body parts which carry out the talking. Conscious experience not only affects matter but does so with precise relevance, meaning it does not just change the movement of particles but actually arranges them in an ordered fashion to a complex end (such as, for example, the series of interactions which culminate in vocalizing the words, "This cake tastes really good"). This can only mean that consciousness is telling the brain what to do, and thus consciousness is acting on its own and causing brain particles to move in a manner other than “the least resistance.” Because, as we have shown, conscious experience cannot affect our behavior or be known about by the brain if it is a physical pattern of particles. Therefore, conscious experiences are not brain patterns.
     Consciousness not only is not observed in terms of particle movement, but cannot be inferred by any conceivable observation of any permutation of particle patterns and their movement. Thus, consciousness is not a logical inference from observation of brain activity, even the brain observing itself.
     But, some might ask, what about correlations? In reality, correlations do not show that consciousness is produced by the brain but only that consciousness can be affected by the brain. Correlations are entirely consistent with my proposal, and do not in any way give the conventional hypothesis advantage over my proposal. Consciousness being affected by the brain is like a pan being affected by a stove. It doesn't mean the pan comes from the stove.
     Others might imagine that consciousness somehow emerges, just as “other properties” of matter emerge. But that explanation is inapt, as the only properties which have ever emerged from matter relate to the movement of matter. Though they may be unexpected, they are not mysterious. This is because properties are the result of forces pushing and pulling particles. The only thing the particles do as a result is move differently. This in no way lends support for the idea that the particles take on a “property” of feeling. The fact that matter moves in different ways depending on how it is organized does nothing to explain thought.

Question: How do you explain subconscious thought?

     My proposal is consistent with subconscious brain activity, since it does not deny that brain and body have the apparatus to follow preset algorithms.
     While the sub-conscious does not pose a problem for my proposal it does raise interesting questions. Could it be that the sub-conscious is controlled by the conscious but without the actions being recorded in memory, and therefore the conscious actions are instantly forgotten? Or, could a different conscious entity be in charge of those functions, without our own consciousness knowing? By analogy, this would be akin to a father letting his young son control the steering wheel on a car, in a controlled driving range, while the father maintains control of the gas and brake pedals - thus giving his son a limited number of choices and not complete control of the body/car.

Question: What about dreaming and hypnosis?

     Dreams and hypnotic states are consistent with my proposal. However, while I don't know for certain what dreams and hypnosis are, my proposal offers at least one plausible explanation.
     During a dream, the spirit might be organizing data in the brain, which the brain can't do for itself, while ascertaining how the mind prefers the information to be organized. This perhaps even changes the algorithms of the brain hemispheres. Perhaps the reason the brain functions less efficiently on lack of sleep is that the unsorted data hamper the algorithms. Hypnosis may be closely related to this mechanism, but may perhaps be more surgical. Generally, hypnosis involves a consciousness deferring to an external perceived authority who tells it to access certain information and to do certain things with that information. This may alter how the data is organized in the brain. The hypnotic state, like dreams, is often not remembered after the fact and might not be remembered at all if the consciousness followed an instruction to not store a memory. 
     Therefore, we can see people sometimes awake from either dreams or hypnosis without any recollection of what they have just done or thought. They may even be confused about the circumstances they are in, even though they were consciously aware of what they were doing at the time they put themselves in the circumstances.

Question: What about brain damage, and spit-brain patients?

     The way this mortal state is set up, consciousness relies on information from the brain. Unfortunately, the brain does not always give accurate information. Some people experience severe mental illness where the brain does not accurately interpret data and gives the spirit and mind poor information to work with. Sometimes, areas which the brain relies on for its algorithm are damaged, which therefore affects the view which the brain presents to the consciousness. Mind-altering drugs can do the same thing.
     If the brain gives the consciousness a pattern representing pain, it feels pain. If the brain gives a pattern associated as the color red, it sees the color red. And so on. If someone took a heavy dose of drugs, it might interfere with the brain and generate an elaborate and false view which the brain presents to the consciousness.
     In the treatment of some rare cases of epilepsy, the different brain hemispheres in patients have been "split," meaning the area of the brain which had connected them was surgically removed. This means the cells in either hemisphere can no longer connect with the cells in the other hemisphere. From the perspective of my proposal this means the brains of these people no longer create a composite view to present to the consciousness, but separately present their own unique results based on different algorithms for processing data. This means the consciousness presumably goes back and forth between the two, reacting to the information as presented by either hemisphere. Most of the time, the consciousness can probably ignore differences between the views presented, and make do without the added dimension to the data, like a person with only one eye who can't see the third dimension. Split-brain patients are remarkably able to learn how to coordinate their movements, despite the different hemispheres controlling different sides of the body. Split-brain patients are able to lead seemingly normal lives. Under normal circumstances, they feel that they are in control of their entire body and that nothing is really different. They feel like “one” person. They don't feel as though they are sharing a body with someone else. However, in an experimental setting, hemispheres can be communicated with independently which is something we can't do with someone whose brains are not split. For instance, each hemisphere can only hear through one ear, so a question whispered softly into one ear of a split-brain patient will only register with one hemisphere.
     From the perspective of my proposal, the results depend on what the consciousness is doing. If the consciousness is primarily focused on one hemisphere, the other hemisphere might be in a sort of hypnotic trance, aloof to what is transpiring. As the focus of the consciousness goes from one hemisphere to the other, it naturally loses access to memories and data. It is going back and forth between two different sets of data, instead of the composite view a person would usually have. This is not that strange. We should all be able to relate to a similar feeling as we walk into a room and suddenly forget why we were there, or when we tell someone we are available on a certain night and later remember we had previously made plans for that night.
     Our experience in life depends largely on what our brain tells us. The consciousness of a split-brain patient, with two different brains each providing a different view of the data, may learn to look at both at the same time. But in a setting where one brain is deliberately being fed data that the other one is not, it might result in a surreal dream-like state. The experience reported is that under those circumstances the patient is confused and doesn't remember doing things that they did, or remembers but doesn't know why they did it. This is again similar to someone coming out of a hypnotic trance and not remembering what transpired. The consciousness only has access to what the brain tells it, and faded memories or memories which were never recorded do not allow the consciousness to know what it otherwise would be able to know.
     We should not be surprised then that when we ask a question to one side of a split-brain patient's brain, we may get a different answer than if we pose the same question to the other side. We make decisions based on the information available to us, and so therefore the same mind may make different decisions based on different information provided by different sides of a brain.
     Although we don't have all the answers, this is not a blow to my proposal. A consciousness may understandably be indecisive or confused when going back and forth between alternate pictures of what is happening. It may be like waking up in a strange place and not remembering how you got there, even though you were aware of what you were doing when you initially went there.
     The real miracle of split-brain studies is that the patient is able to coordinate his movement so well, outside of experiments which induce an apparent altered state of thinking.
     This raises a very relevant question: how would the brains be able to coordinate without being able to communicate? My proposal has an excellent answer, although the conventional hypothesis does not. The consciousness sees and directs both hemispheres, usually splitting the focus pretty evenly between the two.

Question: What about free will experiments?

     Some experiments allegedly indicate that the brain makes decisions and starts to act on them before a person is consciously aware of making a decision. Since that would contradict my proposal, a brief response is in order.
     The Experiments consist of subjects taking a specified action when they decide to do so – an action such as pressing a button. Subjects are asked to watch a clock during the decision making process and to remember what the exact position of the clock was when they decided to hit the button. The subjects’ brain activity is monitored as well. Study results consistently show brain activity of a certain type very shortly before the time which subjects report as being the point where they made their decision, hence the claim that the brain makes decisions and starts to act on them before the person is consciously aware of having made a decision.
     I suspect what is happening in these studies is that the subjects have no meaningful criterion to weigh in making their decision and therefore are just waiting for an "urge" before pressing the button. So, the consciousness requests and urge from the brain. The brain activity which researchers see is likely just the urge which the consciousness requested of the brain. If this is the case, it of course means the study results are unremarkable. After all, someone's brain could become alerted to mild dehydration hours before the signal builds strong enough to make a person feel thirsty enough to decide to get a drink. On superficial analysis, one could inaccurately conclude that the person didn't have a real choice, claiming that the brain had already decided to get a drink and was putting it into motion several hours before the person became aware of deciding to get a drink. Deeper analysis of course reveals that only one actual decision was made, and was made consciously but was based on an urge.
     One potentially complicating factor in the experiments would be if the brain activity which starts to build prior to the conscious decision turns out to be the beginning of the actual physical action of pressing the button. However, this is still explained as part of the urge. In other words, the urge to press the button begins activation of the muscles involved in pressing the button, in Pavlovian preparation for the event, but is not actually setting in motion of event. We see something similar when a person considers saying a word out loud. The vocal cord muscles become activated and begin to form the word, regardless of whether or not the person actually ends up deciding to say the word. An analysis in that case would indicate that the person had already started to say the word before consciously deciding to say it, but that analysis would be mistaken. The activation of the relevant muscles was simply preparation for the act under consideration.
     The experiments are also made less credible by the fact that the person is not just making a decision but is consciously attempting to watch them self make the decision, and simultaneously watching a clock, synchronizing their decision with the clock and consciously preparing to remember the time of the decision, all of which introduces an "uncertainty principle" into the experiment. The brain may very well prioritize each of these, and might not even record the decision-making process in the memory. This might leave the person only remembering the final decision and not factoring any tentative decisions which may have affected brain activity into the time at which the decision was "officially" made. Having the ability to make conscious decisions does not mean that one has the ability to accurately ascertain the timing of the decision.

Question: But we know body exists because we can see it, so what evidence is there that mind is part of a person?

     Mind is definitely part of being a person, and in fact is necessary before we can “see body.” But because there are so many things we don't know, asking what is necessary to build a person, consciousness and all, is like asking someone who doesn't know about oxygen what is necessary to build a fire. He might say that heat and fuel are the only things necessary. The problem with his answer is that it doesn't actually explain fire, just as we cannot actually explain conscious personhood.
     The man assumes he has a complete, correct answer because whenever he combines heat and fuel, he gets fire. So he assumes nothing else is necessary.
     What he doesn't realize is that oxygen is present every time he builds a fire. He dismisses air because he can't see any components in it. He's focusing on which actions he has to take to build fires; he is focused on what he knows rather than being open to what he doesn't know.
     Even though he knew air existed, he didn't know oxygen existed. But what if he didn't even know air existed? Would that have made his answer more reasonable? No. He would have been just as wrong in his assumption. He assumed he knew enough, when he didn't. He didn't realize the burden was on him to show that heat and fuel were sufficient to start a fire, and the only way to show that would be by explaining the mechanism whereby heat and fuel start the fire. He needed an explanation. What he had was an assumption.
     As we look at the actual roles of heat and fuel, we see that they are not sufficient to explain fire. When we enter oxygen into the equation, we have a very good explanation for fire. Oxygen and carbon are attracted to each other. When enough heat is present, the carbon in the fuel breaks loose and attaches to the oxygen in a reaction which gives off additional heat, causing particles to move quickly enough to give off sufficient photons to create visible light, constituting the flames which characterize fire.

Question: Is your proposal plausible?

     Some may suppose that treating consciousness as something which stands on its own, instead of putting it in terms of substances of known science, creates plausibility problems or somehow makes consciousness unscientific. In reality, we are merely acknowledging that consciousness defies known science. That doesn't make consciousness unscientific, but means that science will need to expand before it can deal directly with consciousness. In the mean-time, science can acknowledge that consciousness exists without pretending to know anything about its substance.
     We can adapt the parable at the beginning into an analogy:
     A boy, for as long as he can remember, has lived his life alone in a box. It is actually a windowless, sound-proof compartment in a spacecraft in a weightless environment, traveling uninterrupted at a steady speed. The compartment contains symbiotic microorganisms which produce sufficient nutrients for the boy to survive. The compartment also contains a few miscellaneous objects, but is largely empty.
     Our question is, what should this boy believe about existence? If we assume he is as intelligent as anyone can possibly be, what would he believe? Would he believe that the compartment and its contents are the full extent of what exists? Would he believe that they have always existed? He can either view the walls as the edge of existence, or he can view the walls as obstructions to his view of what exists on the other side. Which view is more rational for him to have?
     If he believes that existence continues beyond the walls, should he believe that it’s probably only more of the same as what he has been exposed to, or should be believe that the outside is likely to have very different types of things than he has experienced?
     Perhaps some might ask whether his beliefs about existence beyond the walls depend on how well he can explain what exists within the walls. In other words, should he only believe in existence outside the walls if he cannot otherwise explain where his observable existence came from? If so, then how elaborate of an explanation must he have, and does this not mean that belief in existence outside the walls is a rational default position? And if it is a rational default position, does that not mean that it can still be a rational position to hold even if he manages to devise an elaborate explanation for where his observable existence came from?
     In other words, if it is rational to believe in existence outside the walls, why would it suddenly become irrational to believe just because he figures out a way to explain things without invoking outside existence? If it is rational to begin with, it must be rational all along. If it is irrational to begin with, then why is it irrational?
     It seems that the box and its contents either always existed, or came from somewhere else (in which case, "somewhere else" exists), or came from nothing.
     Suppose the boy is wary of the idea of outside existence, choosing to only create explanations out of what he can see or personally observe. He takes a scientific approach, demanding empirical evidence. The boy decides to only believe in the box and its contents. He believes that the box either always existed or suddenly appeared out of nothing, along with small bits of material in it which floated around, bumping into each other and occasionally sticking together. Perhaps he believes that over an infinite amount of time the small bits of material will stick together and fall apart in every possible combination (or perhaps an endless repeating cycle of a limited number of permutations), and he thus believes that the current combinations, which compose himself and the other objects in the room, are only temporary and will be replaced as time goes on. Perhaps he can already see some of the objects begin to break apart, which lends credence to his explanation.
     Now let us enter in another factor. The spacecraft softly lands on a small planet, and for the first time ever the boy experiences the effects of gravity. He still can't see anything outside the compartment. How, if at all, should the experience of gravity affect the boy's beliefs about existence? Should he view it as evidence of something outside the compartment?
     Not only is the force invisible, but it wouldn't take very long for the boy to realize that he cannot block the force. The force works regardless of what object he puts as a blockade between the floor and other things.
     Knowing that the force can travel through objects, should the boy suspect that the force is coming through the wall and is thus evidence of something unseen existing on the other side of the wall, or should he suspect that it is coming from the wall itself?
     Whatever he may choose to believe, he must inescapably conclude that there is more to existence than he had supposed. The question is, how much more to existence is there?
     Even if he attributes gravity to the floor, rather than to existence on the other side of the floor, he can only at best correlate the floor with gravity. He cannot show causation or otherwise explain gravity. This may not absolutely prove that existence continues beyond the walls, but it indicates that existence is very different from what the boy's "day to day" life up to that point may have led him to assume. 
     Whether he realizes it or not, gravity is telling him about a whole existence he knows nothing of. He would be wise to not make limiting assumptions about existence.
     We can understand the boy's reluctance to accept what he cannot see. An intellectual quest for a belief system outside known science can be frustrating. Known science is a safe place, an anchor amid chaos. But known science is very limited. Known science is limited by our ability to empirically observe. Relative to our observations, science is very impressive. Unfortunately for science, we are not observing the full extent of existence, and so the fact that it is impressive relative to our observations is largely moot. The actual significance of science can only be measured against the true extent of existence, and that is not known. Therefore, the real significance of science is not known.
     While known science is limited by our ability to observe, reason is only limited by our ability to think logically. We may have rational reasons for believing something even if we do not find reasons in known science for believing it.
     As understandable as it might be that some people may want to limit their beliefs to known science, and only expand their beliefs according to expansion of scientific knowledge, it is actually impossible for them to do so. There are at least two reasons for this.
     First, known science can not demonstrate that we should rely exclusively on it for our beliefs. Therefore, the decision to rely exclusively on known science is itself not scientific, and thus fails the attempt at relying only on known science.
     Second, science relies on the idea that we exist and are conscious, as these are prerequisite to objective observation. But science doesn't know that because of  “known science,” but, rather, we know it because we are conscious. Your consciousness is hidden from scientific observation. It is acknowledged by science because it is fundamental to all our other knowledge. So, your knowledge of your own existence is more fundamental than science. It exists before science, and its existence is necessary in order for science to exist. Instead of it being part of science, science is part of it and acknowledges it for that reason, even without observing it according to its own standards.
     Suffice it to say that a belief system cannot be based exclusively on known science.

Question: Does your proposal rely on “God of the Gaps?”

     Proponents of the conventional hypothesis may argue that consciousness is merely a "gap" in our understanding of the brain, and that the idea of consciousness being different from the brain is a fallacy similar to the "God of the Gaps" fallacy. They would, however, be mistaken.
     The "God of the Gaps" fallacy is in supposing that the existence of a gap in a theory must mean that a supernatural idea is necessary to “explain things.” Of course, the reason this is a fallacy is that a gap in a theory only means the theory is weaker than it would otherwise be, which is not actually evidence of a supernatural cause.
     People who may try to stick the God of the Gaps label on my proposal are ignoring the corollary to God of the Gaps, which states that it is also a fallacy to assume that things which are not known must fit within a framework of things which are known. In other words, it is a fallacy to state that just because something is not known it must be a gap in a current theory.
     Misuse of the concept of "gaps" reflects a deep misunderstanding of how the "known" relates to the "unknown." To classify something as a "gap" is to deny that it can be evidence of anything outside the current model/framework. The truly unknown is separate from the known, and whether or not it falls into the framework of the known is not known. Rationally, we can at best engage in speculation about how it relates to the known, but we cannot force it into the framework of the known.
     In contrast to the truly unknown, for something to actually be a gap it must be part of something known. Take Pi, for instance. Pi is partly known. We can think of the unknown part, which is only a tiny fraction of the quantity known as “Pi” but is the missing bulk of the numerical expression of Pi, as being an infinitely huge "gap." But even though it is tentatively unknown, we know that it is part of Pi. The unknown part, the "gap," is naturally formed out of the framework of the known, as opposed to something unknown being artificially thrown into a framework. So, we see legitimate gaps in theories and models. Another example is common descent. A "gap" in the fossil record means that the theory and the known facts are not completely aligned, but are not necessarily contradictory. Such gaps frequently get filled in. So, in order for there to be a gap, there must be a structure to surround the gap. Therefore, when we say something is a gap, we are implying that the gap itself is created by a theory or model and is assigned a place there. In fact, we would need quite a bit of information about something, within the context of a model/theory, in order to create a gap in it.
     In contrast, the absence of an explanation is not a "gap" in anything; it is simply the absence of an explanation. The problem is created when people think of known science as a model/theory of everything. They then force the unknown into that false framework, calling it a "gap," creating the illusion that the known surrounds the unknown and that there are only tentatively unknown details to fill in, like with Pi. Forcing the unknown into the framework of a model/theory, for no reason other than to try to make the model/theory seem as encompassing as possible, is irrational. Viewing all things as "belonging" to known science and dividing up the unknown among the various disciplines of science rather than treating them as their own potential disciplines robs us of the ability to objectively consider the unknown.
     Therefore, the "God of the Gaps" characterization of my proposal, and the thinking behind it, gives lip service to the idea of exploring endless possibilities and of allowing current theories to be replaced, while at the same time assuming that "the known universe" and our observations of existence are comprehensive enough to be authoritatively meaningful and that our explanations for those observations are likewise meaningful in an objectively broad, sweeping way - thus allowing us to erroneously imagine that we have a framework into which all future answers will fall, and from which all future questions will be asked.
     One may rationally have a story of the universe, constructed out of different theories, but one may not rationally suppose that everything which is not known is somehow a "gap" in that story. Ultimately, the story of the universe might only be a sentence in a much longer story which itself might only be a sentence in a huge volume set which may be only one of countless volume sets in the story of existence. So, we ought not to suppose that anything we don't know is a gap in our little story of empirical observation on earth.
     Part of the confusion may also result from the fact that the misuse of gaps superficially appears to leave room for infinite discovery. It does in fact, but only in a fashion similar to the way in which we can discover infinite numbers between 0 and 1. If someone comes across the number 2, the gap fallacy refuses to recognize it as evidence of existence outside 0-1, and simply proclaims that even though the number cannot be explained, it is simply a gap somewhere between 0 and 1. The gap fallacy sets parameters and insists that everything fit somewhere within those parameters.
     As we discussed in the previous section, the most fundamental aspect of our existence, consciousness itself, does not fit within the parameters of any empirical explanation. It is not a "gap" in anything; its nature is completely outside of empirical understanding.

Question: What is the vocabulary of brain language?

My proposal does not yet offer a specific vocabulary for communication between the brain and consciousness. This is however only a minor problem compared with the fact that the conventional hypothesis, that brain patterns are actual thoughts and feelings, has no explanatory power yet is widely accepted as not only hypothesis or theory but as fact. Unlike the conventional hypothesis,my proposal leaves specific claims that can either be verified or falsified as discoveries are made. The specifics of the vocabulary are not knowable currently, but the same could be said of any newly discovered civilization where people are known to correspond with each other using patterns, as nerve cells are known to do.

Question: Is your proposal falsifiable?

One way to falsify my proposal, though impractical currently, would hypothetically be done by tracing the cause of all electrical/chemical reactions in the brain, and showing that the reactions on their own account for all behavior of a conscious person engaged in conscious activity.
     Some might protest the fact that current technology does not allow us to analyze the specific details of everything happening in the brain. However, that is not the fault of my proposal.
     My proposal is not intended to be scientific, however accepted scientific standards do not reject hypotheses over of the inability of current technology to perform the falsifying test. For instance, common descent could be falsified by showing fossils of large modern animals in Precambrian geologic strata, but of course we don't have the technology to look through all the Precambrian strata in the world. And, if we did have the ability to examine all the Precambrian strata in the world, and did so without finding fossils of large modern animals, common descent would no longer be falsifiable in that way. Therefore, the falsifiability of common descent actually relies on the inability of our technology to perform the falsifying test.
     In the case of another theory, Global Warming, we would have to wait decades before having enough information to falsify it. And that is only if the conditions on which the models are based do not change. Therefore, the theory is only conditionally falsifiable. Furthermore, the models on which it is based do not come close to considering all the variables of global climate. Using that standard,my proposal passes conditions for scientific testability since it is currently testable against an incomplete brain understanding, just as global warming is currently testable against an incomplete climate understanding.

Question: Is there scientific evidence to support your proposal?

     My proposal has at least three lines of potential evidence:
     First, as we have already discussed, the ability of split-brain patients to coordinate their activities and live normal lives is strong evidence against the conventional hypothesis but is consistent with my proposal.
     Second, we can find more direct evidence of my proposal by learning about the brain and discovering that not all interactions within it appear to be part of a traceable chain of physical cause and effect, but that some chain reactions appear to come and go with no physically discernible cause. If the brain does not initiate the creation of all of its patterns but receives patterns from an external source, this is evidence not only of an external source but of interaction with that source, thus my proposal. We already see some evidence of this. Currently we do not have a complete understanding of brain activity, however we do indeed see that many interactions in the brain appear as sporadic chain reactions which originate from no discernible physical cause, which supports my proposal. Clearer observation will be necessary for more conclusive results in this line of evidence.
     The third line of evidence is very conclusive and is available with current technology. We refer again to split-brain patients. With the left and right hemispheres separated, their activities should not be internally coordinated with each other except for indirect association through mutual connections such as the brain stem, which would enable very little coordination between hemispheres.
     Since the hemispheres cannot communicate with each other, or influence each other in a meaningful way, analysis of their activity should prove highly useful. When the test subject is asleep, the hemispheres should be free of most coincidental stimuli, but when the test subject is awake the hemispheres experience similar stimuli, which could lead to correlations in their behavior. For greater accuracy, the experiments should at least be performed during sleep, with information about their activity during wake probably also being useful.
     Using the information garnered, from such an experiment, to falsify my proposal would be more difficult than using the information to confirm my proposal. This is because the hypothesis does not predict what consciousness will specifically do but what consciousness could potentially be capable of doing. My proposal allows for a great deal of algorithmic activity which would not reflect the presence of consciousness, which could complicate reading the data. But if consciousness shifts focus between hemispheres - not necessarily losing complete focus of either hemisphere - the activity of one hemisphere may decrease at about the same time the activity of the other hemisphere increases. If this can clearly be demonstrated in split-brain patients, it would be evidence not only of consciousness being separate from brain, but evidence of consciousness actually communicating with brain through patterns, thus my proposal.

Final Thoughts

     When you feel pain, how do you know that you are feeling it? Don't dismiss the question, but actually think about it. The expression, “I feel pain” is just a way of saying, “I just know.” You don't know what pain is, but you know something about it, without any external evidence. Likewise, science starts with the conclusion that pain exists, without even being able to define (let alone observe) it, before it ever attempts to correlate it with anything.
     The laws of physics are frankly incapable of accounting for what we observe. To compensate for this, a certain hypothesis proposes that 90% of what exists in this universe is very different from the 10% that we know about. We call it dark matter, and dark energy, but we don't even know if it should be classified as matter or energy – it is only classified in those terms to make it it in with the vernacular of science, but we could just as easily call it “the hand of God,” because we have no idea what it is or how it works. And that's only our universe – then there's talk of infinite universes, that might all be completely different from each other. Ours might be the only one with gravity and galaxies and all the other things we think of as “reality.”
     Then, there could be things other than universes – a higher order of existence we can't comprehend.
     And somewhere above that, we might find where we lived and where we are going.
     A number of assumptions have been made about LDS doctrine and the teachings of Abraham regarding astronomy. Some people seem to misread the Book of Abraham as saying that God lives on a planet called Kolob. That is not what Abraham said. The Lord told Abraham, as recorded in Abraham 3:9, that Kolob governs “all those planets which belong to the same order as that upon which thou standest,” implying there is yet a higher order. Kolob is set “nigh unto the throne of God,” but I take that to mean Kolob is a consecrated temple connected to heaven, just as temples we build today on earth are Holy, consecrated and near God.
     The fallacy of reducing your beliefs to what you can “see” is demonstrated in the topics discussed on this blog. 
     The logic of believing starts with the logic of understanding that you don't know hardly anything.
     There is not only “known” and “unknown,” but different types of “unknown.” As we have discussed, the number Pi is an incomplete expression. It is actually unknown in math. But although it is unknown, it is known to fall within the structure of the known. This is the first type of unknown. This is the type of unknown we deal with in everyday life and everyday science. For instance, you might turn on your TV and see images of people talking, but you might not know what television show it is. Still, you known it is a television show or commercial of some type, and therefore you can fit the unknown gap into the framework of what you know.
     In science, theories are formulated and tested and woven together into a framework commonly called “scientific knowledge,” or reliable information about things we observe. Gaps exist in the framework, but the framework is built around them, and thus these gaps are of the first type of unknown. An example we mentioned previously is gaps in the fossil record.
     The second type of unknown is very different. These are things which are unknown but are also not known to fall within the structure of the known. Because we deal so much with the first type of unknown in our daily lives, some may be tempted to treat the second type of unknown the same way, trying to force it into the structure of the known, but this is a fallacy.
     Let's revisit the analogy of 0 and 1, allowing all the numbers between 0 and 1 to represent our framework of knowledge and all the gaps in that knowledge. There are infinite numbers between 0 and 1, so you might believe that provides enough room for every number. But what if you encounter the number 2? Should you assume the number 2 belongs somewhere between 0 and 1? No, you should not assume that. You might not know what to do with it and you might not know the significance of it, but you would be wrong to characterize it as a “gap” between 0 and 1.
     An example of this second type of unknown is how much exists. Another example is what is possible. The existence of mind, which is also unknown - and unexplained in terms of what we know – gives us a glimpse at how little we know.
     We are as a child in the womb, not knowing anything outside it. But we can hear our mother's voice, and we learn to recognize it, a voice that speaks to us and tells us of the whole new existence we will soon enter into in which we will be held in her arms and know her love. The logic of simple faith is the natural course of a child in the womb trusting that voice.

     The logic of simple faith for us in mortality is hearing and trusting the voice of God, and feeling the love he offers us.